Learn the Fundamental SEO Tactics for Ranking 1st on Google

SEO

Is the traffic through your website lacking and you want to know how to fix this?


Well, here is the answer for you — search engine optimization (SEO).


With almost 1.2 billion active websites at the start of 2021, getting your website seen can seem like an impossible task.


Unlike normal circumstances, traffic is good.


You want there to be traffic — but if the destination is too hard to find, everyone will just drive back home, or go somewhere else.


So, you need to make your website more accessible by supplying the traffic with easier and more direct routes.


In normal circumstances, an example of a solution is building a highway, so that your audience has a straight, quick path directly to your business.


In digital marketing, we call these highways search engine optimization tactics.


If used correctly, you can get your website topping the charts in no time.


Here is an article that teaches you everything you need to know about SEO, particularly all the best practices that every SEO beginner would die for!

1. What is SEO?

SEO

Search engine optimization is defined as the process of getting your website to rank higher in the organic section of search results.


This is the unpaid section and differs from the paid section that sits on top.


70-80% of searchers ignore paid ads and skip directly to the organic results.

So, not only is focusing on organic results cheaper, but it might also end up in more traffic.


The catch with the organic section is that to be successful, you need your website to rank as high as possible.


Just on the first page, the top 5 organic results account for 67.6% of all the clicks.


So, if your page isn’t ranking high, you don’t stand much of a chance of getting a lot of traffic.


And for most businesses, more traffic equals more money.


That’s why every business needs an SEO marketing strategy.


But, don’t worry — we have SEO tactics that can dramatically improve your chances.

1.1. How does a search engine work?

How does a search engine work

To understand these methods, you first need to understand how search engines work in the first place.

  • Crawling

Before a search has even taken place, search engines send out a team of web crawlers (also called spiders) to scour the internet for relevant content whether it is text, videos, PDFs, or images.


For efficiency, crawlers find relevant links and then search those webpages for more links, following those and repeating the process.

  • Indexing

Once they are done, web crawlers take all the URLs they have collected and add them to a search engine index.


This is a massive database of all the organized content so that the second a user presses enter on a search, the search engine knows exactly where to find the answers.


This index is then displayed on the search engine result pages (SERPs)

  • Ranking

Search engines rank the content in the index to make sure they get the most relevant content the fastest.


By using an algorithm that is constantly improving, search engines have a set of criteria by which they rank your site.


The search engines are looking for authority, relevance, and trust.


Despite the changing algorithm, there are some set things that search engine prioritize:

  • Keywords: content that contains the keywords of the search as they show relevance
  • Content: valuable, quality content establishes authority in a topic
  • Links: using backlinks and interlinks prove that the content is trustworthy as other sources can corroborate your content
  • User Experience (UX): your user experience influences how the user interacts with your site and tells search engines whether or not you deserve a high ranking

The main principles of an SEO strategy surround these concepts and use them to your advantage, using the search engine algorithm as a guideline.


Next, you'll learn about these strategies in much greater detail.

2. Keyword research

Keyword research

Keywords should show up in two places in SEO — in an internet user’s search and your content.


When a crawler is scanning through your website, it takes the keywords in the search and matches them with the words of your content.


The closer they match, the higher you rank!


But, then arises the fatal mistake of irrelevant keywords and keyword stuffing.


What would you do if you clicked on a highly ranked site and found it had nothing to do with your search query?


Probably leave very quickly!


When sites try to manipulate the algorithm to rank higher, but it ends up hurting them more, it's known as a black-hat SEO tactic.


People assume that incorporating your keywords into each sentence so that it matches the search’s keywords results in a higher ranking.


Or worse, that using a variety of keywords that don’t match your content so that it matches more search keywords will have the same effect.


This is terribly false!


Not only does keyword stuffing ruin your user’s experience, but it's also condemned by search engines.


If you're caught doing this, you can be charged with a Google penalty that will remove your page from SERPs altogether.


So, when choosing your keywords, remember to remain intentional, honorable, and accurate.

