What do I Need to Know about
Search Engine Optimization?
The term Search Engine Optimization, often called SEO is a massive topic. We are not about to fit everything there is to say about SEO into this one article, so we will direct you to other posts as necessary. Search Engine Optimization is a topic that you will be learning more and more about, throughout your career as on Affiliate Marketer, so be prepared to digest this information slowly and consistently.
First let’s tackle the question, What is Search Engine Optimization? The name is fairly self-explanatory, in that, you are doing everything you can to optimize your website for various Search Engines. And it is worth mentioning that there are more than just one search engine. I know that when you think of SEs, you likely think of Google, but there are many more:
- Microsoft Live Search
- And still quite a few more…….
All the sites listed above provide internet search. The king of the hill though, is Google and it’s the site that everyone optimizes for and everyone uses Google Analytics to track their website’s search engine optimization progress. The last time I checked over 92% of people on the planet used Google as their primary search tool.
With that said, please keep in mind that focusing only on Google, leaves 8% of the worlds customers out there for the taking. We will spend some time talking about Bing, Yahoo and the others later.
The purpose behind Search Engine Optimization?
As we have already discussed, search engines provide their customers with the “most relevant” websites based on any given search term. And just about every search engine will display a combination of primary search results and paid search results. The paid search results are “sponsored” by the website owner and the top spots are given to the highest bidder, but the primary results, which most often follow the paid sites, are ranked through search engine optimization tactics.
Website visitors or “traffic” that arrives at your website through unpaid search engine results is called “organic” traffic”. Organic traffic, in many ways, is the opposite of paid traffic. And most website owners or online business entrepreneurs prefer organic over the more expensive paid traffic. Primarily because it is cheaper, but additionally because the traffic will be more reliable. The flow of paid traffic will be reduced or disappear when you stop paying or when someone offers to pay the search engines more than you.
So the purpose behind search engine optimization is simple: To increase your visibility within the search engines and thereby increasing your organic traffic. You will notice that I did not call organic traffic, “free traffic” as many are inclined to do. The reason I do not call organic traffic – “free traffic” is because there will often be a price to be paid. Whether that price is… time to create content or an indicative to create back links, there is still very often a price to be paid for organic traffic.
The pinnacle for organic placement in a search engine is known as Position 1, the very first spot on Google Page 1. That should be everyone’s goal with respect to search engine optimization, the top spot on Google Page 1. Of course this is much easier said than done and even if you are number one, you are still behind the paid traffic. But the top spot will get you plenty of organic traffic and depending on your niche, can be quite profitable.
On-Page Optimization vs. Off-Page Optimization
Before we move forward with how search engine optimization is done, we should probably discuss the various types of SEO. Search engine optimization is generally broken down into 2 categories:
On-page Optimization and Off-Page Optimization
On-page optimization consists of website building techniques that lend well to SEO. One of the most important on-page techniques is to create tons of valuable content. Remember, search engines are tasked with providing relevant information to their customers. So if you want to get noticed by Google, the best thing to do is create quality content.
Some other on-page techniques include: Meta tags, headers and alt tags, internal links and a managed SSL. These optimization techniques are completely within the control of the website owner and every single one of them should be highly utilized on your website. The battle for the top spot on Google is a fierce one and any advantage that you can give yourself over the competition will ultimately work in your favor.
Most of the on-page techniques will be “keyword” based and for a better explanation of keywords read our “Creating Keyword Rich Content for your Niche Website” page. In that article you will learn what keywords are and how to integrate them into your website’s content for the greatest impact. But for the purposes of this article we will add the inclusion of keywords into the background coding of your website, such as meta tags and alt tags. These techniques involve using plug-ins for your WordPress site that allow even the newest newbie to optimize their website in a flash.
Plug-ins such as “All-In-One SEO Pack” and “Yoast SEO”are highly recommended tools for the WordPress website owner. Both of these tools have a free version and a Premium or Upgraded version. The free versions work quite well and more than just a few website owner go their entire careers using only the free version. The upgraded version come with all the bells and whistles such as automated updates, content monitors and readability checks. Put simply though, on-page optimization goes much deeper than the visible content on your page and we will discuss these techniques in much greater detail as we continue.
