How to do SEO (The Ultimate Guide)

This post is based on an SEO ebook that I self-published a few years ago. It can be difficult to work out what approach you should take when plan to start an SEO campaign. This post should help you with the essential steps and expectations that’s needed to build a successful SEO campaign.

Whether you choose to do the SEO yourself or hire an expert or agency, I would like you to use the fundamentals within this guide to help you plan and manage your long-term SEO campaign.

What factors do you need to consider when doing SEO?

I’ve provided a list of the factors that you need to get right in an SEO strategy.

  • Niche selection – How competitive is it to do SEO in your niche? And are there search intent keywords that you will be able to rank your business for?
  • Technical foundation – This refers to how your website is built and the accessibility that search engines will have to the content that is on your website.
  • Content – Is the content published in a way that your target audience will engage with?
  • Links – Are there links or online citations to your website’s content or domain?

This post will go through the different steps that you need to implement in your website’s SEO campaign.

Pick the right niche. 

Before you do anything in your SEO campaign, you need to find the right audiences to target. An audience-driven campaign will greatly improve the success of your SEO campaign because your sole focus will be on publishing and sharing valuable content on your site that will compel your target audience to engage and share your site’s content across the web.

Find your online tribes.

Think of it like you are looking for communities or tribes. For example, in most countries, you will find groups of football fanatics who will do anything to see their team get to the top of their league. These fans watch every game and promote their team wherever they go. They want their team to get better and are prepared to dotheir part to help their team and their community.

You want to implement a strategy that will attract this type of audience for your campaign.

This is the part that you must get right before you start doing anything with your site’s SEO campaign.

Assess the scalability of those tribes.

You want to make sure that your promotional efforts can be scaled. It won’t happen in all cases, however, the more opportunity there is to scale your activities, the more opportunities you will have to earn links that will allow your website to rank on the first page of Google.

See if there are opportunities by finding a micro-niche within your niche that will present over 1000 potential linking opportunities.

Find the micro-niche.

Most websites will operate in a general niche such as ‘cheap holidays’ or ‘car insurance’. Ranking for those keywords should be the ultimate goal, but you should look for audience opportunities within that niche. So you need to see how granular you can go. For example:

  • Cheap holidays
  • Cheap holidays in Thailand
  • Cheap holidays in Chiang Mai in Thailand
  • Cheap all inclusive holiday in Chiang Mai in Thailand
  • Cheap all inclusive honeymoon holidays in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

By going more granular, weare able to identify a micro-niche audience. By creating a content campaign aroundhoneymoons in Chiang Mai in Thailand, we can actually create content that can be shared on wedding and travel websites. Furthermore, the content that will be published can be scaled as there are thousands of websites that could potentially link to the content and improve the website’s SEO performance.

Qualify your audience.

You want the people that you come into contact with online to take one of the following actions.

  • Engage with the content on your site.
  • Convert into leads or buyers.
  • Share or promote your content on social media.
  • Share or promote your content on other websites.

Your need to identify these people within the tribes and micro-niches that you will be targeting, so that the content that you publish on your website will appeal to them and incentivise them to share it online.

This will also create a positive impact on your SEO campaign.

Create a strong value-proposition for your website. 

The success of your ongoing optimization efforts depends on the value that your site offers to its target audience. If you want your site to have the best chance of scaling white hat SEO activities, your site must have a value proposition that will incentivize your target audience to share the website’s content across the web on relevant websites. As a result, your site should earn the page 1 rankings for your target keyword, as well as relevant and qualified web traffic that will boost your business’s performance.

Many people that think that delivering value is only about publishing content. That is partly true.

The website can demonstrate value in several ways, but it must provide a benefit to the website’s visitor. To do this, you must understand the needs, desires, problems, frustrations and solutions that your audience is looking for. The content that gets published on your website must resonate with what your audience is looking for.

The first thing you must do is identify and recognize the areas where value can be demonstrated.

For example, do you:

  • Have a comparison website where you can show people the best deals without them having to spend loads of time shopping around on different sites?
  • Have coupons or vouchers that can save people money if they use your service?
  • Have an information section where you can help people become more informed before they make a buying decision?
  • Provide gifts or incentives that other competitors cannot offer with your site’s products or services?
  • Publish information that can provide some relief or entertainment that people can experience throughout their day?
  • Have a community where people can share ideas, collaborate or even learn from other like-minded members?
  • Share content that your audience enjoys and is keen to share with others?

These are just a few examples of ways where the value can be demonstrated. Once you know how to demonstrate value, you can create and publish web content that will engage your target audience and compel them to share the content with other like-minded people on the web.

