If you think the basics are not enough to be well positioned, think again. Most people who run websites have a very limited understanding of SEO, so knowing the basics can certainly help you succeed.
- SEO Fundamentals
- Configure for SEO Success
- How to do SEO
- How to monitor SEO success
- Free SEO Tools
Completely new to SEO? Get started with our beginners guide to SEO .
Let’s first make sure we understand the fundamentals of SEO, including why it’s important and how it stacks up against other marketing channels.
Why is SEO important?
The majority of web traffic comes from Google’s organic results.
In other words: organic search is responsible for more traffic than all other traffic sources combined.
If you read our guide on how search engines work , you’ll know that Google and other search engines choose page placement based on hundreds of signals. SEO is important because it is the process of boosting these signals to better position in search results.
What are the benefits of SEO?
Better positioning is the most touted benefit of SEO, but positioning is really just a means to an end. Many of the real benefits of SEO are related to traffic.
1. SEO leads to more traffic
Since most people tend to click on one of the first search results, better placement usually drives more traffic to your website.
For example, look at the top three results of “submit website to search engines”. Using Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, we can verify that the top ranking page seems to get the most organic traffic, followed by the second, then the third, etc.
Our study found that these observations are generally true across the board, as placement strongly correlates with overall traffic to a page.
2. SEO leads to consistent traffic
Search engine placement typically leads to consistent, passive traffic. This is rarely the case for mediums like social media or email marketing, which often result in traffic spikes that quickly fade to nothing.
This is because social networks are designed to bring out new content. Emails are often marked as read, forgotten, or hit the spam folder. However, as the number of searches performed on the engines is typically consistent month to month, traffic tends to be consistent and passive after good placement.
3. SEO leads to Free Traffic
Unlike paying for ads, search traffic is ‘free’.
This is very important because search engine ads can be expensive.
For example, according to the PcSpell lWebsite Explorer, the PcSpell Blog receives around 390,000 visits per month from search engines. If we paid Google for that traffic, it would cost us an estimated one million dollars a month.
Of course, creating high-ranking content on Google isn’t free, but it’s generally cheap compared to paid ads.
How to get your website on Google?
SEO helps you rank better, but you won’t get ranking if Google doesn’t even know your website exists.
Google will eventually find your website on its own, but there are a couple of important benefits to manually submitting your website:
- Faster discovery. Most websites don’t have backlinks from other websites, so it may take some time for Google to discover them.
- Improve your website. Google Search Console gives recommendations on how to improve and optimize your website.
The first step in submitting your website to Google is finding your sitemap.
Sitemaps are files that list all the important pages on your website. You can usually find yours by typing one of these URLs into your browser:
If it’s not there, go to website.com/robots.txt and it will usually be listed there.
If it’s not there either, you probably don’t have one. See our guide to creating a sitemap .
The second step is to create a free Google and submit your sitemap.
- What is SEO? Explanation of Search Engine Optimization
- Why SEO Matters: 8 Undeniable Facts and Case Studies
- How to Create an XML Sitemap (and Submit It to Google)
- How to Submit Your Website to Search Engines
- 9 Reasons Why Your Website Doesn’t Show Up on Google
- 10 Ways to Get Google to Index Your Website
Having your website indexed in search engines means that you are in the race, not that you are likely to win. This is where SEO comes in. SEO is an ongoing process that, if done right, increases your chances of winning over time.
It’s much easier to perform good SEO when your website is set up correctly for SEO success.
Let’s see how to do it.
- Get a good domain
- Use a website platform
- Use good web hosting
- Create a positive user experience
- Create a logical website structure
- Use a logical URL structure
- Install a good SEO plugin
Get a good domain
Don’t panic if you’ve already registered a domain. It’s probably perfectly fine and doesn’t get in the way of your SEO efforts. But if you haven’t chosen one yet, these two attributes of a good domain are worth keeping in mind:
1. Domain name
First, don’t worry about including your keywords. Your domain does not need to be restauranteitalianolisboa.com for search engines to understand what it is about.
