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What is Technical SEO?

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Technical SEO refers to website and server optimizations that help program spiders crawl and index your site more effectively (to help improve organic rankings).

Technical SEO Checklist

Search engines give preferential treatment in search results to websites that display certain technical characteristics — for instance, a secure connection, a responsive design or a quick loading time — and technical SEO is that the work you would like to try to to to make sure your website does so.

Below you’ll find a checklist of important steps you’ll fancy ensuring your technical SEO is up to scratch. By following these guidelines, you’ll help to make sure that the safety and structure of your site meet the expectation of program algorithms, and is rewarded in search results accordingly.

1. Use SSL.
Secure Sockets Layer – SSL – may be a security technology which creates an encrypted link between an internet server and a browser. you’ll spot a site using SSL fairly easily: the web site URL starts with ‘https://’ instead of ‘HTTP://.’

In 2014 Google announced that they wanted to ascertain ‘HTTPS everywhere’, which secure HTTPS websites were getting to tend preference over non-secure ones in search results. =

So it is sensible, where possible, to make sure your site is secure – this will be done by installing an SSL certificate on your website, though most top website builders now include SSL by default.

2. Ensure your site is mobile-friendly.
A ‘responsive’ website design adjusts itself automatically in order that it are often navigated and skim easily on any device.

Google is obvious about the very fact that having a responsive site is taken into account a really significant ranking signal by its algorithms. And, with the introduction of Google’s ‘mobile-first’ approach to indexing content, a responsive website is now more important than ever.

So it is sensible to make sure that your website is fully responsive and can display within the best format possible for mobile, tablet, or desktop users.

3. Speed your site up.
Search engines prefer sites that load quickly: page speed is taken into account a crucial ranking signal.

There are several ways you’ll speed up your site:

Use fast hosting.
Use a quick DNS (‘domain name system’), provider
Minimize ‘HTTP requests’ – keep the utilization of scripts and plugins to a minimum
Use one CSS stylesheet (the code which is employed to inform an internet site browser the way to display your website) rather than multiple CSS stylesheets or inline CSS
Ensure your image files are as small as possible (without being too pixelated)
Compress your sites (this are often done employing a tool called GZIP)
Minify your site’s code – obviate any unnecessary spaces, line breaks, or indentation in your HTML, CSS, and Javascript (see Google’s Minify Resources page for help with this).

4. Fix duplicate content issues.
Duplicate content can either be confusing for users (and indeed program algorithms); it also can be wont to attempt to manipulate search rankings or win more traffic.

As a result, search engines aren’t keen thereon, and Google and Bing advise webmasters to repair any duplicate content issues they find.

You can fix duplicate content issues by:

Preventing your CMS publishing multiple versions of a page or post (for example, by disabling Session IDs where they’re not vital to the functionality of your website and getting obviate printer-friendly versions of your content).
Using the canonical link element to let search engines know where the ‘main’ version of your content resides.
5. Create an XML sitemap.
An XML sitemap may be a file that helps search engines to know your website whilst crawling it – you’ll consider it as being sort of a ‘search roadmap’ of sorts, telling search engines exactly where each page is.

It also contains useful information about each page on your site, including

when a page was last modified;
what priority it’s on your site;
how frequently it’s updated.
In BigCommerce, your XML site is made automatically; if you’re using another platform you’ll get to use a sitemap generator to create one.

6. Consider enabling AMP.
AMP may be a Google-backed project which aims to hurry up the delivery of content on mobile devices through the utilization of special code referred to as AMP HTML.

AMP versions of your sites load extremely quickly on mobile devices. they are doing this by stripping your content and code right down to the bare bones, leaving text, images, and video intact but disabling scripts, comments, and forms.

Because they load so fast, AMP versions of pages are much more likely to be read and shared by your users, increasing dwell time and therefore the number of backlinks pointing to your content – all goodies from an SEO point of view. On top of that, Google sometimes highlights AMP pages in prominent carousels in search results – supplying you with a crucial search bump.

7. Add structured data markup to your website.
Structured data markup is a code in which you increase your website to assist search engines better understand the content thereon. This data can help search engines index your site more effectively and supply more relevant results.

Structured Data

Additionally, structured data enhances search results through the addition of ‘rich snippets’ – for instance, you’ll use structured data to feature star ratings to reviews; prices to products; or reviewer information(example below).

Because they’re more visually appealing and highlight immediately useful information to searchers, these enhanced results can improve your click-through rate (CTR), and generate additional traffic to your site. Because sites with results featuring higher CTRs are generally considered to receive preferential treatment in search engines, it’s worth taking the trouble to feature structured data to your site.

8. Register your site with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.
Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools are free tools from Google and Microsoft respectively that allow you to submit your website to their search engines for indexing.

When you are able to launch your website, you ought to submit its XML sitemap (see above) to both Google Search Console and Webmaster Tools in order that they will crawl your new site and begin to display results from it in search results.

These services also allow you to stay an eye fixed on the overall performance of your site from an inquiry engine prospective – other belongings you can do with the tools include:

What is Technical SEO?

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What is Ecommerce?

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Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has been around for nearly as long because the internet has been public, and since the first days, organizations are using it to succeed in new audiences, bring traffic to their websites, spread knowledge, and drive growth.

But SEO has changed an excellent deal since it had been first wont to stuff as many keywords as possible into content and fill pages with backlinks. Over time, SEO has become a classy and technical practice that’s highly informed by current web user behavior, and today’s incarnation uses both on-page and off-page techniques to make sure high-quality websites make it to the highest of program result pages.

But what exactly are on- and off-page SEO and the way can digital marketers use them to serve clients? That’s exactly what today’s discussion is going to be dedicated to, so stick around to find out everything you would like to understand about modern SEO best practices.

Understanding On-Page SEO
On-page SEO involves all the on-site techniques you’ll employ to make sure a webpage will rank on a SERP, and it also can help determine how well that page ranks. It uses both content and technical elements to enhance the standard of a page, therefore the more on-page SEO you are doing, the more traffic you will get to an internet site, and therefore the more relevant that traffic are going to be.

There are many various technical aspects of a webpage which will be optimized with on-page SEO, and that they include:

Title tags
URL structure
Alt text for images
Site speed
Internal links
Meta descriptions

On-Page SEO Technical Best Practices
Title tags are HTML elements you’ll use to designate the name of a webpage, which gets displayed on SERPS because of the clickable result title. Each title tag should be unique, descriptive about what the page is about, optimized with a keyword, and under 60 characters long.

Headings are the titles you give your content, and these should be in H1 format for the simplest results. Headings should specialize in relevant and descriptive words, and while you’ll optimize them with keywords, don’t stuff them full. so as to interrupt up content, you’ll also use subheadings (H2 through H6) following an equivalent best practices, but don’t repeat keywords or phrases throughout a post.

URL structure is vital when search engines determine how relevant a page is compared to a question, and it should be descriptive of the page’s subject. you’ll also optimize URLs with keywords, goodbye as they’re relevant. An example of an honest URL structure would be http://www.shoelovers.com/red- suede-shoes (compared to www.shoelovers.com/123456).

Alt text or alternative text provides search engines with more information about a picture, though it’s typically wont to describe images to web visitors who can’t see them. As such, the alt text should be specific and descriptive of the image content, 125 characters or less, and optimized with a keyword or phrase as long as appropriate.

