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Can you imagine a business these days without a website?

Where it was once said that “a business without a sign is a sign of no business”, the same might be said of a website-less business. Yet if that website can’t be found by potential customers, the business might just as well not have a website at all.

And that’s where Search Engine Optimisation—better known by its catchy, three-letter nickname, SEO—comes in.

Because think about it: a business can hardly be said to exist without any customers, and even if a business’ website isn’t set up for e-commerce, that website is, in many ways, its online storefront.

That means potential customers had better be flocking to your site if you want them to buy, but first, they have to be able to find it.

“Out of sight, out of mind”, after all, and the harsh reality of online search is that the first place your would-be customers will look is the top of the first page of the search results.

Check it out:

75% of Internet users never scroll past the first page. (HubSpot)

The number one result in Google’s organic search results has an average Click Through Rate or CTR of 31.7% (Backlinko)

The number one organic result is 10 times more likely to get clicked on compared to a page in the number 10 spot. (Backlinko)

That means the business in the top spot is getting 10 more potential or even actual customers than the business whose website came in ninth in the results, even if they are on the first page.

And we all know many millions and zillions of websites there are in the wilderness of digital space.

SEO makes it so that the website that your potential customers find when they come looking for solutions is yours.

Is it magic? No.
Is it instant? No.
Is it guaranteed? Yes—but only if you play by the rules.

In this ultimate guide to SEO for business owners like you, we’ll show you what SEO is, why it’s essential to businesses, and how it works. Most of all, we’ll show you how you can use SEO to get more customers, clients, patients, students and so on to go to your website, and pay for your products or services.

Click or tap on a heading to jump to a section (but we really recommend reading all the way through):

What’s the market share of search engines?

We’re betting you know the answer to this one, 10 to one, but it’s worth taking a look at before anything else for a clearer picture of where we all stand (at least as of April 2020):

Google: 91.89%

Bing: 2.79%

Yahoo!: 1.87%

Baidu: 1.1%

YANDEX RU: 0.54%

DuckDuckGo: 0.45%

Source: Statcounter Global Stats
Source: Statcounter Global Stats

Statista reveals Google’s 2019 total revenue to be about USD160.74 billion—but if you’d like to see how much Google is making now, you can head over to Webprofits for a real-time update.

But why is this worth taking a look at to begin with? Knowing your battlefield’s terrain enables you to make battle-plans—because the formulation of your digital marketing strategy must be based on data and not “well everyone else is doing it”.

While most businesses rightly focus their search engine marketing efforts on Google, knowing the market share of other search engines can be an advantage in planning your digital marketing activities.

Though a super far second from Google, Bing is increasing its own market share little by little—this, together with Google’s trust issues has caused many Internet users to start looking around for alternative search engines. Some of these alternatives include social media and Amazon, neither of which are even search engines in the first place.

So even if you shouldn’t hold your breath waiting for Google to not be no. 1 anymore, it pays to keep an eye on market share trends to ensure your digital marketing dollars are being invested into the right platforms.

How do search engines work in ranking a website?

Given the vastness and complexity of the Internet, it makes sense for the way search engines work to involve complexities of its own.

And because of their highly specialised knowledge of these complexities, SEO specialists can’t help giving relatively complex explanations of a search engine’s inner workings that are probably more likely to be appreciated by their fellow SEO practitioners.

A doctor with a clinic, for instance, who’s more familiar with the upper condyle of the femur, or a bakery owner with crazy challah-braiding skills, probably wouldn’t relate to things like “crawl budgets”, “information architecture” or “X-Robots-Tags”.

Business owners like them and you, however, stand to benefit from understanding how a search engine works. That way, rather than creating your website and casting it adrift among the hundreds of thousands of other, competing websites, you can use SEO to guide it, proactively toward potential customers who are looking for the solutions that you offer.

You can find an explanation from Google itself of how search engines work, here, but allow us to offer a relatively simpler, easier-to-digest explanation of how search engines “rank” a website. Or, to put it another way, here’s how search engines “decide” which websites to show first to someone conducting a search.