Once you have a strong value-proposition and then publish the content on your website, sharing and promoting the content becomes easier and you position your website to rank well in the organic search results.

Conduct the following exercise.

Fill in the blanks to identify what value-proposition you will be delivering to your target audience.

We are (who) and we help (target audience) with (solution/need/desire/benefit).

For example.

“We are LA IT freelance tax accountants and we help IT freelance consultants in the Los Angeles area manage and minimize their annual taxes.”

From this example, you can start creating a strategy around the following.

  • IT freelance consultants
  • Taxation
  • Los Angeles business activity

The list will get expanded as you continue to findmore niche opportunities.

Technical SEO

It is important that the technical aspects of your website are configured in a way that it makes it easier for search engines to access your site’s content and that it provides the best user experience for your site’s visitors. If search engines cannot find the content that you publish on your website, then they won’t be able to index it and rank the content in the search engine results.

There are several technical factors that your site should be optimised for, but the thing to keep in mind is that any changes should improve the user’s experience with the site. I’ve highlighted the onsite technical factors that should be considered at a minimum.

Depending on the web platform that you use, you might need to optimize other factors that haven’t been mentioned in this section. However, you should aim optimize all of the mentioned factors.

HTML Page rendering

This is the most important as search engines will crawl and index the content that is served on HTML web pages. Search engines like Google need to be able to crawl and read the content that appears within the code so they can understand, index, and serve the web content that is relevant to the search query that is being used by the search user.

It’s important that the HTML web page uses the following.

  • Web page title
  • Meta description
  • Heading tags
  • Paragraph tags
  • Lists
  • Tables
  • Image alt descriptions, captions and file naming.
  • That the web page is using the most recent HTML version (Currently HTML5)
  • Table of contents (Where applicable)
  • Schema/Structured data mark-up

You can also click here to learn more about the importance of HTML layouts in SEO.

Page loading time.

Reducing your website’s page loading time can make a difference to your site’s SEO visibility. People want to receive and consume content instantly. In user-experience terms, this means having the content load up in less than 2 seconds. Your business needs to work closely with the technical team that implements any technical developments on your site.

Mobile-friendly website.

Majority of the content that is consumed on the web is done on a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet. Google has started rewarding websites with better ranking results if their site and content are optimised for mobile devices.

Responsive web design

Google is prioritising user experience (UX) in their algorithm. People are consuming content on different digital devices such as mobile phones, tablets, laptops and desktops. It’s important that your website responds to different devices so that it improves the user experience with your site.

Additionally, if your website uses a mobile application, you can use Google’s Development Console to configure the app with the website’s search engine results.

Robots text file

The robots text file acts like a gatekeeper for search engines. When search engines want to access the content in a website (which they do by using search engine spiders), a robots text file will provide instructions that will tell them what they can and cannot access. The robots text file will usually have the name of the search engine crawler and will detail the permission status for the crawler to access the content within a file directory. This is done by stating allow or disallow in the file with the directory listing.

Managing broken links

Broken links can impact the search engine performance of your website as well as the user experience. If people that are visiting your site click on a link and the content isn’t there, it doesn’t provide them with a good experience. Search engines mimic this action and identify broken links on a site with a poor user experience.

There are valid cases for when the web content has moved or that it has been deleted. However, there should be a strategy in place that will minimize the site’s SEO performance. This is usually done through redirects (either permanent 301 or temporary 302 redirects). Although there are some cases where the links can be ignored and served as a 404 error.

Something else that should be considered is if the website is changing, but has historical URLs that have ranked well, keep the URLs the same. This will minimise the risk of obtaining ranking losses.

As a rule of thumb, a process should be implemented where any URLs that are changed or deleted use redirects to direct web visitors to relevant web content. You can use your Google Search Console to identify any broken links that have been identified by Google.

Alternatively, you can use website crawling tools like Xenu Link Sleuth to find any broken links on your site.

Please see our post on why it is important to manage broken links in SEO.

User engagement

It’s important that you prioritise the user experience of your website if you want to boost the performance of our site’s white hat SEO campaigns in the future. Search engines want to serve web users content that they will engage with and find valuable.

Search engines like Google consider the bounce rate on a web page. To ensure that the site’s engagement will help the SEO performance of your website. Things that should be prioritised include the following.

Minimizing your website’s bounce rate.

Bounce rate data is always being collected by Google and if your site’s bounce rate is high, then it will signal negative signs that will impact your site’s performance in the SEO results. This becomes incredibly important as the site starts to rank on the first page of Google. To reach and maintain your site’s position at the top of the search engine results, bounce rate should be kept to a minimum.

