Chapter 4 Search Engine Optimization – From Starting Small to Winning Big

CHAPTER 4

Search Engine Optimization

In digital marketing, the most important goal for your brand will be that your website is discoverable by the maximum number of people you have chosen as your target audience online. Search engines act as a bridge between your website and your target audience.

What Is SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is done to maximize the number of visitors on your website by ensuring your website content appears on top search results in search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, and so on.

For example, you have a cake shop, and you have written an article on the chocolate cake recipe on your website. Through search engine optimization, you will be able to make your website appear in top search results in Google. This way, people interested in chocolate cakes will land on your site. In a nutshell, search engine optimization is done to increase the visibility of your website in search engine results.

Search engine optimization can be categorized into three different streams.

On-page SEO

On-page optimization is done on your website. The content you publish on your website and the keywords you optimize your content for. On-page involves optimization of content, the title of the pages, meta description of the pages on your website.

Off-page SEO

The off-page activities are not done on your website. These are mainly link building activities you do to build the credibility and authority of your website by getting backlinks from other high-authority websites. Off-page activities go beyond creating links for your website but also include social media marketing, PR, reviews, and user-generated content.

Technical SEO

Technical SEO is associated with the infrastructure of the website. It is done to optimize the website for the crawling and indexing phase. Technical SEO mainly includes the site structure, navigation, URL structure, website speed, mobile responsiveness, and any other technical aspects of the website.

Local SEO

Local SEO refers to optimizing your content to appear in local searches. For example, you are in Times Square in New York, and you search for the keywords “Coffee shops near me.” You will get all the website pages of the coffee shops that are optimized for local search in Times Square.

SEO is mainly done to appear in organic results in the search engine. Organic results are those results for which you don’t have to pay to rank in the search results, while inorganic results are the paid advertisements you see in search result pages.

This is why SEO is useful for small businesses and starts ups with small marketing budgets as SEO helps to build brand awareness and get customers at virtually no cost.

Let’s explore each of these optimization techniques.

On-page SEO

Here is the list of activities you need to do for on-page optimization.

Keyword Research

The first step in on-page optimization is to find out the keywords your target audience is using to search for information on a product/service in the search engines.

The success of your SEO largely depends on the right keywords. Earlier the search engines gave preference to the content, which has precisely matching keywords. As Google keeps updating its algorithm to provide users the most relevant content, now the preference is given to the content that matches the search intent of the users, which is depicted through the keywords.

The user can search to find some information or to locate a website or buy a product.

There are three types of keywords based on search intent:

  • Transactional keywords
  • Informational keywords
  • Navigational keywords

Transactional Keywords

Transactional keywords are those keywords that show the intent is to buy or purchase something. Some of the transactional keywords are:

  • Buy
  • Purchase
  • Discount
  • Download
  • Free Trial

Informational Keywords

These are the keywords one uses to search for some information. Some of the examples of informational keywords are:

  • How to
  • What is
  • Best ways
  • Tutorial

Navigational Keywords

These are the keywords people use to search for a website of a famous brand. The user is typically aware of the brand, and they are using the keywords to navigate to the brand’s website. Some of the navigational keywords are

  • Testimonial
  • Reviews
  • Cost or Pricing

Now, as you know what the types of keywords used in the search engine are, you need to find the actual search terms that your target audience enters in the search terms.

With these keywords, you will be able to formulate your content marketing strategy, especially your blogging strategy. From the search terms, you will get the topics you have to write on to get relevant traffic (visitors) on your website. With the right and relevant keywords, you will not only increase the number of visitors on your website, but you will also increase the percentage of visitors who will buy from your website.

Finding Topics

The first thing is to list all the topics that are related to your website. For example, let’s say you are a tour operator that plans adventure trips. Some of the topics that will be relevant to your business would be:

  • Adventure treks
  • Hitchhiking destinations
  • White water rafting
  • Bungee jumping
  • Paragliding
  • Camping sites

These are merely a broad category of topics but not keywords. Now you want to find the keywords that are used in the Google search engine. Just go to Google.com and type in “Adventure treks” and don’t hit enter. You will see a list of suggestions such as “Adventure treks Alaska.” These suggested keywords are used by a large number of people in Google.

You can use this strategy for all the topics you have selected. You should also search for these topics in the YouTube search bar as its now the second largest search engine.

