What is SEO?
In simple words, SEO means optimizing your website for search machines. With some particular steps, you help your web pages to become more visible in search results. At the same time, you don’t pay search engines for this (like with ads), but you invest money in link building, creating or optimizing content, technical optimization, etc. All these help you to get the needed result.
Importance of SEO
SEO isn’t just about quality content or thousands of links. It also involves a lot of work on the back-end. Without SEO, successful promotion is pretty much impossible. Here are the main components of standard SEO:
- Industry and audience identification;
- Competitor research;
- Making up a list of keywords;
- Technical settings, making sure your website can be crawled and indexed;
- Creating content and quality images;
- Building internal links structure;
- Building and monitoring your external links;
- Data analysis and creating reports.
Each of these components helps your website be visible for search engines and get indexed in the needed way. Bugs on any of these levels will make all your efforts useless. To avoid such a sad result, SEO optimization has to be done attentively and patiently.
Types of SEO
There are a few different types of SEO that differ depending on the nature of SEO tasks. Let’s take a close look at some of them.
On-page SEO means optimization you do on your website, particularly with its content. It includes content you post, heading, tags and keywords you use, etc. The rule of thumb is to do proper keywords and competitor research as well as content audit before making any changes.
Off-Page SEO is directly opposite to On-page SEO and means getting more backlinks to your website from external web pages. This is a key signal for search engines of how trustworthy your website is. You may get these links in different ways – organic or paid. The main rule here: quality over quantity.
Technical SEO can be considered a part of On-page SEO as some tasks are very similar and technical issues are often related to the content on your website. Technical SEO includes ensuring your website can be properly crawled, security settings are up-to-date, the website loads fast, and other features we are going to describe below.
How to do SEO?
Technical settings play an important role in any SEO process. Even the best content in the world won’t help if your website is not displayed correctly or is hidden from search bots.
Of course, you can fix technical issues step by step, but there are key points that deserve your time. Among them are:
Crawling is essentially the process when Google or another search engine gets acquainted with your website. A special bot reads your website. After that, your webpage will probably be indexed (when the bot copies your website), but not necessarily. For more on the difference between crawling and indexing, you may read here.
To make crawling for your website easier, it’s recommended:
- To use robot directives – they will give the instructions to robots on how your website’s content should be crawled and indexed;
- To improve website navigation – according to the golden rule of UX/UI design, any page on the website should be reached in a maximum of 3 clicks;
- To use internal linking;
- To apply a status code. This includes codes from IETF Request for Comments (RFCs), other specifications, and some additional codes used in some common HTTP applications.
Your website’s crawling may also be checked with the help of SEO tools. They will report if:
- The XML sitemap is too big, includes non-canonical/no-index pages, or it is not found in robots.txt;
- HTML or HTTP header contains noindex or nofollow;
- There are issues with canonical pages etc.
But unfortunately, even if everything was made correctly, you will never have a guarantee that the bot records all the data on your website correctly and in the way you want it to. In this case, you may use Octoparse. By setting a task, this tool will crawl your website like Google’s bot, collect all the information, and share a report with you that contains pages and problems that need improvement.
Google and other search engines pay a lot of attention to web security. That’s why they only give protected websites a chance to rank higher. If you are not sure whether your website is secure, check it with free or paid tools like ahrefs and semrush.
Website security is the result of different factors and actions that have to be done constantly. First of all, don’t forget to keep all your plugins updated. Of course, this doesn’t guarantee that the website won’t be hacked, but it offers some protection from attacks.
If you want to have confidence in your website security, perform an audit from time to time that will show you all current issues, including bugs. If everything works correctly, you are safe. If there are some issues, it’s best to fix them before important data is stolen.
Website security includes:
- Using HTTPS instead of HTTP protocol;
- Creating different and difficult passwords for website users that are not easy to guess;
- Using an SSL (Security Certificate) or TLS protocol. This is, in principle, a small data file that protects the visitors of your website and their data. TLC protocol provides end-to-end security of data that was sent between applications over the web;
- Applying encryption algorithms.
It’s also possible to check website security with the help of SEO tools that monitor important parameters like:
- Security certificate’s term, version, name;
- Encryption algorithm;
- HTTPS and HTTP URLs;
- Mixed content.
