Many people get ask the “what is SEO?” question a lot. This is because they see it everywhere on the internet but don’t have a good idea of what it is and how they can take advantage of it for their business. If you are in this category, then this article is for you. Here, we discuss the basics of SEO for beginners.
SEO is the acronym for Search Engine Optimization. It is the process required to optimize a website to improve its ranking in search engine results and get more organic (free or non-paid) traffic.
SEO dates back to the initial emergence of search engines in the 90s but has grown into a crucial marketing strategy and a fast-growing industry.
Internet users use the search engine to look for anything they want online. So you must make sure that you are providing answers to a question or solutions to a problem. Irrespective of whether you are selling a service or product or writing a blog, it is crucial that you take SEO seriously as long as you are a website owner.
To put it in simple terms: SEO refers to all the actions or steps taken to ensure that a search engine (notably Google) considers your site as a source of quality information and ranks it higher than others in the relevant search queries.
Three Key Aspects To SEO
The three major aspects of SEO are:
- Technical aspect: this refers to all the technical stuff you must do or steps you must take to cover your site’s SEO. It is also known as on-page, or technical SEO. It is the bowl you need to cook the soup in.
- Great content: your website content is the soup of SEO and is an essential part of SEO. Your website is going to rank low if your website content is low quality. To rank higher up, you need high-quality content.
- Quality backlinks: high-quality backlinks help to improve your website’s authority. Even if your website is well-optimized and with interesting content, if you don’t have quality backlinks, search engines won’t view it as authoritative.
Important Terms to Understand When it Comes to SEO
There are certain terms you should understand and will come across frequently when you begin to dig into SEO. Various aspects of these terms are categorized into two buckets:
- On-page and off-page SEO
- White hat and black hat SEO
These are some of the basic terminologies that you have to note in SEO.
On-Page and Off-Page SEO
These two terms categorize your SEO activities based on whether they are performed on the website or not.
- On-page SEO: This is used to represent every action you can carry out on your website to optimize it, primarily through technical aspects such as content optimization, keyword research, internal linking, page performance optimization, and title tag optimization. On-page SEO aims to provide the perfect UX and content and inform the search engine of what the page entails.
- Off-page SEO: Off-page SEO is used to represent the action take to attract quality backlinks to your website to show Google (and other search engines) that your website is valuable and has authority. Some of the techniques involved in off-page SEO are guest blogging, broken link building, email outreach, etc. Off-page SEO is also closely related to other parts of digital marketing, such as branding and social media marketing, which helps build a website’s authority and trust.
For an SEO strategy to be successful, it has to incorporate both off-page and on-page SEO activities.
White Hat and Black Hat SEO
The idea behind white hats and black hats originates from western movies, and represents good guys and bad guys.
When it comes to SEO, these terms are used for the two groups of people involved in SEO practices: the ones that follow the rules and guidelines set by Google Webmasters and those that don’t.
- White Hat SEO: This term is used to qualify the standard SEO techniques that follow the rules and guidelines set by webmasters. It is a long-term strategy that will boost rankings due to a user-oriented approach, quality content, and good optimization.
- Black Hat SEO: This term refers to a series of unethical practices (mostly spammy) that improve a website’s ranking. These techniques cut the corner in getting a website to the top of search engine rankings in a short time. However, these techniques are also penalized by Google when they are discovered, and in many cases, results in the website may be banned or blacklisted.
You should not use black hat SEO to improve your website ranking. The best way to go, which experts recommend, is white hat SEO. However, there are also varying opinions about the acceptability of link-building techniques, such as link buying. The important thing is to follow the proper steps and ensure that you, or the person or company that you hire, are doing the right thing.
You can’t talk about search engine optimization without first determining what you’re optimizing for. Keyword research allows you to identify the terms that people are using when searching through search engines (keywords) relevant to your website and you want to rank for on Google.
In carrying out your keyword research, there are several factors that you must consider, such as:
- Search volume: this is the number of people that are searching for the given keyword. The higher the number of people searching for a particular keyword, the larger the audience that you can reach with that keyword. If it has a low search volume, you don’t have the audience you need.
- Relevance: no matter the search volume a keyword has, if it is not relevant to your website or content, then it is not right for you, and you won’t benefit from using it. Relevance is pretty straightforward, but it has its nuances as well.
For instance, if your product is offering an email marketing automation application, you wouldn’t want to rank for searches involving pet supplies. There is no relevance or correlation with those two things. However, a keyword such as “email marketing software” may appear more relevant for you to rank for, and it is. The twist, though, is that most people searching for this keyword may have no interest in paying for your application, especially if you are targeting Fortune 100 companies. Worse still, the audience you are targeting is unlikely to buy your software because of a Google search.
- Competition: the likelihood of success and potential costs are two things you need to consider for SEO, as with other business opportunities. However, SEO means you understand the competition for specific terms and the likelihood to rank for them.
For SEO, you must understand your prospective customers and what they may be searching for online. This is usually the starting point of your SEO journey. Some other things that you also have to understand are:
- The kind of content that interests them.
- The problems these customers have.
- The type of language they use to describe what they are doing and the tools they are using.
- Competitors or your service or product. Who else is your target audience buying from and listening to?
Once you can answer these questions, you will already have a list of possible domains and keywords that you can use to get other keyword ideas.
Search Engine Optimization is a vast subject, and there are many things that you need to know to use SEO successfully to improve your website rank. However, as a beginner, these are some basics that you must familiarize yourself with before anything else. Some of these basics are discussed in this article to give you a foundation for further learning.