Understanding the SEO Basics


I’ve learned a lot about SEO since I’ve been involved in internet marketing. I pay attention to what works for me, what doesn’t work for me, and what works for others that I respect and trust. Just about everyone with a website is willing to give you SEO tips, but not everyone should.

Here are some things you should know that will help you get traffic from Google, Bing/Yahoo.

SEO Basics

SEO is focused on getting traffic from search engines, primarily Google since they handle approximately 66% of the search market. Of course, search engines aren’t the only source of traffic. You can get traffic from social media, word of mouth, advertisements, email marketing, and so on and so forth. In this article, I’m talking about SEO only.

The ultimate goal with SEO is to rank number 1 for specific keywords. When a person goes to Google and types in whatever keyword you’re targeting, you want to be the very first website at the top of the list. If your website shows up at the top of that list, you’ll get free targeted traffic. Targeted traffic just means people that are actually interested in the subject matter of your website.

Your goal is to get to one of the top 3 spots in the search results. The top 3 spots get the majority of clicks. If your website is 4 or below, you’ll get significantly less traffic for that keyword.

Of course, results will vary depending on the market and the keywords, but you can also get traffic from long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are keywords that are generally longer, but searched for less often.

For example, if someone goes to Google and types in “how can i use SEO to get traffic to my website,” that is a long-tail keyword. Not a lot of people search using that same phrase but a lot of people DO search using very similar phrases.

For example:

  • How can I use SEO to get traffic to my website
  • How can I get traffic to my site using SEO
  • Learn how to drive traffic to my blog with SEO

All of these queries are looking for the same answer but they use slightly different language. That’s the benefit of having a blog. You’ll get traffic for a lot of different long-tail keywords, just by posting more content on your website. If you write articles on topics that people are searching for, you’ll end up getting long-tail traffic.

On-Page SEO Factors

Search engine optimization is typically broken down into on-page SEO factors and off-page SEO. On-page SEO is everything you can do to your website to increase your chances of ranking well for various keywords. Off-page SEO is primarily getting backlinks.

SEO starts with keyword research. If you don’t know how to do keyword research, I’ll be posting a detailed article and/or video on it soon.  Otherwise, you can check out this short article on choosing keywords.

Domain Name

Once you have the keywords you want to target, you can buy an exact match domain, a partial match domain, or a brand name domain. For example, if your keyword is “learn internet marketing,” the exact match domain is “learninternetmarketing.com,” a partial match domain would be “learninternetmarketinghq.com” or “internetmarketingking.com,” and a brand name domain would be “rumorranch.com,” or your own personal name.

In the past, Google would give an SEO boost for having an exact match domain. It made it a little easier to rank higher in the search results pages. For that reason, niche marketers loved exact match domains. However, Google has been turning down the weight given to exact match domains and it doesn’t mean as much today as it used to in the good ol’ days.

There is a lot to say about domain names, but I’ll save that for another article. Just know that if you want a slight SEO boost, consider using keywords in your domain.

When it comes to getting good SEO results, every little bit helps. You can choose to do things any way you want to and it probably won’t make or break your website. If you don’t want a domain with keywords in it, then don’t do it. You could still rank for keywords that you target. If you want to use a .info domain (probably the worst TLD), go for it. You could still rank for keywords that you target. It might be harder, but you could still do it.

Everything is cumulative with SEO. The more good SEO practices you follow, the easier it will be for you to rank well. If you ignore good SEO practices, then you’ll be making it harder for yourself. Generally speaking, no ONE thing will determine whether or not you can get to the first page of search results. But, together, the choices you make will make a big difference. Do as many things as you can to make it easier for yourself.

Website Title

It’s important to put your main keyword, or important keywords, in the title of your website. The title of your website is at the top of your browser and it’s the link that search engines provide in the search results. The title tells search engine robots and potential visitors what the blog is about.

Remember, the home page of your website is just one page. Google ranks pages, so every blog post is a new page and an opportunity to rank for a new keyword, if you so choose. For example, this article could potentially rank for the keyword phrase “SEO Basics.” The phrase is in the title, it’s in the url, it’s in the description, and it’s in the content. If I developed backlinks using “SEO Basics” as the anchor text for some of those links, I could move up in the search results for that phrase. Every blog post is a new opportunity to rank for any given keyword.

If you set your blog up properly, when you use a keyword phrase in the title of your page, or post, the keyword phrase will also be in the url. All you need to do is make sure your Permalink settings are on custom and set to “Post Title” only. It’s a simple change and it’s one more thing that can help you achieve your search engine ranking goals.