Page load speed is vital because slow-loading pages have high bounce rates:47 percent of individuals expect a site to load within two seconds, and 40 percent will leave after three. As such, search engines penalize slow-loading pages with a lower ranking, so it’s important to make sure fast page load speed.

Internal links make your site easy to navigate for visitors, but they also make it easier for search engines to know your site and index your pages, and this may end in a better rank. At the very least, each page on your site should link back to its category or subcategory page and to the homepage.

Meta descriptions are brief but vivid descriptions that expand on title tags, summarize a page’s content, and tell web users why they ought to read your content rather than somebody else’s. The meta description appears below the title and therefore the URL, and it should be kept below 160 characters.

Responsiveness may be a design element that ensures your page will display properly on any device, including mobile devices and desktop ones. this may still be a crucial factor as more and more people around the world use mobile devices for the online search.


Finally, a note about keywords. Keywords are the glue that holds together your on-page SEO strategy because they will be incorporated into of these technical elements to assist the proper visitors to find you at the proper time. so as to be effective, keywords must be researched and punctiliously selected, and that they must be worked into content during a natural and seamless way.

On-Page SEO and therefore the Impact of Content
While the technical aspects are important, one among the foremost crucial elements of on-page SEO is content because this is often what brings traffic to your site.
However, not just any content will do, and today’s web users are trying to find relevant, interesting, engaging, and informative content that fills a requirement. In other words, people must want to consume the content you’ve created, which may are available variety of various forms, such as:

Web page copy
Case studies
Original research
Instructional articles
Quizzes and poles
However, another important element about the content you create is that others must be ready to link thereto, which suggests avoiding content that needs a login, copyrighted material, and certain slide shows.

Off-Page SEO and therefore the Power of Quality Links
Just as keyword stuffing wont to be a suitable practice that’s gone the way of the dodo, so too is that the practice of shopping for or trading spammy backlinks in an attempt to extend page rank. The search engines are knowing these practices for a few times, and filling your page with irrelevant backlinks will actually get you penalized instead of promoted.

Although the search engines take into consideration both the amount and quality of your backlinks (as well because the number of referring domains), quality is far more important than quantity.

The key takeaway is that while backlinks are integral to off-page SEO, one quality backlink from an authoritative site is worth quite 10 or maybe 100 low-quality links. Link building isn’t the simplest task, but here are four strategies, consistent with Neil Patel, that you simply can use:

Writing guest blogs to market yourself as an expert in your field
Write content that mentions influencers in your field, because posts like this are highly popular
Scour blogs (particularly influencer blogs) in your field for broken links, then suggest replacing the broken link with content you’ve written on an equivalent subject
Take advantage of the recognition of infographics by creating many of them
For more insights on the way to create linkable content, see our article:4 winning strategies to write down content that people link to.


Other Off-Page SEO Best Practices
Although quality backlinks are the backbone of an off-page SEO strategy, there are other techniques you’ll use to extend site authority and encourage more links.

One is adding your business to local listings and internet directories, including things like Google My Business, Yelp, telephone book, and other local listings. Once added, confirm all the knowledge is accurate, which your name, address, and telephone number are consistent across all platforms.

Another way you’ll engage in off-page SEO (while also increasing trust and brand recognition) is by participating in discussions on sites like Quora and answering questions on other Q and A sites, especially if you’ve got the expertise you’ll share with the community.

A final off-page SEO technique you’ll use is submitting backlinked content to varied sharing sites, including image, audio, and video sharing sites. a number of the foremost popular of those include:

Video: Vimeo and Dailymotion
Audio: SoundCloud and Podbean
Image: Flickr, Instagram, and Pinterest
Search engine optimization best practices are evolving all the time as a web user and online consumer behavior changes, and immediately the simplest approach to SEO has a solid strategy in situ to deal with both on- and off-page elements.

On-page, the most concerns are quality content and ensuring the technical aspects of the location are optimized for speed, efficiency, and keywords. Off-page, the foremost important thing you’ll do is encourage quality backlinks from authoritative sites, because this may guarantee search engines see your site as relevant and important, and you will be rewarded with a better rank.

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What’s the Difference Between On-page and Off-page SEO?
Tony Mastri— April 9, 2018
Did you recognize that tiny businesses should allocate about 8% of their revenues to marketing?

SEO off page ON PAGE

That’s right, consistent with the SBA, a little business with under $5 million in yearly revenue should have a marketing budget consisting of around 7-8% of their yearly revenue. The SBA points out that in certain industries, a little business may even be got to earmark up to twenty of revenue during their early branding years.

But wait, we’re not through with the tiny business math lesson yet. Research shows that in 2017, a mean of 51% of all web traffic came from organic search.

If your small business marketing strategy is predominantly digital, you ought to be spending a minimum of 3-4% on program optimization (SEO). The challenge is that the majority of small business owners don’t know much about program optimization. You’re an expert in your industry, not SEO.

Although it probably won’t benefit you to find out the way to SEO your site from top to bottom, you ought to know enough to speak the talk while shopping around for the proper marketing services.

At the foremost basic level, you ought to understand the fundamentals of on-page vs. off-page SEO, and what each of those SEO segments encompass.

What Is On-page and Off-page SEO?
At the very best level, program optimization is often weakened into off-page and on-page SEO. On-page SEO consists of things that an internet site owner can directly manipulate on their site. Off-page program optimization refers to the digital signals outside of one’s own website that marketers can influence indirectly.

There are notable differences between on-page and off-page optimization in SEO which we’ll re-evaluate within the following sections. On a strategic level, off-page SEO is that the harder and tedious of the 2, so we’ll cover that first.

What is Off-page Optimization in SEO?
Off-page optimization consists of the actions which will be performed outside of your actual website to enhance your organic search rankings. These measures are meant to reflect your website’s social credibility and industry authority. Because these program ranking signals come from other websites, they can’t be easily manipulated.

Off-page SEO Factors
There are several off-site SEO factors, including:

Backlinks to your website
Brand mentions
Social signals around your website
Think of rankings as elections of sites within the program results. Your page has got to get the vote if it wants to get on page one. within the world of off-page SEO, those votes are available the shape of backlinks. Backlinks are hyperlinks from external websites that send users and program crawlers to your website.

Depending on their relevance and authority, backlinks can affect your organic rankings to different degrees. consider the importance of every one of your backlinks as being located on a plane, where the X-axis is authority, and therefore the Y-axis is relevant.

on-page vs. off-page SEO

You can have the foremost authoritative backlink within the world, but if it’s not relevant to your niche or industry, your pages will have difficulty ranking well. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you’ve got a highly relevant backlink from a site that doesn’t have any authority in your industry, you’re still getting to find it difficult to rank.

Your page rankings won’t see much benefit if your links are one-dimensional on the relevance-authority spectrum.

Brand Mentions
Too many startups and little businesses, branding may be a buzzword that only holds merit if you’ve got risk capital money backing your organization. Bootstrap entrepreneurs tend to avoid paying for branding because it may result in exorbitant costs with little or no ROI.

