Generally, I only cover advanced SEO concepts. However, I wrote this guide for SEO beginner’s who need to be brought up to speed quickly.
In this guide, I start by covering the most basic elements and quickly move into advanced concepts.
My hope for this guide is that you’ll use it to educate new employees, contractors and friends who need guidance.
This guide took me a tremendous amount of time to create Please share it
“SEO” stands for Search Engine Optimization – SEO is the process of getting your website to rank higher in search engines.
For example, let’s say you own a website that sells watches. When someone searches “shop women’s watches” in Google, you want your website to show up. If it does, you will literally be printing money.
It’s also important to understand that SEO is not the only way to show up on top of search engines. Google, Yahoo and Bing all offer a paid option call “Pay Per Click” ads, where you pay the search engines to show up for certain searches.
Every time someone clicks on your ad, you pay the search engine. Ads show up on top of organic results, but are tagged with “Ad” next to the result.
While this book is about SEO, it’s important you understand the distinction and benefits of both options. I always tell clients Pay Per Click ads are a great marketing tactic and should be executed if they have the budget to do so.
Either way, having a presence in search engines means growth – more clients, sales, brand reach and engagement.
Imagine how much you could grow if you had a FREE flow of customers to your business?I included this section here because as you read this book you’re going to understand how complicated SEO has become.
At some point you will undoubtedly ask “is this even worth it?”.My answer is yes. Overwhelmingly yes.
That means serving the best possible search results, as quickly and accurately as possible.
Google is a $50B company – they make 90% of that revenue from selling advertising. As long as people are using Google Search, they’re revenue is protected
Bottom line, they need to keep users coming back – they do so by keeping their algorithm serving the best results. In order to show up higher in search results, we need to understand how Google ranks websites.
Google “crawls” billions of pages, both new and updated, on the web, using automated programs called bots or spiders. These bots follow links on the pages and then index them into Google’s database, which runs into trillions of pages and is more than 100,000,000 gigabytes in size.
Search algorithms then sift through the data on the index and rank the pages almost instantaneously based on over 200 signals, according to Google.
These algorithms are Google’s secret sauce, and they determine which pages will be displayed for a particular query (i.e. “ranking”).
At the time of this writing, Google’s infrastructure handles 63,075 searches every second, and this volume will increase by the time you finish reading this sentence. While you don’t need to be an expert in algorithms, it’s critical to understand how Google works. When diagnosing issues with a website, often times it comes back to issues with crawling and indexing.
Contrary to popular perception, Google doesn’t have one single monolithic algorithm working behind the scenes, indexing pages and delivering results.
No one except a select few inside Google has answers to that billion dollar question. But we can make educated guesses about the relative impact of over 200 signals to rank pages.
These signals basically ensure that the users gets the most useful answer to her search query with the least amount of friction. Google’s stated mission has been to provide value to users, and this also lies at the core of great SEO.
I started learning about SEO in 2012. Back then, it was really easy to rank.
Man….I miss those days. You could literally rank a website in a matter of days – it was amazing.Now? Not so much.
It takes months of hard, consistent work to get results. There are simply no shortcuts in SEO anymore – you can’t just jam a random site on top of search results. Google’s algorithm is incredibly intelligent in understanding all aspects of what a quality search result looks like.
Google is constantly looking for ways to improve the quality of their search results. They do so by continuously tweaking search algorithms to provide a better experience for Google users. While the algorithm is constantly updated, there has been some major updates over the years which has forced people to drastically change their SEO game.
If you’re brand new to SEO, I can imagine your head is probably spinning at this point. I’m not going to lie to you, SEO is hard – and no bullshit, it’s getting harder.
Working with so many clients we get access to concrete data on what’s working and what isn’t. Aside from the “traditional” SEO ranking factors, we’re seeing a lot of new factors come into play:
It’s not as scary as it sounds – basically it means the algorithms are learning on the fly what a quality result should like like and constantly adjusting the algorithm accordingly.
When a user clicks on a result in Google, how do they behave? Did they leave right away and go back to Google to find another result? Did they then refine their search query in Google to find something else? This data is invaluable to Google’s understanding of what searchers are really looking for. All this means for you is you have to be extra cognizant of the quality of your pages, making sure they satisfy searcher intent to the fullest.
This is mostly speculation on my part, but I believe there are mini algorithms triggered at a query level. Google is “learning” what a good result looks like based on the search query. For example, “payday loans” is an industry riddled with web spam. I believe the algorithm understands how to sift through the crap and understand at the core level what the top sites are – I then believe your site is measured against this. What this means for you is you need to truly understand your industry and who is killing it. That information alone will tell you a lot about what you need to do for your site.
In some spaces, SEO is just too competitive for small websites. If you just launched a website that sells jeans, it’s nearly impossible to outrank The Gap for “jeans” related keywords. It’s an iconic brand, online and offline, that has a proven track record with consumers. While you can still build a profitable organic presence in Google, you’ll need to get creative. While you’re following traditional SEO practices on your site, look into building organic channels off your site.
