Ultimate SEO guide: What you need to know about Search Engine Optimization

Search engines are an inherent part of our day-to-day lives. With the world’s online information at our fingertips, we trust search engines to provide the most relevant and valuable results for our search. This trust in search engines means that ranking at the top can be incredibly valuable and lucrative for businesses. The ultimate goal of SEO is to be visible to the right people at the right time.

Search engines are often the biggest source of traffic for most websites. Google and other search engines use advanced algorithms to understand and rank pages appropriately in search results. However, those algorithms aren’t perfect as they still need your help to understand what your content is about.

If your content isn’t optimized, then search engines won’t know how to rank it. All business owners should make their websites more user-friendly so that they can maximize their search traffic.

The world of search engine optimization is complex and ever-changing, but you can easily understand the basics, and even a small amount of SEO knowledge can make a big difference.

This guide is designed to cover all major aspects of SEO, from finding keywords that can generate qualified traffic to your website, to making your site friendly to search engines, to building links and also marketing the unique value of your site.

Table of contents

  • What is SEO and why is it important?
  • What are the 3 major types of SEO?
  • How to do keyword research and keyword targeting
  • What is SEO copywriting?
  • How to conduct a competitor analysis to improve your digital marketing strategy

What is SEO and why is it important?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving your site to increase its visibility when people search for products or services related to your business in Google, Bing, and other search engines. The better visibility your pages have in search results, the more likely you are to garner attention and attract prospective and existing customers to your business.

It is the practice of getting targeted traffic to your website and also getting your pages to rank higher on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP).

Think of SEO as both an art and science. It combines creativity and the ability to deliver high-quality, engaging contents that users value with a strong knowledge of analytics and your target market.

It’s essential to keep in mind that SEO is only concerned with organic search results. Unlike the PPC (pay per click) ads, you can’t pay to rank higher with SEO. The only way to improve your SEO ranking is to make sure you’re satisfying the search engines’ requirements.

The importance of SEO

SEO is important for businesses because it gives them the visibility they need to attract potential customers in today’s digital world. Eighty-one percent of customers and 94 % of B2B purchasers will conduct online research with the intent to find information about the product or services before making a purchase, putting firms that do not have a strong online presence at a disadvantage.

Greater visibility and ranking higher in search results than your competitors can have a material impact on your business.

Also, SEO gives you the power to be the answer to potential customers’ questions. In addition to visibility and traffic increase, SEO contributes to your authoritative voice in your field. Authority then leads to brand trust, which would, in turn, bring in more conversions, get you more leads, and lastly, encourage sales.

How search engines work

It is necessary to understand how search engines work as part of learning SEO fundamentals to determine which areas of your website need to be optimized.

There are three basic functions of search engines:

  1. Crawling: Search engines use bots to crawl pages on the web, going from site to site and collecting information about those pages.
  2. Indexing: After Google bots collect this information on pages, they add it to their index or the database of discovered URLs.
  3. Ranking: Search engines use artificial intelligence and several ranking algorithms to review the index and determine where pages should appear on the search engine results pages (SERPs) based on users’ queries.

What are the 3 major types of SEO?

It will be much easier to organize and implement your optimization goals if you break down your strategy and think of SEO as these three key areas.

On-page SEO

On-page SEO refers to all the measures that can be taken directly within the website to boost its position in the search rankings. It is the primary method of telling searchers and search engines what your page is all about.

On-page SEO efforts include optimizing: Title tags, Meta descriptions, Keyword research, content formatting and headers, URL structure, Internal and External links.

Off-page SEO

Off-page SEO refers to the efforts made outside your website to improve its ranking. These off-page strategies help search engines and users to determine if your site is relevant, authoritative, and trustworthy.

Off-page SEO is mostly associated with building backlinks. Link building is the process of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites to your site. The more high-quality backlinks you have, the better your pages will rank.

Other off-page SEO efforts include guest posting and social media awareness.

Technical SEO

Technical SEO is concerned with improving your website infrastructure so that search engine crawlers can easily access and index it.

It also optimizes your site for users by making sure that its structure, navigation, and internal links allow for easy browsing.

Technical SEO efforts include optimizing: Site structure, Website and page speed, URL structure, Mobile-friendliness, Website security.

How to do a keyword research and keyword targeting

Now that you’ve learned how to show up in search results, let’s determine which strategic keywords to target in your website’s content, and how to craft that content to satisfy both users and search engines.

The first step in search engine optimization is to figure out exactly what you’re optimizing for. This entails identifying the terms, phrases, questions, and answers people are searching for, also known as “keywords,” that you want your website to rank for in search engines like Google.