Search-Related Keywords

Now use the same keyword “Adventure treks” in Google and search for the results. On the search results page, you will find a list of keywords at the bottom in “Searches related to Adventure treks.”

Searches related to Adventure treks are the following:

  • Adventure treks Yellowstone
  • Adventure treks Alaska
  • Adventure treks California
  • Adventure treks jobs
  • Adventure treks reviews
  • Adventure treks RV checklist
  • Adventure treks instructors
  • Adventure treks LLC

Now you will have a list of keywords, but these still are not the keywords you will use.

Keywords Tool

Now you have a list of probable keywords; you need a keyword tool to find out the right keywords. You can use Ubersuggest to find the average monthly searches of a keyword for a specific location (Figure 4.1).

Figure 4.1 Keywords tool

For the keyword “Adventure treks” in the United States, Ubersuggest is giving a search volume of 880 with a SEO difficulty score of 19. It is important to note that not only the search volume but also the SEO difficulty is an important criterion to select the keyword. The SEO difficulty helps you to know the level of competition on the keyword.

A keyword with greater SEO difficulty means it would be challenging to rank on that keyword as already many websites are competing for getting in the top results.

Google Keyword Planner is another free tool for keyword research and planning, as this keyword tool gives you more accurate information than any other tool. The only drawback of using this tool is that it is more suitable for Google Ad campaigns rather than organic SEO.

Ahrefs is a paid tool and one of my favorites. Its “Keyword Explorer” gives you all information you need in a single interface. This tool gives you not only global search volume but also the keyword ranking difficulty and keyword ideas by the search volume.

The more the search volume on a keyword and lower is the keyword ranking difficulty, the more promising the keyword would be for your brand.

Keyword Difficulty

Always remember that as there is competition for your business offline. Similarly, you will face competition online in the search engines. If you have a good strategy, you can easily find the gaps in your competitors’ strategy and take advantage of it.

If you have a new website, then you will have to build the credibility of your website to appear in top results. Until then, you should focus on less competitive keywords.

Some of the less competitive keywords are long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are four+ word phrases that have particular search intent. For example, the keyword “rent an apartment under 1000 dollars,” might have very few, 100–200 searches a month, but they are very less competitive. You will be able to cover a lot of keywords through your long-tail keywords.

I have executed an online keyword strategy with long-tail keywords. I initially wrote a blog for a long-tail keyword, and the blog started giving ranking for the selected long keyword. Eventually, the blog started ranking for three- and two-word keywords, which were very competitive. In my experience, I don’t think that long-tail keywords are not effective in bringing in traffic to the website. In the longer run, these keywords will be the most powerful arsenal in your online strategy.

Keyword Selection Criteria

Now, I provide you with the search criteria to select keywords:

  1. 1. High search volume

The keyword should have a high search volume (high search volume depends on the chosen industry. For a niche B2B industry search volume of 1,000 may be called high whereas a search volume for the e-commerce search volume of 10,000 may be considered high).

  1. 2. Keyword difficulty

Select the keywords with low keyword ranking difficulty if your site is relatively new and has low DR (Domain Rank). Domain Rank can be found using Ubersuggest or Ahrefs; the Domain Rank is on a scale of 1–100. The higher the DR, the higher the chances are for a keyword to rank. DR depends on your off-page activities, which include getting relevant backlinks from other high authority websites.

A site that has high authority can go for medium to high difficulty keywords with good search volume.

  1. 3. Filter the keywords

This depends on the needs of your business. Even if the keywords you select have high search volume and less competition, but if it doesn’t relate to your business, then you will not get higher sales despite getting higher traffic.

Let’s refer to the previous example; you offer adventure treks through your website. You have selected a keyword as “flight booking,” which has a high search volume. Although it may be a highly searched keyword as your site doesn’t offer flight booking services, this keyword will not be fruitful for your business. A keyword such as “adventure gear” would be a right keyword as someone who is searching for adventure gear would want to go on an adventure trek. They would be lucky to find your website as you offer adventure trekking services.

  1. 4. Keyword trends

Google Trends is another useful tool to find out the keyword trends. You will be able to find the search trends related to any topic.

Implementing On-Page SEO

Now you have selected the keywords; the next step would be to start executing your SEO strategy.