This can be achieved by:

  • Publishing relevant content for web visitors.
  • Improving the speed for web visitors to receive content.
  • Improving the web design for visitors to engage with the site’s content.
  • Improve the quality of the website’s content.
  • Customise the content for different devices. (Smartphones, tablets, laptops)

Click here to see a case study on how we reduced our site’s bounce rate.

Increasing users time on site.

Another good signal is the amount of time a user spends on your website. Many people limit the thinking to how long a user spends on one web page. They should be thinking about that as well as the amount of web pages the visitor engages with. Some of the ways you can improve people’s time on site include the following.

  • Create long-form content that is more than 1000 words in length.
  • Add videos to the web content.
  • Add audio to the web content.
  • Add relevant links to internal content on the web page.
  • Incentivise people with rewards for engaging with your web content.

AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is a Google-backed project that will allow publishers to have their web content load on mobile devices quickly. AMP plays a significant role when it comes to the user experience on mobile devices and how Google is favouring mobile-friendly content in the organic search results. You can see an example of the AMP result.

Your website’s content needs to integrate AMP into its HTML if you want to have a competitive advantage in your niche.

After you have configured your site to display Accelerated Mobile Pages, you can track the indexing of your pages.

You can check the index status of your Accelerated Mobile Pages in the Google Search Console.

You can learn more about Accelerated Mobile Pages by visiting the official AMP Project. I’ve also published another post on the importance of AMP in SEO.

URL structure

It’s become well known that keywords that appear within the URL have an impact on a webpage’s search engine ranking. It is typically a straightforward exercise to implement, but sometimes people go overboard with keyword spamming or they make the mistake of not implementing the keywords in a way that will boost the overall relevancy of the site.

You might need to consider how you use keywords in the standard URL, folders, categories and tags on your website. Implementing these in the right way will boost your site’s overall visibility. Implement it in the wrong way and your site could be flagged for ‘overoptimization’, leading to a reduction in your site’s SEO visibility.

Here’s an example of a simple SEO-friendly URL structure.

example.com/car-insurance/

Get your site featured as a Google snippet. (Position 0 on Google)

Google shows the featured snippets at the top of the search results for some queries. The snippet appears above the number #1 search engine result on Google and is often referred to as position 0 and some webmasters that have successfully gained this position claim that web traffic from these results have increased.

To get these snippets, you need to accomplish the following.

  • Your website needs to appear on the first page of Google for that particular keyword.
  • You need to have content that targets the question.
  • Slice up the content using tables, headings, subheadings and lists in response to the questions.
  • Optimise the snippets to maximise CTR.

You need to know how to identify and write the questions and answers that will allow you to rank in position 0. You can identify topics in your industry and target the who, what,where, when and why questions to help your site rank on the first page of Google, as well as in the zero position.

Click here to see an example of one of our rich snippets in the zero position on Google.

Content Optimization

Google’s mission statement is to make the web more organized. It wants to provide the users of its search engine with the most relevant content that will provide them with the value that they are looking for. Google has always said that it wants webmasters to focus on publishing good quality content. If web users find their content valuable, they will then share the content on their web platforms in the form of resource links, blog post recommendations, social bookmarks and more.

The content quality had fallen to the wayside for a number of years because people had prioritised link building to get higher organic search rankings. In their race for links, they ended up publishing content of little or no value to an audience on the web.

The content that gets published on your website will have a big impact on your sites SEO campaign. Optimize your content well and not only will it start to rank naturally, but it will also be a magnet for attracting links. Execute your content strategy poorly will not only struggle to rank your content, but it will be difficult acquire links for your SEO campaign.

In this section, I will discuss the approach that you should take with your content strategy so that you can maximise your sites organic search visibility.

Tap into your market’s demand by doing keyword research.

You can use Google’s keyword planner to find keyword opportunities. You can get keyword ideas and estimated search volumes and paid search competition levels. From the data that they provide, you can forecast how long it should take to get your site ranking on Google.

Keyword research.

One of the great things about doing SEO is that you can get access to data that will justify the revenue potential in your market. You might have a web business that specialises in Korean makeup. You can actually conduct keyword research to see how much of a demand there is for information related to Korean makeup. The data might tell you that in your country, there are 1000’s of searches a month for one keyword. By ranking on the first page of Google in position 1, it is likely that you can capture up to 80% of the total traffic from that keyword. So that means you will receive 800 visits to your website.

Let’s say that your website has an average conversion rate of 10%. This means you will make 80 sales on your site. If the average basket sale is $20, then you can expect to make $1600 in sales revenue by successfully ranking for that keyword. Repeat the process 10 times and then $1600 turns into $16,000. I’m sure you can see the picture.

You need to find those keywords in your industry that will allow your site to get discovered by visitors that will allow you to monetise your website.