A good host is a base for your website that also protects it from possible invasion. So, think twice before you choose the hosting provider, and don’t hesitate to ask about the security options it provides.
It’s probably absolutely impossible to find an active Internet user who has never experienced a 404 Error or a broken link. A broken link means a link that doesn’t work or exist anymore. Several situations may cause such troubles:
- The website is not available.
- The page was deleted.
- The content was moved without redirection.
- The URL structure of the website was changed.
The main thing is that broken links are harmful and not too pleasant for users and search engines. So, if you have to deal with the broken links on your website, first, try to find all of them by crawling your website with some automated software. After that, you should set proper 404 or 410 pages and remove all links to them or set up redirects.
Along with SEO optimization, each website should be created and written, first of all, for real people. Users should not be tricked or puzzled by your page. It’s called usability. Google also pays attention to this particular factor. Therefore, it’s recommended to make the platform as user-friendly as possible.
A user-friendly website, in this case, means:
- Understandable, clear, and mobile adaptive design (if your website looks ugly in the mobile version, it means only one thing – you will lose audience and ranking). According to the latest research, over 90% of Internet users in 2020 used mobile devices to get online.
- Unique and true content that provides users with relevant facts.
- Fast website speed. Don’t make your users and Google bots wait forever for the website to be fully downloaded. Check the speed of your website here.
- Voice-based user interface. According to researchers, around 3.52 billion adult users in the world use voice search. And this trend will grow in upcoming years. So, it’s worth thinking of the voice interface on your website now.
- Including Schema Markup – a special code that helps search robots understand your website better and render data from it in search results.
Core Web Vitals
In summer 2021, Google issued one of the most important updates of the year. The update has a high possibility of affecting many web pages – and it has improved its Core Web Vitals. Core Web Vitals are three top metrics tracked by the search engine that identifies the level of website health. These three metrics are called Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID), and Visual Stability: Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS).
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) represents how fast the key content loads on your website. It’s essential for customer experience and improving the general performance level of the webpage. If the website works fast, likely, users won’t leave it.
First Input Delay (FID) signifies the time needed for the website to fulfill the user inquiry. If your web page needs a lot of time to proceed after a button click, this will negatively affect your FID.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) indicates the website’s general stability during loading. Google wants all the websites to load correctly and not leave out any images or parts of the text.
A sitemap is a crucial part of any SEO campaign. It includes information that helps search robots to crawl your website correctly and not miss important pages. If you want to use Sitemap correctly, you have to create it first. WordPress users may do it simply by using special plugins like Yoast SEO Plugin. When your Sitemap is ready, you have to submit it to Google Search Console.
Content is still king
If everything is already organized technically, it’s time to check what content you have on the website. Google wants you to publish only relevant, valuable content without copying/pasting and other tricks. That’s why investing in creating original content is a good idea.
But the quality of the content is not the only thing that matters. HubSpot provides no guidelines on how long your content should be. However, long-form content works better. Long-form content is blog articles that are 2,100-2,400 words in length. First, long-form content helps attract the user’s attention because it provides extensive information on the topic. Additionally, it increases the time users spend on your website.
To set the optimal length of the long-form content on your website, use the so-called content benchmark. This studies competitors’ activities and identifies the length of texts they publish. To help search robots process your texts easier, you should also use HTML tags (H1-Hn, p, etc.).
Keyword research and optimization
SEO texts are undoubtedly about keywords. But it’s necessary to include key phrases that are relevant to your particular business or topic. Keywords are of vital importance. You may generate keywords manually, but it’s easier and faster to use special platforms like Keywordtool.io that analyze different data and generate the most relevant keywords for you.
One more tip – include your keyword in text and in URL, tags, titles, and all other attributes you use.
Meta tags optimization (title, h1-h2)
Meta tags give search engines detailed information about your website’s topic and content. That’s why it’s highly recommended to use them correctly. There are several types of meta tags you have to pay extra attention to:
- Header tags (H1-Hn) help to structure the text and give an idea of its main topic. They should include your focus keywords and relate to the main topic.
- Title tag – the first thing users see when they search for something on the web. The title has to consist of up to 65 characters and ideally include your focus keyword.
