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SEO Basics: A beginner’s guide to Search Engine Optimization
Farhan Rauf | @Farhan Rauf August 24, 2015
Content of the guide
How do I SEO my website?
Content Keywords research
Add website to Google Webmaster
Add website to Google Business Listing
One question that I have come across several times from my friends, entrepreneur, followers is how they can do Search Engine Optimize(SEO) of their websites?
You might have heard the term “SEO” before but I am sure that there are lot of startup founders who are unaware of it and have no idea how SEO can help startups with online business development and why top-notch technology magazines consider SEO a hot subject to write on.
Before you go any further, just keep in mind that quality SEO is expensive and a sufficient amount of budget is needed to optimize a website for getting the rankings on the first pages of search engines. It seems pretty easy for people to talk about how some website owners or bloggers are earning a huge amount of money online but no one ever talk about how much are they investing in website?
However, it is not as easy as it seems. If they are earning well they are also spending a lot on website marketing.
SEO stand for “Search Engine Optimization”, it is the process of optimizing website in search engine so that website can get targeted search engine traffic. You might be wondering that what I mean by targeted search engine traffic? To explain this, take for an instance a person searching for DSLRs to buy in Pakistan. He simply goes on a search engine (Google mostly) and types in “DSLR camera in Pakistan”. Now if you have an e-commerce website that sells DSLR cameras you will surely want your website to appear in the top few results of search engines rankings in Google, Bing or even Yahoo from such queries so it is more likely that the person goes to your site and brings in revenue for you if he buys from your website.
This is where SEO comes in. Bringing the websites on better position in search engines is ultimately purpose of doing SEO. It is not just limited to keywords rankings as sometimes you own a blog and your ultimate goal is to bring more traffic on website regardless of keywords. In that scenario, SEO is focussed to build an authority of that blog so every post they publish on their blog gets a good ranking.
More on the authority of websites later on. Meanwhile, let’s go back to our main question.
How do I do SEO of my website?
SEO is vast field! One can only master SEO skills with experience and practicing lot of SEO on website. Another point worth mentioning here is that search engines keep on changing their algorithm so maintaining top positions can become very difficult.
You need to stay updated with algorithms to stay in game. Here are the main factors to consider when trying to optimize your sites for search engines,
Conduct Keywords Research
First step for optimizing a website is to find relevant keywords that you want your website to rank for. You can always find keywords by brainstorming what one can write if he/she is looking for your service or product?
Make a list of all important keywords that come in your mind. There is also a number of keywords tools available that can ease your keywords research.
Ubersuggest – Allows you to find possible variations of the keywords
Google Trends – Allows you to see how a keyword has done over the years.
Keyword Discovery – Similar to Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool, however, you may have to get your wallet out for this one.
WordTracker – Provides dozens of tools to help you find the best keywords.
Add Site to Webmaster
Google’s Webmaster Tools (GWT) is free google tool that gives all information about your website. So if there is any issue in your website google will send notify you via the webmaster tool.
To set up Webmaster Tools, visit this link, sign in with Google account and add your website.
You will get four methods of verifying a website once you add your website in webmaster and you can use any method which you think is easy to implement for you. The best method is to download the html file and upload it to cpanel where your root domain is located. If you find it is difficult to do yourself, then I recommend taking help from your website developer.
We have attached a screenshot of the webmaster tool below,
Now, verify your website so in case you will have some issue on your website, Google can notify you on the email address associated with the website.
Google Business Listing
If you are operating an event management company and offer services just in a particular city, you will probably want to rank your website higher in that region so that you can get more sale inquiries. In that case, Google also offers listing for businesses that offer services to clients and the search results will look something like this.
If you are a local business like event management company, photographer for example, submit your business on Google local business listing. The process is quite simple. All you need to do is to go to this link.
Search for you business through its name or domain name if your business is already on Google My Business, it will appear right on the map but if your business is not already listed, it will give you the option to add your business in the end of map search results. Click on that and fill the form and also make sure to select the right category and submit. The Google business pin code will arrive at your doorstep within 30 days.
Once you get the pin code verified it on your account, you will get listed. Local Listing will help you get local visitors to your website. We have further classified SEO in two categories: On-page and Off-page.
On-page SEO which also refer as technical SEO is the process of making your website search engine friendly.
How to perform technical SEO
First of all you will need to make sure the content on your website is better than that of your competitor website ranking at top position.
If you are really interested in competing with the website ranking at top position you have to have one thing in mind that only best will get the top position so make sure you do not have any plagiarized content on your web pages otherwise your website may get penalize by Google panda penalty.
Now you might be wondering what the heck is Google panda penalty?! Yes, it is the thing that is nightmare to many online business owners and indeed it had destroyed many online businesses in the past for example ehow, hubpages and many others multimillion dollar ventures.
Panda is a Google penalty algorithm which can either remove a website from search engine index or it can decrease the ranking of website due to poor quality content or plagiarized one. If website gets hit by panda penalty it may suffer 50% to 99% lose in search engine traffic.
So if you want your website to be on the safe side make sure you have high quality content on your website which is not copied from other websites. Just stay away from thin and spammed content. If you are not a good writer, do get the service of writer who can write you the quality content for your website. It has to be engaging and grammatically correct. Make sure to follow this practice on every page of your website.
I repeat, focus on 10x better content from competitors ranking #1.
