You cringe every time you hear it.
You know it’s important but haven’t quite wrapped your mind around it.
Perhaps it’s because there are so many components to it, and it’s such a technical subject.
And I feel you. Search Engine Optimization is probably one of the most misunderstood topics on the planet.
Because unless you are an engineer from Google working on its proprietary ranking algorithm, nobody actually knows how Google really works.
But there are SEO best practices that we know of, recommendations from Google themselves, and proven SEO strategies that we can learn from.
In this post, I’ve put together a huge ultimate guide to make SEO simple for you to use and grow your blog on autopilot with organic traffic. Enjoy!
- What is SEO?
- How does SEO work?
- 4 Pillars of Search Engine Optimization
- I. Content: How to write content that ranks well on Google
- II. Authority: Guest posting to build high quality backlinks
- III. Technical SEO: How to make sure Google finds your site
- IV. Experience: User experience factors that have an impact on SEO
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization is the process of ranking a website highly on search engines.
This process is the optimization itself.
The set of improvements you can make directly on your page and off your page, to rank higher on the search results.
When you hear things like “include keywords in title and image alt text”, “build backlinks to your site”, these are examples of those improvements.
All these improvements are often known as “optimizations”. Because you are doing all those improvements, to optimize your website to rank better on search engines.
How does SEO work?
To understand how SEO works, we have to understand how search engines work.
Search engines have only 1 mission: to provide the best answer to any search query.
Google simply wants to serve up the best results to a person’s search query.
‘Results’ are websites on the internet. These are blog articles, product pages, videos, and any type of content that can be found on the web .
‘Search query’ is the search phrase people type into Google. These are your keywords.
Our job is to be that best result to answer people’s search queries.
When it comes to ‘best results’, there are two attributes that carry the most weight on Google: Relevance and Authority.
Relevance is about how closely related your content is to a person’s search query.
When a person types, “cute dogs” into Google, content that is relevant to “cute dogs” will be displayed.
But because there are over 1.9 billion websites on the internet at this moment, Google needs to display the top 10 most relevant results first — to answer the person’s search query.
Content that contains the keyword footprint for “cute dogs” will rank higher on Google’s search results.
Think of a keyword footprint as words, sub-topics and keyword phrases that belong in the same theme.
So if you want to rank for the keyword, “cute dogs”, then that paragraph will help you rank.
“adorable dog breeds”, “make your heart melt”, “super cute puppy breeds” — these words are keyword footprints. They strengthen the thematic relevance of your keyword topic (cute dogs).
Google scans your content looking for that thematic relevance to determine whether your content is relevant enough to answer the search query. Voila!
Authority is about how trustworthy your website is.
This is determined by the no. of high quality backlinks pointing to your site.
As we know, there are an insane amount of websites on the internet and to sort all these pages, Google needs a very efficient and accurate way to determine which pages deserve to rank.
Google does this with its PageRank algorithm.
PageRank evaluates the trustworthiness of a page based on how many other websites are pointing to it.
Think about it as a form of street credibility or vote of confidence. The more websites link to you, the more credible your site appears to be.
And of course, not all links are created equal. Links from an authority site (like Forbes) carry more weight than a less established site.
SEO is all about making improvements to your website to boost relevance (content) and authority (backlinks).
When you are coming up with an SEO strategy to boost your rankings, think about if those activities will improve your relevance or authority.
The 4 Pillars of Search Engine Optimization
SEO is confusing because there are a LOT of factors to rank well on Google.
It’s hard to piece them together, understand how these different SEO factors actually work together to improve your rankings.
But if you think about SEO as these 4 pillars, things become much clearer.
SEO can basically be summed up into those 4 parts. In the next few sections, we are going to look at specific actionable steps you can take to improve your SEO.
I. Content: How to write content that ranks well on Google
Content that ranks well on Google has two attributes:
- provides value to the reader
Content that provides value is essentially, helpful content.
Helpful content accurately answers the searcher’s intent — the reason behind people’s search queries.
Content that is link-worthy attracts tons of backlinks.
To rank well on Google, you need to write for searcher intent and attract backlinks. Capiche?
First, searcher intent. How do you guess the intent behind your target audience’s search intent?
Minimize the guesswork and go straight to Google themselves. Type in a keyword your audience might be searching into Google, and analyze the results. See what Google is showing you.
- Paid results (ads)
- Organic results
For example, if you have a business selling presentation services, your client might type in the search phrase, “presentation training”.
(a) The presence of paid ads tell you this keyword has commercial intent.
Advertisers (businesses in the same industry as you) trying to capture this audience are paying Google ads to be seen by users searching for this keyword.
Telling you that, woah this keyword is valuable enough for advertisers to bid for.
Since this keyword has commercial intent, your content needs to match that commercial intent of searchers.
The right type of content to create will be product/service landing pages, product demos, price comparisons, case studies, you also might want to create a Google My Business listing.
Your content should be ready for conversions, because people typing your target keyword “presentation training” are ready to make a transaction.