Keyword research is the process of finding and analyzing search phrases or queries that people enter into search engines intending to use that data for a specific purpose, such as SEO or general marketing, while Keyword targeting is the use of keywords that are relevant to your product or service in your website and ad copy to achieve a top listing in the search engines.

Keyword research provides valuable insight into the queries that your target audience is searching for on Google. The right keywords can also help to attract potential users that are more likely to use or purchase products from your website.

How to do a keyword research

Before you commence, make sure you understand your business and who your target audience(s) is, to enable you to highlight specific terms that you’d like to target as you go.

Here’s how to generate a list of key terms to target in your blog posts, web pages, and marketing materials.

1. Make a list of broad topics relevant to your business

Finding keywords and phrases that are closely related to your brand or business is the first stage in keyword research. These keywords don’t have to be specific; rather, they should be broad terms that you think your users will be searching for.

Keep the following in mind while you make this list:

  • Keywords that you use in your business
  • Keywords used by your competitors
  • Related keywords found in Google searches
  • Keywords typically used by your target audience

2. Analyze the strength of your keywords

Once you’ve compiled a list of relevant keywords, you’ll need to find out their potential by taking a look at the search volume for each term. The easiest way to accomplish this is by using keyword tools such as Semrush, Wordtracker, Ubersuggest, etc.

Here’s what you’re looking for when you analyze your keywords;

  • Exact search term: Make sure your keyword matches the precise search term people use.
  • Search volume: Look for the highest search volume available
  • Level of competition: The paid tools differentiate between competitions for paid ads versus organic search. You want a higher search volume with lower organic search competition.

3. Refine your list

At this stage, you have to analyze the keyword difficulty score. Check the search engine results page (SERP) for your most desired search terms. If it’s filled with solid brand names that have more influence and market share than your company does (at the moment), you might want to go back and refine your list with long-tail keywords.

4. Verify search intent

When a user inputs a search query into Google, they are on a quest for something. Make sure you understand your customers’ intent by typing your keyword phrase into the search engine.

Take note of the buyer intent for each keyword phrase, or make it a practice for you and your team to check keyword intent before creating content that includes that term or phrase.

5. Create landing pages for searchers

The last stage in keyword research is to create outstanding content or pages for the keywords you want to rank for. The content should be tailored to attract visitors who found your blog after searching for a specific keyword. This could be a dedicated page or a blog post optimized for a specific keyword.

What is SEO copywriting?

Once you’ve decided upon a topic or a story you want to write, the actual SEO copywriting begins!

SEO copywriting is a form of online content writing that entails optimizing web content for selected keywords to drive qualified traffic from search engines, engage readers, and most importantly, convince them to take an action.

An SEO copywriter conducts keyword research and generates content that will attract more users to a website. This allows you to build content based on what people want to learn or discover rather than what you think they should know.

Listed below are the elements of SEO copywriting that can help you create the best SEO content ever.

1. Identify the right keyword

Just as discussed above, choosing the right keywords to target is essential if you want to write content your readers love. The first step for any SEO copywriter is identifying keywords before writing.

You should conduct keyword research for your content strategy to find terms your target audience is actively searching for and that also have low competition.

Also, finding questions people are asking about, identifying search intent and checking competitor’s articles are great ways to arrive at a relevant keyword.

2. Optimize Your Header, Meta Title, and Meta Description 

The Meta title and description of a page are the first things readers notice when looking at the SERPs, while the header will be the first thing they see once they arrive at your page.

Keeping your Meta and headlines clear can help you enhance your organic click-through rate (CTR) and also increase page views.

Both users and search engines should be able to figure out what your content is about through your title tag and Meta description.

3. Create a data-driven outline

A table of contents serves as a road map for each section of your writing as it provides an overview of the content and it also helps in ensuring that you’re including all important points worth communicating SEO-wise.

By creating an outline for your content, you are structuring the information that it entails which is an important aspect of SEO copywriting.

This allows your readers to immediately understand if your content is likely to answer the question they have. And if it does, they can easily navigate to that section.

4. Create an engaging and easy to read content

50% of the U.S. population reads below an 8th-grade reading level. People use search engines to look for specific answers or advice. This means they want a quick response without having to sift through a lot of complex paragraphs.

If you’re using complicated wordings in your articles, you might be driving away half of your readership. The first step in creating amazing content is by knowing your target audience.

Let’s look at some techniques to improve the readability of your writing;

Structure is important

A good structure makes it as easy as possible for users and search engines to go through your content. Be sure to use H2s, H3s, and H4s to include relevant subtopics. It’s also crucial to organize these subtopics in a logical order.

Skim-able Headlines

Most readers usually skim articles before reading them. Headlines should inform readers what they will learn by reading individual paragraphs or the page as a whole.

