Chapter 1 – What is SEO

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Chapter 1:
1.0 What is Search Engine Optimization – AKA: SEO

Everybody that runs a website needs to have some awareness of SEO basics and how they work. When you learn SEO strategies, you can boost website traffic. That makes it vital for businesses with competitors. Google alone has 5.6 billion searches per day, and a new website must rank high enough to be visible in those searches.

Search engine optimization is more important than ever because:

The higher that a website appears on Page One of a results page, the more likely that it will be clicked on. The top five spaces have the most value.

SEO has the added benefit of making a website better for the user experience.

When a website appears at the top end of a SERP, it is more likely to be trusted by a consumer. That trust is vital when it comes to handing over their payment details.]

When consumers find a company website via a search engine, they are more likely to share it with their social media. That means even greater audience reach.

At its most basic, to learn SEO is to learn how to make improvements to your website. The final outcome: to rank higher in SERPs. While there are differences, a website optimized for Google will also be better for ranking higher on Bing, DuckDuckGo, and Yahoo.

SEO Guide by The Shopify Developers @ Blackbelt Commerce

1.2 How to Start SEO for a New Website?1.

Search engines use an array of complex algorithms to display websites in an order that is valuable to its users. Search engines want their users to find the answers that they are looking for. That means they use ‘search engine ranking factors’ and take these into account when ranking answers to search engine queries. The better you learn SEO and use it, the higher you appear on a SERP. It is as simple as that. SEO basics can break down into three different categories. These are:

1.2.1  Technical SEO

This is one of the more challenging aspects of search engine optimization to get right. Technical SEO is less about what you put on your website or how you promote it. Instead, it is about having the right settings and using the right tools. Key changes make it much easier for search engines to understand what your website is about and how much value it has. Bad technical SEO will push you further down SERPs. Before any SEO overhaul begins, a technical SEO audit is vital. This will help you understand what technical settings need to be changed.

1.2.2   On-Page SEO

This is where the content of your web pages will come into account. It’s not about writing a good blog post or product description (although that is important). The goal is to provide value, but also to make it easier for search engines to understand you more. That means using the right signals to convey meaning and context to your website content. A search engine ‘reads’ a website very differently from a human, and signals help them.

 Common signals include: 

  • The structure of your website
  • Your SEO keywords
  • Page Titles
  • Internal links
  • How you tag and describe your images

 There are many signals that you need to understand so that you are sending out the right ones. When your on-page SEO is working well, it: 

  • Improves usability
  • Boosts credibility
  • Ranks you higher on search engines

 While all three search engine optimization categories are important, on-page SEO should be a priority.

1.2.3  Off-Site SEO

This is about promoting your website. It will involve a variety of actions. However, each will have the same goal: to convince search engines that you have value. Search engines want to keep their users satisfied with the results that they provide. Off-site SEO helps to prove your value. There are many ways to promote a website, but for most effectiveness, the following should be focused on: 

  • Link building
  • Social media marketing
  • RSS subscription
  • Guest posting on other websites

 Each off-site strategy comes with its pros and cons, but these four options should be a starting point.


1.3 Is SEO Necessary for Ranking a Website on Google?

Before you can start to appear on a SERP, Google needs to know that your website exists. That means your website has to be ‘crawlable’ and ‘indexable.’ Search engines work by using automated bots called web crawlers. These bots follow links on websites to find and index new web content. Google put it best:

“Crawlers look at web pages and follow links on those pages, much like you would if you were browsing content on the web. They go from link to link and bring data about those webpages back to Google’s servers.”

You can quickly tell if your website has been indexed (stored on Google’s servers). Simply type your company name into a Google search. If your company does not show up (and it has a unique name), then it is usually not indexed. You also need to ask: 

  • Is my website content of high quality?
  • Does my content load quickly on every type of device?
  • Is my website secure?

It’s important to understand the value of your company name at this point. For a company called, for example, ‘New York Hairdresser,’ it will be very difficult to be found on a SERP. This is because every hairdresser in New York will be using those keywords. This is not a search engine optimization problem (it is a sign you need to change your company name).