- Meta description has to provide readers with a clear understanding of the purpose and goal of your content. It has to be short (165 characters and more due to the latest Google updates) and include keywords.
- Alt image text. Images are already an important part of SEO. Alt text helps to optimize them for people and search robots. Alt text will be displayed in case the image is not available.
Internal links are important for SEO. Internal links are those links that connect content on your website and provide proper navigation.
Internal linking helps build a healthy website structure and show the users (and search engines) how your pages are connected, the architecture of your website, etc.
E-A-T Concept is well-known in SEO and involves expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. It relates to how Google ranks web pages in the search engine results page (SERP). When it comes to content, E-A-T applies various signals that indicate reliable content. Such signals are:
- Author’s biography. It doesn’t just mean who has written the article – whether it’s a well-known expert or someone who makes the first steps in his career, it’s crucial to let the people and search robots know who this person actually is. Add photos, descriptions, links to social media, etc.
- Date. This factor is not too important for SEO itself but may be useful for the websites that attract visitors from Google News.
- References. Always include the list of resources you have used while writing an article. This proves that the text is real and trustworthy.
- Policy and business pages. Add all policy information and About us pages to your website. A short team description with photos is the perfect indication that your website is worth ranking.
- Allow comments. But be careful and avoid spam. On the one hand, so-called user-generated content like comments or questions from users may strengthen your website’s position. On the other hand, they could cause a lot of problems because of spam.
- HTTPS. We have already mentioned this security protocol above. Its usage gives Google another signal that your website is ok and appropriate.
Featured snippets optimization
A featured snippet is a short summary that gives the direct answer to the user’s inquiry.
Getting this position on the search list helps a website attract more users and increase the number of clicks. But how to move your webpage to the featured snippet?
First of all, do research and understand your audience’s exact questions, then formulate your text in an answering manner.
Take a look at the category People also ask and try to answer these questions as well.
Remember that featured snippets may be displayed in three different ways – as a text, list, or table. Structure your content in this way, and use HTML tags. Such steps will increase the chances to succeed.
Link building plays one of the central roles in SEO. Links from other websites to your resource show Google that your webpage is checked, relevant, and trustworthy. Links from other platforms to your website carry weight in the eyes of search engines. Moreover, backlinks help build the brand, push referral and organic traffic, and even boost sales. The only condition – all the links should be of high quality.
Backlinks and how to treat them
Backlinks lead audiences from other websites to yours. Here is a checklist that will help you to use backlinks right:
- Always follow the topic. Links to your website should be placed on resources that are closely related to the subject. For example, if you sell laptops, it’s a bad idea to place a description of them on websites about pets.
- Choose websites with good ranking and traffic. Always check the web page before posting. You may do this for free via SimilarWeb.
- Improve backlink relevance with the anchor text. An anchor is a text the user clicks on to move from one website to another. Anchor links may be dofollow and nofollow, sponsored, or implemented as user-generated content. Try not to use sponsored links, as they are not taken into consideration. In HTML code, they look like:
- Prioritize your pages to build links to. Choose pages with the most promising keywords and build links to them first. This will help to grow your website’s ranking position.
- Prioritize so-called editorial backlinks that are naturally based on websites of authority with good content and marketing techniques. Concentrate more on dofollow links. Nofollow links can also be helpful for you to build a healthy backlink profile.
- Regularly do external links research. It can be done manually or via a backlink checker that automatically helps you research your existing backlinks and your competitors’ backlinks. Such SEO tools like SE Ranking provide all the relevant data regarding websites linking to you, including rankings, domains, and safety parameters. It’s also possible to search for platforms that may potentially publish your content.
- Check your backlink profile for toxic backlinks. Toxic backlinks mean links from irrelevant websites with bad ranking or history. These links will not bring you any additional points and may spoil the already achieved results.
- Check that you don’t have backlinks to your 404 pages. Error 404 means broken links that don’t exist anymore. As we already mentioned above, Google doesn’t like websites with such links. Remove them or use redirects.
As you have probably already seen, SEO optimization is not an easy process that requires time, effort, and knowledge. However, it is quite doable. Move step-by-step and consistently implement something new, check your keywords, add new backlinks, and improve the design. All of this will lead you to the desired results.
About Author: This article is written by Haley Osborne.