Use Google’s Keyword Planner to find keyword opportunities.

The first place you should start your site’s keyword research is on Google’s Keyword Planner. The tool is specifically for Google Adwords, however it does provide insight for the estimated traffic that your site can receive.

Use the exact match search function and generate keyword ideas based on the language and geographic markets that your website targets. The keyword planner will serve you up to 800 keyword suggestions that you can use in your site’s keyword targeting strategy.

The keywords that you select for your campaign need to be aligned with your website’s goals. For example, if your site is monetised by the amount of ads served to your website visitors, then you will need to select relevant keywords that will send a high amount of web visitors to your site.

If your site focuses on ecommerce sales, then you will want to select keywords that will provide sales conversions.

Another way you can generate more keyword ideas is by using URLs from your own site or from competitor websites and submitting it to Google’s Keyword Planner. This should allow you to find up to 800 more keyword ideas per query, which you can add to your SEO campaign.

You can click here to access Google’s Keyword planner.

*Note – The search volume that is provided by Google should be taken with a pinch of salt. Many people in the search industry know that the numbers that are provided are often over inflated, however it should still be used as a guide for your content strategy.

Source keywords from SEMRush.

It’s worth investing in keyword research tools to find other keyword opportunities that might be missed by Google’s Keyword Planner. SEMRush is one of the best tools to invest in to find keyword opportunities that you can incorporate into your website’s keyword strategy. The tool will allow you to search for exact match, phrase and related keywords and it will provide you with estimated search volumes for different markets.

Unlike Google’s Keyword Planner, there is a fee for getting access to the full use of SEMRush. You can click here to use the free version of their keyword tool.

*Disclosure – This is an affiliate link, which means if you use this link to purchase the service, I will receive a referral fee. You can choose to visit the site with or without the link. I am recommending their tool because it does help me find keyword opportunities that I would have missed if I hadn’t used the tool.

Sourcing keyword data from Adwords campaigns.

If you currently run an Adwords campaign, you can actually use the data from your keyword reports to get accurate data about those keywords that bring qualified traffic and leads to your website. If you have conversion tracking setup on your site, you can actually see the exact keywords that are being used to generate conversions on your website.

Pull the report from your Adwords or Analytics console and see if there are any keywords that should be prioritised in your keyword strategy. The data will let you know if you have converting keywords or content, which means you will be able to increase your profit margin should you start getting your target keywords ranking on Google.

Keyword relevancy.

It is essential that you use the right keywords in your SEO campaign to achieve your desired results. Most people will choose keywords based on the amount of traffic leads that they will receive, however it is more important to focus on keywords that will convert the traffic to engage with your website.

Keyword density.

Keyword density refers to the amount of time a keyword appears within a web page. By having the keyword appear more within the website’s text elements, search engines can better understand what the content is about. In the days of old, SEOs would aim for a web page to have a relevancy of 5-10%. The problem with the percentage model is that it affected the readability of the website’s text. Essentially, the web page content would be customized for search engines instead of web users.

Google improved its algorithm with Hummingbird, which takes into consideration synonyms and will also rank a single web page for various keywords that appear on a web page. Keyword density is important, however the way the keywords are used on a web page will impact the web page’s performance in search engines.

A strict percentage doesn’t need to be adhered to, but the keyword should appear within the HTML mark-up on a web page.

If the keyword density on a website is too high, there is a chance that it could be flagged for overoptimization and trigger a penalty for the website from Google’s Panda algorithm. The best approach is to know the target keyword that you want to rank for on a web page and then write the web content for users while incorporating the keyword.

HTML semantic markup.

The HTML semantic markup refers to the use of words and phrases in a language on a web page. In order to get your website’s content visible in the organic search results, search engine crawlers must be able to find, read and understand your site’s content. In the HTML of your web page, there will be tags that tell search engines nothing about the content and then there will be other tags that will clearly define the web page’s content.

Examples of non-semantic tags

<div>

<span>

Example of semantic tags

<h1>

<title>

<a href>

Search engines can read the content that appears within these tags and serve the web page as a part of the search engine results, based on what these tags tell them. Search engines will prioritize tags in terms of importance. So in order to create the best chance for your website’s content to rank, you should aim to use your site’s keywords within the following tags.

Web page title

The title tag tells users and search engines what the web page is about. It is important that your web page keyword appears within the title tag because search engines will use it as a signal for ranking your web page within the organic search results. The title tag will also be pulled through to the organic search listings, but will only appear in the website’s browser when a web page has loaded.

Keywords that appear within a website’s title tag have a profound impact on a web page’s ability to rank well in the organic search results. It’s important that you do not simply add a list of keywords in the title tag to manipulate the organic search results. Instead, use the title tag as a form of short sales copy to get more people to click through to your website. The target keyword should be incorporated within the title tag as it will tell Google what the web page’s content is about.

