Here is the deal: SEO is a big deal. And it has been for the last decade or so. If you own any piece of internet real estates like a website, blog, YouTube channel, or an app, you’ve heard of SEO. But, what does SEO stand for? 

SEO Theory and Techniques (The Complete Guide to Ranking for a Newbie)

agency-seo

This post is not another “What is SEO. SEO helps you rank well” type of guide.

You are in the right place if you are not only searching for an advanced SEO meaning but also want to discover what you can do now to increase organic traffic to your website, or another online asset.

 

So, what is SEO?

The initials SEO stand for Search Engine Optimization

We’ll break that down further. Shall we?

Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo use algorithms to present the most relevant information to the searcher.

Picture this:

The internet is a massive, global library. When you want to find information on the internet, you are more likely than not to fire up your internet browser and type in what you are looking for. Sound familiar?

Say you want to learn how to start a business blog or how to create a niche blog on WordPress. What words, phrases or questions would you type into the Google Search box?

Here is an all too familiar example:

seo blogpost wordpress

Notice the first three search results are online advertisements (Google AdWords). But they are right on the money because they are relevant answers to your question.

So, what’s that got to do with search engine optimization in 2018 and beyond?

SEO is all about making your content visible to Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines. Search engines, in turn, make it easy for people searching for information online to find relevant, helpful, and genuine information on different digital platforms.

Search engines do this by ranking websites ideally in order of how relevant, helpful and genuine the content they contain is.

The words, phrases, and questions a searcher types into a search engine box are collectively referred to as keywords

The likes of Google search engine use keywords to help web browsers like you and me find the best information as fast as possible. Not to oversimplify it, the thinking is if the content of an online platform uses the same words, phrases and questions searchers are typing into search boxes, then that content is likely to give the latter satisfactory answers.

The combined mix of keywords and need for user satisfaction invented Search Engine Ranking Pages (SERPs).

 

What Does SERP Mean in SEO?

Here’s another familiar sight:

 

 

SERP example

An example of a Google search engine result page (SERP).

 

What Does Search Engine Optimization mean for Business?

SERPs are a big deal for businesses and marketers, and here’s why.

The higher up a SERP your website ranks, the more visitors you’ll get. In fact, websites that rank on the first page of Google search results take 92% of all traffic, according to Chitika.

google search results

Google web pages

Ranking on the second page of Google search results will see you get about 5% of the traffic. And it gets worse from there.

 

What Does SEO Mean in Marketing?

SEO helps you rank on the top pages of search results so you can be visible to your target audience. And you already know that buyers buy what they know exists.

Here’s a most interesting bit:

Improving your website ranking to number one on Google will help you fetch 33% of all traffic. Number two gets about 18%. And if you rank on page two of Google, you are likely to fetch only about 1.1% of visitors.

These visitors are also referred to as traffic. And the more traffic you get, the higher your chances of encouraging the visitors to consider your call-to-action.

Studies show providing useful content establishes you as an authority in your industry; that you know your stuff, and the visitor can trust you to help them learn to solve the problem they are looking for online.

 

SEO marketing

By providing the information they need, you can further provide calls-to-action visitors can take to get more answers to their question. For example, in the SERP screenshot above:

The first result is a WordPress ad inviting you to create a blog with them. The second is about Udemy, an online platform where you can learn new skills—which is what the search query is asking to learn: how to create a blog on WordPress. The next screenshot shows other sites that can teach you what you are looking to learn.

Poor SEO techniques can have you buried in, for instance, a position 3 of Page 9 of a SERP, where not many people are looking. Proper SEO techniques, on the flip side, can have you attracting free traffic to your website in the tens of thousands of targeted visitors.

SEO marketing is a set of activities that involve using search engine optimization methods to help you boost your online visibility as a brand.

SEO process

And what are these methods?     

 

Types of SEO (Search Engine Optimization):

A web searcher (visitor) will click on your site from the SERP when they think you provide the best value for their time. Again, by providing high-quality content; relevant, helpful, and genuine content.   

One of the most powerful SEO methods to implement for business is using geographical location; targeting searchers in a specific area.

Here’s how.

 

1.    Local SEO

What is local SEO?

