SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a powerful tool that can help your website or blog rank higher on search engines like Google. And the best part? You don’t need to be a tech wizard to get started. With this straightforward and to-the-point guide on how to learn SEO for beginners, you’ll be on your way to page 1 of Google results in no time.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization, commonly known as SEO, is the practice of enhancing a website’s visibility on search engines. In simpler terms, it’s about making your site more attractive to Google and other search engines. This is achieved by:
- Improving website content to match what users are searching for.
- Ensuring your site is technically sound and easily accessible.
- Building trust and authority through quality backlinks.
How long will it take? 2-3 months
Understand the Basics of SEO
What it is: SEO is about making your website more visible to search engines.
For instance, if you run a burger place in Chicago and someone searches for “best burgers in Chicago,” you’d want your website to appear on the first page of Google.
How long? 1 Week: Grasping foundational concepts and terminology.
What it is: Find out what terms or phrases people are searching for on Google and then optimize your content around those keywords.
Using tools like Google’s Keyword Planner or Ahrefs, you might discover that “gluten-free burger place in Chicago” is a popular search term. The challenge is picking the right keywords that balance search volume and competition. A good strategy is to start with long-tail keywords, which are longer and more specific, as they often have less competition.
How long? 2 Weeks: Going deep into keyword tools and strategies.
What it is: Optimizing individual pages of your website, including elements like meta tags, headers, and the actual content.
Ensuring your blog post about “gluten-free burgers” has the keyword in the title, meta description, and throughout the content is essential. However, over-optimizing can lead to penalties from search engines. It’s vital to ensure keyword usage is natural and relevant.
How long? 1 Week: Learning and implementing onpage optimization techniques.
Off-Page SEO & Link Building
What it is: Activities outside your website, mainly building backlinks, to improve its ranking.
An approach might be guest posting on a popular food blog and getting a link back to your site. However, building high-quality backlinks can be time-consuming. It’s essential to focus on quality over quantity, as a few good links from reputable sites are more valuable than many from low-quality sites.
How long? 3 Weeks: Building quality backlinks and understanding offpage factors is a more extended process.
What it is: Optimizing the backend of your website, including aspects like site speed, mobile optimization, and site architecture.
Ensuring your website loads quickly and is mobile-friendly is crucial, so good/fast hosting is important (something like the A2Hosting Turbo plans for example). This aspect of SEO requires more technical expertise. If needed, consider hiring an expert or using SEO tools that offer technical audits.
How long? 2 Weeks: Grasping the technical aspects, like site speed and mobile optimization.
What it is: SEO is an ever-evolving field, and staying updated is crucial.
Google’s algorithm updates can change the SEO landscape overnight. The challenge lies in keeping up with these constant changes. To stay ahead, regularly read SEO news and updates from trusted sources like Search Engine Journal or Search Engine Land, join SEO communities, attend webinars, and always be on the lookout for the latest trends and updates.
How long? Ongoing: SEO is ever-evolving. Continuous learning and staying updated is a never-ending process.
Learning SEO, is like opening a door to a vast world of opportunities, if you put in the work. But, as with any skill, the deeper you dive, the more there is to discover.
Content is King: Content is the heart of SEO. It’s what people come to your website for, and it’s what search engines like Google use to determine how relevant your site is to a particular search query. But not just any content will do. You need high-quality, relevant, and engaging content that answers the questions your audience is asking. Here’s how you can achieve that:
- Research Your Audience: Understand who they are, what they’re interested in, and what problems they’re trying to solve. Tools like Google Analytics can give you insights into your audience’s behavior.
- Create Engaging Content: Whether it’s blog posts, videos, or infographics, ensure your content is engaging and provides value. Remember, it’s not about you; it’s about your audience.
- Update Regularly: The online world is always evolving. What was relevant a year ago might not be today. Regularly update your content to keep it fresh and relevant.
Link Building and Backlinks: Backlinks, which are links from other websites to yours, play a crucial role in SEO. They’re like votes of confidence from other sites, telling search engines that your content is valuable and worth linking to. But, building backlinks isn’t just about quantity; it’s about quality.
- Guest Posting: One of the best ways to get high-quality backlinks is by guest posting on reputable websites in your industry. It’s a win-win: you provide them with great content, and in return, you get a backlink.
- Avoid Black Hat Techniques: There are many shady techniques out there promising quick results. Avoid them. They might work in the short term, but in the long run, they can get your site penalized or even banned from search engines.
Technical Aspects: While content and backlinks are essential, don’t neglect the technical side of SEO. This includes ensuring your website loads quickly, is mobile-friendly, and is secure (HTTPS). If this sounds a bit too technical for you, don’t worry. There are many tools out there, like Google’s PageSpeed Insights, that can help you identify and fix any technical issues your site might have.
In my own journey of learning SEO (I’ve been doing it since 2001 and blogging about it since 2006, so that’s 22 years now), I’ve found that it’s a mix of art and science. It’s about understanding both the technical side of things and the human side. It’s about understanding search engine algorithms and, more importantly, understanding your audience. It’s a continuous learning process, but with dedication and the right resources, anyone can master it.
Table of Contents
In today’s age, the internet is flooded with countless websites, all dying for some traffic. But how do some websites manage to appear at the top of search results while others get lost in some dark corners? The answer is SEO or Search Engine Optimization. SEO is the art and science of optimizing your website so that search engines can find it easily. It’s the magic behind the scenes that ensures your website gets noticed.
What is SEO and why you should care about it
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a set of strategies and techniques used to improve a website’s visibility on global search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo, as well as regional ones like Baidu (China) or Yandex (Russia). In simpler terms, it’s the process of making your website more search engine friendly. When done right, SEO can help your website rank higher in search results, leading to more traffic and potentially more business.
Imagine the internet as a vast library. In this library, instead of books, we have websites. Now, if you’re a librarian (or in this case, a search engine), you’d want to guide your visitors to the best and most relevant information available. SEO ensures that your book (website) is easily found and recommended by the librarian.
Why is SEO important?
- Visibility and Ranking: The higher your website ranks in search results, the more likely people are to click on it. Most users don’t scroll past the first page of search results, so being on that coveted first page is crucial.
- Credibility and Trust: Websites that rank high are often seen as more credible and trustworthy. It’s a psychological thing; people tend to trust the first few results they see.
- Cost-Effective: Unlike paid advertising, where you pay for every click, SEO focuses on organic traffic. This means that once you’ve invested in SEO, you don’t have to pay for every visitor that comes to your site.
- Better User Experience: SEO isn’t just about pleasing search engines. It’s also about creating a better experience for your users. A well-optimized site is faster, easier to navigate, and more user-friendly.
When diving into the world of SEO, it’s essential to start with the basics. This foundational information will help you understand the more advanced techniques later on. If you’re really just starting out with SEO, this will be important to read and incapsulate. So, let’s break down the fundamental elements of SEO.
Definition: What does SEO stand for and its main components
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. But what does that really mean? At its heart, SEO is the practice of enhancing your website’s visibility to search engines. This visibility is achieved by optimizing various elements:
- On-Page SEO: This involves optimizing the content on your website. It includes the actual text, images, and even the structure of your site. Proper keyword placement, meta tags, and high-quality content all play a role here.
- Off-Page SEO: This is all about how the world perceives your website. Backlinks (links from other websites to yours) play a significant role here. The more authoritative and relevant websites link to you, the better your off-page SEO.
- Technical SEO: This is the behind-the-scenes aspect of SEO. It involves optimizing your website’s backend structure. Site speed, mobile optimization, and website architecture are all crucial components of technical SEO.
What is SEO?
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a strategy to enhance a website’s visibility on search engines.
Why is SEO important?
Optimized websites attract more visitors from search engines, leading to increased traffic and potential conversions.
Search Engines: How they work and their role in SEO
Search engines, like Google, Bing, or Yahoo, are the gatekeepers of the vast world of the internet. Their primary function is to index billions of web pages and deliver the most pertinent results to users based on their queries.
Here’s a simplified breakdown of how they work:
- Crawling: Search engines deploy bots, often referred to as “crawlers” or “spiders,” to explore the web. These bots visit web pages, read their content, and follow links to other pages.
- Indexing: Once the bots have crawled a page, they add it to a massive database, or “index.” This index is continuously updated as bots revisit and re-crawl pages to check for updates.
- Ranking: When a user types a query into a search engine, the engine sifts through its index to find the most relevant pages. It then ranks these pages based on numerous factors, such as relevance to the query, the authority of the website, and user experience metrics.