Web page description

The meta description of a web page provides more information to search engines about what is on a web page. The content won’t appear on the web page when it is loaded, but it is usually used by search engines to populate the web page description in the search results, as well as to understand what a web page is about.

If the description isn’t used, Google will display a text snippet either from the web page or from another web source such as DMOZ. It’s recommended that unique meta descriptions are filled out on every web page to maximise the keyword relevancy on the page. You can add up to 160 characters when you write the meta descriptions and your target keyword should be used to maximise the keyword relevancy and keyword density of the entire web page.

Never duplicate or template your meta descriptions.

In the past, many SEOs would duplicate the meta descriptions on the site in order to save time and to make the site rank on Google. The Panda algorithm targeted this practice and penalised websites for not providing unique meta descriptions and meta titles. Fortunately, the Google Search Console can alert webmasters to instances of duplication so that it can be resolved before any penalties are issued.

Note: Should your site get penalised for this practice, it can be resolved fairly quickly. The main thing is you need to provide unique meta descriptions and titles that won’t spam the search engine.

URL name

The naming convention in a URL is important for the search relevancy, as well as the distribution of authority (PageRank or link juice) throughout the site. Web pages that use keywords with the URL allow search engines to better understand what a web page is about.

Heading tags

Heading tags can have a profound impact on our site’s SEO rankings if they are used well. Similar to a book that has chapters, the use of headings will clearly structure and define what the web page content is about. A lot of people make the mistake of just using one heading (H1). By using several relevant headings within long-form content on the web page, the site is more likely to rank for its target keyword and other related keywords.

Content links

Google looks at the links that’s being used within the content on your website. Internal links can transfer authority (also known as Page Rank or link juice) to other linking pages within the site, helping the content to rank on Google. When they are used in the form of hyperlinks that contain your keyword, they can be effective for ranking your site’s content higher. However, the hyperlinks should be used to add value to the web user’s experience.

You can also implement sitewide links in the footer, website navigation menu or blogroll, however these have been abused by SEO experts for a number of years.

These tactics can work when implemented in your site’s SEO campaign, however if a webpage has too many links that uses too many keywords, the site might receive a penalty for ‘overoptimizing’ the web page. This means that the web page will rank lower in the search engine results.

Google’s John Mueller has said that external links aren’t a ranking signal, but that it may help with boosting the relevance of a web page. If your site uses any external links within any of the site’s web page copy, you can link out by using keywords within the anchor text to relevant websites.

Image alt text

The image alt text refers to the text that will be displayed if the image fails to load on a web page. You can input a description that will contain the target keyword that you want to use to rank the web page.

Image captions

Image captions refer to the text that is used to inform people what an image is about. This is underused on many websites since it impacts the aesthetic design, however it can have a profound impact on your site’s search engine rankings and even boost the visibility of the image in the image search engine results.

Image file names

Another factor that will help the search relevancy of your web page is the use of your target keyword within the image file name. Many people don’t use a naming convention that will aid the web page’s search relevancy and boost the image’s chance of being indexed in the image search results.

Digital asset file names

Your site might use different file types such as audio, pdfs or videos. When these files are uploaded to your server, they should be done with a naming convention that incorporates any targeted keywords for your site’s SEO campaign.

If the files can be accessed by search engines, then it is essential that the right keywords and markup is used to index the content in the organic search results.

Content tags (paragraph, bold, text, underline)

The actual content that appears within these tags influences your web page’s search relevancy a lot. Most of the content will appear within the paragraph tag, however search engines will also look at keywords that are used within other tags on the site. These tags may include bolding, underline, italics and tables.

Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are links that guide a web user’s navigation through a website. It also helps the internal linking structure within a website. Depending on the CMS that you use, they can generate internal linking text based on the web page title or a keyword phrase that is attributed to the web page’s breadcrumb.

Meta keywords

You have the option to include the meta keywords tag in your web page’s content, however it isn’t used by Google and is only used by a few minor search engines. I map keywords to my target web pages, but I do not use the keyword metatag because it doesn’t impact the campaigns that I manage on Google.

Create and publish content that is valuable and scalable.

To provide users with avaluable experience, they need to be able to access the content and gain valuefrom the content that they consume. So you must optimise your website so thatit becomes an irresistible hub of value for the end user.

Link Building

Links are one of the most important factors for a website to rank on Google. Acquire the right type of links and your site can rank for any keyword in your industry. Acquire the wrong kind and your site won’t rank and your site can possibly get penalised as well. Google has always said to website owners that they should earn links naturally by creating content that their audience is likely to share across the web.

