If you wish to understand SEO, think of it as the sorting hat from Harry Potter. It sorts the search results to any query in a fair and just manner.
On the first page of Google alone, the first five organic results account for 67.60% of all the clicks.
What’s more? The highest percentage of web referral traffic is sent via search engines, which makes it extremely valuable to have a higher ranking on the search results page.
This is why companies around the world are spending millions of dollars on marketing and paid ads.
This means, staying away is simply not an option anymore.
If you want your website to rank higher, garner more visibility, and receive more organic traffic, then read ahead to figure out how SEO can help you do that.
In this article, we will go over some basics of SEO, why you need it, the black hat techniques of SEO, the technical aspects of it, how to design your content strategy, features of linking, and many more. So stick around for this insightful ride!
We have teamed up with Brian Bozarth, a marketing leader with 20+ years of global leadership roles, responsibilities, and achievements, to put together this SEO guide for you.
Let’s unravel the supposed mystery together.
Types Of Traffic
We just talked about SEO being responsible for the increase in website traffic. So what kinds of traffic are we talking about here?
Let’s take a detailed look into the 4 kinds of traffic that is brought about by SEO.
1. Direct- Let’s say you want to buy groceries online, and you directly type in the URL of the website you want to purchase from, in this situation, you are directly visiting the website, without being redirected to it from any third-party site or ad. This constitutes as direct traffic.
However, measuring your success by assessing the direct traffic to your site can be counterproductive.
This is because most of the time your internal staff may be visiting the site, or a repeat customer is logging in to check out the site, which skews the stats.
Other than that, individuals who might have heard about your site offline can provide you with direct traffic.
2. Referral- Let’s again imagine you visited an online grocery store site to purchase groceries, but this time you visited that site from a link on a blog.
This kind of traffic, originating from any external source, is known as referral traffic.
Often brands partner up with different channels, to promote their site. Measuring your referral traffic can indeed help you figure out how effective these channels are for your business.
3. Social- Every brand today invests wholeheartedly in creating and maintaining their social media presence, which brings them leads.
The more attractive your links are, the more possibilities of people visiting your site through social media.
Thereby, any traffic that you receive from the social media platforms, is referred to as social traffic.
4. Organic- Often termed as SEO traffic, this is the most genuine type of traffic that any site can receive. Let’s say a customer searches for ‘best online store to buy groceries’ into a search engine like Google, and your website pops up as a search result. If the customer chooses to go to your site, that will be referred to as organic traffic.
With SEO, the aim is to be served up as a top result to a user’s query.
So what is SEO truly made up of? Let’s find out!
What makes up SEO?
SEO is much more than just keywords. It is a holistic confluence of various user-centric aspects, four of which we shall single out because of their significance.
These four aspects are Intent, Interest, Demographics, Network.
With the evolution of technology and the internet, services have become more user-focused than ever. These four considerations are quite important to factor in when building your website.
Search engines like Google or Bing analyze historical search patterns of the user, to provide results that match their intent.
The user’s location, age, and other demographic details are taken into account when they are shown search results.
The point we are trying to make is that a much more holistic approach is required in today’s time, to build a website that is SEO friendly.
So let’s understand it further.
(Quick tip: Schemas play a very crucial role in ranking. Refer to schema.org to understand more. Below is a quick example of schema-markup for Time Doctor)
Before we move ahead, it’s time to bust a few myths around SEO.
Myth- You need more content
Fact- The idea that you need a sea of content is completely unfounded and baseless. So do not worry about the quantity, rather focus on the quality.
Myth- You need more page submissions to rank higher
Fact- The days of page submissions are long gone. Do not fall for various online and offline agencies promising you a better rank, in exchange for a hefty fee.
Myth- You can’t do without meta tags.
Fact- Quite a few meta tags have become irrelevant when it comes to SEO. Too many of those can actually make you look spammy and hurt your ranking. Only choose the ones you absolutely need, like title tags and meta descriptions.
Myth- Keyword density affects rankings.
Fact- Just because you used the keyword 5 times in your first paragraph, doesn’t make your content more SEO friendly. What it does make your content, is repetitive.
Myth- The more you spend, the higher you rank.
Fact- Most search engines have proven with evidence that expenditure on paid ads has no correlation with the organic reach of a site.
Myth: Any web host will give you the same result
Fact: Optimized hosting is an integral aspect of SEO. The right web host will boost your site performance and can improve your ranking.
We hope that you will not fall for these myths any longer. Moving on, let’s learn about a few SEO malpractices now.
