Ready to turn rankings into revenue? Discover everything you need to know about Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Ready to turn rankings into revenue? Discover everything you need to know about Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
If search engines can't find you, nothing else you do matters. But before you dive into search engine optimisation, you need to know the basics of how they work. That’s what we’ll cover in this section.
Search engines discover, understand and organise the internet's content in order to offer the most relevant and useful results to the questions searchers are asking.
Google does that better than other search engines by drawing on data from the deepest corners of the web to determine exactly what a specific searcher is looking for.
To understand how search engines work, you need to know their goal - which is to keep users coming back by consistently delivering useful search results.
They do that by investing billions every year in developing algorithms that predict as accurately as possible which content users will find most useful in search results.
Everything search engines do revolves around that objective.
How do search engines find the most relevant and useful content for searchers?
To provide the most relevant and useful search results, search engines do three things:
Crawl: They send out robots (known as “spiders” or “crawlers”) to scour the internet for content. These robots look through the code and content of each URL, whether that’s a PDF, web page, blog article, image, video, or any other format.
Index: The content found during the crawling process is organised into the index. The “indexed” pages can then be accessed quickly by the search engine when a user types a query into the search engine.
Rank: When a searcher types a query, the search engine uses a ranking algorithm to weigh up the quality and relevance of pages according to what users are searching for. The results are then ordered from most to least relevant on the search engine results pages (SERPs).
So, when you search on Google, the search engine scans its index of “hundreds of billions” of web pages and feeds it through an algorithm to find a set of results that give the best answer to your search query.
What you see on the search engine results pages are the websites that Google finds to be the most relevant, trustworthy, and authoritative on the subject you’re searching.
That’s why it’s so important to make it as easy as possible for search engines to crawl your website. If they can’t crawl your website, they can’t index or rank it, which means it won’t be shown to searchers.
Simple as that.
Poor site navigation - There are lots of navigational issues that hinder crawlers, including broken links and orphan pages (pages that aren’t linked to any other pages). Also, if your mobile navigation is different from desktop navigation, this hinders search engine crawlers.
Content hidden behind login forms - If you ask users to log in or fill out forms before accessing content, search engine bots can’t see the protected pages.
Search forms - Crawlers can’t use search forms.
Text hidden within non-text content - Avoid using non-text formats (such as gifs or images) to display text that you want to be indexed.
There are a few techniques you can do right now to make sure search engines can crawl and index your web pages with ease.
Mostly, it comes down to improving the coding and structure of your website to ensure it can be understood by Google’s bots.
Intuitive information architecture - Organize and label content in a way that makes sense for users.
Robots.txt files - Located in the root directory of websites, a robots.txt file instructs search engines on which parts of your site they should and shouldn't crawl.
Sitemap - Create a sitemap file that meets Google's standards and submit it through Google Search Console. This will help crawlers follow a path to your important pages.
Image credit: Magento
Not all search engines operate in the same way.
Google and Bing, for example, have different ways of ranking sites.
We’ll focus mostly on Google in this SEO guide, for the obvious reason that it’s the biggest force in the search world.
Google uses search algorithms to sort through the hundreds of billions of pages in its Search index to find the most relevant, useful results for its searcher - that’s its purpose.
There are known as ‘organic search results” – this means they rank based 100% on merit.
Search engines rank their organic search results based on lots of different ranking factors, such as social metrics, keyword usage, brand signals, user interactions, and many more.
We won’t list them all here – Google uses more than 200 ranking factors in its algorithm.
This is how experts weight the importance of different ranking factors in Google:
Image credit: Moz
All of these factors boil down to three key things:
Relevancy: Google looks for pages that are most closely related to your keyword.
Authority: This is Google’s way of determining if the content is accurate and trustworthy (more on this later).
Usefulness: Content can be both relevant and authoritative, but if it’s not deemed useful, Google won’t position it at the top of the search results.
But it’s not that simple.
Google regularly changes its search algorithm to make sure it’s continually meeting its purpose of providing useful results.
While most changes are minor, Google periodically rolls out a major update that significantly affects search rankings. Knowing these Google updates can help you prepare and improve your SEO efforts.
Panda was first released in 2011 to reduce the dominance of low-quality, thin content in search results, and reward unique, valuable content. It also cracked down on sites with high ratios of ads to content. It affected up to 12% of search results.
Google Penguin targets manipulative link building practices and link spam. It was first launched as a separate “filter” for search results, then in September 2016, Google announced it was part of the core ranking algorithm.
Image credit: Moz
Hummingbird is cited by experts as a core algorithm overhaul which demonstrates Google’s commitment to understanding the intent of searchers’ queries in order to match them to more relevant results.
AKA Mobilegeddon, a new mobile-friendly ranking algorithm designed to boost mobile-friendly pages in mobile search results.
Google announced it had been using machine learning to sort live search results to give searchers the best fit for their queries. RankBrain is the only live Artificial Intelligence (AI) used by Google in its search results.
Google made major changes to its paid ad platform, AdWords (now Google Ads), by removing right-column ads and introducing 4-ad top blocks. This had major implications on the click-through rate (CTR) for paid and organic results, especially on competitive keywords.
Google rolled out a new penalty to punish aggressive interstitials and pop-ups with the potential to damage the mobile user experience.
This major update means Google will consider mobile friendly websites first when ranking content, even for desktop searches.
This is the most recent and biggest update for some time, In March 2019, Google’s Danny Sullivan confirmed that Google is updating its algorithm with a broad core update. This simply means it is not targeting any particular niche or signals, like quality.
Some experts say the underlying goal of all broad core updates is to improve user satisfaction. Others suggest it is a rollback, as many publishers are commenting on how their sites are bouncing back from previous updates.
Congratulations! You’ve got to the end of the first chapter. It was a big one, but a lot goes into the workings of a search engine, and it’s critical that you know the basics before you learn SEO. You should now have a solid understanding of:
What a search engine is
How search engines work by crawling, indexing and ranking pages
Top mistakes that can prevent search engines from crawling your site
Steps you can take now to ensure search engines can crawl your site
Major Google updates and how they affect search engine rankings
Now you know what a search engine and how it operates, you’re ready to learn how to use content and SEO together in Section 2.
Content and SEO work in tandem. You can’t have one without the other.
To get in front of your target audience - that is, people who are searching for what you have to offer - you have to combine your content marketing with your SEO efforts. Here’s why!
Rewind to Section 1 where we talked about the goal of search engines. Google’s mission is to deliver “useful and relevant results in a fraction of a second.”
The useful and relevant results that Google is talking about are pieces of content.
Therefore, the more useful and relevant your content is, the better your site will rank on search engine results pages.
And it goes the other way too - poor content not only turns readers off from your site, it also sends warning signs to search engines. Google sees that people aren’t getting what they need from your content and ranks your pages lower as a result.
Even though many people have started to say that backlinks are becoming less important to Google, research reveals enormous statistical proof that more high quality and relevant links leads to greater search engine visibility.
One of those studies was by Backlinko. They looked specifically at whether Google still used the number of backlinks as an algorithmic ranking signal.
Here’s what they found:
The results are clear: pages with the highest number total backlinks tended to rank higher in Google.
How do you get backlinks?
That’s where content comes in. People will only link to you if you’re creating killer content.
(Okay, there are other ways to get backlinks but some of these are shady black hat techniques - something Google cracked down on with its Penguin update)
The idea is simple: If you want your site to show up when people are searching, you need to create content around the simple words and phrases (the keywords) your target audience is typing into the search engine.
So much of your content strategy revolves around research, and it starts with knowing your ideal customer.
Every piece of content needs to communicate directly to your audience if you want to engage them and be relevant. Create buyer personas to find out exactly who they are and what they want - this gives you a solid understanding of who you are talking to.
Use this template by Content Marketing Institute to identify the kind of information needed to create a true-to-life representation of your customers.
Target your content towards each stage of the journey: awareness, consideration, decision, retention and advocacy.
People use different search phrases depending where they’re at in their buying journey. For example, searchers tend to use long-tail keywords (longer, more detailed search phrases) when they are deeper into the journey, as they have a better idea of what they’re looking for.
Tailoring your content for each stage ensures your content shows up on SERPs whether they are just starting to look or about to buy.
For the Awareness stage, focus on creating eye-catching, entertaining content that grabs your target audience’s attention and holds it.
For the Consideration stage, educate your audience on problems and challenges they can overcome with your product.
For the Decision stage, facilitate conversations before a sale and help the sales team seal the deal.
Then, consider which content format to use:
According to research into 912 million blog posts by Backlinko, long-form content (between 3000 -10,000 words) gets an average of 77.2% more links than short-form content. Why does this matter? Because Google looks at your link profile when ranking your web pages. If you can use long-form content to naturally acquire backlinks, you’re onto a winner.
Here’s another stat you need to know:
In other words, long content ranks better.
Another reason that long-form content performs well in search rankings is that visitors spend more time on your site reading it. And we already know that Google factors “time spent” into their ranking algorithm.
Pro Tip: Focus on quality over quantity every time. Don’t waffle on just so you have a long-form article. Quality should always come first.
The headline is the first thing your audience will see when they search and click through. 80% of people never make it past the headline of a piece of content. They take one look and decide it’s not for them. So you need to make it good!
