This is SEO 101.
We delve into the inner workings of search engine optimization, breaking apart SEO – the esoteric term thrown around conversations of website owners and marketers crazy about driving organic traffic from search engines to websites.
What we’ll cover in this comprehensive guide to SEO.
- What is SEO?
- Why SEO is important
- An introduction to Search Engines and S.E.R.P.s
- Keyword Research
- SEO Content Writing
- On-Page SEO
- Off-Page SEO
- Technical SEO
- How to Define, Track and Measure SEO Success
- White hat vs black hat SEO
- Should I hire an SEO professional or agency?
What is SEO?
SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimisation.
A blanket definition of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is; the process of improving a website for search engines to easily find the website and rank it higher in its search results.
You wouldn’t need to be a genius to figure this out. Just looking at the big words in SEO – Search – Engine – Optimisation – tells you what SEO is all about.
We have search engines like Google on one part and optimization on the other.
The optimization part is all about how you work your website to influence the first part – search engines.
We’ll tear apart these terms to fully understand what SEO is and how it works.
We’ll then dig deep to understand the complexity of optimization and how SEO works.
But first let’s see…
Why SEO is important for your business (website)
You are here because you need answers to SEO questions or trying to figure out if SEO is of value to your business.
I hope that understanding the importance of SEO will convince you the money and time you invest in SEO is worth it.
Your audience (customers and potential customers) use search engines already
Only a few years ago, Google wasn’t a thing; today, Google is on the lips of everyone with a smartphone.
Search engines are woven into the lives of your audience as they’ve come to rely on search for answers and guidance.
Isn’t that what your business does? Provide solutions to customer problems?
With search engine optimization, you front your business to a customer looking for solutions to problems your business solves.
Search engines are the gatekeepers to the world wide web
The only way most users discover the 1.8bn websites on the internet today is through search engines.
When a user is on a discovery path, as gatekeepers to the W.W.W., search engines dictate which website gets a spot on the first page of its S.E.R.P.
A continuous effort to continually improve your website for your audience and search engines through SEO is how you stay on the radar of search engines.
The top-ranking sites on SERPs take the lions share of search traffic.
So what’s the big deal about the first page of SERPs?
Because if you are not on the first page, your website will never get visitors from search engines.
SISTRIX analyzed billions of search results and over 80 million keywords to understand click-rate in Google search.
The results confirm previous research that shows clicks from web visitors converge on the first page.
But even on the first page, no two positions get the same clicks.
The first position gets 28.5% clicks, the second, 15.7%, the third, 11%, and the tenth, 2.5%
It’s rare to get the first position on Google search by chance; you need SEO.
SEO gives your audience a good user experience
Forget trying to get to the first place in S.E.R.P.s; most SEO tasks center around giving your audience a good user experience.
Google’s ranking factors like page speeds, internal linking, mobile responsiveness, security all make it pleasurable for a visitor on your website.
Your desire for SEO may be to rank higher on search, but by optimizing your website for search, you give your audience good user experience.
A good user experience = people sticking longer on your site (low bounced rates) = more leads and sales.
SEO is a great way to build brand authority and awareness
Content marketing and link building in SEO campaigns position you as an authority in your industry.
Pitching and having your website and company mentioned on other websites cements your position as an expert in your trade.
And on the other part, this exposure increases brand awareness and brand recognition.
Search is a source of business leads even when you are sleeping
SEO efforts payoff when your stores, phones, and mailboxes flood with business leads.
That’s because being on the first page of a search engine for keywords relevant to your content drives traffic to your website.
Traffic converts to sales leads.
SEO offers a better R.O.I. than P.P.C. marketing channels
As you grow your authority and presence with SEO, the return on investment (R.O.I.) on SEO outranks that of paid channels.
The payoff of SEO is in the long term; once you consistently rank high for valuable keywords in your industry, you will always get visitors to your website.
While with P.P.C., once you halt the ads, so does the tap of traffic.
Even with minimum effort, you can always dominate the S.E.R.P.s at least until someone creates better content than you in the eye of Google.
Your competition is eating into your customer base
If you live in South Africa and are on the market for a house, you would query Google for “real estate south africa”
You should then see this.
Notice Google has in its index 537 million websites for the keyword, “real estate south africa”
But it has only space for ten websites on its first page.
