Welcome to the complete SEO guide, with step-by-step tips to grow your website traffic!
Search engine optimization (SEO) is an essential digital marketing strategy that helps businesses increase their online visibility and attract more organic traffic.
With ever-changing search engine algorithms, staying ahead in the SEO game is crucial for long-term success. This comprehensive guide covers on-page, off-page, and technical SEO best practices, providing actionable insights, external resources, and step-by-step instructions for each section.
SEO is in direct contrast to Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC).
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SEO v PPC Advertising
Get your website clicked on the homepage of Google. Do you pay for an ad click or an SEO click?
Before we dive into this detailed seo guide, you first need to decide, is SEO right for you?
At the highlevel – SEO is a longer-term strategy, while PPC will allow you to test and work on product offerings instantly. SEO is where you improve the presence of your website and people find you for free through organic search. PPC involves paying for people to see and click on your advertisements.
This is the most important step in the SEO guide. Make sure to put the time into researching your keywords, group the keywords into your services. Understand two things. (1) The monthly searches of the keywords you want to be known for. (2) The cost per click of those keywords.
This answer will give you a guide on what you should be spending on your Google ads campaign. You can compare the cost of running ads to the cost of paying for SEO work (or paying for SEO with your time).
You are ready to read our guide to getting your website to rank to grow your business with SEO.
The Comprehensive Guide to SEO: On-Page, Off-Page, and Technical Best Practices
First, let’s look at on-page seo – this means anything that is happening on the actual website. Off-page seo is content that talks about your business, on any other website besides your own.
1.1. Keyword Research
Performing keyword research is the foundation of your SEO strategy. It helps you discover the most relevant search terms and phrases for your target audience. Here’s how to conduct keyword research:
Step 1: Choose a keyword research tool, such as Google Keyword Planner (https://ads.google.com/home/tools/keyword-planner/), SEMrush (https://www.semrush.com/), or Ahrefs (https://ahrefs.com/keyword-generator). Or, Ubersuggests (https://neilpatel.com/ubersuggest). You can start to use all of these tools for free.
These tools will show you how many times a keyword is searched per month, and give estimates for a click if you run Google ads. This allows you to prioritise the best keywords and show you where to focus your time.
Step 2: Enter your seed (primary) keywords or phrases that best represent your business or industry. Example of seed = pet food, roof repairs, physio. This will be the most competitive keyword and hardest to rank for.
Step 3: Analyze the search volume, competition, and keyword difficulty to identify high-traffic, low-competition keywords. We recommend that you do this in an Excel or Google sheet to make it easy to organize and review in the future.
Step 4: Create a list of long-tail keywords and semantically related terms to target a broader range of search queries.
Long tail keyword examples of long-tail keywords = small dog pet food, old dog pet food, emergency roof repairs, flat roof repairs dublin, sports physio dublin.
Step 5: Group your keywords by topic or theme to organize your content creation efforts.
External resource: Check out Moz’s Guide to Keyword Research (https://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo/keyword-research)
1.2. Content Creation
Creating high-quality content is essential for ranking higher in search results and engaging your target audience. Follow these steps to develop compelling content:
Google’s E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness. E-A-T is a set of criteria used by Google’s human raters, to evaluate the quality of a website or individual web page. Basically, you want to provide your website visitors with relevant, useful, and high quality search results.
Step 1: Understand user intent by researching popular questions, topics, and pain points related to your target keywords. Click here.
Step 2: Plan your content, considering formats like blog posts, videos, infographics, or podcasts that best suit your audience’s preferences.
Step 3: Write informative, engaging, and original content that addresses user intent and provides value. Use your target keywords naturally throughout the text.
Step 4: Break your content into easily digestible sections with headings, subheadings, and bullet points. Use header tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.) to structure your content and include relevant keywords. Think of each website like a book and each blog post like a chapter in a book.
Step 5: Update and refresh your content regularly to maintain its relevance and improve its performance in search results. In our experience we have found that removing old irrelivant or lower quality content is also a great strategy to boost your ratings.
External resource: HubSpot’s Guide to Content Creation (https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/content-creation)
1.3. Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
Optimized title tags and meta descriptions can improve click-through rates and search rankings. Follow these steps to optimize them:
Step 1: Write unique, descriptive, and compelling title tags for each page, including your target keywords.
Step 2: Keep your title tags within the recommended character limit (50-60 characters) to avoid truncation in search results.
Step 3: Craft informative and engaging meta descriptions that summarize your content and encourage users to click. Include relevant keywords.
Step 4: Ensure meta descriptions are within the recommended character limit (150-160 characters) to prevent truncation.
In our experience, you should include power words like ‘explosive, grabbing, essential, timeless’
External resource: Yoast’s Guide to Title Tags and Meta Descriptions (https://yoast.com/meta-descriptions/)
1.4. Internal Linking
A well-structured internal linking strategy helps users navigate your site and assists search engines in crawling and indexing your content. (Remember – think of your website like a book).
