The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to SEO

2018

How many times have you been frustrated by the performance of your SEO vendors; SEO experts who claim that they are able to bring you guaranteed results but do not seem to achieve anything. Or are you trying to learn more about SEO but cannot seem to piece all the bits and pieces of information together.

This is the Ultimate Guide and Resource Portal to everything you need to understand about SEO. Grab a cup of coffee and clear everything in your mind now, because it is going to be heavy, and most likely will contradict everything you thought you knew about SEO.

Competitor Research
Part 1

What is SEO?

Part 2

Benefits of SEO?

Part 3

How to improve SEO?

Part 4

Skill Requirements

Part 5

How to identify credible SEO Experts?

Part 6

Basic SEO that you can do yourself

Part 7

What is Black Hat SEO?

Part 8

How to learn more about SEO?

Part 9

Recommended SEO Tools

What is SEO?

SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimisation. It is the process of optimising a website to obtain high ranking search results in search engines for targeted keywords. The main strategic aim is to achieve maximum visibility, increase organic traffic from targeted visitors to the website and convert them to leads and sales for the business. There are a few major search engines in the world; Google, Bing, Baidu, DuckDuckGo and Yandex. The context of this guide will revolve around Google since it is mainly the search engine that we will be working on.

SEO is often confused with AdWords, which is known as SEM or Search Engine Marketing. For SEM, a business pays Google whenever a visitor clicks on their ads which appear in targeted search results. For SEO, a business does not have to pay Google anything. The only necessary payments are the retainer fee or salaries to hire SEO/ Digital Marketing Experts or your own time to actively work on initiatives to improve Domain Authority of the website, the search engine rankings for sales pages, the conversion rates and ultimately the sales performance of the company. Pay for links? Unless the links make sense to exist in the targeted 3rd party web pages, it is a no-no black hat SEO tactic.

Benefits of Good SEO

It's just so simple

More Leads, More Sales, More Customers

The most obvious benefit for business with good SEO ranking is more customers and more sales. When the correct keywords are targeted and the website is ranking highly, the website will naturally draw in more online leads and enquries. With proper optimization for conversion, a website with good keywords' rankings will be a valuable asset for the business as it will provide a predictable stream of potential income every month.

Few people know this

Attract Collaboration Opportunities, Better Staff

Beside customers, when you are ranking highly for industry specific terms, your business will begin to attract more attention from other corporate entities. You will begin to receive more interesting enquiries for collaborations, partnerships and speaking opportunities. When you want to start hiring, you will also be able to attract more attention from the job seeking crowd, increasing your choices and allowing you to hire better staff.

Oh wait, there's more

Strengthen Branding, Improve Perception & Valuation

When I first ran a photography gig for children birthday parties, our main source of customers came from forums and referrals. During the early stages, our conversion rate was low, and the leads that we acquired were very price sensitive. As our rankings started to climb and finally dominated the search engine rankings, we constantly got 10 to 20 enquries per week for our photography services (no other marketing channels). With the improved sales funnel, we began to have customers who were looking more at quality than price; being ranked number 1 in the search engine results gives off the impression that we definitely provide quality services. We began to have the confidence to increase our pricing rates and filter out clients with lower budgets, to maintain our quality without spreading ourselves too thin.

How to (really) improve SEO?

According to an in-depth Ranking Factors Study by SEMRush, the important factors that determine top ranking websites are:

  • Direct Website Visits
  • Time on Site
  • Number Of Sessions
  • Bounce Rate
  • Backlinks
  • Referring Domains
  • Referring IPs
  • Content Length
  • Website Security
  • Other Factors

Direct Website Visits

This is the number of web visitors who arrive to your webpage by typing your web address URL directly. This is particularly important as a business with a brand-able name would be easier to remember. With an increase in direct web visitors, your search engine ranking would improve as well.

Time on Site

This is one crucial factor you must take into account for SEO. The amount of time a web visitor dwells on your webpage after landing is one of the crucial ranking factors Google takes into account in its algorithm.

Number Of Sessions

This is the number of visits that your website receives from web visitors. It is an important metric that Google evaluates to rank your website. The higher the number of sessions, the more favourable it will look to Google's ranking algorithms, which can increase your rankings.

