SEO Basics: The Definitive Guide to Optimizing Your Website

The Definitive Guide to Optimizing Your Website for SEO

Search engine optimization is one of the most critical and cost-effective online marketing strategies.

A strong SEO campaign will drive traffic to your website, establish your brand as an authority, and increase conversions. SEO is a vast and ever-changing field, though, and trying to keep up with current SEO tips can be overwhelming.

SEO is complicated, but you should learn SEO basics so that you can create high-quality, helpful, and optimized web content.

When it comes to SEO, there is no better guide in the world than Brian Dean from Backlinko.com. So we dove deep into his content and extracted the most potent nuggets for you.

This guide includes everything you need to know about website SEO basics in 2020. All of which we gleaned from Brian Dean and a few of his friends so you can trust it to help you grow your business.

What Is SEO?

Search engine optimization is the practice of increasing traffic to your website by taking measures to make it appear higher on search engine results pages.

Search engines like Google use complex algorithms to discover web pages and evaluate how helpful they are for answering search queries. The algorithms look at a page’s keyword usage, links, user experience, and a wide range of other factors. Ultimately, the search engine’s goal is to provide the most helpful and accessible information to searchers.

SEO basics allow you to structure your website in a way that appeals to search engines and increases your chances of appearing on the first page of results.

However, the most effective SEO tips are as much about understanding human behavior as they are about algorithms. Brian Dean instructs to consider what keywords your prospects search for, what type of content they want to consume, and what motivates them to remain on a page instead of clicking away.

It’s excellent advice.

The two main goals of SEO basics are to understand your audience’s intent and to provide information in a way that search engine algorithms will like.

How Search Engines Work

Search engines perform three main tasks:

Crawl: The discovery process. Crawling is the algorithm’s way of searching the internet and examining the code and content of every page they find. The search engine sends out robots to fetch a few pages. Then, these bots follow the links on those pages to new URLs until they have discovered a massive network of sites.

Index: The organizational process. The search engine index is a database of all the content the bots have found and deemed good enough for searchers.

Rank: The ordering process. The bot scours its index for the pages that best answer a search query. Then, it orders the results from most to least relevant.

Although the general ranking process remains the same, search engine algorithms are frequently adjusted and updated. For example, in the last few years, there have been several significant updates to Google’s algorithm that prioritize mobile-friendly sites over desktop sites. Because the algorithms change, SEO tips are continually evolving. You should regularly update your SEO strategy to make sure your website continues to perform well over time.

This is why we suggest you subscribe to Brian’s newsletter and YouTube channel to stay current on everything. You won’t regret it.

Why It Is Important to Learn SEO Basics

SEO is one of the most important and useful marketing tools today, so it is essential for business owners to understand SEO basics.

Many types of marketing target the public to convince them that they need your product or service. However, SEO targets people who are already searching for your product. When someone finds your website through a Google search, you know that they are already interested in what you have to offer. This means that SEO is a valuable way to market to people who are highly likely to make a purchase.

Keyword Research

Your keywords are the words or phrases you hope to rank with. The goal of your SEO campaign is to appear on the first page of results when someone searches for your keywords.

The first step toward optimizing your site for search engines is to identify your keywords, which will help guide the rest of the process. If you don’t know what words you want to rank with, you won’t know how to tailor your content to appeal to those queries.

Keyword Research (5-Step Blueprint)

Keyword research helps you identify what people are searching for and how they want the information to be presented to them. You probably already have a few general keywords related to your product or service in mind. To expand on them, you can enter the keywords into a keyword research tool or onpage SEO tool.

There are dozens of keyword research tools available that will show you the monthly search volume for your keywords and suggest similar keywords.

Search Volume

Your first instinct may be to target keywords with the highest search volume. However, these terms are usually highly competitive, and it can be nearly impossible to rank on the first page.

It is typically better to target highly specific keywords with a lower search volume. This will reduce the number of other sites you are competing against. It allows you to focus your attention on people who are making precise, intentional searches. When people do detailed searches, it is often a sign that they are ready to make a purchase.

Learn from Competitors

One helpful way to start your keyword research process is to investigate a competitor’s keywords.

