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seo ultimate guide

The Ultimate Guide to Search Engine Optimization in 2020

The internet has changed the way we live our life. The most important thing we do on the internet these days is search. Search is the gateway to everything we do online. Your customers and partners are busy searching online for businesses like yours and also expecting you to show them the way through the various questions they are asking.

google seo result

In this article, you will learn how to get started and transform your business using search engine optimization, see how it affects your business and learn how to generate endless traffic that converts leads to paying customers. Here’s what you will learn in a list:

  • What is SEO?
  • What are search engine results pages (SERPS)?
  • How SEO Affects Your Business
  • Keywords the Foundation of SEO
  • Content optimization
  • Link Building Strategies

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization is the process of improving on and off you in other to gain more exposure in search engine results. More exposure and more result will automatically lead to more visitors finding you for the right reasons and coming to your website.

In other words, SEO is a methodology used to gain traffic by making your website visible in search engine results via organic or paid technique (I am not talking about black-hat) the term organic means using natural ways to enhance website visibility without a pay-per-click service like google and Bing ads.

The goal of search Engines

To understand the goal of SEO, we must first understand the goal of the search engine themselves. At the heart of it all, search engines are just trying to find and understand all the content out there on the internet and quickly deliver relevant & authoritative results based on any phrase the user might be a search for. Just like a human search, search engines only goal is to display information relevant to a query.

Relevance and Authority

Relevance

When a user searches for something like “Lagos Plumbers”, search engines will display the result relevant to Plumbing in Lagos. Search engines will analyze all the web pages they have ever visited and pick at the webpages relevant to the phrase “Lagos Plumbers”.  The search engines determine this by evaluating a lot of factors including how your website was writing in code, as well as how other websites around the web are linking to it.

All of this is done using a complex algorithm. Time for this search is usually in split seconds, the results are displayed in order of relevance to the phrase.

image showing seo result for Lagos plumber
Image of Google search results for Lagos plumbers

Search engines make a very clear distinction about content most relevant to the phrase “Lagos Plumbers” and those that are not. Taking the search example above, there is a high tendency that those who are searching for “Lagos Plumbers” might also want to know paint shops, plumbing materials sellers, kitchen fix sellers and more around Lagos. There exist a semantic relationship between search queries.

Authority

In a mighty place like the world wide web where anyone can post anything, the big question remains, is your website a trusted place on the internet that search engines will want to show to users?. A very common way for search engines like Google to know a websites Authority is evaluating what other websites are talking about it. This can be measured by the links out there that are linking to your website.

I want you to think of a link as a vote of confidence on the internet. Webpages linking to your website is almost like saying I trust your website a lot that I am willing to reference to it and possibly send traffic to your site. It’s a vote of trust and search engine pick up on these as they crawl the internet.

The kind of links that works

As you try to find links on the internet, you should keep it in mind that it is not a popularity contest where you try to find the most vote. Search engines have a safe guide in place to prevent these kinds of abuse. You must instead emphasize the quality of links.

Google and Bing are more likely to prefer a link coming from a well-respected blog, magazine or website rather than a 2 weeks old website selling clicks. Think of it as a different kind of democracy where some votes are more important than others.

You will be able to understand & improve factors that determine search engine ranking when we understand the role Authority and Relevance plays in Search Engine Optimization

Understanding Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs)?

There are a lot of search engines around the world and they all have their distinct differences, but there are some common characteristics among search engine result pages.

Image showing Bing SERPS
Image of a search engine result page from Bing

One thing we are likely going to find is some paid listings. They will be quite different from others, the wording will be straight to the point with a precise call to action. These paid listings are advertisement from websites offering similar services.  A paid listing like Google AdWords and Bing Ad centre allow advertisers to make bids (link) on whose website gets shown for what keyword on search result pages.

One important to point out is the fact that the internet has changed a lot since search engines first appeared. Apart from text, Search engines now return images, videos, products, maps etc. we now have blended results that include all types of content that matches a user’s search query.

Image showing google blended such
Image of a blended result page from google

Social signals now allow search engines to show social media contents that your friends have shared. These results are shown based on what the search engine thinks is relevant to the user search query, your search query comes very handily here. The most important thing to remember is that you have a lot of opportunities to get search engines to display your content on search result pages.