In this particular case, we’ve concrete evidence to verify that a brand mention may alright be one among the foremost critical off-page SEO factors for your site. consistent with Google’s Panda Patent filed in September 2012,

“An implied link may be a regard to a target resource, e.g., a citation to the target resource, which is included during a source resource but isn’t an express link to the target resource. Thus, a resource within the group is often the target of an implied link without a user having the ability to navigate to the resource by following the implied link.”

When it involves off-page SEO, brand mentions seem to be even as important as backlinks to your website.

Social Signals
Since off-site program optimization is supposed to reflect the authority of an entity within the world, it is sensible that having social credibility within the digital world may be a ranking signal.

To show that the utilization of social signals for organic rankings isn’t entirely theoretical, take a glance at the US 2016/0246789 A1 Searching Content Of Prominent Users In Social Networks Patent. Without reading through everything, this patent indicates Google’s ability to reinforce rankings supported what your social media connections find valuable.


What does this off-page SEO signal mean for you? The more shares your content gets, the upper it’ll likely rank. Social shares also create nofollow links and generate real traffic, so albeit you’re not concerned with improving your SEO, a social share will bring relevant traffic to your site.

How to Do Off-page SEO
Now that you simply realize the various sorts of off-page SEO, consider how they will be utilized in your digital marketing strategy.

Webcast, May 21st: Growth for Everyone: A Scalable Model for Any Sized Business
Unfortunately, getting another website to link to your site or mention your brand is not an easy feat. In today’s digital landscape, the foremost scalable off-page program optimization techniques are the smallest amount effective.

Most off-page SEO experts will leverage local or niche directories, and guest blogging to create backlinks.

Local and Niche Directories
Text and BrightLocal have commonly used tools for local directory listing. you merely enter your business’s information, and therefore the tools manage the footwork in order that you don’t need to.

When it involves niche business listing sites, the method is usually more involved. for instance, imagine that you’re doing SEO for law firms and you’d wish to get listed on several lawyer directories. You’ll presumably need to enter your profile information manually on each site.

Building Backlinks with Guest Blogging
When done correctly guest blogging is one of the foremost effective methods for building links to an internet site. The trick is finding websites in your industry that aren’t in direct competition together with your own, and asking the location owners/managers if you’ll contribute a blog article for his or her readers.

They get free content to publish for his or her audience, and you get to cite any of your own resources that you simply mention and link to within the article you contribute. Here are some additional tips to stay in mind while guest blogging:

Your article must be top quality – it’s a mirrored image of your brand, and therefore the publisher is more likely to stay backlinks for off-page SEO intact if your content is effective
Don’t be self-promotional – your article could be denied
Don’t stuff your article with links
Target sites that don’t compete with you – trying to urge competitors to market your ideas is typically a waste of your time
Use advanced search operators to look for sites that use “write for us,” “contributor guidelines,” or “guest blog” to market their acceptance of guest authors
What is On-page SEO?
On-page optimization in SEO refers to direct measures that will be taken on your website to enhance its rankings in search results for related queries. Examples include using related keywords within the visible content and in meta tags like your page title, image alt, and meta description.

6 On-page SEO Factors
On-page SEO boils right down to six main factors. There are quite six factors, but the six below will get you 95% of the way.

Page Titles
Page titles are far and away the foremost important on-page program optimization factor. If your site framework doesn’t have special functions to make a singular page title, it’ll usually use whatever you set because of the page name within the backend of your page.

If you’re using WordPress as your CMS (which I highly recommend), then you’ll easily use the Yoast SEO plugin to make a singular page title.

The HTML for your page title is going to be within the <head> tags, and can appear as if this:

<title>Your Page Title Here</title>
The page title is what shows up within the program results pages (SERPs), and within the browser tab at the very top of your screen. For this reason, it’s important to optimize page titles for SEO, and for user click-through.

Keep the page title length under 70 characters, and closer to 50 characters if you’ll. this may prevent your title from curtailing within the SERPs while keeping it concise and appealing. it’s been best practice to incorporate your keyword near the start of the page title if possible. However, you’ll probably see better results if you create a title that’s appealing to users and include your target keyword where it seems most natural.

Heading Tags
After the page title, heading tags (, etc.) are subsequent most vital on-page optimization factors. Use the page headings such as you would an overview for a paper. Headings should follow a logical hierarchy without skipping steps.

It’s best to only use one H1 on a page. That being said, it’s also important that your website is about one organized topic to start with. This helps Google and other search engines identify and better understand what your page is about, and if your page deserves to rank highly for related user queries.


Some marketers without an understanding of technical SEO use headings for his or her styling characteristics. for instance, content marketers sometimes use H2s once they want to stress text by making it large, despite that text not actually being important to the most content on the page. Avoid this practice, and instead, use the cascading stylesheet (CSS) to style your text. this may assist you to avoid emphasizing text to look engines that ought to really be taking a backseat.

Keyword Usage
Keyword usage within the body of your page is vital. I’m not a proponent of that specialize in employing a certain keyword density, as was common practice within the youth of SEO. However, if your page is a few certain keyword topics, it’s only logical that you simply would use your target keyword and closely related terms within the body of the page.

Similar to the primacy and recency psychological principles, it’s typically a best practice to incorporate your target keyword near the highest of your page and therefore the bottom of your page. you’ll use related keywords throughout your page to avoid keyword stuffing while still following on-page SEO best practices.

As a stimulating aside, in 2016, one among my clients’ sites was competing with another site’s page for a high-competition keyword. The keyword wasn’t visible anywhere on the competitor’s page, and still they were ranked page one, position two for this 1600 per month national keyword. The takeaway: though it’s best practice to use your target keywords within the body of your page, Google’s algorithm is becoming more and more advanced every day and exact match keyword usage isn’t do-or-die.

Including the target keyword in your page URL may be a best practice. This wont to be a crucial on-page ranking factor, but it’s alleged to account for fewer than 1% of your page’s SEO value today.

The biggest advantage of this practice is that when someone links to your page with an unadorned URL (the actual URL is employed because the anchor text), the link anchor text will still include your page’s target keyword.


Image SEO
There are three main pieces to image SEO:

Optimized image alt tag
Image filename includes the target keyword
The file size is kept to a minimum without hurting the user experience
An optimized image alt tag should include the keyword and be under 15 words. truth best practice here is to craft an honest description of the image while including your target keyword. With their image recognition technology, it’s likely easy for Google to work out when someone is keyword stuffing in a picture alt tag, and when someone is accurately describing a picture permanently user experience.

Since there are limited ways to optimize a picture, including your target keyword within the filename is additionally an honest practice. this will be difficult to try to when you’re optimizing images on an internet site that already has images without filenames that are optimized for on-page SEO. You’ll need to save the pictures to your local machine, then upload them again with the keyword-focused name.

As a final step, you’ll want to compress images before uploading them to your website. you’ll use a free online compression tool for many .jpg and .png files. A tool like Tiny PNG is typically a secure bet, and Google also released an open-source file compression program called Guetzli in 2017. Guetzli isn’t as easy for marketers to implement since you can’t simply run the program with a web tool.

Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions aren’t visible on your website but will show up under your page title within the organic search results. Your meta description should be around 300 characters, with an absolute maximum of 320.

Many times, Google will choose its own meta description from the visible content on your page that best aligns with searcher intent. This probably has the most important effect on an eCommerce SEO strategy, as meta descriptions and on-page product descriptions play an integral role within the overall page’s SEO value.

