SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): The Ultimate Guide To Getting Your Website Rank On Google

what is seo

This SEO guide is our way of sharing our SEO knowledge and experience with our community of entrepreneurs, executives and marketers. It’s also for anyone who wants to improve their results on Google and drive more organic traffic.

So if you really want to learn more about SEO, this guide is for you!

In order to provide our readers with relevant information, we make sure to update our content to match current SEO trends and latest updates from Google.

The article we offer is organized by section. You can browse it from end to end or go directly to the section that interests you from the table of contents.

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a set of practices that aim to improve your position on search engines like Google and thus drain more organic traffic to your site. Ultimately, the goal is to generate more free organic traffic, and theoretically unlimited for your business.

Practically, there are 2 main approaches that divide the SEO community:

  1. White Hat SEO: SEO approach that respects the guidelines of search engines, like Google, and that uses authorized techniques and tools to increase site traffic.
  2. Black Hat SEO: Techniques that attempt to trick the system into passing irrelevant or low-quality content for the perfect search result. People who practice this type of SEO can see their traffic disappear overnight because of a penalty from Google.

As you can probably imagine, the approach that we want to present to you is White Hat SEO.

Why invest in an SEO strategy?

Search engines like Google are an essential source of information for your customers. They use it every day to find the answers to their needs.

Being well positioned on Google means ensuring that your potential customers find the information they are looking for from you rather than from one of your competitors who is a click away.

Moreover, faced with the increase in online advertising budgets, investing in SEO is profitable by helping to reduce your acquisition costs.

How do Search Engines Work?

google seo

Google monopolizes the search engine industry with a global market share of over 92%. Google is neither the only search engine nor even the first.

Many search engines coexist with Google today, without threatening its leadership position.

We think directly of Yahoo and Bing, or even Yandex. Others, on the contrary, have completely disappeared like Altavista.

All of these search engines are designed on the same principle and have the same goal: to help Internet users find what they are looking for quickly and easily.

For this, they perform 3 main tasks:

  1. They Crawl the web;
  2. Index all pages found in huge databases (index);
  3. Then return the correct answer to the correct query.

While all search engines do the exact same thing, what sets Google apart and makes it successful is its focus on the quality of the responses returned.

Initially, the first search engines, including Google, were not very sophisticated. They just looked for and matched keywords in queries with content that contained those same keywords.

As quality was not a priority, the vast majority of results were obviously not relevant.

Aware of this problem, Google engineers have developed complex systems for indexing and ranking content according to their relevance and popularity. Today, Google algorithms use hundreds of different factors to decide between content and present the best results to Internet users.

If these ranking factors are carefully kept secret by the American giant, SEO experts today know, thanks to years of experimentation as well as occasional confirmations from Google officials, that the quality of the content, the backlinks and the technical optimization of a website are the most decisive factors in Google’s SEO equation.

Google’s efforts have borne fruit since during a search we hardly need to go to the second page of the search engine, as the results are so precise on the first.

In this quest to provide the best possible user experience as well as the exact answers to every request, Google regularly deploys updates (several times a day) to improve its functioning and penalize bad players.

The majorities of updates are minor and go almost unnoticed, while others can mess up the operation of the search engine and the traffic of sites that depend on it. Here is a list of the main Google updates since 2011.

Moreover, in recent years we have witnessed a radical change in the way Google works. It is moving further and further away from its classic role of search engines, to gradually become a response engine.

Enriched Extracts, Featured Snippets, Knowledge Graph, Position Zero, People Also Ask, etc. All of these elements are increasingly highlighted on Google’s SERPs to deliver information directly to the search engine, without having to click on a link resulting from the search.

NB: A SERP (Search Engine Results Page) corresponds to the results page of a search engine.

Research and the buyer journey

The buyer journey is the path that each of us takes each time we want to buy a product or service.

It is a central concept in inbound marketing because it allows us to offer value to our prospect at each stage of their journey (Discovery, Consideration, Decision, Loyalty and Promotion) and thus gradually build a relationship of trust.

Research and the buyer journey

During the different stages of the buyer journey, the Internet user will have different problems and objectives, which will have an impact on the requests that he will formalize on search engines.

The first three phases of the buyer journey are the most relevant from an SEO point of view.

  1. Discovery: During this stage, the objective of the Internet user is to understand and give a name to the problem or need he is encountering. The terms used here are often global questions, on a given topic.