Bounce Rate

This is the percentage of web visitors who exit your website after viewing just one page. If your content is interesting and relevant to the web visitor, bounce rates would be drastically reduced. A good bounce rate to strive for is under 40%, as show in Google Analytics.

Backlinks

Backlinks are links to your website from other websites. The more relevant the links are, the higher Google would rank you in their algorithms.

Referring Domains

This refers to where the backlinks to your website originate from. If the domain that linked to you is reputable and well-known, it will help a lot with your site's ranking.

Referring IPs

This refers to the Internet Protocol of the site that has backlinks pointed to your website. If they are unique and not duplicates, it is a good sign to Google, and your website may be ranked higher.

Content Length

It is generally recommended to have a content piece that's at least 1000 words long, as they are deemed to be of higher quality by Google's algorithms. However, the content should be written without stuffing filler and keywords.

Website Security

It is of paramount importance to secure your website with proper security plugins or networks. Cloudflare is a prominent example that can help you reduce the risk of DNS attacks. Installing a SSL certificate can also protect the information that your web visitor provides to you. It is starting to become a basic requirement such that it is being considered by Google's algorithms.

Other Factors

There are many other factors (at least another 190+ more) that Google's algorithms consider when ranking your website on their search engine. The trick to get the green light from Google is to provide as much original value as possible, while ensuring a good user experience and having good security measures in place. 

Thus, in the most simplistic way to describe, the way to improve SEO is really all just about improving the scores of the various mentioned & unmentioned factors. In reality, especially when practising as a professional SEO agency, there are way more considerations to think about.

Clients' unique business requirements sometimes add dilemmas to the entire equation. As SEO consultants, it is always our priority to understand our clients' business needs. SEO may be important, but it is not everything.

It is also important to note that no one will know for sure the actual algorithms that determine SEO rankings. Google is always tweaking their ranking algorithms and what works today may not work tomorrow.

Skills that a good seo team will need

Writing

One of the key skills an excellent SEO professional should have is to know how to write and communicate authentically, yet at the same time, consider conversion and on-site factors.

Design

What use is good content if it's not organised in an easy-to-read way? A good SEO team would be able to map out a layout of content such that it maximises the viewing pleasure of the audience.

Photography

Google values original images. Even better if the images are outstandingly taken. An amazing SEO team will have a dedicated photographer who's able to take all these flattering shots, which adds on to originality.

Analytical

Critical thinking is required to plan for and accomplish business objectives. A good SEO team would always be thinking about how to improve processes and better achieve goals.

Technical

A good SEO professional will need to have the technical skills to implement features beyond the scope of a standard theme to perfect the user experience.

Curiosity

SEO is always in flux. A good SEO team would need to always be curious about trends and stay up to date, or perhaps even invent new methods.

Aggression

A good team plays fair but does not have to play nice. SEO is akin to fighting a war, where there could only be one victor. Soldiers that are in it to win it.

Creativity

Dilemmas of SEO initiatives make straightforward solutions not feasible. This is where being creative can help to look at things from outside the box.

How to identify credible SEO Experts?

This is actually pretty easy. A SEO practitioner who is credible will often than not display the traits shown below.

No promises

Understand, Strategise, Implement

The first good sign that is telltale of the SEO practitioner being a credible expert is when he does not promise you that your site would rank within a certain timeframe. Truth be told, there are many variables involved in ranking a site such that it is difficult to give a time frame for reaching a certain position in a search engine's search results as the search engines are constantly refining their algorithms.

Vision leads the way

Business Objectives And Scalability

A second sign that the SEO practitioner knows what he is doing would be that he's determined to find out the goals of your company for the website, as well as your company's vision. Only then will he be able to craft a custom-tailored solution that is suitable for your unique challenges.

You deserve to know this

Frequent Updates And Suggestions

A credible SEO expert would often keep in touch with you to gather more insight and feedback. This is because sometimes the envisioned plan does not come into fruition, and an alternative plan needs to be created. After all, SEO is an extremely dynamic field that evolves constantly. In order for the credible SEO expert to keep up with it, he would need to tell you about what is working and what is not, in order to devise a new plan.

Basic SEO that you can do yourself

Get a good Website Foundation

Make sure you are running on a solid website foundation. I typically advocate using open source content management systems such as WordPress instead of website builders such as Wix, SquareSpace, etc, from the perspective of having more flexibility and control in the structure. The website should be mobile responsive and loads fast with optimised images. The web server you are using should be based in the geographical location you are targeting. Consider subscribing to a free CDN service such as CloudFlare to improve loading speed of  the website.

