SEO: find out how Google works and what it takes to reach the top positions in this tool!
Learn in this post everything you need to know about SEO, one of the most used Digital Marketing techniques among webmasters!
Learn in this post everything you need to know about SEO, one of the most used Digital Marketing techniques among webmasters!
Appearing in the first Google results is the goal of many professionals and business owners who work on the internet.
This is because being one of those placed first on this tool means a real possibility of closing deals and, of course, generating income without having to invest a lot of money.
In this post, we’ve gathered all the most important concepts and techniques to get you started with SEO, whether you’re a business owner, a digital marketing professional or just curious about learning more about it.
Read all the way to the end to absorb everything relevant and start applying the techniques taught here!
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a practice that aims to attract visitors organically to a certain website.
It’s a set of techniques that make websites appear on Google’s results page when someone performs a search.
To make things simpler, imagine that you want to make a carrot cake.
Instinctively you go to Google and enter: How to make a carrot cake.
You visit the first website in the search results and find the complete recipe.
The site was able to appeal to you without having to run an ad so you could access it. You went to it. And this is what an organic visit means.
These practices are closely linked to search engines, which are tools for users to search for information, solutions and services.
The best example of a search engine is Google, but it is far from being the only one.
Yahoo, Bing, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Google Play, App Store and Facebook are good examples of search engines, which we access daily.
To understand and be able to practice good SEO it is necessary to understand how these mechanisms work and how we can optimize our channels to appear in the first places of search results.
Although it’s not the only one, Google is still the most used search engine and, consequently, the most studied by marketers. Therefore, in this post we will focus entirely on it.
Let’s imagine you own a pizzeria in Albuquerque and when someone searches for “best pizzeria in Albuquerque”, it’s your site that comes first!
The first results on Google pages generally receive 30% of the clicks from those who are searching for information or a solution.
This means that it is very likely that someone looking for the best pizzeria in Albuquerque will access your website. And if it’s good enough and convinces your visitor that your pizza is really good, there is a good chance that you will gain a new customer.
This can happen with several business models: e-commerce, brick and mortar business, services and software, for example.
Organic searches have the power to reduce the cost of acquiring a potential customer, since you do not have to spend money to position your site at the top Google results.
On the other hand, it takes a lot of work and dedication; after all, getting to first place is very competitive!
If your goal is to gain visibility for your brand/your name, appearing on Google is also quite interesting.
It’s quite simple; Google seeks to deliver the best answers to users’ questions.
And believe me, there are MANY questions.
Google receives an average of 3.5 billion searches a day.
And how does it do that? Imagine a large database containing most of the content on the internet.
Within this database, Google can scan all of its content to deliver the best answers to users.
When you search for a term in general, this is how Google will present you the results:
This is a results page, also known as Search Engine Result Page (SERP).
Results marked as “Ads” indicate that site owners have paid to appear for the terms searched, according to their interests. You can advertise on Google through Google AdWords.
On the other hand, the results in the green box are organic results and were positioned on the first page since, according to Google’s intelligence; they deliver the best result for the search in our example, “tips for traveling to Bahia.”
Each result is displayed as a snippet. A snippet is the fragment where Google displays results.
Example of a snippet:
Title, URL and description are important elements to analyze, because it is through them that the user’s first contact with the site occurs.
The title is the first element that the user observes and it is extremely important in an SEO strategy.
The URL is the address of the site to which the user will be directed if he/she clicks on this snippet.
The description is complementary to the title and serves as an added incentive for the user to click on the link and get their answer.
But we’ll talk more about it below.
Google is intelligent and it is known as the Google Bot, which is the program that scans its database to organize and make relevant results available.
The Google Bot acts in three steps:
Crawl: Google’s robot navigates in its database, searching for new and old pages.
Index: In this phase, the Bot evaluates the information of everything it has searched. According to the criteria established by Google engineers, the robot will define which, out of all those pages, are most relevant to the search.
Publish: Is when the Google Bot displays all results to the user.
And the interesting part is that this whole process can happen in tenths of a second.
For example, in our search for “tips for traveling to Bahia” it occurred in 0.44 seconds!
Google is currently analyzing more than 200 ranking factors before prioritizing sites with the top positions in the SERP.
The main ranking factors are, in this order:
Content is what will answer the user’s question when performing a search, so it is the first and most important factor to be analyzed by Google when selecting the best results. It is essential that your content be relevant and the most complete so that the user can answer his/her questions.
