SEO – THE “MYTHICAL” SILVER BULLET
Welcome to an introduction to SEO for Beginners. SEO is the abbreviation for Search Engine Optimization, and in simple terms, it means creating good content and promoting it. SEO is a set of techniques to help get better rankings on search engines, and thus more traffic to your website.
But there has been a lot of myth and fluff about SEO, so much that bad marketers abuse it to make a ton of money off unknowing newbies. Thus before we move on, I want to clear up the misconceptions and bust those myths.
- SEO will guarantee you first page rankings
Thousands of other people are also doing SEO, so all of them get first page rankings? That is not how SEO works, and no one can control the search rankings.
- SEO will make you millions
SEO is not winning the lottery. You need a sound business model and strategy to make millions. SEO is a skill, not a guarantee.
- It will drive a ton of traffic
Nope. Not until you manage to score for many keywords that are trending. Not until you provide people with useful information.
There you go, the easy money used by crooked “gurus” is fake news. SEO may not be a miracle bullet, but it is still a very valuable skill. Master it, and you will not regret it.
AN HONEST DISCLOSURE
Quick, hide your wallets!
There are affiliate links and advertisements on this page! Whenever you buy things from the evil links that I recommend, I will make a commission.
Nah. These are just things to keep the blog going, and allows me to give more good stuff to you guys. So thank you if you decide to pick up my recommendations!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
WHAT IS SEO EXACTLY?
Now that you know SEO is used to help a piece of online content rank on search engines, but what exactly needs to be done? What in the world is this SEO magic?
Is it difficult? Do we need a lot of technical knowledge? Do we need to know how to build rockets and nuclear missiles to do it? Maybe sacrifice a unicorn, make unicorn frappuccino out of it?
Rest easy, no unicorns will be harmed while doing SEO. Search Engine Optimization as its name goes, means optimizing your website (or content) to rank better in search engine results. In general, there are 2 areas – On Page SEO, and Off Page SEO. They may sound like some science fiction geek stuff, but they are actually very straightforward.
- On Page SEO: Stuff that you do on your website to make things better. Things like writing good content, website design, and just the overall technical stuff.
- Off Page SEO: Stuff that you do outside of your website to promote your website. Things like sharing your website on social media, and reaching out to influencers.
While this may seem straightforward, there are a lot of strategies in both areas. I shall cover them in depth in other tutorials, but for now, just know that SEO covers working on and off your website.
HOW DO SEARCH ENGINES WORK?
Before we go deeper into SEO, we need to know how search engines work. How do they find your website? Pretty sure that did not happen by magic… nor do search engines have godly cyber powers to know everything. This short section will explain how search engines find websites and rank them in general.
- Search engines have automated scripts that will “surf” the Internet, and collect data from web pages. We call this process “crawling”, and these automated scripts are commonly called “bots”, “crawlers”, or “spiders” (because they crawl).
- For you privacy advocates, you can tell the bots to not crawl your website… but it depends on the search engine to abide your rules. Everything on the Internet is public in a way.
- All the crawled data will be collected into huge databases, and there will be a lot of data crunching. This process is commonly known as “indexation”.
- Note that search engines can deem certain web pages as “low quality”, and choose not to process it. These pages will never be found in search results.
- The search engine will now pre-rank the collected web pages for various search terms, according to factors such as relevancy, social signals, and much more.
- When a user does a search on a search engine, the pre-ranked web pages will be displayed on the search engine results page (SERP).
So what’s the big deal with all these? Know that the Internet is huge. It will take ages for search engines to find a new website, and almost never if you don’t promote your website. This is where SEO kicks in, and where it is a valuable skill.
Now we know that search engines crawl the Internet for data, and put them into one big database. But how do they determine which web page is the best result for each search term? What are the various ranking factors they use? Here are some of them in generic ranking factors (nobody really knows how many ranking factors there are, nor how much each of them weighs in ranking).
Of course, if someone searches for guitar lessons, a good search engine will show them guitar lessons and not cute cat videos. Writing a good article about what you want to rank for is the first step – Give people the information that they want.
TRUST & AUTHORITY
Trust and authority can be a difficult factor to determine. What makes a website authoritative? What makes a piece of article trustworthy? Why would search engines want to choose your article over the others?
This is where an aged website that has thousands of links and citations have a clear advantage over the newbies. Trust and authority are built over time, and this is why you need to have patience while doing SEO.
Search engines are smart enough to evaluate your website as a whole. If you write 20 articles about health, then your website will probably have an edge when it comes to scoring for health-related articles. Not that generic websites are bad, and they can still score. But my personal gut feeling is that it is easier to rank your articles once you have built authority in a certain niche.