Here are some attributes of a good domain:
- Is your company name
- has no hyphens
- It’s short and memorable
TLD stands for top-level domain. It’s the part after the name, like .com, .org, or .co.uk.
Google’s John Mueller says your TLD makes no difference to SEO. However, for most businesses, .com is usually the best if you can get it, because it’s the most recognized and trusted.
If it’s a charity, .org or your country’s equivalent (eg, .org.pt) also works.
If you only do business in a country outside the US , your ccTLD (eg, .pt) will be fine.
It’s probably best to avoid TLDs like .info and .biz which tend to be associated with low quality websites, but it’s not the end of the world if you have one. You can still build a legitimate website that positions itself.
Use a website platform
Most people don’t code their website from scratch with HTML and CSS. They use website platforms. These are software that allow people with little or no programming skills to create a website, manage content with ease, and take care of tedious technical details.
There are two types of website platforms.
Hosted platforms do everything in one place. They host your website, provide ready-made designs that you can easily install and edit, and allow you to create and manage content without having to touch code.
Self-hosted platforms also allow you to create and manage content without coding. The difference is that you will have to host and install it yourself.
WordPress also has a solution hosted at wordpress.com.
What kind of platform should you choose?
Most SEO professionals recommend a self-hosted open source platform like WordPress because:
● It’s customizable as you can edit the open source code however you like and there’s a vast community of developers who know the platform inside out.
● It is extensible as there are millions of out-of-the-box plugins that can extend its functionality, including thousands of SEO plugins.
If you want our recommendation, it’s a self-hosted solution like WordPress.
However, if you value ease of use and support, a hosted solution like Wix or Squarespace might be the best choice. The truth is, most of the more well-known hosted platforms provide more than enough SEO features for most people.
So don’t worry about switching to WordPress if you’re already using a different platform.
Use good web hosting
Web hosting stores your website on a hard drive that can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection.
If you are using a hosted platform for your website, you have little control over hosting. But if you’re using a self-hosted platform like WordPress, it’s up to you to find where to host it.
So, how to choose a good web hosting for SEO?
Most SEO guides claim that dedicated hosting is better than shared hosting. That’s true, but it doesn’t make much difference until your website gets a lot of traffic. Cheap accommodation from any reputable company is suitable for most people; there isn’t much difference in performance between hosts when you pay a few dollars a month.
However, there are a few things that are important:
- Security . Make sure the host offers an SSL/TLS certificate or supports LetsEncrypt — a non-profit organization that provides free TLS certificates.
- Server location . It takes some time for data to travel between the server and the visitor, so it’s best to choose a host with servers in the region of the majority of your traffic.
- Support . 24/7 support is ideal. Test how good the support is by asking the questions above before signing up.
Don’t worry too much about the server location. If you realize that speed is important, you can always invest in a CDN (Content Delivery Network). This creates copies of your website on servers around the world so that pages are always accessed by users on nearby servers. Setting up and using CDN is beyond the scope of this guide, but here’s how to do it in WordPress .
Create a positive user experience
Google wants to better position pages that give visitors a positive experience. They state it in their SEO starter guide :
You must create a website to benefit your users, and any optimization must serve to improve their experience.
Here are some simple ways to do it:
There is nothing worse for visitors than their personal data being susceptible to hacking. Always encrypt your website with SSL/TLS.
Choose an attractive design
Nobody likes websites that look like they were designed in the 90s. So while there is no need to redesign your website every six months, it should be visually appealing and mirror your brand.
Make sure it’s mobile-friendly
Google says that more searches are now done on mobile devices than on desktops, so it’s critical that your website is as user-friendly on mobile as it is on desktop.
Use a readable font size
People search the internet for all sorts of equipment these days. Make sure your content can be read by everyone.
Avoid intrusive pop-ups and ads
Everyone hates ads, but sometimes you might need them. If that’s the case, the key is not to use intrusive ads. Google has some advice on what’s and isn’t good here .
Make sure it loads fast
Page loading speed has been confirmed as a positioning factor on desktop and mobile devices. But that doesn’t mean your website needs to load very fast. The faster the better, sure, but Google says this factor only affects websites that “provide the slowest user experiences”.