Get this:

  • 50% of local consumer searches from a smartphone lead to purchase within the same day (and 34% for desktop computers)—Source
  • About 70% of searchers call local businesses directly from Google’s SERPs via a mobile phone—Search Engine Watch
  • 64% of online searchers are looking for reputable local companies to buy from
  • 50% of local mobile searchers want to find a company’s information—such address and phone number
  • 46% of all Google searches are local—Google

What that means…

…whether you are a local brick-and-mortar business or digital brand, you can benefit from becoming visible to potential customers in your area (or target area).

By using keywords your local target audience would use to find a product or service similar to yours, you can direct local online visitors to your local business—whether online or through foot traffic.

search from mobile vs desktop stats

Courtesy of Blue Corona

A robust local SEO strategy will involve listing your business on Google My Business. If you are a brick and mortar with a verified address, you can list. But if you take services to your clientele, you’ll want to register as a service area business; carpenter, plumber, cleaner, courier, and so on.

search result on mobile

google listing spot

Source: Google My Business

This is a good example of letting prospects know where to find you, what you offer locally, and whether they can reach you when they want to buy from you. You can also use online business directories like YellowPages, FourSquare, and Bing Places for Business.

Remember, you are not listing your business based on the market you serve, but where you are located. You can use a professional local SEO expert to help you set up your GMB mini-website and local SEO strategy if you need expert guidance.

Let’s take an example.

Searching “hotels in Lugano Switzerland” gives:

lugano hotels search results

Example of a Google local 3-pack listing via GMB

Potential customers can use this to find the best hotels in Lugano based on price, proximity, customer reviews, open hours, menu, description, nearby attractions, hotel class, discounts, amenities, directions, and so on.

In fact, a Moz Study showed while 44% of local searchers click on the local 3-pack listing, only about 8% search for more information past it. They get what they want. Fast.    

All that information has to do with optimizing a hotel’s local SEO. It is about providing the information they need when they need it to decide their next action.

You can:

  • Create local content
  • Add local area mentions in content title tags, URL, meta description and headers
  • Adding location maps to your location page
  • List on directories sites such as Yelp!
  • Ensure your website is mobile friendly (most searchers use mobile devices to find local businesses)

There is more.

 

2.  National SEO

As the name suggests, national SEO is about targeting a nationwide audience with that nation’s keywords.

National SEO is similar to local SEO in that you’ll want to target potential customers that are looking for products or services based in a specific area. It’s also based on localization optimization.

Only this time on a national scale as opposed to the neighborhood, city, county approach used in local search marketing.

Instead, you can target keywords and on-page SEO techniques (such as Maps) based on your state or country.

 

3.  International SEO

With International SEO, you’d be looking to appeal to regional and global audiences. That means your SEO needs to use keywords that encourage anyone from anywhere to find your business online.

This SEO strategy is ideal for companies that serve global markets. Otherwise, it would be a waste of resources to market locally sold products or services to a worldwide audience that is unlikely to ever buy from you. 

So, how do you do that?

By optimizing your website pages for relevant keywords to your intended global audience.

 

How to Do SEO: What is the Process of Search Engine Optimization?

So when someone is trying to understand what does SEO stand for, it is crucial to learn the process of website optimization.

Clearly, the importance of SEO to business cannot be understated. But how do you know what people are searching for online so you can use similar phrases in your SEO strategy and content marketing campaigns?

How do you attract traffic to your site using keywords? How do you know which keywords to use and which ones to leave out of your plan? What makes one SEO strategy more effective than the other?

 

Keyword research is the start for SEO process, and it defines if you are going to get visible in front of the right audience.

You chose the wrong keywords you waste a lot of resources, including time.

 

And what is keyword research?

Simply, it is about finding out the words, questions, phrases, sayings, and more your target audience are using to find the relevant information to search query (and related products, services, or a combination of both)?

 

What is the importance of keyword research?

By understanding the terms and related terms potential customers enter into search engines to find relevant products and services, you can strategically inject similar terms into your content, so it is easily discoverable by the very people looking for it.

Keyword research is to search engine optimization what fuel is to a fire.