Headlines that end with a question mark get 23.3% more social shares than those that don’t.
CoSchedule’s Headline Analyser helps you to craft your headlines so they grab people’s attention and keep them reading.
It analyses a number of metrics, including grammar, structure, and the use of powerful/emotional words in your headline.
The worst mistake you can make when it comes to SEO content is only publishing “thin” content that doesn’t provide any real value to your target audience. Sure, your headline might be optimised for clicks, but if people aren’t finding any value in your content, they won’t hang around. And they won’t come back for more.
Search engines will soon recognise this (low dwell times and high bounce rates are a giveaway) and rank your site lower as a result.
That’s what Google Panda was all about - discouraging sites from publishing low-value content purely to drive clicks.
Structure your content so that it’s readable and useful to your audience. The key here is not to make the mistake that many people make in thinking that keywords are the key to a good content structure.
It’s actually the user experience and depth of the content that is important. Sure, keyword research will help you to get your primary and related keywords (more on that in Section 3), but you need to focus on telling your audience what they want to know.
Here are some useful tips for structuring your content:
Start with a question to engage the reader and encourage discussion.
Use your Title and Meta Data to tell the searcher (and search engine) what your content will deliver.
Use stats to capture attention and make it relevant.
Answer the question that your introduction poses.
Do this and your content has a structure that makes it more likely to rank and engage.
There are heaps of tools out there to help your content rank. One of our favourites is Buzzsumo. Use Buzzsumo to search your keywords to see who’s writing about what in your niche, and (here’s the important bit), how people are engaging with that content.
Use this info to see what’s trending and time the release of your content for maximum engagement.
BuzzSumo also has a useful Content Analysis feature which helps you drill down to find the types of content that work best in your niche. So you can work out if it’s better to create a video, infographic, article, or something else.
Now you understand how content and SEO go hand in hand, you’re ready to put the tips to work to create incredible SEO content.
To recap the SEO guide so far, we’ve covered:
How content and SEO work together as a dream team
How to create content that will rank highly and engage your audience
Some of the tools you can use to research and create content
In the next section, you'll find out how understanding user intent leads to smarter keyword research.
You already know how search engines work and why content is critical to your SEO efforts. Now, it’s time to work out which strategic keywords to target in your content and how to craft that content to make both users and search engines very happy.
First, let’s cover the basics:
Searchers enter words and phrases into search engines - these are called “search queries”.
As a website owner, you want your page to be relevant to what people are searching for, so your site has a better chance of showing up in the results.
You create your content, web pages or search ads around the simple words and phrases that you know your target audience are searching – these are the keywords.
Keywords are important because they give search engines quick cues to determine if your site or content matches what people are searching for.
Behind every search, there is intent. People are looking for something specific - a destination, answers to problems and questions, information about products they want to buy, or services available.
Heaps of studies have been conducted into understanding the user intent behind a search query. The reason is simple:
If you want to be discovered by your potential customers via search, your content needs to be optimised for user intent.
There are lots of different types of user intent, so we’ll just focus on the most important:
The searcher needs information, such as the date of a battle or the name of a river.
The searcher needs to go to a specific place on the Internet, such as the AFL website or the OMG blog.
The searcher wants to do something, like buy cinema tickets.
The searcher wants to find and compare products to work out the best option for their needs.
The searcher wants to find a product or service locally, such as a cafe, salon, or plumber.
Now, Google serves up different results (and different features) to serve the best type of results for the query intent. This could be Google Shopping, Google Maps, Google My Business, featured snippet, or something else.
Here’s an example from Moz:
So how do you make sure your content matches the user intent?
Effective keyword research is about aligning with the most relevant and profitable keywords, rather than trying to spread your efforts too thin across keywords that won't create a real result.
Here’s our proven keyword research formula for success:
Google Keyword Planner provides one of the most effective and simplest tools for your keyword research.
First, you need to have a Google Ads account to access Google Keyword Planner (you don’t need to actually run an ad). That’s because the tool is actually designed for people to target their paid search ads, not SEO. But it’s still an incredibly useful tool to find keyword ideas.
Here’s what you need to do.
Go to the planner and enter a search term relevant to your niche. It will deliver an array of related terms for you to target in your content.
Image credit: Tim Felmingham
See the “Avg. Monthly Searches” column? You can sort the results based on how many people have searched for the keyword per month.
In this case, “Home Insurance Quotes” and “Home Owners Insurance” would top the list.
You can do the opposite too and see what’s not getting a huge volume of searches.
Generally, the higher the search volume, the more competition you face which means you need to put in more effort to achieve rankings. But if you go too low, you might not draw any searchers to your site. (Though there are benefits to targeting highly specific, low competition search terms - we’ll cover that with long-tail keywords below).
So, what should you do with all this information?
Use it to spot keyword trends that your audience is searching for, so you know how to target your content.
Watch for seasonal search terms.
For example, “Christmas gifts” might come up with high average search volume, but that’s misleading because it gets almost all this volume in December and no other time of year.
Google Keyword Planner is great, but if it’s the only tool you’re using, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to mine even more relevant keywords.
There are lots of other tools that can reveal more data for your keyword list.
Let’s take a look:
Check out the data behind the keywords you hope to target.
Image credit: SEMrush
You’ll get similar data here as from the other tools. But SEMrush goes a step further.
It offers detailed information about trends related to your search term.
Dig even deeper with KWfinder. This tool gives you:
Here are suggestions for the keyword “PPC management”.
You can also check out the suggestions and autocomplete sections for additional keyword ideas. It shows you what searchers are asking, which provides plenty of topics for blog posts, FAQs and other content.
The catch? You only get five free searches per day. So, to use it to its fullest, you may need to sign up for a paid plan.
Another free resource from Google, this one reveals how search trends change over time.
When you enter a keyword, you’ll see its relative popularity over the past 12 months.
Start by setting your location - in this case, we’ve focused on Australia:
Let’s look at what Google Trends say when you search “Vegan”:
There’s a huge spike in April, which correlates with when vegans protested in Melbourne. But aside from that, it’s stayed steady over the past 12 months.
Now, look at the past 5 years.
There’s a clear upward trend with this search term over the past 5 years.
Scroll down and check out the related search queries and topics:
This is really helpful in giving you ideas you might not otherwise have thought of. You know people are searching for local vegan restaurants as well as ideas for meals. But also, they want to know the advantages of being vegan - “vegan gains”.
Rewind to Chapter 2 where we talked about creating buyer personas. This is where you start putting them to use.
The more you know about your potential customer, the better you can pinpoint the keywords they’re using to find content.
Your buyer personas help you uncover the motivation behind the search, as well as their position along the buyer journey and the pain points they’re trying to address.
Image Credit: MalloryHaackdesign.com
Your buyer personas are essential to understanding which keywords to target.
Let's say you provide IT services. Chief Financial Officers and Chief Information Officers are both decision-makers you want to target. Maybe you also want to target IT mid-managers too.
Buyer personas help you understand what each of these decision-makers are looking for when searching online. You can bet they're not all typing the same thing in the search engine. They all have completely different pain points, challenges and goals they’re working towards.
Combining keyword mapping and your buyer personas ensures you are targeting the right keywords for each buyer at each stage of their journey.
Do a Google search for the keywords on your consideration list. Look to see what your competitors are doing with it.
If there are plenty of ads, you’ve probably hit the jackpot. That is, you’ve found a keyword that offers value and converts traffic.
Next, test it. Don’t jump into targeting the keyword straight away with SEO. Test it using Google Ads. Simply run a small campaign using the “exact match” option and find out how much traffic the keyword generates when given a high positioning.
Measure the number of conversions you get for a few hundred clicks.
What are the results?
Say your test results in 10,000 impressions and 300 clicks in 24 hours. Of those clicks, 20 visitors converted and generated a total of $1800 in revenue. One visitor is worth ~$6 in revenue.
That’s just from a 3% Click-Through Rate (CTR).
Stats show SEO can achieve anywhere between 18% and 36% if you’ve got top ranking. A 30% CTR on those 10,000 impressions means 3,000 clicks.
That’s a cool $18,000 in revenue per day.
Now that’s a good keyword!
On the flipside, you could wind up with heaps of impressions and no conversions. Or nobody searches for the keyword full stop. That’s why you need to test it.
It’s important to note that the most popular and profitable keywords will prove the most difficult to rank for. Why? Because all your competitors want to rank for them too.
So, while these are good keywords, as part of a holistic SEO strategy, you need to weigh up which keywords you will target in combination with other long-tail keywords.
Long-tail keywords are an incredible way to boost your traffic and sales conversions.
In fact, they are an integral part of a good keyword research formula in 2019 because they make up about 70% of your page views.
There are two types of keywords:
Image credit: SEOpressor
Here’s another way to look at it:
Image credit: Backlinko
Say you’re selling furniture. A keyword like ‘scandi furniture for sale’ targets people in the buying stage. Aim to rank highly for it.
A good long-tail alternative might be ‘how to pick the best table for a scandi dining room?’
The results will answer a question that someone has long before they reach the buying stage. Rank highly for that and you establish yourself as an authority, which may move the user one step closer to buying from you.