But before we dive in, we’ve compiled a handy-dandy Glossary of “search terms” you’ll need to know which we’ve included further down in the Resources section of this Guide.

Though we’ll endeavour to explain things as much as possible in “layman’s terms”, there will always be certain words people use when talking about SEO that you might as well familiarise yourself with.

There’s a lot to remember, we know, but you can always refer to our Glossary as you go through our Guide. 

How Search Engines Work

Search engines are basically fancy computer programs meant to help people find webpages on the Internet by entering certain words or phrases, and this is how search engines help people find them.

1. A search engine takes all the webpages on the World Wide Web (WWW) that it knows of and send to them the scheduler.

2. The scheduler decides which of these webpages get to be crawled by the “crawlers”, or “spiders”, which are programmed to follow all the links they find on a webpage.

3. After the pages are crawled, the search engine uses a process called parsing to index, or record, the most important information on each page.

4. That recorded information gets stored in the search engine’s database.

5. When someone uses the search engine to look for something, the search engine uses an algorithm to figure out which webpages are the closest or most relevant to what the person is looking for.

Note that many pages are re-crawled, and all it’s up to the scheduler to decide which pages get crawled or re-crawled first.

How Schedulers Work

You’re probably wondering, then, how schedulers decide on the order in which pages get crawled. According to Google, which owns the patent on schedulers, there are a few things schedulers look at when they “queue up” webpages for crawling, which include

Whether any content had been changed on a webpage

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How often that content was changed

Whether the page had ever been crawled before

The rank of a webpage in search engine results

Schedulers became necessary when the number of webpages, which was over 10 billion by the end of 2003, continued to grow into today’s trillions. Spiders* do have their limits, and to make sure they don’t go beyond them, it’s the scheduler’s job to add or subtract from the number of pages they crawl.
Data Source: Backlinko

How Algorithms Work

But we’re pretty sure that what you really want to know is how the algorithms work, because it ultimately all boils down to the algorithm to decide which pages are closest and most relevant to a person’s search. The algorithm also decides on as well as the order in which to show these pages to the searcher.

Pay attention, as 75% of people will never scroll past the first page on a Google search, and 67% of all clicks on Search Engine Results Pages or SERPs go to the top five listings. But most of all, the very first result that comes out when someone conducts a search gets 31.7% of all search traffic.

Google’s algorithm (which is constantly being updated) is arguably one of the most watched algorithms on the planet, yet it can never be fully understood because it’s also one of the world’s most closely guarded secrets.

But like the secret formulas of Coke and KFC, Google’s algorithm, while never entirely revealed, may be understood to a far enough extent for SEO practitioners to be able to help businesses help their customers to find their websites.

Here are six of the most important known factors that influence Google’s algorithm when deciding which webpages come out first whenever anybody comes looking.

1. Search intent

Note that this isn’t the same thing as a “keyword”; “intent” is literally what a person wants to achieve by searching.

For example, someone who types in “nose job” will have a different search intent from someone who types in “nose job singapore” or “nose job cost”. The first person is most probably just looking for information about the procedure, while the second person is more likely seriously considering getting one already and wants to know where to get it done.

While the keyword in this instance is “nose job”, Google will show results with “rhinoplasty” even though the word “nose job” wasn’t typed in, because the algorithm “knows” the intent of the person who’s searching.

This means that if you want one of your webpages to rank highly in the search results, you need to be familiar with the intent of the people whom you want to find and consume your content.

2. Kind of content

Google will look at whether your content is text, image or video-based, and whether your page is a blog, a service or product page, or a landing page. Note that Google prioritises video over all other forms of content, so you may want to find a way to create or incorporate more videos into your pages.

The algorithm also takes the format of your content into consideration, like whether it’s a list or a how-to guide and whether that content is more suited to specific kinds of searchers.

Let’s say someone who’s about to have their first baby is looking for advice on how to prepare. Google is more likely to prioritise pages like “How to Get Ready For Your First Baby” or “6 Tips for First-Time Mums” rather than those containing content like “How to Prepare for a Vaginal Birth After C-Section”.