Example: “How can I increase my traffic? “

  1. Consideration: At this level, the problem/need is defined. The Internet user launches into the search for potential solutions.

The queries will be more precise and longer.

Example: “keyword research tools”

  1. Decision: This involves selecting a list of solutions and comparing them, with a view to making a decision. The queries become very precise and can directly mention one or more products in order to compare them.

Example: “choose between Ahrefs and SEMrush”

Keywords And Content Strategy

Keywords are the expressions that you will target in your content and pages, to optimize them in order to improve their positions on Google and acquire the traffic they generate.

There are 3 types of keywords, depending on the length and precision of the queries they represent:

  1. Head of the Troll: Very popular keywords (huge volume of searches). They are very short, competitive, and sketchy. They usually consist of a single word

Example: “Sneakers”

  1. Body of the troll: Popular words relatively short, less competitive and a little more precise than those in the previous category. They usually consist of 2 to 3 words.

Example: “Nike Sneakers”

  1. Long tail: Long words, not very popular (low search volume), but very little competitive and ultra-precise. They usually consist of more than 3 words.

Example: “Cheap red Nike sneakers”

The search keywords are one of the most important processes to master SEO because it determines the effectiveness of all that comes after.

Keywords are, in fact, what will guide your content strategy and even the organization of your website during the planning phase.

Neglecting this step is risking wasting time and money creating and promoting content that no one will read and which will therefore have no impact on your business.

How to find relevant keywords and topics?

There are several SEO tools, both paid and free, to help you find relevant keywords for your blog or website, you have to understand. However, the process does not start with the tools, but with your strategy.

In fact, the more knowledge you have about your market, your ideal customer and your products, the easier it will be for you to find relevant keywords and content ideas.

We follow a well-defined, yet flexible, process for our keyword research and we use several free and premium tools for this, such as Ahrefs.

Keywords Research

Discover the steps of our process:

  1. Start with a list of starting keywords/topics.

Depending on your knowledge of your market and your personas, you will “brainstorm” a list of starting keywords. Write all the keywords that come to your mind, related to your business!

You can also use Google’s auto-suggestion feature, Wikipedia pages or even the books section on Amazon to direct you to original ideas.

  1. Find a list of direct competitors

Based on your knowledge of your market and your research, you have undoubtedly identified a few competitors whose content is well positioned on Google.

Create a list of these competitors to identify their best keywords in the next step.

  1. Generate hundreds of interesting words

By tapping into your list of competitors and your starting keywords, you will find dozens or even hundreds of potential keywords.

All you have to do is fill in the competitor’s URLs and / or the list of keywords in one of the SEO tools like Ahrefs, Ubersuggest, Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, etc.

Some of these tools are paid, some are free, but the process is always the same.

  1. Filter and prioritize keywords

You will often find hundreds of results using keyword research tools like the ones mentioned above. However, not all of them will be relevant, which means that you will have to filter and clean your list based on the following criteria:

  • Search Volume: Is the keyword receiving enough searches to warrant creating content around? This data is provided to you by SEO tools, but you should know that the figure displayed by all these tools remains an estimate of the real volume.
  • SEO Difficulty: Represents the level of difficulty you will encounter if you try to position yourself on a given keyword. The higher this indicator, the more difficult it will be for you to target the keyword.
  • Business relevance: You now have a large list of keywords, and a number of them have considerable search volume and a reasonable level of competition.

So in theory, if you can position yourself well on these keywords, you are going to get a significant volume of traffic and new potential customers.

The answer is NO, or at least not always. Remember that your blog and website are customer acquisition tools, not traffic. Yes, traffic is important, but only if it can be converted into leads and then into customers.

So the choice of your keywords will also be made on the basis of their impact on your business.

If the content you are going to create has the potential to directly or indirectly improve your business performance (help you sell while helping your audience), you can go for it! Otherwise drop them, even if their metrics (volume and difficulty) are too good to ignore.

Here you have created your final list of keywords, but how should you organize them?

The Content Strategy

Sustainable SEO results cannot be achieved without content. After all, what else is there to optimize other than the content we want to see in Google’s top positions.

But to do effective and modern SEO, you can’t just create and publish content randomly. You must be methodical and adopt a precise strategy to plan, create, publish and organize your pages and articles.

There are many strategies in this direction, such as siloing or semantic cocoons.

