You’ve infiltrated into the mysterious world of the internet…and SEO, that’s great, isn’t it?
Or is it?
It feels like you’re exploring a complicated maze of strange Klingon jargon, and you have no idea what most of them mean.
Words like backlinks, colored hats, bounce-rate, bots and spiders, keyword density, long tail, mirror site, SEM, spam, SERP, and SEO, to mention just a few.
Of the many terms you will surely have come across, nothing sticks out more than the term SEO.
SEO, which is short for Search Engine Optimization, is primarily the process of affecting the online visibility of a website in a search engine’s unpaid results. This is often referred to as natural, organic, or earned results.
What this means is that if you apply SEO to your website, the chances of it being seen by Search Engines are largely increased. The more it’s seen by Search Engines, the more traffic can come your way. If you’re just spreading the word, people will come to read it. Should you be advertising a product or a service, people will come to have a look at what you’re offering. If they find what they are looking for, you stand a chance of making a sale.
The word SEO spans far and wide and is not just referring to one single thing, but a large collection of factors which make up the whole picture.
Actually, rumor has it that Google uses over 200 ranking factors that make up SEO!
In other words, SEO is HUGE!
Having said that, there are those who claim that these lists are useless, and some of the listed factors are nothing more than just myths, controversial, or pure speculation.
Matt Cutts, Google’s former head of Search Quality, declared that even though Google does have over 200 ranking factors, each of these factors may have up to fifty variations. Matt Cutts resigned from Google on the 31st of December, 2016.
However, let this not put you off as it is really a very interesting and versatile subject. It’s really like being on a different planet, and you’ll come to understand some of what goes on under the hood of these search engines.
For information coming from the horse’s mouth, that’s from Google, you might want to take a peek at Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide.
SEO is not something you can understand in a few seconds
And the fact that it uses a collection of different factors doesn’t make it any easier.
I’m not saying it’s impossible to learn, but as with any other skill, this can be picked up and honed once the core of what it’s all about sinks in.
Here, you’ll get a pretty general idea of what it’s all about.
Search Engine Optimization is basically divided into two main factors.
On-page, and off-page.
SEO can be further sub-divided into basic, and advanced levels.
All these divisions are equally important, and you can’t expect the results you desire if some factors making up the whole equation are not up to scratch.
In this post, we’re going to just scan through the basics, the nuts, and bolts of what this is mainly all about.
What is SEO?
Let’s say you are looking for a new mobile phone.
The first thing you would do is go to Google, Bing or Yahoo, which are the three main search engine sites, and type in “Mobile Phones” in the search box.
(Note: Google is the largest search engine site out there, covering almost sixty-five percent of all the regular searches done on the internet.)
Your search could be within quotes, or without. We’ll go into the difference as we advance.
Once you hit the Search button, you’ll get millions of search results relating to your search, referred to as SERPs, which stands for Search Engine Results Page(s).
Now, you will not scroll through all those listings as it will take you forever, and a day.
Normally, one would just have a quick look at the first page, and sometimes on the second page. If you can’t find out what you need in these two pages, the chances are that you’ll start a fresh new search, and see if this time you’ll find what you’re looking for.
According to statistics, only less than 5% of users will move on to the second page. If you’re just starting out, and the site you are working on is shown on the second page, that’s pretty good going, so don’t lose any sleep over it.
With some fine SEO tuning, you might be able to shoot this up to the first page…
Search Engine Optimization is extremely important
By optimizing your website, you will greatly increase your probability of your site reaching Page 1, after which, your chances of getting more traffic to your site will shoot through the roof.
One of the problems with understanding this subject is that there are so many different factors which make up the whole picture, it almost verges on the insane.
Established businesses spend money on their internet marketing like there is no tomorrow, and pour finances into it knowing the results would, or should, be worth their investment.
However, being a newbie on the scene, and with limited financial resources, it’s not possible for many to spend a great deal to boost their page to a better ranking.
Having said that, you can still do a great deal to improve your chances of ranking without having to spend any money at all.
One Vital and Basic Step to Improving your SEO
The first thing you need to do to your site… is to check its speed.