Black Hat SEO
Malpractices in SEO are more common than you think.
Chances are, we all know someone who has used methods like keyword stuffing, manipulative linking, using unrelated keywords, creating a mirror site, and more, just to rank higher on the search page.
Let’s make one thing clear, these techniques usually don’t bear much fruit. Search engines have evolved highly over the years and tricks like these won’t do you much good.
Having become fiercely user-centric, search engines like to offer results based on what the user is thinking. So black hat techniques won’t get you far.
You must be wondering at this point, where to get started?
If SEO seems like a big, complicated process to you, bear with us while we break it down into these 5 key tenets for you.
5 Key Tenets of SEO
Technical- Search engines have bots that analyze your site, to understand what it is trying to provide to the customer. This is the technical aspect of SEO that one needs to understand.
Keywords/Phrases- The only way your site comes up as a result of a search, as opposed to someone else’s, is because your site matches the keywords that users are typing. Figuring out the right keywords is highly beneficial.
Content- Content is king. Nothing holds more truth than this popular saying in the business world. You have to provide your customers with engaging content.
User Experience- We are often asked to not judge a book by its cover, but let’s be real, when it comes to online sites, a lot of it relies on appearance. Which is why you must focus on the user experience for your site.
Links- Linking your site on other channels is crucial. Amplify your content and get it out to as many people as you can. Backlinks really help pull up your ranking on a search engine page. According to Stellar SEO, relevancy is one of the most important factors to consider when seeking backlinks.
Let’s outline these concepts in detail so that they can guide you in your strategy formulation.
Technical elements constitute the backbone of your website and play an integral part in SEO.
Let’s explore two fundamental technical considerations for SEO.
1. Meta Tags– Have you ever wondered how Google goes through your website? Does it read each and every word of your content or does it just require a summary?
Well, search engines use meta tags to go through your sites. Let’s consider an example to better understand the key meta tags you need to be mindful of.
Imagine that you looked up “buy Instagram accounts” on the internet. You will usually find a title, a description, and a URL to redirect you to the website as you see below:
You have full autonomy to decide what these three aspects of your site will look like. However, try not to use misleading or clickbait titles for your site, since it will not help but rather harm your ranking.
On that note, have you heard of pogo-sticking?
Long story short, when a user on a search engine visits multiple search results in order to find a satisfactory answer to their search query, it’s called pogo-sticking.
If what you have to offer is not helping the users, it won’t be long before you are pushed further down on the page rankings.
This is because the search engines measure the interaction on the search page itself. So, be authentic.
Now let’s explore a few specific meta tags, and how to create them.
2. Title tags– This is essentially what draws the user in, and makes them want to click on your site. It is also what search engines use to identify the content of your page.
Always ensure that each page has a separate title tag and that there is no duplication in tags. For example, your about page and your careers page should not have the same title.
The tag should contain more than 30 characters but less than 65 characters. Don’t forget to include your branding to the best of your ability in the title tags, make it appear distinct.
Avoid infringing on any trademarks which might expose you to legal challenges and always use relevant tags.
The end goal is to ensure that the user is tempted enough to visit your site after reading your title, so make sure you assess the readability and impact of the title tag.
In case you are confused about the most suitable title tags, you can use a few options of AdWords and compare their performance. This helps you figure out what works best for your site.
3. Meta Description Tags– This encapsulates the purpose of your site and what it essentially offers to your users.
When you run a search on any search engine, just looking at the title is not enough to convince you to click on the site. Reading the description is what ultimately makes you either click on the site or scroll down.
Create unique and relevant description tags for all your pages. It needs to be comprehensive and also catchy.
Once you have hooked the user with your title tag, the description tag is what really draws them in. So by all means, be out there and avoid any sort of duplication.
Do you want to know a secret? One shortcut that SEO experts can often afford to take is to give the meta description tag an occasional miss.
Why? This is because when you do not have a meta description tag, one is automatically curated for you by the search engine, and it always displays the relevant keywords.
That sure makes life a lot easier, don’t you think?
4. URL Construction– The final component to discuss under meta tags is that of URL construction.
Readability becomes the top tipping factor when the user has to decide between two URLs. Research shows that the more concise and readable your site URL is, the more likely it is to be the user’s first choice.
For example, would you rather visit www.homesforus.org or www.h$+es98*4%us.org? Yes, we thought so.
When constructing your URL, try to accurately narrow in on what your customer would like to read. Use keywords generously but again, do not the stuff in too many of them just because.