If you are a real estate company in South Africa, how would you get in front of everyone searching for “real estate south Africa”? Answer: SEO
If Google is not referring you to its customers, it is referring to your competition.
Google will gladly recommend you to its visitors if it believes you have the best answers and solutions to search queries.
It is with search engine optimization that you get to convince Google that your website is the best.
Now that you know the immense value of SEO to a company let’s look at how SEO works.
How SEO works
An introduction to Search Engines and S.E.R.P.s
The S and E in SEO, as we’ve seen, stand for Search Engine.
A solid understanding of how search engines work is crucial for your SEO.
So, what are search engines? And what do they do?
What is a Search Engine?
A search engine is a software that facilitates retrieval of data from a database based on keyword queries.
On the internet, the popular search engines in 2020 are Google, Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, Yandex, Ask.com, AOL, and DuckDuckGo
We also have niche search engines like Amazon for eCommerce, Youtube for videos
How search engines work
At the core, search engines do three jobs. Crawl, Index, and Rank.
When it comes to the web, search engines crawl the internet for websites with new information, it indexes or saves that information in its database; when a user queries that database, it ranks the information then returns it to the user.
The results they return to a user is what we call the S.E.R.P. (Search Engine Results Page)
Your job as an SEO is to have your website dominate the S.E.R.P.s.
To do that, you need to understand how search engines work, how they crawl, index, and rank websites.
What is search engine crawling?
Search engines have minions (web crawlers) that go by robots, bots, or spiders.
Their job is simple, to explore the world wide web for new content to index.
Search engine crawling is the process search engine web crawlers visit websites to learn about them and then send back the information to the search engine for indexing.
When a spider lands on your website, it looks for a robots.txt file. This file instructs the crawler what it can or cannot access on a website.
The search engine will also rely on the metadata of your content, links on a webpage, and a sitemap to discover the site content and structure.
For an SEO; two things are important to know
1.Search engines should find your website. A noindex meta tag blocks crawlers from your website.
2.Make it easy for search engines to learn about your website. I dedicate the last sections of this SEO guide to this.
What is search engine indexing?
After crawling websites, search engine indexing collects and organizes the information for fast retrieval.
How search engines actually index data is beyond the scope of this guide.
However, most search engines employ an inverted index to retrieve and rank websites or files with words in the user query.
Here is an idea of a simplified version of an inverted index
|Computer||Site 1, Site 2, Site 3, Site 4,….., Site N.|
|Shop||Site 1, Site 6, Site 9, Site 4,….., Site N.|
|In||Site 3, Site 2, Site 9, Site 10,….., Site N.|
|Johannesburg||Site 1, Site 2, Site 3, Site 4,….., Site N.|
What is Search engine ranking?
Search engine ranking is how search engines decide which document appears on which position in the S.E.R.P.s.
So, what do Google and other search engines use to rank websites?
The truth is that no one knows.
However, there are practices that SEOs agree on backed by experiment and research and search engine patents.
Brain Dean has a massive list of 200 ranking factors that Google supposedly uses.
Two hundred ranking factors, that’s certainly a lot, reality though, it could be more.
The next sections of the guide will help you understand how to optimize your website for the most important ranking factors.
Now that you know how Search Engines work, the S & E in SEO let’s tackle the O – Optimization.
Next, we get to the good stuff.
Keyword Research For SEO
Keywords, key phrases, focus keywords, whatever the semantic are uber important in SEO.
If you want to rank high, it’s compulsory to know what keywords to target in your content.
What is a keyword?
A keyword is a word or set of words or a phrase that users query search engines.
Someone thinking of baby clothes may search for “cute baby clothes.”
Cute baby clothes – in this case, is a keyword.
As a content creator, we can also flip the definition of a keyword to mean the key phrases that your content revolves around.
Why are keywords important for SEO?
If you remember the earlier section on how search engines work, we showed how search engines use the words in your content to match user search queries.
You could write the best prose worthy of a Pulitzer prize, but still fail to get to Google’s first page if it has no clue about your content.
Or you could unintentionally do so well in SERPs for a totally wrong keyword or key phrases that don’t convert.
If your content does not intentionally capture the desired focus keyword, search engines are left to guess the subject of your content.
That’s because search engines attach the same value to each word in the content until there is a clear pattern of words that appear more than others.
