A complete guideto getting startedin SEO.Produced byCopyright 2018 Search Engine Journal. Published by Alpha Brand Media, All Rights Reserved.
Table of Contents6Chapter 1:SEO Fundamentals: Your Guide to SEOSuccess Factors in 201826Chapter 2:5 Things Every SEO Strategy Needs33Chapter 3:How to Know Your Audience to MasterYour Marketing Campaigns45Chapter 4:The Three Pillars of SEO: Authority,Relevance, and Trust65Chapter 5:Why Your SEO Focus Should Be BrandBuilding78Chapter 6:Why & How to Track Google AlgorithmUpdates
93Chapter 7:Top 7 Ranking Signals: What REALLYMatters in 2018?112Chapter 8:A Beginner’s Guide to SEO in a MachineLearning World123Chapter 9:How to Do Keyword Research for SEO:Everything You Need to Know141Chapter 10:See, Think, Do, Care: A New Way toCommunicate Your SEO Strategy150Chapter 11:How to Create Perfectly OptimizedContent: 16 Essential Elements171Chapter 12:Making SEO & User Experience WorkTogether
186Chapter 13:Local SEO Guide for Beginners207Chapter 14:An Introduction to Mobile SEO229Chapter 15:Agile SEO: Moving from Strategy to Action240Chapter 16:The 9 Most Important SEO KPIs You ShouldBe Tracking251Chapter 17:SEO Strategy: 3 Trade-offs You MustConsider259Chapter 18:What to Do When Things Go Wrong in SEO
Chapter 1SEO Fundamentals: YourGuide to SEO SuccessFactors in 2018Ready to learn the secret tosearch engine optimization (SEO)?Danny GoodwinExecutive Editor, SearchEngine JournalWell, I hate to break it to you, but therereally is no secret.There is no secret sauce.There is no secret recipe.SEO isn’t about magic tricks or gamingthe search algorithms.What you really need is a thorough understanding of what people want whenthey search – and why they want (orneed) it.Danny Goodwin is Executive Editorof Search Engine Journal. In addition to overseeing SEJ’s editorialstrategy and managing contributions from a team of 60 industryexperts, he also writes news andarticles about SEO, PPC, socialmedia marketing, content marketing. Danny has been a professional editor, writer, and ghostwriterin the marketing industry for 10years, creating content for SMBs toglobal brands, spanning all thingssearch and digital. He formerlywas managing editor of Momentology and editor of Search EngineWatch.The fact that there is no big secret is whatmakes SEO so hard. It’s also a constantly moving target.
And we don’t make the rules – the search engines do.That said, organic search is one of the most profitable marketing channels thereis – if you’re willing to invest in it.Where Search Is HeadingIf you’re brand new to the world of SEO, I highly recommend you start with ourguide, SEO 101: Learn the Basics of Search Engine Optimization, before goingfurther.Already have a grasp on the SEO basics? Great! Let’s continue.A complete guide to SEO – and where search is heading in 2018 and beyond –is too hard to fit into one article.Many factors impact your SEO success, including:Technical: This includes anything that affects the performance of, visibilityof, or how search engines access your site. This includes indexing andcrawling, schema, page speed, site structure, URL structure, and muchmore.On-page: This is your content – both what is visible to users on your webpages (text, images, video, or audio), as well as elements that are onlyvisible to search engines (HTML tags, structured data).Off-page: This is anything that’s not on your site. Ultimately, off-pagefactors are about growing and demonstrating your website’s authority,relevance, and trust and building an audience. Think link building, socialmedia marketing, PPC marketing, reviews, and user-generated content.
In this chapter, we’ll start exploring the world of SEO in three of the most important areas that will help set you up for success:Search experience optimization: What opportunities you have to be morepresent to your customers/audience.Content strategies for actual people: The importance of content andwhat it means to be relevant.The impact of voice search on SEO: We’ll look into the not-too-distantfuture and show you why the time is now to optimize for voice search. Sodon’t wait!1. Search Experience OptimizationWhen you hear the acronym SEO, it usually means Search Engine Optimization.And, as you’d expect, SEO in this context means optimizing your website forsearch engines (or, far less likely, optimizing a search engine).But Search Experience Optimization is a newer way to think about the term SEO.Some have even called search experience optimization the “new SEO.”Search experience optimization is optimizing for people in all the places yourbrand and content could possibly appear. It goes beyond the nuts and bolts ofoptimizing for search engines – although those nuts and bolts are still incrediblyimportant!Search strategies require us to create brand experiences, using the search results to build relevance.
