Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of having websites communicate to search engines so you can influence users to visit your site and provide them with an enjoyable experience.
To get your website or web page to be found, you will need to know and understand the combination of algorithms and ranking signals search engines use to list your site in its search engine results pages (SERPs).
The world of search engine optimization can be intimidating due to the number of things you need to know and the simple fact search engines are continually updating and adding to their algorithms.
When you start practicing SEO, there will be a learning curve, and when you’re beyond the basics, you’ll be playing catch-up on all the new SEO strategies coming out. It can be discouraging to stay up-to-date and never being 100% sure that your SEO efforts are reaping results you had hoped.
But, before you feel overwhelmed, you should understand that while SEO involves many components, each component by itself is manageable. If you take the time and break it down to its core fundamentals, the stress of understanding SEO can be minimized.
The SEO fundamentals you need to start incorporating into your marketing and web design strategy should include the following list:
- SEO Audits >>
- Company or Brand Fundamentals >>
- Keyword Research >>
- Competitor Research >>
- Authority: Brand and Domain Authority and Page Authority >>
- User-intent >>
- User Experience >>
- SEO Tools >>
- Technical SEO >>
- Semantics and Structured Data >>
- On-Page SEO >>
- Off-Page SEO >>
- Local SEO >>
- Voice Search >>
- SEO Management >>
- SEO Strategy >>
- Analytics >>
How Long Does SEO Take To Produce Results?
It takes 4 to 12 months to start seeing results. It all comes down to the variables that are currently in and around your site. You want to keep in mind that it takes time and/or money to build something of high quality. If you rush everything, your site will start to look messy, disjointed, and unprofessional.
Here are some of the main variables you may want to include:
- The keywords and topics relevant to you
- The relevance of your content to those keywords
- The age of your domain and website
- The current website design
- The amount of time the average user stays on the site
- Your geographic location
- Your competition
- Your social activity
- Your reactions to new trends
- The perceived level of quality in the content
- How quickly you implement recommended changes
Every one of these variables could impact the length of time it will take to start seeing results from your SEO campaign.
SEO takes some time. There’s no legitimate way around that. But SEO is also not a one-and-done activity. You can’t SEO a website and call it good. If you want to stay competitive, then SEO shouldn’t stop just because you’ve started seeing results.
Because the minute you stop is the moment your competition will out-perform you.
1. SEO Audits
Auditing your website isn’t optional. It’s a necessity. If you want to drive traffic to your site and improve your search rankings, you need to conduct website audits regularly.
By identifying potential problems and taking actionable steps to keep your website compliant with search engines, you can avoid any unpleasant surprises and position your business for long-term growth. Even if you believe your SEO is strong and solid, there’s always room for improvement. A review will tell you what’s working, what’s not working, and how you can improve your site to rank higher and generate more sales.
Performing a general SEO audit will identify potential problems and reveal how your current traffic compares against industry benchmarks. It is important to investigate any red flags, like a recent change in bounce rate, referrals or time on the site.
A more comprehensive SEO audit usually includes an analysis of your site, the internal linking structure, a site map, citations, anchor text, and social media profiles. The assessment should also include technical elements, like server metrics, hosting account, caching and downtime because site load time is a crucial performance metric in SEO.
A competitive audit reveals how your website stacks up against the competition. While an overall assessment of your site will touch on general industry benchmarks, this type of review will be much more in-depth. It will help you track where your competitors are how they can be more visible in the search results. To gain a competitive advantage, it is vital to know what is working for other people in your industry so that you can design strategies to outrank them.
2. Company or Brand Fundamentals and Objectives
The first step to SEO and building any website is to determine what your long-term goals are. Before you invest money in creating logos, ads, marketing materials, packaging, and so on, investing in brand research could have been entirely different. Clear Strategic Objectives of your brand and company will keep your campaigns focused and consistent.
Branding is what makes you stand out from the competition. A well-defined and executed brand strategy to satisfy consumer needs and emotions will eventually have an overall impact on search results.