(b) Analyze the top 5 organic search results and keywords used.
Awesome, we see words like “courses”, “training by experts”, “workshops”.
Remember we talked about keyword footprint earlier? Yup, these are the keywords you should use in your copy to rank for the “presentation training” keyword.
Because clearly, Google thinks its relevant and thats why those pages are ranking in the first #1 – 5 results.
Second, optimize your content to attract backlinks.
Content that is link-worthy is so good, people just can’t help but share it.
These are natural backlinks and social shares, people share and link to you out of good will because they found so much value from it.
Man, that is indeed a tall order.
But you can give your articles the best chance they have to attract backlinks – the holygrail of SEO.
Here are some content tips to make your next article link-worthy:
- create in-depth content, such as long-form articles (1,200 words >)
- add visual appealing images that enhance your content
- create infographics
Lastly, make sure you have sharing buttons on your site, so its easy for visitors to share your article.
II. Authority: Guest posting to build high quality backlinks
Earlier, we talked about natural backlinks and social shares. These are “goodwill backlinks” where people have linked to you out of sheer goodwill.
In an ideal world, backlinks will point to your site naturally.
But sadly, it is more often the case that doesn’t happen. You need to deliberately build backlinks to get other websites to point to yours.
I’ll say this upfront — without backlinks, your chances to rank on Google is close to zero.
Backlinks are a signal of authority and search engines use the (i) number of backlinks and (ii) quality of those backlinks pointing to a site to determine its trust-worthiness.
The higher your website’s trust flow (or commonly referred to as domain authority), the higher your rankings.
In this section, we will learn a time-tested method to improve your authority by building high quality backlinks: Guest Posting.
What is guest posting?
Guest posting is posting a blog post on someone else’s website as a guest.
When you submit a guest blog post on another website, you can insert a hyperlink within the guest post content to your own website. Voila! A backlink built.
Here’s an example of a guest post I wrote for Epife on topic clusters.
How to find guest posts to write for
You can find niche-relevant sites to guest post on in any industry.
Use any of the follow search operators to find niche blogs accepting guest posts:
- niche + guest post
- niche + guest
- niche + write for us
Check out their guest posting guidelines:
- make sure to send your guest post request to the right email address
- read their submission criteria and if you have relevant niche topics to contribute
III. Technical SEO: How to make sure Google finds your site
Technical SEO is simply about making sure Google can find and index your pages.
This is super important. You don’t want to be weighed down by broken links and crawl errors.
If there’s anything you can do today to improve your technical SEO, do these 2 things. These will have a HUGE impact on how efficiently Google crawls your site.
First, go to your Google Search Console and check that there are no site errors.
Don’t have search console set up yet?
Follow this step-by-step guide to get it set up in a few minutes.
Second, add 2-3 internal links to every post on your site.
One common technical SEO issue that affects your rankings are orphaned pages.
Meaning there’s no other pages on our website linking to it, and it’s very difficult for users or Googlebot to find it because there’s no pathway, unless they typed that specific URL address directly into the browser.
This often happens when we create new content without mapping our old, existing content to it, or vice versa. The result – pages that are not connected to any part of your main pages (literally orphaned) and a lacklustre site architecture.
And when Googlebot cannot find your pages, it cannot rank it.
The solution? Add internal links to across your blog posts and key pages.
IV. Experience: User experience factors that have an impact on SEO
So far we’ve been focused on improving how our site looks to search engines.
Now we’ll look into how we can make our site appeal to humans.
What’s interesting is that improving user experience actually improve ranking performance.
Because Google just wants to serve up websites that are most relevant and useful to users.
In this section, we’ll look at another important user experience factor: user signals.
User Signals: Dwell time, Bounce Rate, CTR
There’s a strong correlation between SEO performance and user signals.
Nick Forst, head of Google Brain implies the importance of dwell time with SEO:
Google is now integrating machine learning into [the process of figuring out what the relationship between a search and the best page for that search is]. So then training models on when someone clicks on a page and stays on that page, when they go back or when they and trying to figure out exactly on that relationship.
Okay, he’s saying that the longer someone stays on your site, the more relevant your page matches a query.
It’s no coincidence that the top ranking pages on Google also tend to have lower bounce rates and longer dwell time.
When it comes to improving dwell time and bounce rate, content is key.
How do you keep readers engaged on your site, instead of bouncing off without clicking on another page?
- Answer their search intent by making your content solve their problem
- Provide in-depth, long form content
- Use images, infographics to keep readers’ attention
- Make use of easy navigation (reduce distractions like pop-ups, broken links, poor site structure).
Phew! We’ve done it, guys! You’ve just learned a GREAT deal about SEO and I am so proud of you!!
Now you might be thinking to take this to the next level and start implementing these strategies we’ve learnt. And I am so stoked to take that journey with you.
Join my free 4 Day SEO Bootcamp and let’s seriously improve your rankings and search visibility today.