Website Description

The description of your webpage is what Google uses in their search results. It’s a few lines of text and tells people what your website is about. Google doesn’t have to use the description that you provide, but if it’s helpful and accurate, they probably will. When you write the description, keep it short, use your keywords, but write it for people first. People will look at the description to determine if they want to visit your website so make sure it’s not just a bunch of keywords thrown together. Don’t forget, you can write a new description for every page too.

Webpage Headings

If you have headings on your webpage, include your keyword phrase as a heading, if it makes sense to do so. Most people in the SEO community agree that using a keyword with the “h1 tag,” or an “h2 tag,” provides an SEO benefit. I can’t say that I’ve seen any concrete studies, but it makes sense that Google would attach more importance to a heading than they would regular paragraph text. That doesn’t mean write the entire page using heading text. Even a search engine program could tell there’s something wrong with a 300 word heading.

Webpage Content

If you want to rank for a specific keyword, you should use that phrase in the content on the page you’re trying to get ranked for. Some people go so far as to say you should use your keyword for every 100 words that you type, or some variation of that. Others say that you should write your content for people that will visit your site, not search engine robots. My preference is to write for people and if I use the keyword great. If not, life goes on.

Use related keyword phrases in your content. If you are targeting “SEO basics” for your keyword, then use similar keywords like “learn SEO,” or “SEO tips.” Those are related keywords and they can help give you a boost in your SEO effort. Obviously, search engine robots can’t determine the quality of articles but they can identify words and that’s how they know to index your webpage for specific words or phrases.

Internal Link Structure

Although this may sound complicated, it’s not. I’m sure many SEO experts can make it complicated for you but I’m gonna keep it simple. Internal link structure is essentially how you use links on your website to link to other pages on your website. By linking to other pages of your website, you can give those pages an SEO boost.

The idea goes something like this. Search engine robots crawl your website looking for links and content. When they find a link, they follow that link and look for more links and content. If you have several links throughout your website that link to a specific page that you are trying to get ranked for a certain keyword, Google will attach more importance to that page because there are more links pointing to that page.

This might be a good time to talk about anchor text links. Anchor text links are links that use actual text as the link. For example, this is an anchor text link – learn internet marketing. An anchor text link using a keyword phrase is much better than a link using non-relevant text, such as “click here,” or a simple url, such as http://superbadinternetmarketing.com. Using a keyword as the anchor text tells Google what the linked page is about and helps you rank for that keyword.

Before you start linking to other pages on your website, it’s important to understand “link juice.” Link juice is an informal term that represents the strength or authority of a link. For example, if a link comes from a really strong, popular website, that link has more link juice than a link from a brand new site that gets no visitors. In addition, every page has a limited amount of link juice to give away. So, the more links on a page, the less link juice those links will pass on. Let’s look at an example.

Let’s say this specific webpage has 10 units of link juice to give away (completely hypothetical example). If I have 1 link on this page to my homepage, my homepage would receive the full 10 units of link juice. If I have 10 links on this page leading to 10 different pages on my website, each page would only receive 1 unit of link juice. So, you can choose to give more link juice or less link juice, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.

Let me be clear. Link juice is theoretical. I am not aware of any way that you can determine an actual number to say how much link juice any given page has (although I have seen people try). It’s only helpful to understand the value of links. The more links you have on any given page, the less strength each of those links will have. That’s how the theory goes anyway.

So, back to internal linking. You don’t want to link to every page on your website. The ideal scenario is to link to your important pages. I have an “about” page and a “privacy policy” page on this website but I have no intention of linking to them from any of my posts unless it’s to help visitors find something. I save my internal links for the pages that I’m trying to get ranked for.

Keep in mind that Google does take into consideration where your link is located. Even though you could get 100 links immediately if you put a link to your website in the sidebar or the footer (if you have 100 pages on your blog) Google does not give those links the same value they would give to a link found in your content. And, Google is constantly adjusting their algorithm to provide better search results.

The bottom line is that we create websites for people. Create your content for people while keeping the SEO basics in mind.

For example, in addition to helping with SEO, it’s also helpful to include internal links to help readers find information. If I’m referencing another article on my website, it would be helpful for the person reading that article to be able to click on a link and go directly to that page. Always look at things from the visitors perspective, but keep in mind the SEO fundamentals.

Off-Page SEO Factors

Off-page SEO is basically getting backlinks. Backlinks are links to your site from other websites. The more links you have, and the better links you have, the higher you’ll be in the search results. Most people compare backlinks to “votes.” Getting a backlink is like getting a vote from another website. If you want to win, get lots of votes.