Additionally, pay attention to capitalization in your URL. The correctly capitalized URL looks much more professional and reliable. Use hyphens were necessary to space out words.
Finally, keep it short. A size of 50-60 characters is usually considered optimal for a URL.
With us so far? Great, let’s take a final look at the three crucial elements we just described to you.
Alright now, let’s move on to the second important aspect of technical SEO, duplicate content.
B) Duplicate Content
There is so much content that each brand attempts to put out there, that there always remains some duplicate content on your site.
For example, if you have two URLs that have the same content on them, Google will rank one of them much lower, thereby curbing its chances of receiving any organic traffic.
Employ the method of canonicalization in this case. Adding a canonical tag lets you declare an original source for duplicate pages to reference so that there is no subsequent confusion.
Duplication could weaken the ranking of your site since the search engine is suddenly unsure about which page to redirect the user to. Which came first? Which is the original version?
By redirecting all your duplicate pages to one single page, you can actually create a strong page that has more credibility and is ranked higher. You are essentially telling the engine to consider multiple pages as one.
Thereby, use canonical tags wisely and improve the ranking of one single page by avoiding duplication.
With that, we have a fair understanding of technical SEO. Let’s move on to content strategy now, shall we?
Often referred to as the meat of SEO, this is one of the most important parts of the entire SEO process.
In today’s age, a user-centric content strategy is the only way forward, since it places the maximum importance on what the user wants. If you do not listen to your user, well then why should they listen to you?
Imagine you came up with a new product for women, that lets them get rid of body hair. However, your product is costlier than the other products available, and a painful alternative to most other options.
Your product will most likely to bomb in the market because you failed to give the users what they wanted. They wanted a cheaper and less painful option, but you did not conduct thorough market research.
So when formulating a content strategy, remember these four basic elements that make up any content strategy – KEYWORDS + CONTENT AUDIT + COMPETITOR ANALYSIS + USER EXPERIENCE
Let’s look at each of them in detail.
When a user types in a query on a search engine, how does the engine decide if your site is a relevant result for the query?
Keywords influence this decision majorly. They might not be as important as the searcher’s intent, but they are the means to the end.
For example, if you want to find some cafes in Amsterdam which are reasonably priced, your query may look like “cheap cool cafes in Amsterdam”.
Google will use these keywords to match it with the keyword index of various pages that it stores. You will then find your search result in a fraction of a second.
Now, the majority of the search volume on the internet comprises of fat head search terms. What are those?
Well, let’s say you are looking up the word “cardiologist”. That is a very general term and would be referred to as a fat head search term.
It is in contrast to long-tail keywords, which are long, unique keywords that are entering the search engines, due to changing user behavior. For example, “cardiologists in upper manhattan area”.
Since many people are increasingly using the voice search feature on their phones, the majority of searches are unique, owing to the difference in semantics and all the misspellings.
Researchers have found that these searches often make for better conversions.
For example, if you are looking up “cafes” as opposed to “non-vegetarian cafes near me”, it’s apparent that you are more sure to visiting an actual cafe in the latter search.
Due to the high conversion rates of long-tail keyword searches, it is now more important than ever to figure out what your users are searching for and gain a competitive edge over your rivals.
Once again, the only way to crack this is to delve deeper into the psyche of your user, and accurately gauge user intent. Most people don’t even know what they are looking for until they see it. So offer them what they want to see.
There are three primary types of search queries. Let’s categorize them in depth.
Types of Search Queries
a. Do query– Let’s say you want to go bungee jumping or buy a car. These are termed transactional queries because you wish to perform a certain transaction. These are straight to the point and heavily product-centric.
b. Know query- This query is made to retrieve specific information about something. When does the match start? What is the weather like in Los Angeles? What is the capital of Zimbabwe? You need a more in-depth understanding of the user’s mind in order to figure out how and what they are searching for.
c. Go query- These are navigational queries made with a specific destination in mind. So why do we need keyword research here? Let’s say a customer wants to buy shoes from your brand but does not remember the name. How can you make sure that they still find you? This is what accurate keyword research enables you to do.
Now that you know the different kinds of queries, you need to conduct your keyword research to find out the most suitable keywords for your site.
So how do you go about conducting your keyword research? Let’s look at it step by step.
Steps to conduct keyword research
Step 1: Make a huge list
Start brainstorming about all the relevant keywords that come to your mind, that could link user searches to your site.
Try downloading an exhaustive list of popular keywords by running a simple search traffic analysis. It will show you the most searched keywords by users.