SEO practices are designed to align with these processes. By understanding how search engines work, you can better tailor your website to their algorithms, ensuring a higher ranking and more visibility.
What are search engines?
Search engines are platforms that help users find specific information online by scanning, indexing, and ranking web pages.
Why are search engines important for SEO?
They determine how and where websites appear in search results. Effective SEO aligns with search engine criteria to boost website rankings.
Organic vs. Paid Results: Understanding the difference
When you type a query into a search engine and hit ‘Enter’, you’re presented with a list of results. These results can be broadly categorized into two types: organic and paid.
- Organic Results: These are listings that appear because of their relevance to the search terms. Search engines deem these as the most relevant and useful results for the query. They are not influenced by paid advertising. Organic results are achieved through effective SEO practices.
- Paid Results: These are advertisements. Businesses pay search engines to display their ads for specific keywords. Every time a user clicks on a paid result, the advertiser pays a fee, hence the term “pay-per-click” or PPC.
While both types of results aim to provide value to the searcher, their methods of achieving visibility differ. Organic results rely on the quality and relevance of content, while paid results depend on targeted advertising.
What are organic results?
Organic results are listings on search engine results pages that appear based on their relevance to the search terms, while paid results are advertisements (eg. paid ads).
Why are organic results important?
Organic results drive free traffic to your website, and websites that rank high organically are often seen as more credible and trustworthy by users.
Why SEO Matters: Benefits for businesses and individuals
Now that we’ve distinguished between organic and paid results, let’s learn why SEO matters.
- Cost-Effective: Unlike paid advertising, where you pay for every click, SEO focuses on organic traffic. This means that once you’ve invested in SEO, you don’t have to pay for every visitor that comes to your site.
- Sustainable Results: The effects of a successful SEO strategy last longer than paid campaigns. While PPC can drive instant traffic, it stops the moment you stop paying. Organic traffic, on the other hand, can continue to flow long after you’ve implemented your SEO strategy.
- Builds Trust and Credibility: Websites that rank high in organic search results are often perceived as trustworthy and credible. It’s a psychological thing; people tend to trust the first few results they see.
- Better User Experience: SEO isn’t just about search engines. It’s about users. A well-optimized site provides a better user experience, which can lead to higher conversion rates.
- Increased Engagement and Conversions: Local SEO can lead to increased engagement, traffic, and conversions. It’s especially crucial for businesses with physical locations.
- Understanding User Behavior: SEO allows businesses to understand their audience better. By analyzing which keywords are bringing in traffic, businesses can tailor their offerings to meet their audience’s needs.
In the grand scheme of things, SEO is not just about ranking high on search engines. It’s about connecting businesses or individuals with their audience in the most organic way possible.
Keyword Research: What Are Users Searching For
Understanding keywords is a must. Keywords are the foundation upon which your entire SEO strategy is built. Let’s see why they’re so essential and how to find the right ones for your content.
The Role of Keywords: Why they’re the backbone of SEO
Keywords are the terms or phrases that users type into search engines when looking for information. They act as a bridge between the user’s query and the content you provide. By optimizing your content around relevant keywords, you increase the chances of your website appearing when those terms are searched.
- Relevance: Keywords ensure that your content is relevant to what users are searching for. If you’re writing about a “beginner’s guide to gardening,” you’d want to include keywords related to gardening basics.
- Traffic: Proper keyword research can help you tap into high-traffic search terms, driving more visitors to your site.
- Conversion: By targeting specific keywords, you can attract a more targeted audience, leading to higher conversion rates.
What are SEO keywords?
Keywords are terms or phrases users type into search engines to find information.
Why are SEO keywords important?
They connect user queries to relevant content, drive traffic, and lead to higher conversions.
Brainstorming Keywords: Starting with what you know
Before diving into advanced keyword research tools, start with what you know. Brainstorming is a simple yet effective way to come up with potential keywords.
- Your Product/Service: Think about the main products or services you offer. These can be broad terms that describe what you do.
- Related Terms: Think about related terms or topics. For a gardening website, this might include “soil types,” “gardening tools,” or “seasonal plants.”
- Questions: Consider common questions your audience might have. “How to plant tomatoes?” or “When to water plants?” can be potential keywords.
- Local Keywords: If you have a local business, think about location-specific terms like “gardening shop in New York” or “best plants for California climate.”
Brainstorming can give you a solid starting point, and from there, you can delve deeper using keyword research tools.
What is keyword brainstorming?
It’s the process of coming up with potential keywords based on what you already know about your business or topic.
Why is keyword brainstorming important?
It provides a foundational list of keywords before diving into more advanced research tools.
Keyword Research Tools
Keyword research tools are essential for finding the best keywords to target. They provide insights into search volume, competition, and even suggest related keywords. Some are free, and most have free packages, but really, almost all are paid if you want any meaningful effect to happen. Here are some of the most popular ones:
- Google Keyword Planner: This free tool by Google provides search volume data and keyword suggestions. It’s a great starting point for beginners.
- SEMrush: A comprehensive SEO tool that offers keyword research, competitor analysis, and more. It provides detailed data on keyword difficulty, search volume, and potential traffic.
- Ahrefs: Similar to SEMrush, Ahrefs offers a keyword explorer tool that provides insights into keyword difficulty, search volume, and more. This is what I use and it’s my favorite. It starts at around $90/mo sadly, so it’s not really for someone just starting out.
- Ubersuggest: A free tool by Neil Patel that offers keyword suggestions, search volume, and competition data. A good tool to use for free or even paid (at $12/mo it’s definitely affordable).
- Moz Keyword Explorer: Provides keyword suggestions, monthly search volume, and an estimate of how difficult it will be to rank for a particular keyword. Has a free account.
Using these tools, you can identify high-potential keywords and craft content that resonates with your target audience.
What are keyword research tools?
They are tools that provide data on keyword search volume, competition, and related keyword suggestions.
Why are keyword research tools important?
They help identify the best keywords to target, ensuring content reaches the right audience and improves website visibility.
Long-Tail Keywords: What they are and their importance
Long-tail keywords are longer, more specific keyword phrases that visitors are more likely to use when they’re closer to making a purchase or when they’re using voice search. They’re a bit counterintuitive at first, but they can be hugely valuable if you know how to use them.
- Specificity: Long-tail keywords are more specific (eg. have 3-4 or more words in them), which means they can target niche demographics more effectively.
- Less Competition: Due to their specificity, long-tail keywords tend to have less competition, making it easier to rank for them.
- Higher Conversion Rates: Users searching with long-tail keywords are often further along in the buying cycle, leading to higher conversion rates.
For example, instead of targeting the keyword “shoes,” you might focus on “women’s red running shoes size 8.” This keyword is less competitive and targets a more specific audience.
What are long-tail keywords?
They are longer, more specific keyword phrases that visitors use when closer to a point-of-purchase or using voice search.
Why are long-tail keywords important?
They target niche demographics, have less competition, and lead to higher conversion rates due to their specificity.
Keyword Intent: Understanding what users really want
Keyword intent refers to the reason a person is using a particular keyword in their search query. By understanding this intent, you can create content that aligns with what the user is looking for. There are four main types of keyword intent:
- Informational: The user is looking for information. Example: “How to get rid of bees“
- Navigational: The user is trying to reach a specific website or page. Example: “Facebook login.”
- Transactional: The user wants to buy something. Example: “Buy iPhone 14.”
- Commercial Investigation: The user is researching products or services but hasn’t decided to buy yet. Example: “Best smartphones 2023.”
By targeting keywords based on their intent, you can drive more relevant traffic to your site and increase the chances of conversions.
What is keyword intent?
It’s the reason a person uses a specific keyword in their search, indicating what they’re looking for.
Why is keyword intent important?
Understanding keyword intent helps create content that aligns with user needs, driving relevant traffic and increasing conversions.
Competitor Analysis & Research: Picking battles you can win
Competitor analysis is the process of identifying and evaluating your competitors to understand their strengths and weaknesses. This knowledge can help you find opportunities and threats in the market. Here’s how to do it:
- Identify Your Competitors: Start by listing businesses that offer similar products or services in your niche.
- Analyze Their SEO Strategy: Look at their keyword usage, backlink profile, and content strategy.
- Website Traffic Estimation: Get an idea of how much traffic competitors’ websites receive, their audience demographics, and user behavior.
- Evaluate Their Content: Identify gaps in their content that you can exploit.
- Check Their Backlinks: See where they’re getting their links from and if you can replicate or outdo them.