Best of all, long-tail keywords typically contain the short-tail seed, so you’re getting two keywords for the effort of one.
How do you find your long-tail keywords?
It takes your short-tail keywords and generates a list of long-tail variants.
LongTailPro needs a subscription, but you can experiment with the 7 free trial to see what it can deliver.
When it comes to advanced keyword research, Google Search Console is one of the most important tools you’ve got. It can provide valuable insight into the right keywords for the right sites.
Start by examining the pages in the ‘Search Analysis’ option.
Here, you’ll see your top-performing pages. Click ‘Queries’ on one of those pages and see the terms that bring the most traffic.
These are your best keywords.
Try to incorporate those keywords into the pages with the most revenue potential. If they don’t fit into the content, use similar keywords that will.
Get this right and you can create a group of high-performing keywords.
Congratulations - now you have all the tools and tips to do your keyword research. You’re ready to move onto the next step to learn SEO.
To recap, we’ve covered:
Next up, you'll learn the essentials steps for onpage optimisation to target your audience.
You know who you’re targeting, how they’re searching and how to create targeted SEO content. Now it’s time to learn SEO essentials of on-page optimisation.
In other words, the practice of creating a site structure and web pages that answer user’s questions and engage them from the very first click. Let’s crack on.
Your goal is clear:
Everyone who visits your website should enjoy a positive and valuable experience.
This starts with the Information Architecture.
In other words, creating a website structure and content tailored to your audience.
IA is often overlooked when website owners think about SEO. But the way SEO and IA work together can add rocket fuel to your site’s performance.
Because your Information Architecture impacts three key things:
How user-friendly your site is. Create a logical IA that makes sense to users, creates an incredible experience, and is easy to navigate.
How high your site ranks on organic search. Create an IA that gives emphasis to the right pages and content.
How easy it is for users to convert. Your IA needs to naturally lead people through the conversion funnel to a sale.
Essentially, your site structure should be tailored to what your audience is searching for.
Here’s an example:
We worked with an eCommerce fashion company who wanted to improve their organic search ranking for dresses.
So, we analysed the keyword trends to understand how people actually search for dresses.
Here’s what we found:
Women search for dresses in over 1,600 ways.
Next, we looked at how we could categorise these keywords by characteristics, such as type, length, size and style.
This helped us build a data-driven strategy to inform the site structure - the categories and sub-categories.
In other words, we were shaping the site structure around the way that people search for and shop for dresses.
That’s the key takeaway here:
Find out HOW your target audience is searching
Then organise your site based around this.
Then, you can focus on what you want people to do when they land on a page - what action are you driving them towards?
For services, this looks a bit different.
You still want to find out what and how people are searching, and tailor your site structure to fit this. But you can’t simply organise your “products” into categories and sub-categories, as on an eCommerce site.
Instead, you need to use content pillars.
Pillar content is a strategy that focuses on topics, rather than keywords. You create lots of valuable content around one central theme, or “pillar”.
Pillars make it easier for humans and search engines to navigate your content.
Don’t underestimate how powerful this is.
The internet is jam-packed with content and information, and it’s often time-consuming and challenging for users to find what they need, when they need it.
So if you can make this easier, you’re one up on the competition.
Here’s what most content creation looks like:
No real organisation. You’ve got topics you want to talk about, so you do a bit of everything.
Content pillars organises your content in a way that makes sense to users. Here’s what that looks like:
Once users have found the pillar page, they can follow links to other valuable and relevant pages, known as “clusters”.
See how beautifully easy it is?
When you make things easier for people, that’s where the magic happens. You nurture a following of visitors who are more likely to convert to loyal customers.
The best part is content pillars also make it easier for search engines to find what they need to index and rank your site. Win, win!
Another advantage to content pillars is that they make sure every piece of content is focused on your target audience and what they want.
And you know what that leads to: people will spend longer on your site's pages.
Plus, Google loves fresh and relevant content. So, as you add to and update your pillar posts with more cluster content, you’ll keep rising the ranks.
Here’s an example of a killer content pillar page by HubSpot on Instagram Marketing:
This page is a brilliant overview of everything relating to Instagram marketing, without exhausting one specific area. Navigation lets you jump ahead to the topics you want to cover.
Throughout the page, HubSpot has included hyperlinks to reams of excellent cluster content pieces, which all link back to the guide, plus more articles at the bottom.
Any guesses what they’re trying to rank for? You got it - topics related to Instagram.
Now you have your content ready and organised on your site, there are a few essential things you need to do on-page to optimise your content.
You could have the best content in the world, but if it isn’t optimised and formatted properly, your audience won’t read it.
Avoid fonts that are too small or in a colour that’s difficult to read against the background.
Google recommends 16-point font so there’s less need to “pinch and zoom” on mobile.
Check Google’s Web Fundamentals and skip to the Accessible Styles section.
Break up your content with handy headings that help readers navigate the page and scan easily.
Let’s face it, people don’t read the whole web page. They’re looking for quick answers. In fact a user will only read 20% of the content on your page.
Here’s how to write for scanners:
Create bulleted lists
Write in short paragraphs of only one or two sentences
Use white space to break up text.
Blog articles with images get 94% more views than those without. Add powerful images to your content to engage your audience and improve shareability.
The title tag is a descriptive HTML element that specifies the title of a page. It’s found in the head tag of each page and looks like this:
Each page should have a unique, descriptive title tag. This is what will show up in search results:
And when people share your content:
Google uses the URL to understand what the page’s content is all about:
Make your URLs both short and keyword-rich.
That way search engines know exactly what the page is about and how to index it.
Forget keyword stuffing.
Cramming keywords into your content as much as possible – even in places it didn’t make sense - is a black hat technique.
Don’t do it!
Instead, use your target keyword and variations in strategic places that will show Google what the page is about:
H1 or H2 tag
Intro of content
Then, use your keyword and variations naturally throughout the content.
To do this, make sure you focus on your goal. If you aim to write an informative post, you’re more likely to add keywords in a natural way, rather than for SEO.
Now you’ve got to grips with the fundamentals of site structure and on-page optimisation. We’ve dabbled with some technical optimisation techniques in this section - get ready to dive deeper in Section 5!
To recap, we’ve covered:
Why is a good site structure essential to SEO
What makes a good site structure
What are content pillars
On-page optimisation tips for SEO
Now you know how content can turbocharge your SEO success, it’s time to learn the other side to SEO. The technical side.
In this chapter, we’ll reveal the essential technical SEO tips to ensure your website is up to scratch and is rewarded in search results.
Search engines prefer websites that have certain technical characteristics and elements, such as a fast loading speed, responsive design and secure connection.
That’s where technical SEO comes in.
So, how technical are we talking? There are many technical aspects of SEO success that you might want to hand over to your developer, and some that you can handle yourself (depending on your skills set).
But whether you hire a developer, use an in-house resource or loop in an agency, it’s important to understand the technical changes to your website — and why they matter.
If you need just one reason to invest in a mobile friendly website, here it is:
When potential customers want something, wherever they are, they generally search on their mobile-first. So if you want to get in front of them exactly when they need your products and services, that’s where you need to be.
Wait, there’s more...
Remember in Chapter 1 we talked about Google’s most impactful algorithm updates? One of these was the Mobile-Friendly Update of 2015, dubbed by many as “Mobilegeddon”.
Since then, Google has boosted the ranking of mobile-friendly websites and decreased visibility for non-responsive websites.
Not long later, Google launched its Mobile First Index, which means the search engine giant crawls and indexes web pages based only on the mobile version of a page - not the desktop version.
Google announced late 2018 that over 50% of the pages shown in search results are from mobile-first indexing.
This all points to one critical lesson: optimising your website for mobile is non-negotiable.
It’s not as difficult as you might think.
Simply follow this actionable mobile-friendly checklist.
Give users an easy, seamless experience visiting your site via mobile.
Go to the Google Search Console and use the Mobile Friendly Test to check if your site has any issues:
Image credit: Search Engine Land
Here’s what it looks like when your page doesn’t pass the test:
You can see how Google provides clear reasons why the site hasn’t passed, so it’s easy to fix any issues.
Okay, Google isn’t cracking down on them yet, but we expect them to soon. Fact is, they aren’t user-friendly and Google hates anything that prevents users from getting to information quickly.
But we get it - sometimes you really need a pop-up on your page! Maybe they prove to be a powerful way to convert your site visitors.
So, if you really want to include a pop-up, make sure:
The popup has a clear exit button:
The popup doesn’t take up the whole screen (especially on mobile):
The popup doesn’t appear immediately as someone arrives on the website. Let the user find what they’re looking for first!
This is where intent-based pop-ups are a brilliant option.
If someone is about to abandon their cart or exit the page, use a pop-up to drive a last-chance conversion:
Again, this is all about creating an exceptional user experience:
Make fonts big, bold and readable (at least 16pt font)
Use short paragraphs of just a couple of sentences
Use lots of contrast between text and background
Don’t use formats that struggle to load on mobile.
How fast is your site load speed? Boosting page speed is a critical part of SEO. In fact, it’s actually one of Google’s ranking factors.
And for good reason - a slow loading page is a quick way to ruin the user experience. How slow is slow?
With a loading time any longer than 4 seconds, you’re losing 90% of your audience.