Ninety-three percent of online experiences begin with a search engine, according to a 2006 Forrester study. That means a search engine is the biggest billboard there is for brands.Search engines also travel with us wherever we go. Google refers to thesesearch experiences as moments, with four of the biggest ant-to-buy.Contemporary SEO strategies require us to be creative to get visibility.Ranking Above the Fold: Desktop vs. MobileCheck out these results. What do you see?
On mobile, there are no organic results above the fold.On desktop, the only organic result you see is a featured snippet.On Google, aside from paid search ads (which can supplement organicvisibility in search results), you also have to contend with prominent searchfeatures, which vary depending on the query.You have to optimize in every way you possibly can to improve visibility of yourbrand. Sometimes ranking “number one” in organic search won’t even matterbecause the page you’re trying to rank won’t even show “first.”Let’s look at just a few of these search features that come before the firstorganic position:
News & Social ContentGoogle News and social content are areas where your content can gain greatvisibility. But news and social are wholly dependent on the freshness of query(how current/hot the topic is).In order to rank/appear in these areas, you need a good understanding of yourspace and how Google responds to a query. Not every query will show news orsocial content, so it’s important to understand how keywords react in differentways.Knowledge PanelsGoogle’s knowledge panels, which are powered by Google’s KnowledgeGraph, display the basics about a business. This includes things like:Location.Phone number.Ratings.Hours of operation.This is a huge way to build trust in your brand. Searchers have been conditionedto look for certain parts of search results, such as knowledge panels, to get thetrusted information they want or need.Getting these panels is important if you’re a brand (or any other type of entity). Ifyou aren’t in the Knowledge Graph, you might be in a little trouble.
People Also AskPeople also ask is another search feature in which content is directly pulled inline with results. These are real terms people are searching for and content fromwebsites is pulled in to populate these results.You can use this search feature directionally to identify content optimization opportunities or additional new pieces of content you could create to help targetthe audience you want to reach.Apply SEO to Different PlatformsIn addition to optimizing for different parts of search results, you can apply SEOmethodologies to any platform someone can search on.These optimization opportunities, each of which is essentially a discipline untoitself, include:App store optimization.YouTube channel and video optimization.Google My Business optimization.Social media optimization.Third-party sites and vertical search engines (e.g., Amazon and Yelp).All of these searchable platforms are completely adaptable to the principles ofSEO and provide opportunities for you to gain additional brand visibility.Plus, when you optimize for other search experiences, content about your brandmay be pulled into traditional search engine results (Google, Bing, etc.) as well.
Takeaways:Be visible as much as you can. Use every part of the results to createsearch experiences.Optimize beyond the search engine. This will ultimately lead to additionalreal estate occupation in the search engine results themselves.SEO assumes a much larger context when the goal is search experienceoptimization, not just search engine optimization.2. Optimize Content for People
It’s sometimes easy to forget that it’s all about optimizing for people – your customers, readers, or subscribers.So always optimize for people, not search engines.Create content for customers, not for the sole purpose of ranking higher.When you put people at center of your content strategies, chances are you’ll beway more successful in search engines.Content, Keywords & Search AlgorithmsGoogle has made several algorithm updates and changes over the years.Two key algorithm changes are extremely important in terms of how we thinkabout content and keywords:Hummingbird: This update gave Google the ability to understand fullqueries, not just individual keywords as part of a search. It also introducedthe concept of semantics, or different keywords surrounding a main topic.Optimizing your pages for a single keyword from top to bottom is nolonger a viable SEO tactic, nor does it look natural to people.RankBrain: This update gave Google the ability to understand queries ithad never processed before and create associations necessary to be ableto decipher the full meaning of query to deliver results through machinelearning. It is one of the top three ranking factors, along with content andlinks.So how do these two algorithm updates impact content strategies?