There are several ways to get links in your SEO campaign. You only need to acquire the right portfolio of links that will allow your website to rank on the first page of Google. To achieve this, your site needs to get relevant and authoritative links that will pass Page Rank to your site. The more of these links that point to your website, the more likely your site will rank in the organic search results.

Executing this is difficult because in a white hat SEO campaign, your target audience needs to be compelled to share links to your web content. You are relying on your audience to place editorial links within relevant website content.

So we have provided some considerations for engaging in a link building campaign that abides by Google’s Terms of Service and that will also get you results.

Note: You can subscribe to my YouTube channel, which will provide you with white hat link building techniques that you can use for your SEO campaign.

Can you earn links naturally?

The biggest challenge people will face doing SEO is the ability to get links naturally. People are becoming more aware about the value of linking from their website to an external site. Also, since Google started penalising webmasters for unnatural link patterns, it has become more challenging for website’s to earn links that will give their site a positive SEO impact.

As I mentioned earlier in the book, you need to have a process that will allow you to scale your brand so that you will be able to earn mentions and get your site referenced as a source online.

The only way to scale your white hat link building efforts is by implementing a content driven strategy whereby the content provides value to the end user.

There are several ways you can promote your website’s content once you have created a strong value-proposition.

I’ve listed these in this detailed link building tutorial.

Black hat SEO

There are many people engaging in black hat SEO activities that get results. And if you choose to go down the path of the dark side, you will have to face the risk of getting your site penalised and not appearing at all for your desired keywords. Furthermore, the impact might affect your site for months or even years.

If you plan to build a brand using SEO, avoid engaging in black hat SEO tactics such as the following.

Automated link building software

One of the quickest ways to get links to your website is by using link building software, but it is also one of the quickest ways to get your site penalised or even removed from the organic search results. There are several automation and syndication softwares that will place links on sites to get your site ranking at the top of the organic search results.

Typically, tools like Scrapebox, Xrumer or SEnuke are used to find and place links across the web. The problem is that majority of these links are unnatural and contribute to the problem of link spam.

Whether you decide to use an SEO expert in-house or enlist the skills of a freelancer or agency, you must know how they are building links to your site. Make sure you monitor your site’s backlinks for any unusual spikes.

Advertorials

Advertorials in newspapers and magazines were widely used to get links to rank sites on Google. There are still some SEO experts that use advertorials as a part of their link building tactics. Advertorials have their place in web marketing, but they shouldn’t be used to manipulate Page Rank and Google’s search engine results.

Should advertorials be used in your web marketing campaign, make sure that any links within the advertorial use the rel=nofollow attribute to avoid your site receiving any penalties from Google.

Private Blog Networks. (PBNs)

Private blog networks have been used for years to rank websites on the first page of Google. It is a tactic that is used by many SEOs still and despite improvements to the Penguin algorithm, Google still has trouble identifying links that are a PBN, however what we do know is that when they do identify a network, they penalise the network and sites that are using the network.

I understand the value that PBN networks provide in an SEO strategy. Because they are against Google’s Terms of Service, I am not going to recommend this as a part of a brand-driven SEO strategy.

There are several SEOs that build PBNs that remain under Google’s radar and their networks do get their sites ranking and earning an income until their network or site gets affected. If you don’t want to risk your site getting penalised and removed from the organic search results, then you won’t consider using this strategy in your brand-driven SEO campaign.

Should you consider using this strategy, you can expect your site to rank if the PBN is executed well and the rankings should remain until the site gets flagged by Google. Once that occurs and your site is removed or penalised by Google, you will need to make the necessary changes and file a reconsideration request for Google to reindex your site in the organic search results.

What you can do is learn more about the link structure that is used in PBNs and see how you can implement a similar model using white hat SEO link building techniques. This means looking at the authority and relevancy from those network sites and seeing how links are placed on those sites (whether they are using new or aged pages) and seeing how quickly the site’s rankings are affected.

Paid guest posts.

Paid guest posts refers to paying a webmaster in exchange to provide a post on their site with a link that passes PageRank. Engaging in this type of activity is against Google’s Terms of Service and if your site is caught participating, there’s a good chance that your site will receive a penalty, which will see your site’s rankings reduced or potentially removed from the organic search results altogether.

There is a massive problem with guest blogging, which I expect to see continue. The problem isn’t with genuine guest blogs that are used to generate web traffic. It is guest blog posts that are used purely as a link farm in exchange for money. There are two major problems to this. Firstly, Google will continue to clamp down on those sites that are engaging in paid blog post activities. Secondly, links will become nothing more than a buyers market, where you will need to, “Buy your way to the top of the organic search results.”