How SEO Affects Your Business

If you hire business there are some very real and specific benefits to having a consistent ongoing search engine optimization strategy. For the first time in the history of the search engine, users are offering up their intent through the words they type. Also, more than ever before you can measure the result of your SEO efforts as a marketing company.

While the search engine does not charge you for listing your website, planning & implementing search engine optimization for your organization is certainly not free. You will need to spend the time, money and resources to do this the right way. This is also very important in securing huge marketing reach, attract more targeted visitors and measuring the return on investment.

Working with a unique growth-driven website strategy is one of the easiest ways to get your search engine optimization right.

More and more content appears on the web everyday & your customers need a search engine to make sense of it all. The bigger the web gets, the more search engine usage keeps growing.

How people use search engines

People use the search engine to find a place to sleep, eat, buy products, and check the latest football score. Almost everything we do online starts with a search. It’s not just done via pc anymore, the explosion of the connected device means users have access to search from multiple devices from anywhere in the world. The word people type into search says a lot about their intention, or what actions they intend to take in a given moment in time. If someone searches for “buy a blue car in Enugu or where to buy a Red Suite in Abuja”, it’s very easy as a business owner/marketer to understand & react to what they are looking for.

A fact to remember.

 It’s good to remember the role of search engines is to match the search queries to relevant pages that match the “search” for the topic. So if you sell black shoes or red suits, you can create relevant contents that meet the need of the searcher at the exact right moment.

Good search engine optimization provides some of the best streams of targeted and intentional traffic you can ask for.  Besides others, once of the most important benefits is search engines ability to measure how successful your results. Using analytics you can measure how successful you are In predicting the types of users that tally with your business goals. You can see what they do and what they don’t do.

You can truly measure your SEO effects by attaching actual dollar & pounds to all actions that begin with a simple search.

HOW TO SET SEO EXPECTATIONS

SEO is a process that requires a lot of patience, dedication, time and lots of work. Setting expectations for your SEO efforts will enable you to stay on course therefore, enabling you to run and measure how successful your strategy is because SEO is very different from most other digital marketing efforts.

Good things take time and that cannot be truer than with SEO. There is a very big reason while all those ranking number one on google are called scams. It’s almost impossible to rank on Google within two weeks. It takes time to:

  • Create new unique content
  • Build lots of backlinks
  • Research keywords that fit your niche
  • Execute and continually test your strategy
  • Resolve any technical drawback on your site.

How Easy is SEO?

Search engine optimization is not an easy process, there is always something to be done. It’s important to have it in mind it takes time for the search engine to recognize changes to your website’s links and structure. More time is required to ascertain the relevance and authority of your website before changes are reflected in your search results.

Been focused and patient on your strategy will help you follow through on your SEO to the end. Search engines are always changing their algorithm, a lot of those changes is in its algorithm or display. Also, you must realize during SEO you are optimizing for two audiences. The search engine itself & human beings.

While you are busy optimizing for search engine, you must realize its humans that bring the conversions. Its people that generate business on your website. That’s why they have the ultimate goal of displaying search results that people find useful.

Hence, if you create an SEO strategy, build content & authority that’s friendly to search engines, you will get rewarded with conversions and more sales.

Keywords the Foundation of SEO

Why do we need keyword research?

It is a very wise choice to know what you are optimizing your website for before you start. Else you are going to end up optimizing for everything. Finding the right keyword can be challenging but there are a lot of tools to help you make the right choice and provide you with a structured approach you can use for your business.

What are keywords?

Keywords are search term people enter into search engines. On typing these terms, search engines like google, Bing and Yandex will go all out and find the most relevant document based on your query and past searches. When these engines make their search, they sieve through all the webpage on the World Wide Web using a complex system of algorithms that is beyond our scope of learning.

image of Google search box
Image of the google search box

Users will normally follow one wide search term with another that’s more precise until they get precisely what they are looking for.

We must understand users all over the world are typing different kinds of keywords every second. It’s therefore important that we know what they are searching for so we can optimize our pages to show up when users search for words that correspond to what we do.

Why keyword research is important

Keyword research is the most basic piece of the SEO process. It will enable you to find out the following.