How to Do On-page SEO
Many of the on-page program optimization factors above accompany insight about implementing these components. When it involves on-page SEO and off-page SEO, on-page is simpler due to a site owner’s ability to form direct changes.

You can implement best practices on your target pages, and while blogging for SEO. You’ll just need to adjust your approach for the various searcher intent behind your keyword topics.

What are your tips for optimizing blog posts? Share them with me in the comments below!

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SEO Basics

SEO Basics

Basics: Complete Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization

WordStream has come to be known mostly as a PPC destination. But we also know a thing or two about SEO, and people ask us all the time for a primer on SEO basics. So we’re delivering: This article will be an introduction and overview of search engine optimization (SEO), a mandatory marketing tactic if you want your website to be found through search engines like Google.

SEO Basics Guide

In this guide to SEO for beginners, you’ll learn:

  1. What is SEO & Why is it Important?
  2. Keyword Research & Keyword Targeting Best
  3. On-Page Optimization Best Practices
  4. Information Architecture Best Practices
  5. How to Execute Content Marketing & Link Building
  6. Common Technical SEO Issues & Best Practices
  7. How to Track & Measure SEO Results
  8. Additional SEO Considerations (Such as Mobile,
    International & Local SEO Best Practices)

By the time you reach the end of this SEO basics
guide, you’ll have a strong understanding of what search engine optimization
is, why it’s valuable and important, and how to get great results in an
ever-changing SEO environment.

1. What is SEO
& Why is it Important?

You’ve likely heard of SEO, and if you haven’t
already, you could obtain a quick Wikipedia definition of the term,
but understanding that SEO is “the process of affecting the visibility of a
website or a web page in a search engine’s unpaid results” doesn’t really help
you answer important questions for your business and your website, such as:

  • How do you, for your site or your company’s site, “optimize” for
    search engines?
  • How do you know how much time to spend on SEO?
  • How can you differentiate “good” SEO advice from “bad” or harmful
    SEO advice?

What’s likely interesting to you as a business
owner or employee is how you can actually leverage SEO to help drive more
relevant traffic, leads, sales, and ultimately revenue and profit for your
business. That’s what we’ll focus on in this guide.

Why Should You Care About SEO?

Lots and lots of people search for
things. That traffic can be extremely powerful for a business not only because
there is a lot of traffic, but because there is a lot of very specific,
high-intent traffic

If you sell blue widgets, would you rather buy a
billboard so anyone with a car in your area sees your ad (whether they will
ever have any interest in blue widgets or not), or show up every time anyone in
the world types “buy blue widgets” into a search engine? Probably the latter,
because those people have commercial
, meaning they are standing up and saying that
they want to buy something you offer

seo primer

People are searching for any manner of things
directly related to your business. Beyond that, your prospects are also
searching for all kinds of things that are only loosely related to your
business. These represent even more opportunities to connect with those folks
and help answer their questions, solve their problems, and become a trusted
resource for them.

Are you more likely to get your widgets from a
trusted resource who offered great information each of the last four times you
turned to Google for help with a problem, or someone you’ve never heard of?

What Actually Works
for Driving Traffic from Search Engines?

First it’s important to note that Google is
responsible for most of the search engine traffic in the
world (though there is always some flux in the actual numbers). This
may vary from niche to niche, but it’s likely that Google is the dominant
player in the search results that your business or website would want to show
up in, and the best practices outlined in this guide will help position your
site and its content to rank in other search engines, as well.

Regardless of what search engine you use, search
results are constantly changing. Google particularly has updated lots of things surrounding how they rank websites by way of lots of different animal names recently,
and a lot of the easiest and cheapest ways to get your pages to rank in search
results have become extremely risky in recent years.

So what works? How does Google determine which
pages to return in response to what people search for? How do you get all of
this valuable traffic to your site?

Google’s algorithm is extremely complex, and I’ll
share some links for anyone looking to dive deeper into how Google ranks sites
at the end of this section, but at an extremely high level:

  • Google is looking for pages that contain high-quality,
    relevant information
     about the searcher’s query.
  • They determine relevance by “crawling” (or reading) your website’s
    content and evaluating (algorithmically) whether that content is relevant
    to what the searcher is looking for, mostly based on the keywords it contains.
  • They determine “quality” by a number of means, but prominent among
    those is still the number and quality of other websites that link to your
    page and your site as a whole. To put it extremely simply: If the only
    sites that link to your blue widget site are blogs that no one else on the
    Web has linked to, and my blue widget site gets links from trusted places
    that are linked to frequently, like CNN.com, my site will be more trusted
    (and assumed to be higher quality) than yours.

Increasingly, additional elements are being weighed
by Google’s algorithm to determine where your site will rank, such as:

  • How people engage with your site (Do they find the information they
    need and stay on your site, or bounce back to the search page and click on another
    link? Or do they just ignore your listing in search results altogether and
    never click-through?)
  • Your site’s loading speed and “mobile
  • How much unique content you have (versus very “thin” low-value
    content or duplicate content)

There are hundreds of ranking factors Google’s
algorithm considers in response to searches, and they are constantly updating
and refining their process.

The good news is, you don’t have to be a search
engine scholar to rank for valuable terms in search results. We’ll walk
through proven, repeatable best practices for optimizing
websites for search that can help you drive targeted traffic through search
without having to reverse-engineer the core competency of one of the world’s
most valuable companies.

If you’re interested in learning more about how
search engines work, there are a ton of great resources available, including:

Now, back to SEO basics! Let’s get into the actual
SEO tactics and strategies that will help you get more traffic from search

2. Keyword
Research & Keyword Targeting Best Practices

The first step in search engine optimization is
really to determine what it is you’re actually optimizing for. This means identifying
the terms people are searching for (also known as “keywords”)
 that you
want your website to rank for in search engines like Google.

Sounds simple enough, right? I want my widget
company to show up when people look for “widgets,” and maybe when they type in
things like “buy widgets.” Onto step three!

Unfortunately it’s not quite that simple. There are
a few key factors to take into account when determining the keywords you want
to target on your site:

  • Search Volume – The first factor to
    consider is how many people (if any) are actually searching for a given
    keyword. The more people there are searching for a keyword, the bigger the
    audience you stand to reach. Conversely, if no one is searching for a
    keyword, there is no audience available to find your content through
  • Relevance – If a term is frequently searched for
    that’s great: but what if it’s not completely relevant to your
    ? Relevance seems straight-forward at first: if you’re
    selling enterprise email marketing automation software you don’t want to
    show up for searches that don’t have anything to do with your business,
    like “pet supplies.” But what about terms like “email marketing software”?
    This might intuitively seem like a great description of what you do, but
    if you’re selling to Fortune 100 companies, most of the traffic for this
    very competitive term will be searchers who don’t have any interest in buying
    your software (and the folks you do want to reach might never buy your
    expensive, complex solution based on a simple Google search). Conversely,
    you might think a tangential keyword like “best enterprise PPC marketing
    solutions” is totally irrelevant to your business since you don’t sell PPC
    marketing software. But if your prospect is a CMO or marketing director,
    getting in front of them with a helpful resource on evaluating
    pay-per-click tools could be a great “first touch” and an excellent way to
    start a relationship with a prospective buyer.
  • Competition – As with any business
    opportunity, in SEO you want to consider the potential costs and
    likelihood of success. For SEO, this means understanding the relative
    competition (and likelihood to rank) for specific terms.

