What you need to know about search engine optimization

search engine optimization

For somebody who’s brand new into online marketing the sheer volume of information available is overwhelming. What you need to know about search engine optimization however does not have to be everything to get started online.

But before we even talk about optimization what is this search engine? Calling it an engine, although we cannot see or touch it, makes it sound otherworldly.

A search engine is at the most basic level a piece of software that retrieves web information from a library by use of an index. This index is built continually over time by crawling websites published online. The pages are then ranked based on various factors like keywords, domain age and authority etc.

Thereafter this info is used to populate the results pages when an end user performs a search.

Example search engines are Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yandex and Baidu.

What is SEO

Now that we have an idea of what a search engine is let’s have a look at optimization. Optimization on the other hand are efforts by a webmaster geared towards increasing a site’s visibility in the eyes of search engines. This inevitably makes your site findable by the search engine users.

Moreover you want it to be found by the relevant users, not just any user. For example, a site about “telescopes for astronomy” might not serve a person looking for “telescoping in medicine” information.

Optimization also includes techniques one can employ to achieve a high ranking in the SERPs. This is in addition to just visibility. There’s a whole world of difference between appearing in page twenty versus page one of Google results.

How to implement SEO for your blog post

As I’d alluded at the start, there are techniques you can utilize right off the bat. If you are building a website for the first time do not worry about knowing everything first. You just need to know the fundamentals.

Domain name

A domain name is your address on the web. The well thought the name is the better for your SEO and overall performance. You can use a few best practices to get ahead of the game, like keeping it simple and sweet.

While keywords are good for niche identification, avoid pumping them unnecessarily into the domain name. Search engines frown upon names like ‘best-flowerpots-for-indoor-plants.com‘. A better replacement would be a simple ‘pamsflowerpots.com‘.

Post title

Search engines use the title of a post or article to a large extent to determine the content. Therefore having a very descriptive title helps to achieve this. Furthermore, since the title is the most prominent part in the SERPs, it’s equally vital to have the right words to influence users to click it.

However, the mistake most people make is stuffing keywords in the hope that it will be ranked higher. This has the opposite effect that might get your post and site penalized for trying to game the system.

The title has room for around sixty characters only. Therefore employing these best practices will ensure visibility and higher click through rates.

  • Use the target keyword(s) sparingly.
  • Be descriptive on post content.
  • Avoid click baiting readers.

Meta description

This is the part that appears below the title in the SERPs. It’s of smaller font and is overshadowed by the title. While it’s broadly agreed it does not affect SEO, it affects the click through rates. Create the description carefully to further shed light on the content of the post, following from the title.

For an easier option read through your content and pick parts that stands out. Paste this to the meta description tag, around 160 characters maximum.

Types of SEO

Search engine optimization is broadly categorized into three. This depend on the area of application, whether on a webpage, off the site or on the site’s architecture.

On-page SEO

The page/post specific techniques described above all fall under on-page SEO. On-page SEO, as the name suggests, deals with optimization at a page level. In addition to this, there are a few more ways to optimize page content, namely;

  • Page speed – faster load times create better user experiences.
  • Images – should be optimized for fast loading.
  • Internal linking – improves overall site crawlability. Linking from a higher authority page gives the page a boost.
  • Mobile friendliness – search engines are now using this as a metric to grade sites.

Off-page SEO

This is the equivalent of word-of-mouth advertising for a brick and mortar business. Factors that happen outside your business that have a direct impact on your sales. Likewise, in the online world, these are activities that happen outside your website that influence your ranking in search engines.

A blogger can achieve this directly through his/her own actions or indirectly by the actions of others, for example, readers sharing links on social media.

Below screenshot from Moz shows the importance off-page SEO has on your overall site’s success.

moz off-site seo study

In the eyes of search engines, sites (brands) that are linked to and talked about more are deemed trustworthy. This is taken as a sign of authority and is therefore ranked higher in search engine results pages.

There are several ways you can achieve this for your website or blog.

  • Social media marketing
  • Guest blogging
  • Influencer marketing
  • Video marketing e.g. YouTube
  • Using Slideshare

Technical SEO

Technical SEO has more to do with site structure and architecture. The ease with which search engines can find, crawl, index and display your website is of utmost importance. No matter the worth of your content, if your site structure is messed up search engines will not rank it well.

There are a few steps one can take to guarantee passing the technical SEO test.

First and foremost, create a simple, flat structure with links close to each other like a simplified tree root (or a decision tree). This prevents orphan pages not linked to another page. Easier said that done though for large sites with thousands of pages. Other methods are as below;

  • Create a consistent URL structure across the site.
  • Use sitemaps.
  • Avoid duplicate content.
  • Improve page load speed.

Tools to utilize for SEO

Keep updated

Believe it or not the biggest tool in your SEO toolbox is yourself. Keeping up to date with the fundamentals and current trends in the SEO space is your best bet for success. There are two main ways of doing this. Keeping in touch with SEO influencers. This can best be achieved through social media and the occasional convention. Another way is reading, watching and listening to content posted on SEO focused blogs.

Top influencers are as below. There are many out there but I’ve only mentioned five, in no particular order.

  • Rand Fishkin
  • Neil Patel
  • Matt Cutts
  • Brian Dean
  • Danny Sullivan

Blogs that cover information and news about search engines are. Also not a complete list, there are many more.

Software tools

Besides keeping up to date, you’ll need tools to simplify the SEO processes. For example, doing keyword analysis before creating content. You need an idea of what phrases users utilize on search engines when looking for specific information.

Developers have created many of these tools over time. While they more or less achieve the same ends, some offer greater utility. These have become popular with experts and beginners alike for driving traffic to their websites.  Some of these tools are as below.

While this post is only a drop in the ocean on this subject, it gives a good idea and introduction on what SEO is. In upcoming posts I’ll do my best to go deeper. I’ll expound on some of these concepts and also explore current trends.

In case you have any experience with SEO that you think will add value to this introduction let me know in the comments section below.

If you intend to build and make money with a blog and find this long and overwhelming do not beat yourself up. A step at a time. Visit Wealthy Affiliate‘s Online Entrepreneur Certification – Getting Started for a free incisive tutorial on how to make money online, building a website, finding keywords, internet marketing and so much more.

Leave a Comment