A Simple Guide to How SEO Works (Updated 2017)

  • Last updated on: May 25, 2017
  • Filed in: SEO

This is an overview of how SEO works, and is covered in the ClickMinded SEO Training Course. Once you’ve taken that, sign up for the ClickMined SEO Certification Test.

Here’s everything that’s included in this post:

 

What is SEO?

The best way to start is by defining what SEO is not:

SEO is NOT:

  1. NOT about buying keywords
  2. NOT calling up Google and telling them where we want to be ranked
  3. NOT often a very fast process
  4. NOT shady (though there are plenty of bad apples out there!)
  5. NOT incredibly difficult once you know the basics! Google and Bing want to help you rank well if you create great content.

 

Matt Cutts, the former head of the Google WebSpam team, has the official Google line on SEO:

 

Many have tried to correlate click-through rates with search rankings, starting with an AOL data leak in 2006, but now there are a number of agencies that release click-through rate reports.

There are plenty of CTR charts out there, but personally I like using Advanced Web Rankings’ CTR chart as a benchmark, which says that a #1 ranking receives approximately 25-30% of clicks (depending on your device), and that the top 5 results receive approximately 75% of clicks.

This means that if you are not in the top 5, you are effectively invisible.

 

Explaining SEO in 60 seconds:

  1. The words you use are important.
  2. The titles and meta descriptions of your pages are important.
  3. The links pointing back to your website are important.
  4. The words used in those links are important (called “anchor text”).
  5. Your ability to get pages into search engine indices, or technical optimization, is important
  6. Your domain reputation matters.
  7. Freshness matters.
  8. Understanding searcher intent matters.

 

 

On-Page Optimization

  • keyword research and searcher intent
  • title tags
  • meta description tag
  • heading tags
  • image optimization
  • body content
  • internal link anchor text

 

Keyword Research

Google Adwords Keyword Tool

Searcher Intent:
1. Navigational Queries
2. Information Queries
3. Commercial Research Queries
4. Ready To Buy Queries

Title Tag

The most weighted aspect of on-page optimization
Title tags tell humans (and search engine spiders) what the page is about
Should be approximately 65 characters long
Titles should be unique for every page

Meta Description Tag

Should be no longer than 156 characters
Your primary keyword(s) should be there
Meta description DOES NOT impact rankings but are directly related to your click-through rate
The meta description does not appear anywhere on the page
Google will often supplement content on the page with your meta description if it either does not find the description tag or finds the keyword on the page and wants to display it to the user

Heading (H1) Tag

Heading tags are used to logically lay out your webpage
Primary keyword should be included at least once in the heading tag (does not need to be an exact match)
Like all aspects of SEO, don’t overdo it!

Body Copy

There’s no real “minimum number of words” needed for each page, but I recommend at least 100 words (to give the engines enough text to make an assessment of your content)
Important keywords should be mentioned in the first 50-100 words of the content if possible (but design for users!)
The keyword you’re targeting should be used 2-3 times on the page for short pages, don’t keyword stuff!
“Keyword density” and “text-to-code” ratio are not important today. If anyone tells you they are, RUN AWAY!
If it’s really hard to “work in” your keywords, it might be the wrong page for that keyword

ALT Tags

Search engine spiders aren’t humans, and can’t see images
Visually impaired surfers rely on ALT tags to visit websites
We use ALT tags to tell search engines what those images are, as well as the name of the image file
ALT tags and file names are just one more component of the total optimization equation
Again: Don’t over-optimize! Use natural, user-friendly language, don’t worry about exact match text

Internal Links

The text you use in your links matters!
Search engines factor in HOW you link to your other content as a clue to what that content is about
The keyword you’re optimizing for should be used in the text pointing to that page
Links with text like “website” or “click here” are too generic, and don’t help search engines figure out what that content is about

 

Off-Page Optimization

Don’t be a miserable failure about your off-page optimization:

Google Bomb - Miserable Failure

Off-page optimization is the other “big piece” of the ranking equation. Search engines basically factor in how the rest of the Internet views your site. A link from Site A to Site B is like a “vote” from Site Afor Site B This is very simply described as “link building” but it’s becoming more comprehensive

There are 3 important aspects of link building. Quantity, Authority (Quality), and Contextual Relevancy.

 

 

Building links is a continuous, difficult, never-ending process. There are hundreds of strategies, tactics, and techniques for link building. There is even a multi-million dollar industry being built around this concept. However, there are only 4 crucial things to understand about link building in order to be successful:

  1. Get links from good, trusted content.
  2. Don’t get links from bad, spammy content.
  3. Link to good, trusted content.
  4. Don’t link to bad, spammy content.

 

Everything Else

Competitive Link Analysis

(be sure to check competitors anchor text for keyword ideas too)
Majestic SEO
Open Site Explorer
Ahrefs
Majestic SEO

 

 

Great Tools For Beginners

Google Analytics – Amazing, free analytics software

Google Webmaster Tools – Not optional, must install in order to submit sitemaps and more to Google

Google Adwords Keyword Tool – The de facto keyword research tool of the SEO industry

Google Trends – Interesting tool to check seasonal fluctuations in keyword search volume

Check My Links – Free link analysis tool plugin for Chrome

Open Site Explorer – Free (trial) tool to build inbound link profile

Marketing in the Age of Google – The only book I recommend buying to learn more about search

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