SEO: Understanding Search Engine Optimization for Online Visibility

Search Engine Optimization or SEO is becoming more and more important for blogs, for businesses, with more people turning to the internet for information.

What is SEO?

In simpler terms, Search Engine Optimization is a combination of elements in one’s website to make it more easily found and discovered in search engines, especially in Google, but also for Bing or Yahoo.

The Importance of SEO

With billions of people connected to the internet, being highly visible in search engines is the way to crush the competition. Your business gets in front of these customers ahead of your competitors if your website has been optimized.

SEO Search Engine Optimization

The 2  Techniques: On Page and Off Page Optimization

SEO is actually composed of 2 main parts: On Page and Off Page Optimization. So what is the difference between the two?

On Page SEO

On Page Optimization is composed of elements that the website developer or webmaster can control or tweak. There are many elements to it but because this is an introduction to getting started online, this is a very simplified explanation, just to get your feet wet on SEO.

The following are just a few of the most commonly used elements of On Page SEO:

Keyword Research

When we search something, the first thing we do is type search terms, right?

So it is thus very important that when we are writing articles, setting the meta titles and meta descriptions of every post, page or the whole website, we know the keywords to use.

meta title and meta description

We should use the search terms that are high in search volume and popular for our niche, yet low in competition. By low in competition, it means not too many websites are using that particular search term.

There are Keyword Tools, both free and paid to find these high search-volume, low-competition keywords. One of the most popular paid tools is Long Tail Pro. It is a very user-friendly tool that shows information such as monthly search volume and competitiveness of a particular keyword (measured between 0-100, with 100 being the most difficult to rank).

In this particular screenshot, it shows the easier keywords in green, such as “best darts in the world”, which has a keyword competitiveness of 27 (green – low competitiveness), plus a monthly search volume of 880, as compared to “best dart board”, which has a competitiveness of 38 (yellow – moderately difficult) and a monthly search volume of only 10.

Long Tail Pro

For all the value you can get from Long Tail Pro, it is more than worth the price.  Check out Long Tail Pro here.

Content

After knowing what keywords to use, it helps to know how to write content – using these keywords – in a manner that is friendly to search engines. Some of the elements in good content writing include using the properly researched keywords in the article, in the subheadings, images with embedded keywords.

Google loves valuable content, so make sure you write content that offers great information, but at the same time, is easy on the eyes to read.  Click this link for SEO Writing.

Page Loading Speed

One should make sure that the loading of one’s web pages is fast, lest the website visitor decides to just exit for a slow loading page.

Having images and videos help engage a customer, but to make sure it does not drag down the page loading, compress images and videos before loading them to your website. The suggested tools to use here are:

  • compresspng.com
  • compressjpeg.com
  • shrinkpdf.com
  • handbrake.fr for compressing videos.
Mobile Friendliness

Unless your website is hardcoded (coded from scratch), most CMS or website builders are already mobile-friendly. Mobile-friendliness of a website has been a Google ranking factor since April 2016.

Off Page Optimization

Off Page Optimization is comprised of factors that measure the popularity of a website. After all, Google wants to give importance to the needs of the searching public, and give quality search results by way of the most popular websites.

That being said, the two ways that Google measures a website’s popularity are: (1) Website Traffic (2) Backlinks.

Website Traffic

The higher the number of unique visitors your website has, and the longer they stay on your website, the higher you will rank in Google.

Ways to Drive Traffic To Your Website
  • 1. Content Marketing – using the right keywords and proper SEO writing
  • 2. Search Engine Marketing – When you advertise in Google with Google Adwords using a Cost per click marketing in Google.
  • 3. Social Media Marketing – Ads in Fb, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter; Influencer Marketing ( for example, pay an influencer with 50k-300k followers for 12 hour shout outs)
  • 4. Forum Marketing – Participating in forums e.g. Reddit, Quora
  • 5. Guest Posting – Writing for websites that accept guest posts
Bounce Rate

It is not enough that you have a lot of website visitors. Google also measures the length of stay of a visitor on your website. This is measured as a bounce rate between 0-100%.

Why so?