If you write about baby clothes and don’t mention baby clothes in your article, how would Google guess your content is about baby clothes?
How to do Keyword Research For SEO
Now we’ll look at how to find the best keywords to target in your content.
The first task in keyword research is to build a stash of candidate words and phrases.
You start with your seed keyword – let’s say you want to rank high for baby clothes, your seed keyword is the main word or phrase you are targeting.
We’ll now plug it into a couple of SEO tools – paid and free – that we leverage for keyword research.
Answer the public
Answer the public pulls data from Google autocomplete and visualizes it.
In there is a mine of keyword and content ideas to pursue.
Enter your seed keyword and then click search
Download the results
Another great tool that will serve you hot keywords, if you can part with $10 a month for the pro plan.
The free plan is limited to 10 results per query.
Plugin your head term, then click generate. In the next page, download the results.
Google Keyword Planner
Log in to the Google Keyword planner then go to Discover new keywords
Enter your keyword(s) then hit the Get results button.
Now sort through the keywords and select those that intrigue you.
The other way around the Google keyword planner is by letting Google make suggestions of keywords off a website. It can be your website or a competitor.
Search Google for your head term. Grab the top sites and then plug them into Google keyword planner.
Select the option of START WITH A WEBSITE, enter the website, select the option of using the entire site or only the page, then click GET RESULTS.
The top page for our baby clothes head term ranks for 701 keywords, sort the keywords then click DOWNLOAD KEYWORD IDEAS.
Q&A sites – Quora, Reddit
A trip to places your audience spends time will unearth your quality keywords to target in your content.
Anr website you can think of his a keyword mine.
Take the case of Quora
Question and answer communities help you know what conversations are happening around the content ideas.
Get keyword ideas from trend monitoring sites
Another source of great keyword ideas is trend monitoring platforms.
Examples are Google trends, Exploding topics, Google Insights For Search, Twitter Trending Topics, NowRelevant.
Not only are these keywords hot, but they are also often less competitive and easy to rank.
If you catch the beginning of a trend, you will ride it for a long time before the space gets crowded with latecomers.
You have thousands of keywords by now, so we move onto the second keyword research task – to pick high-quality keywords.
For this step, fire up any SEO tool like MOZ, Ahrefs, SEMrush, Ubersuggest and upload our keywords.
For SEMrush, go to Overview under Keyword Analytics, then select the Bulk Analysis.
Select the target country of your audience – if you are doing SEO for a South African company select South Africa.
Paste you keywords in the box (up to 100).
Click the Analyze button.
Look at the search volume, keyword difficulty, and the Cost Per Click (CPC)
How to choose a good keyword
Keyword difficulty shows you how hard it is for a new website to rank on Google’s first page.
1% being easy to rank and 100% very hard to rank for.
For a new site, target keywords with difficulty under 50%
Cost per click (CPC)
The CPC is the average cost advertisers on Google Ads pay per click when the keyword triggers an ad.
CPC data is vital to weed out keywords with low commercial value. Advertises will only bid high for keywords that make money
You should also target only keywords that buying traffic. The higher the CPC, the better the keyword.
A keyword’s search volume shows the average number of monthly searches in the last 12 months.
Pick keywords with a sizeable search volume.
SEO Content Writing
Armed with your keywords, it’s time to create content.
What is SEO Content Writing?
SEO content writing is the process of creating search engine friendly content intended to rank high in SERPs.
If you search for some terms, you may notice that some content on top of SERPs is bogus, but it is on top any way. Why? Because the writers know the tricks of SEO copywriting.
How to write SEO optimized content
Know your audience
Before you punch the first key, ask, who is the content targeting?
Two things here.
First, SEO may bring readers to your web page, but only quality content compels these readers to act.
Your content is only effective in accomplishing your business goal if it laser focuses on the desired readers
Second, knowing your audience implies knowing their search intent. Google serves results based on user search intent.
Nail down search intent
Search intent seeks to understand the motive behind a search query.
This is super important because you can only convert visitors whose intentions align with your content.
Take the case of someone searching for “buy baby clothes online” what could there intention be?
If you thought, they want to buy baby clothes, you are right.
A 1000 word article about the history of baby clothes will not sway such a visitor.
Types of search intent
Informative – users looking for information
Transactive – users shopping, ready to buy
Investigative – users in the market to buy something but still investigating the best alternatives.