Off-page optimization relates to any SEO technique that is not under the direct control of the website owner. Back links, which is a very commonly used SEO technique, involves having other websites linking to your website. In other words, getting another website owner to provide a pathway to your site and say “Hey here is a great place to find more information about a given topic”.
If you are thinking that the creation of back links sounds easier said than done, you are correct. There are many people who specialize in back link strategies and their services are not cheap and those that work to increase their own back links, spend quite a bit of time doing. But they are valuable and they will certainly increase your domain authority.
Which of course brings us to the subject of domain authority. Now I really don’t want to get anyone confused with the topic of domain authority but when other people link to your website, search engines start to think that maybe you know what you are talking about and your domain authority increases. Now a company called MOZ developed the concepts of domain authority and page authority ( same thing, just on a page level) and I have provided a link to their website, because well…. they are the authority. And very simply that’s how domain authority works.
Search engines also love “User Interaction”; your website visitors can interact with your website in many different ways. One popular interaction is trough leaving comments on a blog post or another might be watch an embedded video. Now we could very easily call this on-page optimization because you do have some control over the ability for other to interact with your website, but we will leave it here in off-page for now. While it’s true that a website owner can make his or her more interactive, do you really have control over other desire to interact???
Social promotion is another possible method of increasing “free” traffic. But here again, you can very quickly get involved with paid advertising on social media and that would be classified as paid traffic and not search engine optimization.
How Do I Optimize my Website for Search Engines?
To best optimize your website, you will want to put everything exactly where Google expects to find it. Now, this is an overly simplified way to describe SEO, but it helps to put a very complex topic into perspective. Remember Google is a company that provides Internet Search as it’s primary service to it’s customers. And as the world leader in Internet Search, they obviously do a very good job at providing that service. Google wants to find the very best website, for each Search Term, that someone types into their rectangular search box.
This is where search engine optimization plays it’s role. To become that “best website” for any given search term, you must first provide value to the person performing the search and additionally you must follow the rules that the “Sheriff” has laid down. And in this case the sheriff is Google and the law is SEO.
Let’s take a look at a Google results page in more detail:
Millions of Results
Just below the Categories, you will find the “Number of Results” that Google has identified for your search term. In the example we are showing Google has identified over 30 million matches for the search term “Best Stethoscope”.
Notice I was careful not to say that the Big G found over 30 million websites, because that’s not what this number means. It actually means the number of database entries for the given search term. So what does that mean to us?
Not much really, except that you can get a general sense of the work you have cut out for you. When you think that Google has maybe 10 listing on Page 1, you start to realize you need to be in the top 3 millionths of 1 percent to get there??? Don’t get too discouraged though, we will show you how to do it and there are a lot of keywords out there.
What is this thing called SERP?
SERP is an acronym for Search Engine Results Page. The Google Results Page can look very different depending on what you are searching for. As an example, if you are looking to purchase a TV the page will look one way and if you are looking for directions to Virginia Beach, the page will look another way.
Google continues to become more sophisticated each and every day. And their main goal is to provide you with the exact website you are searching for. And that is something you should always remember as you attempt to make your website visible to the Internet Searching Public.
In the image capture above, we can see that there are several sections on this particular Search Engine Results Page. The section at the top shows “PAID” returns for the search term “shredding documents”. We will discuss paid ads in much more detail, but for now just know that you can pay to get your website on Page 1 of Google, but it will cost you and most of us newbies cannot afford it.
Next, on this particular SERP, you will find Local Companies that have registered themselves with Google. Google has an entire suite of called G Suite (imagine that?), feel free to take a look at gsuite.google.com. You may have heard of Google Maps or Google Images, but they also have Google Docs, Google Connect, Google Create and much, much more. So without getting on too much of a tangent, just remember that some of these Google Apps will have an impact on the placement and the look of your SERP listing.
In general, your SERP listing will have 3 parts: The Title, the URL and a brief description. And all of these parts have a purpose, they also have limits in terms of the number of characters you can use or the type of symbols that are allowed. For example:
- The SERP title can have a maximum of 60 characters.
- The SERP description can have a maximum of 160 characters.
