How-to: Beginner guide into SEO in 2021
Ever wonder what a SEO is – this mysterious acronym? Or more likely you hear it every day in 2021 from your colleagues, but are too afraid to admit that you don’t really understand it?
Worry not, you’re not alone! A study performed by Ahrefs in 2020 showed 90.63% of all websites get 0 (zero) organic traffic from google!
The main reason for this phenomenon is simply misunderstanding or outright disregarding SEO practices.
And though we as a company do not supply these services ourselves, we push for perfection for all our clients and partners. That is our primary reason we decided to delve into this topic. There’s an alternative reason we took this path, but about that: in our next piece about the future of SEO and how everything is going to change.
No, but google did finally announce the death of third-party cookies in March!
After all, according to netmarketshare Google controls roughly 70% of all global search traffic with the Chinese Baidu at 13%, Bing at 12% and Yandex at 2%.
Statista on the other hand credits Google with a whooping 86% of the search market followed by its next competitor Bing with 6.7% share.
Like it or not but what Google says and does – matters!
And as much as we love the concepts of eco-friendly alternatives like ecosia.org that we’ve discussed during Earth Day, with Google owning so much of the share, we’ll default to it as the de facto search engine.
But more on that later, right now we want to lay the groundwork and talk about the basics of SEO. First question, the most obvious one is…
What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search Engine Optimization, henceforth SEO, is an art form, a technique manipulating the intricate algorithms set by google to watch the web and provide the best search results to their end user.
The algorithms in place (primarily RankBrain AI) crawl the great wide web and factor in a variety of elements to give the user exactly what he wants.
SEO in turn is the process of pleasing these algorithms to the max, as such it’s more of a math equation of sorts and follows strict rules and best practices.
What you must understand it’s not merely using the correct keywords but a plethora of different things at the same time to push towards the top spots on the search page.
The most important part of SEO is content text optimization, which includes many factors we’ll touch upon later.
In the future perhaps “videos” will take the top spot, with complex speech-to-text like bots scanning every single frame and weighting the “usefulness” and value, eventually assigning search engine rankings.
However, right now text is king when it comes to fighting for that top spot on the first page, and for good reason. According to a study, 71% of all click throughs land on the first 5 organic results in that first page with paid ads amounting only to 15%.
According to Hubspot, blogs are among the three primary forms of media used in marketing content strategies. With 89% of content marketers employing up to 3 content specialists on average! (As a blog editor and writer this makes me very happy!)
Oh, and the second page of a google search result shows a mere 6% Click Through Rate (CTR).
Important to note that SEO is not only the blog but all content on your website.
PSA on SEO – Humans matter!
We cannot stress this enough, no matter how much you perfect your content and try to please the bots, what matters is actual human-beings visiting your website!
Getting someone to click on you is one thing but keeping them interested and engaged is a whole different story!
But the most core principle you should adhere to, regardless of anything – the end user matters the most!
This paradigm does not change, regardless of whether you’re developing a new app, writing a new blog article, or providing a new service.
For that purpose, dear reader, here’s picture of an adorable puppy.
Now that I have masterfully manipulated and pleased the sentimental part of the end-user, let’s talk search engine optimization, beep-boop.
SEO Top 10 factors to consider in 2021
Following is a list of the things we consider most important when it comes to SEO and your enterprise.
This a reference guide and will not go too deep into each factor, if you find that you’re lacking information and want to know more, you can easily delve deeper into yourself! We cannot explain every little intricacy involved in a single article.
In no order, consider each of these on equal ground when it comes to importance.
“Page Speed” or Performance
All the way from 2010 Google has put massive emphasis on speed and performance when ranking sites.
And while stating content relevance is their number one priority, they have been penalizing poor performance!
In comes Page Speed, the simple measurement of time it takes for content to load from multiple angles. It calculates this by a wide variety (some 40ish) of factors such as:
First Contentful Paint: Time it takes to load enough data to actually “read” what’s there.