Backlinks are generated when other sites recommend your site as a reference for any topic. For Google, if a site trusts you enough to recommend it, it is because you are a genuine expert on a particular subject and it will take this into account when displaying results to users.
It’s worth noting that Google also takes into account the quality of these links, which means that the websites that recommend you must be equally reliable.
RankBrain is Google’s artificial intelligence that works through a process called Machine Learning. This means that it interprets Google’s database pages and evolves as it learns something new.
It is the RankBrain that analyzes the intent of the user as a whole and delivers the result according to the context of the search and not only with the keyword that appears in the search. It can deliver a relevant result to the user, even though he/she has searched for something that has never been searched on Google before.
If it is in any way advantageous for you to appear in Google’s top positions, it is time to understand how this process works.
As we have already mentioned, Google has a large database, and when a search is made, this database is used to deliver the results.
This search is performed by terms that indicate the user’s intent and these terms are called keywords.
Keywords are the terms used to perform a search in the search engines.
If users use keywords to find information, it means you need to identify the best ones that have synergy with your business. Thus, you will connect with you possible clients’ intent.
To do so, you will need to perform a keyword research.
Before you actually reach this step, you should understand that there are two types of keywords: head keywords, and long tail keywords.
Head keywords: These are more generic terms and do not explicitly express the actual intent of the user using it.
The term “online courses” is an example of head keywords.
With this term alone it isn’t possible to identify whether the intent is to know what online courses are, buy online courses or to sell online courses.
Because they are very general terms, they have a high volume of searches and, inevitably, high competition, since the site that manages to position itself for a broad term receives a lot of visibility. This doesn’t mean that this should be your goal.
Now, let us better understand the long tail keywords.
Long tail: Long tail terms are more specific words that indicate more clearly what the user’s intent is.
The term “how to create online courses” expresses quite well the question that the user wishes to clarify. This is a long tail term.
Although the volume of searches for long tail terms is relatively smaller, the competition for them will also be smaller.
Another important advantage of working with this type of keyword is that it is possible to be more assertive with your audience.
If you have a flower shop and can position yourself well for the term “where to buy succulent plants”, the chance of attracting more customers is high.
Head keywords or long tail?
If you are wondering which type of keywords you should use in your strategy, the answer is simple: both.
Although a very broad term doesn’t generate business immediately, it may be that a future customer will buy from you after some time that he/she has accessed some more generic content of yours.
In addition, appearing for broader terms is interesting to generate Brand Awareness, which means making your brand remembered and recognized.
Regarding long tail terms, it is crucial that you invest a lot of your time with these keywords, because it is with them that users seek to solve their most particular questions. If you position yourself for such terms, it means you’ll be the solution to what your customers are looking for.
Now that you understand the main concept of keywords, let’s do a step-by-step keyword search:
In order to perform a good keyword search you need to understand who you wish to reach with your SEO actions, since they are your potential customers.
To do so, you need to identify your personas.
Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers. This concept is different from a “target audience”, because while it is broad, buyer personas contemplate behavioral characteristics in their description, such as personal tastes, lifestyle, personality and moral values.
When you stop working with a very broad audience and start working with buyer personas, you can identify which approaches are most effective with your potential customer.
Discovering your buyer persona isn’t rocket science and you can identify it even if you don’t have customers. Access our guide for creating buyer personas.
There are a few (free and paid) tools so you can perform your keyword search and we have set a few aside to help you.
At this point, you can create a spreadsheet to organize the keywords you’ve identified as being the most relevant.
This is a free tool widely used by advertisers on Google and it is very useful for anyone who works with SEO.
Just go to the website and sign in with a Google email account.
Enter the subject you wish to contemplate. For example:
Click on “Get ideas”
You will then see a screen with the monthly search volume of the term entered and, below, a few related terms.
Notice that there is an estimated search for the terms.
Select the terms that you think are relevant and transfer them to your keyword spreadsheet.
This tool is also free and it has a more complete paid version. The free version will suit you just fine.
Simply enter the desired term in the blank box.
The tool will give you several options of complements to the term that you entered.
This tool is also free. It lists the keywords and their complements in alphabetical order.
Ubersuggest can also be used as an arsenal of suggestions for terms related to the main keyword.
SEMrush is one of the most complete tools for anyone who works with SEO. Full access is paid, but you can use some features for free.
Unlike the ones mentioned above, this tool can give you a clearer picture with new insights about the topic you are searching.
