SEO or Search Engine Optimization refers to the techniques that you can use to help your site rank high on search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and more.
All search engines display search results which include web pages, videos and listing ranking them with what the search engines considers the most relevant.
SEO entails growing visibility and attracting organic or free traffic to your website.
There are so many aspects of SEO ranging from, keywords you use on your site to who is ranking to your site.
Search Engine Optimization is all about ensuring that the way your site is structured is enough to enable search engines to crawl and rank it among the top.
But one mistake that people make is concentrate on getting their website ranked high that they forget that it is people who at the end of the day read their content.
A majority of web traffic is driven mainly by the major search engines that are Google, Yahoo and Bing.
However, it is important to note that 95% of searches occur on Google.
And also through social media, email and other types act as traffic sources but a majority of the traffic comes from search engines.
Let’s do it practically.
Say you want to find the best hotels in Nairobi. What is the first place you visit?
You will most likely go to Google and search for the specific query. Google will them generate results based on the most relevant and one closely tied to what you are looking for. From then on, you can choose what website to visit that most appeals to you.
SEO is important because it is through search engines that people are able to find what you offer online.
Investing in SEO therefore will generate a ROI that you will love.
Consider This: 5 Reasons You Are Not Getting Maximum ROI On Your Website
Ranking On Search Engines
Search engines use complex algorithms to rank websites.
How you rank is dependent on several factors, from the keywords you use, speed of your website, age of the site, internal links as well as who is linking to you.
As a website owner, you should always target page one of the search results because rarely do people go to page two or even ten.
When you search for the term SEO, Neil Patel ranks at number 3 and Moz at number two. Moz’s article on SEO is more detailed, sort of a whole book on SEO and has been there since 2015. Neil Patel’s on the other hand though not as detailed, is well researched and incorporates the keywords people use when searching for SEO stuff on the internet.
The Technical Nature Of Websites
Websites are complex little things that need to be handled with so much care.
You might have a very good website that no one will ever read because of a few things we will discuss in details later on.
The technical nature of websites that affects how one website ranks higher or lower than the other entails;
- Linking; internal and external
- Broken internal and external links
- Duplicate content
Google classifies websites in two; jobs and education.
Jobs include job sites, recruitment firms, CV writing services and HR related websites among others.
Education includes all websites offering education material from digital marketing, travel, food, courses, universities etc.
Structure of websites
As we have mentioned, ranking on search engines is depended on a few factors but the major one is SEO.
S – Search
Let’s break them down further so that you can understand how full SEO works.
1. S is for Search
Search involves keywords either single, phrase or long tail keywords.
Before, Google would rank pages based on a single word or phrase but as the years have passed, the behavior of consumers on the internet has changed.
Today, people search using the specific keywords of what they are looking for.
For instance, someone looking for courses, instead of just typing ‘courses’ on Google, they will go further and uses terms like ‘marketable courses’ or even break it further down to the type of courses or location like ‘marketable diploma courses in Kenya.’
2. E is for Engines
We have four major search engines.
The biggest is Google and most of the searches occur here. The others are Yahoo, Bing and China’s Baidu.
As a websites owner, no need concerning yourself with the search engines. Just do your best to let them find your content.
3. O is for Optimization
This is the most important and it is where you should focus your energy on.
It basically involves the processes of creating content and structuring it in such a way that you are found when people search for something online.
It is basically the subtle art of making sure that search engines can crawl and rank your content higher than others with similar content.
It involves using the right keywords to appear on search results.
How To Find Keywords To Use
Does your website fall under jobs or education? What is your niche? How do you know what you are supposed to write about?
Simple. Understand what people are looking for first. And how do you do that? Through keyword research!
There are three free tools that are available that you can use to find keywords to use for your website and they include;
- Google Trends
- Google Analytics
- Google Webmaster
- Google Autocomplete
- Google Suggest
What does Google Consider when ranking?
Google ranks pages and not websites. That is one of the things that you must understand before we move on further.
1. Title of the page
This includes your Home page, category, tags, pages as well as the title of posts.
2. Meta description
Those who use word press, things have been made easier with a plugin called Yoast. The Meta description is a brief description for what your content is about and every page of your website should have a Meta description
Though Meta descriptions don’t play a very vital role in ranking they are important for people to click on your website.
This is the link to your content and it should also include your keywords as nearest to the beginning as possible.
