Let’s start off with the definition of SEO. According to Wikipedia, Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of growing the quality and quantity of website traffic by increasing the visibility of a website or a web page to users of a web search engine. SEO refers to the improvement of unpaid results (known as “natural” or ” organic ” results) and excludes direct traffic and the purchase of paid placement .
Unless you have a sure shot strategy in place that will genrate tons of traffic to your website every month your knowledge of SEO can make or break the success of your site.
Things are always changing in the field of SEO. Strategies that may have worked years ago have become a lot less effective and the knowledge of a new set of techniques needs to be applied.
Spamming Google with links and keywords essentially will be a waste of your time at this point; In addition to things like competitor gap anlysis and keyword gap analysis, there are strategies that can be used to increase organic traffic that are a little more sophisticated now.
All in all there are a number of strategies that you wiil ideally want to apply to be successful in the ever-increasing competitive landscape in SEO.
There are four basic components of SEO that you should always keep an eye on. These components include:
- Keywords (and keyword targeting).
- Search volumes behind keywords.
- Traffic coming from organic search.
- Conversions of customers searching for our targeted keywords.
The actual techniques revolve around the following:
- On-page optimization.
- Link building.
- Technical SEO.
These are the areas of focus of an SEO expert that would be hired to maintain an SEO campaign.
In this guide, you will learn just how to make sure that you create a solid foundation and take all of the necessary steps in launching and maintaining a proper SEO campaign.
Topics, Entities & Keywords
The first basic component we’re going to look at includes keywords and keyword targeting.
In the old days of SEO, keywords were really all that you had. Keywords and keyword targeting. Keyword targeting involved creating pages based on specific keywords and optimizing them.
The content would be extremely focused and built around this keyword.
As you move forward with your SEO, you could still technincally include keyword synonyms, and related keywords in such a way that would help improve your rankings.
The problem with keywords, though, is that they can become redundant, too repetitive, and you can run out of SEO pain points in industry-related keywords fast.
There’s very little room to move forward.
For the process of keyword optimization, it used to be executed in the following way.
Let’s say that you performed keyword research, found the highest-performing ones in terms of search volume, created a page for the keyword, and ensured keywords were inter-weaved throughout your content accordingly. This was one way.
Let’s also not forget the different types of keywords, which are many. The goals of these keywords will change depending on how you want to approach your SEO:
- Money Keywords
- Head Keywords
- Short Tail keywords
- Long Tail Keywords
- Supporting Keywords / keyword synonyms
- Branded Keywords
- Phrase Match Keywords
- Broad Match Keywords
- Negative Keywords
- Exact Match Keywords
Plus some more keyword types that are not necessarily needed.
It’s important to understand how you should and should not use keywords because they are a fundamental skill of the SEO profession.
Recently however, there has been a shift from keywords to topics and entities.
If keywords are specific words and phrases, topics can be considered broader terms and concepts.
While there has been a shift, you still cannot do without keywords. They are the backbone of any SEO strategy.
You also have entities that are now thrown into the mix of things.
Entities are places, persons, things. Entities have now become an important concept in understanding SEO.
If you consider three of the most important ranking factors:
And that an entity is anything that is:
You can understand why it is so important to ensure that your site is optimized with entities, keywords, and topics.
As mentioned previously, SEO is traditionally about optimizing for targeted keywords.
It used to be considered an SEO best practice to create 1 page per single targeted keyword.
You can come up with your topics by performing topic research using tools like AnswerThePublic.com or Ubersuggest.
SEMrush also has its own tool called the topic research tool.
Using any of these tools will help you find relatable topics for the type of website you are working on.
You may be wondering what you should do if you are optimizing for multiple topics?For that I have a detailes post on how to optimize your website for multiple topics.
There are other basics, including content, links, and technical SEO that can make or break your success.
Let’s take a look at some of the most defining factors that you should understand and will help your SEO in 2020
In the land of SEO, content is king and the quality of that content is a factor that Google’s algorithims take into account when assessing how they should rank different websites.
High quality content helps your site perform well, with certain factors that are also taking into consideration, including:
- Your sites main industry
- What your competition is doing
- What Googles algorithim is doing
- What has been done to your site previously
- What is being done to your site now
- Your industrys overall competition
Because there are different industry variations in SEO, it’s always a good idea to not to just stick to one strategy that you’ve learned and to always be open to learnin new strategies over time.