The point is, don’t limit your thinking to only “ranking” for your main keywords. In some cases, you may never get there – don’t be afraid to shift your focus to other organic opportunities for exposure.
Google has stated publicly they believe “brands” are good for SEO, as people trust them and want to see them served in search results.
If you’re shopping for TVs and you see a result from Best Buy and Cheap-O-TVs, which are you most likely to click? Brands carry a certain level of trust with consumers that make them good for the search algorithm.
For us peasants, this is a difficult thing to overcome, as you just can’t compete with the likes of a Best Buy. However, we’ve seen some of our clients rank very quickly without being a “brand” by traditional standards.
Google doesn’t determine a “brand” like you and I do – the algorithm looks at quality signals dictating the authority or “brand” power of a website. Traditional aspects like links and content are still major factors, but we’ve seen clients with no links and no content rank #1 for incredibly competitive keywords (case study later in the book). The reason is they have a ton of “branded search”. In other words, every month tens of thousands of people are searching directly for their product and website.
There is no higher quality signal than branded search. Unlike other ranking factors, branded search is impossible to emulate (no, search bots DON’T work). It’s a clear sign to Google that when people are looking for a certain product, they want to see yours. This is a powerful association that your product is so popular people don’t want to see any other search results.
You’ve been hearing it for years that “content is king” and Google loves “quality content”…so has every other marketer on the planet. Because of this, content is being created at an alarming rate and over the course of the next few years, most of it will be written by bots.
With so much crap content on the web, Google doesn’t want to waste space indexing it. To beat this back, the algorithm has become incredibly adept in understanding what “quality” really looks like. While we don’t have official word from Google (we never do), a lot of industry experts are in agreement that Google builds an overall quality score for your website. While there are other factors, having too much thin, outdated and low quality content, pages can build a negative perception of quality about your site.
Google doesn’t penalize, it just ignores and loses trust. As mentioned, we used to build a lot of guest post links to ecommerce product pages. In hindsight, these pages could have been penalized. I mean, out of nowhere, a page with no links starts getting contextually mentioned in a bunch of blog posts? Not likely.Instead of penalizing the page (we have NEVER gotten a website penalized), the links just take no effect and get ignored. I think Google learned their lesson from penalizing websites. I mean, most websites outsource their SEO to an agency – it’s just not cool ripping down someone’s online presence for actions they did not take.Link building is a lot of work (and expensive) – you don’t want to waste resources on tactics that won’t impact your traffic. We’ll be talking about this in great depth in the link acquisition section. We’ll talk about how to target the right pages on your site with the right type of links and how you can secure them.
Build a well organized, fast website that follows all of Google’s guidelines. If it’s a small business / site, build it on WordPress and it will handle almost all of it for you.
Populate that website with the content your audience wants, needs and is searching for. Make it a point of pride to not publish any pages that aren’t helpful to your customers. Quality is very, very important.
You need to figure out a way to get other websites to talk about you. At first, you will need to do this manually. Get active in forums, Reddit, Quora, Facebook Groups – find your voice and provide value. Find the best blogs in your industry and ask them if you can write a post for them. If you can do this, people will discover your site and assuming you have quality content, they will begin to talk about you organically.
We do advanced SEO for Fortune 500 websites and our methods are built on these principles. In fact, they’re a core part of our sales pitch.
While every website needs its own strategy for optimization, we follow the same templated process regardless of industry. Whether you’re trying to get more clients for your law firm or customers to your ecommerce store selling candy, the cornerstones of good SEO remain true.
We break it down into what we call the “5 phases”:
Learning / Discovery Period
It’s critical to understand as much as possible about the website, past SEO efforts and industry as possible. This knowledge helps us determine the best strategy and way ahead for the campaign.
This is even more important when working with clients, as you need to gather knowledge and insights while still meeting client demands to complete work. Our process helps you manage expectations while delivering high quality work, on time.
Improve Existing Assets
The fastest turn around in organic traffic comes from small tweaks to existing pages. We do this through a number of audits and data crosswalks to identify key pages that can be improved to deliver a fast turn around in traffic.
This phase focuses on using SEO data to make decisions about which pages hold the most value. During this phase we also perform tasks like keyword research (for existing pages), “on page” SEO corrections, schema markups and more.
Building New Assets
By analyzing competitors and industry leaders, we can understand the keyword “gaps” on a website. These gaps are the ones that are driving traffic to your competition but not to yours, because you don’t have the pages on your website to rank for that traffic.
In this section, we focus on finding keyword gaps, keyword intent mapping and building out new pages on a website, both content (i.e. blog posts, resource guides, etc) or landing pages (i.e. sales based content).
As you know, it’s not enough to just do “on page” corrections and create quality content. To get explosive traffic gains, you need to promote your website by acquiring links and mentions on relevant industry websites.
After a year long campaign, we go through an evaluation process to benchmark progress of the campaign. Even if you aren’t working with clients, it’s an important step to take to track the progress of your website over a certain period of time.
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