Create a logical website structure
Both visitors and search engines need to be able to navigate your website easily and intuitively, so it’s important to create a logical hierarchy for your content.
The easiest way to do this is to draw a mind map.
Each branch in your mind map will be an internal link, which are links from one website page to another.
Internal links are crucial to user experience and SEO for the following reasons:
- They help search engines find new pages . Pages without internal links are rarely found and indexed.
- They help you pass PageRank on your website . PageRank is the basis of Google’s ranking algorithm that tries to determine the “value” of a page.
- They help search engines understand what the page is about. Google looks for this in link anchors and surrounding text.
Use a logical URL structure
URLs are important because they help searchers understand the topic of the page.
Most website platforms let you choose how to structure your URLs. Here are the top five options for URLs in WordPress:
- Generic : yourwebsite.com/?p=123
- Day and name : yourwebsite.com/2021/03/04/seo-basics/
- Month and name : yourwebsite.com/03/04/seo-basics/
- Numeric: yourwebsite.com/865/
- Article name: yourwebsite.com/seo-basics/
If you are setting up a new website from scratch , it makes sense to go with the clearest and most descriptive structure. It’s probably Article Name .
Using dates in URLs is also bad practice because you may want to update posts in the future.
If you’re optimizing an existing website, it’s probably best not to change the URL structure — even if it’s not ideal. Doing so can damage other, more important things that will have a profoundly negative impact on your SEO.
Install a good SEO plugin
Most hosted platforms automatically handle basic SEO functionality, but this is not the case with WordPress. It is virtually impossible to implement the most straightforward SEO best practices without an SEO plugin.
There are many such plugins available. We use Yoast , but Rath Math is also good.
Installation is simple. Just go to:
Plugins > Add New > Do a Search > Install > Activate
Both plugins add extra useful input fields to your articles and pages. (We’ll come back here later.)
If you are using a hosted platform like Wix or Squarespace, there is not much need to install a plugin as these platforms, from scratch, allow you to make adjustments to basic SEO.
- What is HTTPS? Everything You Need to Know
- Website Structure: How to Lay the Foundation for SEO
- How to Create SEO Compatible URLs (Step-by-Step)
- How to Speed Up Your WordPress Website in 20 Minutes
- 15 Best WordPress SEO Plugins (Tried & Proven)
- How to Perform Basic Website Audit for SEO and UX
On Page SEO
At this point, you should have a good knowledge of SEO. But how to measure and track the performance of your effort? The most obvious answer is to control the amount of traffic to your website through organic search.
If you are using Google Analytics, you can easily see your organic traffic by going to:
Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels > Organic Search
If you don’t use Google Analytics, you can check your estimated past and current organic traffic in Ahrefs Website Explorer .
If this number is increasing, you are probably doing something right.
You can also monitor keyword placement in the Rank Monitor . If you’re ranking 5th for a keyword one month and 1st the next, that’s also another sign that you’re doing something well.
However, while there’s no harm in keeping an eye on organic traffic and rankings, these two things are known as vanity metrics because they often have nothing to do with your overall marketing or business goals.
It is much better to monitor metrics that have a real impact on the business.
Let’s explore some of these metrics.
Monitor Organic Voice Share (SoV)
Share of Voice (SoV) is the visibility of your brand in search results compared to the competition. It is important because there is a relationship between SoV and market share.
You can monitor organic SoV in Ahrefs Position Monitor . Just add the keywords that are important to your business and give them the appropriate tag.
From here go to: Competitors > Overview
If you haven’t already, add some competitors. Then check the Visibility tab to see what percentage of all clicks for your tracked keywords ended up on your site compared to your competitors.
Monitor organic traffic conversions
Conversions occur when a visitor to your website takes a desired action. It could be anything from a click to making a purchase.
If you’re using Google Analytics, you can track conversions for purchases and almost anything else you want. You can then filter for conversions from organic traffic and compare time periods to see what impact your SEO efforts are having on what matters.
- Track These 3 SEO KPIs to Make Better Marketing Decisions
- What is Voice Quota? How to Measure in All Channels