Make it a point to check out the keywords for which your competitors are ranking. For example, if you have a shoe business and your competitor is ranking for the keywords ‘foot’, ‘pediatric’, ‘comfort’, you already know where you are lacking.
Another ingenious way to figure out what people are searching for is to type stuff on Google and observe what it auto-suggests. It gives you an insight into what the popular searches look like.
An excellent tool to help you organize and group your keywords is the Google Adwords Keywords Planner, from which you can subsequently filter out the most relevant keywords.
Step 2: Gather Metrics
Organizing and prioritizing keywords can be quite a task, which is why a lot of online tools can help you do that.
Gather as many metrics on your keywords as you can, and then compare those numbers to zero in on the better options.
You would also want to know how difficult it would be to rank on organic search results. Some tools give you a difficulty score for the keywords you have picked, which makes it so much easier to filter out the more difficult ones.
Step 3: Grouping Keywords
You can choose to categorize your keywords in whichever manner you want, and one very useful tool for that is the Google Keyword Planner.
Although it helps sort and organize keywords in groups, you should exercise your discretion to ensure finer groupings and the elimination of unwanted keywords.
It is always useful to group keywords based on the intent of the user. For example, a user may be looking for the pricing of your cafe, some might be looking into the ambiance, while others may be looking for work there.
It is always advisable to make a dozen groups in such a manner and try to fine-tune them as much as possible.
Let’s say you have a long list of keywords in front of you. How do you prioritize them?
Simple, follow this general rule of thumb. Ask yourself how important that keyword is to your and your company. For example, for show business, is the keyword ‘foot’ more important or ‘summer’?
Once you are able to assess its importance, look into how difficult it is to rank for a specific keyword grouping. Set yourself an achievable goal but also make it challenging, so that you are motivated to go after it.
Ultimately, the most important consideration is traffic. Keyword A is getting way more traffic than keyword B, which makes your choice that much easier.
Well, that is pretty much all that there is to keyword research. Remember, learn to look beyond the metrics at times and ask yourself which keyword is truly defining your brand.
That’s all about keywords. Let’s dive into the second aspect of content strategy, content audit.
B) Content Audit
At the very outset, you have to understand that Google wants to provide its users with the most relevant content.
So if your content isn’t the best answer to the user’s query, Google will not rank you higher. This is why providing quality content is the most important task for all the brands out there.
Most SEO experts agree that relevant content creation has the most considerable impact on SEO tactics. So when you conduct an audit of the content on your site, only the best get to stay.
This is why we cannot stress enough about the quality of the content. Your focus should not be to churn out generic content regularly, but instead, produce quality content at steady intervals.
One way to do it is to create evergreen content that will not just be relevant in a contemporary sense but will serve user needs for a very long time after its creation.
For example, if you sell clothes, you can maybe do a blog piece on “5 ways to style your old pair of jeans”, because let’s face it, denim is never going out of style.
Ensure that you eliminate duplicates by clubbing similar keyword pages together. “Best summer styles” and “hottest summer styles” should ideally redirect to a single page.
Now that you understand the process of content auditing slightly better, let’s go over a few do’s and don’ts of content auditing.
Do’s and Don’ts of Content Auditing
We have time and again mentioned how poor content needs to be filtered out from your site, but how do you identify what is poor quality content? Don’t worry, we got you.
How to recognize poor quality content?
There are certain indications that we like to call the poor content quality signals, which should help you figure out that a certain piece of content is not up to the mark.
Firstly, analyze the overall quality of the content. Let’s say you find an old piece, which is poorly written and has too many grammatical errors. It may be a partnership post from 2010, completely outdated and irrelevant.
That should tell you that the piece needs to go because it no longer serves any purpose on your site.
Learn to look for content that is not descriptive enough and does not have proper keywords. It may be a blog piece that has too many images and not enough substance. Time to trash it!
Nobody likes to read copy-pasted content that does not make any sense. So avoid misleading optimization, which is mostly a patchwork of other content
Remember, at the end of the day, it is always quality over quantity.
Right, enough about content auditing, let’s dive into the third aspect of creating a content strategy, competitor analysis.
C) Competitor Analysis
There is a popular saying which reads, “A horse never runs so fast as when he has other horses to catch up and outpace.”
As a brand in the market, you are constantly competing for customers with your rivals. It ultimately comes down to you doing a better job than your competitor.
That can be done by following a simple set of incremental steps that you need to repeat over and over again, to optimize your site.
The market is expanding by the minute. Each day a new competitor may enter the market, or your existing competitors may launch a new product. So you need to constantly bring your A-game to survive.