Time To First Byte (TTFB) or Speed Index: This metric measures how long it takes your browser to receive the first byte of a response from the web server. It’s that white screen that appears before you get to see anything.
Time to Interactive: This is the time your website becomes realistically interactive to the user.
According to some studies – TTFB is the most influential culprit when it comes to metrics. Though still, no one except those inside google, completely understand all the mechanics of their bots/algorithms.
But consensus stays among the SEO experts that:
“The faster your page loads, the higher it will rank in Google search results.”
Remember, choosing the most optimized architecture, programming language, doing constant updates and general code optimizations – is paramount if you want to have a chance to be among the “first pagers”.
Cybersecurity and SSL
SSL/TLS (Secure Sockets Layer / Transport Layer Security) much like the internet is serious business.
SSL is a set of security protocols for establishing encrypted links between computers and safeguarding your information. Because this is not a cryptographic digital key analysis, we won’t go into details of this and Cybersecurity.
Though in general, building your infrastructure with deprecated systems, languages, or with disregard to best practices, can lead to massive security breaches.
These security issues and/or lack of proper certifications has a massive impact on your search engine ranking!
Easiest way to know if a site is certified to handle your data, is paying attention to the http:// (Not certified) and https:// (Certified) prefixes.
Remember if your Software Developer or Marketing Manager/SEO Specialist doesn’t understand the needs and problems of CyberSec, he’s not worth his salt.
Mobile Integration and Friendliness
Did you know that mobile traffic and search queries since 2017 have amounted to half of all global web traffic?
That means every second user searching for your keywords, web-app or service is a mobile user? And automatic mobile layouts have a lot left to be desired, especially in the performance department.
So, if you want to achieve proper SEO results, you have to push for dedicated mobile versions of your website.
Blogs are faring slightly better though, according to SEMrush since 2019 83% of users still come from desktop, however the number is decreasing steadily.
Domain Rating (DR) / Domain Authority (DA)
A popular concept, originally created by Moz, Domain Authority is the agglomeration of variables, from engagement rates, number of referrals, backlinks, traffic, and many other things to predict search rankings.
Understand that Google does not use Domain Rating (Ahrefs) or Domain Authority (Moz) for the SERP (Search Engine Result Pages). Anyone telling you differently is wrong and/or trying to swindle you.
There is some evidence to Google using something similar but no one outside google has any information on it.
However, do not mistake it with PageRank (PR) used by Google Search, these are different things, more on PageRank later.
What DR does help you is examining the market segments and understanding your readers much better. As well as predict trend flows, keywords, click through rates and much more.
DR is simply a combination of everything google uses to put you to the top of their page, things like user satisfaction, CTR, engagement rates and other.
Comprehensive Keyword Research
The bread and butter of your average SEO specialist, and for good reason, Keywords are a relatively jargon word for a simple concept – what people search for and how they type it.
It can be a tiny phrase or a combination of synonyms relating to your targeted topic.
However, the simplicity ends there, a proper keyword research takes a lot of time and effort. Not to mention keyword ranking battles and trying to compete with dozens of sites supplying the same service or writing about the same topics.
This is where proper tools come into place! You can spend hours upon hours reading reddit, various blogs, social media, google trends and heavily reliance on guess work.
This is what it looks and feels like – doing keyword research manually.
Though if you’re just starting out and trying to figure out how to find your keywords, we can share a list our specialists use:
- Know your niche and industry.
- Set your goals and targets.
- Create a list of relevant topics.
- Build a list of seed keywords.
- Use tools like Google trends or Google keyword planner.
- Study the search patterns of your segments.
- Discover long tail keywords.
- Research your competition and fill in the gaps.
Editing and Optimization / Content Planning
You would be surprised how much goes into setting up any content, be it a small piece of text on a popup screen, to big 3000-word articles.
If you want to score high with user engagement (and thus landing first page) and score high with google algorithms and help them “understand” your content, you must structure it properly!