Navigative – users looking for a particular website
How to know the search intent of a keyword
The easiest way to figure out search content is by querying Google for the main keyword.
Users searching for “baby clothes south Africa,” according to Google, are shoppers.
Product pages take the entire first page.
If the first page is filled with 2000 word articles, you know searchers are interested in information, they want to learn, so you have to create a content piece that matches this intent.
Get the on-page content optimization basics right.
- Capture your main keyword within the first 100 words.
- Use headings for the main sections of your content
- Include your keyword in the headings
- Link to internal pages
- Add images to your text, don’t forget alt text
- Meta descriptions
Get on-page SEO right and you will not have trouble ranking in S.E.R.P.s.
In the last decade, we’ve worked on websites that didn’t do much of link building but dominate the first page of Google.
The secret is on-page SEO.
I should add, these are websites in low competitive niche or focusing on a location.
What is On-Page SEO?
On-Page SEO (On-Site) is the process of optimizing webpages so that search engines can understand the content on a website to get higher rankings in S.E.R.P.s.
Search engines rank high webpages they deem to satisfy user queries.
To teach search engines about your content, your website needs to get these critical on-page SEO factors in order.
Critical on-page SEO factors
Headers help you organize content on a webpage in a hierarchal structure that visitors and search engines understand.
There are six heading tags, H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, H6
H1 tags are preferred for the document title—H2 for a topic or section, H3 for a subtopic, that goes on till H6.
It is clear for a visitor to understand what your content is about just by going through the headers.
For SEO, search engines use the headers to create featured snippets for the S.E.R.P.s.
Internal linking for SEO
Internal links are hyperlinks that point to a resource in the same domain.
Internal links help expose the other content on your website. Search engines use internal links to find and index pages on your website.
On the other hand, human visitors find new content on your website by following the hyperlinks’ suggestions. This reduces your bounced rates, which is considered a ranking factor.
Image optimization for SEO
Today images are as critical as text on the web.
In SEO, image search is one of the low hanging fruits that drive traffic to a website.
Search engines serve images together with web search results.
They also have a search engine dedicated to image search.
So how do you optimize images for SEO?
- Use images relevant to your text
- If you can, use original images
- Get the image dimensions right – if you need a 200×350 image, why upload a 5000×2500 image? Use the picture manager that ships with your Operating System or the image tools in your Content management system crop or scale images to the right size.
- Give your images descriptive names. Your camera took a nice picture, but it won’t give your image a relevant name – rename it before you upload it.
- Add A.L.T. text to your images. A.L.T. text is what Search engines see, plus visually impaired users know what an image is about with the A.L.T. text.
- Add your keywords in the image name and A.L.T. texts
Anchor text is the clickable text in a hyperlink.
Anchor text helps search engines and users understand what the link is about.
As a practice, keep your anchor text:
- Meaningful text for readers and bots to know what to expect when they click link
- Relevant to the text surrounding the link
- Diversified – if linking several times on the same document, don’t use the same text on all hyperlinks.
- Not overly keyword word optimized – they should be natural.
Meta descriptions for SEO
A meta description is an HTML tag with a short text, typically 160 characters, that summarise a webpage’s content.
Meta descriptions are critical for your on-page SEO.
Search engines often use the meta description in it’s S.E.R.P.s and in the featured snippets.
To visitors, the meta description can influence which link on the S.E.R.P. they click.
Good meta descriptions, therefore, improve Click Through Rates – which is a ranking factor.
How to write a good meta description.
- Keep it short and snappy – about 160 characters.
- A summary of your article that includes in your primary keyword.
URL structure – naming your pages and posts
As with every aspect of on-page SEO, your URL structure should help users and search engines know what to expect from your content.
Take an example of these two URLs, if you stumbled on one, which would pick your curiosity?
The second URL, right?
That’s how you should format your URLs.
The principle for SEO friendly URL structures is”
- Keep the URL short
- Include your keyword in the URL
- Keep it relevant to your content
- It is compelling
Organize your website in a way that users and bots can easily find content.
Most importantly, in a way that each piece of content supports another.
For a blog, at the top is the index page, then categories or topics or both, then blog posts.
The blog posts point to the main category or topic, which in turn point to the home page.
A structure like this passes SEO juice around the website.