So to be better than the rest, you need to be aware of what the competition is doing. How do you do that? Don’t fret, we got you.
Steps to analyze your competition
a. Identify- Let’s say you run a fashion brand and you already have a set of keywords for your brand. Your first task would be to identify which other competitor brands are ranking for those same set of keywords.
You will have three distinct sets of competitors. The first group would be the industry competitors, which are big, established brands in the industry you already know of.
Next will be the competitors you will have to research, who are lesser-known and can be found out using some simple digital tools. The third set of competitors are those who are competing for ranking on the same keywords that you are targeting.
For example, you might be targeting the keyword “luxurious style” for your fashion brand, while a home decor brand might be fighting for ranking for the same keyword.
The ultimate aim of identifying your competitors is to study what works and what doesn’t. What is making Google rank your competitor higher than you? Try to find out the answers to these types of questions.
b. Prioritize- You have to organize and prioritize your competitor analysis process, or else the sheer volume of information can bury you.
You begin by identifying your competitors like we just taught you. Once you know why your competitor is ranking better on a certain keyword, you can tweak your URLs to match keywords.
This improves your chances of getting a better ranking. Take the help of digital tools like SimilarWEB and SEMRush to analyze how your competitors are ranking better on certain keywords.
c. Compare- So you have identified your competitors and you have narrowed down your list of targeted keywords, what now?
Simple, now you compare your performance with that of your competitors, and find out your drawbacks. There are three domains here that you could focus on.
Firstly, the keywords are crucial. If your competitor is doing something different and ranking higher on a targeted keyword, maybe it’s time for you to take a page out of their book.
Secondly, look at the high-ranking content of your competitors. Maybe they have a great title, or sleek design, or some other element that is drawing the customer to their site. Compare their content with yours, and find out what you can do differently.
Finally, the numbers speak the loudest. Look at the ranked page metrics and identify trends or hidden patterns that can help you improve your site.
So, what’s the final step of your competitor analysis?
d. Learn- Through dedicated and regular competitor analysis, you have collected enough information on your competition. Now it is time to learn from all of the data.
Let’s say you have a targeted keyword such as “home decor”, for which you need to rank better. In order to do so, you need to write lengthy content and add a lot of external links, because there are lots of competitors.
On the other hand, for a better ranking on another keyword such as “cool home decor artifacts”, you simply need to revamp a few old but relevant content pieces. Which one do you devote your time and resources to?
It is always advisable to identify convenient keywords and prioritize them first. Only then can you go chasing the big fish.
Start fleshing out an outline of your content strategy, based on all of the new competitor data you have gathered. It can really help you chart out a more focused and informed content plan.
Now let’s take a look at the final step in your content strategy formulation process.
D) User Experience
Did you know, intentional and strategic user experience has the potential to raise conversion rates by as much as 400%?
With almost all industries tilting towards a more user-centric approach, we cannot emphasize enough on the need for providing an excellent user experience to your users.
In recent years, UX has emerged as an indirect factor in ranking. Google is assessing the UX for individual sites, more carefully than you think, and that consideration has a clear impact on your ranking.
Still, wondering why you need to guarantee a good user experience on your site?
Let’s imagine for a second that you run a travel business. Now people looking for travel sites, come across your page. However, your user experience is poor.
Your landing page is clumsy and confusing. You do not have complete information on your services and the user cannot navigate your site conveniently. What would happen next?
Quite understandably, the user would leave your site and go to another one. Google analyzes this user behavior and over time it identifies that your user experience is not satisfactory.
As a result, your competitor’s site ranks higher than yours and you gradually sink to the bottom of the ladder.
Now that you understand the importance of providing a good UX, let’s look at some key metrics to track UX on your site.
Key Metrics to Track UX
Load Time- Nobody likes to wait forever for a page to load. Chances are, they won’t stick around if your load time is too long. Try to optimize your images and bring download time, but without compromising the quality.
Bounce Rates- Don’t read too much into bounce rates, because they can be misleading at times. If a viewer visits your site and reads a blog post on the first page and then leaves, you have successfully converted them. However, it will be considered a bounce.
Navigation- When a user visits your site, they might or might not have a particular goal in mind. This is why it is imperative to design a functional site, which allows your user to navigate conveniently. You can use the number of clicks that items on your site are receiving, as a reliable metric to do so. Experiment by changing the order, design, and content on your landing page to see what works and what doesn’t.
