SEO

SEO Guide for Beginners: How to Get Better Rankings in Search Engines

seo explained

When people want to find information about something on the internet, they usually head for a search engine such as Google and type in the words or phrase that they are interested in. For example, they want to find out about how to use a bluetooth speaker with a phone, so they might type the phrase “how to connect bluetooth speakers to mobile phone” into the search box of Google.

Then they get a long list of result about web pages that discuss this very topic. If you own a website that covers exactly that topic, your goal is to land as high on the search engine rankings for a phrase like that, as possible. This is where SEO can help you.

1. What is SEO

SEO stands for search engine optimization. Basically, it's a set of methods to optimize your webpages for certain search phrases - they are called keywords - in order to achieve higher rankings for your web pages in search engines. The most important search engine is Google, but you shouldn't ignore the importance of other search engines such as Bing or Yahoo, as they can send a lot of visitors (= web traffic) to your website.

2. What are keywords?

Keywords are the basis of search engine optimization. They are search phrases or single words that your potential website visitors would type into the search box of a search engine in order to find the desired information on a web page. Of course, you as a webmaster would want your page to be found for those keywords.

We make a distinction between generic keywords and long tail keywords. Let's see an example for that:

  • generic keyword: "bluetooth speakers"
  • long tail keywords: "best portable bluetooth speakers for car"

Generic keywords, as the name suggests, are too generic. There is a bigger search volume for such keywords, but also a bigger competition. You would have to compete with much more web pages for a high ranking in search engines for these search phrases. On the other hand, long tail keywords are more specific. There is a smaller search volume, but with that a smaller competition. It's easier for webmasters to rank their web pages high for long tail keywords. So, which ones should you aim for? The best strategy is to mix them. Optimize some of your web pages for long tail keywords, and some of your pages for more generic terms.

Keyword tools: there are external services that offer webmasters help to determine which keywords are best for a web page. You can try these keyword tools, but beware, they tend to be quite pricey. It's still worth to explore them with a free trial version.

3. What is on-site (on-page) SEO?

On-site SEO is about optimizing various elements on your own web page in order to get better rankings. Here are the elements that you should pay attention to:

Content:

Make sure to create the kind of content on your website that web visitors would find valuable. It should be preceded by some form of market research. Check out forums like Reddit or community sites like Quora or Yahoo Answers to learn about the most discussed topics that are relevant to the topics you cover on your own website.

Title tag:

The title of your web page should include your chosen keyword(s) while still being descriptive or attention grabbing. In HTML sites you would put the title between these tags: <title>...</title>. If you use a script like Wordpress, there are many SEO plugins that let you handle this.

Meta tags:

The two meta tags that have relevance - to a different degree in different search engines - are the description meta tag and less importantly the keywords meta tag. Place your chose keywords into both tags. Again, if you use Wordpress, a plugin such as SEO Yoast can take care of it.

Heading:

These are headlines and sub-headlines within the content of your webpage, marked by the HTML tags <h1>, <h2> and <h3>. Strategically place your search phrases into these headlines.

Images descriptions:

Images have an "alt" attribute where you would put a short description of what the picture is about. It's a good idea to have keywords in this description, especially if you have an image centered website. A lot of people do searches on Google's Image Search, which might direct potential visitors to your website, if your images show up in the image search results.

URL structure:

Consider giving your files short but descriptive names that contain your keywords. It's also helpful to create a folder (library) structure for your website that reflects the connection between the different parts of your site. For example: root directory → 'speakers' folder → 'portable-speakers' folder. If you use a CMS software such as Wordpress, the program might automatically organize your posts by category and subcategory and sub-sub-category however deep you want to go with the levels.

File size and speed:

Now we live in an age of fast internet connection, but it doesn't mean that you should cram your web pages with high resolution images and multimedia files that would add up to hundreds of megabites per page. Web visitors don't like to wait too long for a website to load. Optimize your pages for smaller size and fast loading speed.

Internal linking:

Internal links are links where you direct your web visitor from one part of your website to another, in order to elongate their overall stay on your website. That helps to increase visitor engagement. It is also a good way to create links where the anchor text contains the keywords of the linked page within your website.

Outbound links:

Outbound links point to external websites. It's worth to incorporate a few high authority external site's link into the content of your pages or posts.

Mobile optimization:

Making your website mobile friendly should be a great priority for every webmaster. A lot of people use the internet on their smart phones and they don't want to put off by a crappy design or slow page loads. Creating responsive websites that work on different sizes of devices (desktop, tablet, mobile phone) is a must these days.

Visitor engagement:

Visitor engagement is about how long your web visitor stays on your website. How many pages they load, how many links they click through, etc. You can improve this by internal linking and by creating great content. If you use a CMS program (e.g. Wordpress, Drupal, Mambo), enabling commenting is a good way of encouraging visitors to engage with your site, while also providing extra content with their comments.

Design, usability:

It should be mentioned that user experience is indirectly an important factor in SEO. If your site has bad design, or it's not responsive, or it's not user friendly, people will click away in an instant.

4. What is off-site SEO?

Off-site SEO is basically about building backlinks where the anchor text of the link contains your keywords. These backlinks are placed on external websites, hence the name off-site SEO. It's a bit more complex than that, but that's the gist of it. We have an entire article about how to drive traffic to your website with backlinking and other methods, here. Read it to find out more about off-site SEO tactics.

5. SEO in more depth

Over the past two decades search engine optimization has become quite a complex subject. Partly because of the emergence of new technologies, and partly because of the constant evolvement of search engines themselves. If you want to get a deeper understanding of SEO, check out the leading SEO blogs and read about the latest tips there.

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