And a few Fun Facts from Search Engine Land.com:
- A Google search phrase is limited to 32 words, Wow!
- Alt text can only have 16 words, which is plenty for me.
- And the YouTube (Owned by Google) counter will track almost 10 quintillion viewers.
Diagram showing Parts of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP)
As you can see above, there are many significant methods for tailoring your search engine results and we will explore most of the popular methods in upcoming articles. The image above shows a SERP listing with 3 frequently asked questions that are answered by the website the listing is linked too. Clicking on one of these questions will not take you to the website, but it will show you the answer and that may give you enough trust to eventually click on the websites link.
Remember it’s all about solving a problem for the reader. Then problem may be as simple as “Which Travel Backpack should I Buy?”, but a solution is a solution.
What Techniques are Used for Search Engine Optimization?
We have only scratched the surface regarding the methods experts use to provide Search Engine Optimization service. In fact, search engines constantly update their algorithms and keep SEO experts and novices alike, on their toes. But there are quite a few tried and true methods of increasing your visibility on the search engines and here we will list a few:
Good Quality Keyword Rich Content – You have heard me say it before “Content is King” (a phrase made famous in 1996 by Bill Gates), well this is certainly true with respect to SEO. Search engines need to understand what your website is about and the best way for them to learn is to read the content on your pages. You can help them along by placing “keywords” in your text that match words or phrases that people might use to search for your site. For example a website selling backpacks, would want phrases like “Best Backpacks of 2019” right on the page.
Proper Use of Headers and Page titles – Sections of your web pages should begin with a header and the page itself should have a title containing your most important keyword or phrase. Search Engines have been programmed to look for headers and titles to learn about your website, which makes sense. So it’s important to utilize every advantage to let the search engines know why you are on the web.
This is probably a good time to mention that, not all keywords are created equal. As you might expect, some search terms (another way of saying keywords) are searched for more than others. For example, the term “speed test” is searched for over 30 million times per month and ranks on the top 100 list of most commonly searched terms. Where a term like “keyboard” only gets about 4 million searches per month and barely breaks into the top 1000.
Alt Tags for Images – Any good website should have images, after all, a picture is worth a thousand words, right? But what you may not know is that images can be a very effective SEO tool. Turns out that websites allow for what is referred to as “alternative text” for every image. Originally the purpose was that if the image did not show on the website, at least the user would have some sense of the images purpose. But clever web designers learned that search engines also use the Alt Tags and have been using them for SEO purposes, for quite some time.
Internal Links – Linking to your own web pages can be a very effective strategy. And although it is often overlooked by newbies, the strategy is really quite simple. As you begin to create content, you will realize that you cannot fit everything onto one page, so simply create two posts and link one to the other.
This internal link, opens another web page and sends you to another page of my website, called “Creating a Passive Income”. Internal links such as this, add value to the page, just like back links, which brings us to our next topic.
Backlinks – Much like internal links, back links are a highly effective SEO tool, but they are much harder to acquire. A back link is any link that is directed to your website from someone else’s site. So instead of linking to your own site, which you are in complete control of, you must convince others to do the same. And the best way to do that is create high quality valuable content and when you do that people will find you and people will link to you.
As we mentioned above, back links are what is referred to as an off-page strategy. Most off-page strategies are based on increasing your “authority” as an expert in your field. Now don’t get intimidated by the word expert, remember where ever you are in your experience there is always someone who can learn from you. In fact, this website is geared toward newbies in the Making Money Online niche, because my knowledge is intermediate to advanced, I am by no means the foremost expert in the field.
Do these Strategies work with all Search Engines?
I’d like to wrap up this discussion about Search Engine Optimization, by talking about search engines other than Google. As we mentioned at the top of this article, Google accounts for 92% of the searches performed on the internet. Well, with some quick math, it’s easy to see that 8% of the worlds internet searches are done on other search engines and most of that 8% is Bing and Yahoo.
There are very few differences in SEO strategies between these 3 search engines and frankly I have not found it worth the time to learn any subtle differences, however, I do recommend that you keep track of your progress in all three. This can be easily done by setting your websites up in the 3 analytical tools provided by the search engines.