You can use a keyword research tool to analyze your competitor’s site and discover the ranking terms. You can also go to the HTML page source of the website and look at the keywords in the title tag, image tag, and meta description. Once you know what your competitor is ranking with, you can either use those same keywords to try to outrank them or even target keywords that your competitor is not already using.

Onpage SEO Basics

What Is Onpage SEO?

Onpage SEO includes your strategies and practices for optimizing your site content for search engines. This consists of the actual written content that your visitors see. This includes the title tags, URLs, and any other text on the site.

Website content and keyword usage are still critical factors in search rankings today. The search engine’s goal is to provide users with content that answers their questions. Creating high-quality and keyword-rich content should be your top priority. There is a strong correlation between keyword-rich tags and high rankings. Almost all the top results for any competitive keyword will include the exact keyword in their page title.

On Page SEO – 9 Actionable Techniques That Work

Content Creation

Content creation is the foundation of your onpage SEO strategy. You can optimize your blog posts, press releases, service area pages, and any other content on your site.

Search engines put more weight on keywords that show up early on the page, so you should try to use your keyword within the first 100 to 150 words. If you’re writing content that’s relevant to your business, it should be easy to use your keywords early.

Keyword Density

Another significant factor in SEO basics is keyword density, which is how often your keyword appears in the content. If your keyword is mentioned several times on a page, Google can be more confident that the page is actually about that topic.

You can use an onpage SEO checker to calculate the keyword density on each of your website pages. This can help you determine whether you should use your keyword more or less frequently to improve your rankings.

Avoid Keyword Stuffing

You should never sacrifice the quality of your content for the sake of adding more keywords or trying to optimize for search engines.

Search engine algorithms are smart, and they can recognize when a site is keyword-stuffing, which is the practice of using as many keywords as possible to boost rankings. Google penalizes websites that attempt this, so forcing too many keywords into your content will backfire.

You should keep your keywords in mind and try to use them naturally as much as possible. Still, your ultimate goal should be to provide helpful and relevant information for your readers. Including your keyword a handful of times will be plenty.

There is already so much content available on every topic imaginable, so you should try to offer something new and fresh to your readers. For example, this could be a unique insight or strategy, a case study or survey, or a different list of resources. The way to encourage people to click on your site is to provide something they cannot find elsewhere.

Title and Header Tags

Utilizing tags is one of the best WordPress SEO tips you can follow. Tags help search engine algorithms understand the structure of your web pages, and they provide an excellent opportunity to use your keywords.

You should place all your blog post titles in H1 tags. WordPress and most other platforms will automatically include H1 tags in your page titles, but you can check your site’s HTML code to make sure. Include your main keyword in the title tag. If possible, place the keyword at the start of the title, and keep your title under 60 characters.

Title tag modifiers like “review,” “guide,” and “best” can increase your rankings for long-tail versions of your keyword. They also provide more information for what your readers should expect in the content.

How to Write the Perfect Title Tag to Increase Your Click Through Rate (CTR)

Optimizing your subheadings is another way to cover your SEO basics. Organizing your content into clear sections with subheadings makes it easier for readers to follow, and it provides another chance to use your keywords. Your subtitles should be wrapped in H2 tags, and your keyword should be mentioned in at least one subheading.

You can also use H3 through H6 tags if your subheadings have a hierarchy. These tags are great places to use keywords as well. Only include keywords if you can naturally fit them in, though, and do not be afraid to use variations.

Readers often look over the subheadings before deciding whether to read the page thoroughly. If your subtitles are long, unclear, or awkwardly filled with keywords, your site visitors will not be motivated to continue reading your content.

Meta Descriptions SEO

Meta descriptions can be considered onpage content, but Google no longer uses them as a ranking factor. However, they may still influence your ranking because they impact your click-through rate. When a user scrolls through Google results, they decide which page to view based on the title and meta description. If your description is not helpful or engaging, you will not get many clicks.

There is no limit on meta description length, but Google usually truncates descriptions to 160 characters. Try to keep your meta description shorter than this so that readers can view it in its entirety.