- Monitor Their Social Media: Social signals can impact SEO. See how active and engaged they are on social platforms.
- Ad Strategy Insights: Discover where and how competitors are investing in online advertising (eg. Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads (or X ads? Damn it Musk, make up your mind) or anything else they might use), and the effectiveness of their campaigns.
5 Best SEO Competitor Analysis Tools
- Pricing: Plans start at $119.95 per month.
- Features: Semrush offers comprehensive data for search results analysis. It provides an Authority Score for every URL listed in the SERP Analysis, which is based on factors like backlinks, traffic, and referring domains. The tool is also useful for researching competitor backlinks and offers a visual representation of backlink growth and categories.
- Best Use: Designed for researching competitors and for link building. The tools for competitive research are easy to use and give a visual snapshot of their activities.
- Ahrefs SERP Checker
- Pricing: Free checker tool, then starts at $99 per month.
- Features: Ahrefs offers both a free and paid version of its SERP checker. The tool provides an overview of the SERPs, including featured snippets, people also ask, and sitelinks enhancements.
- Best Use: Solid choice for search results competitor analysis, especially for those on a budget.
- Pricing: Free version, then starts at $69 per month.
- Features: Serpstat is an affordably priced SEO platform that offers SERP analysis tools. It’s focused on analyzing search results and is particularly useful for backlinks and competitor analysis.
- Best Use: Ideal for those looking for an affordable SEO platform with comprehensive SERP analysis capabilities.
- Pricing: Free analysis tool, then starts at $39 per month (or $16 per month on an annual plan).
- Features: SpyFu is dedicated to competitive research and offers many features, including a SERP Analysis tool that provides unique information like indicators signaling website movements in search results. It also offers a backlink report feature that identifies strong webpages to get links from.
- Best Use: Perfect for those who want to minimize the research part of competitive analysis and get straight to the data.
- Pricing: Free version and paid plans starting at $167 per month for the starter package.
- Features: SimilarWeb provides a clear image of the differences between websites. It offers multiple data points related to traffic, keywords, traffic share by country, and even a comparison of audience demographics.
- Best Use: Ideal for users who want a comprehensive overview of website differences, especially in terms of traffic and audience demographics.
Each of these tools offers unique features tailored to different aspects of SEO competitor analysis. Depending on your specific needs, you can choose the tools that best align with your SEO goals.
Best Non-SEO Competitor Analysis Tools
- Purpose: Social media analytics and competitor analysis.
- Features: Monitors brand mentions in real-time across major platforms, forums, news, blogs, and web pages. Provides branded, shareable reports.
- Pricing: Starts at $39/mo for the Starter plan and goes up to $399/mo for Enterprise.
- Purpose: Technology lookup for websites.
- Features: Reveals scripts, services, plugins, and technologies used by websites.
- Pricing: Basic plan is $295/mo, Pro is $495/mo, and Team is $995/mo.
- Purpose: Content analysis.
- Features: Measures content engagement, identifies the most shared content and finds influencers.
- Pricing: Starts with Pro at $99/month.
- Google Trends
- Purpose: Content strategy based on search trends.
- Features: Shows search rankings over time and provides related queries.
- Pricing: Free.
- Pricing: Starts at $49/month; free plan available with limited searches.
- Features: Specializes in spying on Facebook ads, but also covers YouTube, Google, Instagram, and Quora. Offers filtering by keywords, domains, and brand names.
- Best Use: Ideal for deep insights into competitors’ Facebook ad strategies and campaigns on other major platforms.
- Purpose: Newsletters analysis.
- Features: Monitors competitors’ email strategies, frequency, and trends.
- Pricing: Starts with Starter at $19/month.
- Purpose: Content research.
- Features: Allows the creation of content feeds based on specific topics or websites.
- Pricing: Basic version is free, with paid plans starting at $6.
- Purpose: Financial competitive analysis.
- Features: Provides business analytics, earnings, employee count, revenue, and more.
- Pricing: Offers a free plan with paid plans starting at $99.
- Purpose: Tracking company updates.
- Features: Provides insights on funding rounds, acquisitions, and more.
- Pricing: Basic version is free, with paid plans starting at $29 per month.
By understanding where your competitors are strong and where they’re lacking, you can tailor your SEO and growth strategy to capitalize on their weaknesses and defend against their strengths.
What is a competitor analysis?
It’s the process of identifying and evaluating competitors to understand their SEO strategies, strengths, and weaknesses.
Why is a competitor analysis important?
It helps find opportunities and threats in the market, allowing you to tailor your SEO strategy effectively.
On-Page SEO: Optimizing Content and Site Structure
On-page SEO is all about optimizing individual web pages to rank higher and earn more relevant traffic in search engines. It involves both the content you produce and the HTML source code of a page. Let’s start by discussing the importance of quality content and meta tags.
Quality Content: Writing valuable and relevant content
“Content is king” is a phrase you’ll often hear in the SEO world, and for a good reason. Quality content is the foundation of a successful SEO strategy. Here’s what you need to know:
- Relevance: Your content should be relevant to your target audience’s needs and interests.
- Originality: Avoid copying content from other sites. Search engines can penalize duplicate content.
- Depth: Cover topics in-depth, providing comprehensive information.
- Readability: Make sure your content is easy to read and understand. Use short paragraphs, bullet points, and subheadings.
- Engagement: Engaging content keeps visitors on your site longer, reducing bounce rates.
Remember, the goal is to provide value to your readers. When you focus on quality, search engines will reward you with higher rankings.
What is quality content?
It’s content that is relevant, original, in-depth, readable, and engaging, providing value to readers.
Why is quality content important?
Quality content attracts and retains readers, reduces bounce rates, and is rewarded with higher rankings by search engines.
Meta Tags: Creating attractive title tags and meta descriptions
Meta tags are snippets of text that describe a page’s content. They don’t appear on the page itself but in the page’s code. Understanding how to write very good meta tags is a must and frankly, a necessary skill to master. Two essential meta tags for SEO are:
- Title Tag: This is essentially the title of your webpage. When users search for content, the title tag is the clickable headline they see in the search results. It’s crucial for this tag to:
- Accurately represent the content of the page.
- Be attention-grabbing to entice users to click.
- Remain concise to ensure it displays correctly on SERPs.
- It’s a ranking signal for SEO, thus inserting the right keywords is important.
- Meta Description: Situated below the title tag in search results, the meta description offers a brief overview of the page’s content. While it doesn’t influence search rankings directly, an engaging meta description can significantly boost click-through rates by giving users a quick insight into the content they’ll find on the page. Google doesn’t always use the meta description you wrote. According to a Moz study, the original meta is shown in only ~50% of cases.
Tips and Tricks for Effective Meta Tags
- Consider the User Mindset: Understand what would compel a searcher to click on your title tag. Answer the questions: “What are you offering?” and “Why should I buy from you?”
- Incorporate the Current Year in the Title: Adding the current year to the end of your title can convey “freshness” and relevance, making users perceive the content as up-to-date and increasing their likelihood to click. Avoid doing this if your pages don’t necessarily have an “expiring” topic since it’s usually a turnoff for people. Masterclass uses this technique for their articles, and I do as well on this blog.
- Make It Unique: Convey your unique selling proposition. Avoid duplicate meta descriptions across your website.
- Optimal Length: Stay within the 155-160 character limit for meta descriptions. Place the most important text at the beginning.
- Make It Actionable: Ensure your description is clear, exciting, and actionable. Avoid using too many adjectives. If using creative copy, ensure relevance.
- Add a Call to Action (CTA): CTAs in your meta description compel people to click. Examples include “Shop now,” “Explore the collection,” or “Discover new trends.”
- Use Your Target Keyword: Naturally incorporate your target keyword to assist search engines in ranking your page.
- Avoid Meta Description Generators: While they might seem convenient, especially for sites with numerous pages, they often produce generic descriptions lacking personality. It’s better to craft meta descriptions manually, especially for high-traffic pages.
Good Examples of Titles and Meta Descriptions
- How to create the right meta description with examples – Yoast
- 50 Meta Description Examples To Get You Inspired – Plerdy
- How to Write the Perfect Page Title With SEO in Mind – Hubspot
- 6 SEO Page Title Best Practices (+ Examples) – Loganix
By optimizing your meta tags, you can improve the visibility of your content in search results and encourage more users to click on your site.
What are Meta tags?
They are snippets of text in a page’s code that describe the content, including title tags and meta descriptions.
Why are Meta tags important?
