The beginners’ guide to SEO

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SEO in its simplest term means making your website search engine friendly. What does that mean? To rank your website and individual links well, a search engine like Google needs to

  • Crawl your website and individual links

  • Index your website and individual links

  • Rank your website and individual links for search terms it feels are appropriate

It may seem simple, but it is not, especially when millions of websites, URLs and other forms of content (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, images, videos, and such) are being crawled and indexed by Google on daily basis.

It may take Google and Bing a few hours, a day, a few days, a week, a few weeks, a month, and even many months to visit your domain and crawl all the URLs present under your website. That is, if you don’t pursue SEO strategically.

In this blog post I’m going to explain to you what basic steps you can take to make sure that your website is crawled and indexed for the right search terms (also called keywords) as early as possible.

So, what is SEO, and more importantly, what’s the right SEO?

Long gone are the days when SEO simply meant repeatedly using your keywords in the copy of your web page whether it made sense or not.

Google has employed somewhere around 200-300 search engineers with PhD’s in mathematics and various computer sciences who are constantly refining the search algorithm. They want to make sure that when people use Google, only quality content comes up.

Why?

If people go on finding junk content, meaningless content, they will stop using the search engine and they will shift to a search engine that finds relevant content for them.

Why would Google want that? Its 80% business (these days Google also has other products too) depends on people using its search engine as much as possible. For that, it must give preference to quality content, the most appropriate content for the search terms being used by individual users.

With SEO, you help Google crawl and index all your web pages and then give its algorithms maximum possible help to decide for which keywords your web pages should be ranked higher compared to web pages from other websites.

How do you do that?

SEO has three sides:

  • The source code of your website that should be optimised

  • The content of your website that should be high-quality and relevant

  • The endorsement by the visitors and other online publishers

Importance of optimised source code for SEO

Often, we get carried away when including features on our website. We use big JavaScript libraries. We use lots of images (there is an SEO way of using images) instead of text. We use animations without their textual counterparts.

Do you know that when the Google crawler begins to crawl your website it should be able to access your main content within 1-2 sections? If you have lots of code, lots of HTML tricks, lots of JavaScript-supported animations, it takes longer for the crawler to reach the main content of your web page, and it may leave midway.

Therefore, keep your source code as simple and optimised as possible. If you can do without lots of JavaScript, then avoid it.

Whenever you use images, always use the ALT attribute to fill in textual information describing what the image shows.

For example, if you have an image of a tiger running, you should have ALT=”this image shows a tiger running”.

What about meta tags?

Different SEO experts have different views on whether meta attacks till matter or not. But extra information never hurts. As long as meta tags don’t adversely affect your SEO, use as many as you want.

The title tag, of course, is one of the most important tags in your source code so you can never omit that.

In fact, it is highly recommended that you try to use your main keywords or search phrases within your title tag. The title tag of your web page appears in the search results as hypertext. Repeated research has shown that people tend to click those links more where they see the keywords or search terms they have just used.

Description is important. Description appears in the search results beneath your hyperlink and people who are drawn to your description are also drawn to your website. So, make your description as convincing and informative as possible.

But of course, this tutorial is not about the importance of meta tags, it is about some basic, beginners knowledge of SEO. Anyway, the biggest takeaway of this section should be, keep your source code as clean as possible and only keep those functions on your website and individual web pages that are extremely important; ditch the rest.

Importance of high-quality content for SEO

By the end of the day, all that matters is, your content. If your content is not up to the mark, your website is not going to enjoy good search engine rankings.

How does the Google ranking algorithm know the quality of your content?

Artificial intelligence can beat chess masters like Garry Kasparov; don’t you think it can analyse your content and gauge its quality? Sure it can.

The Google ranking algorithm doesn’t just depend on artificial intelligence though, and this is why the true quality and relevance of your content plays the most important part.

How? Read on.

Importance of endorsement from your visitors and other online publishers

Grapevine (because Google never reveals how they rank your web pages) has it that RankBrain has almost 30% impact on your search engine rankings.

RankBrain is an artificial intelligence module that observed how people interact with your content. It takes note of

  • How much time people spend on the link they find through Google search?

  • Do they come back to Google and carry on the same search (means they didn’t find what they were looking for on your link)?

  • How many people share your link on social media?

These actions are carried out by humans, and even if you are genius enough to trick AI into believing that you’ve got relevant information, you cannot do the same with your human visitors.

Suppose one of your links ranks well for a keyword. People can easily find it and they click it and go to your link.

But they leave the link within a few seconds, come back to Google and carry out the same search, and this time they click the link that appears below your link.

If they spend more time in that link, Google thinks that that link is more useful than your link: in search results Google gives your position to that link and that link’s position to your link, and this goes on, until your link has moved so down that it can never be found.

Make people stay longer on your link by providing relevant information.

You must also get endorsement from other online publishers.

Why would people link to your content, to one of your URLs?

Google thinks that people link to you because your content adds value to their websites. I wouldn’t just randomly link to a website. I would only link if I think that there is useful content on that website and my own visitors will benefit if they checkout that website link.

At least this is what Google thinks.

This is called “backlinking”: your website needs quality backlinks to improve its SEO.

There are professional services that can get you quality backlinks although such an exercise is frowned upon by Google. Howsoever you get them, they are important for your SEO.

Hence, there are three main factors you should focus on if you want to improve your SEO:

  • Optimised source code

  • High-quality and relevant content

  • Endorsement from your visitors and other online publishers

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