Follow these steps to create effective internal links:
Step 1: Identify your most important pages (cornerstone content) and prioritize linking to them from other relevant pages on your site. For us, we have (1) lead generation (2) website design (3) saas (4) local business growth
Step 2: Use descriptive, keyword-rich anchor text for your internal links, but make sure to avoid over-optimization or extremely repetitive phrasing.
Step 3: Link to related content or pages that provide additional information or context for users.
I know, it sounds like you will lose people from your blog, but Google and other search engines will promote your content more if you always make sure to help the reader to get their answer faster and in more detail.
Step 4: Update and maintain your internal linking structure as you add new content or remove outdated pages.
External resource: Ahrefs’ Guide to Internal Linking (https://ahrefs.com/blog/internal-links/)
1.5. Image Optimization
Optimized images improve your website’s load time, user experience, and search rankings. Here’s how to optimize images for SEO:
Step 1: Use descriptive file names that include your target keywords for each image.
Step 2: Compress images to reduce file size without compromising quality, using tools like TinyPNG (https://tinypng.com/) or ShortPixel (https://shortpixel.com/).
Step 3: Choose the appropriate image format (JPEG, PNG, or WebP) based on the image’s content and desired quality. We recommend that most images on your website should be under 130kb. We also recommend to sanity check this by viewing your website to see if the quality is good enough.
Step 4: Add alt text to each image, describing its content and incorporating relevant keywords. This improves accessibility and helps search engines understand the image’s context. Use your keyword research to help you name your image files.
External resource: Google’s Guide to Image Optimization (https://developers.google.com/web/fundamentals/performance/optimizing-content-efficiency/image-optimization)
High-quality backlinks from authoritative websites are a significant ranking factor. Here’s how to acquire valuable backlinks:
Step 1: Create shareable, engaging, and informative content that attracts natural backlinks.
Step 2: Reach out to industry influencers, experts, or bloggers and offer them valuable content, such as guest posts, infographics, or case studies, to share on their platforms.
Step 3: Monitor your competitors’ backlinks using tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush, and identify potential link-building opportunities.
Step 4: Engage in online communities, forums, or social media groups related to your industry, and provide helpful insights, resources, or answers to questions.
Examples of high quality backlinks. A restaurant wins the best national food award. The awards business writes an article on its own website, talking about the winning restaurants’ story. The article also includes a link directly back to the restaurants’ website. Like this.
External resource: Backlinko’s Guide to Link Building (https://backlinko.com/link-building)
2.2. Social Media
Social media can drive traffic, build brand recognition, and indirectly influence search rankings.
Follow these steps to leverage social media for SEO:
Step 1: Create profiles on popular social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.) that align with your target audience.
Step 2: Share and promote your content, engage with users, and participate in relevant conversations.
Step 3: Use hashtags, mentions, and location tagging to increase your content’s visibility and reach.
Step 4: Collaborate with influencers or industry experts to expand your audience and improve your brand’s credibility.
External resource: Hootsuite’s Guide to Social Media for SEO (https://blog.hootsuite.com/social-media-seo/)
Two undervalued tips – Post on Google My Business with tips and updates about your business and services. While it is not SEO, commenting in local Facebook groups is a great hack that still works to get you more clients. Just make sure to give readers value!
2.3. Local SEO
Local SEO helps businesses improve their visibility in local search results. Follow these steps to optimize your website for local search:
Step 1: Claim and optimize your Google My Business listing (https://www.google.com/business/) by providing accurate and up-to-date information, including your business name, address, phone number, hours of operation, and photos.
Step 2: Acquire local citations by listing your business on relevant directories and review sites, such as Yelp, Bing Places, Foursquare, and Golden Pages (or Yellow Pages).
Step 3: Encourage customers to leave reviews on Google My Business, Yelp, or other review platforms, and respond promptly to their feedback. We have the best way for you to grow your reviews.
Step 4: Optimize your website for local keywords, incorporating location-specific terms in your content, title tags, and meta descriptions.
Enjoying our SEO guide? Why not check out this external resource: Moz’s Guide to Local SEO (https://moz.com/learn/local)
3.1. Site Speed
A fast-loading website enhances user experience and search rankings. Follow these steps to optimize your site speed:
Step 1: Test your website’s speed using tools like Google PageSpeed Insights (https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/), GTmetrix (https://gtmetrix.com/), or WebPageTest (https://www.webpagetest.org/).
We recommend hiring a developer after doing this speed test. Save a record of the speed test. This will allow you to compare the before and after the website developer working on your website speed.
Step 4: Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to distribute your content across multiple servers, reducing latency for users in different geographic locations.