They improve visibility in search results and can increase click-through rates by providing clear, concise descriptions of page content.
URL Structure: Keeping URLs short and descriptive
A URL, or Uniform Resource Locator, is the web address of a specific page or file on the internet. Properly structured URLs can significantly impact your SEO efforts and user experience. Here’s what you need to know about optimizing them:
URLs should accurately describe the content of the page. For example,
example.com/seo-basics is more descriptive than
Concise URLs are preferable as they are easier to remember, share, and look cleaner.
Use hyphens ( – ) to separate words in URLs, as opposed to spaces (%20) or underscores ( _ ), making them more readable. For example,
example.com/seo-tips is more readable than
Avoid Special Characters
Stick to alphanumeric characters (letters and numbers) to avoid confusing search engines and users.
Make them Consistent
It’s essential to maintain a consistent URL structure across your site. This helps in better site navigation and user experience. Don’t use one type of URLs in one section, and another type in other sections. You will confuse both the search engine bots as well as the users.
Keywords in URLs
While the presence of keywords in URLs might be a minor ranking factor, they can help users understand the page’s content. For instance, a URL like
example.com/widgets/best-widgets gives a clear idea about the page’s content.
Trailing Slash or No Trailing Slash
A trailing slash indicates a directory or a category, while its absence denotes a file or a webpage. For instance,
/widgets/ represents a directory, while
/widgets denotes a page. However, it’s crucial to maintain consistency in your choice. What you do need to remember here, is that /widgets/ and /widgets are seen as two totally different URLs by Google. So if that page can be accessed with both those versions of URLs (with virtually having 100% the same content in the page), Google will decide what page to index and what to remove. A canonical tag or an ending slash 301 redirect will help here, to let Google know what version you want.
Avoid Unnecessary Words
Sometimes, CMSes (like WordPress for example) might add unnecessary words like
/category/ into the URL structure. It’s better to have a structure like
/widget/ rather than
/category/widget/. The “category” word adds nothing.
Future Proof Your URLs
If you’re creating a “Top XXX for 20XX” type of post, consider using the same URL year after year, like
example.com/widgets/top-widgets. This approach retains all the links from the previous year when the content is updated.
Subdomains vs. Folders
While subdomains (like
blog.example.com) are treated as separate entities by search engines (eg. myblog.blogspot.com is a totally different website in Google’s eyes, vs blogspot.com), folders (like
example.com/blog) are considered part of the main domain. Using folders can consolidate domain authority, making it preferable for SEO in many cases.
A well-structured URL not only helps users navigate your site but also provides search engines with a better understanding of your content.
What is a URL structure?
It’s the format and organization of URLs on your website, ensuring they’re descriptive, short, and user-friendly.
Why is the URL structure important?
A clear URL structure helps users navigate your site and provides search engines with a better understanding of your content.
Internal Linking: Connecting related content within your site
Internal linking refers to linking one page of your website to another page on the same website. It’s a crucial aspect of SEO and user experience. Some experts like Brian Dean (Backlinko) and other SEO veterans actually swear by this (and I do as well) as being one of the most important things to get you ranking better.
Here’s a more in-depth look at its importance and best practices:
- Navigation: Internal links guide users through your site, helping them find related content and understand the structure of your website.
- Page Authority: They distribute page authority and ranking power throughout your site, ensuring that even deeper pages get noticed by search engines.
- Indexing: Internal links assist search engines in discovering new or updated pages on your site, especially those that might be buried deep in your site’s architecture.
- Reduces Bounce Rate: By offering users more relevant content to explore, you can reduce the chances they’ll leave after viewing just one page.
Best Practices for Internal Linking
Use Keyword-Rich Anchor Text: While you can use exact match anchor text in your internal links without much penalty, it’s essential to mix it up to avoid looking spammy. For instance, if you have a page about “Mobile SEO,” the anchor text could be “tips on mobile SEO” or “how to understand mobile SEO”.
Vary the anchors you use to link your internal pages, in general. Include some of the important keywords, but also include other words as well.
Link to Important Pages: Your high-authority pages should link to the pages you deem most valuable (for example, your most sold products, or your best converting page for your course). This can help distribute that authority and improve the linked page’s ranking.
Avoid Using the Same Anchor Text for Different Pages: This can confuse search engines. For instance, if you have two pages, one about “grain-free cookies” and another about “low-carb cookies,” ensure their anchor texts are distinct. Eg. don’t link towards both pages with a “cookies” anchor. Go deeper and add differentiators.
Audit Your Internal Links: Use tools like Google Search Console to review your internal linking structure. Ensure that high-priority pages aren’t being overshadowed by less important ones.
Place Links Strategically: Positioning internal links towards the top of your page can engage users early on, encouraging them to explore more of your content.
Dofollow vs. Nofollow: Use dofollow links for internal linking to ensure the distribution of trust and authority (or Pagerank as we were used to many years ago).
Avoid using nofollow unless there’s a specific reason. In general, using a rel=nofollow directive on a link (may that be an internal link towards one of your pages, or an external link towards other websites/domains) means you don’t trust that link at all and you don’t “vouch” for it.
Help with Site Architecture: Organize your internal links in a way that creates a clear hierarchy and structure, making it easier for both users and search engines.
Limit the Number of Links: While there’s no strict rule, it’s generally recommended to have fewer than 100 links on a page. This includes both internal and external links. Too many links can dilute the value each link provides. This 100 links per page rule is pretty old, to be honest (from at least 15 years ago, when Matt Cutts mentioned it).
These days, you could really go higher honestly, but the question is: why would you? While some have thousands of links per page (eg. Masterclass; please wait for the page to load, since it’s huge) and it seems to work for them, most experts advise against it.
Check Mobile Versions: Ensure that the mobile version of your site retains the key internal links present in the desktop version. You could have a menu that’s not shown on mobile, and that would effectively mean your whole main navigation links are not present on mobile. Since Google mostly indexes with mobile-first crawl bots, that would mean you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
First Link Priority: If a page has two identical internal links, Google typically considers the anchor text of the first link (not visually, eg. what you see on the webpage, but actually in the order of the source code, when you right click anywhere on a website and select View Source).
Hence, it’s essential to be strategic with the placement and anchor text of your links. If you link to a page twice within any page, once with a link on an image (eg. no anchor text at all), and once with a link on “Asus laptops”, you better make the “Asus laptops” link show up first, before the image link.
Internal linking is a simple yet powerful tool for improving user experience and SEO. By guiding users to related content, you can keep them engaged and on your site longer.
What is internal linking?
It’s the practice of linking one page of your website to another page on the same site.
Why is internal linking important?
Internal linking improves navigation, distributes page authority, helps in indexing, and reduces bounce rate.
Image Optimization: Using alt text and compressing images for speed
Images can significantly impact your website’s speed and overall SEO. Here’s how to optimize them:
- Alt Text: Always incorporate descriptive alt text into your images. This provides search engines with a clear context about the image’s content. For instance, instead of leaving an image’s alt text blank, use a description like “Brown leather shoes men” to give a precise idea of what the image represents.
- Compression: Utilize tools such as TinyPNG or Compressor.io to diminish image file sizes without sacrificing their quality. This ensures faster page loads, which is a crucial factor for SEO.
- File Format: Opt for JPEG for larger photos or illustrations, PNG for images requiring transparent backgrounds, and WebP for superior compression without compromising quality. Avoid using GIFs for large images as they can be very heavy (eg. large size) and slow down your page.
- Responsive Images: Implement responsive image techniques to ensure that your visuals adjust seamlessly across various screen sizes, especially mobile devices. These days, all websites respect this. I don’t think I’ve seen bad practices here, either by theme developers, or frontend developers, for years now.
- Unique Images: Instead of relying solely on stock images, try to incorporate unique visuals. Custom images, especially infographics, can enhance user engagement and even earn you backlinks.
- Image Dimensions: Define the width and height of your images. For full-screen images, consider dimensions like 2400x1600px as a maximum (even though I usually recommend a max of 1080p, eg. 1920×1080), and for in-content images, 1500x1000px or even much lower (I use max 960px width in-content images in How2Tweaks). However, these dimensions can vary based on your website’s design. Most pages are usually in landscape format though, so landscape-like image aspect ratio would work best.
- Structured Data: You could implement structured data for your images. This can help your images appear as rich results in search engines, providing users with more information and potentially driving more traffic to your site. It’s a big “potentially”, and I would put this lower on the list of priorities.