A brand consists of various elements, including logo, signature colors, captions or taglines, mascots, a particular look and feel of a website. When these elements are in perfect sync, you get a distinctive personality that makes the brand instantly recognizable and consistently identifiable.
Consistency builds trust and authority. Therefore, it is crucial to creating a brand style with guidelines to ensure all messaging and brand assets are on-point and consistent. These guides not only help the marketing department, but they also serve as guides to other employees and departments. The guidelines should also include the company’s vision and mission statement.
When objectives are defined and consistent, it becomes much easier to build brand authority. Brand Authority is one of the most influential ways to capture the attention of prospective customers. Your brand should build awareness and develop trust and loyalty with customers.
If you want to achieve progress towards obtaining more customers, it is essential to set realistic, measurable business objectives across all channels and touchpoints. Therefore, it is important to participate in platforms and channels that align with your brand’s identity and your prospects’ preferences.
3. Keyword Research
No matter what advanced strategies you use in your search engine optimization efforts, keyword analysis should be given top priority because keywords will determine the strength of your site and pages. Keywords are the words typed or spoken to search engines. When expertly researched and optimized, keywords are the connector between your target audience and your website.
Keywords range from single words to complex phrases and are used to attract relevant search results. When properly leveraged, targeted keywords should be used to inspire and educate to satisfy searcher intent. Even though Google no longer uses keywords as a primary ranking factor, organic ranking decisions are still made based on thematic keywords. Therefore, topics, not keywords, are what content writers and marketers need to worry about.
Back in 2013, Google rebuilt its algorithm and named it Hummingbird. Receiving its name for being fast and precise, Hummingbird helped Google better understand search intent, particularly with complex and conversational searches.
Starting in 2014, Google’s Keyword Planner tool began grouping volumes for similar terms. Google said the reason for this was to make sure “you don’t miss out on potential customers”. That certainly implies searcher intent doesn’t vary much between closely related terms.
Then in 2015, Google incorporated the Artifical Intelligence (AI) ranking factor called RankBrain into the mix to improve its search queries and interpretation of user-intent. Furthermore, Google now uses keywords as contextual signals to learn what we really want and often rewrites our query behind the scenes.
Every so often, you need to look at your keywords and persona targeting by taking all pages into context. This will guard against any gaps or keyword cannibalization that can happen when you work on website pages throughout the year.
4. Competitor Research
When it comes to SEO and digital marketing, there are so many ranking factors and best practices to consider that it can be hard to know where to begin. Comparing your website to your competitors, and identify your site’s strengths, weaknesses, and potential opportunities based on ranking factors we know is an excellent place to start.
It’s crucial to understand the effort involved in ranking for a specific term before you begin optimizing for it. Researching your competition can broaden your SEO perspective beyond the search engine results page (SERP). And the place to start is with a competitive analysis.
Competitive analyses help you evaluate your competition’s strategies to determine their strengths and weaknesses relative to your brand. The analysis will help you identify areas of opportunity available in your search results, without having to guess which strategy you should implement and test next. Once you’ve started this competitive analysis, trends among the competition will
SEO is more than a marketing channel to grow your business. Search engines help users to connect with authoritative sources for their questions and needs. To begin to show up within the search results, your website needs to achieve the level of Authority, Relevance, and Trust among the search engines and it’s users.
Search engines today use complex algorithms to find, read, and discover the topic of websites. They can then match particular web pages with user search queries. Search engines were built to find the most authoritative (and relevant) sources to match a user’s search query.
Today, users expect the search engine to take the role of the librarian and direct them to the best website for their query. Therefore, search engines must be able to assess a site’s relevance and authority at a large scale. Google uses hundreds of factors (or signals) when evaluating the authority and relevance of webpages, but we can narrow them down to content (relevance) and links (external citation authority).
After the search engine understands the page and adds it to its index, it turns next to user-intent signals that help validate and gauge the level of authority of a website page for a particular topic. Ever since the invention of PageRank by Google, links have been the primary signal used for gauging authority and trust. Links are like citations. The more citations it has, the better it is
Google search has become a sophisticated search engine with a surplus of algorithms designed to promote content and results that will meet a user’s demands.