  • Keywords that’s entered into search engines.
  • Frequency or how often the keywords are searched for.
  • Relevance or how often these keywords are to your business objectives.
  • How competitive it will be for your business to rank for that keyword.

Let’s take an example

Let us assume you sell houses:

Picture of google search bar with the keyword “HOUSE” in the search bar

You might think the keyword house is what you want to rank for but after so much research, you might find out the keyword “House” is too competitive to rank for. A valuable finding during your keyword research journey might be though the volume is very high and relevance fairly good, the competition will be too high to rank for. Besides people typing such exact keyword like the house might be looking for painters, houses, cleaning agent and other things that aren’t relevant to your business.

Still on the example given above, words like “3 bedroom duplex in Lekki, Lagos might not get typed in search engines a whole lot, the relevance will be very high and competition very low. Keywords like this should be among your list of keywords to optimize for.

Planning your keyword research

An effective keyword research plane involves having a very sound and structured approach to finding the best keyword that will give you’re the data you need to make an informed decision on what keyword will better affect your business search engine result pages or SERP for short.

Do remember a good SEO strategy takes time and patience to accomplish.

How to Research Keywords

The most important part of keywords research is to forget about yourself and focus on your customer’s intentions and needs because they are the one you are optimizing for. Everyone will develop their unique process of doing keyword research and you will ultimately have to find something that works for you.

Keyword research is one of the most important, valuable and high-return activities you can perform for your business. With keyword research, you can predict a shift in demand, respond to changing market conditions and produce the product/services and contents that searchers are already actively looking for.

Every word that’s typed into a search engine is recorded one way or another and most keyword research tool allows us to retrieve information about these words and use it to improve our business.

Thinking Strategically

Even if your product or services provides a solution your potential customers want, they may start their search with a problem instead of a solution. As we have said before, searchers often go through a progression that looks like this.

  • Where to buy quartz wristwatch
  • Best wristwatch store In Lagos
  • Where to buy Gold colour quartz wristwatch in Lagos
  • Best Gold colour quartz wristwatch seller near me

As you saw above, the searcher checks out some site, refine search term and repeat the process until they finally get what they want.  Apart from understanding search sequence, other elements that might affect search behaviour include demography (age, income, and sex), geographical location and season. During a very cold season, products like a cotton coat, warm clothes go through sharp peaks in volume during such periods and decline sharply at the end of the season.

Long-tail keywords vs popular searches

The online ecosystem is very competitive making it very easy to get lost in the World Wide Web. A popular phrase like “Hotel in Nigeria” “Cakeshop”  have high search volume but actually comprise less than 30% of the overall searches performed on the web. The remaining 70% is called long-tail keywords, these are terms searched for only a few times a day. A combination of these word on your side can do so many wonders for your business.

Image showing long tail keywords on okoduwa.com
Image credit Backlinko.com

Steps to Finding the right Keywords

1.Brainstorming

You know your business more than anyone, it’s therefore important you list as many queries your potential customers will be using to find you on the internet. Suggestion tools like Google keywords planner and Ubersuggest which we will find out more about later can be of very immense help here.

2. Evaluate Search Volumes

To enable you to see how much demand there is for your listed keywords evaluation is very important. As you do that you will notice among your listed words will be words that are typed very often and other descriptive keywords used in less common variation (long-tail-keywords)

3. Categorize by Keyword

Grouping your keywords into themes and topics as it relates to your business is very important for segmenting unique keywords for a different aspect of your business funnel.  This is called keyword categorization.

As you find keywords, be open-minded as a lot of factors affect your website and local store ranking in search engine. Continuous evaluation is one major key to getting the most out of search engine result pages. you will learn more here

How to measure SEO success

SEO management requires a holistic approach. Before getting started you will want to spend some time setting up some tools that will enable you to track and monitor your SEO goal. Some of these tools include:

Tracking goes beyond slapping some JavaScript codes on your website. These tools have to be set in line with your company objectives, Key performance index, goals and business outcomes. You may also want to set some SEO focused KPIs like:

  • Organic search traffic
  • Total organic search traffic month over month
  • Target keyword rankings
  • Revenue
  • Subscribers
  • Social follower
  • Signups
  • Contact forms and much more

Ongoing keyword evaluation is one of the most important steps in the SEO process. Once we have researched our keyword and implemented them on our site, it will take time for our keyword to start producing the result. Using tools like google analytics, it’s possible to see which page on your website is ranking and for what Keyword. Google my business is a very easy way to get local traffic.