Let’s say you have written a blog on “Adventure Trek Destinations.” You will learn how you should optimize your blog. All the optimization can be done through your WordPress CMS. Login to your website admin account. Usually, if the domain name of the site is abc.com, then your WordPress admin can be logged into by abc.com/wp-admin. You can use the Yoast Plugin with WordPress for on-page optimization (Figure 4.2).

Figure 4.2 Implementing on-page SEO

  1. 1. Optimize the URL

The URL that will be created for the blog should have the selected keyword in the URL. In the above case, adventure trek destinations. For example, the URL can be https://yourwebsite.com/blog/bestadventuretrekdestinations

  1. 2. Optimize the title tag

The title tag text will be visible in the search results. Whatever you write in the Title and Description tag will be visible in the search results. For example,

Best Adventure Trek Destinations: 15 must-visit treks

Your keyword should be closer to the beginning of your title tag. You should also use modifiers such as “2019,” “best,” “guide,” “review,” “checklist,” as well.

  1. 3. Use H1 tag for blog title

You should use the H1 tag for your blog post title, which should have your selected keyword. Usually, most CMS such as WordPress use the H1 tag for the blog post title. You can use the Yoast Plugin with WordPress to set your title tag.

  1. 4. Use multimedia

Using multimedia such as charts, graphics, images, and videos increases the engagement of the visitor with the blog. Multimedia increases the time spent by users on your blog page. It also reduces the bounce rate, which is the percentage of visitors who navigate away from the site after viewing just a single page. A high bounce rate is not suitable for your website.

  1. 5. Use H2 tag for subheadings

Use your chosen keyword in H2 subheadings at least once. Your blog post should have H2 and H3 tags, which tells Google that there are subtopics in your blog posts, which means a better content structure.

  1. 6. Use your keyword in introduction paragraph

Your keyword should appear in the first 100 words of your blog post. The earlier your keyword appears, the better. We tend to miss out on the keyword in our introductory para; this is not a right approach when it comes to SEO.

  1. 7. Mobile-friendly pages

Google prefers the sites, which are mobile-optimized, and it penalizes the sites that are not mobile optimized in the search results. By mobile responsive design, it means that your website is readable and looks good on the mobile screen.

  1. 8. Add some outbound links

The outbound or external links in your blog helps Google to know which are the topics your blog post is related to. Linking out to external high-authority sites helps to build the credibility of your website. You add a hyperlink to any external article on any word or phrase in your blog.

  1. 9. Do internal linking

Use some internal links by adding hyperlinks on words or phrases to your existing blogs. The internal links should appear early in your blog posts. Internal links help to bring down the bounce rate as well. A good number of internal links will be two to five inside your
blog posts.

  1. 10. Ensure fast loading of website

Make sure that your website takes less than four seconds to
load. You can use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to facilitate
fast loading. Compress the images on your website to reduce the loading speed.

  1. 11. Use LSI keywords

LSI keywords are those keywords that appear in searches related to your keyword. In our example where we used the keyword adventure trek, then the LSI keywords are adventure treks Yellowstone, adventure treks Alaska, adventure treks California, and so on.

  1. 12. Do image optimization

The images in your blog post should include the keyword you select in the name of the image. You should also use the keyword in the Alt Text of the image. All the images in your blog post should have the target keywords and LSI keywords in the image name and Alt Text as well.

  1. 13. Include social sharing buttons

Getting social shares of your blog post gets you to get more attention to your blog post. The social sharing buttons help your blogs getting distributed on social networks. The social-sharing buttons with a counter to show how many times your post was shared on a social network builds the credibility of your blog post.

  1. 14. Use long-format content

Google prefers articles that are longer and are well researched. Usually, an article that is 2,000 words longer will have a higher chance of ranking on the search engines as compared to shorter blogs.

A 1,000-word blog is reasonably good enough, but to impress Google, you need to push further and aim to write 2,000 words blog post.

  1. 15. Increase the time spent on your blog

The more visitors are spending time on your blog post, the better it is perceived by Google. If visitors leave your blog post early, then Google will perceive it as low-quality content. Add engaging images, ppts, or videos to increase the time spent by the visitor on your blog.

  1. 16. Comments

The more the number of high-quality comments on a blog post, the better the rankings it will get. Comments represent user engagement with the content. If people are commenting on your blog post, it means something is exciting and thought-provoking written on your blog posts.

