How Google Search Works

9 Steps Beginner’s Guide to SEO (2019)

Why Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

Every business in this modern age needs an effective web presence to get more customers and make more profit. Having a website is one step, driving potential customers to your website is the next (very important) step.

SEO helps you bring targeted visitors (eg. potential customers) to your website.

Content

  1. What is SEO?
  2. Why is SEO important?
  3. How much does SEO really matter?
  4. Optimize for Google search
  5. Use SEO keywords
  6. Create quality content
  7. Do effective technical SEO
  8. Optimize for voice search
  9. Ensure great user experience
  10. SEO Tutorials & resources

1. What is SEO?

When you go to Google and search for something, Google shows you results which are links pointing to different websites.

How Google Search Works
How Google Search Works

This way, the websites that appear frequently on the first page of Google search results get tons of visitors from Google.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a set of techniques for driving targeted visitors (traffic) to your website from Google and similar tools known as search engines.

2. Why is SEO important?

There are billions of searches on Google every day! Here are some of the reasons you need SEO:

SEO brings customers

For example, a potential customer would search a product on Google before deciding if to buy it or not and whom to buy from.

Google Search Results
Google Search Results

The question now is, when people search for a product or service your business offers, do your product or website links appear on their search results?

If your answer is “No” or something close to that, then you are losing a lot of customers to your competitors whose websites appear at the top of search results.

Note: I used business in the example above, however, SEO applies to all types of websites. For example, if you are a blogger, you definitely want more visitors to your blog.

And this is basically what SEO is, to get found on Google and other search engines so you can drive more targeted traffic to your website. If you are a business, that means more potential customers and eventually more sales/profit.

SEO can save you a lot of money

To understand how SEO can save you money (and also make you even more money), let’s assume you a dentist living in Boston and your speciality is dental implants.

Now I need dental implant and I want the best dentist I can get for that in Boston.

What do I do? Head over to Google and search for “best dental implants in Boston”. Here is the result and pay close attention to the number at the top:

Google SERP
Google SERP

From the search results page, you can see Google saying that this search term has about 3,730,000 results! It means there are 3,730,000 web pages with content that is relevant to the search term. That is massive.

But how many of these web pages are on the first page of the result? Only 15 (including ads). This means there are literally tons of links (related to this search term) that are not on the first page.

The sad reality is that most web users don’t go beyond the first page of search results before clicking on any of the links that make sense to them. Even if the user manages to get to the 3rd page, there are still millions of results not visible yet.

It means that those websites that appear on the first page get almost all the customers.

Two ways to appear on Google search results

As you can see from the search results (the image above), there are two ways to appear on the first page of the search results:

  1. You run ads on Google – This is called paid ranking and it costs money, of course.
  2. You do proper SEO and appear naturally at the top of Google searches (this is called organic ranking and it is free).

Without organic ranking, here is an estimate of how much you would have been spending per month to appear on Google first page and get about 20% clicks:

*** Cost per click (CPC) for the search term (dental implant in Boston) in the example is $15.00

*** The search term and its related keywords get about 10,000 searches per month.

*** Links on the first pages of Google search gets about 20% clicks

Now the math: $15.00 × 10,000 × (20/100) = $30,000

This means that with proper SEO that helps you rank organically on Google, you save $30,000 per month. Or put differently, you get $30,000 worth of traffic every month without paying a dime for it.

And if you have other sets of keywords you are equally ranking for, that means a lot of money saved per month. Now you can see why SEO is very important.

3. How much does SEO really matter?

With that quick idea you have gotten so far, let’s see how much search engine optimization really matters, with some facts and figures!

A Wikipedia article shows that as of June 2018, 55.1% of the world’s population has internet access. Then according to statista, there were 3.89 billion Internet users as of last year (2018). These stats show that about half the world population are on the web!

But then, where does this large number of people visit on the web? Top websites:

  • Search engines like Google, Yahoo!, Bing, etc.
  • Social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, etc
  • YouTube, Netflix, etc
  • eCommerce websites
  • and tons of other websites on the web.

But then, let’s focus on search engines…

What are the biggest search engines currently?

If you have noticed, I have used Google in my examples. This is because Google is by far the biggest search engine on the web.

