An Expert SEO Guide: Introduction to SEO Practices, Keywords, Content & SEO Parameters
Search engine optimization (SEO) is becoming more and more central to all businesses in 2020. As long as a company has an online presence (website, shop, social media channels, forum or blog), SEO is the practice that can help you make the most out of it, with paid advertising coming second.
There are many different aspects within the spectrum of SEO, such as on-site SEO, off-site SEO, content optimisation, technical SEO and other niches within these main categories. Most aspects of a site, from the point of its development to 10+ years after it has gone live, can benefit from tailored SEO practices.
In 2020, companies realised that expanding in the online sphere is no longer an option, but a pre-requisite for their existence. This is why we decided to make a guide that can offer you up to date, expert information on the following:
- Explaining SEO practices
- Content (Homepage, Main Pages, Blog)
- Internal Links
- SEO & Meta titles
- Onsite SEO
- Offsite SEO
- Technical SEO
- Importance of a Consistent SEO Strategy
- SEO tools
- Other Digital Marketing practices
Having studied Media & Communications and working within a digital marketing agency for more than 2 years, I will try and provide a clear picture of the main SEO aspects – moving away from cliches and offering you straightforward info-tools, which can be used to grow your business. I have personally tested many different SEO strategies, so I am not talking theory, but hands-on experience.
What is SEO?
Before the Internet, you would visit the nearest store offering the services that you are looking for to buy what you need or want, right? Online, instead of searching on the streets, you are using a search engine to help you find what you need or fancy. Most people use Google, but other search engines, such as Bing, are also growing in popularity. Apple is also underway to building their own search engine platform.
Google’s success is based on the fact that it provides accurate results based on the users’ searches. So, let’s say that you are searching tips on how to cook a particular food, Google will try to provide you with the most relevant results to your search.
‘’An interesting fact is that Google is so successful in what it offers due to the huge numbers of users utilizing their service; it is all of us, who have made this search engine so successful in predicting and delivering based on our intent. ‘’
Then, relevance should be important when setting up your website right? Exactly. It is the number 1 factor that Google takes into account when showing certain results to the users’ searches. The content on your website should be optimised (tailored) towards the most relevant searches of users. However, it is pointless to optimise your site for something that it does not offer, as when people click on it – they wouldn’t find what they need and they would leave. This is called bounce rate and would make Google think that you are incapable of providing the services you are saying you are and would rank you lower on the results. This is how Google punishes ‘experts’ trying to manipulate the rankings through Black Hat SEO practices.
So, SEO is useful to help you tailor your site to what Google looks for, but if your offering is not good enough – it wouldn’t make any difference in the long run. This is an important point that many forget, as they are paying for digital marketing services without having a solid product to promote.
Who needs expert SEO services?
If you have a product that you believe in and think that people would find useful or enjoy, then an SEO specialist could help you get it out in the world. Google has to pick amongst thousands or even millions of different pages and decide which would be the most relevant to its users.
To perform the above, there is a very sophisticated Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithm in place, as well as real people, who rank the results based on their performance against a long list of factors. Just to name a few:
- Quality of content
- Word count
- Domain authority
- Secure and accessible website
- Page speed
- Mobile friendliness
- User experience
- Domain age & URL
These are not even the 1/10th out of all of the factors that google’s algorith takes into account to categorise each page on the search results. The SEO specialist knows (or should know) how to build your website based on all of the above and keep working on them over time to make your site solid in the eyes of the search engine.
If you have a small company or just starting off, you could keep all of the above in mind and work on them slowly, but it is always better to focus on providing quality products and leave this job to an expert(s).
Larger corporations prefer to outsource all of their digital marketing activities to agencies or individuals, who do all of the hard work for them. However, in my opinion at least, it is better to trust each distinct marketing aspect, such as SEO, paid advertising, affiliate marketing, design, and so on, to a specialist agency for best results. Each of the above practices is complicated and demanding, leaving no space for errors or too generic strategies.
Those who understand a bit about SEO practices are probably aware of the importance of keywords. This is the way that Google shows results to its users, as most people type between 2-7 words most of the times to find what they want.
Online, it is rare that someone would write a whole grammatically correct sentence to search for answers. This is why it is important that you create your content with a certain set of keywords in mind. Newbies would try and rank their site for the highest volume keywords right away (those that are searched by the most users), as I did too in the beginning, without considering the competition.
There are great tools, which we will explore towards the end of this article, which can help you identify the keywords that are relevant to your niche, but you must also be realistic; going after a keyword that is searched by 10,000 people might be tempting, but is it achievable?
It could be in the long run, but is important that you start small. How to do that?
So, let’s say that you are selling ‘house plants’. House plants would be the highest volume keyword that your site would be able to rank for, as well as ‘house’ and ‘plants’. The last two are very generic and although they could bring in traffic, it won’t probably lead to sales.