As you evaluate, should you notice that your chosen keyword isn’t generating any sales conversion, swap it with another keyword. One very quick way to find out if your selected keyword will generate traffic is through Bing or google ads.

Also, search engine optimization is not a set and leave or a once and for all process. Search engines are always changing and the way people use search engine change too. You will want to re-evaluate those keywords you research at least twice a year.

Remember, to get the best out of SEO, you must Learn, take action and measure. Until you reach perfection, there’s always something to do better.­­­­­­

Content optimization

Content optimization is the process of improving the quality and relevance of the contents of your site including video, images and text. Good content makes the user come back for more, ask questions and even take out time to share on other platforms. Think about the last time you saw a very useful piece of content on the internet, you shared it because it was remarkable.

As you grow bigger and focus on a wide range of topics, it’s important to arrange all your content in a meaningful way so search engines can easily index it. Imagine a good website layout like a well arrange library. Users are easily guided in the right direction for every book they are looking for.

On your website, you will do this through internal linking.  As search engine crawl through your homepage, lead them to other pages of your website through a good layout. If a search engine finds your site well-structured and logical, it will be recommended to your target audience a lot more than others.

Type of content to optimize on your website

  • Text
  • Image
  • Video
  • Gif

The search engine finds it easy to recognize text content. Image, video and Gif are not so easy. To optimize non-textual content, important to put a descriptive text around the image, and also include an alternate text. Another way to do this is to include micro-formatting from schema.org.

Providing as much information as you can to search engine goes a long way in making your site rank.

Analyzing content quality

 Determining how optimized your content can be difficult, but with a tool like SEOMOZ, you will be able to fix your website atomically and even get a recommendation.

An important strategy in ranking a lot is generating fresh content often. Seeing that we have a lot to do daily, one easy way to generate content is through User-generated content (UGC). These are content generated by site visitors. Some examples include:

  • Blog comments
  • Blog post
  • Forums
  • Votes
  • Product reviews
  • Guest post
  • Testimonials
  • Case studies

Keep in mind that these contents don’t have to be textual. Allow user to post videos and images, and don’t forget to take advantage of social media sites in creating viral content. Also do make sure to create an approval process for every user-generated content on your website.

Link Building Strategies

One of the core aspects of SEO is link building. It’s one of the most important factors that determine your search engine ranking. Think of every internal and external link as a vote, with some vote more important than the others. Two things ultimately affect your SEO are:

  • Number of links
  • Quality of links

Generally speaking, you will improve your search engine visibility by increasing the number of lines coming to your site and the quality of those links. Search engine cares about the authority and relevance of the site those links are coming from. Imagine, you own a keto diet blog and you have a top ranking food review blog linking to you, the search engine has no trouble at all linking to you. But if you have a gambling site linking to you, the search engine will not interpret it as a quality link.

Even as you build your site’s link, you must avoid spamming and link buying. For example, if you have never had anyone link to you in your life and all of a sudden you have 100 links pointing to you, search engines will know you are buying your links. Penalties could be anything from dropping your index and removing you totally from the search engine.

Social media pages are some of the recent best ways to create links to your site. The search engine’s now lookout for sites with high social media traffic and engagement, so do well to leverage on platforms where you will find your target audience.

Finding link building opportunities

One simple way to find new opportunities is to analyze backlinks of other similar sites like yours. The first thing to get started is to search the keyword you want to rank for on google.  You will want to take note of the top pages because that’s what you are looking for.

One tool that will help you here is Ubersuggest. Its free plan allows you to analyze a competitor and learn about their inbound links, external links, top-ranking pages and more. One thing to remember is that you want to focus on backlinks with high page and domain authority.

Also, among other information, you will find directories and forums your competitors have submitted their sites to that will help you as well.  Other link building opportunities include:

  • Guest blogging links
  • High-quality educational website content that’s shareable
  • Links from NGO
  • Infographics

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