It might be worth taking a look at any historical guest blog posts that you might have participated in the past to avoid getting hit by Google.

Google’s Terms of Service states:

Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.

  • Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link.
  • Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass PageRank
  • Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites. For example:
  • There are many wedding rings on the market. If you want to have a wedding, you will have to pick the best ring. You will also need to buy flowers and a wedding dress.

Source: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/66356?hl=en

Matt Cutts, the former Head of Webspam advised SEOs of the following.

Matt Cutts, who was the former Head of webspam at Google wrote a compelling post about the decay of guest blogging in January 2014. He called out guest blogging as a spammy practice instead of it being used as a platform to communicate to a targeted audience. The reason it became a spammy practice was because people figured out it was a scalable way to build links. And instead of creating valuable content for the site’s audience, people would just create filler content that provided little or no value with a link embedded in the content.

Matt said in his blog post that,

“In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a link building strategy.”

Guest blogging as a legitimate promotion tactic still has scope. But if it is published as spam, then your site is likely to get affected.

Source: https://www.mattcutts.com/blog/guest-blogging

The biggest thing to remember when conducting link building activities is that the link should be editorially placed and share value with the intended audience. If you ask yourself, “Is the link that I am sharing is contributing value to the intended audience?” and you sense that the answer is no, you are more than likely contributing to link spam and engaging in black hat SEO practices.

I strongly encourage you to build a strong online brand through white hat SEO practices.

Use Google Analytics to power your site’s SEO performance. 

The data from your analytics eliminates guesswork and can give you the necessary insights for you to improve your web marketing and SEO campaign. Pay attention to the metric data that is within your analytics console so you can see what is and isn’t working in terms of your website’s traffic acquisition and user behaviour.

Here are some areas that you should pay attention to.

Sessions and users

This metric is your overall website traffic. If the volume increases, it is a sign that things are going well. The only thing is you will need to dive into the analytics a bit deeper to get more insights. But as a rule of thumb, if your web traffic is growing, the activities that you are implementing are having a positive impact.

Bounce rate

I covered this earlier inthe book, but the bounce rate that is shown on your web page’s content can giveyou a good indication as to whether your content is performing to yourexpectations. For example, if you publish an article that is a 5 minute readand you see that your bounce rate is 90%, then it’s a sign that you will need to make improvements.

There are also cases when the bounce rate isn’t a relevant metric for a campaign.

Time on site

This goes hand in hand with your website’s bounce rate. Can you see if people are actually engaging with the content on the web page by spending a good amount of time on the page? If you can see that users aren’t spending much time on the web page, then it is a sign that you might need to improve the value of the content that is on that page.

You should also assess the importance of the metric in your campaign.

Conversions

For the majority of people doing SEO or web marketing, this will be the most important metric on your website. You want to make sure that the activities that you are implementing will generate conversions on your site. Since you will be focusing on niche audiences and value-proposition content, you want to make sure that the activities that have been implemented as a result of those activities are contributing towards the site’s conversions.

Pages per site

Increasing your site’s visitors average page view can be a good indication of your site’s user experience. However, this should also be taken with a pinch of salt.

The importance of this also differs according to the type of campaign.

Referral sources

You need to monitor how people are finding your website. You want to keep an eye on the growth of your organic search channel so you can see whether or not the overall SEO activities that you are implementing are having a positive impact. You also want to monitor the social media referrals and referrals from other websites. The data in there might share sites that have linked to you and you can find more opportunities by finding similar sites or even the sites that link to those referral websites.

Demographics

You can collect data about the ages and genders of your website’s audience. You can then use this information to create a niche audience. You will be able to publish web content and share links with this target demographic online.

Geography

It’s important to know where your audience is from. You might find that the majority of your audience is consuming your content from a specific country, state or even city. You can then take this information and create a geographic-specific audience campaign to amplify your SEO efforts.

Devices

Google has continually said that it wants webmasters to optimize their site’s content for mobile devices. You can monitor the website’s devices used in Google Analytics.

Site speed

People want to consume web content as quickly as possible. The slower your web content, the more likely it is that you will lose web traffic, leads and conversions. Keep an eye on your web page’s loading performance and make improvements on pages where it can positively impact the web user’s experience.

Popular content

Larry Kim, the founder of Wordstream mentioned in his blog that the top 50 articles drove the same amount of traffic as 1200 other articles on the Wordstream blog. He refers to these as marketing unicorns and they can be so effective that they can deliver up to half or more of the total value of your web marketing efforts. Even the Pareto Principle says that 20% of your activities can yield 80% of the results. So you can use your analytics to find those marketing opportunities.