Image credit: Think with Google
Google’s PageSpeed Insights is a quick tool for auditing your current page speed. Type in your website to see its speed score between zero to 100.
For example, News.com.au has a score of just 13.
The good news is the PageSpeed Insights report identifies opportunities and diagnostics for boosting speed:
How do you go from zero to 100 with your page speed? Try these actionable tips:
Compress files and images
Reduce redirects - every redirect adds precious seconds to your page speed.
E.g. website.com → www.website.com → https//www.website.com
Invest in a content distribution network (CDN)
Export images no larger than they need to be. Also, export graphics as PNGs and photographs as JPEGs.
Fixing broken links and crawl errors is one of those tasks you should be doing on a regular basis for long-term SEO success.
If for no other reason than Google tells you to!
Google clearly states in its guidelines that “Website crawl errors can prevent your page from appearing in search results.”
In Chapter 1, you learned how search engines crawl and index sites. Crawl errors happen when the bot tries to reach a page on your website but fails.
There are two types of crawl errors you want to avoid:
Site errors: The worst type of crawl errors, these prevent the bot from accessing your website, e.g. DNS errors (the bot cannot communicate with the server), server errors (flaws in your code prevent a page from loading), and more.
URL errors: When a bot tries to crawl a specific page of your website and can’t. Heard of 404 Not Found errors? These are the most common type and are mostly caused by broken internal links e.g. you deleted a page from your site but other internal pages still have links to it.
Don’t ignore your crawl errors and broken links - this will only spell disaster for your SEO performance.
First, crawl errors and broken links lead to a bad user experience. Think about how frustrated you get when you click on links only to find dead-end 404 errors. This could mean visitors never complete what they went to your website for - choosing your competitor instead.
Secondly, broken links and errors can undermine all that work you’ve been doing to improve your rankings. In fact, they can negatively impact your organic ranking.
Why? Because Google pays attention to the flow of your site. If search engine bots reach dead ends, this hurts your site’s authority.
What can you do?
Step one is to find broken links and crawl errors:
Crawl the site using your crawling tools - we recommend Screaming Frog or LinkMiner (a Google Chrome Extension).
Review for Crawl Errors on Google Search Console (go to the dashboard) or Bing Webmaster Tools.
Now you know where the errors are, get to work fixing them. It might be a simple case of setting up redirects to stop 404s. Direct the broken link to a more relevant, published page instead.
Struggling with fixing your site?
Turn to your tech team.
Let’s face it, there will probably always be some kind of crawl error on your site. And the more pages your site has, the longer the list will be. Your job is to stay on top of them so they don’t impact your ranking.
Duplicate content simple means two or more pages have identical or near identical content on your site.
It might not sound like a big deal but it can be hugely detrimental to your rankings, as Google won’t know which page to rank first. Your own pages wind up competing against each other.
Not sure if you have duplicate content? Use SEMRush’s Site Audit tool to check.
Once you know about any issues, you can work at fixing them. There are three options you might need to take:
Edit content on one of the pages to make sure it is completely unique.
Remove duplicate pages entirely (be sure to redirect them).
If you can’t change the content or delete the pages, add a rel="canonical" link to one of the pages to let search engines know which page you want them to prioritise in search results.
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. It’s a security protocol used to establish encrypted links between a web server and a browser. When installed on a web server, the SSL certificate encrypts the site using HTTPS (Hypertext Transport Protocol Security) rather than HTTP (Hypertext Transport Protocol), so any data going between your web server and browser remains private and secure.
If you own an ecommerce site, SSL is absolutely essential to safeguard your credit card or payment credentials. In fact, platforms like Shopify include it on domains as a default.
But even if you don’t have credit card payments going through your site, it’s still important to protect personal information being provided by visitors.
It builds consumer trust.
In fact, now Google Chrome and other browsers will shame any site without a security certificate installed by marking it as “Not Secure.”
It’s easy to spot a site with SSL - the website URL starts with ‘https’ rather than ‘http’.
Or there might be a padlock in the address bar for Safari users, a green lock for Chrome and Firefox users.
This means any visitor can see clearly they are entering a risky website or site page.
So does it impact rankings? Yes, but not as much as you might think.
SSL has been a signal in Google’s ranking algorithm since 2014. But when industry experts got together to analyse 1 million Google search results, they found that HTTPS is only moderately correlated with higher search rankings on Google’s first page.
The upshot is that while you shouldn’t make the switch to HTTPS just for SEO purposes, it is best practice to have your SSL installed from day one. Especially if you want to gain consumers’ trust.
Install a security certificate on your website domain and migrate your website to HTTPS. There are lots of different ways to do this depending on your web platform, so speak to your tech team for help.
Okay, we’re about to get technical. But stay with us, because it’s worth knowing about structured data markup for your SEO efforts.
Structured data, aka schema markup, is code written in a specific format so that search engines understand it and use it to display search results in much richer and more informative way. That’s the reason these results are called “rich snippets”.
Essentially, structured data tells search engines what your data means.
For example, you might use structured data markup to tell Google to use the data to display a recipe.
So, when we search “brownie recipe”, here’s what Google returns.
You can see how the search listing separates the rating (4.8) recipe time (1hr) and calories (144) from the rest of the meta description. That’s because the structured data told Google to do that.
Another way to use structured data is to tell Google to populate the Knowledge Graph box, as shown on the right hand side, for branded searches:
Google Search Console is a set of tools designed to help you understand how Google sees your website, and why it ranks your site where it does.
You can use these tools to measure your site's search traffic - but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The best use of Google Search Console tools is to A) monitor performance and B) fix issues that are potentially holding back your organic search performance.
Use Search Console to:
Pinpoint crawl errors that may be preventing your site from being visible in search results. Go to the Crawl Errors tab and check data from the last 90 days to see which pages Googlebot had trouble crawling or returned a HTTP error.
Analyse your link profile. Go to “Links to Your Site” to see all external sites that link to your site. Are they mostly relevant, quality websites? (Learn SEO link strategy tips next in Section 6)
Data highlighting: Communicate certain data to Google so it can highlight information to searchers in accurate ways, e.g. event dates, time and locations.
Admit it - that wasn’t as technical as you thought it would be, right? Now you understand the essentials of technical SEO, you can take critical steps to create a watertight website that search engines and visitors will love.
To recap, we’ve covered:
Ready for the next section? Buckle up - it’s time to dive into the wonderful world of links.
You NEED links. Linking, whether we’re talking about backlinks, external or internal links, is a core strategy of effective SEO. But not all links are the same.
In this section, we’ll cover what links are, why they are so crucial for SEO and how to build them the right way.
First, the basics...
When we talk about links, we’re talking about the connection between one page and another page.
That can be an external link, internal link or backlink.
Most people are focused on getting backlinks to prove their authority to Google, that you forget about the other types of links that can strengthen your site’s search value.
External links are links out from your site to other trusted, authoritative websites. Including relevant external links in your content does two important things:
Proves your content is well-researched and well-referenced
Provides value to users
Internal links connect the pages within your site to create clear crawling paths for search engine bots and an easy path for your users. The triple benefit of this is to:
Help Google understand the architecture of your site for indexing.
Prolong user sessions, which helps Google rank your higher.
Improve the value of your content.
Backlinks (or inbound links) are links to your site from another site.
Google uses backlinks to determine whether your website is an authority in your space. When a website links to you, Google sees that to mean they trust you and your site is good enough to warrant sharing.
Link from an article. For example, this backlink in a Huffington Post article:
Link from sponsorship. The logo in this example is a link to the sponsor’s website.
Link roundups. Weekly or monthly articles posting recommended links for a topic. It looks something like this:
Image credit: Freshbooks
This is one of the tactics that’s often overlooked in SEO, but it is incredibly important to your site’s performance.
Internal links connect your content within your site, which makes it easy for users to navigate between content while giving Google a good idea of your site structure.
Want to remind yourself of the importance of site structure? Skip back to Section 5.
Here’s the important bit: internal links can also establish a hierarchy on your site. In other words, you can give the most important pages and content more link value than other pages.
This is also known as “link juice”.
The more links a page has, the more “link juice” it has.
Image credit: Search Engine Journal
That’s right - a great internal linking strategy can boost your SEO performance.
Check out this graph showing what happened when Ninja Outreach used internal links to help boost organic traffic by 40%:
Image Credit: Ahrefs
So, what makes a stellar internal link strategy?
First, think of your website as a pyramid.
Your homepage is at the top of the pyramid, then your next most important pages (probably about us and services/products), then less important pages, and so on.
The best internal linking strategy shouldn’t just link to the homepage, or to other pages within the same pyramid tier.
You want to provide value to the reader, while telling Google that the page you’re linking to is so relevant and important that you’re happy for the user to stop what they’re doing and go straight over there. This is SEO gold.
Find clusters of pages that are focused on particular topic and link between them. This is way easy if you’ve already created content pillars, as you learned in Section 5.
Are you mostly linking to main navigational pages, like Contact Us and Home? These pages tend to have lots of inbound links already. Instead go deeper into your site structure to other pages and blogs. Just remember to keep it relevant.
Internal linking is all about adding value and information for the reader. So, to make sure your links don’t appear forced, don’t link for the sake of linking.