Another thing that is considered important in on-page SEO is “meta tags”. Meta tags have been around since the beginning and are a very important part of search engine history. They were valued for improving your page rankings until people began exploiting them. That doesn’t mean they aren’t important anymore. Meta tags are basically words hidden in your code and play a vital role towards the SEO of your site. Important meta tags include title, description and keyword tags. Usually the title and description that you give in meta tags get displayed on a search engine, but that is not always the case. Sometimes Google can pick words from your web page to display on the search engine results if it thinks that those words are more relevant to a searcher’s queries. Currently Google is using semantics search algorithm. This algorithm is very efficient as it improves search accuracy by understanding the intent and the contextual meaning of the terms that a user types.
If you have a website on wordpress then you can use a plugin for meta tags settings. From your WordPress Dashboard, go to plugin search for either All in One SEO or Yoast SEO.
SEO plugin copy
‘Yoast SEO’ and ‘All in one SEO’ both are equally good SEO plugins
These plugin can handle a lot of SEO errors themselves like canonical errors and other technical ones and make work a lot easier for a webmaster. All you need is to add title, description and keywords in plain English and the plugin will insert it into the HTML code for the website. If you have a website that is not based on WordPress you will need to manually add that code into the header of your web pages. Meta tags will be different for all pages depending on what a particular page is about
What to write in Meta Tags?
Google typically displays the first 50-60 characters of a title tag and it’s a good practice to keep length of title in between this count.
This is how I would write the title of my website: let’s assume TechieMe is the name of my website and I sell DSLR cameras is Pakistan. So I would put my keyword in the title and at the end of the title I would add the name of my website for branding purpose.
DSLR Cameras | Digital SLR Camera Pakistan – TechieME
DSLR Cameras | Digital SLR Camera Pakistan – TechieME
The recommended length of Meta description is 166 characters. So the best practice is to make description between 150 to 166 characters. It is important have your keywords in meta description as well. Take a look how I write the description to get an idea:
It has been said that Google does not use the keyword meta tags for search engine ranking but many SEO experts including me disagree. I think adding 8 to 10 keywords in the keyword meta tag can help in improving your page’s ranking and this is why websites like alibaba.com use keywords tag in their websites. Here’s an example to give you an idea:
Writing meta tags needs creativity of writers or SEOs.
Google’s current algorithm uses semantic search which takes intention of the searcher’s query to deliver results, therefore using variations of keywords are very important. I will recommend you to read article on semantic search to get a better idea.
So now that you are done with the perfect content on your website and have put relevant meta tags on your website, it would help to add images and videos. Having relevant images and videos on website can help with optimization. Make sure to give a relevant title to your image because it helps with image search.
Once you are done with on-page SEO there is a very nice tool available to check how good your on-page SEO is. Use the tool WooRank. It will let you know if you need to do more work to improve your SEO.
Off Page Optimization
Off-page SEO is considered way more difficult and expensive than on-page SEO because for off-page SEO you will need to promote your website on other websites. One simple way of doing that is to get lot of online media attention which is expensive but worth it.
You can get your article or guest posts about your product or services published on relevant news and reviews websites so that people can visit your website if they find it interesting. Google count links as a vote so if you get votes from relevant high-ranked websites your ranking positions will start improving. Therefore, SEOs always try to get backlinks from relevant website through guest posts, local citations and blogging.
Ahrefs is one of the best tools available to help you find backlinks of your competitor’s website. You can use it to find backlinks of websites, however you will have to pay to get these services. But like I said earlier, quality SEO is expensive and if you have significant budget this tool is wonderful. There are also many free backlinks finding tools available in the market if you’re not ready to pay yet.
Another ways to increase links on your website is to do blogging on the blogs you own. If you will write great content and make your article better than the already published content on other websites, people will naturally link to your blog post and it will build authority of your website in the eyes of the search engine. Do you remember I told you that we will discuss about authority later? So this is how websites gain authority – when they get links/votes from other relevant websites.
One way to set your content apart from other content is to write in more detail. Let’s say if someone with a blog title “10 best DSLR cameras available in the market” is ranking first. Why don’t you go and create a post for “20 best DSLR cameras of all time.” Make the blog post as good as you can and grab the first position in a smart way. Make a post as good as possible and you will see people will do comments on your article, link your post and share it on social media. That will ultimately lead your website to do better in search engine rankings.
Once you are done with your post, promote it. I cannot stress enough on how important promotion is. This is the mistake that I have seen lot of entrepreneurs, bloggers and startups doing. They do not promote their blog posts. People won’t know about you if you don’t promote your work. Here are some of the good ways of doing that:
Share your blog posts on social media channels.
Share your posts on relevant communities/groups
Share your posts on answering communities and forums
Make slides of your post and share it on websites like Slideshare
Email your posts to interested people
If possible make videos about your blog post and share your video on videos sites like Vimeo or YouTube. Every day, try to find more means to promote your blog. Another approach you can follow is to email your blog posts to webmasters of relevant blogs and ask them to share it on their blog. Relation-building with webmasters is very important.
You’ll have to be very careful with your link building practice. Using unsafe means can do damage. If you want to get links provide value in your content.
Another Google penalty that I haven’t discussed so far is the Google Penguin Penalty. Google introduced the Penguin Penalty in 2011 which aims to remove websites from their search engine that have a spammy link profile. So if you are focusing on building links from spammy websites just to increase your website vote’s Google may put your website in trouble.
Focus on producing the best content for your website. This may be time taking and hectic, but once you are in Google’s good book you don’t need to worry about these penalties. Always try to get better and high quality back links on your website and yours will score you the first page rankings in the search results.
On a final note, remember that search engines care about providing best results to visitors. So, if you want to rank #1 for any search term make sure to have better content than the website already ranking to the first page of search engines.