Monitor the performance of your site’s content so you can measure the value that each piece brings to your overall SEO campaign. You will be able to identify those pieces that add value and scale the promotional activity so that you will be able to earn more links, traffic and rankings to your site.

Source: http://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2016/12/05/best-online-marketing-\strategies

What can you expect with this SEO approach?

Rankings.

You will increase the online visibility of your website with this approach by increasing the amount of rankings for keywords in your niche. Rankings are a primary metric for success, but they shouldn’t be treated as the only metric for success. Rankings should be used to monitor the progress of your site’s SEO strategy. If the rankings are moving in the right direction, then you know that the SEO execution is working. If they are moving in an unfavourable direction, then change is needed to improve the SEO execution.

Secondly, the SEO rankings should be generating your site web traffic. If there’s no traffic coming from the search engine listings, then you will need to change or alter your strategy. There will be new keyword opportunities that will come up and that can be taken advantage of. But the site needs to appear on the first page (ideally in position 1) for keywords so that your site will receive organic search traffic referrals.

Qualified traffic & leads.

The web traffic that comes from SEO tends to be much more qualified than web traffic from other sources (such as paid search or display). This is because the people that are searching for those keywords are prepared to take an action on the search result that they are presented with. Your website needs to get in front of those people when they are looking for the perfect solution for their search query.

It can be a very profitable marketing channel.

When SEO is executed well, it is a fantastic revenue generating channel for your business. SEO should be treated as an investment. The traffic that you generate from successful SEO activities should help to increase your website’s leads and sales over time.

Businesses can use SEO to gain a competitive advantage in existing markets or gain a first-mover’s advantage in emerging markets. SEO is a channel that pays off for itself over the long-term. If you know that you are in a market where the revenue potential is $100,000 a month or more, and you know that the market will grow to $200,000 a month over the next 5 years, then it is in your best interest to invest in SEO activities immediately so that your business gains a competitive market position.

If you start implementing SEO too late, your competitors will be receiving the revenue from the market and you will be playing catchup.

You can take advantage of the ‘cost-per-acquisition arbitrage’ to minimize your business’s PPC costs.

Many businesses use paid search (pay per click or PPC) to drive web traffic to their site. The price of PPC ads are subject to an auction model, which means that as the competition increases for that keyword, the bid price will increase and paid search ads will become more expensive. This will also mean that paid search marketing budgets will need to increase over the long-term.

For example, if your business was spending $50,000 a month last year in PPC, there’s a chance that you might need to increase your monthly marketing budget in 2017 and possibly again the year after.

If you invest in SEO and start ranking for your target keywords, your business can reduce the advertising cost on paid search and improve the cost per acquisition cost through SEO.

To illustrate this, let’s say that you currently gain 10,000 visits a month from paid search for a keyword that costs $5 per click. This means you spend $50,000 a month.

Let’s say that you would love to get the same amount of traffic for the equivalent of $0.50 per click. You could leverage SEO rankings to achieve this goal. This would see you spend $5,000 to acquire the same or even better qualified traffic leads to your site.

The model will differ based on your business’s model, ad rates, customer acquisition costs, profit margins and other factors. You will need to work out whether investing in SEO as a marketing channel will add value to your business over the long-term.

Do you have any thoughts on the best SEO approach to use? Please share your opinions in the comments.

Thanks for reading.

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7 thoughts on “How to do SEO (The Ultimate Guide)”

  1. Great content, David.

    This article reminds me some of the SEO mistakes I made in my early days of blogging. I was so focused on creating content without making effort to also build links. At a point, I became focused on keyword stuffing that I wasn’t creating user-friendly content.

    But after a long while of struggling, I decided to learn SEO for myself. Today, I not only make money teaching it, I also utilize it in growing my own blog.

    Thanks so much for sharing value on your blog as usual.

    Emenike

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment Emenike.
      You are right with what you’ve said. And the same thing has happened with me over the course of my career. When we get into SEO very deeply, we tend to forget the reason why we started to do SEO in the first place. And that is to generate web traffic by providing value to a niche audience. I’m guilty of focusing on keywords, technical SEO and getting links instead of giving the niche audience what it really wants.

      This is what inspired me to write this guide. It’s important that we don’t get distracted by focusing on the wrong things when doing SEO.

      I’m also very happy to hear that you are making money teaching SEO and that you are growing your blog through SEO.

      Well done. And please keep us updated on your journey.

      Kind regards,

      David

  2. Great Post David James.

    This is a very long post for me, but I am not disappointed after reading this post. The reason is that

    “You have put those words in your content that are relevant, not a single sentence is worthless”

    Thanks for coming with this wonderful post.

  3. Pingback: SEO for Startups: 150 Experts Explain What to Do and What to Avoid

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