Informative and clear Paragraphs

Readers like to skim through paragraphs to find the information they need quickly. Reading large walls of text can be daunting and difficult for readers.

Short Sentences 

Short sentences make the reader’s job easier and it also makes your message more digestible.

Include visuals

The use of visual elements like images, videos, charts, gifs, infographics can help users stay longer on your page and trigger them to share the graphic on social media.

And don’t forget to include image alt tags (they describe the appearance and function of an image on a page) as this can also help with search engine rankings.

5. Build backlinks 

A backlink is a link from your website to another website. Building backlinks are important for SEO because they signal to Google that another resource finds your content valuable enough to link to it within their content.

By adopting a link-building strategy, you can improve the rankings of your content and generate even more traffic.

6. Include CTAs (Calls-to-Action)

One primary purpose of copywriting is to drive users further along the customer journey. CTAs encourage your audience or visitors to take action.

This way, you can successfully convert visitors into leads into customers, which is the whole essence of SEO copywriting.

How to conduct a competitor analysis to improve your digital marketing strategy

Your website might rank number one for a certain keyword today, but this status will not last forever. Over time, other websites, most of which are competitors, will learn how to optimize their content and outrank yours. This is why you need a competitor analysis for your digital marketing strategy.

Competitor analysis is the process of identifying the strengths and weaknesses of businesses that share the same target market as you.

In a competitive analysis, you analyze their marketing, pricing, promotion channels, market share, and other details to learn more about each competitor’s marketing techniques and also use that information to develop a defensive strategy.

Steps on how to Conduct a Competitor Analysis

Now that we’ve answered what a competitor analysis is, it’s time to take a look at how to conduct a competitive analysis in a few basic steps.

1. Identify your True Competitors

The first step of learning how to do competitor analysis is to create a list of all the major players in your niche. This tells you who you might be competing with for your audience’s attention and gives you an idea of who to focus on throughout your competitor analysis.

For a better view of your competitors, you can try building your list with SEMrush Market Explorer tool.

First, select “Find Competitors” and enter your domain. This will automatically generate a list of the major players in your space. If you already know your competitors, you may instead choose “Create List” and enter them manually.

The Growth Quadrant widget will show you who you’re competing with online on the Overview report. It will also display their relative market positions, audience size, and growth rate.

2. Analyze competitor’s profiles

The next step is to examine a competing website and learn more about who they are and how they compare to you.

Exploring the four Ps of marketing; product, pricing, placement, and promotion, will also give you a deeper understanding of your competitors’ marketing strategies.

Scan their websites for further information about their products or services, leadership, and values. Download annual reports and press releases. Visit their social media pages to check out what they post and how they engage with their followers.

Beyond this public information, you can also use competitor analysis tools like SEMrush to analyze their websites. Look at their most valuable pages, which keywords they rank for, and the kind of content they create.

The more you know about your main competitors’ operations, the more prepared your business will be to meet the challenges they pose.

3. Perform a SWOT analysis

A competitive analysis allows you to see your company through the eyes of prospective customers, revealing its strengths and weaknesses as well as the potential opportunities and threats to its existence. This is exactly the information you’ll need to perform your SWOT analysis.

Determine the following using the profiles of your business and its competitors;

Strengths: What is your business good at? What do you provide that your competitors don’t?

Weaknesses: Are there any areas where competitors perform better than your company?

Opportunities: Are there any emerging trends or changes in the competitive landscape that could help your organization in the long run?

Threats: Which trends or competitive activities could disrupt your business?

This analysis will identify areas you may need to improve, as well as areas that you can capitalize on in future marketing and branding efforts.

4. Create a plan of action

With your competitive data in one place, three essential steps should be taken, which are;

Track & Monitor 

Establish and maintain a system of observation procedures (e.g. regular reporting and alerts) to continuously monitor developments related to both competitor actions and market reactions.

Analyze 

As you begin to receive news and relevant information about potential disruptors to your industry, look for opportunities to gather additional data and conduct in-depth analyses to fully understand and draw conclusions about the level of importance and priority these potential changes require.

Act

Develop a set of contingency actions based on likely future scenarios in anticipation of potential competitor moves and market events. As a result, you’ll rarely be caught off guard by a market shift or react too late to a disruptor.

Conclusion

The most important thing to remember about SEO is there are no shortcuts or tricks to it. Expect to devote at least six months to it if you want to see results.

Many of the strategies described above have shown to be effective in the SEO world, but there is always more to discover.

We hope this article helped you learn how to properly optimize your site and pages for SEO. Go ahead and implement these SEO tips, and you should see an increase in your traffic within a few months as the search engines process your changes.

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