And though there are literal books written about the craft of writing for people and for bots, we’ll try to give a few pointers:
SEO Content Planning List of pointers:
- Use proper heading hierarchy! Headings like H1 and H2 among other things help both users and bots understand the structure of your content and digest it much easier.
A good rule of thumb is to not go over 300 words per heading.
- 2. Short sentences and paragraphs. In our day, when someone begins a “research journey” they will have access to thousands of sources, so every little thing counts, and meeting a wall of text, is a sure way to make the user close the tab.
- Simple language, less jargon and use of active voice! All these things show tangible improvement when it comes to engagement rates for your content.
- Learn to write. No seriously. It might be obvious but being able to write engaging and grammatically correct text is an artform. It requires constant practice and improvement.
Hardest things is to write winning intros and compelling meta descriptions, if you have that covered, well you’re on the right path!
- Break your content with images. Another way to avoid the dreaded wall of text and even add some flavour and individualized touch to your content is to masterfully use images. Of course, our editor is not among the people who do it right, but he sure likes his memes…
- Technical SEO. Craft short and descriptive URLs, compelling meta descriptions and optimize your images properly! Don’t forget to alt text your images, link relevant resources, and learn to use schema markup!
- Link your resources! Goes without saying but anytime you make an outrageous claim its heavily recommended to link to reputable sources. Or even other blogs to build mutual linking, but make sure its to the point and within your market segment!
UX and Engagement Analysis
Track and measure these things! Your bounce rate, your engagement rate, how many people joined from which platform and from what device! All these things and more are important to keep in mind to be able to plan your future content!
Also, all these things are tracked by google as well, so those statistics affect your ranking!
And as we’ve harped multiple times, your end-user is the most important aspect of anything you do. So, supplying entertainment, knowledge or value to your users is king of SEO as far as Google is concerned!
Afterall, the sole reason for the search engines is not advertisements or selling products but supplying valuable and useful results to their users.
Creating engaging content, interesting discussions, using personal flavour, individualized methods, its all-fair game.
You can find thousands of blogs on diverse topics, but you can only find one created by a certain creator or enterprise with their own unique look on things.
Picture: Engaging content
Link interlinking and Backlinking
Link Building is a process of getting other websites to link your domain on their platform, and vice versa. And according to Googles’ Andrey Lipattsev, links are among the top three major factors attributing to your SEO ranking.
Those three are Content, Linking and RankBrain AI (Main algorithm doing all the crawling).
Think of links as a form of a voting system, with websites “giving a thumbs up” to other websites in form of linking their content, this is what is known as PageRank algorithm or its variants/successors.
Many of these SEO specialists recommend going for massive backlinking campaigns, these can be claiming lower authority reference links, or reclaiming dead links and pursing unlinked mentions and so much more!
The techniques are varied and multiple and we simply do not have the space for them all! We recommend yet again Ahrefs’s Link Guide as among the giants of SEO to give them a read!
Social Media and Official enterprise channels
A fairly obvious thing to consider, is official presence and activity on social media platforms.
This helps not only raising brand awareness and getting people talking about you or with you, but also creating backlinks, and engagement with your loyal clients.
Another surprising thing for 2021 is the abundance of websites with out-of-date phone numbers or addresses.
When the algorithms detect conflicting information like this, or untraceable addresses or business information, they quite rightly get uppity.
Conclusion & Farewell
Now, those 10 are the most important things, they are not the only ones, and each deserves an in-depth analysis on their own, after all there are massive companies dedicated solely to this one thing – SEO.
We, however, are not one of them. For more information we suggest you visit Ahrefs or HubSpot which have proven to be the leaders in the industry among tens of thousands of specialists trying to battle it out for that first page on Google.
Daily fight for SERP on Google among SEO specialists
Though this won’t stop us to try our hand as well, and of course, as a tech firm we like to look at the technical stuff and innerworkings of these things. And even do some predictions for the future.
We’ll also tell you how we come around to drafting our articles, and some more insight into editorial part of the process.
That was it for this week, and before you go, tell us what’s the biggest headache you met with optimizing your content?
Stay classy business and tech nerds!