If you’ve followed along to this point, you must wonder how the heck is it humanly possible to please search engines.
The truth is that SEO is hard, but the payoff is worth every tear and sweat that rolls down your cheek.
If you would rather have someone do SEO for you, then try our agency.
Off-Page SEO – Link Building
Once you have the content and on-page factors sorted, you are ready for off-page SEO.
What is Off-Page SEO?
Off-page SEO are the activities done outside your site to grow your reach and influence, ultimately leading to increased search engine rankings.
A common misconception is off-page SEO is all about link building.
That’s not entirely true, yes you want to earn those links, but there’s more to off-page SEO than just racking up backlinks.
The focus of your off-page SEO activities is to position you as an authority in your industry. Backlinks, as with all other results of an off-page SEO campaign, is how you get the vote.
Successful off-page SEO efforts will then lead to your webpages getting to the first page of Google.
Purpose (Results) of off-page SEO campaigns
- Build Backlinks for your website
- Brand mentions
- Social engagement – sharing, liking, and mentioning your site on social media sites.
- Ultimately, higher page rankings in S.E.R.P.s
Link building (Backlinks) for SEO
The pronounced off-page SEO activity is link building for the sole purpose of earning backlinks from other websites.
What is a backlink?
A backlink is a link from another website to your website.
Backlinks are an important ranking factor to search engines because they tell of the worth of your website. Just like with everyday life, you rely on advice from friends and family for important decisions.
Types of backlinks
There are two broad categories of backlinks:
Follow links (Do-Follow links) – these allow search engine bots to follow the link and count the backlink as a recommendation of the other site.
No-Follow links – these instruct bots not to follow the link. They don’t pass on SEO value to a website.
To the bare eye, both types of backlinks are the same. However, the no-follow backlinks have an HTML attribute added to the link, for instance, rel=“nofollow” and rel=“sponsored.”
Examples of no-follow links: social media links, comments, forum links, sponsored posts
Which backlinks are important? Both do-follow and no-follow backlinks are good for your backlink profile. Google will not increase your page rankings with no-follow links, but uses on other websites may get your website through these links.
However, for your SEO campaigns, focus on getting quality backlinks from high domain authority websites.
Critical Off-page SEO activities and techniques
Guest posting in high authority industry websites
A guest post on a high authority website is one of the best ways to get your brand out there and earn great backlinks.
Your contemporaries will get to know, you will make friends, and most of all, you will earn authority and trust.
To get the full value of guest posting, only write for high authority websites, websites in the same industry as yours.
How to get websites for guest posting?
- Look into the industry websites or publications you already read.
- Use advanced Google operators to search for websites that accept guest posts.
Common Google Search operators to find guest posting opportunities
“your keyword” +”write for us”
“your keyword” +”write for me”
“your keyword” +”become a contributor”
“your keyword” + “guest post”
“your keyword” +”blogging guidelines”
“your keyword” + “guest post guidelines”
“your keyword” +”contribute”
“your keyword” +”submit a guest post”
“your keyword” + “accepting guest posts”
“your keyword” +”contribute to this site”
In practice, if your website is in the legal niche, you want guest posting opportunities in law firm websites or legal websites.
So this is how you would use the Google search operators.
Query “legal services” +”write for us”
Right there, 361,000 websites in the legal space to explore guest posting opportunities.
Go through each website to qualify them against quality and authority.
Use an SEO tool (Moz, SEMrush, Ubersuggest, Ahrefs) at your disposal to check the domain authority and traffic potential of the target site.
Using a free M.O.Z. domain analysis tool for https://www.lawfuel.com scores a 52 domain authority.
After qualifying your domains, follow the instrutions on the writing guidelines to outreach.
Build relationships with publishers (webmasters, journalists, bloggers)
Link building is more about relationships.
Relationships are nurtured over time and should never be rushed.
Good relationships are those where both parties have mutual interests and benefits.
You want a backlink or a mention; you need to be in the publisher’s mind.
That only happens when you do something noteworthy, like; creating amazing content or reaching out for insight or collaboration opportunities and staying around their circles: follow them on social media and comment on their works.
Getting to the good graces of webmasters and bloggers can be doing something as basic as notifying the webmaster about a broken link or typo.
The important thing is having open channels of dialogue.
Getting backlinks, guest posts, or mentions is later easy from the relationships you nurture.
