SEO Simplified! Increase your Search Rankings in 2019!!Reading Time: 11 minutes
Search engine optimization (SEO) is intertwined with the field of Content Marketing, and involves creating valuable content optimized to appear in search results, in hopes of driving profitable interactions with a targeted audience. While the field of SEO is complex and forever evolving, it doesn’t have to be complicated to understand. I read Rather than thumbing through epic guides, the purpose of this guide is to make SEO Simplified and increase your search rankings in 2019!!
“Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.” –Google’s Webmaster Guidelines
The most important factor for improving your search rankings is high authority back-links.
What gets social shares and high authority backlinks?
Original research, infographics, and comprehensive — over-the-top — high-quality content.
Speed, UX, responsive design and backlinks are the major factors influencing your domain authority, which determines your ability to rank for competitive search terms. Internal link structure and cornerstone content let Google know which keywords are most important to your website. Optimizing each page for different long-tail keywords will bring in trickles of traffic that gradually become a steady stream. Besides these core factors, there are hundreds of on and off-site optimizations that will incrementally improve your visibility in search.
- Finding Your First SEO Keyword
- Domain Authority
- Internal Linking
- How to get Backlinks
- Additional Resources
Search Engine Optimization involves an array of practices designed to make your website visible in search results and bring in traffic. It involves optimizing each page for relevant search queries and creating quality content that high-authority sites will want to link to. As a result of proper SEO practices, your site should become more appealing to its visitors and search engines.
SEO optimization is a multi-faceted and continual process. Don’t get lost in the details: focus on small achievable changes, and continual improvement. Don’t be tempted to cheat the system, using scammy techniques. It doesn’t matter how many optimizations you use. Without quality content, your visitors won’t stick around and Google will take notice.
Know Your Self-Know Your Customer
We’re going to hunt for keywords that real people are using, and optimize our site for the most relevant and approachable keywords for our site. Before we begin hunting for keywords, let’s have a brainstorming session. It’s important to define the identity of our site clearly, and the market we are targeting.
I want you to keep two master lists that can evolve and be revised as we go, and will provide inspiration for our keyword research. One will be a list all about the identity of your site\service\blog. Simply write down some main themes that identify what your site is about, and what you or the organization responsible for the site are about. This will include some phrases that describe the services or products you offer. If you offer many services, try to come up with as many specific examples to include in your list.
Next, we’ll make a new list all about the market we wish to attract. Who is your customer? The more specific and targeted you are, the more likely you are to connect with that customer. In essence, SEO practices revolve around finding a multitude of specifically targeted segments of internet traffic. Sure, you could do business with anyone, of any demographic, but you can’t market to the entire world at one go. To be found online, you need to offer specific solutions to specific people. Insights into our target demographics can give us ideas for content and secondary keywords that tie into the main theme.
Market Research Tools
- Hubspot: Make My Persona – a helpful tool for creating customer personas.
- Yougov – measures the popularity and fame of anything and everything, based on millions of responses from the American public.
- Demographics Pro – analyze Twitter and Instagram profiles to give you insight into the followers.
- Think With Google – Marketer’s Almanac
- factfinder.census.gov – search U.S. census data.
- Pew Research – economic conditions, political attitudes, social media usage—interactive charts
- Hubspot Research
- Freelance Writing
- Freelance Tech Writer
- Freelance Blogger: Blockchain, Data Science, VR\AR, Quantum Computing, Tech Trends
The above examples of a writer promoting their services are successively more specific. In the first example, the author is unlikely to connect with a client, since no-one really searches for a generic freelance writer, and even if they do, its a highly competitive term. The second example is better, because there are plenty of people in the market for a tech writer, but that’s still too competitive and generic. The last example is ok, but still broad.
- Documentation and Technical Writing for Blockchain Tech
- Freelance Writer for Decentralized Identity
- Bitcoin Mining Blogger for Hire
The above examples are for illustrative purposes, and show how our writer can more specifically target their clientèle. The point of this brainstorming exercise is to open our minds and get the creative juices flowing.