First you need to understand who your prospective
customers are and what they’re likely to search for. If you don’t already
understand who your prospects are, thinking about that is a good place to start, for your business in
general but also for SEO.

From there you want to understand:

  • What types of things are they interested in?
  • What problems do they have?
  • What type of language do they use to describe the things that they
    do, the tools that they use, etc.?
  • Who else are they buying things from (this means your competitors,
    but also could mean tangential, related tools – for the email marketing
    company, think other enterprise marketing tools)?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll have
an initial “seed list” of possible keywords and domains to help you get
additional keyword ideas and to put some search volume and competition metrics

Take the list of core ways that your prospects and
customers describe what you do, and start to input those into keyword tools
like Google’s own keyword tool or tools
like Uber
 or WordStream’s keyword tool:

You can find a more comprehensive list of keyword
tools below, but the main idea is that in this initial step, you’ll want to run
a number of searches with a variety of different keyword tools. You can also
use competitive keyword tools like SEM Rush to see what terms your
competitors are ranking for. These tools look at thousands of different search
results, and will show you each search term they’ve seen your competitor
ranking in Google for lately. Here’s what SEM Rush shows for marketing
automation provider Marketo:

SEMRush Keyword Data

Again: this doesn’t just have to be something you
look at for competitors. You could look at related tools that are selling to
the same market for content ideas, and even look at the major
niche publishers who talk about your topic (and that your prospects are
reading) and see what kinds of keywords those sites are driving traffic for.

Additionally, if you have an existing site, you’re
likely getting some traffic from search engines already. If that’s the case,
you can use some of your own keyword data to help you understand which terms
are driving traffic (and which you might be able to rank a bit better for).

Unfortunately, Google has stopped delivering a lot of the information about what
people are searching for to analytics providers
, but you can use SEM
Rush (or similar tools, such as SpyFuon your own site to
get a sense of the terms you’re ranking for and their estimated search volume.
Google also makes a bit more of this data available in their free Webmaster
Tools interface (if you haven’t set up an account, this is a very
valuable SEO tool both for unearthing search query
data and for diagnosing various technical SEO issues –
more on Webmaster Tools set up here).

Once Webmaster Tools is set up, you can navigate
to this link when logged in and see the
search queries that are driving traffic to your site:

These could be good terms to focus additional
content promotion and internal linking around (more on each of those topics
later), and could also be great “seed keywords” to help you get more great
ideas about what to target.

Once you’ve taken the time to understand how your
prospects talk and what they search for, have looked at the keywords driving
traffic to your competitors and related sites, and have looked at the terms
driving traffic to your own site, you need to work to understand which
terms you can conceivably rank for
 and where the best
opportunities actually lie

Determining the relative competition of a keyword
can be a fairly complex task. At a very high level, you need to understand:

  • How trusted and authoritative (in other words: how many links does
    the whole site get, and how high quality, trusted, and relevant are those
    linking sites?) other entire sites that will be competing to rank for the
    same term are
  • How well aligned they are with the keyword itself (do they offer a
    great answer to that searcher’s question)
  • How popular and authoritative each individual page in
    that search result is (in other words: how many links does the page itself
    have, and how high quality, trusted, and relevant are those linking

You can dive deeper into the process of determining
how competitive keywords are in Backlinko’s
in-depth guide
 or by using WordStream founder Larry Kim’s competitive index formula (tip
number 3).

There are also a variety of different tools (most
of them paid) that offer keyword difficulty scores:

And while it’s more advanced in nature, Nick
Eubanks’ post about understanding rank potential offers
a great in-depth look at not only understanding but creating an actionable
formula for determining keyword competition and your own site’s actual
likelihood of ranking for a term.

If you’re looking to dive even deeper into the
topic of keyword research and keyword targeting, there are several great
resources on the topic:

3. On-Page

Once you have your keyword list, the next step is
actually implementing your targeted keywords into your site’s content. Each
page on your site should be targeting a core term, and a “basket” of related
terms. In his overview of the perfectly optimized page Rand
Fishkin offers a nice visual of what a well (or perfectly) optimized page looks

Let’s look at a few critical, basic on-page
elements you’ll want to understand as you think about how to drive search engine
traffic to your website:

Title Tags

While Google is working to better understand the
actual meaning of a page and de-emphasizing (and even punishing) aggressive and
manipulative use of keywords, including the term (and related terms) that you
want to rank for in your pages is still valuable. And the single most impactful
place you can put your keyword is your page’s title tag.

The title tag is not your page’s
primary headline. The headline you see on the page is typically an H1 (or
possibly an H2) HTML element. The title tag is what you can see at the very top
of your browser, and is populated by your page’s source code in a meta tag:

The length of a title tag that Google will show
will vary (it’s based on pixels, not character counts) but in general 55-60 characters is a good rule of thumb here.
If possible you want to work in your core keyword, and if you can do it in a
natural and compelling way, add some related modifiers around that term as
well. Keep in mind though: the title tag will frequently be what a searcher
sees in search results for your page. It’s the “headline” in organic search
results, so you also want to take how clickable your title tag is into

Meta Descriptions

While the title tag is effectively your search
listing’s headline, the meta description (another meta HTML element that can be
updated in your site’s code, but isn’t seen on your actual page) is effectively
your site’s additional ad copy. Google takes some liberties with what they
display in search results, so your meta description may not always show, but if
you have a compelling description of your page that would make folks searching
likely to click, you can greatly increase traffic. (Remember: showing up in
search results is just the first step! You still need to get searchers to come
to your site, and then actually take the action you want.)

Here’s an example of a real world meta description
showing in search results:

Body Content

The actual content of your page itself is, of
course, very important. Different types of pages will have different “jobs” –
your cornerstone content asset that you want
lots of folks to link to needs to be very different than your support content
that you want to make sure your users find and get an answer from quickly. That
said, Google has been increasingly favoring certain types of content, and as
you build out any of the pages on your site, there are a few things to keep in

  • Thick & Unique Content –
    There is no magic number in terms of word count, and if you have a few
    pages of content on your site with a handful to a couple hundred words you
    won’t be falling out of Google’s good graces, but in general recent Panda updates in particular favor
    longer, unique content. If you have a large number (think thousands) of
    extremely short (50-200 words of content) pages or lots of duplicated content where nothing changes but the
    page’s title tag
     and say a line of text, that could get
    you in trouble. Look at the entirety of your site: are a large percentage
    of your pages thin, duplicated and low value? If so, try to identify a way
    to “thicken” those pages, or check your analytics to see how much traffic
    they’re getting, and simply exclude them (using a noindex meta tag) from search
    results to keep from having it appear to Google that you’re trying to
    flood their index with lots of low value pages in an attempt to have them
  • Engagement – Google is
    increasingly weighting engagement and user experience metrics more
    heavily. You can impact this by making sure your content answers the
    questions searchers are asking so that they’re likely to stay on your page
    and engage with your content. Make sure your pages load quickly and don’t
    have design elements (such as overly aggressive ads above the content)
    that would be likely to turn searchers off and send them away.
  • “Sharability” – Not every single
    piece of content on your site will be linked to and shared hundreds of
    times. But in the same way you want to be careful of not rolling out large
    quantities of pages that have thin content, you want to consider who would
    be likely to share and link to new pages you’re creating on your
    site before you roll them out. Having large quantities of
    pages that aren’t likely to be shared or linked to
    doesn’t position those pages to rank well in search results, and doesn’t
    help to create a good picture of your site as a whole for search engines,