You don’t want to focus too narrowly on keywords. While rankings are important,ranking isn’t the only thing that matters.Keywords can sometimes betray you. Keywords may have a high search volumebut can lack specificity and value.Take this search for [email marketing] for example:The search volume for this particular keyword is roughly 18,000.Even if you were to write content well enough to rank for this keyword, howmuch of that traffic will be relevant? How many conversions will you be able togenerate? Probably not a lot.
The term “email marketing” is very generic. This is why Google shows ambiguous results.There’s a clear difference in a term like “email marketing” and “enterprisecross-channel marketing platforms”.What’s the difference?Intent.One keyword is informational, while the other is transactional. Transactional queries are more valuable to conversion-driven businesses.You can optimize for more transactional queries by targeting long-tail searchkeywords. This specificity of keywords (even if the keyword has low search volume) will help you create more relevant content and get more qualified traffic toyour site.At a tactical level you have to get creative with your topic and keywordresearch. Really understand how people search for what they search for.Why Content MattersThere’s no denying the importance of content.Without content there is no visibility.To underscore how important content is (and how important the selection ofkeywords can be to the effectiveness of content), consider this:
60 percent of queries are four words or more.The average word count for a first-page result on Google is almost 1,900words.This begs the question: how do we know what people want? How do we knowwhat people are going to search for?Give People Content They WantIf you pay close enough attention, your audience will tell you what they want.Some of the best audience tools are contained right in the Google search results:AutocompletePeople also ask.Related searches.Those are all queries/questions that people ask when they search. This datapresents real opportunities for additional content.
Addressing pains points and directly answering questions will help you deliverthe right content in a time of need to searchers. That’s fundamentally what asearch is – a need. It will also help you understand your customers better.Social ListeningSocial platforms also provide ample opportunities to learn about people andlisten to needs.Many people use social media to complain. A lot. Use it to your advantage.Use your own or competitive comment sections. Pick up on common topics/themes.Monitor conversations on every social network you’re active (and anywhereyour brand is discussed).What are people complaining about? Maybe it’s:Customer service issues.Being unable to find out when your business is open.Your product(s) or service(s).You can turn any of these into content.Competitive ResearchAnalyzing the sites in search results for competitive topics reveal a lot aboutwhat is working, and what isn’t, about your business. Do a content audit andfind content gaps, or areas you want to emulate.
No matter what you choose, the end goal is always same: gain more context.Expand on topics your audience needs you to show up for.This type of research can be uncomfortable. You may have to face some hardtruths when you take any of these routes. But it’s worth it as you’ll understandthe needs of people you want to reach.Make It Mobile-First!Great content means optimal accessibility, regardless of device. Trulymobile-first experiences that load as fast as possible.One way to do this is using Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), especially if yourely heavily on mobile organic traffic. Having content that loads lightning fast isjust plain good user experience (and good business).Slow loading pages can potentially impact your SEO performance – and yourbottom line. Always be testing and optimizing!If you’re unsure about your mobile experience, test all your pages. Use any toolyou can to optimize the user experience.There are many great tools, including Pagespeed Insights. Use them to identifyproblem areas, such as how quickly your pages load and render.Fun fact: In 2012, Google figured out that they would lose 8 million searchesper day by slowing down results by just four-tenths of a second. While that maynot seem like a lot, considering Google delivers results for more than 3 billionqueries per day, that’s 8 million searches Google can’t serve ads on. That meansless revenue for Google. And advertising is primarily how Google makes itsmoney.