2.1. How to find the perfect keyword

Now that you know what not to do, here are the most effective methods of search to help determine your keywords:

  • Search intent
Search intent

Search intent is the intention of the user each time they complete a search.


There are three types of search intent:

  • Navigational: the user needs to get to a specific website and includes phrases like “brand name”, “reviews”, “near me”, “cost of”, and “service/product name
  • Informational: the user is trying to learn about a topic and focuses more on question words such as, “what is”, “how-to”, “ways to”, “guide”, and “tutorial”
  • Transactional: the user wants to do something and uses words like “buy”, “download”, “order”, “deals”, and “for sale”

Understanding how your business and content fit into these different search intents could significantly help you find the right phrasing of your keywords.

  • SERPs

The next research method goes straight to the source, by analyzing the search engine result pages you're trying to rank highly on.


For instance, using SERP API is an interesting way to get the top 100 SERP results and figure out all the ways the top rankings got their spots.


Look out for the overlapping keywords in the meta titles and pay attention to the different words that make each one stand out.


Notice the length of the meta titles — 50% of search queries contain 4 words or more.


Also, run through the “people also ask”(PAA) section or the autocomplete function of a SERP to get an idea of the other search queries relating to your keywords, further learning about your audience’s search intent.

  • Search volume
Search volume

Search volume refers to the number of searches for a particular keyword over a certain period.


If a keyword has a low search volume, no one's searching it.


If a keyword has a high search volume, every webpage will try to use it — including your toughest competition.


Striking a balance is the key here.


You need a keyword that has a high enough search volume that enough people search for it, but low and specific enough that your competition isn’t too high.


You could look at keyword difficulty which is a metric that values a keyword on a scale of 0-100.


The higher the score, the more difficult it is to rank first on that keyword.


Something to note about search volume: search volume for a keyword will also change depending on the time of year.


For example, Halloween sky-rockets towards the end of October but dips down again a couple of weeks later.

2.2. Free keyword tools

Choosing

Choosing your keywords may still seem like a daunting task, but, fortunately for you, there are some amazing tools out there on the internet to help you!

2.2.1. Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner is usually the place to start because of its simplicity and accessibility.


By first getting to know a bit about your business, Google Keyword Planner offers a lot of extensive and useful information on your chosen keywords.


Understanding each bit of information and learning what to do with it can be tough, so here's a guide on how to use Google Keyword Planner to help you.

2.2.2. Google Trends

Google Trends takes a more one-dimensional approach to your keywords, by focusing on when and where keywords are used.


This can be an essential tool when scheduling your content to match the trends throughout the year.

2.2.3. Answer The Public

Answer The Public is perfect for researching search queries.


Beautifully displayed, Answer The Public creates comprehensive mind-maps, separating the keyword phrases into questions, prepositions, comparisons, and letters.

2.2.4. Scout Suggest

SEO Scout has a free keyword suggestion tool called Scout Suggest.


Though it's one of the lesser-known keyword tools, that certainly doesn’t make it any less effective.


Scout Suggest also caters more to search queries, organizing them into groups as well as pairing them with other keywords so that you can further narrow down your keyword choice.

2.3. Paid keyword tools

Paid keyword tools

These tools have the obvious advantage of being free but don’t let that deter you from the paid keyword tool.


Some of them are really worth the extra buck!


Like Ahrefs and SEMRush for example.


Though Ahref also offers a free Keyword Generator, it has nothing on the real thing — the Keyword Explorer.


Here's a brief overview of Keyword Explorer’s features:

  • Thousands of keyword suggestions
  • Data can be sourced from 10 different search engines and 171 countries around the world
  • Accurate search volumes
  • A keyword difficulty score plus other useful metrics such as the “click metric
  • A “parent topic” finder for your keyword
  • SERP overview and position history

By signing up, you not only get a keyword feature but all the other services that Ahrefs offers.


The price plan offers four different options, ranging from $99 to $999 per month.