1.4 The Importance of High-Quality Content

While it’s easy to say that your website content needs to be high-quality, it can be hard to know what that means. There are many definitions of high-quality content, but the most useful requirements are that your content is: 

  • Original and unique
  • Useful
  • Created to resolve issues and answer questions
  • Varied (video, guides and tutorials, news, and images)  

The more high-quality your content, the more readers it will attract (and for longer), and the more it will be shared or linked back to across the internet. One of the signals that search engines use for ranking is how long a visitor stays on your website. If Google provides your website as a solution to a query, and it is clicked on, then great! However, if the user immediately left, then Google will assume that your website is not relevant or good enough for that query. The longer that you keep visitors on your website, the better Goggle will view you.

1.5 How Beneficial is SEO For Small Business?

For smaller, local businesses, it’s easy to dismiss SEO basics. Those local businesses will often rely on local customers who already know they exist. This is a common mistake. Local SEO is of growing importance, and it works slightly differently to standard search engine optimization practices. Local SEO still needs on-site and technical SEO, but it also needs citations. A citation is any online reference to your business name, address, and phone number. Those citations do not need to directly link back to your website. To get started with citations, make sure that you have filled out your Google My Business (GMB) profile. This template is easy to fill out. By adding your business to GMB, you start establishing your online presence, and you will also start appearing on Google Maps.  

For small businesses, to learn SEO from a local perspective is vital because of it:  

  • Helps to attract new customers
  • Attracts those customers when they most need you (the discovery phase)
  • Improves brand awareness
  • Helps you overtake your competitors

No matter your product or niche, SEO basics will improve the user experience. That makes it easier to make more sales and build a loyal customer base.

1.6 What’s the Best Website to Check my SEO?

The good news is there is a range of tools and resources available to help you perfect your search engine optimization. While not all of the following tools need to be used immediately, they are all very useful. Some are paid-for services, while others are free. Whichever you use, you can expect to gain insights and valuable information about your current SEO situation. The main websites to use include: 

1.6.1   Google Search Console

Of course, it’s Google themselves that have one of the most valuable resources available for SEO checking. Easy to use and with free support, Google Search Console (GSC) is ideal for beginners to SEO basics. That’s because GSC comes with a wide suite of tools to use.  

By using GSC, website owners can:

Gain insights into why a website is performing as well or as poorly as it is

  • Ensure that Google can access all of your available content
  • Have ongoing spam monitoring (helping to keep your website clean of clutter)
  • Make it easier to add crawlable content
  • Access simple tools for removing older content that is harming your SEO  

It’s always smart to check Google’s Webmaster Guidelines regularly. That’s because GSC changes often happen, with new tools and reports being added frequently. 

1.6.2  SEMrush SEO Toolkit

This is a tool with a lot of value. SEMrush will make it far easier to do your keyword research. It will also make it easier to track what keywords your competitors are using. Not only that, but SEMrush can also run search engine optimization audits or even find relevant backlink opportunities. For large and small businesses alike, the SEMrush SEO Toolkit is incredibly useful, and can also:  

  • Track your past and present SERP rankings so that you can identify what is working (and what isn’t)  
  • Connect with Google Analytics for more valuable insights  
  • Make it easier to connect with advertisers who may have an interest in your website’s potential  
  • Research other websites to identify the best options for guest blogging

To gain access to the full range of tools that SEMrush provides, it will cost. It is also known for being most useful to those that have a strong understanding of the jargon used in SEO. As such, it can be hard to get to grips with for someone new to the subject.

1.6.3  Moz Pro

With an engaged community, Moz Pro has been designed to boost website traffic, improve rankings, and make a website more visible. From website tracking to the keyword research tool, Moz Pro has a lot of value. The Moz Pro Spider can even highlight any website or SEO issues. However, it is not a free service to sign up for. It is possible to gain limited access to some of the most basic tools. However, you will need to pay to be able to use the more valuable resources on offer.

1.6.4  Ahrefs Backlink Checker

When a website you don’t own includes a link to one of your pages, you improve your credibility. Ahrefs works by making it easier to find new backlink opportunities. That’s because they continue to have one of the largest live backlink indexes around. Their information is always up to date and accurate, and you can also get a free trial period of 14 days. This gives you complete access to all the tools that Ahrefs provides.  

Their Backlink Checker is free though and will provide you with clear insights, including:  

  • Details of your current rankings
  • Information about your most valuable backlinks
  • Your most popular pages  

While there is an endless number of backlink checkers available, Ahrefs is one of the best.  

Search engine optimization is a huge, sprawling subject that is prone to change at any time. It can be a lot of work to keep up with SEO basics and best practices. However, when understood and applied, it can be the key to business growth and greater profits. An SEO strategy built on a foundation of understanding is the key to the future of every business.   


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