Be Prepared for the Mobile-First IndexGoogle has been telling everyone to go mobile-first for years but now it’s happening with the mobile-first index.What this means is Google will crawl mobile sites at a higher frequency thandesktop versions of sites. It also means that mobile is more critical to SEO thanever before. Watch developments in this area closely.Make SEO Part of Your DNAOptimize your content from the start. It will save you a lot of headaches in theend.SEO is a process, not a goal. SEO is never done. You’re never done optimizing.Every page can be optimized because there’s no such thing as a perfect website. You need to become “least imperfect.”In other words, you don’t need the best website in the world. You just need awebsite that’s better than your competition.Being consistent with the SEO basics is the perfect way to do that:Optimize your titles and meta descriptions.Use readable user and search friendly URLs.Optimize video content (if you have it).Optimize header tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.).Link to deeper content within your site.Create and optimize topically-relevant content.
All of these items might seem like no-brainers to seasoned SEO professions. Butyou’d probably be surprised to see how often sites don’t have the most basicthings (e.g., title tags on their most important pages).Your navigation and internal linking structure is the thematic backbone of yoursite. Use it to signal to search engines the topics of your site – what you want tobe known for.Takeaways:Embrace long-tail keywords. Don’t limit yourself with a strategy that onlytargets generic/ambiguous keywords.Understand audience intent and create content for it. Listen to youraudience. They will tell you what content you need to create.Optimize from the start. Build your foundation and cover all the basics(technical SEO and on-page optimization).3. Voice Search OptimizationVoice search is closer than you think.Pay attention to changes in search behavior and shifts in search results. Gatherinsight now to prepare for the future.A whole new generation of people is coming. Their primary relationship with asearch engine is to speak to it – not to type or tap. This is a huge change.With a proliferation of voice-assisted devices that are easy to use (even for oldergenerations), we’re fast approaching a voice-first shift in search behavior.
Position ZeroFeatured snippets are already starting to play a critical role in how Google provides search results. This is the new field of play in SEO.Google’s featured snippets appear above the first organic search result, so itprovides a huge boost in terms of traffic, visibility, and trust. People trust featured snippets so much that they often won’t click on any other organic results.Position zero is largely question-driven. Google provides direct answers to questions, pulling an excerpt of content directly from a website into its featured snippet feature.
Optimizing for Voice SearchVoice search has one result. Position zero is the only result spoken back to you.To have success, it’s important to know the content and context of search:Identify common questions and queries your audience has.Create content to directly address those questions and queries.Turn Content Into Actions & SkillsGoogle takes a few types of published content and makes it voice searchablefor:NewsRecipesPodcastsAlexa skills also make content searchable:Web-based servicesInformation searchesThe Future of Voice SearchThere’s a lot we still don’t know about voice search.Voice search data isn’t available: Google doesn’t show voice search datain the same way it does for desktop and mobile search in theSearch Console.
How search behavior is changing: When mobile was becoming a thing,we had data to show “near me” type searches, reflective of those on thego, were exploding. We don’t yet know the voice search equivalentto “near me” searches.What do we know?We know voice search consists of 10 percent of all searches, and that number isincreasing. Just like mobile 6-7 years ago, voice search is coming.So here lies the SEO opportunity. How will we define the methodology of voicesearch experience to continue to be present with relevant content when peopleneed it?Takeaways:Prepare for a voice-first world.Optimizing for position zero is optimizing for voice search.Make content searchable on voice-enabled devices.SummaryAs you approach SEO, especially in terms of content, make sure your strategytakes these three areas into account:Creating search experiences is the new SEO. Optimize for everyopportunity you can. Take ownership of the search results, includingoutside of traditional organic search. Be present. Be relevant. Build trust inthe people who are searching for your brand, wherever that is.
Create content for people, not search engines. This is how you delivergreat digital experiences and understand your customers better. Focuson the topics people want rather than worrying about keywords as much.Use your content assets to listen to your audience and create contentthat directly addresses their questions and pain points. Build a foundationyou need for good SEO going forward.Voice search is coming. Don’t wait. Aim for position zero in search resultsand make content voice-searchable.