A lot of SEO strategies involve Ranking, Search Volumes, Organic Traffic, and Conversions because these metrics are what businesses are typically looking for. Businesses want to rank higher and see their organic traffic increase with the understanding leads and sales will also increase.
There is this strong tendency and appeal to go after the keywords with the highest search volumes, but much more important than the keyword’s search volume is the intent behind it. It’s great to want to rank for a specific term but the content needs to be relevant while satisfying the user’s intent
7. User Experience (UX)
UX is anything that happens to your users when they interact with your website or online communications. UX includes everything they see, hear and do as well as their emotional reactions.
Ranking in search results is no longer just about links and keyword stuffing. Ranking will be about creating the highest quality content and experience to real-life users.
Google wants users to quickly get to the best search result possible, and provide great content that answers the user’s query. Employing SEO techniques can produce a natural better user experience and improved site architecture. Addressing navigation issues is great for users and provide a great opportunity to improve the efficiency of your website’s crawl for both users and bots, and improve the hierarchical structure of your pages.
If you focus on the user and their experience, they are more likely to enjoy, share and come back to your website – major ranking signal. Therefore, UX and SEO interact together to share the goal of helping users to complete their tasks by providing them with relevant information.
8. SEO Tools
Having the right SEO tools at your disposal can make a difference it takes to get the job done. Some of the best free SEO tools on the market are:
- Google PageSpeed Insights
- Google Keyword Planner
- Google Squoosh
- Google Analytics
- Google Search Console
- Bing Webmaster Tools
- Ahrefs’ Backlink Checker
- Ahrefs SEO toolbar
- Moz Link Explorer
- Moz Local Listing Score
- Google.com in an Incognito Window
- Google Trends
- SEO Web Page Analyzer
- Structured Data Testing Tool
9. Technical SEO
Technical SEO alludes to website and server optimization to help search engine bots to crawl and index your site more effectively and efficiently to help improve organic search results.
Search engines give preferential treatment to websites that display certain technical characteristics — for example, a secure connection, a mobile design, or a fast loading time.
Below is a list of tasks you can do to ensure your technical SEO is up to date. The below list will help ensure the security and structure of your website will meet the requirments from search engine algorithms and will be rewarded in the SERPs accordingly.
- Implement SSL Certificate: Secure Sockets Layer – SSL – is a layer of security to provide an encrypted link between a web server and a user’s web browser.
- Ensure your site is mobile-friendly. Google is clear that having a responsive site is considered a major ranking signal by its algorithms.
- Increase the Speed of your site. Search engines prefer sites that load quickly and no more than 2 seconds. Page speed is a very important ranking signal, especially for mobile devices.
- List your site with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.
- Fix duplicate content issues. Duplicate content can be confusing for users and search engine algorithms.
- Provide an XML sitemap. An XML sitemap is a file that helps search engines understand your website.
- Consider enabling AMP. AMP pages is a Google-backed project which aims to speed up the loading of content on a mobile device through the use of special code known as AMP HTML.
- Add structured data markup to your website. Structured data can help search engines index your site more effectively and provide more relevant results.
10. Semantics and Structured Data
A semantic website involves a list of tags (or microdata) that you can add to your HTML to improve the way
Open Graph is a type of markup used by the social media Facebook to parse out information to display a particular image and description. While Schema produces a more detailed list of options than Open Graph, they can be used together, but Open Graph cannot be used in place of Schema.
Google prefers JSON-LD structured data. JSON-LD is a scripting language that allows website publishers to communicate important information to search engines. It creates a better web by organizing data and connecting it together. It is a way to create a network of standards-based, machine-readable data across all Web sites.
11. On-Page SEO
- On-page SEO will have a major influence on your page’s ability to rank if optimized properly. The biggest on-page elements that affect search engine rankings are:
- Page Content: Good content fulfills a user’s need and it must be linkable.
- Title Tag: Title tags are the second most important on-page factor for SEO.
