20 MINUTES HONEST GUIDE TO LEARN
WHAT IS SEO

We understand it is not easy to learn and understand what is SEO.
It is so hard to understand and learn search engine optimization with the bits and pieces of information out there.
Invest in this 20 minutes honest guide created to share on how we really think you should understand SEO.
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Introduction

This is a resource guide designed for beginners to learn search engine optimisation. Grab a cup of coffee and clear everything in your mind now, because it is most likely going to contradict everything you thought you knew about SEO.

<Last Edited: May 2020>

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WHAT IS SEO?

Part 1

The Basics of SEO

Part 2

Benefits of SEO?

Part 3

How to SEO?

Part 4

Skills of a good SEO Team

Part 5

How to hire SEO Experts

Part 6

Basic SEO that you can do yourself

Part 7

What is Black Hat SEO?

Part 9

Recommended SEO Tools

Part 8

How to learn more about SEO?

The Basics of Understanding What is SEO

Top SEO Consultant in Singapore
Top SEO Consultant in Singapore

What does SEO stands for?

SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimisation. It is the process of optimizing a website with the objective to obtain better ranking search results in search engines for targeted keywords.

This process of optimizing for search engines is dynamic and not constant across all SEO agencies or digital markers who provide SEO services because there is absolutely no one who knows how exactly search engines work now and in the future to determine who rank first.

By and large, search engine optimization can be categorized by offsite optimization initiatives and onsite optimization initiatives.

Why Better Search Results?

From the perspective of business, the main strategic aim of trying to obtain better search results is to achieve more visibility and increase organic traffic from targeted visitors to the website, in the hope of converting them to leads and sales.

However, unknown to many, good SEO can potentially draw in so much more benefits than attracting sales leads.

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Understanding Search Traffic and SEO vs SEM

SEO is often confused with AdWords, which is known as SEM or Search Engine Marketing. SEO attracts organic search results. SEM attracts paid search results. Both SEO and SEM aims to draw traffic from search behavior by competing for the first few results that people see when they search for something.

For SEM, a business pays Google when their links appear on Google Search Results, and users click on them.

For SEO, you do not have to pay Google anything. The only necessary costs are the fees to hire SEO/ Digital Marketing Experts or investing your own time to actively work on various SEO initiatives to improve the visibility of your website. Sometimes, people invest in buying paid links from other websites in the hope of improving their rankings.

What is SEO and What is SEM
Notice the "Ad". These are paid search results for chiropractors.

In summary, the difference between SEMs (paid ads) and SEO (organic traffic):

  • SEMs are paid ads where you need to keep paying the Search Engine owners for you to remain visible to search engine users. On top of that, you may need to pay SEM specialists to help you strategize your ad placings for the best returns of your marketing budget.
  • SEOs are free organic page rankings results, you do not need to pay anything to Search Engine owners. However, you may need to pay service fees for SEO specialists to help your website rank competitively.
  • SEM can achieve results almost immediately once you enable the ads while SEO is a long term execution that usually requires around 6 months to see results.
  • Both SEO and SEMs require a certain degree of keyword research to find useful keywords.

Do You Need SEO?

Just ask yourself, do you think you will have customers from search traffic? Do you think it is reasonable to have an expectation that when people search for something and they can potentially become your customers? If yes, then SEO is a potential pipeline you should invest in. If you want more concrete information, you need to understand keyword research.

Read more if you want more insights.

SEO is not the only source of customers

But before that, you need to take a step back and understand your entire marketing and lead generation activities. You must understand that your potential customers can also come from other sources like referrals and social medias. You need to make a sound judgement and invest your resources in the most appropriate channels, the ones that will give you the biggest returns, and not just blindly invest in SEO.

SEO is a long term strategy

You also understand that SEO marketing is a long term game plan; while it can reap a lot of benefits for your business, it should not and cannot be something that your company has to depend solely on, especially during the early stages of your business. SEO can propel your business to greater heights but it cannot help you to survive if you are struggling. You need something more short term to give you that initial revenue boost.

It is recommended for you to invest in SEO especially if your business has the following traits:

  • Service-Centric Business
  • You are already in business and you have a base of customers already
  • You are ready and you want to grow your business to the next stage.

Benefits of Good SEO

sales

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. With such predictability, it is also a good chance to adjust your pricing and be in a position to charge higher for higher profitability.

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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.

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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 SEO?

To fully understand the dynamics of SEO and how websites are ranked is something that needs to be internalised through experience. Some tools make it easy by having tools to determine domain authority.  At Thinking Notes, our SEO services focus on 2 core areas, Clarity and Credibility of the websites of our clients.

We focus on ensuring the websites deliver value and help people with problems in the various niches. In the world of SEO, it has been discussed that Google uses more than 200 factors to determine the ranking of the websites.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

IPS

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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

Improve the score, one by one

SEO is all about improving the scores of all these factors. It is not necessary to work on all the factors especially if you are running on limited resources. You can choose to focus on a few factors that you believe are important.