  1. 17. A good Click-Through Rate

Let’s stick with our example with the keyword Adventure Treks. You have optimized the title tag of your blog post with “Best Adventure Trek Destinations: 15 Must-Visit Treks.” This will be visible in the search results when some searches for Adventure Treks keyword. As you have written a blog exactly on 15 must-visit adventure trek destinations, anyone who clicks on your search result in the search engine will find the right information on your blog. This will result in a good Click Through Rate.

If you have not properly written the Title Tag and Description, the search results will turn off the visitors who will not click on your content. Ensure to get a good CTR; you need to spend some time on creating crisp Title and Descriptions to get more traffic on your blog posts.

  1. 18. Keyword density

The keyword density is the percentage of the number of times a keyword appears on a web page concerning the total number of keywords on the page. The keyword density should not be beyond 2.5 percent.

Keyword Density = (Number of times Keyword appears/Total number of words) * 100

Let’s take an example that your keyword “adventure treks” appear 15 times in a 1,200 words blog post then:

Keyword density= (15/1200) * 100= 1.25

You can increase the keyword density to 2 percent in your blog, but it should look natural and not as that you have stuffed keywords.

Initially, people use to stuffed keywords in their articles just to rank on the Google search engine. Now Google penalizes the articles where the keywords are unnecessarily stuffed at strange places.

Off-Page SEO

Let’s first understand what off-page is. Let’s say you want to buy a new electric car, but you are unaware which models are best in your budget range and which features you should have in your car. You decide to call your close friend Jim who is a sports car enthusiast and very well acquainted with car engines. Jim tells you that although he knows inside out of the latest cars running on petrol, he has not explored the electric models yet. He asks you to give his cousin Rony a visit at his car dealership as he sells electric cars.

Now, as you trust your friend Jim with his knowledge about cars and his expertise, you will give no second thought in visiting Rony’s car dealership and buying an electric car from his showroom. This is because you trust Jim, and Jim has faith in Rony. You have no reason to doubt Rony.

Now let’s understand how this example is relevant for off-page. Off-page SEO implicates gaining the trust of the search engines as your website is recommended by some high-authority websites. If Google Search Engine was at your place, and it trusts Jim’s website as a high-authority website for everything you want to know about cars. If Jim is recommending users on his website to visit Rony’s website, then Rony’s website can be trusted for its information value and credibility.

Off-page activities are done outside of your website. It is also referred to as link building activities or backlinking. The link building activities are done to get backlinks to your site. The benefit of getting links from high authority websites that are relevant to your website will give you a boost in terms of search engine rankings.

For example, if your website offers sports gear, then getting links from a high-authority site that is dedicated to sports news will be beneficial for your website. If you are getting links to your sports gear offering website from a high authority website that publishes food recipes, then that link will not be beneficial for your website.

The vital point to remember is that you only get the benefit of the links if you get do-follow backlinks. The do-follow link means that the site, which is providing a link to your website, acknowledges your website’s authority. In a do-follow link, the link juice is passed to the linked website. Link juice is the SEO benefit that you want to get.

A no-follow backlink is one where there is the only link, but the authority from the source site is not passed to the linked website.

Let’s understand this with an example. You own a restaurant, and one of your specialties is Chinese food. A food blogger visits your restaurants and is intrigued by one of your dishes. The blogger runs a high-authority website with 100,000 monthly visitors.

He decides to write an exhaustive guide on Chinese cuisine and wants to cover your restaurant’s dish in the article. He is kind enough to give a do-follow backlink to your website. Now the do-follow backlink means that your website will get the SEO benefit of the backlink. If it was a no-follow backlink, then the users from the food blogger’s website will come to your website, but your website will not get an SEO benefit.

Off-Page SEO Techniques

Here are some of the strategies to get do-follow backlinks.

Comments

Earlier, leaving comments on a high-authority website was the easiest way to get backlinks. People abused this strategy, and Google decided to stop giving SEO benefits to any such irrelevant comments.

The right way of commenting for the right audience helps build relationships with the blog owner and other people who post their comments.

Forums

A forum for discussion such as Quora will help you get relevant do-follow backlinks. You can participate in discussions that are relevant to your offerings. You should create a profile and keep your website’s backlink in the profile information, as well.

Guest Posts

This is the most prominent way to get do-follow backlinks. A lot of sites accept guest posts and offer do-follow backlinks. Just do a Google search for guest blogging website related to your industry. As your articles get published on the website and you get a do-follow backlink, it will be very beneficial for your SEO.