Step 5: Enable browser caching to store static resources in users’ browsers, reducing the need for repeat downloads.
External resource: Google’s Guide to Site Speed Optimization (https://developers.google.com/web/fundamentals/performance/optimizing-content-efficiency)
A major factor for our seo guide is having a mobile-friendly website is essential for user experience and search rankings. Keep this in mind when developing a new website or getting updates complete to your website.
In the past, most of our clients usually only critique the desktop website design and ignore the mobile website design. This is a mistake a should be reviewed and cross-checked ongoing.
Follow these steps to ensure your site is mobile-friendly:
Step 1: Test your website’s mobile-friendliness using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool (https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly).
Step 2: Implement responsive design, ensuring your website adjusts its layout and content to fit various screen sizes and devices. Desktop / Tablet / Mobile.
Step 3: Optimize your website’s navigation, making it easy for users to find information and complete actions on mobile devices.
Step 4: Ensure your website’s text and images are easy to read and view on mobile devices, without requiring users to zoom or scroll horizontally.
Step 5: Make sure to have calls to action on your mobile devices, make sure they are easy to read and click. There are free website plugins that will add ‘call now’ buttons or other features to improve the conversion rate of your website.
External resource: Google’s Guide to Mobile-friendly Sites (https://developers.google.com/search/mobile-sites/)
Securing your website with HTTPS is crucial for user trust and search rankings. Here’s how to implement HTTPS:
Step 1: Purchase an SSL certificate from a trusted provider like Let’s Encrypt (https://letsencrypt.org/) or DigiCert (https://www.digicert.com/).
Step 2: Install the SSL certificate on your web server, following the provider’s instructions.
Step 3: Update your website’s URLs to use the HTTPS protocol.
Step 4: Set up 301 redirects from HTTP to HTTPS URLs to ensure users and search engines are directed to the secure version of your site.
Step 5: Update your sitemap and robots.txt files to reference HTTPS URLs.
External resource: Google’s Guide to HTTPS (https://developers.google.com/web/fundamentals/security/encrypt-in-transit/why-https)
3.4. Structured Data
Implementing structured data with schema markup helps search engines better understand your content and potentially display rich snippets in search results.
Follow these steps to add structured data to your site:
Step 1: Identify the appropriate schema markup types for your content (e.g., Article, Recipe, Product, etc.) by browsing Schema.org (https://schema.org).
Step 2: Generate the structured data code using a tool like Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper (https://www.google.com/webmasters/markup-helper) or Merkle’s Schema Markup Generator (https://technicalseo.com/tools/schema-markup-generator).
Step 3: Add the generated code to your website’s HTML, either directly or using a plugin (for platforms like WordPress).
Step 4: Test your structured data implementation with Google’s Rich Results Test tool (https://search.google.com/test/rich-results) and fix any errors.
External resource: Google’s Guide to Structured Data (https://developers.google.com/search/docs/guides/intro-structured-data)
3.5. XML Sitemap and Robots.txt
An XML sitemap helps search engines crawl and index your content effectively, while a robots.txt file guides search engine crawlers’ behavior. Here’s how to create and optimize these files:
Step 1: Generate an XML sitemap using a tool like Screaming Frog (https://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/xml-sitemap-generator/), XML-Sitemaps.com (https://www.xml-sitemaps.com/), or a plugin (for platforms like WordPress).
We recommend the Rankmath Pro plugin for WordPress websites. The plugin will create the sitemaps, you just need to click a few buttons.
Step 2: Include all important and indexable URLs in your sitemap, prioritizing your most valuable content.
Step 3: Upload the XML sitemap to your website’s root directory (e.g., example.com/sitemap.xml).
Step 4: Submit your sitemap to search engines like Google (through Google Search Console) and Bing (through Bing Webmaster Tools).
Step 5: Create a robots.txt file in your website’s root directory, specifying which pages or sections should be crawled or excluded by search engine crawlers.
Step 6: Reference your XML sitemap in the robots.txt file using the “Sitemap:” directive (e.g., Sitemap: https://example.com/sitemap.xml).
External resource: Google’s Guide to XML Sitemaps and Robots.txt (https://developers.google.com/search/docs/advanced/sitemaps/overview)
4.1. Set up Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a powerful tool for monitoring your website traffic and user behavior. Follow these steps to set up and utilize Google Analytics:
Step 1: Create a Google Analytics account (https://analytics.google.com/) and add your website as a property.
Step 2: Install the tracking code on your website, either directly or using a plugin (for platforms like WordPress).
Step 3: Configure your account’s settings, including filters, goals, and views, to collect accurate and relevant data.
Step 4: Analyze your website’s performance data, focusing on metrics like organic traffic, bounce rate, average session duration, and goal completions.