WordPress
Google Webmaster

Submit your website to Google Search Console

Make sure you are generating an updated XML sitemap on a regular basis and submit it to Google Search Console to encourage faster indexing. The faster your updated sitemap is indexed, the faster Google would be able to spot changes on your website.

Make sure metadata are all filled up

Metadata is information describing what your content is all about. Although it does not have a direct link in Google's algorithms, interesting metadata can attract higher clickthrough rates to your webpage and in turn generate a positive signal to Google's algorithms, ranking your site higher.

Google Algorithm
Sitemap

Streamline Your Information

Your information should be laid out in an intuitive manner. People should be able to navigate from one point to another without being confused. It should feel as natural as possible, which will create a pretty good user experience. This will encourage the web visitors to return to your website next time.

Reduce Redundant Pages

If you have a lot of pages with similar content, you should look to combine them, or even delete the ones which don't provide any real value. This is because by having a lot of similar pages, you are diluting the value you add to your audience. Google does not view this favourably, and may reduce your search ranking accordingly.

Merge Pages

What is Black Hat SEO?

It is pretty simple to understand Black Hat SEO; just ask yourself 2 questions:

  • Is this helpful for my visitors?
  • Would I still do this if there are no search engines?

If your answer to the first and second questions are yes and no respectively, then congratulations! You are not engaging in any illicit tactics for SEO. If your answers are no and no, you should not do it in the first place.

However, if your answer combination lies between no and yes and yes and yes, then you need to re-evaluate your SEO strategy as it is considered grey hat at best, and black hat at worst.

Black Hat SEO refers to the exploiting of loopholes in the search engine's algorithms to make your website rank higher, whereas grey hat SEO lies in between the spectrum of White Hat SEO (authentic, orthodox) and Black Hat SEO.

When your website is discovered to be using Black Hat SEO tactics to rank well, your website would be penalised and lose its ranking as well as its ability to rank in the future.

Is This Helpful To My Visitors?

Anything that adds value for your visitors without "playing with the system" should be included in your website. This helps Google and other search engines to differentiate your website from your competition. This would be your "selling point", the value that your website provides that other websites cannot replace.

Would I Still Do This If There Are No Search Engines?

Why do Black Hat tactics exist? To trick the search engines, right? If you provide real value to your web visitors, the search engine's algorithms would reward you accordingly.

SEO may take some time before it starts to show results, but it is more absolute than Black Hat tactics. Black Hat tactics may help your website rank higher faster, but your rankings may just crash overnight with no prior warning.

Where to learn more about SEO?

Neil Patel

Neil Patel

Meet the person who was one of the pioneers that brought the term SEO to spotlight. He's Neil Patel, and he has been in the online marketing business for a very long period of time. Follow his blog for some SEO think-tank and online marketing advice.

Brian Dean

Brian Dean

The founder of Backlinko, Brian Dean has carved a niche out for himself with the power and utility of backlinks. Brian has many tips and tricks, as well as case studies to illustrate the effect backlinks could have on your site's web presence. He is one of the few people in the SEO space that you must follow.

Search Engine Journal

Search Engine Journal

A reputable source of SEO-related information, it was established in 2003 to address the need for a SEO community. It is still flourishing today, which is testament to it's relevance to the SEO community in recent times. Follow them for a SEO news and the latest best practices.

Moz

Moz

A pioneer in the SEO scene as well, Moz strives to simplify SEO with their software, education and community. They are an authoritative source to follow for SEO tips and tricks, as they are keen on conducting experiments and case studies to show what works and what does not.

HubSpot

HubSpot

Hubspot is the entity which coined the term "inbound marketing". It is all about marketing that is customer-centric. The methodologies in place are to attract, convert and delight, which would in turn generate even more leads for your business. After all, SEO at it's very core is still marketing. By putting your customers first, you stand to gain a lot for your business.

Copyblogger

Copyblogger

Without an excellent content strategy, your SEO efforts would be in vain. Copyblogger teaches you how to write for your audience, and keep them coming back for more. They do have a free course which offers a lot of information on how to write proper headlines and content.