When after typing a search term and a searcher finds your website, but exits soon after, to Google it is a bad sign. It means that finding your website for the searcher’s query was a wrong result.

The lower the bounce rate, the better. Lower than 45% is great, 45-55% is average, and anything higher than 56% is a bad bounce rate.

How do you reduce bounce rate? Here are some suggestions:

  1. A slow loading site will make a website visitor leave.  Thus, make sure your website has a fast loading speed, to begin with. You can do this by compressing your images, PDFs, and videos. Check your website speed with https://tools.pingdom.com. You can also use content delivery networks (CDN) such as CloudFlare to reduce travel time from server to user.
  2. Write your articles in a way that is easy on the eyes and interesting. Check out our previous article on SEO-Writing.
  3. Have engaging content. Aside from great information, have visuals like images and videos.

So how do you see website traffic, bounce rate, and other valuable data? the answer. Google Analytics.

Google Analytics

Once you have a website, get a Google Analytics account. Add your website in your account, and Google will give you a code or script to add to your website’s header to prove ownership of your submitted domain. If you are using WordPress, there are plugins available to do this.

Once your website has been verified, you will now get valuable information such as website traffic, bounce rate, your website’s top pages, demographics, geolocation of your visitors, error pages, and more. It will look something like this:

Backlinks

Aside from website traffic, backlinks are another way Google measures your website’s popularity.

What are backlinks? This is when other websites mention your website. Let us say a food blogger made a review of a restaurant and mentions the restaurant’s domain name in his review. The food blogger just gave the restaurant’s domain a backlink.

To Google, a backlink is a vote of trust, a vote of confidence. So the more websites linking back to you, the higher you will rank in Google.

Important Notes About Backlinks
  1. Your backlink must come from websites related to your niche;
  2. The higher the Domain Authority [DA] of the website linking back to you, the better quality it is as a backlink. Domain Authority is a measure from 0-100, with 100, of course, being the highest domain authority.  You can check a domain’s DA with any Domain Authority checkers online.
  3. Googe prefers a slow, natural buildup of backlinks, hence the term “link velocity.”
Ways to Acquire Backlinks

There are right and wrong ways to acquire backlinks (whitehat vs blackhat)

White Hat Techniques

1. Writing valuable content that others would like to link to

2. Guest Posting – write posts in related websites and you can put your link in the article to your website (contextual link)

3. Broken link technique – spy on your competitors for broken links (those Error 404s or “Nothing Found”), reach out to the website owner that has a broken link to your competitors and offer your content to replace his broken link.  You can find your competitor’s broken links through SEO tools such as https://ahrefs.com, https://semrush.com. The top choice among SEO tools is SEMRush.

SEMrush

4. Skyscraper technique – offer a better content. Let us say you saw a competitor’s article, 10 Ways to Lose Weight Fast. Write a more comprehensive article, 20 Ways To Lose Weight Fast, and in a nice way reach out to the website owner and let him know of a great content you wrote that he can link back to.

5. Influencer write-up – Feature an influencer of your related niche and contact the influencer to inform him/her of your feature write up, in the hope that he will put a link in his website to your feature write up about him.

Grey Hat

(not necessarily illegal) e.g. Link exchange. When website owners of related niches agree to link to each other.

Black Hat (illegal)

  • Private Blog Networks – buying expired or expiring domains which has existing backlinks and traffic and then posting new content which links back to your main website
  • Link buying – There are sites that offer links for sale.  Not advisable!

Final Note

On Page and Off Page Optimization do not have the same weight as far as ranking is concerned. Google gives more weight to Off Page Optimization because it is the true measure of a website’s value to readers.

Nevertheless, getting good with website traffic and backlinks will not be possible without a good On-Page Optimization, to begin with. So get the basics of On Page right and getting good at Off Page will be easier.

Another thing to remember is that SEO on your website is a consistent, ongoing process of monitoring and auditing your site. The most popular tool of choice for a good SEO audit is SEMRush. It will discover all errors, warnings, and overall website health.

 

SEO Writing: Step-By-Step Tutorial

With the opportunities to work or do business online, writing valuable content for a website, or SEO Writing, is one of the most important skills you should learn.

