Do you want to learn everything about SEO? I wanted to create this guide to help you understand the basics of SEO and how it can help you grow your business. To convert your website, visitors, into customers, you’ll want the help of keywords to drive that traffic. Your paid ads don’t have to do all the hard work (or else you’re just wasting money). Before I teach you how it works and how to do it, let’s first go over the definition of SEO, and then we will dive into how SEO works.
What Is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization. SEO is the process of taking steps to help a website or piece of content rank higher on Google.
The key difference between SEO and paid advertising is that SEO involves “organic” ranking, which means you don’t pay to be in that space. To make it a bit simpler, search engine optimization means taking a piece of online content and optimizing it so search engines like Google show it towards the top of the page when someone searches for something.
Look at it this way. When someone types “vegan lasagna” into Google, they’re likely looking for a recipe, ingredients, and instructions on how to make it. If you wrote an article about making vegan lasagna, you’d want people to find your recipe. For anyone to find it, you need to rank above all the other websites with recipes for vegan lasagna. It’s not easy, but that’s what SEO marketing is all about.
Let’s break it down even further: The majority of online searches begin with a search engine like Google. In fact, 75 percent of those searches start on Google.
To better understand how you can rank your content higher in the search engines, you need to first understand how search works.
The ultimate goal of this article is to help you understand the ins and outs of search so you can optimize your content to rank higher on Google and get more eyeballs on your posts.
Core Elements of SEO: On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO
When it comes to broader SEO, there are two equally important paths: on-page SEO and off-page SEO.
On-page SEO is about building content to improve your rankings. This comes down to incorporating keywords into your pages and content, curating high-quality SEO copywriting content regularly, making sure your metatags and titles are keyword-rich and well-written, among other factors.
Off-page SEO is the optimization happening outside your website itself, such as earning backlinks. This part of the equation involves building relationships and creating content people want to share. Though it takes a lot of legwork, it’s integral to technical SEO success.
SEO Strategies: Black Hat Vs. White Hat
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I’ve always played the long-term entrepreneurial game, and I believe it’s the way to go. However, this isn’t the case with everyone. Some people would rather take the quick gains and move onto something else.
When it comes to SEO, going for quick gains is often referred to as “black hat SEO.” People who implement black hat SEO tend to use sneaky tactics like keyword stuffing and link scraping to rank quickly. It might work for the short-term and get you some traffic to your site, but after a while, Google ends up penalizing and even blacklisting your site so you’ll never rank.
On the other hand, white hat SEO is the way to build a sustainable online business. If you do SEO this way, you’ll focus on your human audience.
You’ll try to give them the best content possible and make it easily accessible by playing according to the search engine’s rules.
This image from Inbound Marketing Inc. does an exceptional job of breaking it down, but let me shine some additional light on these topics:
- Duplicate content: When someone tries to rank for a certain keyword, they might duplicate existing effective content from other pages to try and be relevant on that topic. Google penalizes sites that do this. There’s also the risk of keyword cannibalization, where you have multiple pages from the same site competing against each other for rankings.
- Invisible text and keyword stuffing: Years ago, a black hat strategy was to include a ton of keywords at the bottom of your articles but make them the same color as the background. This strategy will get you blacklisted very quickly. The same goes for stuffing in keywords where they don’t belong. Another example of keyword stuffing is an article that tries to include a given keyword as many times as possible, to the point where sentences appear unnatural.
- Cloaking and redirecting: When it comes to redirects, there’s a right and wrong way to do it. The wrong way is buying up a bunch of keyword-rich domains and directing all the traffic to a single site. The right way is using them strategically to avoid keyword cannibalization or improve the user experience.
- Poor linking practices: Going out and purchasing a Fiverr package promising you 5,000 links in 24 hours is not the right way to build links. You need to get links from relevant content and sites in your niche that have their own traffic.
Since Google penalizes sites that do these things, you’ll only hear me talk about white hat SEO.
There is such a thing as gray hat SEO, though. That means it’s not as pure or innocent as the whitest of white hats, but it isn’t quite as egregiously manipulative as black hat techniques can be. You’re not trying to trick anyone or intentionally game the system with gray hat. However, you are trying to get a distinct advantage.
See, Google’s standards aren’t as clear-cut as they’d like you to believe. Many times, they might even say contradictory things. For example, Google has said they’re not a fan of guest blogging to build links.
Now, what about guest blogging to grow your brand? What if you do it to build awareness, generate high-quality traffic back to your site, and become a household name in the industry?
In the SEO world, it’s not so much about what you do but how you do it. If you’re purchasing guest posts on sites that have nothing to do with your niche and spamming a bunch of links, you’re going to get penalized. If you’re creating unique guest posts that provide value to readers on sites that are relevant to you, you’ll be fine, and the link juice will flow nicely to your site.
SEO Marketing Basics: The Complete Breakdown
Now it’s time to learn how to do SEO marketing. Understanding it is one thing, but SEO requires a lot of action and time. This is not something you can make a change to today and expect to see results tomorrow. SEO takes daily actions with the goal of long-term success.