It is also important to again highlight the fact that no one will know for sure the actual algorithms that determine SEO rankings. And search engines like Google is always tweaking their ranking algorithms. What works today may not work tomorrow.

Focus on being human and help people. This is the most timeless advice we can think of.

Skills that a good seo team will need

Writing

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

Design

Information needs to be organized in a clear way so users will find have a good experience consuming information from the website. It is important to understand that we are not talking about fancy design. People don't go to websites just because the websites look fancy, they go to websites to look for information.

Photography

Image is a type of content that people consume. Google values original images. Even better if the images are outstandingly taken. It will do wonders if an SEO team has a dedicated photographer who's able to produce images that tell a story.

Analytical

A good SEO team relies on data to make critical decisions. They need to have the experience and skills to implement data tracking and understand what are the important information they need to infer from to make a judgement or conclusion.

Technical

A good SEO team needs to have the technical skills to build and optimize the website continuously. Sometimes they need to implement certain features or functionalities to perfect the user experience of consuming information.

Curiosity

How search engines rank website 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. Most importantly, they need to have the humility to know that there are always things to learn and have an open mind to learn.

Winning Mind and Heart

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. A good SEO team needs to feel the desire to win, they need to feel excited that their work has resulted in improved rankings. And they need to have the heart to help people. They need to have be a team that find gratification in helping people.

Creativity

The entire SEO execution process needs to be thoughtful and purposeful. Dilemmas of SEO initiatives make straightforward solutions not feasible. For example, in Singapore, the medical companies are governed by the Ministry of Health, there are things they cannot publish on their websites. This is where being creative can help to look at things from outside the box.

What is Black Hat SEO?

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.

To know whether what you are doing is considered 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?

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.

The most common types of black hat SEO initiatives involve spamming of keywords and creating low-quality articles at non-relevant websites

Google Search Engine is always in constant motion to optimize their search algorithms and it will get better and better in determining the value of a website and the involvement of black hat SEO activities. When your website is discovered to be using Black Hat SEO tactics to rank well, your website would be penalized and lose its ranking as well as its ability to rank in the future.

What works in the past may not work in the future. Focus on value.

Basic SEO that you can do yourself

Get a good website

Make sure you are building on a solid website foundation. Do use open source content management systems such as WordPress instead of website builders such as Wix or SquareSpace.The website should be mobile responsive and loads fast with optimized 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 the loading speed and security of the website.

WordPress
Google Webmaster

Submit your website to Google Search Console

Make sure your wesite is generating an updated XML sitemap. You can 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. At the minimum, make sure you populate the metadata of your important pages. Learn more about writing effective meta descriptions.

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

Every page or article should target a specific intention. If you have multiple 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

How to hire SEO Experts?

Step 1

You Need to Know SEO first

If you decide that investing in SEO is necessary for your business and you would like to hire an external SEO agency to do the work for you, the first step is to take is for you to understand what is SEO first.

Without understanding SEO on a general level, it is difficult for you to discern who are the real SEO experts and who are the quack doctors.

Step 2

Assessment of SEO Providers

When you are vetting through a pool of potential SEO vendors, ask 3 questions:
1) What do they know about SEO?
2) What are their track records?
3) What will they do for you?

Choose the SEO agency that believe in creating long term value and not people who make claims that they have secret techniques that will be able to rank your website in a short time.

It will be a bonus if the SEO vendor has the heart to find out more about you and your business. The more understanding the vendor gained about your industry and business, the more likely, this team is able to craft a custom-tailored SEO solution that is suitable for your unique SEO challenges.

Step 3

Work as a team

Manage your expectations and do not work with a vision that you will reap results in 3 months' time. Good SEO work takes sometimes to see significant results. It is all about providing value and not creating the fake signal of being valuable. With a good SEO team behind you, work as a team, and communicate regularly. Provide business insights and empower this SEO team of yours to have the authority to implements changes and optimization works.

Recommended SEO Tools

To do good SEO work, you will need to use a variety of tools to analyze and monitor. You can make informed decisions instead of guessing and making wild assumptions. The most basic tools are Google Search Console and Google Analytics, which are free tools Google provides for you to manage and monitor your website.

On top of these, you will need these tools:

  • Keywords Tracking Tool
  • Backlink Analysis Tool
  • Competitors' Analysis Tool
  • Keywords' Analysis Tool
semrush-logo

SEMRush

SemRush 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-logo-1

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.

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Mangools

Mangools is a suite of SEO tools recommended for beginners. The cost of using the software is one of the cheapest. The best uses for Mangools are Keyword's Analysis and Keywords Tracking.

Mangools also provides other features like Backlink Analysis and Website Analysis. However, if we are serious about having a good tool to improve the backlinking profile, it is recommended o use AHRefs or SemRush.

Where to learn more about What is 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

Search Engine Journal is 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? Learn SEO for free under this Coursera course, created by University of California, one of the certification recommended under Google Digital Garage.