When it comes to SEO, all backlinks are NOT created equal. Some are better than others. I don’t think anyone can tell you the precise numeric value of each link and how it affects your overall SERP position. That’s information that only Google has and they don’t like to share that information. Google does provide general information about SEO, but not the details that most people want to know.

First of all, Google needs to be aware of your link, so you need to make sure that the pages that you’re getting links from are crawled by Google. If not, the backlink won’t help you.
 I use two main resources to track backlinks. Both are free.

First, is Google Webmaster Tools. Among other things, the tool shows you exactly how many backlinks you have, what pages they link to, what webpages they come from, and the anchor text most commonly used to link to your site. If you know you have links from a website but they’re not showing up in your Google Webmaster Tools, you need to figure out why. You don’t want to waste your time getting links if Google isn’t picking them up.

The second resource is Yahoo Site Explorer (no longer exists). Yahoo site explorer tracks how many links your site has and what websites are linking to your site. You can also use site explorer to explore other websites. If you want to know where your competitors are getting their links from, run the domain through Yahoo Site Explorer and you can see for yourself.

It looks like Yahoo Site Explorer is being eliminated.  Apparently, Yahoo is trying to make itself irrelevant.  When Yahoo Site Explorer disappears, you can use another site called Open Site Explorer. This is a great resource for checking backlinks. It gives a detailed backlink profile for whatever website url you enter, including your competitors., although it’s not very good for newer websites because it’s slow to register new links across the internet. Check it out and see what you think.

Most people believe that the link information from Yahoo and Google isn’t 100% accurate. In addition, the results are delayed. Obviously it takes time for the search engines to find the links and get them into the system. Your links will change over time also. You might gain some links. You might lose some links. Don’t obsess over it and keep getting backlinks from the best resources you can.

There are some common beliefs when it comes to getting backlinks. I can’t tell you with 100% certainty that all of these beliefs are accurate, but I would say the majority of people in the SEO community agree on most of them. When it comes to backlinks, it’s hard to tell what links are having the most effect and why. With that said, here are some of the common beliefs relating to backlinks.

  • Backlinks with keyword phrase anchor text are more valuable than a url link or non-keyword links.
  • Backlinks from webpages with high PageRank are better than links from low PageRank pages. PageRank, created by Google, is a number between 0 and 10. The number generally represents the strength or authority ofthe webpage. The higher the number, the stronger the website.
  • Backlinks within content are better than links from sidebars or footers. Also, the sooner the backlink appears in the article or blogpost, the better. In other words, put the backlink at the beginning of your article instead of the end.
  • Backlinks from different domains (and IP addresses) are better than multiple links from the same domain. Ten backlinks from ten different sites is better than ten backlinks from the same website.
  • “No follow” backlinks aren’t as valuable as “do follow” links. No follow links are links tagged as do not follow, which is a direction to search engine robots not to follow the link. Some people will say that no follow links are totally worthless with respect to Google. Others will say they do have value. In a recent study on SEOMoz, they pointed out that no follow links actually helped with ranking.
  • If you obtain a lot of backlinks very quickly, it could cause Google to put your website in the “sandbox.” Getting sandboxed means that Google will either take you out of the index or your ranking will drop drastically. Don’t worry, it’s usually temporary. If you keep building backlinks and keep building your website up, you’ll eventually end up where you should be.
  • It’s not good to buy backlinks. Google usually knows the link farms and having backlinks from “bad” websites could have a negative affect on your website. Although generally, Google doesn’t punish you for links to your site, since you can’t control who links to you.

Backlinks and Blogs

Blogs present some unique issues for search engines. If you have a backlink in the sidebar (or footer) of a blog, that’s a backlink from every page that the sidebar appears on, which is usually every page. A blog with 100 pages would give you 100 backlinks if you put your link in the sidebar. It’s an easy way to get a lot of backlinks very quickly. It’s also an easy way to manipulate your link count.

Google is constantly changing their algorithm to factor in the unique characteristics of blogs. Since Google doesn’t really want people manipulating the search results in that way, they recently filed a patent that indicates they won’t be giving as much value to links in sidebars and footers. I don’t know what Google will do and how things will change, but I would definitely take that information into consideration before relying heavily on sidebar links as your primary source of backlinks.

SEO Summary

SEO is a very important part of any traffic strategy. Search engines can bring you targeted visitors that are searching for what you offer. When you start your website, implement as many good SEO practices as you can. Remember, SEO is cumulative. Every thing you do builds upon the other things and together they can make a big difference. Pay attention to your results and once you find out what works for you and your website, keep doing it.

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