Alt Attributes

How you mark up your images can impact not only the way that
search engines perceive your page, but also how much search traffic from image
search your site generates. An alt attribute is an HTML element that allows you
to provide alternative information for an image if a user can’t view it. Your
images may break over time (files get deleted, users have difficulty connecting
to your site, etc.) so having a useful description of the image can be helpful
from an overall usability perspective. This also gives you another opportunity
– outside of your content – to help search engines understand what your page is

You don’t want to “keyword stuff” and cram your core keyword and
every possible variation of it into your alt attribute. In fact, if it doesn’t
fit naturally into the description, don’t include your target keyword here at
all. Just be sure not to skip the alt attribute, and try to give a thorough,
accurate description of the image (imagine you’re describing it to someone who
can’t see it – that’s what it’s there for!).

By writing naturally about your topic, you’re
avoiding “over-optimization” filters (in other words: it doesn’t make it look
like you’re trying to trick Google into ranking your page for your target
keyword) and you give yourself a better chance to rank for valuable modified
“long tail” variations
 of your core topic.

URL Structure

Your site’s URL structure can be important both from
a tracking perspective (you can more easily segment data in reports using a
segmented, logical URL structure), and a shareability standpoint (shorter,
descriptive URLs are easier to copy and paste and tend to get mistakenly cut
off less frequently). Again: don’t work to cram in as many keywords as
possible; create a short, descriptive URL.

Moreover: if you don’t have to, don’t change your
URLs. Even if your URLs aren’t “pretty,” if you don’t feel as though they’re
negatively impacting users and your business in general, don’t change them to
be more keyword focused for “better SEO.” If you do have to change your URL
structure, make sure to use the proper (301 permanent) type of redirect. This
is a common mistake businesses make when they redesign their

Additional URL resources:

Schema & Markup

Finally, once you have all of the standard on-page
elements taken care of, you can consider going a step further and better
helping Google (and other search engines, which also recognize schema) to
understand your page.

Schema markup does not make your page show up
higher in search results (it’s not a ranking factor, currently). It does give
your listing some additional “real estate” in the search results, the way ad
extensions do for your Google Ads (formerly known as AdWords) ads.

In some search results, if no one else is using
schema, you can get a nice advantage in click-through rate by virtue of the
fact that your site is showing things like ratings while others don’t. In other
search results, where everyone is using schema, having reviews may be “table
stakes” and you might be hurting your Google CTR by omitting them:

There are a variety of different types of markup
you can include on your site – most probably won’t apply to your business, but
it’s likely that at least one form of markup will apply to at least some of
your site’s pages. 

You can learn more about schema & markup with
any of these resources:

Also check out our walkthrough on off-page SEO (the factors on other sites
that can affect your own site’s rankings).

4. Information
Architecture & Internal Linking

Information architecture refers to how you organize
the pages on your website. The way that you organize your website and interlink
between your pages can impact how various content on your site ranks in
response to searches.

The reason for this is that search engines largely
perceive links as “votes of confidence” and a means to help understand both
what a page is about, and how important it is (and how trusted it should be).

Search engines also look at the actual text you use
to link to pages, called anchor text – using descriptive text to
link to a page on your site helps Google understand what that page is about
(but in a post-Penguin world especially, be sure
not to be overly aggressive in cramming your keywords into linking text).

In the same way that a link from CNN is an
indication that your site could be important, if you are linking to a specific
page aggressively from various areas on your site, that’s an indication to
search engines that that specific page is very important to your site.
Additionally: the pages on your site that have the most external votes (links
from other, trusted sites) have the most power to help the other pages on your
site rank in search results.

This relates back to a concept called “PageRank.”
PageRank is no longer used in the same way it was when initially implemented,
but if you’re looking to understand the topic more deeply here are some good

Let’s walk through a quick example to help you
understand the concept of how link equity (or the number and quality of links
pointed to a page) impacts site architecture and how you link internally. Let’s
imagine we have a snow removal site:

  1. We publish an amazing study on the impact of snow on construction
    in the winter in cold weather climates. It gets linked to from all over
    the web.
  2. The study is published on our main snow removal site. All of the
    other pages are simple sales-oriented pages explaining various aspects of
    our company’s snow removal offerings. No external site has linked to any
    of these pages.
  3. The study itself may be well-positioned to rank well in search
    results for various phrases. The sales-oriented pages much less so. By
    linking from our study to our most
    important sales-oriented pages, however, we can pass some of the trust and
    authority of our guide onto those pages. They won’t be as well positioned
    to rank in search results as our study, but they’ll be much better
    positioned than when they had no authoritative documents (on our site or
    on other sites) pointing to them. An important additional note here: in
    this example our most-linked to page is our fictitious study. In many
    cases, your most linked to page will be your home page (the page that
    people link to when they talk about you, when you get press, etc.)
    so being sure to link strategically to the most important pages on
    your site from your home page is very important

Information architecture can be an extremely
complex topic – particularly for larger sites – and there are a number of great
additional resources below with more specific answers listed at the end of this
section, but at a high level the most important things to keep in mind are:

  • You want to understand your
    most linked-to pages
     (use tools like Ahrefs, Majestic SEO, or Moz
    and look at “top pages” reports to determine these).
  • Keep your most important search pages (the pages you are using to
    target your most valuable keywords) “high up” in your information
    : this means linking to them often in
    navigation elements and linking to them whenever possible from your most
    linked-to pages (e.g., make sure your home page and your site’s version of
    our hit snow study are linking to the most valuable pages on your site
    from a search perspective – your “money pages”).
  • In general you want to have a “flat information architecture” for
    your site
     – meaning that you keep any pages that
    you want to have rank in search engines as few clicks as possible from
    your home page and most linked-to pages. See this older video for a more in-depth
    explanation of how to flatten your site’s structure

Below are a number of additional resources around
information architecture (many of these are older resources, but the SEO principles
outlined in them still largely hold true):

5. Content
Marketing & Link Building

Since Google’s algorithm is still largely based on
links, having a number of high-quality links to your site is obviously
incredibly important in driving search traffic: you can do all the work you
want on on-page and technical SEO, if you don’t have links to your site, you
won’t show up in search results listings.

There are a number of ways to get links to your
site, but as Google and other search engines become more and more
sophisticated, many of them have become extremely risky (even if they may still
work in the short-term). If you are new to SEO and are looking to leverage the
channel, these riskier and more aggressive means of trying to get links likely
aren’t a good fit for your business, as you won’t know how to properly navigate
the pitfalls and evaluate the risks. Furthermore, trying to create
links specifically to manipulate Google rankings doesn’t create any other value
for your business in the event that the search engine algorithms shift and your
rankings disappear.