For those who are starting out, it is interesting to search for terms that have a considerable volume of monthly searches, but where competition is not so fierce.
You can find these indexes in the “phrase matching keywords” box.
In the full version of SEMRush, you can also analyze the keywords to which your competitors are positioned, which is a major help to understand what your focus should be if you want to reach them.
After analyzing the most interesting keywords for your business and entering them in the spreadsheet, set aside a column to indicate each one’s priority. Identify which of them have high, medium or low priority to understand the urgency of working their SEO.
With the keyword search in hand, you should focus on the onpage and offpage factors of your business.
The on-page SEO factors are those regarding your website and rely solely on you to optimize them.
The following are on-page SEO factors:
Knowing that content is the most important factor for Google, be careful with what you deliver to the user when he/she accesses your page.
Make sure that all the information he/she needs is there and that he/she won’t need to consult another site to answer his/her questions.
Your content should be unique and valuable.
A good practice is to look at the results of the Google’s first page for the term you wish to position yourself and produce something even more valuable.
Include the keyword you are focusing on throughout your text and other terms that relate to the main keyword.
In this regard, Rand Fishkin, one of the world’s top SEO experts, has created the “10x content“ rule, which means that your content should be ten times better than those on Google’s first page.
In short, if you want to stand out and reach Google’s top positions, you need to deliver content with high credibility, great organization and an incredible experience for those who access it.
Sometimes it will be necessary to spend a lot of time searching, creating pieces that enrich your page and anything that may influence your delivery.
Creating such content is not easy, but it is rewarding.
In addition to quality, it is critical that you update your website/blog with a certain frequency and consistency to show your user and to Google that you keep it active and renewed.
In this topic we will present two types of titles that are important for a well-done on-page SEO.
SEO Title: The SEO title is the user’s first contact with your page and so it should be attractive enough to gain clicks. A good SEO title should contain 55 to 65 characters. Beyond that, Google will crop it and insert ellipsis to indicate that there are more words in addition to what is displayed.
Take a look at our fictitious example:
From an aesthetic point of view, it doesn’t look cool and it also interferes with the user’s experience, right?
Use shorter titles that contain the chosen keyword and that summarize your content’s main idea.
If you use WordPress you can install Yoast, an SEO plugin, which will help you configure the SEO title and indicate other good on-page SEO practices.
Internal title: The internal title may be different from the SEO title and should be convincing enough to keep your user on that page. It has no limited number of characters.
Scannability is how you organize your content on the page. This is an important factor because before the user can thoroughly read your content, it is very likely that he will “scan” your page and analyze the most important points for his search.
Within your page, keep your content as clean as possible.
The following are good scannability practices:
The loading time of the pages of the site directly impacts the evaluation of the Google robots and also the user’s experience.
If a site takes long to deliver the content the user expects, he/she tends to leave the page and search for another result in the SERP.
To check the speed of your site visit Google PageSpeed Insights and enter your domain address. In PageSpeed itself you can understand what aspects to optimize to improve the loading of your pages.
Up to the time of publication of this post, Google considers the desktop version of the sites first for indexing. It is likely, however, that in 2018 it will consider mobile versions first, which they are calling the Mobile First Index.
With that in mind, it’s important to consider that all the important aspects for the user (and for Google) displayed on desktops be available in the mobile version so that your site complies with the new search engine guidelines.
URL is the unique address of each web page. While not one of the biggest SEO factors, the URL can influence user experience and the click-through rate you receive on the SERP.
Prefer simple, short URLs that contain the focused keyword.
In our fictitious example below, notice the long, confusing URL that doesn’t convey the idea of the page’s content:
The same URL could be summarized by only using the root domain (www.nameofwebsite.com.br ), followed by a term that involves the keyword and summarizes the page’s content, such as:
This is what we call a friendly URL.
In e-commerce that contains many pages within categories, the challenge can be greater, but always remember to optimize as much as possible so your user can immediately recognize his/her search in the URL.
Another recommended practice is to install an SSL security certificate, so that your HTTP URL becomes HTTPS. This means that the data that permeates between the browser and the site is encrypted and therefore, secure.
This procedure is especially recommended for sites that work with banking transactions or that involve sensitive information. But even if you don’t work with any of these aspects, generating an SSL certificate demonstrates security and credibility for your user.
Internal links serve to indicate other URLs of your own site to users.
Building a good network of internal links is an essential part of your site’s architecture.
Internal links will tell Google which URLs are the most relevant, transfer authority from one page to another and keep your user longer within your domain.