Search Engine Land

Search Engine Land

Search Engine Land is a leading daily publication that covers everything and anything with regards to SEO. They often have articles contributed by experts from different disciplines in digital marketing. It is a very good source of varied information that shows you the different perspectives in digital marketing. By being informed, it helps you in making strategic decisions for your SEO game plan

Google

Google

What better way there is than to get your information out of the lion's mouth instead? When Google makes changes to its algorithms, there would be an update published with some general details provided. These details can be important to you as they inform you about the purpose of that update, so you can optimise your site accordingly.

Recommended SEO Tools

Here is the holy trinity SEO tools that are really helpful in your pursuit for better SEO:

  • SEMRush
  • Ahrefs
  • Majestic

SEMRush

This is one of the pioneer SEO tools available for SEO professionals to use. It is considered very reliable and always seek to introduce new features that could differentiate it from the competition. It is excellent at keywords position tracking, and is able to track traffic from SEO as well as paid online advertisements.

It also has a site audit feature, which can help you identify factors detrimental to your site's SEO so that you can fix it. The limitations given are pretty generous for how much you're paying.

Ahrefs

Ahrefs has only been around for a few years, but it excels greatly at backlinks analysis. It has all the standard features like keyword position tracker and keyword difficulty checker, but what truly differentiates this tool is the sheer amount of information you get from the backlinks checker.

Another useful feature it has is the content explorer, which allows you to view the kinds of content that generate a lot of impressions. The only downside for this tool is that it can be quite pricey.

Majestic

Majestic was one of the earlier SEO tools available as well, however it's features are a bit lacking compared to SEMRush and Ahrefs. However, the tool itself offers enough information and data for you to work on your SEO.

It is also on the cheaper side, which means it a useful SEO tool to purchase subscription for if you are unable to afford SEMRush or Ahrefs.

Their main functions mostly overlap, but they allow you to analyse web traffic, check for backlinks, as well as your current keyword positions, whether are they improving in ranking or not.

Apart from that, they also offer utility functions such as checking for broken links on your webpage, competitor keyword analysis and content topic generator, for those who are experiencing inspiration blockage.

If you are just starting out, it would be good to work on the SEO best practices being introduced here, before investing in these tools as they can rack up a hefty fee. Once you get the hang of how SEO works, you can start using these tools to plan and maximise your SEO.

Things need to do to improve website SEO

Summary

Content

Good content pieces are paramount to the quality of your website. It is the main vehicle that drives lead conversion and differentiates your site from others in Google's algorithms. Seek to provide pure value without stuffing any words.

Design

A good design (along with good content) will drive your visitors back for more. Basically, your website should be easy to navigate, and bonus points if it looks stunningly beautiful. Incorporate the vision and values of your business into your website to make it unique.

Metadata

However valuable the information your webpages may give, if nobody visits your webpage, they will never find out. A descriptive and enticing metadata would attract clicks from search engine users to your webpage, so it is important to do it well.

Backlinks

This is currently one of the top 3 metrics Google looks at to rank your website. As long as you have relevant links (to your niche) from reputable websites pointing to your webpage, you stand to gain a lot. It works even better if they are from well-known websites in your niche.

Streamline

Remove pages that serve no purpose and condense similar pages together. By streamlining your site architecture, you will are signalling to Google that each and every of your pages are packed with sheer value.

Categorise

Content that are under the same category should be grouped together. This makes it easier for Google to understand what your pages are about when their web crawler crawls your webpages. By understanding your website better, you will start to rank for related terms faster.

Security

If you still do not have a SSL certificate installed on your server, it is time to do so. First off, it will protect the personal information of your web visitors. Secondly, it will signal to Google that your website is safe from phishing attempts.

No Black Hat

Do not engage in black hat methods, as it is just exploiting loopholes in Google's algorithm. Google makes frequent updates to their algorithm, so if they find out that you have been playing with their system, they would have no qualms penalising your site, which reduces your visibility in their search engine to a very large extent.

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Talk to our Principal SEO Consultant?

Are you looking for a reliable SEO company in Singapore, feel free to drop us an enquiry and our technical consultant will get back to your needs as soon as possible. However please do note that it is our ethos to only serve one industry player per niche, thus if we are already working on a similar project, we will need to decline this opportunity.