In this article, we will do the basic elements of writing for the web. Even if you feel you are not for an online business, SEO Writing is one of the most sought-after skills today because of the value of good content.

Basic Elements of SEO Writing

Since we are learning writing for the web, let me say SEO writing is not complete without reference to the most popular website builder or CMS which is WordPress. Hence we will start writing within a WordPress site.

To install WP in your PC, please check the WordPress article.  After completing this task, open your local WP.  We need to have a feature that will guide you as you write your article. With this, you need to install the Yoast plugin.

When you have installed and activated Yoast, you will see the guide below the Post or Page area and see green or red warnings as you write, with green meaning okay.

Yoast

Install Yoast

Go to Plugins-> Add New

In the Plugins Area, search for the Yoast plugin (make sure it is compatible with your WP, it will say so) and install Yoast and activate.

Now you can start typing in your article in your local WP by clicking on Post and then Add New.

Add Focus Keyword in the Post Page

Scroll down the Post page you are on, and you will see the Focus Keyword.  Type your focus keyword there. In the sample below it is SEO Writing

SEO writing

Edit Snippet

In a nustshell, the snippet is your SEO Title and Meta Description, and a view of how your article will be indexed in search engines.  It is also what will appear when anyone uses the social sharers of a website, hence it is very important. If you go beyond the character count, it will appear in search engines in ellipsis (….).

You will also see “Edit Snippet” above the Focus Keyword. Click it open and type the SEO Title (the title of your article as it will show in search engines.

SEO Title need not be the same as your article title. Maximize the space allowed for the SEO title by adding more KWs (60-70 characters estimate). The length of your SEO Title is enough when it shows a green bar. Make sure your focus KW is in the SEO Title.

60-70 characters estimate?

I said ESTIMATE because the SEO Title (also known as meta title) in particular is measured by Google in pixels, between 466 and 469 pixels.

For the meta description, write a short description about the article, about 160 characters.  Make sure your focus keyword is also in the meta description. Like the meta title, the bar below it turns green when the length is enough.

Meta Title and Meta Description

I will not write every rule for SEO Writing here as the Yoast plugin will guide you.  The objective here is to get all the lights green. Below are the basic rules.

Use Subheadings

Having a paragraph that seems continuous with no breaks is boring and may make a reader leave your site. Break your paragraphs to about 2-3 sentences each and use subheadings.  You can see this by clicking on the arrow of the Paragraph box just above the writing field.

subheadings

Structure your article right by using subheadings to create your topic’s hierarchy.  Subheadings are also a good place to put keywords or related keywords.

Add Images

Images, as we all know, break the monotony and make your article more interesting and engaging. It is easy to add images by clicking Add Media just below the Post’s title. It will lead to your site’s Library.

If the image is not yet in there, click the Upload Files tab on the left of the Media Library tab, then you can either drag the image from your PC to the middle of the Upload field or click Select File, then click Insert Into Post.

It is important to optimize your images. You can do this with a plugin or you can compress the images before uploading. Image compressing /pdf compressing can be done through compresspng.com, compressjpeg.com, and shrinkpdf.com

When you insert an image in a post, MAKE SURE you have also typed your keyword in the Alt Text field.  In effect, you are embedding a relevant keyword into the image.

Why is this so?

Google cannot read images but can pick up the Alt Text of the image. And yes, Google also indexes your images. This can also lead readers to your website.

How?

When internet users are searching online in Google for a particular image using keywords and those keyword happens to be the Alt Text of your image.

Take a look at the sample below when I searched for Best Hotels in Google and I clicked the Images tab (Google’s index or library) of images.

When I clicked on one image I like, the link to the website where the image came from was there “Vietnam Travel Guide”. Clicking on that link now converts to a website visit.

using Alt Text to Drive Traffic

 

Important tip: DO NOT just grab any image on the web. – you might get sued for copyright. To play safe, I grab my images from Pixabay.com, where all images are free. (The top of each Pixabay page has images from Shutterstock, those are for sale and protected by copyright too!)

You can also do the same for videos.