Finding your First SEO Keyword
We’ll start by searching for a long-tail keyword for our main page. This keyword will speak directly to the purpose of your website, with low enough competition that you can be competitive with it. Your website must be an accurate result for the keyword. If your page gets to the top of Google, you need satisfied visitors to stay there.
Based upon your brainstorming session, you should have a head start towards thinking of keyphrases someone might use to find your service or that of your competitors. Now that you have a handful of seed keywords, plug them into a one or a few of these free tools to help you come up with more ideas:
Next, you can feed your favorites into Google Keyword Planner, up to 10 at a time, from which it will generate many more. This list, with approximate traffic and other statistics, can be exported to .csv and sorted through in your spreadsheet program. Eliminate the most difficult, and find some low competition keywords that you could possibly rank for that describe your service.
Enter some of your potential keywords into Google with the SEOQuake chrome extension installed to analyze the actual difficulty of that keyword. Compare your website’s authority to that of the sites in your results. You are looking for low-authority sites ranking for your target keyword, especially if they aren’t optimized specifically for that keyword. Wordtracker Scout is another helpful tool you can use that shows you a word cloud of the most prevalent words on any webpage.
You can optimize each page for as many as 2-3 keywords that revolve around the main theme, but take care that you don’t optimize different pages for the same keywords. Don’t overstuff keywords. There are a number of tools for checking your keyword density, including one by Copywritely.com that will let you know if you’re overstuffing.
Keyword Research Tools
Here are a few keyword research tools you can use for free:
- Amazon’s Kewordtool.io
- Google Trends [how-to]
- Jaaxy – has “quoted search result” feature, good for determining keyword competition
- AdWord & SEO Keyword Permutation Generator
- Wordstream Free Keyword Tools
- Topvisor – keyword tools – monitors the position of web pages for different keywords on Search Engine Result Pages.
- Keywordeye – keyword research with visualizations
- nTopic – gives your content a “relevancy score” and offers keyword suggestions to improve it.
- answerthepublic.com – finds questions, prepositions, comparisons, alphabeticals, and related searches.
- Google Correlate – finds search patterns corresponding with real‐world trends
- Keywordseverywhere.com – browser addon providing search volume, CPC & competitive data.
- Soovle – suggested keywords from Google, YouTube, Bing, Amazon and more.
- SERPS – Rank Checker
- Check your raking for a given keyword
The best keyword research tools, with the most data, and many more keywords than available in free tools. SEMRush and Ahrefs are two of the most widely acclaimed of such tools, and offer much more than just keyword research. They each have limited free trials available that provide a lot of value even if you don’t intend to make a purchase.
The difficulty of ranking for a given keyword will depend upon your site’s domain authority. Your domain authority is influenced largely by how many high authority sites link back to yours. Speed, mobile responsiveness, UX, and internal linking are also important factors influencing our domain authority. Making use of high-quality images, video, and providing a quality user experience also have an impact on our domain authority. Generally speaking, your domain authority is a reflection of your overall SEO practices.
SEO professionals depend on services such as Moz, Majestic, and Ahrefs for domain authority metrics.
Here are some free tools that can get us started:
- Website Authority Checker
- Bulk Domain Authority Checker
- Bulk DA, PA & IP Checker – SEOWEATHER
- Domain Authority Checker
UX Analytic Tools
There are also a number of free tools available providing speed, mobile and usability metrics:
- Usability Testing
- Test your mobile speed
- PageSpeed Insights – Make your web pages fast on all devices
- Responsive Design Testing across Devices
- Pingdom – Speed tools
Proper use of internal linking, to highlight your cornerstone content is crucial to SEO. Cornerstone content provides the main themes of your site, and are the pages that Google places the most importance on. You will begin with 1 cornerstone that is worthy of being linked to, and all about your site: who you are, what content people will find on it, what services you provide.