- Lazy Loading: Implement lazy loading for your images. This means images will only load when they’re about to be displayed on the user’s screen, improving initial page load times. Huge improvements can be seen using lazy loading, and most high quality websites and blogs implement some form of lazy loading. You can almost never get good Page Speed scores without it.
- Browser Caching: Enable browser caching for your images. This means that when a user revisits your site, the images will load faster as they’re cached in the user’s browser. Aside from using smaller images and ALT texts, this is probably the most important aspect of not only your image optimization, but your whole website. Without proper caching, your website will almost never be able to reach good PageSpeed scores, hence, hurting it’s ranking potential.
Some additional good tips:
- When you can, surround your image with relevant text to help establish context.
- Refrain from using text within images, especially crucial information or keywords, as search engines can’t read them. Use text for … “text” 😁.
- Regularly check that your images aren’t blocked by robots.txt. You want all your images to be indexed.
Optimized images load faster, improving site speed and user experience.
What is image optimization?
It’s the process of reducing image file sizes and adding descriptive tags to improve website speed and accessibility.
Why is image optimization important?
Optimized images load faster, enhancing user experience and improving SEO rankings.
Mobile Optimization: Ensuring your site looks good on all devices
With the rise of mobile internet usage, ensuring your website is mobile-friendly is crucial. Here’s how:
- Responsive Design: Your website should adjust to fit any screen size.
- Touchscreen Readiness: Ensure buttons and links are easily clickable on touch devices.
- Mobile Speed: Use tools like Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to check your site’s mobile speed.
- Avoid Flash: Almost all mobile devices don’t support Flash these days, so avoid using it. Who the hell uses Flash anymore anyway, right?
A mobile-optimized website provides a better user experience, leading to longer site visits and more conversions.
What is mobile optimization?
It’s the process of ensuring your website looks and functions well on mobile devices.
Why is mobile optimization important?
A mobile-friendly site provides a better user experience, which can lead to longer visits and more conversions.
User Experience (UX): Importance of site speed, navigation, and design
User experience is all about how visitors interact with your website. A positive UX can lead to higher engagement and conversions. Here’s how to work on it:
- Site Speed: A fast-loading site retains visitors. Use tools like Google PageSpeed Insights to check your speed. Speed is a key ranking factor, and it also affects your UX significantly. A slow-loading website may not even get to be experienced by users, who will bounce before it has fully loaded. Ensure you deliver your heaviest assets in the most efficient way possible. Minimize your CSS, defer your JS, and don’t load content that the user hasn’t requested.
- Clear Navigation: Organize your site’s menu logically and ensure it’s easy to navigate. Structuring your website for easy navigation brings benefits on many fronts. By giving each page in your site a well-defined subject matter, and organizing your content in sections, you make it easier for Google to understand what your pages are about.
- Engaging Design: A visually appealing site can keep visitors engaged longer. Using product pictures, illustrations, and infographics isn’t just an aesthetic decision. These assets can enrich your users’ experience and create new ranking opportunities. I mean c’mon, even Plentyoffish isn’t Craigslist anymore, design-wise.
- Interactive Elements: Use elements like sliders, videos, and infographics to engage users.
- Feedback Mechanisms: Allow users to leave feedback or contact you easily. This not only helps in improving the user experience but also provides valuable insights into areas of improvement.
- Accessibility: You could make sure your website is keyboard-accessible (as in when people complete a form on your website, and press Tab to go to the next field), and make your navigation as easy to figure out as possible. Use H1s, H2s, and H3s to organize your content, not just visually, but also conceptually. Never use more than one H1 per page, use H2 titles for your first-level subtitles, and “nest” H3s and H4s below your H2s.
A website with a great user experience can lead to longer visits, higher engagement, and more conversions.
What is user experience (UX)?
UX refers to the overall experience a visitor has when interacting with a website.
Why is user experience (UX) important?
A positive UX can lead to longer site visits, higher engagement, and increased conversions.
Off-Page SEO: Building Authority and Trust
In this segment of how to learn SEO for beginners, we’ll delve into off-page SEO, focusing on backlinks and the age-old debate of quality versus quantity. Off-page SEO refers to all the activities you do outside of your website to raise its rank in search engines.
Backlinks: What they are and why they matter
Backlinks, also known as inbound links or incoming links, are links from one website to a page on another website. They’re like votes of confidence from other sites, signaling to search engines that your content is valuable and trustworthy.
- Natural Links: These are given without any action from the page owner. For example, a blogger might find your article useful and link to it.
- Manually Built Links: These come from deliberate link-building activities, such as asking influencers to share your content.
- Self-created Links: These are created by practices such as adding a backlink in an online directory, forum, or a press release with optimized anchor text.
Having a mix of these types of links can be beneficial, but it’s essential to prioritize quality over quantity.
What are backlinks?
Backlinks are links from one website to a page on another website, acting as endorsements for your content.
Why are backlinks important?
They signal to search engines that your content is valuable and trustworthy, which can improve your site’s ranking. They are the backbone to your website’s growth.
Quality vs. Quantity: Why one good link can be better than ten bad ones
While it might be tempting to gather as many backlinks as possible, it’s more beneficial to focus on the quality of those links. Here’s why:
- Relevance: Links from sites related to your industry or topic are more valuable than those from unrelated sites.
- Authority: A link from a well-respected, authoritative site is worth more than several from lesser-known sites.
- Diversity: It’s better to have links from various domains rather than multiple links from a single domain.
- Position: Links embedded within the content of a page are more valuable than those in footers or sidebars.
Good Types of Backlinks
Editorial Backlinks: These are the gold standard of backlinks. They come from high-quality websites that link to your content because they find it valuable and relevant. For example, when a blogger mentions your article in their post.
Guest Post Backlinks: While guest posting solely for links is frowned upon, if you’re contributing high-quality content to reputable sites, the backlinks you gain can be beneficial. Beware of guest posting on low quality websites though, an ever-increasing bad tactic these days. Especially on Fiverr or Upwork. There are so many “experts” selling guest posts on their DA50, DA80 DA whatever websites, when actually 98% of those websites are pure link farms and part of extensive PBNs (private blog networks, aka someone that has built dozens of low quality websites and interlinks all of them).
Business Profile Backlinks: These come from creating profiles on business directories or industry-specific platforms. Ensure the platform is reputable and relevant to your niche.
Webinar and Podcast Backlinks: If you host or participate in webinars and podcasts, the links from the show notes or descriptions can be valuable, especially if the platform has a good audience base.
Community and Forum Backlinks: Engaging in industry-specific forums or communities and adding value can lead to natural backlinks. However, ensure your links provide value and aren’t spammy.
Infographic and Data Visualization Backlinks: Creating unique and valuable infographics or data visualizations can attract backlinks, especially if other sites use your visual content and credit you.
Bad Types of Backlinks
Paid Backlinks: Buying backlinks might seem like a quick win, but search engines can penalize you for this practice. It’s always better to earn links naturally. Even though you might get away with it, it’s just like cheating in a relationship: either you’re caught right away, or shit hits the fan anyway sooner or later.
Link Exchanges: “I’ll link to you if you link to me” might sound tempting, but excessive link exchanges can be seen as manipulative and can harm your site’s ranking. This is a 2005 technique anyway. Just don’t do it.
Low-Quality Directory Links: While some directories are valuable, many low-quality directories exist solely for link building. These can harm your site’s reputation. If you actually need a few foundational links to get started (eg. to get your website at least indexed), create a few social profiles and mention your domain in them.
Spammy Blog Comments: Leaving irrelevant comments with links on blogs or news articles can be seen as spam and can negatively impact your site’s credibility. Don’t do it.
Automated Backlinks: Using tools or software to create backlinks automatically is a bad practice and can lead to penalties. Don’t even want to get deeper into this. Anything that’s automatic is bad. 99% of it anyway.
Remember, search engines are smart. They can distinguish between high-quality links and low-quality ones. Building quality backlinks takes time and effort, but the payoff in improved rankings and organic traffic is well worth it.
What is the difference between quality and quantity in backlinks?
Quality refers to the relevance and authority of the backlink source, while quantity refers to the number of backlinks.
Why is the quality of backlinks important?
Quality backlinks from authoritative and relevant sources can significantly improve your site’s ranking, while a large number of low-quality links can harm it.
Link Building Strategies
Link building is an essential component of SEO, helping websites gain visibility, authority, and higher rankings in search engine results. Link building is also the art of securing hyperlinks from other websites to your own. These links help search engines navigate the web, understand your website’s content, and rank it accordingly.