  • Understand keyword density, latent semantic indexing, and keyword difficulty. So you can choose keywords whose search engine ranking is practically attainable through SEO.
  • Identify the language of your target market; how to join in on their conversations, encourage them to click through so you can engage them further. Customer language that can help you optimize your messaging and branding.
  • Use customer terminology to create fresh and engaging content.
  • 75% of web searchers never browse past the first page of SERPs, so you’ll want to be at the top if you are to attract more than the 25% business available to thousands of competitors in the latter pages.

 

And how do you do keyword research?

You can go at it manually.

You can search on online platforms such as reviews sites, online forums, and social media channels. You’d be seeking to find how potential customers discuss, describe, word, phrase, and even lament about your industry niche.

Also, you can pick some time-relevant, popular and effective keywords from the bottom of Google’s SERP pages in the “Searches Related to…” section free of charge.

related keyword research

Google’s free keyword research tool

But this can be a lengthy process. And even the best SEO companies take time to gather actionable, long-term keywords.  

Alternatively, you can use online search tools to almost automate your search, get suggested keywords and volume data for each keyword. Some of the best keyword research tools include:

Still, if you prefer to hire an SEO expert to do the search and integrate results into your SEO strategy on your behalf, that is okay too.

Whichever way you choose, you’ll want to be keen about using the keywords you find. Because how you use them matters a lot.

 

Targeting long-tail keywords vs Short length keywords

A particularly important portion of SEO and search marketing is to be precise on longtail keywords vs. short tail keywords.

And what are long-tail keywords and short-tail keywords?

A Long-tail keyword is a keyword phrase that typically comprises of three or more words. Short-tail keywords have less than three words and are broad in their target. Long-tail keywords generally are smaller search volume and less competitive phrases. So if you find it difficult to rank for “dental clinic Leeds” you’d rather choose a long-tail keyword “the teeth whitening dental clinic in Leeds”.

Let’s take an example:

If you entered the keyword “shirts” into a web search engine or an e-commerce search tool, you’d get a massive catalog of shirt results—from Hawaiian shirts to formal shirts.

Would that be satisfactory?

Not when you want to find formal cotton shirts.

Now picture your target market. If a web searcher is looking for shirts, it likely means they are yet to be specific enough to make a purchase decision.

On the other hand, a web searcher that types “official cotton shirts” is advanced in the buyer journey.

They already are aware of the kind of shirts they need. So a long-tail searcher is also much more likely to convert faster. This is a prospect not a lead, a potential customer who is actually looking to make a purchase—not learn what you do.

It gets deeper.

For example, you can use specific LSI keywords to target specific segments.

By using an LSI such as “best notebooks under $650” is likely to connect with potential notebook buyers who are on a budget and need a right mix of quality components, stable performance, and at an affordable price.

Due to their specificity, long-tail keywords are also easier to rank for than short-tail keywords.

In fact, long-tail keywords are ideal for small businesses SEO strategies because not only are most small businesses niche by nature but also because long-tail keywords have less keyword competition hence low keyword difficulty.

Large businesses (which have big SEO budgets to spend) tend to rank much better for shorter keywords, making it tough for smaller companies to rank well. And it can take years for the latter to break into the first pages of Google/Bing/Yahoo/etc.

Now that the time issue’s come up, how long does it take to rank at the top of SERPs?        

 

How much time does SEO take?

 time-SEO

The answer is…

…it depends.

 

Really.

Here’s why:

There are literally hundreds of search ranking factors that come into play when creating a sound SEO strategy and in implementing one.

A more complex one is to do with keyword matrices. The combination of various, relevant keywords, including long-tail and short-tail keywords is also known as practicing Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keyword optimization.

LSI is about using a combination of keywords in contextual format and optimizing how they relate. For example, keywords like “dog”, “puppy”, and “breed” relate to the same context. 

Link building is another influential ranking factor worth implementing.

Warning! Please be careful with link building because Google penalizes overoptimized websites with unnatural links. Your content needs to be so good that other websites start referring to your webpage to help the searcher get all the relevant answers. That is a natural link building technique and gives Google a strong signal that your webpage deserves a higher ranking. But if you buy spammy links, then it’s almost a guarantee that your website is going to be banned or penalized (Google called such action “a manual action”). Google’s algorithm is very advanced nowadays.