Adding Videos

Videos are very important to add into your posts. They engage website visitors to stay longer on your website which is another element that Google measures.

When you want to add videos,  the fast way to do this is by getting the video’s EMBED link.

In FB it is on the top right of the post:

In Youtube, click the Share on the bottom right corner:

Click on EMBED and copy that script:

Next, on your WP post page, on the upper right of the writing field, you will see a Visual and Text tab, click on Text:

 

Paste the embed script

Then go back the Visual tab, you will see the video is embedded.

Note: like the images, do not just upload a video, there are some videos with copyright. It is best to contact the video owner as well as acknowledge the video owner via credits.

If you are uploading your video from your pc, you need to compress the video to improve page loading speed. Handbrake is one of the best video compressing software which will not affect quality of the video.

Internal and External Links

When we read articles sometimes there are words that are clickable that will lead you to another page or site. These are called links.

Links are when you connect your post or page to another, whether to other pages within your website (internal link). or another website (external link).

This is important to

  • introduce your readers to other pages of your site, making them stay longer
  • put your affiliate links (this will be explained in the Online Business Models page)
  • add value to your post by citing other authoritative sites especially when you do not want to write about it anymore and just refer them to another site that has that information.

To add a link:

  • with your mouse or touchpad, highlight the word that you want to be clickable (this is the anchor text, this also matters in SEO)
  • click the chain icon on top of the writing field: copy paste the URL of the page or site you are associating with that clickable word. Then click the gear on the right (very important!)

When you click the gear, this will appear next: whether it is an internal or external URL, always check the Open Link in a New Tab.

open link in new tab

Why is this very important?

If you do not check the “Open Link in a New Tab”, when the reader clicks on the link, the reader will be led to the other link and if it is an external link, in effect, the reader has just left your site – bad for SEO.

One final tip on creating links: for external links, make sure that you make them in the lower half of your article – you don’t want your readers distracted by another site just when the reader is starting to read your post, do you?

SEO Writing tips from SEO gurus

To complete your SEO Writing tips here is what SEO experts found.

Based on their studies:

  • Longer articles tend to rank higher in Google. Top ranking articles are into thousands of words. Now that will get boring: so here are the tips

– Keep it to 2-3 sentences per paragraph.

– Use subheadings

-Use the old school method of Bucket Brigades.

What? Bucket Brigades?

Bucket Brigades are one-liners you put in between paragraphs to lead your readers from one paragraph to the next, to break the monotony and sustain the interest of readers. For example:

bucket brigades
source:backlinko
  • For titles, the powerful ones cite lists, use brackets like 10 Best Hotels [2017]
  • The most attractive phrases to use in Titles are
Power Word
source:backlinko
  • I have also read that “Reviews”, “Free” are attractive to readers and for obvious reasons.

Publishing

When you have written enough material, you always have the option on the right to Save Draft, Preview, or Publish. You also have the following options:

  • Status: clicking the Edit will show a choice of Draft, Pending, or Published.
  • Visibility; clicking the Edit will show a choice of Public, Private, or Password Protected (in case you want to limit a certain post or page to a limited people whom you will give the password)
  • Revisions:  clicking the Edit will show the previous edits to the article or page, e.g. when you deleted a paragraph by mistake and want to retrieve ie.
  • Publish: publish now OR schedule the publishing at a future date, by clicking “Edit” on the “Publish on….”

publishing your article

Now before you hit that Publish button on the right, make sure that you keep your URL (permalink) short and sweet. It is best to edit it before publishing.

permalink

You can edit it after publishing, but you should make sure you use 301 Redirects so as not to get a 404 error (Nothing Found).  301 Redirects is necessary when you change the permalink of a published article. You must redirect from the old link to the new.

This can be done by installing a 301 Redirect plugin (Search a compatible one). Once installed and activated, look for the Redirect feature on the left, or go to the Settings to look for the Redirect plugin. Here is a sample screenshot of what you will do:

301 redirects

The old permalink is on the left, and the new permalink goes to the right. Then click Save.

Now that you know SEO Writing, let us now move to the next level by building your blog with the most popular website builder – WordPress.