- Readable URLs: Along with good internal linking, web designers should make sure that the URL clearly shows the hierarchy of the information on the page.
- Image alt text
- Link back to its category page
- Link back to its subcategory page (If applicable)
- Link back to its homepage
12. Off-Page SEO
Off-page SEO refers to a strategy that can be used to improve the position of a web site in the search engine results page (SERPs). Many people associate off-page SEO with link building but it is not only that. In general, off Page SEO has to do with promotion methods – beyond website design –for the purpose of ranking a website higher in the search results.
Off-page SEO in a way tells Google what others think about your website. If you have a lot of “valuable” links pointing to your pages, search engines will assume that you’ve got great content – the type of content that users percieve as valuable content.
Unlike On-page SEO, Off-page SEO refers to activities you can perform outside the boundaries of your website. The most important tasks are:
- Link Building
- Social Media Marketing
- Social Bookmarking
A web site that is useful due to it’s high quality is more likely to have references (backlinks) from other websites; it is more likely to have mentions on social media (Facebook likes, tweets, Pins, +1’s etc.) and it is more likely to be bookmarked and shared among communities of like-minded users.
A successful off-page SEO strategy will generate the following benefits to website owners:
- Ranking will increase – The website will rank higher in the SERPs and this also means more traffic.
- PageRank will increase – Page rank is a number between 0 and 10 which indicates the importance of a website in the eyes of Google. It is the system invented by the Google founders and one of the reasons that Google was so successful in showing the most relevant results to the users. Page rank today is only one out of the 250 factors that Google is using to rank websites.
- Overall more exposure – Higher rankings also means greater exposure because when a website ranks in the top positions: it gets more links, more visits and more social media mentions. It’s like a never ending sequence of events where one thing leads to another and then to another etc.
However, Off-page SEO is not just about links. If your brand (name or URL) is mentioned on another site without a hyperlink, will be an integral aspect of off-page search signals.
13. Local SEO
All small or multi-location businesses can increase their search results and attract more customers using Local SEO strategies.
Local SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is an effective way to market your local business online. It allows businesses to promote their products and services to local customers at the time they’re looking for them on their cell phones. This is achieved through a variety of methods that is different from standard SEO.
Local SEO is about how to optimize your website to rank better for local customers. Your website gives you the ability to target an audience located in or near the city you have your office or shop. You will need to optimize your site with your name, city, address, and phone. In short: you need to optimize so people know where you are located and how they can find you offline.
What local businesses need to improve traffic to their website and to their door is visibility on what’s known as the ‘3-pack’ or ‘local pack’. This is the block that includes three business listings that appear below the map in the search results displayed after a local Google search.
The Local 3-Pack makes reference to the SERP features a map and places location pins related to your query, as well as a 3 businesses listed with their NAP data (name, address, phone, etc.).
Google’s Local 3-Pack has an internal ranking system. So in order to see your business listed among the 3-Pack, review, clicks, and comments are important to putting your business on the map or it can disappear from the pack altogether.
To get your business featured in the Local Pack and stay there for good, it’s important to follow the below recommendations:
- Owning and maintaining a Google Business profile: A well-optimized listing will help ensure you are found and rank well in the local maps section and it gives you the opportunity to ensure your business information is correct, including hours, website and address. Currently, this is the cornerstone for local optimization and should be a top priority.
- Gaining positive reviews and dealing with negative reviews: It’s important to consider that searchers are looking for information on your company, and reviews are among the top of what they are researching. Many companies loathe dealing with reviews. Unfortunately, reviews are an inherent cost of doing business on the Internet.
- Ensuring your business information is correct across the web: Referred to as ‘citation signals,’ local address listings are reported to be one of
topreported signals to Google for local rankings. If you have had a business name change, or you have moved into a location previously occupied by another business, it’s important to have that information updated with the most current business information.
- Having the proper on-site optimization for your location pages: A properly optimized local landing page is one of the very top factors in ranking for local search. This means having a location page that will be authoritative, useful and will gain favor in Google. The basics of proper onsite optimization include having an optimized local landing page for each location that has optimized page titles and meta descriptions; topical and relevant local keywords; the correct business address; and a location map.