SEMRush offers not one, but four keyword research features.


Namely, Keyword Overview, Keyword Magic Tool, Keyword Manager, and Organic Traffic Insights — each offering a unique perspective.


Like Ahref, to get access to the keyword research tools, you need to purchase the whole package which comes with tools to support every aspect of your business.


With three different plans, SEMRush’s pricing ranges from $119.95 to $449.95 per month.


Here's an informative article comparing Ahref and SEMRush to help you get a better understanding of both.


Using these tools to better understand your keywords and how to use them will give every SEO beginner an extra edge over the rest of the competition.

3. Content creation

Content creation

As Bill Gates once said, “Content is King!


Content has become one of the main ways to gain exposure for your business.


In fact, 72% of online marketers say that content marketing is their most effective SEO tactic.


You can see for yourself — try searching for anything in a search engine and see what pops up.


There's a high chance it'll be mostly blogs, articles, reviews, journals, videos, images, lists, or infographics.


Content dominates SERPs, so you need your content to be fully optimized to be able to compete.

3.1. Create content for both users and search engines

Create content

Cater your content only to your users, your content will never rank high enough to be seen.


Cater only to search engines, nobody will want to read it, increasing your bounce rate, and ultimately lowering your ranking.


Here's your dilemma — how do you cater to both users and search engines?


One phrase that's true for both users and search engines; “quality is key!”


Well, let’s start with the user, better known as your target audience.


Your target audience is the group of people that have the potential to purchase your offer.


You need to identify and get to know your target audience to better personalize your content.


The best way to do this is to research — learn everything you can about your current customers as well as your competition, by using keywords, SERPs, webpages, surveys, and focus groups.


You then use this information to directly target your audience by creating content specifically designed for them.


Here are some other important things to keep in mind:

  • Content length: studies have shown that users prefer long-form content between 2000 and 5000 words
  • Formatting: by incorporating white space and making use of different text styles and lists, you can drastically improve your content’s readability
  • Regular updates or evergreen content: choose to either update your content regularly so that it remains relevant, or create evergreen content so that it remains relevant over a long period

Though your search engine ranking is very dependent on your user experience, there are also some technical approaches that search engines will appreciate.


Keywords, as you know by now, are something that search engines are always looking for, but let’s check out some of the other ways.

3.1.1. Strengthen your meta titles, H1, meta descriptions, and subheadings

Strengthen your meta titles

These three terms might seem like the same thing, but knowing the difference between them and knowing how to use them can make or break your SEO strategy.


One thing they do have in common is that they're all a part of the HTML code, known as HTML tags.


There are criteria of these meta tags that search engines favor.

Here's the breakdown.

Meta title:

This is the first thing a user sees of your webpage on a SERP.


The most effective structure of your meta title is 50-60 characters including spaces, where you place your primary keyword at the beginning.


For example, the meta title for this article is “SEO Best Practices: The Complete Guide For Beginners”.

H1:

Your H1 is the first headline found at the top of your webpage and must differ from your meta title.


It's usually a little longer and uses long-tail keywords.

This article’s H1 is “Learn the Fundamental SEO Tactics for Ranking on 1st Google”.

Meta description:

This is a summary of your webpage and is often displayed under the meta title on the SERP.


While keeping it between 50-160 characters, you should use your keywords and enticing language.


The meta description of this article is: “Are you an SEO beginner learning everything you can about SEO tactics? Here is a complete guide of all the SEO best practices to get you ahead of the game!”

Subheadings

These are made up of your H2 and H3 headings.


H2’s are used to break up content so that it makes it easier to scan and read, emphasizing important information.


H3’s are usually sub-points within the H2 that you can quickly expand on.


For example, “content creation” is an H2, and “strengthen your meta title, H1, meta description, and headings” is an H3.

3.1.2. Optimize images

Optimize images

Adding images to your content isn’t just for decoration — it can create another path to your content.


First, you need to choose the right format — the common ones are JPEG, PNG, and WebP.