Here are some good strategies and tips to consider:
Collaborating with reputable websites in your industry can provide a platform for your content and a backlink in return. When guest posting, ensure your content is unique, valuable, and relevant to the host website’s audience.
Broken Link Building
Websites often have broken links, which lead to non-existent pages. By identifying these links and offering your content as a replacement, you can earn a backlink.
Identify top-performing content in your niche, create a superior version of it, and then approach websites that link to the original content, suggesting they link to your improved version.
Proactively reaching out to relevant websites and presenting compelling reasons to link to your content can be effective. Ensure your content offers unique value to make your outreach efforts successful.
Unlinked Brand Mentions
Monitor the web for mentions of your brand that aren’t linked to your website. Politely request the website owner to add a link to the mention.
Competitor Backlink Analysis
Analyze where your competitors are getting their backlinks from and target those sources. This can provide insights into potential backlink opportunities.
HARO (Help a Reporter Out)
Register as a source on HARO (they have free and paid options) to connect with journalists looking for expert opinions. You’ll receive emails three times a day (morning, afternoon, and evening) from Monday to Friday. These emails contain media opportunities across various categories. This can lead to high-quality backlinks from authoritative media outlets.
I tried it many times, and I gave my best to make it work but to be honest, the results weren’t enough for me.
From my own experience with it but also after discussing with one or two PR agencies that do this for a living, the success rate is maybe 0.5%-10% with 10% being a godly level of success (usually when you have an army of good contacts as a PR agency or consultant, and you have established very good relationships with them).
If we take my success rate, which was about 1%, this means that out of every 100 pitches you send, one gets you a mention. Not bad, not good. Could be worse. Best of all, it just takes time. So if you value your time more than paying an agency to do this for you, don’t do it.
I might have been really bad at it, and you could be doing much better though. There are people who swear by it, so give it a shot yourself.
Here are a few tips that can help you out if you do want to try HARO:
Journalists often receive a vast number of responses for each query. Responding promptly can increase the likelihood of your pitch being seen and considered.
Some journalists set tight deadlines, so regularly checking for new queries is essential.
On the other hand, some advise to take your time and craft a very good pitch, since quality and relevance to what the journalist asked are more important when they decide with what source to go.
Whatever you do, please don’t use ChatGPT to create a fire and forget message to send to these professionals. They used ChatGPT and they see it dozens of times per day in everything they get on all fronts. If you do want to use AI, do it to give you ideas on how/what to pitch. But craft the message yourself.
Choose what you respond to wisely
Respond only to queries that align closely with your expertise. Avoid being labeled a “timewaster” by journalists. If you do not pick and choose, you would be wasting everyone’s time, not just the journalist’s. Instead of sending 10 highly targeted pitches daily, you would be sending 50 with an unrealistic chance of success.
Prioritize opportunities that offer exposure to your target audience, valuable link equity, and potential for referral traffic.
Craft Quality Pitches
Personalize Your Pitch: Address the journalist by name and establish a connection.
Be Concise: Given the volume of pitches journalists receive, aim to keep yours between 200-300 words, ensuring clarity and conciseness.
Showcase Your Expertise: Stand out by providing real-life examples, data, or unique insights.
Use a Template: A good template can help you out a lot. I tried many versions, and some do yield better results than others. It’s the same rule as with ads too. You need a good hook for the email subject (imagine a journalist getting 100-200 emails per day for EVERY request it has in HARO; you definitely need to stand out) and get straight to the point while showing why you are better than anyone else to answer their question.
Upgrade to HARO Premium
Consider a paid HARO account for additional benefits. Premium features include setting up a profile/bio, subscribing to specific verticals, receiving alerts for media requests, and more.
What I got the most value out of from the HARO subscription:
- Multiple Bio templates, that you can use for different pitches. For some you are a founder, for others, you are a marketing expert. You get the point.
- Getting requests a bit earlier than free users. Don’t remember exactly what it was, but I think it was something like 30 minutes. So you get the emails with the requests from journalists a whole half hour sooner than most of the other folks who are on the free tier. Sometimes this helps to get a pitch in first. I really don’t know, but I presume that some journalists pick faster and move on. Some have 5 or 10 articles to write and don’t have time to stick around 2 weeks until a good pitch comes in.
Engage in digital PR activities, such as sharing press releases, building relationships with online journalists, and participating in influencer marketing. This can lead to valuable backlinks and increased brand visibility.
Create content that naturally attracts backlinks, such as infographics, original research, calculators, or in-depth guides. Such assets can garner links without direct outreach.
Debatable: Buy old/expired authoritative domains and redirect them
Old or expired domains, especially those with a history of quality content and good backlinks, have built up domain authority over time. Redirecting these domains to another domain you own can, in theory, transfer some of this authority, giving the new site a potential SEO boost. This has been debated a lot over the years, with some swearing by it and others totally being against it (as in either it has no value or actually ends up penalizing your whole domain).
Thus, while this tactic clearly offers potential benefits, it’s not a guaranteed win. It’s essential to approach this strategy with caution, thorough research, and an understanding of the risks involved. As with many SEO tactics, what works for one site might not work for another.
Remember, link building is a long-term strategy. While it’s essential to secure backlinks, it’s equally important to ensure they are high-quality and relevant to your website’s content. This not only boosts your SEO but also drives targeted traffic to your site.
What are link building strategies?
They are techniques used to acquire hyperlinks from other websites to your own, boosting your site’s authority and ranking.
Why are link building strategies important?
Managing to acquire quality links will help improve your site’s SEO, drive traffic, and establish authority in your industry.
Social Signals: The role of social media in SEO
Social signals refer to a webpage’s collective shares, likes, and overall social media visibility. While the direct impact of social signals on SEO is still debated, there’s no denying that a strong social presence can drive traffic and amplify your content’s reach.
- Engage with your audience: Regularly post and interact with your followers.
- Shareable Content: Create content that people want to share on their social media.
- Incorporate Social Sharing Buttons: Make it easy for visitors to share your content.
While no search engine has yet confirmed social signals as a direct ranking factor, the indirect benefits are undeniable. When content is widely shared on social platforms, it naturally garners more backlinks and organic traffic. This increased visibility often leads to higher domain authority and improved search rankings.
Additionally, search engines like Google do index social media profiles, making them another touchpoint for potential visitors.
What are social signals?
Social signals refer to the collective shares, likes, and visibility of a webpage on social media platforms.
Why are social signals important?
They can drive traffic, amplify content reach, and potentially influence search engine rankings (unconfirmed).
Local SEO: Importance for businesses with physical locations
Local SEO is about optimizing your online presence to attract more business from relevant local searches. If you have a physical location or serve a specific geographic area, local SEO is crucial. In short, when someone searches on Google Maps or similar local search websites, you want to appear higher.
- Google My Business: Claim and optimize your listing. Ensure your name, address, and phone number are consistent across all platforms. Make this your priority since this will probably bring you 95% of anything that’s worth it, in everything Local SEO.
- Local Citations: Ensure your business details are correct on local directories and review sites.
- Reviews: Encourage satisfied customers to leave positive reviews on Google and other platforms.
Let’s talk a bit more about Google My Business since it’s one of the most effective and foundational steps for local SEO. Google My Business is a free tool that allows businesses to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. By verifying and editing your business information, you can help customers find you and tell them the story of your business.
Here’s why it’s crucial:
- Visibility on Google Maps and Local Search: Once you claim your GMB listing, your business can appear on Google Maps and local search results. This increases your visibility to potential customers in your area.
- Share Important Information: You can post updates, offers, and events to keep your customers informed. This includes your business hours, phone number, and directions.
- Engage with Customers: GMB allows customers to leave reviews. Responding to these reviews shows that you value feedback and engage with your customers.
- Insights: Google provides insights on how customers searched for your business and where they come from. This data can be invaluable for refining your local marketing strategies.
- Photos and Virtual Tours: You can add photos or even a virtual tour of your business, giving potential customers a better idea of what to expect.
What is local SEO?
Local SEO focuses on optimizing a business’s online presence for local searches, targeting specific geographic areas.
Why is local SEO important?
It helps businesses with physical locations or those serving specific areas to attract more local customers.
Technical SEO: The thing that’s usually left behind
How’s your mental state? Feeling overwhelmed with all this SEO nonsense yet? 😁 Let’s move to the often overlooked but incredibly vital area of Technical SEO. This section will guide you through the importance of a well-organized site structure and the role of XML sitemaps in SEO.
