What is SEO and how does it work?
It might sound technical, but search engine optimization (SEO) can be explained very simply.
It is a set of practices that you apply to your web pages on your blog or website to help people find them.
You write, and a lot of your writing will be online. SEO helps you tell search engines to tell readers where to find it.
Search engines act like huge libraries. They categorise and index almost every page on the Internet and then suggest pages to answer people’s search queries.
Here is a simple image to explain how it works.
Let’s say you write a new article about how to open a coconut. Google will crawl your site, and it will index your new article.
Then when someone searches for an answer to, “How do I open a coconut?”, Google will suggest the best pages on the subject, and hopefully, it will include the page or post on your site.
But if there are already one thousand pages that can answer the question, will your page be suggested as number one, or one thousand for the search query?
SEO is what can make the difference to how high or low your page appears in Google searches.
Ideally, you would like your new blog post or piece of content to appear on the first page of Google. But that is unlikely to happen unless you optimize your website or blog and every new page you add.
Getting a high position, or ranking, on Google or Bing search engine results pages (SERPS) depends on your SEO efforts.
There are many ranking factors that search engines use to differentiate between high-quality relevant content and poor content.
There are three major parts to SEO: Reputation, On-page SEO and off-page SEO.
1. Your SEO ranking and reputation
Google has an acronym for its most important ranking factors. E.A.T. It stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness.
Over time, Google judges your site on these three factors. It is the reason why new websites perform poorly at first and why more established sites rank much higher.
The amount of search traffic you get to your site and individual pages on your website depends heavily on how you rank for these factors.
Expertise is easy. Be an expert in your field and stay on topic in all of your articles and posts.
If your blog is about writing, create content that keeps to subjects that are directly related to the process of writing. For example, POV, first-person writing, line editing or literary devices.
Authority is not as easy. You gain it by the number of other websites that link to your site. These are called backlinks. The more authority these sites have, the more it improves your site’s authority.
Many people try to use link building schemes to help this factor. However, most of the practices are frowned upon.
In SEO speak, these schemes and tricks are called black hat SEO, which is a bit like saying it’s cheating. The opposite is white hat, which is good SEO practice.
The best way to build your authority is to be patient and wait for it to happen. Sites link to high-quality content to add expertise or support to their articles. If you write well, this will happen over time. Quality links will attract more traffic to your website.
One way you can nudge it along is to have a clear reuse policy on your site. It can help remind people to link to your articles.
The last factor, trust, is totally under your control. If your site is spammy or has links on the homepage to poor quality sites such as gambling, drugs, porn or any other unsavoury subject it will lose trust.
You can also lose trust by writing clickbait post titles that have little or no relevance to your content.
Another way to lose trust is when you do not clearly label paid content or advertising on your site.
As your reputation becomes clearer and more established to search engines, you will see a steady improvement in your organic traffic.
1. Become an expert and make sure your articles are always on topic.
2. Be patient and wait for backlinks. They will come in time.
3. Keep your site honest and respect your visitors.
Related reading: Social Proof: 10 Simple Examples You Can Start Using Today
2. On-Page SEO optimization
On-page or technical SEO works by inserting structured data to improve your search engine rank.
When you write a new article, you need to give clear signals because Google and Bing want to know where to file it.
You do this with meta keywords. Keyword research has become almost a science for major companies and corporations. But you do not need to go to that extreme.
All you need to do is use a short two or three-word phrase that accurately describes your new article.
The phrase should ideally contain only nouns, verbs or adjectives. Avoid prepositions, auxiliaries and linking words as these are not highly relevant to search engines.
If your article is about how to write from a third person perspective in fiction, your keywords could be third person writing, third-person omniscient or third person POV.
Once you decide on your keyword phrase, you need to add it, word for word, in the following places in your article. These are often called title tags and meta descriptions.
a. In your title.
b. In the first two sentences of your text.
c. In your title tag
d. In your meta description
Only use it once in each place.
Search engines look in these locations when they crawl your pages. By finding the same short phrase in each location, they recognise that it is your keyword and that it describes the main topic of your article.
If you add your keyword phrase too often in your text, it is called keyword stuffing.
Keyword stuffing is black hat, and even if it occurs by accident or inattention, it will result in your page being Google ranked very low, or even ignored.
Sometimes it is difficult to avoid repeating the keywords in your text, particularly if it is very long. But try to avoid using it more than three or four times.
Another SEO element is called internal linking. This is when you use anchor text to create internal links to another page on your site. Here is an example.
Because I am writing about SEO, I could tell you that I wrote a great article about SEO tool for authors.
If you click the preceding link, it takes you to another article on this site.
Internal linking relates one article to another. It helps search engines understand your site, and it also helps create a better user experience.
It is good practice to place internal links to your new articles into your high quality and higher ranking pages that have already been indexed.
This will help your new article’s ranking a little.
1. Carefully select your keyword phrase
2. Use your keyword in the four designated positions
3. Use internal linking to all new articles.
3. Off-page SEO
In essence, anything you do to promote your site is classed as off-page.
On your social media profiles, you can add a link to your site. You can also create a link to your site by commenting on other blogs or newspapers.
Some new sites use paid search, such as Google Adwords to boost site rankings and get a kickstart for a young website or blog by attracting more organic search results.
You can also use content marketing. By writing content that is published on other sites, even for products and services that are not directly related to your blog’s topic, you will get a chance to add a useful backlink to your site.
Telling people you know, or are in contact with in your daily life can help too. An article about you in your regional paper can act like local SEO.
4. Amazon SEO
It is not just web pages and blog posts that use SEO.
If you have a book published on Amazon, you can use SEO techniques to help you find more readers.
You might not realise, but when you published your book, you had to add seven keywords. These work exactly the same as keywords in a blog post. The only difference is that they help people find your book on Amazon rather than Google.
You should do your research on these keywords and make sure that they are helping you find readers. There are many ways you can research Amazon keywords for free.
But a more reliable way is to use software to access real-time customer data from Amazon. With a tool such as Publisher Rocket, you can find the search terms that real book buyers are using to find a new book to buy.
You don’t need to be an expert like Neil Patel to use SEO strategies.
You can optimize your website or blog by taking simple steps, measures and developing new habits.
If you use these three SEO basics I have outlined, your site and search ranking will improve over time. But remember that a three-year-old site will perform better than a three-month-old site. So be patient.
If you keep your site’s reputation top of mind, add your keyword in four places, add internal links and promote your site at every opportunity, you will have mastered enough SEO to help your site improve considerably.
More reading: How To Find Amazon Keywords For Kindle Ebooks And Books