Alt text is an abbreviation for Alternative Text, which is a feature used to describe images. It’s important to show the Google crawler what’s in a page’s images.
It is also very useful for the user’s experience if the images on a page don’t load, since the visitor can read what is contained there.
Still regarding accessibility, if your content is accessed by the visually impaired, alt text can be identified by a screen reader.
Example of Alt text:
Alt text: how to sell on Instagram – smartphone with Instagram application on screen and a label of 200 dollars over the cellphone, indicating the possibility of making sales through the application.
You may have noticed that throughout the explanation about on-page SEO, the major point that was mentioned several times, is providing a good user experience. This compiles several other concepts that will make your visitor receive what they expect (and even more).
Keep track of everything that may involve your site’s quality, not only aesthetically, perform tests and understand everything that can improve your site’s performance and the experience of your potential client.
The SEO off-page factors are those that don’t depend solely on you, but mainly on the sites that indicate it through links. Of course you can act indirectly on your SEO off-page factors and we’ll talk more about it.
To begin with, you must understand that the major off-page factor considered by Google is the backlinks.
Virtually every part of SEO off-page is dedicated to understanding the links that are directed to your website.
To keep your off-page factors in order consider the following:
The Domain Authority (DA) is a metric created by MOZ, one of the most famous companies among SEO specialists whose founder is the aforementioned Rand Fishkin.
DA is a global ranking used with a logarithmic scale ranging from 1 to 100, and the higher this value is, the better evaluated a site is and the harder it is to climb the scale, which means that a domain growing from 19 to 20 is much easier than from 59 to 60.
The DA is measured according to the quantity and quality of links indicating the root domain of a site as well as the on-page factors already cited.
Page Authority (PA) has the same principles as the Domain Authority, but refers to specific pages.
Following this logic, it is possible to achieve a PA even higher than the DA of the domain in question, if the specific page has better indexes than the Moz considers essential to grow on the scale.
It is important to note that both Domain Authority and Page Authority are closely linked to your SEO efforts as a whole. That means that as much as links are important factors on this scale, everything that has been mentioned so far may also interfere with your ranking.
You can discover the positioning of your site and your competitors’ through Mozbar , a Google Chrome extension that allows you to visualize their ranking in the SERP and in each site.
An anchor text is the text used in links. This is still a factor considered by Google, according to the best experts in the field, such as Brian Dean from Backlinko.
In fact, the text that is next to the link also influences how Google analyzes your site.
To make it clearer, if your site conquers many quality backlinks with the anchor text “travel tips to cabo” and similar, it is more likely that it will reach good positions in the SERP for this term.
This topic takes two items in groups, so it’s important to mention that it doesn’t matter if your site has thousands of links, if none of them comes from really relevant domains.
Google considers the quantity, but the great webmasters know that the quality of the backlinks is even more relevant.
As we have already mentioned, links are like votes of trust that other sites grant you for the good work you do on your site.
To be worthy of good links you need to do quality work with your website, produce relevant content, generate buzz with your brand, in order to become an authority on the subject with which you work.
Keeping a blog is a great way to generate good content that is widely accessed by using Content Marketing techniques.
To speed up this process, you can establish partnerships with other sites that have synergy with your business and propose swapping guest posts so that you post your texts on other blogs and vice versa.
Also create highly shareable content. Lists, infographics and videos are great formats that are easy to consume and share on social networks.
Within your area of activity, look for subjects that haven’t really been developed yet. Search for things that clarify the main doubts of your persona and position yourself as an authority on the subject.
To see the first results, you must monitor your performance daily, produce quality content, and always check your site to make sure that all practices comply with good Google guidelines.
Google Analytics is a good ally in this area. In this post we teach you everything about this tool and how to install it to start analyzing your results.
Remember to monitor your competitors closely and observe the actions they are performing so as not to be left behind.
There are several other analytic tools, and if you consider working heavily with SEO, it is worth considering the paid version of one of the tools we have mentioned above, SEMRush.
Also remember to set goals for your organic traffic work since this will make it easier to analyze the results you are achieving.
If you’re starting from scratch, you can start by evaluating the volume of daily visits to your website and backlinks, and gradually move to sales metrics generated with organic traffic, for example.
SEO requires constant medium to long term work.
The most important tip here is to study constantly, keep an eye on possible Google updates, and of course always keep your work consistent.
If you want to continue learning techniques about generating organic traffic and business opportunities, also learn about Content Marketing strategies.