Page Views- When you have a set UX that you offer to your users, you will know exactly how many pages it will take for your user to be converted. Based on the page views, you can track whether users are dropping out too early, or whether the navigation is confusing them. It is a helpful metric to assist you in optimizing your UX.
Session Length- This is the logical next step to looking at page views. It gives you an idea about how much time a user is spending on a certain page during a single session.
Let’s say a user is spending too much time on the landing page, and then dropping out. That could signal that they are confused about how to navigate on that specific site.
Use this metric to design your UX in such a manner that it saves both time and effort on the user’s part to get to the final conversion.
Conversions- Like most businesses, you must have a funnel that charts out your user’s journey and ultimately leads to the desired conversion. If your conversion rates are dismal, you can easily diagnose a problem with your UX. Search engines can detect dismal conversions and accordingly affect your rankings. It is very important to design your UX in a manner that would lead to optimal conversions.
Now it’s time to dive into the third and final step of your SEO plan
Google’s advanced technology dedicatedly looks at linking when deciding on ranking for your page.
Now more than ever, linking is being assessed in a strict manner by most search engines, to ensure fair rankings. For your knowledge, there are two types of links you need to be aware of.
The first kind is internal linking. These are links that are present on your site, which gives your site a definitive architecture and helps Google crawl through the site and index it better.
On the other hand, external links are links that redirect back to you from other sources. However, here too, the quality of external linking matters, not the quantity.
Let’s learn about them in more detail.
A) Types of Linking
Think of internal linking as being a game of lego, where you get to build your site the way you want to.
Since internal linking provides a structure to your site which search engines crawl through, it is crucial that you get it right in order to rank higher.
As a site owner, you will know which of your pages are most important to you, that you want maximum traffic on. By correctly linking them, you are essentially telling Google “Hey, these are my most valuable pages. I want you to rank them accordingly.”
Google Console is a handy tool that lists out the most important links for you, in order of importance.
It is advisable to link all your pages internally so that it is easier for Google to index them. Additionally, your most important pages should have maximum linking so that Google is correctly able to identify its value.
Some technical aspects of internal linking need to be kept in mind. For example, when working on a new site, developers block search engines from crawling through the site.
Some, however, forget to disable that once the site is launched, effectively preventing Google from crawling through the site. Make sure that does not happen to you.
Also, ensure that your most important pages can be adequately indexed by Google and do not have a ‘no-index tag’ on them.
This process of internal linking is crucial since it helps the search look through all the hard work that you have put into the site. So make sure you link all your pages.
That’s all about internal linking, so let’s learn more about external linking.
External Linking / Backlinks
By using sophisticated technology for linking analysis, search engines can accurately find out how popular certain sites are and how credible the backlinks to those sites are.
In the world of SEO and content, backlinks are seen as a vote of confidence, if not an outright endorsement. But all of it is dependent on trust. How? Let us explain.
Let’s say today a random stranger on the road told you that the new iPhone model is faulty and heats up too fast. Now let’s consider that your favorite celebrity tweeted the same thing.
Who would you believe? In most cases, the answer is the latter. Which brings us to the point we were making, that backlinks from trusted sites would create the maximum impact.
There are a few key primary linking signals that we have identified, that determine the value of a link.
The first being global popularity. We know that the more popular a site is across the world, the more credible its linking is considered. If today your brand earns a backlink from Microsoft, nothing like it.
We can also look for local popularity. If you sell shoes, then linking from other shoe brands would be considered credible.
In recent years research has shown that linking the anchor text proves to be more useful than linking the entire phrase. So if numerous anchor texts are linking to your site, then you have a chance to rank higher.
Reiterating an earlier point we made about trust, it is always more valuable to earn links from trusted sources. This is because various search engines look for linking from high trust domains to rank you higher.
Finally, you have to remain updated over time. Keep earning additional new links to add to your freshness factor, so that your page does not become outdated.
Now that we have a better idea of the backlinking process, let’s figure out how to make it a sustainable process.
B) How to earn backlinks sustainably?
So you have gone and earned quite a few external links, good job. However, can you maintain that overtime? Is your backlinking sustainable?
As we explained before, if you do not keep earning newer links with time, it could really harm your ranking. Thereby, the linking process has to be reiterative.
So how do you keep earning more links? To figure that out, let’s look at the concept of a Link Flywheel.
A link flywheel helps you figure out how to earn new links over time. It consists of a few different channels like news and press, social media, partnerships, content marketing, video marketing, etc.
All of these sources can earn you new links, so why do we need a flywheel? Well, a flywheel helps you organize your sources and determine which ones can provide you with better linking.