Site Structure: Importance of a logical hierarchy
A well-organized site structure makes it easier for search engines to crawl and index your website. It also enhances user experience, leading to better user engagement and higher conversion rates. Here’s how to ensure a logical site structure:
Your website should have a clear hierarchy. Start with broad categories and then break them down into specific topics or subcategories. For instance, an e-commerce site might have main categories like “Men’s Apparel”, “Women’s Apparel” and “Accessories”. Under “Men’s Apparel”, there could be subcategories like “Shirts”, “Pants”, and “Shoes.”
Breadcrumb navigation provides users with a trail, showing them where they are and how they got there. It’s a series of links, usually at the top of the page, that allows users to return to any section of the site. For instance,
Home > Men's Apparel > Shirts. This enhances usability and helps search engines understand the site’s structure.
I used to use breadcrumbs a lot in the past. Now I only recommend them if you have a big website structure (an ecommerce shop for example, with many nested categories). Otherwise, for blogs or simple websites, a breadcrumb would have no value, from where I stand.
Aim for a shallow website structure. In an ideal scenario, any page on your site should be reachable within three to four clicks from the homepage. This ensures that users can quickly find what they’re looking for without getting lost or frustrated.
Consistent URL Structure
URLs should be consistent and descriptive. They give both users and search engines an idea of the page’s content. For instance, a URL like
example.com/mens-apparel/shirts is descriptive and aligns with the site’s hierarchy.
Internal links connect different pages of your website, helping distribute page authority and guiding both users and search engines to relevant content. For instance, a blog post about “summer fashion trends” might link to the “summer collection” page in the e-commerce section.
Avoid Orphan Pages
Every important page on your site should be linked to from another page. Pages without any internal links are termed as orphan pages. They’re hard for search engines to discover and can lead to poor user experience.
Incorporating these elements into your site structure will not only improve its SEO but also enhance user experience, leading to better engagement and potentially higher conversion rates.
What is a site structure?
Site structure refers to how your website’s content is organized and presented to both users and search engines.
Why is a site structure important?
A logical structure makes it easier for search engines to crawl and index your site, and it enhances user experience.
XML Sitemaps: Guiding search engines through your site
An XML sitemap is a file that lists all the important pages of your website, guiding search engines to understand your site’s content and structure. It’s like a roadmap for search engines, ensuring they don’t miss out on any important content.
- Include Important Pages: Your sitemap should list all the essential pages you want search engines to index.
- Update Regularly: Whenever you add new content or make significant changes, update your sitemap.
- Submit to Search Engines: Use tools like Google Search Console to submit your sitemap, ensuring search engines are aware of it.
The simple rules of a sitemap I always followed:
- Each sitemap should be limited to 50MB (uncompressed) and 50,000 URLs. There used to be a limit of 10MB per sitemap, but Google and Bing jointly announced they increased it to 50MB a few years ago. If your website exceeds these numbers, consider creating multiple sitemaps.
- If you have multiple sitemaps, use a sitemap index file to list all your sitemaps. This makes it easier for search engines to find and understand the structure of your site.
- You can use the
<priority>tag to indicate the importance of pages relative to other pages on your site. While search engines don’t strictly adhere to these, it can provide them with some guidance. For example, you could put more priority (1 is max) on your homepage and other pages that change often.
- Include the sitemap in your robots.txt file, so even if you don’t manually submit it to Google or Bing or any other search engine, you broadcast a message about where it is (especially if you named the sitemap index file with a weird non-standard name). Just add this line to the bottom of your robots.txt file: Sitemap: https://how2tweaks.com/sitemap_index.xml. Replace my sitemap URL with yours, of course 😀.
What is an XML sitemap?
An XML sitemap is a file that lists all the significant pages of your website, helping search engines understand your site’s content and structure.
Why is an XML sitemap important?
It acts as a roadmap for search engines, ensuring they can easily find and index all the essential content on your site.
Robots.txt: Telling search engines where they can and can’t go
Robots.txt is a simple text file placed in the root directory of your website. It communicates with search engines about which pages or sections of your site they should or shouldn’t crawl and index.
- User-agent: Specifies which search engine bot the rule applies to.
- Disallow: Tells bots which pages or directories they shouldn’t crawl.
- Allow: Informs bots which pages they can access, especially useful if you’ve disallowed an entire directory but want to allow specific pages within it.
A few more good things to know would be:
- 🛑 Don’t mess with this file please: It can make your whole site NOT be indexed in search engines. If you’re a beginner, it would make sense to not have it at all (which automatically means “index everything).
- Pattern Matching: Robots.txt allows the use of pattern-matching to cover a range of possible URL options. For instance, using an asterisk (*) serves as a wildcard representing any sequence of characters, and the dollar sign ($) matches the end of a URL.
- Location: To ensure your
robots.txtfile is discovered by search engines, it must be placed in your website’s main directory or root domain. For example, if your website is
www.example.com, the robots.txt file should be accessible at
- Sitemap Declaration: It’s a best practice to indicate the location of any XML sitemaps associated with your domain at the bottom of the
robots.txtfile. This helps search engines easily find your sitemap and understand the structure of your site. I mentioned this above as well. Just add this line to the bottom of your robots.txt file:
What is Robots.txt?
Robots.txt is a file that instructs search engine bots about which pages or sections of a site they should or shouldn’t crawl and index.
Why is Robots.txt important?
It helps control and guide search engine bots, ensuring they index the right content and avoid sections you don’t want to appear in search results.
Site Speed: Importance and tools to measure
Site speed is a critical factor in SEO. A faster website provides a better user experience, leading to lower bounce rates and higher conversions. Search engines, especially Google, consider site speed when ranking websites.
- Optimize Images: Compressing images without compromising their quality can significantly boost your site’s speed. Ensure that images are appropriately sized and consider the file format. PNGs are generally suitable for graphics with fewer than 16 colors, while JPEGs or Webps are apt for photographs.
- Leverage Browser Caching: By storing parts of your site in a user’s browser, you eliminate the need for them to download the same information every time they visit. This caching can significantly enhance the speed of subsequent visits.
- Reduce Redirects: Every redirect introduces additional waiting time for the HTTP request-response cycle to complete. Minimizing these can shave off valuable milliseconds from your loading time.
- Tools to Measure: Google PageSpeed Insights, GTmetrix, and Pingdom are excellent tools to check your site’s speed.
Recommended Web Hosting for SEO (WordPress optimized)
- A2Hosting: Best overall with impressive speed at a low price (only get the Turbo plans). Offers dedicated WordPress hosting.
- WPEngine: Pricey but delivers outstanding performance, specifically tailored for WordPress.
- Cloudways: Ideal for the technically inclined, with options for dedicated WordPress hosting.
- Flywheel: Managed hosting starting at $15/month with rave reviews. Specializes in WordPress hosting.
- Kinsta: Premium managed hosting starting at $30/month, exclusively for WordPress.
What is Site Speed?
Site speed refers to how quickly a website loads its content.
Why is Site Speed important?
A faster website offers a better user experience, leading to higher engagement and conversions. It’s also a ranking factor for search engines.
Mobile Friendliness: Ensuring your site is mobile-responsive
With the majority of internet users accessing websites via mobile devices, ensuring your site is mobile-friendly is crucial. A mobile-responsive site adjusts its layout based on the device’s screen size, offering a seamless experience.
- Responsive Design: The site layout adjusts based on the device’s screen size.
- Optimize for Touch: Ensure buttons are large enough to tap and there’s enough space between them.
- Test Your Site: Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool to see how well your site performs on mobile devices.
What is mobile friendliness?
Mobile friendliness refers to how well a website is designed and optimized for mobile devices.
Why is mobile friendliness important?
Most internet users access websites via mobile devices. A mobile-friendly site ensures a seamless user experience, leading to higher engagement and conversions.
Structured Data: Helping search engines understand your content
Structured Data, often known as Schema Markup, is a specific form of code added to a website, enabling search engines to understand the context of your content. This, in turn, can lead to richer search results and a better user experience. Here’s what you need to know:
- Rich Snippets: These are enhanced search results that provide more information than standard listings. Examples include star ratings for product reviews, cooking time for recipes, or event dates. By using structured data, you can make your content eligible for rich snippets, which can improve click-through rates.
- Knowledge Graph: This is the box that appears on the right side of Google’s search results, offering quick, authoritative answers to user queries. Properly implemented structured data can increase the chances of your content being featured in the Knowledge Graph.
- Breadcrumbs: These are navigational aids that help users understand their location within your site. Structured data can be used to display breadcrumbs in search results, offering users a quick view of the page’s position within the site hierarchy.