Your homepage should start by targeting smaller niches that fall under the ‘house plants’ keyword, which could be:
- Small house plants
- Kitchen house plants
- Bathroom house plants
- Living room house plants
- And so on.
The best way to target those keywords would be by building your site based on each of these types; you could have different pages that feature the different types of house plants. Getting the idea?
Content is King, they say, in SEO, which is definitely true. No matter how much you try to optimise your site or page, without the right content you won’t be able to target keywords successfully. There are different types of content that can help you in the SERPs (search engine results pages):
Adding the transcript and alt text in the images is also helpful. So, back to the previous example; for each individual page targeting a keyword, you would add relevant content. For the page ‘kitchen house plants’, you could have content at the bottom of the page talking about their benefits, how to maintain them, the different types, DYI information and of course which products of this type you are offering,
An SEO expert decides on what type of content to add, how many words and how to structure it based on the top results in the SERPs for the target keywords. You could do it yourself though, by googling the terms you are targeting and scanning through every page. However, this would be very time-consuming.
Now that you understand a bit about how you would structure your site and content for each individual page to target specific, medium-volume keywords within your niche – it is important to talk about the homepage.
Your homepage is the main source of your traffic, as it gets power from all the organic keywords that your individual pages rank for. Back to our example, as you cover each different aspect of house plants with smaller pages, you could make the homepage the place where you give a bit of info of each of the smaller categories, while in essence keeping the content more generic to the ‘house plants’ high volume term.
It’s not likely that you would appear in the first page results in a month or two for the higher volume terms, but if you are putting the work – over time you could get there. No one said SEO is easy right?
The pages are were your products are featured alongside some informational content to rank for medium volume terms and the homepage your money page ranking for all the terms and aspiring to get on the first page for the highest volume target keywords.
The blog is where you target smaller topics relevant to your homepage and other pages, which all link to the homepage and another supporting page with anchors relevant to them. Examples of blog topics relevant to the small house plants page could be:
- How often do I need to water my small house plants?
- How long do small plants survive in the house?
- Ways to maintain small plants vibrant in the house
- How to decorate your house with small plants
These topics can be inspired based on the questions that people ask according to each of your niches. Your blogs have the potential to rank for long-tail keywords, bringing in extra organic traffic, but also help the main pages rank higher for their own terms.
It is also a great way to keep your customers coming back to your site and engaging with you and your new products. For ways to come up with new ideas for your blog, follow our other blogs; also check here some amazing wordpress gaming themes for blogs!
Internal links (hyperlinks) are the way you connect each page using an anchor, directing the reader (and google) to relevant information that are available on other pages of your site. The anchor that you use is extremely important, as it not only provides a hint to the reader about the content of the other page, but it also highlights the target keywords of the page you are sending the signal to.
Every page on your site should have an internal link to the homepage, using a relevant anchor to the domain name, the target keywords or a generic anchor (read more). By linking to the homepage, you are highlighting to google, which is the main page you are trying to rank for.
However, from the homepage you can also link to the relevant niche pages with a relevant anchor to them, highlighting to the readers and google what these pages offer and are trying to rank for. By employing this strategy correctly, you can rank for a variety of different keywords within the same niche without causing confusion to the search engine about the intent of each page.
Blogs, social media and external sites linking to you through other anchors are also key to having a successful SEO strategy towards a set of keywords.
SEO titles & Meta
SEO titles and meta descriptions (also called meta-data) are the title and text below the title that you see on the SERP results. Their main purpose is to highlight to the reader what the article is about and also provide a bit more information on its content.
The SEO title has to be 52-58 characters and the meta-description 145-155. The first is very important in terms of SEO success and the latter helps to get more clicks.
Your SEO title must be reflective of your content, intriguing, inviting and clear. It can be optimised based on the SERPs, as we also said in regards to the content, but it will only make a big difference after you are already within the 30 first positions (first 3 pages).
It is important that the SEO title across all your pages and blogs also includes the target keywords of its respective content, which should all be relevant to the main target keywords of the homepage.
As the content should be consistent to your niche, your meta-data should be consistent too.
Categories within SEO
All of the above are the White Hat SEO practices that you can follow to build your site with a strategy in mind. Everything related to content could be performed by anyone who has the time and skill to do it successfully, without requiring any particular expertise. The internal linking part can be confusing, but an expert could fix that for you quickly, if all the other aspects have been taken into account.
The SEO practices, however, tend to confuse many as they are put into categories from within the industry. We will try to briefly describe them for you, so you don’t feel lost simply due to terminology.
Onsite SEO, or onpage SEO, is everything that has to do with your own website. From developing to writing the content for it, everything falls under the banner of on-site SEO.
Experts consider that this aspect defines the 30% of your overall SEO strategy, but it definitely is the starting point and the one aspect that you should get involved with – to help define the brand tone.
Technical SEO is an aspect within the onsite SEO category and it focuses on areas of speed, html code, broken links and any other issues that the site is showing. As important it is to have correct grammar and interesting content on your site, similarly, it is essential that all of your pages open when someone clicks on them and that images can be displayed on both desktop and mobile.