Yes, site speed!
And the reason behind this is that Google loves fast loading sites. Google loves these sites so much that it ranks them higher in the search results.
Alan Eustace once said:
“Speed matters.” With 8 billion pages, it would take 253 years (I think I got that right) to fetch pages if you fetch one page per second. “It’s important that we gently crawl the web at very high speeds.”
Several years have passed since this statement. Actually, it was during Google Press Day, 2006. As you might very well imagine and do the math, there are way more than 8 billion pages available now, so you can imagine how long that would take to fetch pages.
With that in mind, even if your content is brilliant, and you have what people want and are actually looking for, sadly enough, if your site is slow, you’ll end up getting slapped…and your site is sent to the bottom of the search result pages…probably never to be found!
Your site’s speed is something which Google notices and is taken into account when websites are indexed and ranked.
Please note that these two terms, “ranking” and “indexing” are not the same thing.
Contrary to what many people in the SEO arena might think, in the Search Engine world they are completely different concepts.
The difference between ‘indexing’ and ‘ranking’
Indexing: The process to get Google’s spiders to understand your site’s content.
One technique to improve a site’s indexing is to submit your sitemap to Google’s Webmaster Tools. This also includes submitting your site’s URL to Search Engines.
Ranking: This is how your content on the SERPs is ranked, in other words, where it is in relation to all the other websites on the internet.
A website’s loading speed
Ideally, the less time it takes to load, the better. A typical acceptable loading time is that of about 3 seconds. People won’t wait any longer, and they’ll close your site to click on one that loads faster.
However, you’ve just lost your potential customer and only increased your bounce rate.
Had you known of the skills involved, you might not have lost any traffic, and the visitor could have been a profitable one.
Granted, we’re not all born talented webmasters, but this skill can be learned, and then put into practice.
The main reasons why you should work on the speed of your site are:
- If your site loads fast, your bounce rate will improve.
- Google ranks page speed as a factor.
- A faster site means more traffic.
- A fast loading site creates a better UX, or user experience.
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Back to your site’s speed after that little, but important interruption…
Luckily enough, checking your site’s speed can be done in a matter of seconds.
There are several places where you can check it out, and the following are just a few of them.
I’ve tried all these tools, but whatever you do, just don’t take their immediate results to heart.
The reason being is that one second your site might be shown as having a speed of, say, 90%, and the second after it might show it to be 70%.
These tools also differ in their results between themselves, so you can’t really take for granted a set of results, just taken the one time.
Recently, Google is giving more importance to the speed of your site on mobile telephones, so that also needs to be addressed when checking your website’s speed. The reason is that more and more people are using their mobile phones far more for searching than they use other means, like a desktop computer.
What if my site speed is low, what can I do?
Your site’s speed depends on several things.
Your hosting company is one major factor.
If you are using shared space on a busy server, then this will be slow. In such a situation, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it unless you change your hosting company.
These help to make your site faster, but they sometimes come at a cost. There exist plugins for caching purposes, but adding a plugin for every little thing will render your site sluggish.
Some hosting companies, one of them being Wealthy Affiliate, offers a built-in Site Speed facility.
In their own words, this helps for “Better Rankings, Better Engagement, and a 100% better experience for your website visitors. Proprietary WA Technology to speed up your WordPress Website without plugins or clunky software.”
It’s all related to your theme.
A factor which not many webmasters seem to know about is the effect your actual WordPress theme has on your site’s speed. Believe me, there are themes, and there are themes. Some are fast when not loaded, but when you start to load them, they go slow. This is more so when you start adding plugins against plugins to get the desired results. The page might look fantastic, but you run the risk of making it crawl, which will only backfire in your face.
I won’t tell you which theme to go for as there are thousands to choose from, but I would, if I were you, read the reviews and people’s comments about the ones you lay your eyes on. Your choice of theme really depends on what kind of website you intend to build. Should your first choice of theme prove not to be the one you really wanted, then you can always change this, and keep all the content. It can involve quite a bit of work to get the site back to how you wish it to be, but it’s not impossible to do.