- Featured Snippets: While not directly a result of structured data, optimizing your content with clear, concise answers can make it eligible for featured snippets. These are selected search results that are featured on top of Google’s organic results below the ads.
- Tools to Implement: Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper is an invaluable tool for beginners. It guides you in adding structured data to your site. Additionally, JSON-LD is a lightweight format to embed structured data in web pages.
- Types of Structured Data: There are various types of structured data, including Product, Recipe, Review, Event, and more. Depending on your website’s content, you can implement the relevant schema to provide more context to search engines.
- Avoid Over-optimization: While structured data can be beneficial, it’s essential to use it correctly. Avoid marking up irrelevant content or using it misleadingly, as this can lead to penalties.
Out of all these, I highly recommend trying and going for the paragraph and list style featured snippets. Often called “Position zero” means that being there trumps every other result for that particular search. Let me tell you a bit more about them below.
What is structured data?
Structured Data is a type of code added to websites, helping search engines better understand and display content in richer ways.
Why is structured data important?
It enhances search results, potentially leading to higher click-through rates and better user engagement.
Featured Snippets: To the Top of Google’s SERPs in Position Zero
Featured snippets are a unique type of search result that appears at the top of Google’s search results, often referred to as “position zero.” They aim to directly answer a user’s query without the need to click through to a website. By optimizing your content for featured snippets, you can significantly increase your website’s visibility and click-through rate. They are often also referred to as “answer boxes”.
Why Optimize for Featured Snippets?
- Increased Visibility: Featured snippets are displayed prominently at the top of the search results, often above the first organic result.
- Voice Search: Google reads back featured snippets when users perform voice queries on mobile or Google Home devices. Optimizing for snippets ensures your content is voice search-friendly.
- Authority and Trust: Being featured signals to users that Google trusts your content as a reliable source of information.
How to Optimize for Featured Snippets:
- “What is” Heading: Start your content with a “What is [keyword]” heading. This signals to Google that the following text is a potential candidate for a featured snippet.
- Use the “is” Sentence Structure: Begin with a sentence that defines the topic using the structure: “[Keyword] is…”. This format is frequently seen in featured snippets.
- Concisely Define the Topic: Describe the topic as completely as possible in two to three sentences. Avoid fluff and get straight to the point.
- Match the Snippet Format: If you notice a paragraph-style snippet for your target keyword, structure your content similarly. If it’s a list or table, format your content in that manner.
- Avoid Brand Names: Keep the content generic and avoid referencing specific brands or products. This ensures the information is universally applicable.
- Steer Clear of First-Person Language: Using terms like “we” or “our” can be confusing in a snippet, especially when read aloud in voice searches.
- Iterate and Refine: If you don’t earn the snippet on your first try, make adjustments and try again. Minor tweaks can often make a big difference.
Types of Featured Snippets
- Paragraph: The most common type, consisting of two or three sentences of text.
- List: A bulleted or numbered list, usually derived from
- Table: Information presented in a table format, extracted from a
The best way to actually have a chance to appear in a featured snippet spot is to rank in the top 10 results for that search. It’s not “mandatory” and listings further down can get a featured snippet spot, but from my experience, 95% of the time, that listing is in the top 10. Off course, being in the #2 spot for that search helps more 😎.
By following these guidelines and continuously refining your approach, you can increase your chances of earning that coveted spot at the top of Google’s search results.
What are featured snippets?
Featured snippets, often referred to as “answer boxes,” are concise answers to user queries displayed at the top of Google’s search results. They provide users with a direct answer without them having to click through to a website.
Why are featured snippets important?
Earning a spot in the featured snippet can significantly boost a site’s visibility and click-through rate. They are displayed prominently, often above the first organic result, signaling to users that Google trusts the content as a reliable source of information.
🔐HTTPS: Why security is a ranking factor
HTTPS stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure. It’s the secure version of HTTP, ensuring data between your website and its visitors is encrypted and safe.
- SSL Certificate: This is what turns your HTTP site into an HTTPS site. It encrypts data transfers. most hosts install this as a free option with Let’s Encrypt. Even though there are much safer and more powerful options on the market, I really think you’re good with the free option.
- Ranking Boost: Google has confirmed that HTTPS is a ranking factor. How much of a factor though, nobody knows. I haven’t seen a non-https website in years to be honest, so the “boost” is actually nothing if everyone has it 😉
- Trust Factor: Visitors trust HTTPS sites more, especially when entering personal information or making purchases.
- Migration: If you’re moving from HTTP to HTTPS, ensure proper redirects are in place to avoid losing traffic.
What is HTTPS?
HTTPS is the secure version of HTTP, ensuring data between a website and its visitors is encrypted.
Why is HTTPS important?
It provides a secure browsing experience, boosts rankings, and increases trust among visitors.
Keeping Up with SEO
It’s essential to understand that SEO isn’t static. It’s an ever-evolving field, and staying updated is crucial for success. It’s important to keep up with SEO news and updates if you want to stay relevant. News, forums, and communities like Reddit (but of all kinds, including Slack) are usually the first to report new stuff before mainstream “SEO” media write about it.
SEO News and Updates: Staying updated with algorithm changes
Search engines, especially Google, frequently update their algorithms. These updates can significantly impact your website’s rankings. Here are a few spots to cover:
Independent SEO News
Official SEO Publications
Amazing Personal Blogs
Blogs from an SEO Product or Service Company
Enjoy reading 🙂
SEO Courses, Certifications & Conferences
While self-learning through online blogs like mine is invaluable, formal courses and certifications offer structured and in-depth insights into SEO that perhaps online guides can’t cover. Or they can’t do it organized and applied. Additionally, attending conferences and networking with industry figures is only meant to be here if you’re building a career in SEO. I’d definitely skip the conferences section if you aren’t thinking of a job in the SEO industry.
SEO Courses and Certifications
What are they? SEO courses offer structured learning on various SEO topics, while certifications validate one’s knowledge and expertise in the field.
Why are they important?
- Structured Learning: Courses often provide a step-by-step approach, making it easier for beginners to grasp complex concepts.
- Certification: Having an SEO certification can enhance your credibility, especially if you aim to offer SEO services or secure a job in this domain.
- Updated Content: Reputable courses consistently update their content to mirror the latest SEO trends and best practices.
- Practical Application: Many courses provide real-world examples, case studies, and hands-on exercises.
A few good SEO Courses and Certifications:
- Google’s SEO Starter Guide (Free)
- SEO Certification Course by HubSpot (Free)
- SEO Training Course by Ahrefs (Free)
- The Ultimate SEO Training + SEO For WordPress on Udemy (Paid)
- Moz 30 Days of SEO Course (Free, kinda; Needs a Moz subscription or active Trial)
- Free SEO Training Course for beginners by Yoast (Free)
- Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO by Moz (Free)
- Semrush SEO Crash Course by SEMRush (Free)
- Google SEO Fundamentals by UCDavis, on Coursera. Comes recommended by Google (Paid)
SEO Conferences and Webinars
What are they? SEO conferences and webinars are events where industry experts discuss the latest trends, strategies, and research in SEO.
Why are they important?
- Networking: Engage with industry experts, exchange experiences, and glean insights from their successes and challenges.
- Latest Trends: Conferences often present the newest research, tools, and strategies in the SEO realm.
- Hands-on Workshops: Many events feature workshops, allowing attendees to practice SEO techniques with expert supervision.
- Q&A Sessions: Pose your specific questions and receive answers directly from seasoned professionals.
Examples of SEO Conferences and Webinars:
- SMX (Search Marketing Expo) (US + London, Munich, Paris, and Stockholm)
- Brighton SEO (UK)
- MozCon (US)
- Pubcon (mostly US-based, sometimes London, UK)
- International Search Summit (London, Berlin, Barcelona)
A few words to end this guide
I have no idea if you’re reading this to become an SEO professional or just to learn more to work on your own blog. Or maybe you’re just curious to learn new things and grow as a person, like my 16 y/o son.
I spent about 60 hours writing about 14,000 words for this how-to and after 20+ years of SEO practice, both personal and professional, I can tell you that I haven’t even covered 5% of the full spectrum of information available out there.
I do hope it’s useful, and that you as a beginner, can now understand most of what SEO is about, no matter if you’re trying to apply the information or just want to have knowledge of it. Cheers!
💡 Have Suggestions? If you think we got facts wrong in this article, or if you haven’t found the information you were looking for, please send us a quick message so we can improve it!