Industry norms vary, and can be as different as the website itself. The way you find out about these norms is for you to perform a competitor gap analysis.
A competitor gap analysis helps you figure out what you need to do to increase your rankings above your competitors rankings.
You can read more about how to perform a competitor gap analysis here.
Some key things that you’ll want to gain from your competitor gap analysis includes insight on:
- Your competitor’s rankings.
- Your competition’s content (frequency of posting, word counts, etc.).
- The link profiles of your competitors.
- And, to a lesser extent, on-page SEO and technical SEO.
Important: You Don’t Always Get What You Give
With SEO, it may be easy to think that if you make little changes to some keywords on a site, or you make changes to some links, that an immediate improvement is perceptible due to those changes.
The reality is that this method will seldom produces the results that you are looking for.
Detailed organic traffic data analysis and interpretation is the route that you want to take.
This is what make SEO complex, the fact that it is not run by a simple cause and effect system.
SEO involves a complex system with layers of algorithims that Google makes changes to daily.
Some of those changes can result in you being penalized if your’e in any way engaging in spammy practices.
Which brings us to the next topic: white hat SEO vs. black hat SEO vs grey hat SEO.
White Hat SEO vs. Black Hat SEO vs Grey Hat SEO
The terms, White Hat and Black Hat, comes from the old spaghetti westerns, where the bad guy wears a black hat, and the good guy wears a white hat. Utilizing this technique helped the audience determine who the protagonist and antagonist were. However, in SEO, the types of “hats” are neither good nor are they bad. The color just represents the philosophies used by SEO professionals and signifies how closely they follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
White Hat SEOis a much safer philosophy, they follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines which in turn improves user experience.
They try their best to be cautious in avoiding any of Google’s penalties and manual actions.
Furthermore, White Hat SEO individuals usually like the challenge of playing in the Webmaster Guidelines and their rewards are usually big wins.
One drawback to White Hat SEO is that it takes a very long time to see any kind of advancement. But, once improvement starts showing and growing, it is permanent.
As a result, seeing a decrease from a Google algorithm update is rare.
Black hat SEO’s usually follow tactics that do not follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines to help them rank better.
This is usually for individuals who want a quick return, rather than the long-term investment that the White Hat SEO accomplishes.
This strategy focuses only on search engines, not human audiences.
Black Hat SEO uses techniques like keyword stuffing, link farming, hidden texts and links, blog content spamming, and more.
Google will send a penalty to websites that use tactics that are against the Webmaster Guidelines.
The Difference at a Glance:
|Black Hat Strategies||White Hat Strategies|
|Duplicate ContentInvisible textStuffed keywordsCloaking or re-directing user to another site or pageLinks from sites with non-relevant content||Relevant ContentWell-labeled imagesRelevant links and referencesComplete sentences with good spelling and grammarStandards-compliant HTMLUnique and relevant page titles|
There are risks when using Black Hat SEO. This is because using methods that attempt to manipulate Google’s Algorithm has consequences.
A website caught using a Black Hat approach could demote their ranking. In addition, penalization of their website could happen where they will not appear on a search result at all.
The tactics used do more harm than good.
A good example of Algorithm updates would be the 2012 “Penguin” update. This revises targeted sites that were buying links or spamming links. They saw their ranks plummet when affected by the penalty.
As a rule of thumb for any SEO Hat, you just have to be aware of the risks that are involved when dealing with SEO tactics that are being implemented to gain ranking.
The biggest difference between these two approaches is that White Hat SEO follows Google’s Guidelines while attempting to improve user experience.
On the other hand, Black Hat SEO has tactics that may violate some of those guidelines and primarily focuses on search engines.
To some, the White Hat strategy in creating quality content may be time-consuming, but is worth the quality results that are penalty free, in the long run.
What’s most important is understanding the consequences of the tactics used regardless of which hat that you choose.
Meaning, Black Hat is a legitimate strategy – you just have to be aware of the consequences of these strategies being implemented.
Grey Hat can be looked at as a combination of both white and black hat, usually using black hat techniques for research but not execution, and using a white hat approach for sustainable results in the long-term. Most SEOs fall under the grey hat umbrella.
There’s nothing legally, morally, with the black hat tactics, but it would be smart to follow white or grey hat tactics to stay on the safe side.