However, one of the most recent and effective strategies remains topic/content clustering. This method consists of organizing its content in a logical way, in order to increase its relevance and authority in the eyes of Google, while improving the user experience.

The concept is simple. You gather your keywords and content ideas inhomogeneous thematic groups, with a main page at the heart of the group, called a pillar page.

This pillar page is going to be a long page, which gives an overview on a given topic.

Around this page will orbit other peripheral content, called doorway pages, each of which deals with a specific aspect or angle of the subject and in more detail.

The pillar page typically targets a competitive keyword with very high search volume, while doorway pages are optimized around long-tail keywords.

The pages are linked together via internal links that go in both directions (doorway pages to the pillar page and the pillar page to the doorway pages).

The guide you’re reading right now is our SEO pillar page.

On-page SEO

On-page optimization concerns everything that happens at the level of the pages and articles of your site, in order to boost its position on Google.

Why optimize the on-page factors of your site?

You might think that the goal here is only to rank well on Google search pages. This is not wrong, but it is only part of the end goal of generating leads, acquiring customers and selling.

“On-page optimization is all about everything you do on the site, not only to reach the top spots in Google but also to make sure that people who discover your result click on it, consume your content and move on, immediately or in a later stage, to an act of conversion.”

It is important to keep this in mind before even starting to optimize your pages. It may indeed be that we find ourselves in a situation where we have to choose between optimizing for Google or for our visitors.

In such situations, the user experience should always be prioritized. Because it is he who will interact with your content and become, if all goes well, a customer.

Moreover, Google seeks to ensure that all results displayed to Internet users to meet their search intent. Thus, satisfying your visitors will necessarily be compatible with Google’s objectives.

Understand search intent

The search intention is the reason behind the Internet user’s request. It’s a crucial concept in SEO, but it seems many, even among professionals, are forgetting about it.

Every time someone searches Google, they have a goal.

Maybe he wants to buy a product, find a destination, download a file, or just learn some information.

Google uses very sophisticated algorithms, developed with artificial intelligence, to understand and better respond to search intent.

Our role is to understand the search intent of our audience and to create content that is appropriate.

And it is only after we have created content that truly meets the goals of internet users that we can move on to optimizing our pages and articles by focusing on the following:

URL, Meta titles and Meta descriptions

URLs are the addresses that appear at the top of your pages, in the browser’s address bar. They allow Internet users, like Google crawlers, to find and understand the subject of the page or article.

URL, meta titles and meta descriptions

From an SEO point of view, URLs are of utmost importance! It is for this reason that we must give them the attention they deserve and above all avoid over-optimizing them.

To optimize your URLs, you must:

  • Choose descriptive and readable URLs.
  • Opt for short and precise URLs.
  • Include, where possible, your keyword or variation.
  • Separate words from URL with (-).

The title tag is arguably one of the most powerful on-page factors. Not only is it a direct indicator for Google of the theme of the page, but it is also and above all the first contact your audience has with your content on the SERPs.

If your page title is not relevant and persuasive enough, the click-through rate will not be good and your SEO effort will be wasted.

Here are some tips for effective headlines:

  • Create concise titles; the optimum is around 60 characters.
  • Enter your main keyword and at the beginning of the title preferably.
  • Write a persuasive headline to get people to click on it.
  • Be authentic and avoid clickbait (click traps).
  • Remember, you write your headline first and foremost for humans, not just Google bots.

The Meta description is another important element in your optimization. However, it is no longer taken into account by Google to separate content, and has been for a few years now.

Its importance, however, lies in the fact that when done well, it increases the click-through rate of your content on the SERPs.

Indeed, a good meta description plays the role of an online advertisement which will in a few lines reflect the value of your content to the Internet user and encourage them to choose it.

To write a good meta description you must:

  • Limit yourself to around 158 characters.
  • Include your main keyword.
  • Stay true to the content of the page.
  • Be persuasive using a copywriting formula like PAS (Problem, Shake, and Solution).

The H1, H2, H3 tags, etc.

Title tags are HTML elements that come in 6 levels from H1 to H6. They are very easy to optimize and have great SEO importance, but their role is much greater.

headings

Indeed these titles are used by the search engines to understand the subject of the content or the page, in order to offer it as answers to relevant queries.

It is therefore important to optimize them by integrating your keywords, or variations of them, in a few of them.

But we must not forget that your titles are primarily intended for the readers of your site, who will use them to navigate, read your content, and directly find the sections that interest them the most.