You will develop multiple cornerstone pages, for each theme of your site, branching out from the main theme. Those pages will link between each other, and the rest of your content should link to and from them. All of your content revolves around the main cornerstone. Using your target keyword as the text for internal links can improve the authority of your page for that keyword.
Cornerstone content helps both visitors and search engines get to know you better, and are the most important articles on your website. This is the content that reflects most immediately upon your business. These articles should be easy to find and should be no more than two clicks away from the main page.
In addition to lots of internal links, cornerstone content needs to be better than the rest of the articles on your site. That’s what will get them ranking in search engines. For those using WordPress, the Yoast SEO plugin is a preferred application that helps you optimize your entire site and has analytics designed specifically for cornerstone content.
How to get Backlinks
The best way to get other sites linking to yours is to look at sites you would like a backlink from, and figure out what type of content they already link to. Then you can create content so much better, that other websites have no choice but to link to yours. Even better if you can get a link on a high authority site like Wikipedia.
Backlinks need to be relevant to your site. Google’s algorithm can detect spammy backlinks, and gives the most weight to high authority, relevant, backlinks. Be sure to use the keywords in your cornerstone content to let Google know which backlinks are the most relevant to your product.
Long-Form Educational Content
The practice of finding subjects that you can write about and outperform the competition goes by names including 10x content and the skyscraper technique. Any time you are researching a subject and have to read 20 articles to get all of the information you need — that could become the topic of your next Skyscraper article. If you find some amazing guide that is a few years old, and out of date, you could create a new, updated, version. Content with quality visuals, infographics, and original research are all more likely to be shared than without those qualities.
If you can create content of a higher quality, covering a subject more comprehensively than other widely linked articles; include stunning visuals, original infographics, and original research; Well, then you will have created the perfect storm of shareable linkable content.
In fact, if you’ve got an assortment of under-performing articles in your blog history, you’d do better to combine some of them or expand upon them to create a few comprehensive long-form articles that will get links, rank in search, and drive traffic. Historical optimization involves figuring out how to get more traffic to content that converts, how to get more conversions out of content that has traffic, eliminating old content that isn’t providing value, and building upon old content to get more value from it.
Tools for Content Creators
- Canva Infographic Creator
- easel.ly – free create infographics
- Amara – create captions for YouTube videos.
- Content Strategy Tool – Find inspiration for your content marketing topics
- Copyscape – track if your content is being plagiarized.
- Google Public Data – content research, infographics, and more.
- Google SERP Snippet Optimization Tool – see how your snippet may appear in search results.
- infogr.am – create infographics and data visualizations
- Text Cleaner – cleans up all kinds of text formatting when copying and pasting between applications.
- wordle – word cloud generator
- Yahoo Pipes combines feeds “into content and other magical creations”.
- Piktochart – visualization generator.
- Wistia – SEO-friendly video hosting.
Once you’ve created top-of-class content, now you need to build links to it. Of social media platforms, social answer sites are high impact, and don’t require a following. If your content is comprehensive enough, it shouldn’t be hard to find questions to which your link is part of an appropriate answer on sites such as Quora, and Stack Exchange. The trick is to give a comprehensive answer to the question, and offer your link as supporting information, including other helpful resources as appropriate. If you see a lot of questions on a subject you could cover well, that might be the inspiration for your next article!
Besides the numerous social outlets, a popular method in backlink research is hunting for broken links on sites you’d like to earn a link from. Once you’ve scanned the site for broken links, you can inform the webmaster of any you find and offer them yours for consideration. Since you’ve helped them by reporting the broken link, there is a higher likelihood of them including yours on their site than otherwise.
- MyBlogGuest – Community for guest blogging opportunities.
- Domain Hunter Plus – Chrome extension to check for broken links.
- Majestic SEO – Link Research\Building, Competitive Analysis – free options great for link research.
- Linksy.me Email Guesser
- mailtester.com – check an e-mail address without sending it a spam test message
- linkstant.com – alerts you when you recieve a link.
- Google Mapmaker – allows you to contribute to public map information, which may be shared and incorporated into Google Maps.