Next, if your image is too large, it'll start slowing down your webpage which is an SEO nightmare!


You can use an image compressor tool to avoid this fatal mistake.


The filename is also very important — keep it simple with a “keyword1-keyword2-keyword3” structure.


Lastly, when writing your alt attribute or alternative text, remember that this is the only way for search engines to ‘see’ your image, and, so, you need to make it as accurate as possible.

3.1.3. Semantics

Semantics

Semantics is defined by the study of meanings.


In SEO terms, it means the practice of adding more meaning to your content by focusing topics on keywords.


The purpose of this is to extend your webpages reach and make it more relevant for searches, including all future searches.


Here are five aspects of semantics SEO:

  • Write topical content: you can do this by expanding your keywords to include related keywords under the same topic which match with more relevant keywords
  • Consider related questions: by anticipating the next question your user may ask, you can either answer it directly or send them to another page that does answer it through a link
  • Use different variations of the same keyword phrase: whether it’s an “s” added after a word or the replacement of a word, this variation increases your chances of matching with the user’s keywords
  • Optimize for voice search: if you use more long-tail keywords, you're more likely to match with the increasingly popular voice-operated search queries
  • Aim for #0 ranking: these are the snippets of content that appear at the top of a SERP but aren’t part of the ranking system and are achieved by answering multiple questions well within one topic

3.1.4. Choose topics not keywords

Choose topics not keywords

Though keyword research is an invaluable tool for every aspect of SEO, there are some areas where focusing on keywords may be to your detriment.


Like with your content, for example.


You don’t want to create a new piece of content for every single keyword, otherwise, you will be writing about the same thing each time.


Let’s say you write a blog post about “how to get rid of acne” and then another on “how to get rid of whiteheads”.


The content and keywords for each of these posts will greatly overlap, and they'll also most likely end up competing against each other.


This is where topical content writing comes up.


When you write topical content, you can mix these two long-tail keywords and others to create content based on a general topic rather than a specific concept.


This means that you're more likely to match with more keywords, increasing the relevance and ranking of your post.

3.1.5. Use internal and external links

Use internal and external links

Though internal and external links are mostly added to content to help the user find out more, they also play a subtle part in SEO tactics.


Internal links link back to web pages within your website.


These play an essential part for the web crawler, as they follow the internal links deeper and deeper into your site, increasing the number of web pages indexed on your site.


This is obviously beneficial — ranking you higher and making it quicker for your webpage to come up after a search is complete.


External links are created when you link another website to your content.


By doing this, you improve your reliability, as the user believes you're an impartial, honest expert which gives you some extra brownie points from the search engine.


The search engines also get a better idea of what your content is about, by analyzing the content you link.


There is also the hope that someone has attached an external link to your content which does wonders in reaching other audiences.

3.2. Delegate your content creation

Delegate your content creation

As you can see, search engine optimization is no joke.


You're probably wondering, “How on Earth am I going to get this all done?”


You're not alone.


There are invaluable benefits to creating a content team and learning how to delegate the different tasks.


Another advantage of having a content team is that you can employ content writers that are specialized in different aspects of the business.


There's also the option of collaboration, where teamwork makes the dream work, completely taking your content to the next level.


Though it can be tempting to manage your content the way you like it, it's useful having different perspectives and more eyes to stop the errors from slipping through the cracks.

4. SEO Audit

SEO Audit

Though these tips should be sending you right on your way to the top ranking spot, nothing is perfect the first time… or the second, and third, and fourth.


This is where a regular SEO audit comes in handy.


It can also keep you in check if you feel like your SEO is losing its way.


An SEO audit is a standard evaluation of your website on how visible it is to search engines, thus its ability to show up on SERPs.


There's some essential information that you'll need to complete a comprehensive SEO audit, so let’s go through the step-by-step guide.

4.1. SEO audit tools

SEO audit tools

The first thing you’re going to need to complete your SEO audit are some very necessary tools:

  • Ahrefs Webmaster Tools

Ahrefs has done business owners everywhere a massive favor by offering an extensive SEO audit tool: Ahrefs Webmaster Tools.