URLs

Optimizing your URL is one of the most helpful but most overlooked SEO tips. The terms in the URL show up above the title tag in Google search results, so all your URLs should include a keyword. Your URLs should also be short and straightforward. Experts at Google say that three to five words are the optimal length for a URL.

Creating a custom URL is one of the WordPress SEO basics. Most other platforms also allow you to customize or change URLs by merely adjusting your settings.

URL Hierarchy

When creating URLs, consider the overall structure and hierarchy of your site. If you just make them up as you go, you may end up with a confusing patchwork of URLs that Google will have a hard time understanding. For clear organization, your URLs should flow from domain to category to product. If necessary, you can include a sub-category in the URL as well.

Think about the future of the business when you plan your URL structure. You may not think it is necessary to create sub-categories right now. Still, if you prepare for your inventory to grow, it is better to start off with a clear hierarchy than to make changes later.

Internal Links

Search engine algorithms create their index of sites by following links. Having a network of internal links within your website is a great way to make sure Google can access all your pages. Internal links also help your visitors navigate your site and discover further information.

There are several SEO tips to keep in mind regarding links. Your links should be directly accessible with a single click. Links in a drop-down menu are sometimes hidden from search engine crawlers, so including links directly in the content is the best way to ensure those pages will be indexed.

Anchor Text

The anchor text can affect your ranking as well because it tells the search engines about the content of the destination page. If your anchor text is, “SEO tips,” Google will realize that the page you are linking to is probably about SEO tips. However, Google penalizes sites that overuse links and keywords to manipulate the algorithm. Use links and anchor text naturally to provide high-quality content to readers and avoid penalties from Google.

CTR

CTR, or click-through rate, is the ratio of users who click on a link to the total number of users who see the link. Google has not confirmed that CTR is a ranking factor, but many experts suspect that it is. Even if CTR doesn’t affect your ranking, increasing it means more traffic will go to your site, which is always valuable.

Several SEO tips can increase your click-through rate:

Images

When done correctly, including images can be an excellent way to strengthen your content and optimize your site.

Fast loading time is one of the most straightforward SEO basics, though, and images can drastically slow down your loading speed. If you want to include a picture, you should use a compression tool to reduce its size and improve the loading time.

Although images are more eye-catching than text, you should avoid using images in place of words. Search engine bots cannot read the text within an image, so you may miss out on ranking opportunities if your keyword-rich information only appears inside of pictures. Try to describe the information in the body of the content or in the alt text.

How to Optimize Images for Web and SEO

What Is Alt Text?

One of the most common questions regarding image SEO basics is, “What is alt text?” This is a significant part of any successful SEO campaign, but it is often overlooked by beginner marketers.

Alt text, or alternative text, is a feature of accessible web design. It is used to describe images so that visually impaired individuals with screen readers can understand the content.

Using alt text for images serves a couple purposes. It makes your site accessible to a broader audience, which increases your potential customer base. It also is a great place to apply SEO tips for keywords. Search engine bots crawl alt text to understand images and how they relate to the page’s content.

How to Add Alt Text to Images

Like the rest of your content, your alt text for images should use keywords naturally. It should concisely describe the image so that a reader can get the same information from the text as they would from the image. Consider the purpose that the image serves for the content, and make sure that intention is evident in the alt text.

Different website-building platforms may have different processes for adding alt text, so you can search for how to add alt text to images on your platform. Adding alt tags is one of the WordPress SEO basics, so all you must do is type in the text. You can also manually type in the HTML code to add alt tags on any platform.

How to Write the Perfect Image Alt Tags in WordPress

User Experience SEO Tips

User experience, or UX, is the way that viewers interact with your content. Google recognizes that the number of clicks a link receives is not the only indicator of a high-quality site. A page may receive a lot of clicks, but if users quickly click away, search engines will assume that the content is not helpful.

Your keyword usage, title tags, and meta description all play a role in getting your content noticed by readers. Once they have decided to click on your site, you must convince them to stay. Here are some ways to improve the user experience:

Content Above the Fold

The content above the fold is the content that’s visible in the browser without scrolling. When people are looking for an answer to a question, they want to find the answer as quickly as possible. If a large image or banner takes up the entire screen when they click on your page, they may get discouraged and click away.