So to answer a question on how much time does it take to rank a webpage or a website we’d say it really depends on your website quality and on the competition. The SEO industry pretty much agrees that a website owner needs to be patient and work hard on natural optimization. On average, some good positive results can be achieved within 4-8 month unless you are up against the competitor that has been optimizing the web pages professionally for years.

 

But to avoid turning this SEO guide into a book, the most important search engine optimization stages can come down to three, which we’ll discuss here.

  • Technical SEO
  • On-Page SEO
  • Off-Page SEO

Let’s break each down, shall we?

 

Technical SEO

It is not as mind-boggling tough as it reads.

technical-SEO

Technical SEO is all about the search engine optimization aspects that do not involve content or links. So, no keyword density, keyword difficult, and long-tail keywords to deal here.

But what does technical SEO involve?

Here are the major factors to keep in mind:

  • Site speed: fast-loading websites decrease bounce rates and encourage dwell rates
  • Responsive design: your site has to be mobile-friendly. And starting from recent times, Google keeps on promoting its “mobile first” approach.
  • Mobile-friendly content: content such as infographics needs to display well on smaller screens
  • Sitemaps: building an elaborate site architecture helps search engine crawlers to index your site correctly so that you can rank faster and higher
  • Indexing issues: a technical SEO audit can help unearth crawling errors that could be blocking search engines from indexing part of your sites or the entire site
  • Page redirects: when you have to redirect traffic to another website or page but want to preserve some or all of the links the current page has, you can use redirects. Page redirection can be temporary (302 redirects) or permanent (301 redirects)
  • 404 errors: you can use the error page to redirect visitors to a more recent, updated page (if you do it right) before they can click “back” on their browsers
  • 5xx errors: these are server related errors that give a big negative signal to search engines. Avoid those at any cost.

These are just some of the most important technical SEO factors to look out for.

 

On-Page SEO

What is on-page SEO?

The term refers to all the tasks you can do on your website to rank higher on search engine results.

on-page-seo

Such factors include:

  • Page title: each page should have its unique title. Each post should also have a unique title. Importantly, ensure each unique title contains the keyword or keywords you want to target with the page or post
  • Headings: Use body headings to describe your posts structure to search engines; H1, H2, H3, H4, and so on
  • Keyword density: Google frowns at content that blows past the keyword density threshold (keyword stuffing)
  • Meta descriptions: Give searchers and search engines reason to click through to your website by adding a brief, sweet summary of a post’s content in the meta description. You’ll want to include your primary keyword here.
  • Domain structure: you do not want to use long URLs. Domains that include your primary keywords also rank better
  • Internal links: search crawlers/engines use internal links to identify all of your site pages, crawl them and rank them. Google PageRank scores pages that have more links pointing to them better than pages with fewer links
  • Meta tags: be sure to choose your primary keywords as your meta tags
  • Multimedia content: video, images, infographics are increasingly more engaging— a vital ranking factor—than blocks of text
  • Duplicate content is particularly a major technical SEO eye-sore than could be ruining your search engine ranking possibilities. A tool search as Siteliner can help find duplicate content.

Ensuring your site nails these search engine ranking factors is the first step to boosting the visibility of site online.

 

The next step is to execute your off-page SEO strategy.  

 

Off-Page SEO

So, what is the meaning of off-page SEO?

off-page-SEO

Contrary to on-page SEO techniques, off-page SEO involves all the things you can do directly off your site to rank high up the SERPs.

Some of the best off-page SEO ranking factors include:

  • Article submission and Guest posting: posting to high-quality sites and backlinking the post to your site. These are two of the most powerful link building strategies for search engine ranking and winning with Google PageRank
  • Social media: more social shares, social traffic, and mentions “convince” crawlers that you produce authoritative quality. And search engines want to rank relevant, helpful and genuine information first to satisfy customers—the browser. Another example, LinkedIn is the highest leads generation social media channel for B2B marketers
  • Blogs: blog marketing uses content marketing campaigns to drive targeted, interested traffic to specific landing pages
  • Online forums: making worthy contributions on forums and sites like Quora can position you as an authority in your industry and encourage valuable traffic to visit and link back to your site     

Therefore, the answer to how long it takes to rank on top of Google is it takes as much time as you and your SEO professionals can get technical, on-page and off-page SEO factors in order.