Commenting and sharing posts on social media
Your audience spends its time on social media sites, and so should you.
If you are not active on social, wakeup, social media is blowing up.
There are 3.6 billion social media users in 2020; the number is expected to rise to 4.41 billion in 2025.
Number of social network users worldwide from 2017 to 2025
Not only can you get free traffic to your website from social sites, but search engines also place value on social signals, which basically looks at how active your brand is on social media.
In other words, your presence on social media needs to be felt.
What you can do to improve your social signals.
- Make it easy for users to share content on your website. Add sharing capability to your posts, for WordPress sites, Addthis plugin is an example.
- Regularly post and share your content on your social media accounts
- Automate tasks like posting new blog posts to social accounts.
- Of course, have great content that is worth sharing
- Be active; comment, reply, like, follow, tag – just be social
- Boost your social posts with ads
Commenting on high authority industry sites for SEO
Commenting on websites in the same industry as yours works to get your name in front of an audience whose opinion matters.
However, do not leave spammy comments but offer real feedback on the article and add value and insight to the conversation.
When you do this, you get on the radar of the author and or the website owner.
Strategic commenting also opens doors to collaborations, guest posting, and even backlinks to your website.
Answer questions on Q&A Sites
Question and answer sites are a mine of potential visitors to your website.
There’s just about any Q&A site for every industry.
Here are some to start with
- Anybody Out There
- Blurt it
- Facebook Groups
- Yahoo! Answers
If you provide quality answers to the questions, you may earn yourself a visitor.
Document sharing for SEO
Document sharing is a low-hanging off-page SEO tactic, especially at the beginning of your SEO journey.
Repurpose your existing content into eBooks or slides and upload them to document sharing websites.
Most document sharing sites are high authority websites with millions of visitors a month. A document in any of these sites will earn you a backlink and visitors to your website.
Sometimes, your document may even outrank the original post on your website.
But, it is worth the backlink you get and the traffic to your website.
How to get your document found on document sharing sites
- Like your original post, optimize your document for the keywords you are targeting.
- Name your document with the keyword – if your document is targeting endangered bird species – a good name would be “endangered-bird-species.pdf.”
- For sites that accept multiple document formats, upload as many formats as you can: PDFs, DOCs, PPTs – this caters to readers and search engines’ varying tastes.
- Brand and format your document to appeal – yes, looks do matter, you may trick search engines, but you can’t get away with tricking people.
Image/Infographic sharing for SEO
Just like document sharing, there is also SEO value in sharing your images and infographics in image or infographic sharing sites.
You gain exposure, a backlink, and traffic to your website from these sites.
Re-use the existing infographics and images on your website.
Some good infographic sharing sites
- Infographics Showcase
- Infographic Reviews
- Infographic Bee
- Fast Company
How to Define, Track and Measure SEO Success
SEO is complicated, as you’ve learned so far, it is easy to lose your bearings in the on-page and off-page SEO activities.
I know this section appears towards the end of our SEO guide, but it should ideally be the first activity before you lift a finger to do SEO.
What you want to answer are three questions.
How do you define what you want from SEO?
How do you measure SEO efforts? How do you know your SEO efforts are bearing fruit?
How do you track your SEO efforts?
How do you define what you want from SEO?
It is easy to assume that we want the same things from SEO; we don’t.
Every business has unique needs, and SEO only helps achieve those individual needs.
For instance, an eCommerce store operates on a different plane from a non-profit organization.
Meaning that these two organizations have different SEO needs and thus targets.
So how do you define what you want from SEO?
Our client onboarding process at Astute Digital winds through a needs discovery path, one of the first requirements we expect from our clients is their goals; for the company and SEO.
Set goals for your SEO. Must I add S.M.A.R.T goals.
How many visitors do you expect to your website from organic search?
What page rank (domain authority) are you targeting?
How many sales or leads do you expect from SEO?
There are several SEO metrics (KPIs) to measure and track with clear goals in mind.
Here are the most important ones.
Rankings in SERPs.
The overarching SEO goal is the top placement of your keywords on SERPs. Measuring and tracking your search engine rankings tops the list of metrics to keep tabs.
The initial SEO audit will give you the baseline from which you will tell if there is progress or not.
Track the movement and positions of your keywords across search pages.