In order to rank, Google and other search engines consider your content too.
It involves the title tags, linking both external and internal.
The number of words also determines how well you will rank. Research has it that pages with 1500 words plus rank better than shorter ones.
How unique your content is also matter in ranking as well as your style of writing.
Positioning keywords for SEO
Now that you have done your keyword research and know what you are going to write about, how do you position your keywords to ensure that you rank higher?
The mistake a majority of people make is insert keywords everywhere just because they heard that it is a ranking factor.
This is called keyword stuffing and Google will end up penalizing you and you will not even rank.
So how do you insert keywords without upsetting Google?
- Should be on the title (H2, H3 and H4)
- Introduction in the first 100 characters
- In one related link
- Meta description
- Use also synonyms for those keywords to prevent keyword stuffing like instead of keeping on saying CV; you can use resume, Curriculum vitae, application and other keywords related to that.
What is keyword stuffing?
This is clumping too many keywords together in such a way that they no longer make sense.
Google will from a mile away detect that you are just writing content in order to rank and you won’t like the results.
For instance, “Understanding how to write a CV is very important because then you will be able to know how to write a CV without asking someone to show you how to write a CV.”
That sentence clearly shows that you are writing for machines and not humans.
People are the consumers of this information and not Google bots – they are just there to help you rank but it is the people who determine if they will come back to your website or not.
Personally, if I detect someone trying too much on their website, believe me I will not come back.
Before you think about ranking, write for people first.
Links are divided into two categories; internal links and external ones.
Internal links link to other similar content on your website while external links link to similar content on other authority websites.
Google has a funny way of determining who ranks and who doesn’t. If you are that kind of blogger or writer who never wants to link to others, all your SEO efforts will only go to waste.
Find authority websites that you can link to.
Linking allows for a deeper crawling by Google bots in terms of discovering new content.
It also helps search engines understand what your content is about and that’s how one website will rank higher for the same keywords than yours.
And above everything else, don’t forget to link to reputable sources with similar content. These could be government websites, media sites or other websites that are already ranking high.
And this liking is done on what we call anchor texts.
What are anchor texts?
Anchor texts are phrases or words that you choose to insert a link at and they fall under different categories;
- Exact match; these are texts that link to the exact content. For instance, 5 Best Ways To Actually Increase Your Website Traffic Without SEO is an exact anchor text because it is linking to similar content on my website. I have not changed anything.
- Naked – this is not recommended and it is where you just have the website URL without an anchor text for instance, https://liliangathoni.com/.
- Broad anchor text; This is what you should aim for e.g understand online marketing is linking to understanding digital marketing in Kenya & why it’s not working for you.
- Call to action; this is also an example of an anchor text and it’s sad that people misuse this or don’t use it enough. A call to action has the ability to drive free traffic to your pages and they include words like ‘click here’, ‘subscribe here’, ‘read more’ and so on.
- Related anchor texts; these are just as you understand. They relate to similar content though not word for word. They are like synonyms for anchor texts. ‘Blogging services’ linking to a ‘create your blog page’.
Just like keywords, don’t overuse anchor texts. The fewer they are, the better but again it depends on the length of your article. No need having over twenty anchor texts linking to different pages on a 300 word article.
Corner stone content
Ever heard the term corner stone content or ever green content?
If not don’t worry about it.
As we mentioned, Google does not rank websites but pages. Corner stone articles are articles that you consider important and that you want to rank for.
They may be SEO articles that you have done and so every time you write new content it will be linking to these articles.
What you are telling Google is that you consider that article important and people also find it important.
Understanding digital marketing in Kenya sort of acts as one of my cornerstone article and if you go through other articles, you will find that most of them link to it.
Cornerstone articles are a real determinant of how high or how low you will rank on search engines.
And you don’t have to worry about creating corner stone content. You can pick articles you have already written and optimize them or you can create new SEO articles and make them cornerstone.
Snapshot, Google considerations when ranking
- Site structure; How fast does your site load? Is it responsive?
- Linking; Google ranks you depending the number of links
- Cornerstone content
- Who is linking to you?
- How original is your content
- The number of words and the style of writing.
SEO/Search Engine Optimization is a broad field that cannot be mastered in a day. This is because things are always changing. New algorithms keep coming up. It is your duty to keep abreast with these trends and ensure that all content you write is well optimized not only for search engines but people as well.