The Ultimate Guide to Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Written by Furkan Cevizci

What is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)?

Even if you’re not a digital marketing professional, it’s likely you’ve heard of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Simply put, SEO covers all the efforts to get higher traffic in the top results of search engines. Building and managing a successful SEO strategy needs a comprehensive knowledge since it’s quite a wide concept containing many practices, methods, and tools. These practices can be applied both off-site (off-page SEO) and on-site (on-page SEO), which will be discussed in more detail later in this guide. But first, let’s introduce you to basic SEO concepts. We will start with SEO 101 and explain why it is important for a sustainable digital marketing strategy.

Just a quick note: Since Google is the most used search engine in the world, we will mostly base our guide according to Google’s algorithms, as well as tools and platforms based on Google.

*SEO is closely related to content marketing in almost every practice so, before you read about our SEO guide, you might first want to check out our Growth Marketing Planning Guides: Content Marketing Planning in order to learn about content marketing and how it is connected with SEO with the overall terminology. Moreover, here’s our tool for Content Marketing Planning for you to exercise and practice how to create a content marketing plan easily. 

Why is SEO Important?

SEO brings in potential customers who are really interested in your product/ service through interaction with your content. And it is cost-efficient.

Showing your content to potential customers in any stage of the sales funnel, and when they need it, allows you to establish a long-term communication network. Therefore, having a sustainable SEO strategy will surely generate income in the long run.

How Does SEO Work?

Search engines aim to provide the best response to users’ search results. They largely depend on the relevance of the pages they crawl and add to the web directory. For example, Google uses more than 200 ranking factors to score search results.

Mostly, search engines aim to provide a useful and high-quality user experience that helps answer the user’s query. In this regard, they take into account some criteria such as whether the website is:

  • being accessible,
  • technically efficient,
  • using the keywords that users type in search engines.

Therefore, your SEO strategy should meet at least the most important criteria of search engines.

Now let’s take a look at some search engine optimization terminology and techniques:

What is SERP?

SERP is the Search Engine Results Page where the most related results are listed based on a query. 

Title and Description

(Meta) Title: It’s the title of a web page where the subject/topic is stated. It appears in the search results and is one of the most important factors for users to choose a website to click.

Description: It’s the text that explains the content of the web page and is seen in the search results.

What is a Keyword?

A keyword is the word or group of words that users use to make search queries on search engines.

Search engines make this match automatically, sort the query results according to this match, and present it to the user. Therefore you should use keywords (related to your sector, business, and brand) in the title and description areas of your website content and in the main text of your website. This way, your site can be listed as one of the relevant results of a user’s search. 

What is a Backlink?

Another very important component of SEO (and referral traffic): a backlink is basically a link from another website. It is necessary to increase the number of backlinks from relevant, top-ranked, reliable, and reputable websites in order to improve your Google Search ranks. These reputable websites linking to your website will give Google algorithms a strong signal that their users may be interested in these results.

On top of that, Google evaluates other factors so that sites that receive backlinks appear in search results for relevant queries.

Which Factors Affect SEO Ranking?

Search engines rank search query results in milliseconds, by analyzing a wide range of factors. Although we partially know the most important factors to watch out for, there is no clear indication of which ones matter the most. Some of the most well-known ones affecting ranking are:

Domain Related Factors such as how old the website domain name is and its length, as well as keyword availability.