Traffic to your website or physical store from SEO efforts
You want to get to the first page of Google for organic traffic to your website or physical stores.
Therefore monitor the impact SEO has on your traffic.
Conversions – sales or leads
Once the traffic starts to flow in, how much of it converts to profitable action.
In the beginning, you want to know how many sales, orders, newsletter signups, and other goals you got from organic traffic.
Later, you start optimizing for better conversions.
A conversion rate is the percentage of traffic that fulfills your goals.
An eCommerce stay may have the goal of a visitor making an order; your conversion rate would be the percentage of orders you get against your website’s traffic.
That would apply lead captures or newsletter signups.
Social shares, follows, and likes.
Measure and track your social media engagements on all your social media properties.
There’s a lot to glean from social activity. You can know what content resonates with your audience by looking into the shares and likes, and comments.
Backlink profile and mentions
Quickly measure your off-page SEO campaigns’ success with the quantity and quality of backlinks to your website and brand mentions on third-party sites.
Knowing your backlink profile will push you to do more outreach to accumulate links that
Clickthrough Rates (CTR)
Once you achieve your target of high placement in SERPs, you keep pushing.
Remember, even on the top page, you site is competing with nine websites.
A clickthrough rate (CTR) shows how your website performs on the SERPs.
CTR is the number of clicks of your of your search result divided by the number of times your website appears in the SERPs.
CTR = clicks ÷ impressions.
For instance, if you get 20 clicks from 100 impressions, then your CTR is 20%
To stay at the top of the SERPs, no doubt, you have to outrank your competitors.
That’s why you need to keep track of their positions in SERPs plus their backlink, mentions, and content.
Competitors give you a healthy push to keep pushing: creating and building relationships until you are king.
White hat SEO vs. black hat SEO
In the SEO world, there are two camps of white hat and black hat SEOs.
So, what’s the difference between white hat SEO and black hat SEO.
The white hat SEOs follow search engine guidelines on SEO. SEO is about getting humans to your content, so this camp employs SEO techniques (the ones in this guide) that put the audience before search engine bots.
The black hat SEOs use SEO tactics that go against the rules. Their primary target is getting to the first page of the SERPs whatever it costs.
Word of caution, black hat SEO tactics work until they don’t. The Google algorithm is pretty smart and always evolving to catch sites that break the rules.
When it eventually catches up to your dirty tricks, your high rankings suddenly drop; worst-case scenario, your website is dropped from the Google index.
Black hat SEO tactics to avoid
- Content scraping – Google loves original content. Content scrapping pulls content from other websites
- Keyword stuffing – overly optimized content filled with keywords
- Automated comment spam – leaving comments on other sites for the sole purpose of leaving backlinks in the comments.
- Link schemes – buying and selling backlinks, automatic link creation, PBNs, guest posting with keyword-rich anchor text.
- Cloaking – showing your visitors one thing and search engines another
- Malicious site behavior – like changing a user’s browser preference without their permission
- Hidden text – often with keywords
- Thin content – having posts with little substantive content for the readers.
- Doorway Pages – pages created only to send visitors to other pages
Should I hire an SEO professional or agency?
Eventually, you will have to decide to hire an SEO company or not.
Either choice, keep SEO in-house or outsource SEO to an agency is good if you can achieve your goals.
Going through this SEO guide reveals the immense work ahead of you.
SEO is a convergence of multiple skills: writers, developers, marketers, designers, PRs all working towards getting your brand in front of the right audience.
If you can wear all these hats or have a team in your company that fills these roles, then there’s no need to hire an SEO professional.
The advantage of outsourcing SEO work is in the comparative advantage that SEO companies have.
They do one thing, SEO.
They have the best and multiple SEO tools that give them the edge.
They are updated on the latest SEO trends: technologies and practices.
They have existing relationships and partnerships that they can tap for fast results.
How soon to expect results from SEO
You’ve done everything we’ve recommended in this guide; the big question then is, how soon will I see results from my search engine optimization campaigns?
Search engine optimization is painfully slow.
For positions in SERPs, no matter what you are told, only search engines dictate your website’s position in the search results.
For consistent SEO results, commit to 6 – 12 months of consistent execution of your SEO tasks.
However, if you plan your outreach right, expect to see a bump in traffic immediately if you get brand mentions and backlinks from high-traffic third-party websites.