 

White Hat vs Black Hat? What’s the danger?

White hat SEO techniques are the legitimate SEO methods to use to rank high in search results. They include on-page, off-page, and technical SEO best practices—as discussed in the above section.

Blackhat SEO techniques, on the other hand, violate Google Guidelines because they involve manipulation of the ranking algorithm. Black Hat techniques can lead to website penalization or even de-indexation from Google Search.

black-hat-seo

It is important to keep track of white hat vs black hat ranking techniques by occasionally conducting a thorough SEO audit of your site.

Because white hat methods do change to black hat approaches, you might find your site penalized for a mistake you didn’t even realize you were making.

To be safe and safeguard your ranking, even when the latest Google updates strike, you’ll want to avoid using black hat SEO methods and rely on white hat SEO principals instead.

But what if you need to rank fast?

What if you need to outrank your competition to stay in business? What can you do to boost your visibility fast and tidy?

Search marketing could help you boost your digital marketing campaign.  

 

Search marketing definition

Search marketing leverages both paid and unpaid online advertising to promote a site and get traffic to your web pages. SM branches further into Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Organic Search.

Primarily, SEM involves using pay-pay-click (PPC) advertising to increase a site’s visibility faster compared to using organic methodologies (organic keywords and link building methods over some time).

And what if you want to learn SEO on your own, so you can practice search marketing on your own sites? You can tap the best SEO tips from the best in the field.

 

How much should a business allocate to SEO:

seo-budget

This question is frequently asked by the business owners and marketing executives. According to Forbes, every business needs to invest in the SEO – in-house or on professional external SEO agency or a consultant. An amount of USD 1,000 per month is a recommended bare minimum for a small business. Large organizations spend millions on SEO monthly.

 

Biggest SEO influencers worldwide:

  1. Google

The most dominant search engine on the planet receives over 2 billion monthly searches. Want to keep ahead of all the latest Google Search algorithm updates and more? For example, get some tips & tricks and learn how Google Search Console works from the horse’s mouth by following the Google Blog.    

  1. Ahrefs Blog

The platform brings together keyword research, backlinking, content and technical SEO in one place. Ahrefs is recognized as one of the most advanced tools by SEO community.   

  1. MOZ Blog

Rand Fishkin and team create educative blogs, videos and hold weekly podcasts to share their SEO and link building strategies with a solid following—which gets what it deserves. 

  1. Backlinko

Brian Dean is one of the most influential figures in SEO. He is particularly celebrated for inventing the Skyscraper Technique of white hat link building. 

  1. Neil Patel

Recognized by Forbes Magazine as one of the top digital marketers in the world right now, Neil teaches both simple and advanced methods to increase website traffic. Neil provides great tips for those starting their SEO journey.

  1. Matt Cutts

The former web spam team head at Google has a wealth of Google, SEO and gadgets’ wisdom to share on his blog.

Or perhaps you preferred a more strategic, step-by-step and guided SEO tutorial or SEO agency to help you along?

 

SONDORA SA – SEO agency in Lugano, Switzerland

Search engine optimization is a sophisticated and highly technical internet marketing strategy. But it is worth every effort. You can attract high-quality traffic to your website with almost zero financial strains compared to other methods.

What if you had a professional SEO service at your disposal?

As a Sondora SA client, you can get all the search marketing hacks you need to attract more business. You can focus on serving your customers instead of tweaking 301 redirects on edge.

You’ll have a full-fledged team of professionals on call. You’ll get a complete SEO audit done to reveal what is hurting your search engine ranking. And have them corrected to help you increase your visibility and we can optimize your conversion rate.

 

About the Author:

Matteo Iannelli is the Digital Marketing Manager at SONDORA SA. He has been optimizing clients’ websites locally, nationally and internationally for over ten years. Matteo is always on the toe to create another most-proud-client-moment—like when the team helped a client skyrocket his e-commerce website traffic from 100 visitors to 15,000 visitors per month. After a thorough SEO audit and research that focused on buying intent keywords, it took only 12 weeks to start ranking for multiple significant keywords.

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