Here is search engine market share (2018 stats) showing the percentage of searches performed different search engines:

search engines market share 2018
search engines market share 2018

Search Engines Market Share 2018

  1. Google – 92.92%
  2. Bing – 2.38%
  3. Yahoo! – 1.79%
  4. Baidu – 1.03%
  5. YANDEX RU – 0.55%
  6. DuckDuckGo – 0.38%

Source: statcounter

Google receives over 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. Yes, they do [Source] and that is huge!

If everyone on the web is using Google then you should make Google SEO a top priority.

4. Optimize for Google search

What determines if your page will appear on the first page of Google search results? A number of things, including:

  • Relevance
  • Authority
  • Usefulness
  • Technical SEO
  • User Experience
  • Backlinks
  • Page Speed
  • Mobile Friendliness
  • Social Signals
  • Etc.

So there are quite a number of SEO ranking factors. For now let’s look at Relevance, Authority and Usefulness. We will look at some others in details later.

Relevance

Relevancy is simply saying how relevant is your page/content to what the user is searching for? For example, if a user searches “Fitness trainer in Lagos”, do you have a page with content on that? Pages with content closest to the search terms will be considered for higher ranking.

Here is a picture to make this clearer:

SEO: Relevancy as a ranking factor
SEO: Relevancy as a ranking factor

From the image above you can see that the web page with a content that best matches what the user is searching is on website C.

Hence, all things being equal, the page on website C will rank higher than other pages for the search phrase “Fitness trainer in Lagos”.

However, relevancy is not the only ranking factor:

Page authority

Another ranking factor that Google uses is page authority, which is Google’s way of determining how accurate and trustworthy a content is.

Mark or Jane?

Both Mark and Jane wrote a blog post on “best diet for pregnant women.” Now Mark is an engineer with no background in nutrition or medical field, Jane is a nutritionist with a strong background in the field and a good reputation as well. The question is if you are looking for information on the best diet for pregnant women, would you rather trust Mark’s or Janes’ post? Jane, of course!

Jane vs Mark analogy is similar to what Google tries to do – to send web users to the most accurate, most reliable content; and one of the ways Google determine this is to look at the quality and number of other pages that link to that page.

For example, if a page on website A has 20 links from mostly poor, spammy websites while a page on website B has 2 links from big, trusted websites then Google will regard website B as having more authority than website A.

Tip: It is not the number of links (from other websites) pointing to your site that matters, but the quality of those links.

Usefulness

Relevant content that is not properly presented will be difficult for the user to make something great out of it. In other words, it won’t be useful.

Imagine a page with great content but the font size is too tiny making the text difficult to read. Or A page with too many animations and distractions popping up from all angles. Or blocks of texts without proper headings, but just thousands of word that look intimidating to read.

So Google also takes into consideration how useful the page content is. You need to make sure that the user finds your content very useful.

5. Use SEO keywords

Keywords are the words that people enter on Google when they search for something. Or better put, it is the main words that tell what the user is searching for.

Let’s say someone goes to Google and search for “SEO techniques for my website”. The main keyword here is SEO techniques and that is basically what this person is searching for.

The first step before creating content is to find out what people are searching because if your content does not have relevant keywords for the topic of our post it is very unlikely that the page will rank high.

So you want to make sure you are using keywords that are relevant to the content your are creating.

Here is another example, a user searches for “recommended weight loss diets that work”. The keywords here include:

  • “weight loss”
  • “weight loss recipes”
  • “weight loss diets”
  • etc.

If you are creating say a blog post on that topic, you want to make sure you have the keyword in the post title and in the body of the post as well.

Your post title can go like this:

“The only 3 weight loss remedies that truly work”
Or
“13 Best weight loss diets with low calories”

Best places to place keywords in your page content

Apart from the obvious one which is the post title, other places you could place the keywords (and keywords related to the main keyword) include sub-headings, the post body, image description, post summary (meta description), and alt tags.

How to find SEO keywords

There are different tools out there you can use to find the right keywords. Some are free, some are paid.

But then, quick techniques that can give you very few keywords are Google Autocomplete and Related Searches.

Google Autocomplete

The Autocomplete is the search suggestions you see when searching Google. You must have noticed when you start typing some words on Google you see Google giving you some suggestions, like in the image below:

Google Autocomplete
Google Autocomplete

With autocomplete, you can only get a handful of keywords ideas.