Tip analytics tip – We recommend that you create a Google Tag Manager account and you also create a Google analytics tag – then add the Google analytics tag into your new Google Tag Manager accoun.
External resource: Google’s Guide to Google Analytics (https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1008015)
4.2. Utilize Google Search Console
Google Search Console helps you monitor your website’s presence in Google search results and provides valuable insights for optimization. Follow these steps to use Google Search Console:
Step 1: Sign up for Google Search Console (https://search.google.com/search-console/) and add your website as a property.
Step 2: Verify your website ownership using one of the provided methods (e.g., HTML file upload, DNS record, or Google Analytics tracking code).
Step 3: Submit your XML sitemap to Google Search Console to facilitate efficient crawling and indexing of your content.
Step 4: Monitor your website’s performance, including search traffic, impressions, clicks, click-through rate (CTR), and average position in search results.
Step 5: Address any issues or errors reported by Google Search Console, such as crawl errors, mobile usability issues, or security problems.
External resource: Google’s Guide to Google Search Console (https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/9128668)
4.3. Conduct Regular SEO Audits
Performing regular SEO audits helps you identify areas of improvement and ensure your optimization efforts are on track. Save this article and go over the steps again every few months, remember, the tech behind your website is always advancing, which means the plugins that are in your website become outdated and slow your website down.
Follow these steps to conduct an SEO audit:
Step 1: Analyze your website’s on-page SEO, including keyword usage, content quality, title tags, meta descriptions, header tags, and internal linking.
Step 2: Assess your off-page SEO, including backlinks, social media presence, and local SEO efforts.
Step 3: Evaluate your website’s technical SEO, including site speed, mobile-friendliness, HTTPS, structured data, and XML sitemap and robots.txt files.
Step 4: Identify and prioritize areas that require improvement, and develop an action plan to address these issues.
Step 5: Monitor your website’s performance and progress over time to measure the impact of your optimization efforts.
External resource: Moz’s Guide to SEO Audits (https://moz.com/blog/technical-site-audit-for-2020)
By implementing a comprehensive SEO strategy, staying informed on the latest algorithm updates, and continuously tracking and monitoring your website’s performance, you can achieve long-term success in search rankings and increase your organic traffic. Dedicate time and resources to improve your online visibility and maintain your competitive edge in the digital landscape.
4.4 Adapting to Search Engine Algorithm Updates
Search engine algorithms are constantly evolving to deliver more relevant and useful results to users. Adapting to these updates is essential for maintaining your website’s search rankings and organic traffic. Follow these steps to stay updated and adapt to algorithm changes:
Keep up-to-date with the latest SEO news, trends, and algorithm updates by following industry-leading blogs, forums, and social media accounts. Some reliable sources include:
- Google Search Central Blog (https://developers.google.com/search/blog)
- Moz Blog (https://moz.com/blog)
- Search Engine Journal (https://www.searchenginejournal.com/)
- Search Engine Land (https://searchengineland.com/)
5.2. Analyze Algorithm Updates
When a new algorithm update is announced or suspected, analyze the changes to understand their impact on search rankings and user behavior. Look for common patterns or themes, such as an increased focus on content quality, mobile-friendliness, or user experience.
5.3. Adjust Your Strategy
Based on your analysis of algorithm updates, adjust your SEO strategy to align with the latest best practices and search engine guidelines. This may involve updating your content, improving your website’s technical aspects, or modifying your backlink-building approach.
This means that you NEED to have your Google analytics set up, and IDEALLY, you have goals set up. This will allow you to run a marketing campaign and look back and be able to say – our facebook ads brought in 2 new sales and 3 new leads and 1 phone call click on our website.
5.4. Monitor Performance
Track your website’s performance using tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console, and compare the results to previous periods. If you notice significant changes in your search rankings, traffic, or user behavior, investigate the cause and make necessary adjustments to your SEO strategy.
5.5. Be Proactive
Instead of reacting to algorithm updates after they occur, adopt a proactive approach by focusing on creating high-quality, user-focused content and following SEO best practices. This will help ensure your website remains resilient to algorithm changes and maintains its search rankings over time.
External resource: Google’s Guide to Core Updates (https://developers.google.com/search/blog/2019/08/core-updates)
By staying informed about search engine algorithm updates, analyzing their impact, and adjusting your SEO strategy accordingly, you can maintain your website’s search rankings and organic traffic. Continuously improve your website’s user experience, content quality, and technical aspects to stay ahead of your competition and succeed in the ever-changing digital landscape.
Optimizing your website for search engines involves a combination of on-page, off-page, and technical SEO strategies. By implementing these best practices, adapting to search engine algorithm updates, and regularly monitoring your website’s performance, you can achieve long-term success in search rankings and grow your organic traffic.
Stay up-to-date with the latest SEO trends and techniques to maintain your competitive edge and improve your online visibility.