Check your old content to see if your posts have enough internal links. Look for opportunities to add link juice to important pages.
Don’t panic, this doesn’t have to be a humongous task - at least, not when you use the right tools.
SEMrush Site Audit can crawl your site and provide an Internal Linking report which shows an in-depth look at the internal links for your website, including linking issues, pages with not enough/too many links, internal link distributions, and so on.
Image credit: SEMrush
Now you’ve learned the SEO value of internal links, let’s venture outside your site to...
Remember how Google has over 200 factors that affect rankings? According to SEO experts, backlinks affect Google rankings more than any other factor.
Google sees backlinks as votes. In the SEO world, we call it “link juice”. The more quality backlinks (votes) your website has, the better it performs in search engines.
That makes backlinks a critical part of any SEO strategy. In fact, your backlink strategy is the most important off-site SEO tactic.
The websites that rank well for high-competition keywords will almost always have strong link profiles:
Image Credit: Backlinko
The above chart shows how sites that reach #1 on Google have an average of 35,000+ backlinks. That’s an incredible number of backlinks! This drops as you go further down the list.
Pages that don’t hit top 10 in the SERPs typically have way fewer than 5,000 backlinks.
Another advantage of backlinks is that they increase exposure and trust of your site, which boosts referral traffic and authority.
Say your ideal customer trusts the Sydney Morning Herald website, and the Sydney Morning Herald links to your web pages. Not only do you attract more visitors – you also build more trust in your brand.
And trust is the Holy Grail of marketing success.
Now for the bad news:
Not all backlinks help your site.
Some backlinks can trigger a penalty from search engines which damages your ranking and trust in your brand.
That leaves new website owners with a conundrum. You need to build great links without resorting to bad tactics.
When it comes to backlinks, think quality over quantity.
There was a time when people were using “black hat” techniques to get heaps of backlinks. This was effectively a mad scramble for masses of phony links that would put their rankings higher.
But in 2012 Google realised what was going on and decided to put an end to it.
Their response was to alter the algorithm in what’s known as the Penguin update.
Lots of websites that had relied on poor quality backlinks dropped massively in the rankings overnight.
Now, Google looks for different signals to show that the backlinks have been earned.
We’re talking about authoritative sites that people trust and respect.
If one high authority site like Forbes links to you, that’s heaps more effective than if lots of non-authoritative sites link to you.
Because Google knows that’s harder to get a link from Forbes than random websites that nobody goes to.
To find out if it is a quality website, Google is looking at domain authority – that is, how authoritative the website is.
You want the backlinks to come from sites that have a high domain authority score (out of 100).
Another thing Google looks at is how relevant the link is to your site.
You should be aiming for backlinks that are related to your site. For example, if you are selling power drills, it makes sense to have a brand like Bunnings linking to you.
The final thing Google is looking for is how many backlinks you’re getting over time. It has to be natural – you shouldn’t be paying people to link to your website. It should be earned.
With backlinks that are high quality, authoritative, relevant and earned, your rankings are going to climb.
The reverse is true too.
What is a bad backlink?
Avoid backlinks from sites with any of the following:
That only leaves one question.
There are some essential white hat techniques you can use for a good starting point for your next link building campaign.
Like all good things in SEO, the true measure of success is a sustained strategic effort over a long period.
Put in the hard yards to get rewards:
Round up posts are articles that bring together lots of resources on a particular topic or question.
First, come up with a relevant topic. Then research some experts and contact them to ask the same question. Write an amazing blog post which includes the names and social profile links for the experts.
Once it’s published, invite the experts to share the post with their networks.
Get this right and it will lead to your round-up being noticed and linked to from high-quality sites.
You’ve invited experts into your round-up, now it’s time to get your site included in relevant link round-ups for your industry.
Search for link roundups in your sector. Is your post a good fit? If so, email the site owner or blogger and explain why you should be included.
The concept is simple: find broken links on other websites and offer your link as a replacement.
Here’s how you do it:
Go to the site you want to put a link on (hint: look for high authority sites).
Check for broken links using Check My Links. This is a Google Chrome extension designed to check for broken links on any web page.
Found some broken links?
Now, let the site owner know there are broken links on their site, and offer your site as a replacement. Be sure to explain why your site is relevant to their site.
This might seem forward, but because you’re adding value to their site, people should be happy to link to you.
Rise the ranks by building links from authoritative news sites and industry blogs.
One way to do this is to become a source for reporters and bloggers.
There are matchmaking sites designed especially for this very purpose. Check out SourceBottle or Haro - both services connect bloggers and journalists who want information to individuals and businesses who are seeking links and PR.
We’re not going to lie - this strategy takes time and patience, but it’s an effective and sustainable way to create quality backlinks.
There you have it! Backlinks are a significant ranking factor for Google, plus other search engines.
By earning (not buying) authority-building backlinks, you can outrank your competition, win more clicks, and build more trust.
In this section, you’ve learned:
What links are
Essential tips for internal linking
Why backlinks are crucial for SEO
What makes a good backlink
What makes a bad backlink
How to earn good backlinks
Now you’ve developed your strategy and started building traction. What now? This is when data becomes more important than ever. The right metrics will guide your business towards serious revenue growth. This section covers all the numbers that define and steer your success.
So, you’ve learnt all about SEO. You’re ticking all the right boxes with backlinks, keywords, content and more.
But when it comes to crunch, how do you know if your SEO is working?
And most importantly, how can you keep refining your SEO to get an even better ROI?
Tracking the right performance metrics is an absolute fundamental of any SEO campaign. Relying on guesstimates never works for long.
For many businesses, getting their site to page 1 of Google is the mark of success. But WHY?
Getting to page 1 doesn’t necessarily mean you are bringing in the right traffic or, most importantly, converting traffic into customers.
Tracking your ranking is great, but it’s nowhere near enough.
In this section, you’ll learn the essential SEO metrics to monitor and why they are important. Plus we’ll show you how to set up effective SEO reporting.
For big-picture revenue results, you need big-picture reporting. In other words, do analysis that pulls on a whole range of metrics - not just one or two vanity metrics.
Focusing on only one or two metrics can give you false positives when your campaign is really going downhill, or can lead you astray.
The biggest mistake you can make is to build your whole future strategy and invest a ton of budget based on insights that don’t reflect reality.
To get the whole story, focus on a wide range of engagement metrics, traffic metrics, conversion metrics, ROI metrics and more.
Then, use these as benchmarks to work out how you’re tracking and where you need to improve.
The good news is you can find all the metrics we listed above using two free tools:
Sure, there are lots of other tools you can use, but GA and GSC are the pillars of your SEO reporting.
It is incredibly important that your GA platform is tracking properly, otherwise you won’t have the right data to make decisions.
Here is a list of quick checks for setting up your Google Analytics account:
Tracking info: Check the domain’s source code for a tracking code is consistent with what’s in the admin area of Google Analytics.
Referral exclusion lists: This tells Google to exclude certain sites from your referral traffic in GA. Not doing this can potentially cause issues with how revenue is tracked in GA.
Set up goals: GA lets you track and measure your site’s success using “goals”. By setting up goals, you can measure how well your site is achieving your objectives. For example, if the objective of a page is to get visitors to fill out a form for an ebook, set that up as a goal. When visitors fill in the form, you’ll see this in your reports.
Configure filters: Filter out your IP, your office IP, your agency IP, or any other IPs likely to frequently access the website, who aren’t customers.
Google Search Console is a set of free tools designed to help you understand how Google sees your website and why it ranks your site where it does.
Use Search Console tools to measure your traffic, monitor performance and fix site errors and issues that might be holding back your performance.
Understanding how to interpret and use the knowledge from these two platforms to propel your ROI is essential.
Take time to familiarise yourself with both tools. Every business is different, so work out the best way to set up your dashboard so you can easily collect, see and analyse the information that’s important to you.
Rewind to Section 5 where you learned how important links are to SEO. You need to track links as a metric.
But here’s the tricky part.
You can’t just track the volume of links - Google doesn’t rank you based on having tons of links. You need to track the quality of links.
Luckily, there are a few tools you can use to measure links, including Google Search Console, SEMrush, Moz’s Link Explorer and Ahrefs.
For example, on Ahrefs you can check the URL rating distribution. This tracks the percentage of backlinks that are high quality vs low quality.
Your search click-through rate is the percentage of people who clicked to your page from the organic search results, out of the total number of searchers who saw the SERP (aka Impressions).
Most businesses focus on ranking position of Google, but CTR is more important. After all, there’s no point ranking high for a keyword if nobody is clicking through to your site.
So what’s the benchmark you’re aiming for?
Take a look at this graph:
The average CTR is huge for the top three search results - nearly 30% in first position to 10% in third position.
In other words, they usually capture the lion’s share of the search traffic.
Then it drops quickly - just 2% CTR in positions 9 and 10.
Now sure what your CTR is? Go to Google Search Console:
Image credit: Search Engine Journal
You can clearly see the number of clicks vs impressions and trends over time.
Conversion rate is the percentage of visitors taking a specific action against a goal. You can apply it to anything, from email signup to ebook download or a purchase.
Knowing your conversion rate gives you a strong idea on the return on investment (ROI) your SEO efforts are delivering.