Google Related Searches

Related searches are shown at the bottom of the page when you search Google. Just scroll down to bottom and you will some related searches:

Google related searches
Google related searches

But just like the Autocomplete, you can only get a few keywords ideas with Related Searches. For better keywords research you need a tool meant for that.

One of the most popular keywords research tool is Google AdWords Keyword Planner, which is free to use. To get started with Google Keyword Planner, head over to Keyword Planner. But first, here is a great tutorial by Brian Dean that will teach you how to use the tool.

And of course, there are other great tools apart from Keyword Planner:

Popular Keywords Research Tools

6. Create quality content

Quality content is one that your audience find useful. Quality content can be one teach, solves a particular problem, entertains, etc.

Here I will focus more on how to make your content useful and SEO friendly, and not on how to be a better writer.

Use proper headlines and titles

Always use titles and headlines in your post. This makes your post more organized and more readable. Also, note that Google will show the main title and meta description in the search results (See image below).

Write meta description (post summary)

A meta description is a summary that appears underneath the post title in search results and also when someone shares the post (Eg. to Facebook, Twitter, etc).

Always include the primary keyword for the post in the post title and the meta description:

Meta description
Meta description

Make your URLs SEO-friendly

Most newbies use the URL their post editor generates. The problem with using the autogenerated URLs is that most times they are not SEO-friendly.

So what you have to do is manually edit the URL and make it SEO friendly BEFORE publishing the post.

How to improve your post URLs for better SEO:

  1. Include the primary keyword in the URL
  2. Keep the URL short
  3. do not use numbers (Eg. Do not use “7-steps-to-make-money”, use “steps-to-make-money”) because the number may change to “13-steps…” the next time you update the post. Please note that this does NOT mean you should also remove the number from the post title.
  4. Use hyphens to separate words: “steps-to-make-money”

Here is an example of an SEO friendly URL:

SEO friendly URL
SEO friendly URL

Spice up your content with Multimedia

Blocks of texts with thousands of words can seem like quite a task to read. But with images, videos, infographics and charts you can get your readers engaged.

Also, remember that “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Oftentimes things are better explained with a picture. But then, it is not just a picture but other multimedia as well.

Here are quick notes for optimizing your multimedia content for SEO:

+ Name images properly: (dog-running.jpg, NOT 20agd_crap_.jpg)

+ Include alt attributes for images (see image below):

Image alt text
Image alt text

Use both outbound and internal links

A link from your site that points to another website is known as outbound links.

It is a good practice to link to great contents out there (when necessary) as this gives a relevancy signal of your topic to Google search engine.

Internal links on the other are links that point to other pages/contents on your own website (the same website). Internal links help Google better understand the structure of your contents and also help you to drive traffic from one page to another.

7. Do effective technical SEO

Technical SEO is a very important aspect of Search Engine Optimization. It includes:

  • Site load time
  • Crawl errors
  • HTTPS status
  • XML sitemap
  • Mobile-friendliness
  • Keyword cannibalization
  • Robots.txt
  • Duplicate metadata
  • Duplicate content
  • Broken links
  • Etc.

Usually, your web developer will take care of some of the technical SEO, but there are some you need to do yourself.

For example, you have to reduce the size of images before adding them to your post, else, it can affect the page load time and make it load slowly. Slow sites pages are big turn off for Google.

Another example: you don’t create multiple posts that basically say the same thing as this will result in Duplicate content.

Here is a more detailed guide on Technical SEO you can check out later.

8. Optimize for voice search

Google Voice Search allows users to use Google Search by speaking on a mobile phone or computer, i.e. have the device search for data upon entering information on what to search into the device by speaking. wikipedia

Most voice search happens on mobile devices. So you want to make sure your site mobile-friendly and responsive as well. Your web developer is the one to take care of that. But you can learn more from Neil Patel’s post on optimizing for voice search.

9. Ensure great user experience

After everything, the primary goal of SEO is a great user experience. SEO revolves around user experience and Google tries to make sure they send traffic to websites that can give that.

Google wants to make sure that they send users to the best resources out there on the web, and they have very clever ways to detect web pages or websites gives that great user experience and ones that don’t.

So, while thinking about SEO, think users first. If the SEO technique you want to try out might hurt user experience, don’t do it. Also, don’t try any trick because it will backfire.

For example, you don’t place your target keywords where it does not naturally fit in the content just because you have learnt how important keywords are for SEO.

And here is the summary of SEO: ensure great user experience.

SEO Tutorials

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