Beyond that, the page should be mobile friendly, have local schema, load fast, be useful and engaging and have clear call to actions. These are the base items. It’s important to your business to have an ongoing plan to evaluate the page’s effectiveness and continue to improve the page and the website overall to improve your authority.
14. Voice SEO
As voice recognition technology becomes more accurate and mobile, users are beginning to realize the benefits of using voice search.
While many mobile users are still learning the benefits of using voice search to get information, smart marketers are starting to optimize for it to get the most out of Voice SEO and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) for many years to come.
Voice SEO is already important for large and local small businesses. Mobile users often use voice search on their phone while driving, asking questions about business location and store hours. Therefore, it is extemely important for both local and chain businesses to optimize for local SEO and should already be considering queries done by voice search.
However, location-specific information isn’t the only thing people want from brands out of a voice assistant. People also want to get information about deals and sales, personalized tips, information about upcoming events, customer support, and more.
Here are some recent changes you will want to make to optimize for voice search:
- Keyword Research for Voice Search
- Site Structure & Development of Content
- Structured Data
- Google Actions or Alexa Skills
- Mobile Friendly Websites and Pages
- Be Ready for Future Developments
Google has future plans to add voice query data to Search Console. Implementing voice query data into Search Console means you’ll have insight into how users are coming to your site through voice search.
15. SEO Management
Due to the massive amount of online content, Businesses
Understanding the four pillars of SEO management however, will empower to you to appropriately target your audience, see success, and grow your organization.
Here are some of the tasks you should include in your marketing strategies:
- Identify your Brand and Target Market and what their needs are.
- Benchmark your competition.
- Continue to create valuable content.
- Optimize your website and it’s content.
- Measure your results.
16. SEO Strategy
Search engines have two types of listings: those that are organic and those that are paid for, which are usually known as “sponsored ads or links”.
Ranking on page one of the search results isn’t what it used to be. That’s because Google keeps adding stuff to their search results. So we need to keep changing our strategy. Here are a few suggestions:
- Find an “Opportunity Keyword”. Opportunity Keywords are keywords with a high organic click-through-rate (CTR).
- Analyze Google’s First Page – to see what’s already working for that keyword.
- Create Something Different… Or Better
- Make Your Content Look Awesome
- Improve and Update Your Content
- Build a Community on Your Site with your blog.
They say that if you can measure it then you can improve Measurement is critical to SEO success. It’s vital to know the ins and outs of analysis and reporting when it comes to rankings, referrals, links, and more.
Every business is unique and every website has different metrics that matter, below is a simple list to use with Google Analytics to report the success of your SEO efforts.
- View Only Organic Search Traffic in your Google Analytics report. (Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels) This report will be the Swiss Army Knife to your SEO reporting. From this report you can determine things such as the top landing pages for search traffic, keywords driving the most traffic, which search engines are sending the most traffic, top exit pages and much, much more.
- Measure The Quality of SEO Traffic. To measure an improvement or decline in the quality of search traffic is the Assisted Conversions report (Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions). Use this report to look for a decline or improvement in conversions from search traffic. If businesses notice a decline in conversions from search, yet overall search traffic is steady, it’s easy to determine that the traffic coming from search is not qualified or of a very high quality.
- Identify Page Loading Times. page speed has become a major factor in search rankings. That’s why I always suggest that if a business is investing time and money in SEO and keyword rankings, don’t blow it by overlooking a slow loading website. To measure page load times on a page-by-page basis navigate to Behavior > Site Speed > Page Timings. I like to set the middle column to ‘Avg. Page Load Time’ and the right column to ‘% Exit’. I also will typically add a ‘Secondary Dimension’ of Medium, and filter down to show only organic traffic.
- Top SEO Landing Pages
- Top Organic Keywords & % of New Visits
- Pages per Visit by Organic Keyword
- Most Successful Keywords by Goal Completions