A more sustainable approach to developing links is
to focus on more general, sustainable marketing approaches such as creating and
promoting useful content that also includes specific terms you’d want to rank
for and engaging in traditional PR for your business.

The process of creating and promoting content that
will get you links and social shares is a labor-intensive one. Once again
you’ll find more detailed step-by-step guides to various aspects of content
marketing below, and there are a lot of different ways to effectively create
content, help it to get discovered, and rank well in search results. Most
approaches, however, will require you to walk through some variation of the
following three core steps:

1. Identify & Understand Your
Linking & Sharing Audience

The first thing you need to do in working to get
traction for your content, is understand who is likely to link
to and share your content. There are several tools to help you identify
influencers within your niche who might share your content, but probably the most
powerful is BuzzSumo:

Similar tools include FollowerWonkLittle Bird and Ahrefs. More
detailed tutorials on using these tools to better understand your niche are
included below.

The idea in leveraging these tools is to first
identify the thought leaders and potential linkers in your space, and
then understand what they share and link to. Find out what their
problems are, what types of content they typically share, and start to think
about how you can create something they would find valuable and want to share
with their audience (who would also find it valuable).

As you work through this process, start to think
about what you can do for these influencers. How could you help them with their
own projects? What can you do (unsolicited) that would help them achieve their
own goals or what could you create or offer that would be of value to the
audience they are creating content for and trying to help? Do
you have access to unique data or knowledge that would help them do their jobs
better? If you can consistently be of use to smart content creators in
your niche, you’ll start to build powerful relationships that will pay
dividends as you’re creating content

Before you create a major piece of content, you
should have already thought about how that content will get shared: who will
share it, and why would they?

2. Determining What Content You Can
Create & How You Can Promote It

Next you have to try to understand what your own
capabilities are, and what kind of content you can create that will be likely
to be shared and promoted by others.

A number of different types of content assets will
be shareable:

Focus on creating different content assets that
will be of real value, have a plan for promoting those assets, and don’t be shy
about letting people who you’ve featured or whose audience would benefit from
your resource know that it exists.

3. Map Your Assets to Specific

Finally, don’t forget about your keywords! This
doesn’t mean that every time you create a great resource you need to cram in a
keyword that doesn’t fit: it means that you can use keyword research as
a means for discovering pain points 
(if people are turning to search
engines to look for things, they want content that provides a great answer to
their question!), and that as you create new assets you want to look for the
different ways you can incorporate the language your prospects and customers
are using into your assets: particularly those that will actually get linked to
and shared (as you will increasingly need to get some sort of distribution for
pages where you want them to rank for valuable keywords).

Additional Resources:

6. Common
Technical SEO Issues & Best Practices

While basics of SEO like the most efficient ways to build
links to drive search engine rankings have changed in recent years (and content marketing has become increasingly
important) what many people would think of as more “traditional SEO” is still
incredibly valuable in generating traffic from search engines. As we’ve already
discussed, keyword research is still valuable, and technical SEO issues that
keep Google and other search engines from understanding and ranking sites’
content are still prevalent.

Technical SEO for larger, more complicated sites is
really its own discipline, but there are some common mistakes and issues that
most sites face that even smaller to mid-sized businesses can benefit from
being aware of:

Page Speed

Search engines are placing an increasing emphasis
on having fast-loading sites – the good news is this is not only beneficial for
search engines, but also for your users and your site’s conversion rates.
Google has actually created a useful tool here to give you
some specific suggestions on what to change on your site to address page speed

Mobile Friendliness

If your site is driving (or could be driving)
significant search engine traffic from mobile searches, how “mobile friendly”
your site is will impact your rankings on mobile devices, which is a
fast-growing segment. In some niches, mobile traffic already outweighs desktop

Google recently announced an algorithm update
focused on this specifically. You can find out more about how to see what kind
of mobile search engine traffic is coming to your site along with some specific
recommendations for things to update in my recent post, and here again Google
offers a very helpful free tool to get recommendations on how to
make your site more mobile-friendly

Header Response

Header response codes are an important technical
SEO issue. If you’re not particularly technical, this can be a complex topic
(and again more thorough resources are listed below) but you want to make sure
that working pages are returning the correct code to search engines (200), and
that pages that are not found are also returning a code to represent that they
are no longer present (a 404). Getting these codes wrong can indicate to Google
and other search engines that a “Page Not Found” page is in fact a functioning
page, which makes it look like a thin or duplicated page, or even worse: you can indicate to Google that all of your site’s
content is actually 404s
 (so that none of your pages are
indexed and eligible to rank). You can use a server header checker to see the
status codes that your pages are returning when search engines crawl them.


Improperly implementing redirects on your site can
have a serious impact on search results. Whenever you can avoid it, you want to
keep from moving your site’s content from one URL to another; in other words:
if your content is on example.com/page, and that page is getting search engine
traffic, you want to avoid moving all of the content to
example.com/different-url/newpage.html, unless there is an extremely
strong business reason
 that would outweigh a possible short-term or
even long-term loss in search engine traffic. If you do need to move content,
you want to make sure that you implement permanent (or 301) redirects for
content that is moving permanently, as temporary (or 302) redirects (which are
frequently used by developers) indicate to Google that the move may not be
permanent, and that they shouldn’t move all of the link equity and ranking
power to the new URL. (Further, changing your URL structure could create broken links, hurting your referral traffic streams and making it
difficult for visitors to navigate your site.)

Duplicate Content

Thin and duplicated content is another area of
emphasis with Google’s recent Panda updates. By duplicating content (putting
the same or near-identical content on multiple pages), you’re diluting link
equity between two pages instead of concentrating it on one page, giving you
less of a chance of ranking for competitive phrases with sites that are
consolidating their link equity into a single document. Having large quantities
of duplicated content makes your site look like it is cluttered with
lower-quality (and possibly manipulative) content in the eyes of search

There are a number of things that can cause
duplicate or thin content. These problems can be difficult to diagnose, but you
can look at Webmaster Tools under Search Appearance > HTML Improvements to
get a quick diagnosis.

And check out Google’s own breakdown on duplicate content. Many paid SEO
tools also offer a means for discovering duplicate content, such as Moz analytics and Screaming Frog SEO Spider.

XML Sitemap

XML sitemaps can help Google and Bing understand
your site and find all of its content. Just be sure not to include pages that
aren’t useful, and know that submitting a page to a search engine in a sitemap
doesn’t insure that the page will actually rank for anything. There are a number of free tools to
generate XML sitemaps.

Robots.txt, Meta NoIndex, & Meta

Finally, you can indicate to search engines how you
want them to handle certain content on your site (for instance if you’d like
them not to crawl a specific section of your site) in a robots.txt file. This file likely already
exists for your site at yoursite.com/robots.txt. You want to make sure this
file isn’t currently blocking anything you’d want a search engine to find from
being added to their index, and you also can use the robots file to keep things
like staging servers or swaths of thin or duplicate content that are valuable
for internal use or customers from being indexed by search engines. You can use
the meta noindex and meta nofollow tags for similar purposes,
though each functions differently from one another.