Instead, your title and introduction should be in the front and center of the page. This way, readers will immediately see what the page is all about.

Skimmable Content

Most of your site visitors are not going to read every word on the page. This is especially true if they arrive from a Google search and are looking for an answer to a specific question. Your content should be easy to skim so that readers can quickly find what they are looking for.

H2 and H3 subheadings are great tools for breaking up your content and showing readers what to expect. Bulleted lists and images also draw the eye and make the text easier to skim through. The bulk of your content should be organized into short paragraphs.

Comment Section

Adding a comment section to your article is one of the best SEO tips to reduce bounce rate. After reading your post, visitors can read other insights and approaches from commenters. This enhances your content and keeps people on your page for longer.

Offpage SEO Basics

Offpage SEO includes the SEO basics that happen outside of the website itself. This mostly involves establishing your site as an authority and creating trust and brand awareness among your visitors.

Link Building

Link building is one of the most critical SEO basics regarding offpage SEO. Google uses PageRank, an algorithm that evaluates the quantity and quality of backlinks, which are links from another site to your own page.

There is a clear correlation between the number of referring domains and a site’s ranking. The more unique websites link to your content, the better your page will perform. Google also recognizes that websites have differing levels of authority, so it values backlinks from high-authority sites more than low-authority sites.

Link Building: How to Get POWERFUL Backlinks in 2020

Earning Backlinks

Building links is one of the most challenging SEO basics because it’s not entirely within your own control. You must convince other content creators that your page is worthy of a link.

One way to generate backlinks is to search for broken links on other websites. Then, notify the webmaster of the broken links and recommend replacing them with links to your own site. This method benefits both parties, so it can be remarkably successful.

Another option is to create infographics. Visual data is easy to understand and share, so infographics can earn lots of backlinks. You can also offer to write a guest blog on another website. This allows you to create backlinks to your own site while also expanding your audience.

Link Equity

When learning SEO basics and SEO tips, you should understand the concept of link equity. This is the idea that links pass authority from one page to another, and some links have more power than others.

Link equity is determined by several factors, but one factor is the number of links on the page. If the page only includes one backlink, the algorithm believes that this link is highly relevant and uniquely valuable. If the page contains dozens of backlinks, each of those links will matter less. Each of your pages should use a few links, but overusing internal links will make them less powerful.

Understanding & Harnessing the Flow of Link Equity
to Maximize SEO Ranking Opportunity

Technical SEO Basics

Technical SEO involves SEO tips about making your website easier for search engine bots to find and understand. While onpage SEO tips are all about the content itself, technical SEO deals with how the content is presented.

Essential technical SEO basics include loading speed, linking structure, security, and user experience. Google wants to deliver only the best content to its users, so it values high-quality information and high-quality web design.

Page Speed

Page loading speed is one of Google’s SEO basics. Most people will click away from a page if it takes more than a couple seconds to load, so Google’s algorithm puts a lot of weight on loading speed.

To speed up your website, you can remove as many third-party scripts as possible and reduce page sizes. Compress any images on your site so that they do not slow you down. You may also have to move to a faster host to see a significant difference in your loading speed. Some hosts are much quicker than others, so you should investigate your hosting options.

Does PageSpeed Actually Impact SEO? [New Experiment]

Mobile SEO

Mobile phones are the primary browsing device for a large percentage of the population. Google uses mobile-first indexing, which means its bots crawl the mobile versions of websites instead of the desktop versions. If your mobile site is outdated, incomplete, or difficult to navigate, your rankings are probably suffering.

The best way to optimizing your site for mobile browsing is to use responsive web design, which works well on both mobile and desktop devices. You should make sure all the information on your desktop site is also available on your mobile site. Avoid using Flash on your website as it does not work on mobile devices.

Introduction to Mobile SEO

Security

Search engines prioritize secure sites over non-secure sites. To protect your site visitors and to improve your rankings, you should investigate improving your site’s security.