The important and misunderstood facts about SEO
There is no “The most important factor in SEO“.
OK, that is not entirely true, I admit, and it doesn’t work like that, but read on…
Your SEO campaign is like all the pieces of a puzzle. Without one single piece in place, your puzzle is not complete as ALL the pieces are important.
Having all the pieces is just great, but these have their special place where to fit. Otherwise, your puzzle will either be incomplete, or it will be a total mess.
These are some SEO terms or pieces of your puzzle:
- Meta Description
- H1 Tags
- Alt Text
- Domain Name
- Page Title
- Paragraph Length
- Image Size
- Thin Content
- Broken Links
- Domain Age
…and many more.
Just to give you an idea of what I’m on about, if your content is original but all the rest of the items listed are not right, you won’t be ranked.
If your page titles are fantastic and using the proper H1 tags, these alone won’t help you to rank.
If your domain is only a few weeks old, even though all the other factors listed are in place, this will not help you to rank either.
I think you get my point at this stage.
If the puzzle comparison didn’t quite cut it for you, try a car as an example.
You can have a perfect and slim-lined body, but no wheels – useless.
You’ve managed to fit in the biggest engine you could find, but you forgot to install a radiator – useless.
You might have the most comfortable seats, but you forgot to install a windscreen – still useless.
All these different things have to be applied at the same time.
I hope you understand what I was trying to relay before, that there is no one single factor which is more important than the others, for without any single factor, no matter how irrelevant you might think it is, all will be rendered useless.
In the case of SEO, all the factors will have a cumulative and critical role in how your site will rank.
Over time, and with carrying out the necessary tweaks, your site will start to rise in the rankings. It might be a slow progress, but nonetheless, it’s still progress.
Why is my site not ranking well?
So you think you’ve got all the pieces of the puzzle in place, and yet, you are still not ranking.
Well, you might think you have all the pieces in place, but do they fit properly?
There is one way to find out all these things, by carrying out a Site Audit on your website.
In the world of Digital Marketing, an audit is essential.
There are countless benefits with carrying out a site audit to your website. It really doesn’t matter if you are running an online business, or just you have a website to show off your hobby. In either case, the sole aim of conducting such an audit is to increase your website’s online presence.
Pure, and simple…and that is to be found among all the other websites that make up the internet.
The advantages of a site audit
The advantages of a site audit is that problems with your website’s structure are identified.
Following your increased awareness of any problems, you can improve your weak areas for an overall better performance.
The auditing process addresses, among others factors:
- Traffic, or lack of,
- Site’s health,
- Your visitor’s user experience,
- The site’s functionality,
- Site’s vulnerability,
- Social Media presence,
- Your user’s engagement, and
- Your overall website performance.
These factors are of great importance if you intend to take your site to the next level, which is what we should all do.
Thanks to such site audits, you will be able to find any issues with your website which might incur Google’s wrath. Of course, you won’t be doing these things on purpose, but having said that, I don’t think it really matters to Google.
It’s either good, or bad.
If it’s good, you’ll get ranked and get a pat on the back, but if it’s bad, that you are liable for penalties which will effect your ranking tremendously.
Unfortunately, many Webmasters tend to take some things for granted and ruin their chances of ranking their website. There are many problems that can prevent your site from reaching the top, but these can be tackled accordingly, and one step at a time.
Here are some points worth noting when you think you’re doing great, but still not ranking:
Slow loading website
Your site isn’t structured properly for SEO
Weak title tags
You didn’t make your site mobile friendly
Duplicate or too thin content
No Social Media linking
Incorrect meta descriptions
For the full list of these terms, take a look at a Complete Glossary of Essential SEO Jargon.
There is no “The most important factor in SEO”. (OK, that is not entirely true)
Having said that, perhaps the real factor, the one and only factor that plays a huge role in your SEO campaign, is none other than CONSISTENCY.
This is one VERY IMPORTANT factor that few people seem to talk about, and yet, it is more than essential to rank.
In other words, it’s no good publishing regularly for a month, then go for six months without publishing anything…
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