It also helps you compare individual pages and content to see which performs best and see opportunities to drive more conversions.
Calculating your conversion rate is as simple as logging into Google Analytics. If you’ve set up goals, GA sets out the conversion rate for you.
Image Credit: Social Media Examiner
As you review your conversion rate, you need to consider multiple factors in order to set a realistic yet ambitious goal.
What is a GOOD conversion rate for your business?
Start by looking at the average conversion rate for your industry:
Image credit: Marketing Sherpa
How does your conversion rate stack up?
Then think about the conversion rate of SEO vs other channels:
Image Credit: Smart Insights
Search visits have a higher average conversion rate than social, for example, as the searcher has intent - they are looking for a specific product, service or brand.
Dwell time is the length of time a person spends looking at a page after they’ve clicked through from the SERP. It’s one of the top engagement metrics as it can tell you how effective your content is at solving searchers’ queries.
Not to be confused with dwell time, average time on page is simply the average amount of time someone spends on one of your pages. Say you have a 3,000-word blog post that you know takes 8 minutes to read. But visitors are only spending on average 15 seconds on the page - the content isn’t hitting the mark. Maybe the title is misleading or the content isn’t high quality. A low average time on page isn’t always bad though - people don’t spend time on Contact Us pages, for example.
Find average time on page using Google Analytics:
Image credit: Quicksprout
Sometimes the goal of a page is to convert users right there and then. Other times it’s to keep visitors engaged and lead them through to other pages and deeper into the conversion funnel. This is where pages per visit can be useful.
Bounce rate tells you when searchers visit only one page and leave your site to go back to the search results. It is calculated as the percentage of single-page sessions divided by all the website sessions.
This can be misleading as a measure of SEO because even if some of the bouncers arrived on your site via a SERP, it doesn’t mean they clicked back to the search results. They might have navigated directly to another website or closed their browser completely.
Scroll depth tells you how far visitors scroll down the page. This metric is a great one for informing your page layout.
If people aren’t scrolling to the important bits, experiment with putting calls to action and important content higher up.
Index status is often overlooked as an SEO metric, but it can help you understand how your site is performing with the search engine bots.
Pages indexed tells you which URLs the search engines have tried to index. Use it to identify any issues which are preventing your pages from showing up in the SERPs. Any sudden drops or sharp increases in pages indexed should be explored.
This metric is best tracked in Google Search Console. Go to Google Index > Index Status to see the basic or advanced report.
Now you know WHAT to measure, the question is HOW do you collect the data and draw out actionable insights for your SEO strategy?
What's your SEO goal and how does it align with your business objectives?
Your goal may be to:
Increase rankings for select keywords
Boost overall Search Visibility
Generate more inbound links
Increase monthly revenue
Drive more traffic to eCommerce pages
Consider how these SEO goals will impact your business overall.
Now you have your goals, you’re ready to create your SEO report.
The key with your SEO report is not to focus on vanity metrics (like page ranking) but instead look for the trends and explore why things are happening. This will help you adjust and refine your campaigns, while showing your boss how successful the campaign has been, and proving your ROI.
Look for any technical problems and errors that may affect SEO performance and search visibility, including:
Broken links / redirects
There are a few tools you can use here, including Ahrefs Site Audit:
Image credit: Ahrefs
You can also go into Google Search Console to see the Crawl Stats. The crawl rate depends on how fast and search-bot friendly your site is, so tracking this over time is a good indicator of how your site is performing:
Identify the type and quality of backlinks pointing to your site. How is this improving over time? Any issues with backlinks dropping off?
The best tools for this are Google Search Console and Moz.
Image credit: Moz
To find the data on Google Search Console, click “Links” and open the Top linked pages report. Then, look for the box called “Total external links.”
Don’t worry about the highest number of backlinks - look for quality and relevance.
So, delve deeper to see which sites are linking to a specific page - simply double-click the URL in the report.
How are organic rankings tracking over time? Are they dropping or lifting with different seasonal trends? What are the keywords that bring in the most traffic (highest CTR)?
Go to Google Analytics and track performance over time for Search Visibility, Average Position and Traffic.
If certain keywords haven’t been doing as well, this is where you can identify them and plan how to tackle them.
In Google Analytics, you should see something like this:
Image credit: Shopify
You can also look at how you rank for keywords against your main competitors as a benchmark.
SEMrush is a great tool for this:
What do visitors do once they’ve arrived on a page? This is where you need to compare dwell times, average time on page, bounce rate, and so on.
Use Google Analytics to identify trends in the data over time. For example, this shows the Bounce Rate:
Image Credit: Monster Insights
Finally, bring it all back to your business goals. Are you achieving actual sales and conversions from SEO? How is this improving? Where are the opportunities to do better?
This is where your conversion rate and goal tracking comes in.
Image Credit: Search Engine Journal
When you run a conversion report through GA, you can see the number of conversions as well as the value of these conversions. In other words, how much revenue has been generated from each search channel.
To work out the ROI, you need to compare these values with the amount of money you’ve spent on your SEO campaign during the same period. It’s not an exact science, but it will give you a good idea of how your SEO efforts are impacting the business objectives.
You made it! Phew, we had a lot to cover in this SEO guide, but it’ll be worth it now you know how to measure your SEO performance.
Here’s what we’ve covered:
Quick intro to Google Analytics and Google Search Console
Top SEO metrics to measure
How to set up effective SEO reporting
Got questions about what you’ve learned so far? Move onto Section 8 for the answers.
So you know the fundamentals of SEO, but you probably still have lots of questions. We get it - search engine optimisation is like pandora’s box. Once you open it, there’s always more you can know.
In this section, you’ll find some of the most common questions we get asked about SEO. If you can’t find your question here, head over to our blog - there are countless articles written by our digital marketing gurus. They really know their stuff.
Let’s get the Q&A started.
Like all good things, achieving great organic search rankings through SEO takes time. Getting tangible revenue results takes even longer. There are lots of things that affect your website rankings. One of these is competition. The more competitive the keyword you’re aiming for, the longer it will take you to rank.
Image credit: Search Engine Journal
Then there’s the content. You need to find the right keywords that get in front of your target audience. Then, craft quality content that Google ranks. There are no shortcuts when it comes to content. In fact, Google implemented its Panda algorithm update to tackle this very problem. It’s the same with backlinks. You need quality backlinks in order to rank highly on Google, but the search engine penalises you if you take any shortcuts.
That’s the crux of SEO - it needs to be organic. You put all the right things in place, and wait for search engines to notice all these changes and rank you accordingly. That’s takes TIME. It’s not about overnight results. Here’s what you can achieve with SEO in 3, 6, and 12 months.
As always, the best things take time. But despite this, many companies still invest in SEO because it delivers one of the highest returns.
Bottom line? It’s worth the wait.
If you want rapid results, pay-per-click is the way to go. Better yet, use SEO and PPC together for short and long-term results.
White hat SEO and black hat SEO is the difference between your site ranking highly, or plummeting under the weight of Google penalties.
White hat SEO refers to all the search engine optimisation tactics that fall in line with search engines' terms of service. In other words, you’re playing by the rules.
Black hat SEO is pretty much the opposite of white hat SEO. Some say it’s the dark side of search engine marketing.
Black hat tactics include everything from keyword stuffing to sneaky redirects. All those things that are considered to be deceitful or harmful to consumers also fall into the black hat category.
Most of the time black hat SEO strategies work. That’s why people still use them. But as astounding as the results may appear, they won’t last.
This is mainly because Google’s algorithms are constantly changing and catching up, as we showed in Chapter 1.
Which leads us to our next point – if you play the black hat game, expect to get penalties from the search engines.
This is no small deal.
Penalties can mean you’re wiped off the face of Google, and it can take YEARS to recover.
The best way is always the white hat way.
The difference between SEO and SEM is easy to understand. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to the tactics that get a site to rank higher on the search engine results, with the goal of increasing the number of visitors to a page.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is more broadly the digital marketing that boosts a site’s visibility through organic and paid search results. SEM includes SEO, as well as paid search advertising, such as pay per click (PPC) and display ads.
The challenge is that many marketers use the terms SEM and SEO interchangeably. But even though they work together, they are not the same thing.
So do you need an SEO agency or an SEM company? SEO doesn’t work in isolation, so for results that make a real difference to your bottom line and business growth, SEM is the way to go.
Asking how much SEO should cost is like asking how much a car should cost. It is completely different depending on what you need. But it’s still a valid question.
The fact is, there’s a huge number of variables that impact the cost of SEO.
How competitive is your industry in terms of search engine traffic? The more competitors vying for the same search terms, the more you probably need to invest to see results.
Do you have a broad target audience, or multiple target audiences? Expect to increase your budget to reach them.
What are your goals and how quickly do you want to kick them? Typically, the longer and more challenging the goal, the higher the cost.
Local, state-wide, national and global campaigns have varying levels of complexity. If you have multiple locations (such as franchises), you might need to treat each as a separate business with its own links, content, and unique web pages. That will cost more.
Keywords will impact how much you need to invest in a successful SEO strategy. You’re looking at more spend for competitive keywords, and less for longer, niche keyword phrases with less competition (long-tail keywords).
