If you are new to all this SEO thing, don’t worry, after reading this SEO basic guide, you will learn what SEO is and what are the essential steps in optimizing a site to achieve a higher ranking for your business on google search results.
So you have just released your brand new shiny website and now you hope people will find you and you’ll receive thousands of visits, just because you have an online presence. Well, this is far from reality and it will involve a lot of effort from you as the owner of the website, as well as from the developer or the agency you hired to do the SEO optimization for your business so that you’ll rank higher in the search results.
SEO Basic Factors That Impact Ranking
Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll learn about in this article and what are the SEO basic factors I’ll talk about:
- Secure and Functional Website
- Domain Age
- Page Speed Optimization
- Content Quality
- Content Optimization
- Your Business Information
- Social Media Marketing
So What is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization and is the process of creating and publishing your website’s content in a way that the search engines such as Google or Bing would appreciate. The main benefit of this is free monthly traffic due to your website placement in the search results. Having a top position on search results, would mean more trust and authenticity and therefore more organic free visits to your website.
Example: Let’s say you want to learn how to make a pizza at home. Of course, you will not sign up for a cookery course just for that. The first thing you’ll probably do is to type on google “How to make pizza” and hit enter.
The first websites that will appear in google search results are the ones with the best SEO optimization, and also the ones that will benefit the most visits from google, meaning more leads and sales. That’s why ranking on Google is so crucial for your website success.
For a better explanation on how the google search works, and to understand this SEO basic guide and the steps I’ll cover further, please take five minutes of your time and watch this video.
1. Secure & Accessible Website
- No 404 errors – First thing and the most important one, is to ensure your website works well, and by that I mean to ensure it doesn’t return any 404 error for broken links or missing content.
- SSL Certificate – SSL means Secure Sockets Layers, which are encryption-based Internet security protocols to secure information. It will protect your website from attacks and give visitors confidence that your site is authentic and trustworthy. So an SSL is a must in 2020, and Google will reward you with a better ranking for that.
- A sitemap – which will create a list of all your pages. This will speed up google’s process for indexing all your website’s essential pages. If your website is WordPress based, you can build a sitemap via Yoast SEO plugin. Otherwise, you can use an online sitemap generator.
- A robots.txt file – that will guide search engines such as Google or Bing to know what content they can or can’t index from your website.
Mobile responsive or mobile-friendly is a web design process to ensure that the website will work and adapt to a wide range of devices and different screen sizes. Back in the day, a web designer used to create only one fixed layout version of the site e.g 980px, and in some cases another template for the mobile version.
But in recent years due to the increased variety of different devices, smartphones, tablets, and other devices, it would be impossible for a designer to create one version for each device. That’s why responsive design has been launched, one layout adaptable to any screen size.
Based on Google’s official announcement on March 26th, 2018, all websites will be indexed on the basis of their mobile version, not their desktop version as was done in the past. That means mobile-friendliness plays a major role in SEO optimizing the process and a huge drawback for all non-responsive websites in SEO ranking.
To see if your site is responsive, submit your site to Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. It will report back any issues with the mobile version of your site.
3. Domain Age
Domain Age or in other words, for how long your website’s name has been active on the internet, it will also affect your SEO ranking. It is not as important as the other SEO ranking factors, like having high quality and unique content, or mobile-friendliness but it will give you a good advantage against your competitors.
And if you’re thinking that this is not something you can control, you might want to try your luck on purchasing an existing good domain name from domain auction websites like GoDaddy.
4. Page Speed Optimization
Slow-loading websites are probably the worst factor for UX ( User Experience ). So for example if a potential customer visits your site, clicks on your product and nothing’s loading, the images are loading very slow – that customer will close that page and probably never return to your website again, plus you’re probably going to be penalized by google.
John Mueller, Google
We’re seeing an extremely high response-time for requests made to your site (at times, over 2 seconds to fetch a single URL). This has resulted in us severely limiting the number of URLs we’ll crawl from your site.
That being said, having a slow website it will also affect how many pages will google index from your website and maybe ranking as well.
So how to improve and test your loading speed?
- Google speed test – Is free and you can simply copy and paste your URL inside that field and it will give you tips on how to optimize the page loading speed.
- GTmetrix – is another handy tool and pretty similar to google page speed. I personally like to use them both, just to have a general idea of what I’m missing.
5. Content Quality
Content is the King. It has been probably the most deciding factor when it comes to SERP ( search engine results pages ) ranking, and for sure will be in 2020 as well. Here I would like to split this topic into two categories, the Content Quality and the Content Optimization for SEO:
- Provide unique content that hasn’t already been posted on other websites ( obviously, avoid copying articles from other websites, Google will detect it and your website will be penalized )
- Avoid duplicate content – same content on multiple pages will confuse search engines which page to rank higher, as they will compete against each other and as a result, none of them will rank as they should.
- Make sure your content is consistent enough. If you have a brand new shiny website and you’re trying to promote your product or service with it, you need to make sure you have at least 500 words per article. Others may recommend 800, 1000 or even 2000 words, but it all depends on your targeted niche and how valuable is the content for your audience.
- Same goes for the overall content of your website, having just a set of images or videos on your pages, won’t help much your SEO ranking, without having at least a decent amount of text included.
6. Content Optimization
- The content of each page should be focused on the keywords that you are targeting.
- Create custom URLs ( also known as the post slug ) for your pages, including your targeted keywords in it:
- Having a unique page title and only one h1 tag per page is a must. The h1 tag is the most important heading tag of the page.
- Every article and existing page on your website should have a unique meta description. The meta description is basically your page description and it will be visible on google search results, under your website or page title.
- Provide ALT tags or Alternative text, for all your images. Google is not a human being, it’s a machine and by only uploading your website photos without any description, it won’t help search engines to detect whatever your photo is about. Below on the left, you have the WordPress image alt box and on the right side an example of image code.
7. Your Business Information
SEO for your local business is very important. Providing accurate information about your business will increase visibility and boost their Google’s ranking as well.
Ensure the completeness of your Google My Company profile by providing as many details as you can, operating hours, photos, contact information, and more.
Get listed into local directories with your business NAP – name, address, phone number, and be sure your NAP it’s identical on every local directory.
8. Social Media Marketing
Spread the word about your website existence by using social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Every visitor from your social media profile could be a potential customer for your business, and often when creating a profile on these websites, you’ll also have the option to type the URL of your website.
Same as having well-optimized content, having a good backlinks profile with top quality websites linking back to your site, is crucial to increase your website’s authority and SEO ranking. A good way to detect high-value websites is to use Alexa’s free Site Overview Tool. Type your URL, hit enter and soon after that a page full of statistics will be shown. Look for the Alexa rank, visible on the right side of the page. The lower the global rank is, the better.