SEO Basics: A Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization

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SEO Basics: A Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization

The internet has proven invaluable to human activities since its inception. It’s no surprise everyone now wants a piece of it. However, with lots of individuals and businesses offering similar products and services, the need to remain visible online has never been greater.

That is where search engine optimisation (SEO) comes in. SEO is a general term for all the techniques you can use to boost the visibility of your website and its content on search engines like Google (the biggest search engine on the internet).

What is SEO Basics?

These include the basic things you need to know in terms of search engine optimization. SEO is a topic that every staff of an organisation should be aware of. It is even better if they have a decent technical understanding of how it works.

With so many tools, resources, and techniques involved in search engine optimization, a  beginner  might have a hard time understanding what search engine optimization entails. However, we have provided a comprehensive guide in this article to help you grasp the fundamentals.

What is SEO for Beginners

This is a guide to help beginners understand SEO and how it works. Many people who are interested in learning SEO usually don’t know where to start. However, a beginner’s SEO guide like this one is a good way to set the ball rolling.

What is SEO and How It Works?

You have certainly come across lots of definitions for search engine optimization online. However, we offer a more straightforward definition. Simply put, SEO refers to all the processes involved in boosting any site’s ranking position on search engines.

Look at it this way. As an individual looking to work with an organization, you would put in a lot of effort to ensure that you stood a better chance of getting selected amongst the multitude of individuals qualified for that same job. It is the same for search engine optimization.

A good SEO strategy ensures you stay ahead of your competitors, giving your website and its content high visibility on search engine result pages. In essence, when someone is searching for a keyword related to your business on Google, if you implement a good SEO strategy, your website can outrank your competitors by appearing on the first search engine results page. This can bring you quality traffic, leads, and massive sales.

Why You Need Search Engine Optimization

As a beginner, you might be wondering why many businesses make substantial investments in search engine optimization. After all, they could just create a website, upload relevant content, and put the word out there directing their clients and new prospects to their site, right? Why bother optimizing their pages for search engines?

Long story short, businesses are out to make a profit. To achieve this aim, they need leads. Appearing on search results has not only proven to be an invaluable means of generating new leads but also an efficient way of building trust with new prospects.

Benefits of Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization benefits businesses in so many ways, some of which are highlighted below:

1. Reduced Ad Spend

Many businesses spend substantial sums on ads. This way, they receive better ratings from search engines, and also appear in the best positions on search results.

However, when you implement SEO on your website, you could potentially rank higher on search engines, get quality traffic without spending money on ads. This significantly cuts down on ad spend and saves you lots of money.

2. Better User Experience

Many business owners want organic rankings and maximum visibility for their websites. However, only a few are aware that a positive user experience plays a big role in achieving this result.

Google is smart enough to interpret unfavourable and favourable user experiences. A positive user experience is an important factor in your website’s success.

Quality SEO combines optimal user experience, which can help you grow your business.

3. Higher Conversion Rates

Conversion rate refers to how often visitors to a site take the desired action. This action could be subscribing to newsletters, providing contact details, or even making a purchase. A site’s conversion rate is dependent on several factors, including user experience.

Search engine optimization goes a long way in improving the user experience on a website. This in turn leads to an increase in its conversion rate.

4. Stay Ahead of Your Competition

Nowadays, SEO is considered the main component of any internet marketing strategy, a lot of businesses are already trying to improve their inline visibility by ranking in search results.

However, developing your SEO strategy can help you keep up with the competition, or possibly stay ahead of them so you can remain relevant in your industry.

How Search Engines Work

If you must become successful at search engine optimization, you need to know how search engines work. As gateways to seemingly endless volumes of data, how do search engines come up with the results they display to millions of users each day?

Search engines scour the entire web using tiny bots often referred to as spiders or crawlers. Search engines then use the results these bots provide to build a search engine index. This index contains all the links to the web pages, as well as key descriptions of the content on each page. But, it doesn’t end there.

When you initiate a search by either typing in a query or with speech, the search engine identifies relevant pages which are relevant to the search from its index and then uses an algorithm to determine each page’s rank on the search results.

It is important to know that the search engine’s index and algorithm are not fixed pieces. Search engines constantly update their index and algorithms. Hence, a page’s ranking is never constant.

What Factors Determine a Webpage’s Ranking?

It is important that you know the factors that search engines consider when determining any page’s position on search results. This knowledge will help you channel your search engine optimization efforts in the right direction.

1. Load Speed

Search engine bots scan web pages to find out how fast they load. Pages that load faster receive better scores and will rank higher compared to pages that load slowly.

2. Keyword

Search engines aim to present users with content most relevant to their search. Therefore, when you initiate a search, search engines use the keywords in the search query to find pages with these keywords.

Web pages that contain relevant search keywords rank higher on search engine results.

3. Accessibility

Accessibility refers to the ease with which users interact with a website. If users have a hard time finding the information they need, understanding content on the pages, or navigating to other pages on the site; it means that the site has a low accessibility score.