Still want a dollar figure to work with? Okay, at the very least you need to budget $2,000 per month over 6+ months. That’s the minimum investment.
There are lots of reasons you might want to do SEO yourself. You might be too short on budget to hire an SEO agency or extra resource, or maybe you’ve been burnt by a previous agency and want to give a shot going solo. As we’ve shown in this SEO guide, you can learn SEO.
With enough time, you can master all the separate components of SEO - backlinks, content, even technical SEO at a push. With enough time and dedication, you can even stay on top of the constant algorithm changes and updates. Our OMG Academy is designed to help you do exactly that.
But for the real tangible long term results, you need one more thing that isn’t easy to learn: strategy. A rock-solid SEO strategy is what separates the winners from the rest. But it’s not easy to create a sustainable long-term SEO strategy from scratch without any experience.
Bottom line? If you truly want to invest in your SEO success, you need to invest in a unique SEO strategy. That means finding the right specialists for the job, whether you hire a digital marketing agency or find the right in-house resource.
Performing an SEO audit means you need to delve deep into the technical and non-technical elements of your website presence. How strong is your backlink profile? Is your content fresh, targeted and well-optimised? Are there any crawl errors or broken links stopping search engine bots from indexing your site? Do you have any Google penalties? Are their content gaps you should be filling? This is only the start.
Don’t stress - there are some brilliant tools out there designed to make it simpler to audit your website SEO. One of these is SEMrush, which has a whole suite of tools to audit your site and search presence. For the full story, don’t rely on only one audit tool. Back up your research using other tools, such as:
Google Search Console - check for broken links, crawl errors and more
Google PageSpeed Insights - check the speed of your site on mobile and desktop
Ahrefs - see what competitors are doing
Copyscape - check for duplicate content
Google Analytics - audit keywords, metrics and more
Better yet, who says you have to perform an SEO audit yourself? Get a FREE audit from OMG. When you claim your audit, our SEO specialists will assess your website and digital presence. We’ll look at your SEO history, as well as any paid advertising and social strategies you might have, and show you where you can make improvements, and how we can help.The best part is our audit and strategy sessions are completely FREE with no obligation. If this is you, lock in your free SEO audit today and put your business on the fast track for growth.
Wondering what all the jargon means? Tired of trying to guess what all the acronyms mean? Well, look no further than this ultimate list of essential definitions. This section is the must-have glossary on all things SEO.
Above the fold is the part of a web page a user can see before scrolling. In the earlier days of publishing, it was used for content that appeared on the top half of the front page of a newspaper - literally, above the paper’s fold.
In SEO terms, an algorithm refers to the list of rules and formulas used by search engines to rank websites in the results pages. For example, the Google algorithm uses more than 200 ranking factors.
Also known as “alt text”, the alt attribute is the "alternative" text version of an image displayed on a website when an image is not available. It tells search engines how to “read” the image by describing its appearance and function on a page.
Black hat SEO is the group of optimisation strategies and tactics that go against search engine guidelines to get a rapid boost in search rankings. Black hat tactics include cloaking, buying backlinks, keyword stuffing, content farms and more. They often end in a penalty from search engines.
Bounce rate tells you the percentage of visits where a user leaves your website from the landing page without browsing any further. As an SEO metric, it is useful in telling you how well your pages are converting visitors.
Breadcrumbs are links that let a user track their path on a website from the page they are currently viewing to the home page. They are usually shown close to the top of a page.
Cache is a snapshot of a web page that Google and other search engines create and store after they have indexed a page. The search engine serves the cached page to a user in place of the most recent version of your page.
The canonical URL is an HTML link element (rel="canonical") which allows you to specify your preferred URL to search engines. It’s especially helpful if you have duplicate pages and want to tell the search engine which page to use in search results.
Click-through rate (CTR) is a metric that measures the number of clicks advertisers receive on ads per number of impressions. It is often used to measure the success of paid search advertising and email campaigns.
Cloaking is an SEO technique in which the content presented to the user is different from that shown to the search engine crawler. It is considered a black hat technique.
A content management system (CMS) is a platform which lets you manage the creation, publishing and optimisation of digital content. The most popular examples of CMS are WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal.
A conversion is the process of getting a user to respond to your call-to-action in the way you want. For example, the user is “converted” from being a web visitor to a customer or newsletter subscriber.
Crawl errors occur when a search engine crawler or bot tries to reach a page on your website but fails. They return a “crawl error”. An important part of technical SEO is to reduce the number of crawl errors on your site to zero.
The customer journey is the whole series of touch points and experiences that users go through when interacting with your brand. The customer journey encompasses everything from the first discovery of your brand to when they stop being a customer.
A dead-end page is a page with no internal links or calls to actions. It literally leaves visitors with nothing to do and nowhere to go next.
A deep link is a hypertext link to any page other than the home page. The link goes “deep” into the site's hierarchical structure of pages.
If you de-index a page on your website, Google will no longer be able to index it and return it in the search engine results pages.
Online directories are great places to get backlinks and online citations that support your website. Registering in web directories is considered an effective off-page SEO tactic.
Disavowing is the process of reporting inorganic inbound links - in other words, links that have been gained unnaturally or paid for. Because Google wants links to be earned organically, it has a disavow tool allowing webmasters to report inorganic inbound links for their domains.
Domain authority (aka website authority) is a search engine metric used to estimate how well a website will rank on search engine results pages (SERPs). Domain authority is a crucial metric for any successful SEO strategy.
Do-follow links are the backlinks you want Google and other search engines to count as “votes” for your site’s authority and trustworthiness. They do not include a rel=”nofollow” HTML tag.
Doorway pages are created to rank highly for specific search queries. They are generally bad for users as they can lead to lots of similar pages in search results, with each result taking the user to what appears like the same destination.
Dwell time is a SEO metric measuring the length of time that a visitor spends on a page before clicking back to the search results. It is one of the most important SEO metrics you can measure as it tells you how engaged visitors are with your site.
From an SEO perspective, engagement is an important element of the search engine ranking algorithm. It tells the search engines how relevant and useful people find your site. It can be measured using various SEO metrics, such as dwell time, bounce rate and time on page.
Featured snippets are selected search results featured in a box at the top of Google's organic results, below the ads. Google uses featured snippets to answer the searcher’s question immediately. The featured website also gains higher exposure and visibility.
Footer links are links at the very bottom of a web page. They can be used as the last point to convert visitors or provide navigational links.
A Google bomb is where a group of people conspires to elevate a website in Google's search results by linking a particular word or phrase to the website. It’s considered a black hat technique. Google bombs can be politically motivated, pranks, or just motivated by self-promotion.
Gray hat SEO covers the SEO practices that fall somewhere between white hat and black hat SEO. They are riskier than white hat SEO tactics, but may not necessarily result in your site being penalised by search engines.
Guest blogging is where website owners write content for other blogs, usually in their industry. Guest blogging is an effective way to increase traffic, backlinks and authority for a website.
Headings are an on-page organisational tool that guide the user through the page content. Optimising headings with keywords is an effective SEO tactic - 80% of first-page search results on Google use a H1 header (source: Medium).
Headlines are the first thing a visitor sees on the page. They are generally written to engage the user, grab attention and make them want to read the page. As such, they are a powerful SEO tool.
Hidden text is any text on a web page that is visible to search engine bots but not to humans. For example, hidden text might use keyword stuffing to rank higher without turning away visitors. Using hidden text to get a higher search ranking is considered a black hat SEO tactic.
HTML stands for Hyper Text Markup Language, and is the standard markup language for creating web pages. HTML elements are the building blocks of web pages and are represented by tags.
HTTP stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol. It is the protocol over which data is communicated between a browser and website. The communication is done by sending HTTP Requests and receiving HTTP Responses.
Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is the secure version of HTTP. The 'S' at the stands for 'Secure’, which means all communications between a browser and the website are encrypted.
An inbound link is a hyperlink coming to your site from an external site. Consistently earning high-quality inbound links (aka backlinks) is a reliable SEO strategy, as it is widely believed to be one of Google’s top ranking factors.
A search engine index is the database of information on all the websites that Google (or any other search engine) could find. Search engines use crawlers or bots to crawl websites and create the index. A web page must be in a search engine's index in order to be returned in search results.
Indexed pages are the pages found by search engine bots and added to the index. These pages are found by the search engine to have enough quality for relevant search phrases, and will therefore be shown in the results for that search query.
Information architecture (IA) refers to the way you organise and structure your web content to improve the user experience. It covers things like navigation, sitemap, page types, page structure, wireframes, content organisation and more.
An internal link is a link to another page or resource within the same website or domain. For example, you may have an internal link from one blog to another blog, or from a web page to an ebook.
An IP address is a unique number which identifies a piece of hardware within a network. It looks like a long string of numbers separated by full stops. IP stands for Internet Protocol.
Keyword cannibalisation happens when two or more pages on your website compete for the same keyword or phrase in Google. Keyword cannibalisation can potentially damage your organic search rankings as Google is forced to choose between the pages to show the one that appears to be the most valuable to the search query.
Keyword density is the percentage of times a keyword or phrase appears on a page compared to the total number of words on the page. In SEO, keyword density was traditionally used to determine whether a page is relevant to a specific keyword, but it is now less important.