Page Factors such as:

  • The title of the web page and its description
  • Keyword density
  • Content length
  • Loading speed
  • AMP usage
  • Image quality & quantity
  • Content uniqueness
  • Up-to-date content
  • Backlinks
  • Usability in mobile devices
  • Not having broken links
  • URL path and length

Site-Based Factors such as:

  • SSL certificate
  • Site map and architecture
  • Server location
  • Menu navigation
  • Site availability
  • Use of Google Analytics and Google Search Console
  • User comments

Backlink Factors such as:

  • Receiving links from older sites, from sites with .edu or .gov extension, from competitors or from sites with a country extension
  • The number of linking
  • Backlink text
  • Variety of link types

User Engagement Factors such as:

  • Clickthrough rate
  • Bounce rate
  • Direct traffic
  • Users coming back to the site
  • The number of comments and average time users spend on the website

Brand Signals such as:

  • The number of branded searches
  • The number of followers on social media
  • The number of links shared on social media
  • Verified profiles

On-Site and Off-Site Webspam Factors such as:

  • Low-quality website content
  • Sending links to spam sites
  • Hidden redirects
  • Use of pop-ups and distracting advertisements
  • Fake links and fake backlinks

You can find more detailed information about Google’s ranking factors on this link.

What is Website Crawl?

Website crawl is the process completed by some tools that know the SEO rules and structure, browsing your website with robots and listing technical errors that are not suitable for SEO. You can understand whether your site is suitable for SEO by looking at the site audit crawl data of SEO tools. You need to check this data periodically to be able to detect and solve errors timely.

For more detailed information about website crawl, you can check “The Ultimate Guide to SEO Performance Tracking”.

How to Apply SEO

SEO includes some technical and creative practices, often grouped as “On-Site SEO” and “Off-Site SEO” meaning that these practices are carried out on your website or outside it.

Some of the skills to execute this wide range of practices require high-level expertise, therefore you might want to work with an SEO professional or an agency.

1. On-Site SEO

It means optimizing a website and its content to improve user accessibility, relevance, and experience. Some of the common practices are:

Keyword Research, where you analyze and identify the types and the frequency of words/phrases potential customers use to reach services or products. Here you should focus on understanding the users’ purpose and expectations.

Technical Website Audit: Here, you ensure that the website is crawled and indexed, targeted geographically correctly, and free from errors or obstacles to user experience.

Optimization, where you focus on improving your website structure, content relevance, and target-relevant search phrases.

User Experience (UX): Here, you ensure that you improve the user experience on your website, such as making sure your website is fast and has unique, reliable, up-to-date, and high-quality content.

2. Off-Site SEO

Off-site SEO refers to events that increase organic visibility and take place outside a website. Off-site SEO practices are usually applied to gain an advantage in search-engine reliability scoring. The most important point here is to increase the number of reputable links from other websites.

Links from popular, relevant, and reliable websites and pages add much more value than links from unknown websites that aren’t trusted by search engines. Therefore, the quality of the link is the most important signal for off-site SEO. Some of the common practices are:

Content Marketing: Reputable websites link to interesting, up-to-date, and high-quality content. So, it’s important to create unique content (blog, infographic, ebook, use case, etc.) with interesting data to attract reputable sites to link your website.

Digital PR: It is very important to be mentioned on another website and receive a link to your own website. Digital PR includes internal news flows, research or studies, expert interviews, and product placement.

Outreach and Promotion: It’s also substantial to gain coverage and links from a website. The practices here involve communicating with journalists, bloggers, influencers, or webmasters about a brand, source, content, or PR.

Bonus: SEO Tactics

Here’s a wide range of SEO tactics we have prepared for you to implement to your growth marketing activities. You can choose the tactics according to your main goals (Brand awareness + traffic generation, conversion and retention) as well as the difficulty level (beginner, intermediate, advanced).

We hope you gained a basic understanding of the fundamentals of SEO and its concepts. If you want to get comprehensive information about SEO, you can take a look at our other SEO guides:

Top SEO Tools

The Ultimate Guide to Tracking SEO Performance

Also, you can take a look at our content marketing planning guide and tool to understand the relationship between SEO and content marketing and create a successful plan:

Growth Marketing Planning Guides – Content Marketing Planning: Learn how to create a content marketing plan step-by-step

Growth Marketing Planning Tools – Content Marketing Planning: Practice and exercise how to create a content marketing plan with our user-friendly tool.