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The Essential SEO Guide for Beginners

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This article is originally posted on Galactic Fed.

If everyone has a calling, then one of Galactic Fed’s is SEO. Along with Paid Media, SEO is the bread and butter of Galactic Fed, and some of what we do best. Our SEO teams are filled with self-proclaimed nerds who are obsessed with backlinks, content strategy, and above all, white hat practices. We like to think we have some of the best of the best when it comes to SEO gurus, and have put the time and effort into understanding the ins and outs of SEO, and how you can use it to see amazing success for your business. We have the results to prove it.

We’re compiling our expertise to provide the perfect tutorial for SEO beginners. Whether you’re a small startup or big business, this information can drastically change the visibility and ultimately the success of your brand. We’ll be going over some foundational knowledge and key concepts that will put you in position to become your own SEO pro.

What is SEO?

Let’s start at the top. SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization, and in its most concise form, is the practice of increasing both the quality and quantity of traffic to your website through organic search results. The best SEO allows people who are searching for your product to be able to find it easily and provide the most appropriate information. One of the best ways to do this is to implement white hat SEO tactics that result in your website ranking high on the SERP. White hat SEO refers to SEO strategies that are in line with the terms and conditions of the major search engines, including Google.

Search Engine Results Page (SERP)

Search engine results pages or SERPs are web pages served to users when they search for something online using a search engine, such as Google. The user enters their search query (often using specific terms and phrases known as keywords), upon which the search engine presents them with a SERP. The appearance of SERPs is constantly in flux due to experiments conducted by Google, Bing, and other search engine providers to offer their users a more intuitive, responsive experience.

SERPs contain two types of content – “organic” results and paid results. Organic results are listings of web pages that appear as a result of the search engine’s algorithm. In contrast to organic results, paid results are those that have been paid to be displayed by an advertiser. This leads to the importance of organic results and the role of SEO in ranking higher in organic search results.

According to an article from Search Engine Watch, the top listing in Google’s organic search results receives 33% of the traffic, compared to 18 percent for the second position, and the traffic only degrades from there. Being the number one result on a Google search results page is obviously important, these numbers show just how big of an advantage websites of this type have over any competitors listed below them. The importance of SEO for an online business is seemingly quantified by these latest statistics.

Google’s SEO Best Practices

As stated, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of increasing both the quality and quantity of website traffic, as well as exposure to your brand, through non-paid (also known as “organic”) search engine results.

SEO is about understanding what people are searching for online, the answers they are seeking, the words they’re using, and the type of content they wish to consume. Knowing the answers to these questions will allow you to connect to the people who are searching online for the solutions you offer. These answers are delivered by search engines, for example, Google, which scours billions of pieces of content and evaluates thousands of factors to determine which content is most likely to answer your query. The answers are then listed on a web page called Search Engine Results Pages or SERPs, as discussed above.

SEO is so important because, while other forms of advertising (paid ads, social media) can generate traffic, traffic from optimal SEO comes from search engines. When executed correctly, SEO can continue to provide an ROI and dividends over time, continuously and consistently directing traffic to your site. Optimizing your site for best SEO practices will help search engines identify who needs the information or products you have.

Since Google shares about 87% and 95% of desktop/laptop and mobile search traffic, respectively, it’s important to focus on the information about SEO straight from the Google Search Quality team, following their best practices to achieve the best ranking.

On-Page SEO Optimization: What is on-page optimization and why is it important?

On-page optimization is the practice of using SEO strategies, techniques, and tactics on all aspects of your webpage to rank higher and earn more relevant traffic in search engines like Google. It means optimizing both the content and HTML source code of a page, as opposed to off-page, which involves things like backlinks and other external factors.

While backlinks are the primary factor in getting your page to rank on the first page of search results, on-page factors are the most important for reaching the top 3 positions. Click-through-rate (from having appealing titles and descriptions), engagement (from having genuinely helpful content), and relevance (from having targeted keywords) are the main signals to Google as to how your page should rank, and on-page SEO is all about improving these signals.

It’s not also just about SEO. Once someone lands on your page, find out why paying attention to CRO is also important.

On-Page Ranking Factors

On-page ranking factors are the elements on your pages that can have a big impact on your page’s ability to rank if optimized properly. Here are the biggest ones that affect your search engine rankings:

Title Tag

Title tags specify the title of a web page. They are displayed on search engine results pages as the clickable headline for a given result. Title tags are a major factor in helping search engines understand what your page is about, and they are the first impression many people have of your page, and often what makes them click.

URL

The URL clearly shows the hierarchy of the information on the page. This information is used to determine the relevancy of a given web page by the search engines. A good example of an SEO-friendly URL is this: http://www.example.org/games/video-game-history – search engines can tell that this page likely doesn’t pertain to history in general but rather to that of the history of video games, which makes it an ideal candidate for search results related to video game history.

Meta Tags

Meta tags are snippets of text that describe a page’s content. They are short content descriptors that help tell search engines what a web page is about.

Content

The content of a page is what makes it worthy of a search result position. It is what the user came to see and is thus extremely important to the search engines, so you have to always aim to create quality content. And while Google has no direct way of determining the quality of content, metrics like time spent on site, repeat visitors, bookmarks, and shares improves your ranking.

Alt Text

“Alt text” is short for “alternative text”. It’s what gets displayed in the event of a broken image, gets read by screen-readers, and serves as an indicator to search engines as to the content of the image. Alt text is important both for accessibility and for ranking in image search results.

Off-Page SEO Optimization: What is off-page SEO?

Unlike on-page SEO techniques, off-page SEO refers to strategies that affect the site as a whole. Common off-page SEO techniques include link building and exchange, social bookmarking, content marketing, submissions to directories and search engine indexes, and the creation of online communities on social media. Generally, off-page SEO really comes down to one major factor, which is high-quality backlinks to your site. All these will be discussed later in the training and we’ll go over the different types of off-page SEO techniques we execute at Galactic Fed.

SEO Tools

Staying up to date with the tools that will help your SEO be the most effective is important. Here are some are the most useful ones, with a link to a detailed guide about it:

  1. Google Search Console 
  2. Google Analytics 
  3. Ahrefs
  4. Moz 
  5. SEMRush 
  6. Google Optimize 
  7. Crazy Egg 

Familiarizing yourself with these SEO terms is the first step to becoming your own SEO guru. The path to becoming an expert is one step at a time – and you’re well on your way. Stay tuned for more guides, tutorials, and industry tips as we continue our SEO series.