Here are some tips for optimizing your title tags:

  • Use only one H1 per page (this is the title of your content).
  • Use H2s as section/paragraph titles.
  • Respect the hierarchical order (H1 then H2 then H3…).
  • Use your keywords and variations, but only, when relevant.
  • Write meaningful titles that describe or summarize the sections/paragraphs in question.

Images and UX

The majority of guides and content on SEO tend to overlook a decisive factor in the performance of your SEO. This factor is the user experience.

Google analyzes hundreds of variables with complex algorithms to understand and separate the sites on its index.

While no one knows the exact workings of the search engine, we do know that it is very attentive to the behavior of users on your site.

It is for this reason that many experts today speak of SXO  (Search Experience Optimization) search experience optimization, instead of classic SEO.

A website where visitors spend more time is considered more relevant than one with a high bounce rate. It will therefore be favored on the SERPs.

It is therefore important that you do everything you can to improve the user experience on your site.

For it:

  • Choose an elegant, simple and modern design.
  • Create simple and intuitive navigation (help your visitor to quickly find the information he is looking for).
  • Make sure your site is suitable for mobile browsing.
  • Add relevant CTAs ( call to action ).
  • Eliminate the sources of friction (too many advertisements, too small buttons on mobile or annoying pop-ups).
  • Air your text and leave enough empty space between lines and paragraphs.
  • Use images and visuals to illustrate your ideas and capture the attention of your audience.

Optimizing images for SEO is such an important topic that deserves some attention.

Indeed, in addition to improving the UX of your site, images and other visuals can be a considerable source of traffic.

Either from image-type searches or by boosting your chances of obtaining position zero on some specific requests.

It is therefore important to give them the attention they deserve. Here are some of our  best practices  for optimizing your images:

  • Choose the right dimensions (too large images will slow down your site. Conversely, too small images will not look good).
  • Use image compressors if necessary (WP Smush or Tinypng).
  • Use descriptive names for your files (include a keyword if applicable).
  • Use alt tags and relevant descriptions (include a keyword if applicable).

Internal mesh

This is to optimize the internal links of your site, in order to facilitate navigation.

internal linking

This optimization will also make it possible to boost the thematic relevance, improve the user experience and exploit the Link Juice (SEO value that can be transferred from one page to another via backlinks) of your pages, in an optimal way.

Having good internal mesh has many advantages.

  • Google bots can more easily crawl and index your deeper pages.
  • The users of your site can have direct access to the most relevant pages.
  • The relationships between your pages will be better expressed, which will allow Google to understand the themes and subjects of your content.
  • By receiving internal dofollow links, your most important pages will gain authority and rise in the SERPs.

To improve your internal networking, you can:

  • Adopt the thematic cluster strategy.
  • Use dofollow links.
  • Avoid redirected URLs (always use the final URL).
  • Write talking anchor texts.
  • Use the main keyword of the landing page in the anchor
  • Identify and repair your broken links.
  • Make sure the links point to the canonical (main) version of your page.

Voice search

Voice search is not a new trend. Indeed, the majority of teenagers and a large part of adults use voice searches every day to do their research on Google.

voice-search-interface

This was undoubtedly accelerated by the adoption of mobile navigation and the success of voice assistants, such as Alexa or Siri.

It is therefore essential to adapt your SEO to voice search in order to benefit from the traffic it generates.

For it:

  • Use natural language in your content and write as if you were speaking.
  • Format your titles and subtitles as questions.
  • Use FAQs on important pages.
  • Leverage structured data to help Google better understand your content.

Increase Your SEO Authority Level

Google E-A-T

Google EAT is a relatively recent concept, introduced by Google in its famous Quality Rating Guidelines.

google eat

The Quality Rating Guidelines is a document that lists guidelines that Google human reviewers should take into account when evaluating the quality of a website.

These people who work at Google have the sole task of doing accurate research on Google and analyzing the relevance and quality of the results returned.

We believe, like the rest of SEO experts, that the data they provide is used to power Google’s smart algorithms to better understand and evaluate results.

Either way, Google EAT has become a very important factor to consider if you want to rank well on Google.

It is made up of 3 pillars: Authority, Expertise and Trustworthiness (Authority, Expertise and Credibility).

Google’s goal, with EAT, is to offer the best possible results, but also and above all to protect researchers.