The first few links are the hardest, but once the wheel is set in motion, your traction keeps on improving. There are quite a few ways to earn links from these sources.
Press Releases continue to remain a popular source for securing links, and linking from trusted domains can help you go a long way.
Local citations can also play an important role in earning some useful links for your brand. If you sell apparel, it would be a good idea to get a citation from a fashion influencer.
Another major linking source is bloggers. The blogging trend has taken the digital world by storm, so naturally, a lot of linking has come from bloggers.
Be it genuine or sponsored content, it can pay off, in the long run, to secure linking from notable bloggers.
At this stage you must be wondering, how exactly does one build a link? Don’t worry, we got you!
C) Link Building
Link building is nothing but the very act of getting people to link back to you. Having said that, if you are expecting a set formula for link building, then you will be disappointed.
While there is no such preconceived formula, there are a few different types of link building that most businesses partake in.
Let’s take a closer look at what these are.
a. Self-created, non-editorial
As a business, if you have ever gone from one blog to another blog, copy-pasting your link in the comment section, then you have first-hand experience in this type of link building.
These links usually appear very spammy to all search engines and can actually harm your ranking instead of boosting it.
So try avoiding this type of link building as much as possible.
b. Manual “Outreach” Link Building
In the business world, the network that you create is incredibly valuable to your business.
This type of link building requires you to leverage your network, by reaching out to people personally and asking them to link to you.
c. “Natural” Editorial Links
This is possibly the most ideal kind of link building, which is more organic and less dependent on your outreach.
Some brands would naturally like to link to you because they like your content or they find it relevant. Those are essentially the “natural” editorial links you want for your brand.
This is the World Championship of backlinks, and everyone is fighting to earn this kind of link.
If you have a piece of content that is performing really well, only then does it make sense to do manual outreach for it. That is how you ensure that you have earned the links.
Now that you know more about link building, let’s look at a few sample strategies for the same.
Strategies for Link Building
Firstly, let’s say you have a set of loyal customers who love your product and keep coming back to your brand. It’s always a good idea to ask them to link to you.
If they make a Facebook post or comment on a blog about your product; that can go a long way for you. Additionally, you can incentivize linking for your customers by offering them discounts or any other perks.
Secondly, always prioritize value over volume. It’s no use to publish an article daily if it is not entertaining or offering any value to your readers.
Create quality content and engage with your readers across all social media platforms. Video posts have proven to work better than images or text posts. You can easily create all kinds of videos on InVideo, an online video maker.
Make sure you are also consistent with delivering new content. By doing so, you are ensuring greater linking for your brand, which is absolutely organic and genuine in nature.
Thirdly, we are aware of how important it is for brands, to create viral content.
It’s important because of the very definition of going viral means that your content is being viewed and shared by an ever-increasing number of people. This is a great way to secure “natural” editorial links which will definitely boost your search engine ranking.
Finally, try to become the talk of the town.
Let’s say you make a controversial post, or you declare a major giveaway. You are immediately being talked about in your target market. This kind of publicity is invaluable since the more newsworthy you are, the more people are linking back to you online.
The launch of new iPhone models is a classic example of such a link-building strategy. It always makes the headlines and as a result, gains loads of traction.
You may not always have something sensational to say. In such cases, running Facebook video ads are also a great way to reach a wider audience. InVideo, the video creator, also allows you to make video ads for any social channel.
Right, so now you hopefully have an idea as to how to go about link building. Let’s now turn to social media and its relationship with SEO.
Does social media impact SEO? To answer simply, yes, it does. However, it is indirect in nature.
Why? This is because social media in itself will not push your ranking up. However, it can help you connect with influencers who can generate more awareness for your brand and can secure good links.
With the age of influencers upon us, most brands are reaching out to social celebrities to endorse their products. This has indeed helped brands to reach out to larger audiences and secure great backlinking.
Additionally, social media is a great place to engage with your customers and increase your brand visibility. That translates to more people looking you up on Google, thereby improving your ranking.
Let’s look at a few tips to improve your SEO ranking by leveraging social media.
Tips to improve your SEO through social media:
1. Develop real relationships with influential entities on social media and convince them to endorse you.
2. Engage and communicate with your customers at all times and be more approachable in general. This can help increase the traffic on your site.
3. Maintain a list of the influencers you are eyeing and keep a track of all their posts. This will help you decide which influencer to approach for what endorsement, and when the post should go up.
4. Share your content with the influencer with the hope of reaching their larger audience. That is a great way to amplify your brand’s voice and get more people to look you up on search engines.