This approach can be used to focus on certain keywords that are very relevant for your website. You can get backlinks to your specific pages that are optimized for chosen keywords.

Broken Link Building

In a broken link building approach, you find a high-authority website relevant to your site. Use any free broken link finder tool to find broken links on the site. You can provide your relevant website content to replace the broken link. The benefit to the high-authority website with broken links will be that there will be less page not found errors on their website. Page not found or 404 errors are bad for a website in terms of SEO.

Brand Mentions

If people are mentioning your brand on social networks or any other discussion forums, a good amount of brand mentions will give a search engine crawler a signal that your brand is trustworthy and credible.

Social Bookmarking

Some of the popular social bookmarking sites are Reddit, StumbleUpon, and Digg. The social bookmarking sites store, organize, and manage bookmarks of web pages.

Technical SEO

Now I suggest the steps to do technical SEO.

  1. 1. Review your website sitemap

Your website’s site map tells the search engine about the structure of your site and helps them discover fresh content. You can create a sitemap through different free site map creation tools and submit your site map through Google Search Console (Figure 4.3).

Figure 4.3 Review your website sitemap

Google and the Google logo are registered trademarks of Google LLC, used with permission.

Google Search Console is the free web service that allows webmasters to check indexing status and optimize visibility of their website. You can add your site maps through the Sitemaps tab in Google Search Console.

  1. 2. Review Indexing of your websites

You can check which pages of your website are indexed and which are not using Index Coverage Report in your Google Search Console. The number of pages indexed should be equal to the total number of pages on your website, minus the ones you don’t want to get indexed.

  1. 3. Find the no-index pages

Find the pages that are blocked from indexing. The robots.txt file helps you to restrict pages from indexing.

  1. 4. Check the pages that are not internally linked

You need to check whether all pages are internally linked or not. The pages that are not internally linked are called orphan pages. You can find this information in Google Search Console. Ensure that all pages are internally linked, and there are no orphan pages.

  1. 5. Remove duplicate pages

Ensure there are no duplicate pages are there on your website. The pages with duplicate Title Tag and Description should be removed.

  1. 6. Check page speed

Ensure the page load speed of your website is good. You can use the PageSpeed Insights tool to check your website speed. It will also give solutions to improve page load speed.

  1. 7. Get your site re-crawled

Fix all the issues on your site; you can ask the search engine to re-crawl your website through Google Search Console.

Optimizing for Local SEO

  • Setup up your Google My Business page.
  • Add name, address, and phone number on all pages of your website.
  • Get some reviews on Google Reviews
  • Optimize your content for some keywords with your city or region included.

Points to Remember

  1. 1. Search engine optimization is done to maximize the number of visitors to your website by ensuring that your website content appears on top search results in search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
  2. 2. Search engine optimization can be categorized into four different streams:
  • On-page SEO
  • Off-page SEO
  • Technical SEO
  • Local SEO
  1. 3. List of activities you need to do for on-page optimization:
  • Keyword research
  • Finding topics
  • Search-related keywords
  • Use Keywords tool
  • Find keyword difficulty
  • Discover keyword trends
  1. 4. Implementing On-page SEO
  • Optimize your URL
  • Optimize your Title tag
  • Use H1 tag for your blog title
  • Use Multimedia
  • Use H2 tag for subheadings
  • Use your keyword in introduction paragraph
  • The responsive design of the blog page
  • Add some outbound links
  • Do internal linking
  • Ensure Fast loading of website
  • Use LSI keywords
  • Do image optimization
  • Use long-format content
  • Increase the time spent on your blog
  1. 5. Off-page SEO

Strategies to get do-follow backlinks:

  • Comments
  • Forums
  • Guest posts
  • Broken link building
  • Brand mentions
  • Social bookmarking
  1. 6. Technical SEO checklist
  • Review your website sitemap
  • Review indexing of your websites
  • Find the no-index pages
  • Check the pages that are not internally linked
  • Remove duplicate pages
  • Check page speed

Assignment

  1. 1. Find out at least 10 new keywords for your website.
  2. 2. Write a blog for any one keyword and optimize the blog for search engines.
  3. 3. Create a backlink for the blog you have created.
  4. 4. Follow the same process for the remaining nine keywords.