We quickly understand this when we know that the sites most affected by this update are those that belong to the YMYL (Your Money Your Life) category. These are the sites that operate in niches that impact people’s money or health. Google wants to be sure that it offers relevant, but above all, accurate information to Internet users.

Take the example of a medical forum or a blog that gives advice for people who want to invest their money. Google wants to be sure that these web presences and the people who manage them have the expertise, authority and credibility to enable them to deliver accurate information.

Any website that lacks one or more of these 3 elements is marked, according to the Quality Rating Guidelines, as non-qualitative.

To improve the EAT of your website:

  • Include an “About” page where you introduce your business and the people behind the website.
  • Add a short description of the author of each of your articles.
  • Add the privacy and refund policy pages if you are selling online.
  • Get positive mentions on other well-known websites in your industry.
  • Encourage your customers to leave positive reviews on your Google My Business listing.
  • Get authoritative and qualitative backlinks.
  • Create outbound links to your social media profiles, as well as other relevant pages where you are mentioned.

OFF-Page SEO:

Off-Page SEO includes all of the tasks that you do outside of your website to rank it in search engines.

What is Backlink?

A  backlink is a hyperlink that comes from another site other than yours, pointing to one of your pages.

Google considers backlinks to be the votes of the web on your content and website.

backlinks

Types of backlinks

There are 2 main types of backlinks: Dofollow which transmits Link Juice and which therefore has SEO value, Nofollow which asks Google not to count them as votes and which therefore have no direct impact on your SEO.

The more quality Dofollow backlinks you have (from authoritative sites), the more authority and reputation your site will increase. This will drastically improve your position on Google, as well as your organic traffic.

So backlinks are important, but how do you get them? This is one of the most difficult SEO tactics and we have published a good number of articles around it.

Here are some tips that summarize what you need to do to get more quality backlinks:

  • Find backlinking opportunities with Ahrefs or any other SEO tools.
  • Start with foundation backlinks ( backlinks from social networks, comments from relevant blogs/forums and directories).
  • Create and share great content that others want to share with their audiences (link bait).
  • Offer high-quality content, free of charge, to the most relevant sites in your industry, in return for backlinks (guest posting).
  • Create a compelling infographic on an interesting topic and donate them to the sites and blogs that interest you, with a link back to your site.
  • Ask the experts in your market to speak on a given topic and compile their tips, quotes, etc. in an article with links to their site (they will like to share the article that mentions them with their audience).

Good to know

  • A backlink from a reputable and authoritative site in your industry is better than 1000 backlinks from sites with low Google reputation. Or those obtained through spamming or back hat tactics.
  • Backlinks are part of a natural backlink profile (what Google is looking for) and can generate traffic for you. You need Nofollow backlinks from quality sites, but the majority of your inbound links should be Dofollow.

Mistakes to Avoid in Backlinking

Backlinks are such a powerful SEO factor that for years they have been used over and over again by people who want to get their website up to the SERPs.

Most often, black hat techniques were used to generate these links and improve position.

It was then enough to have a lot of backlinks pointing to a page to see it take off and grab the first positions on the search pages even if the content is not necessarily relevant.

Fortunately, Google has come a long way since these days. The search engine has introduced several updates, like Google Panda, which aim to penalize anyone who tries to manipulate search results with these techniques.

We share with you some common mistakes that you should avoid if you don’t want to be hit by a Google update or penalty:

  • Getting backlinks from irrelevant sites unrelated to your industry).
  • Getting too many low-quality backlinks (from sites with a bad reputation or with a lot of links).
  • Create a lot of backlinks from a very small number of domains (you have to diversify the sources of your backlinks).
  • Use overly generic anchors in your backlinks, like: “click here” or “view site”.
  • Buy backlinks.
  • Use software that does automated Backlinking.
  • Spam forums and blog comments.
  • Use PBNs (Private Blog Networks).

NB: PBNs are networks of interconnected sites whose sole objective is to boost one or more other sites, by pointing backlinks to them. This is a practice prohibited by Google.

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Congratulations you have finished reading our ultimate SEO guide.

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Author

Adeel Abbas

I've been in SEO business and living from it for the past 9 years. I am part of the biggest local digital marketing agencies. I have business experience and in depth knowledge of On and Off-Page SEO. I have also experience with Amazon Affiliate, AliBaba.com, SMM, Expired Domain Name Research, Event Blogging, SEM, etc. I believe that good quality marketing should be accessible to everyone and understand what it takes to get your website #1.

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