The skillset required to develop a website successfully and maintain it at optimal level is very particular. If you don’t have an experienced back-end and front-end developer in your team, it would be better to start-off by purchasing a ready template themed for your site. All Skywarrior premium themes come with long-term support, which could prove vital to your long-term SEO strategy’s success.
Outreach is the third and last category of SEO, which can be understood as the ‘relationships’ aspect. Basically, it involves other websites linking to your site. If your website is successful in what it does and offers useful products and relevant information – it is very likely that others will send customers to you through their own content.
For example, take Wikipedia. Anyone who wants to offer quick information on a topic, will just add an external link to the Wikipedia page of that term/concept. This is how this page gains authority in the eyes of google, as it suggests that many other websites trust and endorse its content.
The more trusted sites link to you consistently, the more your domain authority and organic number of keywords will increase. Of course, others take different ways to building outreach contacts, such as paying for them or writing guest blogs, which we will discuss in another article.
As you have probably understood already, there are many different aspects within SEO. There isn’t a 100% successful strategy that you can employ to target a specific set of organic keywords and rank 1st on google; rather, you can work on all of the above aspects over time and let your online presence develop slowly, as your actual business will do in the real world.
Practicing onsite SEO without fixing technical errors or ignoring outreach completely, will most likely result in a mediocre result. You might reach 4-5th page in Google, which is not enough to bring in organic traffic.
Each blog must have a purpose and try to offer something unique to your readers and customers, while your strategy should always follow a consistent approach. This should be reflected from the anchors used, the blog titles, the external and internal links, as well as from the SEO titles and meta descriptions.
Even then, success is not guaranteed since someone else might just have a better website that more people enjoy reading.
To build a successful website you must research and constantly stay up to date both with your site, but also with what other successful sites do within your niche (your competitors). There are many tools available to help you with your SEO endeavours, with some of them being free, while others require a subscription.
If you hire an SEO agency, they will most likely have access to some of the tools below to help them with writing optimised content, keyword research, backlinks (external links to your site), competitor research and domain authority. We will briefly describe the most useful ones and what they offer amongst other things:
Google Search Console (GSC) – this is one of the most trusted tools, as it comes from google itself. It can be best utilised to highlight your position in the SERPs and your position movements over time. You can also see how many clicks you get for each particular keyword, as well as impressions (how many people saw your post).
Analytics – another great tool by Google, which allows you to see where people spend time on your site, how long, on which page they moved after, as well as bounce rate.
Ahrefs & Semrush – these are very comprehensive tools which offer many different services. Traffic of keywords and keyword research, backlinks analysis, technical problems, keyword ideas, keyword movements and domain authority. Ahref’s even has its own domain metric.
Accuranker – this is an amazing tool to monitor the movements of keywords for a particular site in a daily basis and their Share of Voice. This metric is a bit different to search volume, as it is an equation between the impressions and the search volume – which reflects the future market share you are likely get from one keyword.
Screaming Frog – another must have tool for agencies, as screaming frog scans thousands of pages to identify technical problems and also provides an overview of your sites keywords focus. It can highlight the need to narrow or expand your overall content strategy, amongst many other things.
Surfer SEO – this is an amazing tool for writers, as it can identify the keywords used on average by the top 10 SERP results for a particular keyword and direct you to write the best optimised content. Can save you a lot of time, while it might also suggest great questions to answer throughout your content.
All of the above tools are great to help you with planning and research, but as your site is growing it is essential that you start keeping track of your pages in regards to the following: numbers of words on each, their internal links, anchors used, type of content and anything else that might help you in the future.
Excel is probably the best tool for this purpose, as it can also help you quantify the anchors used in percentages and also highlight how many times you have used each keyword etc.
By taking an organised and planned approach to your site’s content and SEO strategy, it is easy to spot any inconsistencies in your anchors and it also enables you to change your strategy in a more targeted way, if needed. It also allows many people to work on the same site at the same time, while following the same standards and noting down anything that has changed.
Other Digital Marketing Activities
Before we close this article, it is important to mention that organic traffic through SEO is just one of the ways that a website can make money. Other aspects that fall within the digital marketing spectrum and can help you monetize your website include the following:
- Google Ads – paid campaigns that are based on bidding and result in the featuring of the highest paying bidder in the top of the organic results. Each click and impression comes with a cost, indifferently to whether a purchase is going to take place.
- Social Media Ads – this practice is identical to the above, but the ads appear on social media platforms instead.
- Affiliate marketing – a site acts as an expert/middle-man within an industry, sending customers to sites through external links. They take a percentage of the sale or a commission based on the traffic they send to the site.
A website could employ all of the above marketing practices at once and welcome traffic from many different sources. Nonetheless, our focus on SEO is justified, as it is considered the cheapest, more transparent and natural way to bring in new customers.