One of the newer ranking factors. Although Google claims that they do not consider social signals to be too important, but they still mentioned that an article that has been shared thousands of times could still mean something. So yep, better to have social likes and shares than nothing.
Who are you linking to on your website? Who links back to your website? Good links from trusted sources build authority and trust to your website. Vice versa, if your website is full of links from spam, porn, gambling, and malware websites – It is going to get slapped with a heavy penalty, and never going to be found on search engines.
So build your links carefully. In the days past, people love to abuse link building and spam thousands of links in a day. That strategy will not work anymore. Search engines are smart enough to know that sites which suddenly get thousands of links in a day are probably doing shady stuff.
Do users stay on your page after they clicked on the search result, or do they hit back after 5 seconds? If the users bounce back very often, they are probably not getting what they want, and your rankings are going to drop like a rock.
How fast does your site load? Yes, it does matter. I once had a very slow host, and couldn’t score for any of my websites. The moment I ditched that slow piece of crap – the rankings rocketed into the top 10 pages within a couple of weeks. If you have a slow host, it’s time to ditch them.
With the world moving into mobile technology, this is a huge factor. If your website is difficult to navigate on a small mobile screen, it is going to take a hit in terms of ranking.
Well, there’s probably a lot more ranking factors. But if you can make sure that the above few are good, your website will have a good chance to be found on search engines. That is what SEO is all about, giving what people and search engines want.
All right, we have now touched on some of the ranking factors. But is there like, some sort of numbers to indicate how well a page will do in terms of search engine ranking? Well yes, there are plenty of those, and here are a few prominent ones.
PAGE RANK (PR)
Page rank was used by Google a long time ago to determine “how powerful” a page is, and it is a number from 0 to 10. A webpage with PR10 will most like score very well, and PR0 will be nowhere found in search results.
Notice that I used “was“? Yep, PR is phased out by Google, replaced by a much more complex algorithm that is undisclosed. So if you see some “SEO expert” spewing nonsense about getting your website to PR10, or get you “links from high PR pages”, you know who to avoid.
DOMAIN AUTHORITY (DA) & PAGE AUTHORITY (PA)
These are devised by Moz, and you can check the DA/PA of any website with their open site explorer. In a nutshell, DA/PA is a score from 0 to 100, with 100 being the highest. Domain authority refers to the “strength” of the entire website, while page authority refers to the individual pages. The higher the score, the more likely a page will rank well on search engines.
CITATION FLOW (CF) & TRUST FLOW (TF)
These are devised by Majestic, and similarly, you can check with their site explorer. CF/TF is slightly different from DA/PA, in a way that CF refers to authority, and TF refers to trust. Both of which, the higher the better.
DO THESE METRICS MATTER?
There are more metrics by different companies out there, but know that these are just estimations by 3rd party SEO companies. They are not entirely accurate, and just an indication. Don’t restrict yourself to these numbers, I have managed to rank new websites before, and their DA/PA/CF/TF is 0. Yep, these numbers mean nothing to search engines.
THE DIFFERENT HATS
For this last section, we shall touch on the 3 ways to do SEO in general. When there is light, there will be darkness. Where it is good, there will be evil as well. We call the good ways to do SEO as “white hat”, the evil ways as “black hat”, and the in-between as “grey hat”.
WHITE HAT SEO
The “legal and guilt-free” way of doing SEO. In a nutshell, there’s no shady business in the white hat. Writing good articles that will provide value for readers, promoting on social media, and get some good press release. If you are interested, you can check out the SEO starter guide by Google themselves.
BLACK HAT SEO
Opposite of white hat, the black hat techniques employ the “shady hacker” methods. Blackhat basically tries to outsmart the search engines, and exploit all the ranking loopholes. Methods include using automated software to create spam links, fake social likes, shares, and paying people to create fake links to your website.
GREY HAT SEO
Grey hat methods are neither “good nor evil”, and they are not entirely “legal nor illegal”. While buying links is almost a taboo in SEO, a sponsored post or review is not illegal in a sense. Donating to an organization, and getting a link in exchange is also another grey hat method.
GOOD OR EVIL?
Well, you will find some “gurus” preaching white hat methods, while some openly admit that black hat is the fastest way to growth. It is entirely up to you which hat you want to adopt. But know that there are risks to abusing black hat methods too much – Getting slapped with a penalty is the last thing you want.
We have come to the end of this introduction to SEO. We have scratched the surface of the beast called SEO. Hopefully, this has given you some insight, and whoever said SEO is “very easy”?
So what is the next move for a beginner? If you wish to stop here, by all means, I believe this is somewhat sufficient information for a “regular person”. But I will still recommend digging a little deeper into SEO.
While you can outsource some of the SEO works, it is still good to know if the vendors actually know what they are doing, or if they are just smoking crack. Thanks for reading, and good luck!