Keyword research is a critical SEO task where you identify relevant words and phrases for your target audience. You can then optimise your content and on-page elements to target these keywords.
Keyword stuffing is a black hat SEO tactic where a page is filled with an unnatural number of keywords in an attempt to manipulate a site's ranking in search results. Often these keywords appear completely out of context or in a list.
Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) is the use of terms and phrases that are similar or related to the target keyword in that page’s content.
A lead is a potential customer who has expressed an interest in your goods or services, but is not yet a converted customer.
Link bait is website content created for the sole purpose of getting other people to link to your site, so you can rank higher on search engine results pages.
Link equity, also commonly known as “link juice”, describes the way in which a link can pass authority from one page to another. For example, link equity can be passed to a webpage from both internal links (links within the same website) and external links (links coming from other websites).
A link farm is a website or group of websites created for the sole purpose of increasing the link popularity of another site by boosting the number of incoming links. A link farm typically looks like a normal web page, but the majority of the content is links to other websites, which are often unrelated.
Link juice, also commonly known as “link equity”, describes the way in which a link can pass authority from one page to another. For example, link juice can be passed to a webpage from both internal links (links within the same website) and external links (links coming from other websites).
Link velocity is the speed of link growth to a page or domain. It is often measured in new links per month or new linking root domains per month.
A link profile is the type of links directing to your site. Good SEO practice aims to create a high quality link profile of earned links from a variety of high-authority sites.
The meta description, a meta tag in HTML code, is a snippet of up to 155 characters which summarises a page's content. Optimising the meta description is crucial for on-page SEO because search engines mostly show the meta description in results when the keyword or phrase is within the description.
Meta keywords are a meta tag that appear in the HTML code of a web page to tell search engines what the topic of the page is. Search engines are looking for keywords to accurately reflect the content of the page.
Meta tags are snippets of text in the code used to describe a page's content to search engines. They don’t appear on the page for users.
Negative SEO is the use of black hat tactics on other websites with the goal to get them penalised by Google.
In SEO terms, niche refers to a niche market. In other words, targeting a small subset of your market. The niche is very specific and will impact your buyer personas, price point, keywords and more.
The NOARCHIVE tag tells Google not to store a cached copy of your page in the index. This means the search engine will not return your cached page in search engine results.
Nofollow is an HTML attribute value used to instruct search engines bots that a hyperlink should not be counted towards the target's ranking in the search engine's index.
Nofollow links are backlinks you want search engines to ignore when ranking your site. They include a rel=”nofollow” HTML tag which tells search engines not to count them towards the page ranking.
Including a no-index tag in the page’s HTML code prevents a page from being indexed and shown in search results.
The no-snippet tag tells Google not to show a snippet (description) under your search listing.
On-page SEO is the practice of optimising individual pages in order to rank higher in search engines. There are lots of onpage SEO elements, including meta tags, headlines, images and more.
An orphan page is a page that cannot be found by internal linking, as it is not linked to from anywhere.
Outbound links are links that directs visitors from your site to another site. They are typically used in content to verify sources and facts, or point visitors to useful resources.
PageRank (or PR) is a mathematical algorithm used by Google to evaluate the quality and number of links to a webpage. This helps Google to determine a score of the page's importance and authority.
A Google penalty is a punishment against a website that has gone against Google’s rules or policies. A penalty can be a result of an update to Google's ranking algorithm, or a manual review that indicates a page used black hat SEO.
A pageview, also known as a pageview hit or page tracking hit, is a single instance of a page being loaded in a browser. As as SEO metric, it is the total number of pages viewed.
Reciprocal links, also known as link exchanges, are when two webmasters agree to provide a hyperlink to each other's sites. In other words, “I’ll link to you if you link to me”. According to Google, excessive use of link exchanges can negatively impact a site's ranking in search results.
A redirect is created to send users and search engines to a different URL from the one originally requested. Three commonly used redirects are 301, 302, and Meta Refresh.
A referrer is a source that drives visits and visitors to your website. It could be an online directory, social media post, pay-per-click ad or something else.
Reinclusion is where you ask a search engine to re-list a webpage that was previously penalised or punished for black hat SEO.
In SEO terms, relevance describes how well the page content corresponds to the search query. Relevance is hugely important to search engines, and is an important ranking factor for Google. The more relevant your page, the higher it are likely to rank.
Reputation management is the process of creating a positive online image for a brand or company. It can include a social media strategy, guest blogging, reviews and more.
A rich snippet is what searchers see in the search results when you add structured data markup to your HTML code. Structured data markup tells search engines how to display the information contained on a page. A rich snippet then shows this extra information on the search engine results page.
Crawlers (aka spiders, robots or bots) are search engine programs that browse the web to find and index content. Crawlers can look at text, links, sitemaps, images, videos and more.
Robots meta tag is a piece of code that tells search engines what to follow and what not to follow. Put the code in the <head> section of your web page based on whether you want to show the page to search engine crawlers so they can index it, or hide the page.
Robots.txt is a text file you can create to instruct search engine crawlers on how to crawl and index pages on your site. It’s also known as the robots exclusion protocol or standard.
Return on investment (ROI) is a financial metric that tells you how much revenue you are earning from your investment in search engine marketing (SEM)
Schema (or Schema.org) is a vocabulary of tags that you can add to your HTML to improve the way search engines understand your page content and how it should be displayed.
A content scrape (or web scrape) is an automated programs that pulls data from multiple websites. It is a way of seeing what content and SEO tactics competitors are using to get the best results.
Search engine marketing (SEM) is an umbrella term for any tactics used to rank higher in paid and organic search results. It includes pay-per-click ads, display advertising and SEO.
Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to the techniques and strategies used to drive targeted traffic to your website from organic search engine results. It includes on-page and off-page tactics.
A search engine results page (SERP) is the list of results shown by a search engine, such as Google, in response to a search query. The SERP includes paid and organic listings. The higher a page is shown in the SERP, the more chance a searcher will click on it.
A sitemap is a file you create to provide information about the pages, content, media and files on your site, and show the relationships between them. This helps search engines understand the layout of your site, which makes it easier to crawl and index.
Split testing, also known as A/B testing or multivariate testing, is the process of conducting controlled experiments to improve a site performance metric, such as clicks or conversions. Split testing is used to test headlines, images, colours, page layouts and more. The idea is to only change one element at a time, so you can clearly see what is making a difference to the results.
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. It’s a security protocol used to establish encrypted links between a web server and a browser. When installed on a web server, the SSL certificate encrypts the site using HTTPS (Hypertext Transport Protocol Security) rather than HTTP (Hypertext Transport Protocol), so any data going between your web server and browser remains private and secure.
An HTTP status code is a server’s response to a browser’s request. When a user visits your website, their browser sends a request to your server, which then responds to the request with a code. This is the HTTP status code. If the server cannot find the page, for example, the code might be 401. Two very important codes for SEO are 301 (permanent redirect) and 302 (temporary redirect).
A subdomain is an extension to a main domain. They are created to organise your website and make it easier to navigate. For example, store.mywebsite.com is a subdomain of mywebsite.com.
A top-level domain (TLD) is the part of the domain name located after the dot. The most common TLDs are .com, .net, and .org. Some TLDs are restricted. For example, .edu requires the registrant to represent an educational entity. TLDs also have country codes, like Australia’s .com.au.
Time on page is an SEO metric measuring the amount of time users spend on a single web page. It is often measured as an average of all users’ time on page.
A title tag is an HTML element that identifies the title of the webpage. Title tags are shown on search engine results pages (SERPs) as the headline that searchers click on for the result. Good title tags are optimised for usability, SEO, and social sharing.
Universal search refers to the method Google uses to deliver search results. Launched in May 2007, it’s the way Google blends results from “vertical” search engines like Google Images and Google News into its general web search listings. This means results can include images, articles, videos, news, books and more.
A uniform resource locator (URL) is the internet address of a resource. There are two parts to a URL: the name of the resource and the protocol used to access it. For http://myshop.com, the protocol identifier is http and the resource name is myshop.com.
Usability is a broad term that refers to how easy a website is to use. It is another way of expressing “user experience”. The goal of website design is to make the online experience as user-friendly as possible, which may help the site rank higher in search engine results.
User experience (UX) is the overall experience of an individual using a website or app. UX typically focuses on how easy, intuitive and enjoyable a website is to use.
Vertical search is a more specific search than universal search. For example, Google Images, Google Trends and Google News are vertical search engines.
White hat SEO refers to the group of optimisation tactics and strategies that improve your search rankings on a search engine results page (SERP) while following the search engines' rules and policies and maintaining the integrity of your website. White hat SEO practices tend to have a big focus on improving user experience.
XML stands for eXtensible Markup Language. XML is a markup language used to store and transport data, while HTML is used to format and display the data.
An XML sitemap acts as a roadmap of your website for search engines. Done well, it will lead Google to your important pages for indexing.
Yahoo is a search engine, an email platform, news site and content company. Yahoo’s homepage is the fourth most visited website in the entire world, according to Yahoo.
Yandex is a search engine and the largest media property in all of Russia. It was created specifically for the Russian market as it is better able to handle specific Russian language search challenges.