Better yet, it’s free to anyone who owns a website!


This supplies a general overview of your SEO health:

  • Scans for 100+ common issues, and gives advice on how to fix them
  • Collects a list of backlinks leading back to your website
  • Analyzes the keywords that bring you the most traffic

Despite its limited overlook, it gives you deeply insightful data in the areas it works with.

  • Google Search Console

Often compared with the Ahrefs tool, Google Search Console (GSC) is another free tool for you to add to your arsenal.


With the advantage of coming from the mind of a search engine, GSC’s goal is to make you visible on SERPs.


GSC specializes in:

  • Confirming that Google can find and crawl your page
  • Investigating your index status and requesting a re-index if necessary
  • Displaying traffic data
  • Alerting you when Google comes across issues on your site
  • Finding all the backlinks that lead to your site

Offering a slightly different and inside perspective, there's definitely valuable information that can be gained from Google Search Console.

  • Pagespeed Insights

Another free brainchild of Google, Pagespeed Insights hones in on your web page’s performance and provides in-depth instructions on how to improve.


Though, with all the highly-specific jargon, it can be quite difficult to understand your results, so here is a guide to understanding Pagespeed Insights.

  • GTmetrix

GTmetrix’s main focus is site performance and combines data from Pagespeed Insights and another SEO audit tool, YSlow, to give you an accurate report.


GTmetrix also generously offers all sorts of tips and tricks to get your site running at optimum performance.


Unfortunately, the free version is limited to the point of non-existent, but GTmetrix does have three price plans ranging from $10-$40 per month.


You can use these tools to perform an efficient and thorough SEO audit.

4.2. Your core web vitals

Mention Home page

Like with your own body, you should check your website’s vitals regularly just to make sure everything is functioning properly.


There are three main core web vitals:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP):
  • First Input Delay (FID):
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS):
  • This measures the visual stability of your site
  • Your CLS should stay below 1.0 on the metric
  • To keep your CLS low, make sure your ads have a separate and defined place on your webpage, you include the size attributes on your images and videos, and you never insert content on top of other content

These three vitals measure your page speed and user experience (UX).


If they aren’t up to standard, you can guarantee your ranking will suffer.

4.3. Error codes

Error codes

There's nothing more jarring and unprofessional than clicking on a link, excited for what you might find, and then being hit with “404 error: page not found”.


302 errors” could be just as bad when you have made your site available under multiple URLs, but the redirections just aren’t working. You can be sure the user will be quickly redirected very far from your site.


Broken and redirected link errors not only ruin user experience but also cut off web crawlers from crawling deeper into your site, significantly affecting your ranking.


Use your SEO audit to knuckle down on these errors.


Two other important errors to look out for are 4xx and 5xx errors.


4xx errors indicate that there was an issue on the user’s side — whether the user isn’t authorized to enter the page, requesting a page that doesn’t exist, or making too many requests.


The 404 broken link error falls under this category.


Here's a list of the 4xx errors and methods of fixing them.


5xx errors show that there's a problem at the server level that stops a request from going through.


Google Search Console actually reports on the 5xx errors.


By working through these errors, you start removing each obstacle between the user and your webpage, only benefiting your search engine ranking.

4.4. Internal linking and page depth

Internal linking and page depth

By now, the importance of internal linking should be common knowledge — it helps search engines crawl more of your web pages to add to its index.


Though this is already a successful SEO tactic, it can still be optimized further by creating an internal linking structure, particularly a silos structure.


There are three types of structures:

  • A flat website structure is where there are only two levels of hierarchy and all the pages only link back to the homepage
  • A pyramid structure continuously branches out like a tree diagram where your homepage splits into categories, and those continue to split
  • A silos structure is where pages are grouped by topics, linking back to a      center topical page which ultimately leads to the homepage

The silos structure has become the most favored — especially among blogs where it can easily be divided into themes.