Websites with higher accessibility scores rank higher on search engines result. Keep reading to find out the best ways to improve the accessibility of any website.

4. Mobile Device Compatibility

Lots of internet users access the web using their mobile devices. Hence, search engine bots test web pages to discover how mobile-friendly these pages are. Web pages and sites which are more compatible with mobile devices receive better ratings from search engines.

5. Freshness

Search engines strive to present users with the newest bits of information relevant to their search query. Therefore, search bots scan websites to discover if any new content has been added to the site, and how recently such content has been added.

Web pages and sites with newer and more recent content will rank higher on search engine results.

6. Originality

Search engine users are seeking all the relevant information they can find. Therefore, search engines aim to provide them with as many diverse results as possible.

Hence, web pages with duplicate or plagiarised content will receive poor rankings on search engine results. In addition to lower rankings, plagiarised content could incur penalties from search engines which would negatively impact any site’s ranking.

7. Location

The majority of search engine users are searching for localized businesses nearest to them. Hence, search engines include this tiny bit of information in its algorithm.

Including location markers such as a physical address, would go a long way in improving any site’s ranking when users search for localized content.

8. Click-through Rate

A site’s click-through rate refers to the frequency of visits the site receives from the search engine. Put more simply, it refers to how often search engine users click on the site’s link when they see it in search results.

While a website’s click-through rate may not be a sufficient indication of the quality of its content, it is a useful pointer to how relevant it is to any search engine user’s query. Therefore, a page or website with a higher click-through rate will rank higher on search engine results.

9. Traffic Volume

Traffic volume simply refers to the number of visits a website generates. Search engines aim to provide users with the information they can trust. Therefore, they take note of the amount of traffic each site generates and also receives. Although the traffic density of any site may not serve as an accurate indicator of the validity of its content, it is a useful measure of how valuable web users find the website.

Websites with higher traffic will rank better on search engine results.

10. Bounce Rate

A bounce rate refers to the frequency of visitors who quickly return to the search results from a site.

The bounce rate of any site is a valid measure of so many factors. Besides serving as an indicator of its accessibility and content quality, it also shows how relevant users find the site to their search query.

11. Dwell Time

The dwell time of any site refers to the length of time users spend on a site after visiting it from the search results. While the dwell time of any site might serve as a helpful indicator of how accessible the site is, it is a perfect indicator of how relevant search engine users find the site’s content.

Consequently, higher dwell times mean a lower bounce rate. Sites with higher dwell times receive far better ratings from search engines.

Search Engine Optimization Techniques

Now that you know the factors which influence a site’s ranking on search engine results, we’ll show you how to optimize websites and pages by improving these factors.

1. Increase Load Speed

Studies show that 80% of web visitors will leave a page that takes too long to load, while 40% of these visitors will never return to that page. Sounds a bit extreme, doesn’t it?

A site’s load speed greatly influences its bounce rate, as well as its dwell time. Therefore, every 0.5 seconds you gain in load speed would positively impact any site’s ranking.

Some of the measures you could take to increase load speed include:

  • Compress media files

Media files of large sizes contribute significantly to slowing down pages. Hence, you should compress media files before uploading them to web pages.

  • Minimize pop-ups and ads 

While on-page ads are a great way of making profits, running lots of these ads on any page would reduce any site’s load speed.

  • Use fewer plugins

While plugins can save web designers lots of time and stress, loading too many plugins on any page would negatively affect its load speed. Hence, you must use only the necessary plugins.

  • Enable caching 

You can increase load speed by building caches on the device storage. This way, visitors who have visited the page previously can load the websites at a faster rate.

  • Monitor your load speed regularly

You must track changes in load speed using a reliable monitoring tool. This way, you can assess your progress, and channel your efforts in the right direction.

2. Ensure Site Security

While the internet has become an invaluable component of our daily activities, it is impossible to ignore the possible risks web users face. Therefore, adding an extra layer of security to protect site visitors would improve any website’s ranking.

There are several ways you could use to ensure site security.

  • Update plugins

While outdated plugins might work just fine, they put websites and visitors at serious risk. Also, it would help to search for, and install updates regularly. Better still, you could create settings to download and install new updates automatically.

  • Use secure URLs 

Making use of HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) and SSL (Secure Sockets Layout) will prevent any third parties from accessing any information exchanged between a website and web users.

  • Use a secure hosting service

While there are lots of web hosting services online, you must ensure that these hosts provide sufficient server security features.

  • Analyse the site’s security structure

Run periodic security checks to assess how site’s security level against possible threats.

3. Post Relevant Content

Websites with content relevant to any search query stand a better chance of appearing in search results. There are several measures you could take to ensure that the page’s content is relevant to search engine users.

  • Research keywords

Search engine bots scour web pages and sites to find keywords users have included in their search terms. Hence, you must know what these keywords are. It is possible to come up with keywords by creating several combinations using the key terms relevant to the website’s business. However, using search tools such as Google Keyword Planner would provide you with more accurate information about the right keywords you should use.