Your Competition’s Link Profiles Can Provide Valuable Insight
Your competition’s link profiles, along with your own, should be a core component of your competitor gap analysis.
A link profile is the makeup of links directing to your site.
Google favors links from a variety of sites, especially high authority sites.
Google has confirmed that links are one of the most important ranking factors for SEO.
On Page SEO
Onpage optimization also known as on-page seo, is another important SEO tactics that refers to all measures that can be taken directly within the website in order to improve its position in the search rankings.
Examples of this include measures to optimize the content or improve the meta description and title tags.
On-page seo, is the opposite of off-page seo tactics like the link building that was previously mentioned.
Some on-page optimization include:
- Optimizing the page to deliver unique value.
- Can transition seamlessly between devices.
- Laser-targeted keyword targeting.
- Is crawler / bot accessible – Google’s Gary Illyes is on record as saying “Just make that damned site crawlable.”
- Can easily be shared through the social networks.
- Optimizing for authorship, meta data, schema, and rich snippets.
- Optimization for phenomenal user experience (UX).
Technical SEO refers to website and server optimizations (e.g. page elements, HTTP header responses, XML Sitemaps, redirects, meta data, etc.), that help search engine spiders crawl and index your site more effectively (to help improve organic rankings).
This is an area where you have the opportunity to shift the odds heavily in your favor by making sure your site is properly optimized for crawlers.
Technincal SEO strategies are highly technincal, and is considered the next level in mastering SEO, beyond the basics.
Technical SEO in 2020 includes the following that you must learn and
- Anything and everything to do with robots.txt.
- Optimization of your navigation and website’s architecture.
- Server analysis for bottlenecks that can be costing you SERP performance.
- Schema.org Structured Data implementation.
- Canonicalization of URLs.
- Error page analysis and correction (4xx, 5xx, 3xx, etc.).
- SSL implementation for a secure website.
- Page speed metrics along with individual SEO elements that increase page speed.
- URL structure optimization.
- Cross-browser and cross-platform compatibility.
- Code optimization (including W3C aspects like validation, accessibility, and so on).
- International multilingual implementations.
- Pagination like next/prev.
- Internal links.
- AMP for news publishers (which can cover a broad range of topics).
- Link Profile analysis to determine penalties or algorithmic adjustments (if any).
Optimizing for Search Intent & Ensuring the Intent Matches the Target Query Precisely
Your goal should always be to successfully fulfill user intent in order for your optimization to be successful.
In laymans terms, if you have a blog about cats that know how to dance, you want to the user that googles about dancing cats to find you.
This is a basic SEO practice that has been in use since the early part of the 2010s decade.
You must make sure that your keywords highly meet the user intent for that query.
The following SEO factors you must know about are also important:
- Optimizing for page speed
- Strategic optimization of your target keywords (this includes within the page title, meta descriptions, H1s, and sub-heading tags)
- Optimizing for page speed
- Page URL optimization
- Image file size
- Image file names
- Alternative (alt) text
- Title Text
- Write your content according to the intelligence level of your target audience
- Internal link optimization when creating a page of content
- Including images strategically throughout your text
E-A-T, which stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness is a term that appeared in Google’s Search Quality Guidelines in 2014, and is an important element in Google’s search algorithm.
It consists of a 168-page document used by human quality raters to assess the quality of Googles search results.
These guidelines were designed to help quality sites rank better.
E-A-T has become a major ingredient in determining where your brand or website should rank in Google search ranks.
Although it is not a direct ranking factor, it is a crucial ranking signal for Google.
One component that EAT embodies is the idea that quality is better than quantity.
This concept encourages content creators to prioritize the value of your content over the frequency of you publishing it.
It is important to understand that Googles algorithims gives priority to sites that build long-term authority and trust, which is done by being as accurate as possible with answering a user’s query and mind-mapping your content to allow this to happen.
Discipline Is Key
It isn’t likely that you will achieve the results that you want in a short period of time. SEO is a long game.
It’s important to strive to implement an organized and multi-leved SEO strategy in order to ensure the success of your SEO efforts.
Your end-goal is always to find ways to answer the questions that users have related to your niche or industry. The users wants, needs, and desires should always be taken into account.
Learning and applying effective SEO strategies is definitely not an overnight situation.
It will take a certain level of consistency, patience and understanding before you start to see results from your efforts.