Chapter 25 Things Every SEOStrategy NeedsIn this industry, we spend a lot of timetrading SEO tactics and ideas with eachother for mutual benefit.It’s a wonderful thing. Not every industrydoes this.Unfortunately, we invest less time intalking about how to develop our ownSEO strategies.While every SEO strategy is – and shouldbe – different, there’s an underlying strategy to developing strategies.Here are five things every SEO strategy needs.Pratik DholakiyaFounder at The 20 MediaPratik is the Founder of The20 Media, a content marketingagency specializing in content &data-driven SEO. Pratik has beenfeatured on sites like Forbes,Moz, SEW, The Huffington Post,KISSmetrics, Entrepreneurand Fast Company to name afew. Hit him up on Twitter @DholakiyaPratik for a quick chat
1. A Mind MapA mind map is a place to build your strategy from the ground up. A mind mapis simply a branching series of categories, usually reaching out from the center,moving from more general to more specific categories, with ideas becomingmore granular.It isn’t a visualization of your final strategy. A mind map exists not to help youpresent your plan, but to help you think about it.Mind maps are tools that help you envision your thinking process in a way thatmakes it easier for you to combine ideas by helping you see how they fit together as a whole. They help reduce the load that your strategy imposes on yourworking memory so that you can focus on thinking and brainstorming.You can use a tool like Mind Meister, or you can simply jot down your ideas asthey come to you in the visual format.
The primary benefit of using a mind map is its ability to help you think in nonlinear fashion.Using a mind map allows you to see everything at once, in a structure that resembles the networked way that your real brain works, so I highly suggest usingone as you develop your SEO strategy.2. A Visual RepresentationOnce your strategy becomes more concrete, you will need a more in depth andprofessional document than your mind map.Keep in mind what a strategy is: a plan.That means you have goals, specific tasks attached to those goals, some tasksthat have to come before others, recurring tasks that will need to be iteratedand honed, and subtasks that will become more numerous and specific as timegoes on.You need to be able to present all of this quickly and easily to your client andyour teams, and you need to do so in a format that is simple enough for all parties to understand, as well as edit.You can use Google Sheets, Trello, Workzone, Basecamp, or whatever you prefer. The specific tool isn’t as important as your method for using it.It must be immediately clear to all parties about how to read the plan and makechanges if needed. It must also be clear: Which task is assigned to whom.Which tasks follow the first.Which tasks are recurring, planned, in progress, and finished.
3. An Understanding of the CompanyWhether you’re an in-house or outsourced SEO, you need to have a solidunderstanding of the company in order to make any SEO strategy successful.You need to know what strengths you can leverage in order to get the most SEOvalue, what tactics will work best for the brand identity, and what is standing inyour way.Here are some of the most important factors you should consider as youdevelop your strategy:What is the product’s unique selling proposition?We may be referring to a line of products or a single product, but whatever thecase may be, we need to know what makes our company different in orderfor any strategy to work. This will strongly impact the types of outreach thatwill make sense, the type of audiences we will want to cultivate, the type ofkeywords we will be tracking, and much more.What is the company’s vision?We may be referring to a line of products or a single product, but whatever thecase may be, we need to know what makes our company different in orderfor any strategy to work. This will strongly impact the types of outreach thatwill make sense, the type of audiences we will want to cultivate, the type ofkeywords we will be tracking, and much more.Where is the company really hurting right now?This is one of those things that might seem like you can avoid early on, but willalways creep in and decimate an SEO strategy (or department, or partnership) ifit isn’t annihilated. Understand what the company really needs to see and reallycan’t accommodate before you commit to a strategy.
4. An Understanding of the AudienceYou need to know who your audience is, and that means a great deal more thanjust what keywords they’re searching for.Here are a few things you need to determine, either by talking to your client,surveying your audience, browsing some relevant internet hangouts, or all ofthe above and more:How accepting are they of marketing, upselling, and so on?If you’ve ever consumed anything in the self-help industry, you might havenoticed how comfortable “gurus” in that industry are willing to upsell theiraudience, even spend a dedicated portion of a paid presentation for advertisingtheir other products. Alternatively, if you’ve ever spent any time trying to link toanything of your own on Reddit, you know that they are hypersensitive to anykind of promotion at all. This is something you need to be highly aware of as youdevelop your strategy.What is their level of knowledge?Are you talking to people who know everything about their subject matter andwill laugh off anybody who try to share introductory material? Are you talking topeople who are completely oblivious to industry jargons?How close are they to the industry?Is your audience consumers (B2C) or businesses (B2B)? Will these people beintimately familiar with your industry, or almost entirely outside of it? Are theyinterested in understanding more about the industry, or do they care solelyabout how your products can benefit them?