  • Understand search intent

Understanding each user’s intent is important. Search intent gives you reliable information about the kind of content search engine users hope to find. This way, you know the best way to structure your posts and how best to use the keywords.

  • Use keyword in the content

The idea behind keyword research is to make sure relevant keywords appear in your web content. However, there is more to it. Quality SEO requires that not only your web content contains relevant keywords, also that:

  • Page titles contain relevant keywords.
  • The keyword is present in each page’s meta title and description.
  • The keyword is present in page headers.

4. Include High Authority Links

Adding links to other credible sites in web content will go a long way in building trust with the website’s audience. Besides serving as a strong validation of the information shared on the site, including these links would also increase dwell time and site engagement.

However, you should only include links to authority sites with relevant content.

5. Build Backlinks

While it is important to link to high authority sites, getting other sites to link back to you also helps with search engine ranking. Besides reinforcing your authority, backlinks will drive more traffic to your site.

Some of the measures you could use to get more backlinks to your site include:

  • Create guest posts 

This method involves posting relevant content about your business on other high authority websites. You can find loads of these sites with a little research. Most sites are happy to allow a guest post with valuable content in exchange for a link to your site.

  • Use testimonials 

Encourage web visitors to leave reviews about your business. Also, encourage them to spread the word using their social media channels. You could also leave positive reviews on high authority sites about their service. Chances are that they will link back to your site in appreciation.

  • Engage in forums 

Make meaningful contributions on relevant forums. You will find lots of these forums online, and also on social media. By contributing to these forums, you establish your authority and attract more visitors to your site.

6. Optimize Media Content

Besides compressing the size of media files, and adding unique descriptive alt tags to each media file, there are several other measures you could put in place to make media files more accessible. Some of these measures include:

  • Post only relevant media files.
  • Provide text transcripts for audio and video files.
  • Use relevant thumbnail images for videos.
  • Provide online media players.
  • Provide accompanying graphics for audio files.

7. Add Fresh Content

Endeavour to publish fresh content on your site frequently. Although this feat presents a huge challenge to many beginners, there are several ways to come up with new content ideas.

  • Create a list of topics.
  • Create blogs and forums to allow users to discuss the relevant topic.
  • Monitor these blogs and forums to discover trending issues.
  • Establish a content posting schedule.
  • Create content ahead of time.
  • Keep an eye on the competition.

How to Monitor SEO Progress

As a beginner, you must understand that search engine optimization is not a quick-fix process. The search engine optimization process does not yield immediate results. Nevertheless, there are various indexes that you could use to monitor your results. Some of these indexes include:

  • Conversion Rates

This index is a useful measure of how valuable visitors find your content and the ease with which they interact with features on the site. Higher conversion rates are a plus for your search engine optimization efforts.

  • Backlink Volume

Getting more backlinks is an indication that web users find the content on your site or page valuable. It also serves as an affirmation of that site’s authority.

  • Click-through Rate

An increase in the number of users who click on your site’s link when it appears in search results is both an indication of effective meta titles and descriptions, as well relevant keyword content.

  • Social Shares

Social signals are a helpful indicator of a site’s authority, as well as the freshness of its contents. Therefore, an increase in the amount of user engagement on social media platforms is a plus for any site’s ranking on search engines.

While you could monitor your search engine optimization progress by searches using relevant keywords, there are far more efficient tools you could use to measure SEO success. Examples of these tools include Google Analytics and SEMrush. These tools help you keep track of the indexes above, and provide you with more accurate results.

SEO Best Practices

Although search engine optimization aims to get a better rating from search engines, you should endeavour to deliver valuable content and improve user experience. Taking these steps will naturally improve several factors such as dwell time and conversion rates.

Nevertheless, you should not compromise optimizing your pages for search engines. Hence, you must strike a fine balance between satisfying web users and search engines.

Many beginners to search engine optimization give in to the temptation of cutting quick corners. They get past search engine’s scrutiny using several methods such as spamdexing and keyword stuffing. We refer to these methods as black hat SEO.

While black hat SEO techniques methods significantly improve any site’s ranking, you must remember that they are unethical, even illegal. They end up causing lots of problems in the long run. So, you should avoid them at all costs.

Conclusion

As a beginner, you should resist the temptation to rush the SEO process. While many prioritize speed over planning, you should know that no time spent developing any SEO campaign is wasted time. It is important that you carefully consider every aspect of your plan before its implementation.

Contrary to popular belief, search engine optimization is a continuous process. It never ends. While executing an excellent SEO strategy is sure to yield positive results, you must analyze results periodically to keep you abreast of any developments. This way, you can spot areas you need to remove, change, or improve.

Remember, there is no rigid approach to search engine optimization. Continually review your strategy to match your search engine optimization goals. Also, ensure that you remain updated on any changes in the policies of search engine providers. This way, you can ensure that your SEO strategies always comply with the rules, and also avoid incurring possible sanctions and penalties.

Finally, SEO techniques and resources are constantly evolving. Therefore, you must continue to research and improve your skills. You will find all the resources you need right here on this page, so make sure you always visit and sign up right here to ensure that you never miss any updates.

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