Remember, social sharing is not the same as earning a backlink.
While being talked about on social media is always an asset, it is still not as valuable as securing a genuine backlink on the web. So keep trying to get as many genuine links as you can.
Alright, we are almost at the end of your lesson! Let’s now dive into the final bit on SEO, the metrics.
How do you know that your efforts are helping you secure a better ranking on search engines? Well, that is where metrics come in.
By tracking your SEO through metrics, you can adequately assess how you are faring and what you need to focus on.
Here are a few metrics that you should be tracking:
By tracking keywords, you can find out the most popular ones.
This can help you decide which keywords to target, whether or not you have grown over time and whether your linking is transitioning beneficially to your pages.
You can use third-party software to track keywords.
Backlinks and Linking Root Domains
Backlinking continues to have the most impact on SEO, which is why it is crucial to track the backlinks you’re receive for your pages.
Linking root domains simply refer to the unique websites which have linked to you. By tracking both of these metrics, you can assess your performance as compared to your competitors.
Once again, you can use third-party software to track linking.
Organic traffic is an obvious metric that you should be measuring because that is the ultimate aim of SEO.
By tracking the organic traffic you are receiving on your site, you can see for yourself if your SEO campaign is delivering results.
You can simply use Google Analytics to track this metric.
Average Time on Page
This is often a misleading metric to track since there are a lot of external factors that can skew this metric.
However, by comparing the average time on the page across pages on your site, you can gauge which pages are more interesting than the others. That can help you improve certain poor-performing pages.
This again can be easily tracked via Google Analytics.
Pages Per Session
By tracking pages per session for your visitors, you can fairly understand if the user behavior is as you intended it to be.
For example, maybe you wish your visitor to go to your about page, then your products page, then your pricing page and finally make a purchase. This means you roughly want the pages per session metric to be 4.
Anything higher and lower, and you have a useful observation that you now need to analyze further. Use Google Analytics to track this metric.
You want to build a community of loyal users, who keep coming back to you.
By tracking this metric, you can find out if indeed you are offering good enough content to your users, for them to keep coming back to you.
Use Google Analytics to track this metric, and use it to analyze customer loyalty towards your brand.
As we mentioned earlier, the bounce rate assesses the rate at which users have left your site after visiting it initially.
A higher bounce rate may make you anxious but we suggest that you do not trust it blindly. If a viewer visits your site and reads a blog post on the first page and then leaves, you have successfully converted them.
However, it will be considered as a bounce and will drive up your bounce rate. Which is why it is advisable to not read too much into it.
Page Load Speed
A page that takes forever to load will be immediately shunned by users.
Track your page load speed to ensure that users are not leaving your page due to slow speed. If you see that the speed is not satisfactory optimize your images and try to improve the speed.
Traffic by Device
Use this metric to know your audience better.
Whether your mobile traffic is higher or whether most of your traffic is coming from the desktop can help you decide on the kind of content optimization you require.
If you are getting significant traffic from mobile, ensure that your site is mobile-friendly. This metric can tell you whether or not you need to reconsider features of your site like font size, design, functionality, and user experience.
The point of anything and everything related to SEO is to get more customers.
Not just any customers, but successfully converted customers. Your funnel can help you visualize the customer journey which ideally leads to a successful conversion.
By tracking this metric, you can see if your content is actually enabling conversions. Compare your content with each other and see which one is bringing in more conversions.
Well, those are all the SEO metrics you need to track. Now you officially know more than most about SEO.
We hope that we have been able to help you understand and explore the concept of SEO better. It is a powerful tool and if used well, can add immense value to your business.
Here’s a quick recap of the most important takeaways from this article:
1. Conduct your keyword research thoroughly and keep tabs on changes in user behavior at all times.
2. Carefully decide on your title tags and meta tags. Make sure your content has a relevant description.
3. Construct your URL in accordance with popular keywords, as discovered in your keyword research.
4. Produce quality content that is relevant over time and ensure that you eliminate all duplicate content from your site.
5. Conduct a detailed and periodic competitor analysis to stay on top of the competition.
6. Strive to provide your users with the best possible user experience, so that they do not bounce from your site.
7. Build a network of influencers who genuinely like your product and will provide you with sustainable backlinks.
8. Maintain an active social media presence that can help in creating more engagement for your site.
9. Timely analyze all the important metrics that you collect, which will allow you to draw inferences about what is working and what is not.
10. Above all, remember, if you are offering a genuinely good product, then you will eventually rank higher than your competitors.