5. Precise GoalsFor a goal to be useful, it needs to be precise, and for it to be precise, we shouldbe focusing more on the working parts and how they fit together than on aparticular dollar amount.We need to be deliberate when we choose our metrics and KPIs.Yes, we want revenue to go up faster than costs, and yes, it can be useful to seta financial goal. We certainly should be setting goals that have time limits.However, a strategy is about achieving goals that have a specific impact on thecompany, its direction and future, and the way that the business itself functions.That means our metrics should reflect what is happening with the workingpieces themselves. This could mean links and authority, it could mean rankings,or it could mean organic search traffic.The point is, everybody should agree on what metrics make sense and why.I strongly believe in the value of task-oriented goals over KPI goals. This isbecause, especially when it comes to inbound marketing and SEO, our impacton KPIs is indirect. For this reason, I believe in setting goals for projects, livingup to those goals, then measuring the impact and adjusting the strategy inresponse.This is an approach that is more likely to lead to knowledge and actualoptimization, as opposed to finding ways to manipulate the KPIs while losingsight of the long-term impact.
ConclusionNearly every SEO strategy can benefit from these five elements. Build them intoyour framework and make them a part of the way you do business.
Chapter 3How to Know YourAudience to Master YourMarketing CampaignsKeywords. Conversion. User experience.Search engine optimization.What do all of these words and phraseshave in common?They all relate to how you will attract,engage, and convert your target audience.The crux of any good digital marketingcampaign is to identify the specificcharacteristics of your ideal customers,including geographic, demographic, andpsychographic variables.The more you know about your audience,the more powerful your digital marketingefforts will become.Mindy WeinsteinFounder & President atMarket MindShiftMindy Weinstein is the founder ofMarket MindShift, a digital marketing training organization. Sheis also the Director of Trainingand Strategic Advisor for DigitalCurrent and a marketing professor at Grand Canyon Universityand University of Denver. Mindy isan experienced speaker and haspresented at conferences acrossthe country. She has co-authoredtwo books: Rich and Thin: SlimDown, Shrink Debt, Turn CaloriesInto Cash (McGraw Hill) and Money Trouble: Surviving Your Financial Crisis (Beacon Hill). Mindy iscurrently working on her PhD inpsychology with an emphasis intechnology.
At some point, whether it was in a Marketing 101 course you took or from selflearning, you’ve probably heard that getting to know your audience is incrediblyimportant.What this really means: it isn’t enough to know the demographics and locationof your prospects. You have to know as much as possible about them, includingtheir: Personality traits.Interests.Values.Opinions.Knowing all of this will help you: Come up with an accurate list of topics and keywords to target.Set up your pages to convert more effectively.Create a great user experience.Optimize your content.Craft the perfect message to cause your readers to take action.Find key influencers in your market.Below is a step-by-step approach you can use to get to know your audience,which will, in turn, help you create a successful digital marketing campaign andturn you into a marketing rock star.
Step 1: Conduct Market ResearchWhen you want to know more about your target audience, you need to conductgood old-fashioned market research.The goal of market research is to get as many details as possible about thegroup you’re targeting, which you can later use to build personas.There are many ways you can gather this information, including the followingfive methods.Reach Out to Other DepartmentsMany times, we work in silos, meaning we stick within our own team ordepartment and don’t reach out to anyone outside of our group.When you are in digital marketing, you need to take advantage of the wealth ofinformation that exists among other departments.For example, the sales team will know the types of questions that prospects askand will also know their interests and desires.If your company has a
SEO isn’t about magic tricks or gaming the search . Engine Journal Danny Goodwin is Executive Editor of Search Engine Journal. In addi-tion to overseeing SEJ’s editorial strategy and managing contribu-tions from a team of 60 industry . That means a search engine is the biggest bill-board there is for brands. Search engines also travel .