Additional Resources:

7. How to Track
& Measure SEO Results

So once you start writing your awesome SEO content and putting all of
these steps into motion, how do you actually track whether and how well it’s

On its face this question has a fairly
straightforward answer, with some key metrics to focus on, but with each metric
there are some key factors to consider as you measure your site’s SEO

Keyword Rankings

Looking at where your site ranks for a list of
keywords certainly isn’t a final destination – you can’t pay your staff in
rankings, things like personalization in search results have made them variable
across different locations, and therefore hard to track, and of course all they
indicate is where you show up in search results. Some would even go so far as to declare them dead. But
getting a rough idea of where your site ranks for core terms can be a useful
leading indicator of your site’s health. This doesn’t mean you should
get overly obsessed with rankings for any one term
. Remember: your ultimate
goal is to drive more relevant traffic that drives more business –
if you sell blue widgets, is it more important that you rank for “blue widgets”
or that you outline and execute an SEO strategy that helps you sell more blue
widgets in the most cost-efficient way possible? Use rankings as a general
health check, not a course-charting KPI.

A number of tools can help you check your rankings.
Most offer fairly similar functionality but features like local or mobile
rankings are sometimes unique in some of the tools. If you’re a small business
or just getting started with SEO, I’d recommend picking a free and easy-to-use
tool and just keeping an eye on a handful of the core terms you want to track
to help you gauge progress.

Organic Traffic

Organic traffic is a much better leading indicator
of the health of your SEO efforts. By looking at the organic traffic to your
site, you can get a gauge for the actual volume of visitors coming to your
site, and where they’re going.

You can measure your organic traffic easily with
most analytics tools – since it’s free and the most-used, we’ll look at how to
get this information in Google Analytics.

For a quick check, you can simply look at your
site’s main reporting page and click on “All Sessions” to filter for organic
traffic (traffic from search engines that excludes paid search traffic):

You can also drill down to look at the specific
pages driving traffic and goals by creating a custom report and designating
users and goal completions as your metrics, and landing pages as your

Note: Make sure once you view this report that
you’re selecting the organic traffic segment again, or you’ll be looking at all
of your traffic by page rather than just unpaid traffic driven by search

This can be powerful for sites just getting started
with SEO, because frequently most of your site’s traffic will be driven by
what’s known as “branded queries,” or searches that contain your company’s
brand name (for instance a branded search for WordStream might be “WordStream
PPC” versus a non-branded search term, which might be “pay-per-click
software”). You clearly want to have people searching for your brand, and of
course you want them to find you when they do, but unless your site has been
penalized by Google, you will almost certainly rank for your brand and have
that branded traffic come to your site’s home page. What most of your ongoing
SEO efforts should be centered around is driving incremental traffic to the
site (people who might not have found and engaged with you otherwise).

As I mentioned in the keyword section of the guide,
unfortunately Google has made it difficult to get data around the actual
keywords people are searching for, but by looking at page-level traffic
(outside of your site’s home page) you can start to glean insight into your
overall SEO progress. Looking at rank data and using the tactics mentioned in
the keyword section of this guide will also help you to get more insight into
the actual terms that are driving traffic (and whether your SEO growth is being
driven by optimization efforts rather than off-line marketing).

Organic Leads & Sales

Obviously the primary way to measure your search
engine optimization results should be actual leads, sales, revenue and profit.
Like with any business activity you need to answer: how does the activity help
to move your bottom line?

The simplest path here is to set up goals or
e-commerce tracking in a tool like Google Analytics. You can use the above
report to look at organic traffic and goals (or different e-commerce metrics)
by landing page, which means that you are specifically looking at who converts
among the people who are landing on your site from an organic search (versus
people who may have come to your site from PPC or another channel within the
window that your analytics tracking can track, then searched for you, then

This seems pretty straightforward, and generally
for most businesses is a good initial way to measure the success of your SEO
efforts, but again there are a few caveats and things to keep in mind with this

  • Web-based analytics is always imperfect. If you’re transitioning from billboards or newspaper ads to
    online marketing, you’ll likely be impressed by the volume and precision
    of the data available, but there can frequently be a variety of different
    tracking issues that can make the data you’re seeing anywhere from
    slightly to wildly off – always have a degree of skepticism about data
    that doesn’t seem to add up, and do what you can to have some checks in
    place to make sure that your analytics information is synced to your
    actual revenue and spend data.
  • Your system might create gaps in tracking. If you have a back-end system that you can’t quite tie to
    analytics for some reason, you might have some gaps between what you can
    track as goals and actual sales.
  • Attribution and life-time value metrics can be tricky. This is more of a business and web metrics problem than
    something specific to SEO, but figuring out how you attribute sales to
    different channels and factoring in life-time value to your site’s traffic
    can be tricky. Make sure you’re applying the same types of tough questions
    and attempting to measure SEO the same way you would with any other
    marketing endeavor.
  • You can learn more about multi-channel attribution in
    Avinash Kaushik’s in-depth guide
  • KISS Metrics offers a nice overview of cohort analysis and multi-touch
  • Omniture is a popular paid web analytics platform that can have a
    steep learning curve – these two resources offer some good tips to
    creating useful SEO reports

Additional Resources

8. Additional
SEO Considerations

For many businesses, getting the technical aspects
of SEO right, understanding the keywords you want to target, and having a
strategy for getting your site’s pages linked to and shared is really all you
need to know about SEO. There are, however, some specific cases and business
types that need to be concerned with specific types of search.
A few types of search environments that require unique approaches include:

  • International SEO –
    There are a number of benefits and trade-offs to different approaches
    to ranking sites in different countries and
    in different languages. Aleyda Solis has an outstanding guide to international SEO best practices if
    you’re trying to reach customers in a variety of international markets,
    and Google also offers some recommendations and best practices in their own guide.
  • Local SEO – For small businesses and franchisees, getting
    local rankings for different variations of {your location} + {your
    service} (e.g. “Boston pizza shops”) is really the most valuable organic
    search traffic available. While getting links and shares, doing keyword
    research, and ensuring your site doesn’t have technical issues helps with
    localized rankings, there is a separate set of ranking factors local businesses
    should be aware of. Matthew Barby has an excellent guide on the topic.
  • App Store Search Engines –
    If you have an app – either as the core product offering for your company,
    or as a means for enabling mobile users to be able to interact with your
    business – having your app show up in searches on various app stores can
    be extremely valuable. Justin Briggs and Stephanie Beadell have written multiple outstanding posts on the topic.

So What Now?

So if you’ve gotten this far, you should know a lot
of information about how search engines rank websites and about how you can
position your own site and business to generate more search traffic from search
engines like Google. What should you do next?

No site does a perfect job of executing against every single aspect of search
engine optimization. Think about the things you do well, have budget and
resources for, and that will give your business the best return for your
investment – this will be at least slightly different for every business and

If you’re great at creating and promoting content,
determine which keywords to go after and focus your efforts there.

If you have a large and complex site, focus on
getting the technical SEO right (or hire someone who can).

If you’re a small business that would benefit from ranking for very specific geo-focused terms but not much else, shore up your local SEO efforts (and then maybe focus on other marketing efforts once you start to see diminishing returns from your efforts there).

Always remember that the ultimate objective with any search engine optimization efforts is to get more exposure and traffic for your business or your site’s content.  Look for ways that search engine traffic can help your business and site: don’t just chase after the latest SEO buzzwords or jump every time Google makes a recommendation that might improve your search rankings while hurting your overall business.

Source: www.wordstream.com