When performing an SEO audit, you need to map out your silos structure, investigating ways to optimize it.


When doing this, you will also be able to evaluate page depth.


Page depth is the number of clicks it takes to get from the homepage to the desired page.


Though it has been debated, it’s thought that the more clicks it takes to get to a page, the less likely it is that a search engine will crawl it.


You can also learn about orphan pages by mapping out your internal links.


These are pages that are not linked to any other section of your site, making it virtually impossible for them to get indexed.

5. Link building

Link building

Link building is the process of getting other websites to link to your site, creating backlinks.


This means that when their website is crawled, the crawlers will find their way to your site, indexing your site and showing that your site holds relevant information — increasing its ranking.


Plus it has the bonus of sending more traffic to your site!


Adding internal and external links to your site is easy, but getting others to do the same to you — that’s the tricky part.


Two easy tricks will get you off your feet before we get onto the more long-term solutions — the Skyscraper Technique and HARO.


Developed by Brian Dean, the Skyscraper Technique gives you three simple steps to drastically increasing the number of backlinks to your site:

  • Find a piece of content relating to your content that has a sufficient amount of backlinks
  • Create an even better piece of content that's more useful and relevant
  • Reach out to those that linked back to the original content and encourage them to instead link to your superior content

The second secret to link building is a service called HARO which stands for ”Help a Reporter”.


This is a database for journalists that supplies them with reliable sources for their stories.


By contributing to this service, you open yourself up to so many opportunities for creating backlinks.

5.1. Create real partnerships

Create real partnerships

Networking and creating real relationships with other businesses in your industry are incredibly important.


When you do this, you can stop seeing them as competition and more like team members where you help each other get further in the game, particularly when it comes to backlinking.


Otherwise, it can feel like you are constantly sending traffic to other websites through external linking, without anyone returning the favor.


Building new relationships can always be daunting, so here's a useful guide to help you.

5.2. Guest posts

Guest posts

Guest posting can be a great way of expanding your network, gaining exposure, and sending more traffic to your site.


But, guest posting sits on a fine line of helping or hurting your SEO.


This is because search engines like Google have frowned upon sneaky guest posting purely for the sake of link building, so there's a risk of penalty.


To avoid this, just make sure you stick to top-quality guest posting on a site that is extremely relevant to your own without stuffing too many external links to your own website.

5.3. Resource pages

Resource pages

Resource pages are web pages where they list useful links on a specific topic.


Resource page link building is the practice of getting your links on the important resource pages and being deemed a relevant, helpful link.


This is yet another way to bring traffic and build backlinks.


To achieve this, you first need to find popular resource pages.


This is done by searching using your keyword and combing “resources” or “links” with it in your search query.


You can then narrow down your options by first looking at the top-ranking options, finding the most relevant ones to your content.


Lastly, reach out to them.


Some may find you the perfect fit and will be happy to help, while others may need some more convincing.


One clever trick is to search their website for broken links, and if you find any, make sure to bring it to their attention.


Grateful for the help, they'll most likely be happy to repay you by adding your link to their site.

6. Conclusion

Learning the SEO best practices can be a little overwhelming due to the sheer mass of it.


But, that’s why you have this article to hold your hand through the process, guiding you past all the twists and turns.


Here's a quick recap to summarize the journey:

  • SEO is controlled by how search engines work — from crawling, indexing, and ranking, each step plays a crucial part in how you strategize your SEO
  • Keep your keywords close —  keywords form the foundation of your SEO, and through intensive research and the help of some tools, they can send your SEO on a path towards success
  • Create your content with both users and search engines in mind, focusing on your target market as well as the more technical aspect of your website
  • Perform regular  SEO audits to keep your site at the optimal level using useful tools to evaluate your core web vitals, error codes, and linking structures
  • Increase your backlinking through link building by networking with other businesses in your industry

You should now be well on your way to becoming an SEO expert.


Just remember to remain honorable in your strategies and stick to the basics!


Other posts about search engine optimization:

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