- Boomerang – follow-up email reminders.
- Buzzstream Tools Suite – Free Linkbuilding tools
- email-format.com – find the email address formats in use at thousands of companies
Now that we’ve covered the big picture, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. To begin, you should pick a good domain name.
- Each page should have a search engine and user-friendly URL structure.
- Submit an optimized XML Sitemap to Google Search Console.
- An <H1> and a Title Tag optimized for a different long tail keyword on each page.
- A unique, compelling, Meta Description for each page.
- Compressed images for speed, with optimized title tags, file names, and alt tags.
- No broken links.
- Embedded Video and\or Audio content adds value and can improve dwell time.
- Use heading tags in order (H1, H2, H3, etc.) including keywords as appropriate.
- Relevant but not keyword stuffed Anchor Text.
- Be sure to keep your SSL certificate up to date, and redirect all HTTP requests to HTTPS.
- Schema is machine readable information that allows search engines to display more information along with your link and meta description. Schema support Google’s “featured snippets,” product ratings seen within search results and other “rich snippets” that make a result appear more prominently in search.
- Calls to Action – Once you get visitors to any page, you need a call to action, inviting them to engage further. Whether you want them to learn more about your services, or sign up for your mailing list. A call to action directs the visitor to take another step, after consuming your content.
- Social Sharing feature allows visitors to share your content with a variety of social networks easily.
- Keyword density 1-3% – Don’t overstuff your page with keywords.
- Disavow Spammy Backlinks.
- Publish regularly, and update old content. It’s better to publish one Amazing article a month, than to publish 4 decent articles a month.
It can be difficult to keep track of which optimizations you’ve done, and you might have issues you would never have suspected. As with everything in SEO there are a number of free tools to help you out:
- Seomator free online SEO Audit Tool. This tool crawls your website and provides analysis.
- Browseo – See your website the way the search engine sees it.
- SEER’s SEO Toolbox
- SEO Toolbar – information including backlinks and competitive research.
- SEO Tools for Excel
- SEOgadget Tools includes Excel plugins, content strategy generator…
- URI Valet – check server headers, canonical information, analyzing redirect problems and more.
- Virante SEO Tools
- Xenu’s Link Sleuth – Site Crawler, find broken links, create sitemaps, etc.
- Raven Tools Site Audit
- Nibbler – audit for accessibility, SEO, social media, etc.
- Statcounter – Free-Lightweight analytics – alternative to Google Analytics for privacy.
- Quicksprout.com Analysis
Apply SEO to Different Platforms
Besides on-page SEO, there are optimizations that can improve your visibility via any number of platforms.
Ok, so that’s it! SEO Simplified!! Right? It’s just keyword research, cornerstone content, skyscraper content, a handful of technical optimizations… OK, SEO is a little complicated. There are other, more comprehensive, guides such as SearchEngineJournal’s Complete Guide to SEO, and Moz’ Beginners Guide to SEO that might better be called books. The intent of this guide was to give a complete beginner the broad strokes and present a reasonably complete Beginners SEO on one page.
The absolutely most important aspect of SEO in 2019 is high-quality content. All of the optimizations in the world are icing on that cake. Quality content can rank without SEO, but SEO optimizations made to promote lackluster content will only be discounted by Google’s algorithms — which are only becoming smarter as the years go on.
- Google Analytics – duh – free tools to track and analyze website data.
- Google Webmaster – Tools Suite, Diagnostic
- Google Search Console – what you’re already ranking for, straight from google.
- Google PageSpeed Insights
- Google’s Mobile Friendly Test
- Google Sitemap Generators
- Bing Webmaster Tools – Similar to Google’s Webmaster Tools.
- Statcounter – Free-Lightweight analytics – alternative to Google Analytics for privacy.
- Keyword Research Fundamentals
- Top SEO KPI
- What to do when things go wrong
- The Simple But Effective Guide to Competitive Keyword Research
- Moz guide to competitive backlink analysis
- Best SEO Tools 2019