One of the best things you can do is use SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer. This security feature creates an encrypted link between the server and the browser. Sites that use SSL appear with HTTPS URLs instead of HTTP, and they usually perform much better in search rankings. Most website builders use SSL by default.

Current Year

Adding the year is more critical for some industries than others. Some topics stay consistent over time, so readers do not mind if the page was written a long time ago. Other fields, especially technology, are rapidly evolving, and readers only want current information.

If viewers see in the search results that your page was written or updated recently, they will trust your site as a source of current information. Update your older pages to remove outdated information and add the current year to your title tag or meta description.

Question Title Tags

Question-based title tags have a higher-than-average CTR. This is probably because question-based titles tend to be more specific. When the title states the exact question that the page answers, viewers are more confident that the page contains the information they need.

Using question-based title tags is one of the best SEO tips for engaging with readers and increasing clicks. As always, though, your titles should still read naturally. You should also again try to keep your primary keyword near the beginning of your title. If you can’t readily use the keyword in a question-based title, prioritize the keyword and don’t worry about turning the title into a question.

Schema

Schema is a type of microdata that creates an enhanced description of the page. It is most frequently used to add extra information about a person, event, place, or product. To add Schema to your site, visit Schema.org and find the type of markup you want to use. Then, the site will give you the guidelines for that markup.

Schema is not appropriate for every page, but it can be a helpful way to organize your information on blog posts, FAQ pages, or event descriptions. It is a valuable CTR tool because it increases your chances of getting a Rich Snippet.

Typical Google search results show only the title tag, meta description, and URL, but Rich Snippets include extra information. For example, a recipe could appear as a Rich Snippet on the results page with its cooking time and the number of reviews. Google gets this extra information from Schema, and other structured data in the page’s HTML.

How FAQ Rich Snippets Increase Your Search Visibility in Near Real-Time

Rich Snippets are eye-catching and engaging, so they often lead to extra clicks. The two types of Schema that give you the best chance of getting a Rich Snippet are review Schema and FAQ Schema.

Organic vs. Local SEO

There are a few different types of SEO, but all are important for a successful website. One of the most important distinctions is organic SEO versus local SEO. An organic search is a general search for information, and a local search is location-based. For example, a natural query may ask for a pizza recipe. Still, a local search would ask for pizza delivery in a specific city.

If your business serves customers in a particular location, your website should utilize both organic and local SEO tips. If your business is not location-specific, you should focus your efforts on organic SEO basics.

Local SEO tips are just as important as organic WordPress SEO tips. Most people regularly search online for local businesses, so being on the first page of results can significantly increase your traffic. People also tend to trust highly ranking sites more, so utilizing local SEO tips can help establish your business as an authority.

Local SEO Tips: NAP

If your business makes in-person contact with customers, you must follow local SEO tips as well as organic SEO basics. The best way to optimize your site for local traffic is to use NAP, which stands for name, address, and phone number.

All of your site’s pages should include these three pieces of information. They are most often included in the header or footer, as well as on the contact page. If your business has multiple locations, you should create an optimized page for each location.

One of the most important local SEO tips you should follow is that your NAP must be consistent across your entire site. If your business name includes “LLC” or “Inc,” include those letters every time the name appears.

How to Do Local SEO: Complete A-Z Tutorial

Local SEO Tips: Local Content

One of the most effective local SEO tips is to create local content. For example, you could write a press release about a community event your business participated in. Your content can also include information about why your business is vital for the area you serve. When you write location-specific content, you relate to people in the community, and you increase your ranking by using more keywords.

SEO Basics: Final Thoughts

Search engine optimization involves every aspect of your website’s design and content. There are countless SEO tips and tricks that can strengthen your site, and it is easy to feel overwhelmed by all the factors. If you are new to digital marketing, start with implementing just the primary organic and local SEO tips. Then, as you get more comfortable with the process, you can add more advanced SEO tips to your website.

The best thing you can do to achieve SEO success is to stay informed. Search engine algorithms change multiple times per year, so the SEO tips that work well right now may not work in the future. SEO is a long-term commitment, so you should consistently update and improve your strategy.