3. Context

Google’s algorithm also takes into account the person’s location, language and search history when choosing which webpages to show first during a search. A person looking for a place to have his tattoo removed in Singapore, for instance, won’t find clinics in Melbourne or pages written in German listed among his search results.

4. Quality of content

It’s easy to understand why Google would want to put high-quality pages first in the search results; what may not be as easy to grasp is how the algorithm decides what high quality is. You can find a breakdown of how Google assesses the quality of a webpage here, but very simply, the algorithm will look at three basic things:
Z

Whether the webpage is beneficial, or helps people in some way

Z

Whether the webpage demonstrates Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness or EAT

Z

What kind of impact the page will have on a person’s happiness, health, safety or finances—what Google refers to as Your Money or Your Life content or YMYL

One other thing the algorithm will look at is how many backlinks a webpage has, because it regards each backlink as a “vote of confidence” in the quality of that page. Note that Google will also look at whether each backlink “that’s casting that vote” is also a relevant quality page.

Also note that there are human search evaluators at Google whose job is to assess how well the algorithm is doing its job, and that these three things are what they’ll be looking at, too. So it’s not about finding sneaky ways to game the algorithm, but about creating the best content you can to truly help the people who are looking for it.

We’ll go deeper into content quality and EAT in the next section of this guide on what you need to know before working on your SEO.

5. Time of publication

Many searches depend on the timeliness of the information provided, so Google’s algorithm will consider how recent certain webpages were published and serve up the newest ones as they are called for. If someone, for instance, looks for the next live stream of so-and-so’s concert, the algorithm isn’t likely to show a page listing streams from last month.

This naturally doesn’t apply to evergreen content, but remember that our old friend, the scheduler does look at how often a page has been updated when telling the spiders which pages to re-crawl. This means that updating your old content can help to rank your webpages higher in search results.

6. User experience

The quality and timeliness of your content won’t mean a thing if your webpage takes forever to load, is displeasing to the eye, is a headache to navigate, and well-nigh impossible to view on a mobile phone. This means that apart from content, Google’s algorithm is also going to give precedence to the most user-friendly webpages.

What should I know before working on SEO?

Now that you know the kind of market share that search engines have and how they work, there are a few things that business owners like you would do well to know before working on your own SEO.

These things have to do with the quality of your webpages, which we mentioned as one of, if not the key considerations that Google’s algorithm takes into account when ranking a webpage, and consequently, a website.

Let’s take a closer and condensed look at how Google evaluates search quality (based on Google’s General Guidelines for search quality raters in December 2019). Do note, however, that Google’s Search Quality Raters do not directly influence rankings.

Page Quality (PQ) Rating

In assessing the quality of a webpage, the human search quality raters at Google first consider its purpose, or what the page is for.

A news website, for instance, is meant to inform people or let them know what’s going on, so Google considers how well a page on that website does that. A website full of pictures of cute puppies and kittens is meant to show just how adorable baby animals can be, so the raters consider how well a page shows off their cuteness.

Remember “Your Money or Your Life” or YMYL pages? Google has far higher quality standards for pages like these. These pages, in particular, include those containing content about

Business and finance-related topics such as banking, investment, taxes and insurance

Demographic-specific issues such as race or nationality, religion, age and disability

Health and safety information, as well as information about staying safe or avoiding accidents and how to prepare for or deal with medical emergencies

Legal and government-related issues such as voting, filing cases or preparing official documents

News and public service announcements touching upon major political or economic events, but not including entertainment, sports or lifestyle

Shopping and e-commerce or anything that involves making an online purchase

Anything potentially life-altering like job-hunting, dieting, or choosing or building a home

Note that Google also distinguishes between the Main and Supplementary Content as well as Ads on it—the Main Content fulfils the purpose of the website, while Supplementary Content (like navigation links) contributes to the user experience. Also note that Ads by themselves don’t affect the quality rating of a page.

When assessing the quality of the Main and Supplementary Content, Google likewise considers how much Main Content there is on a page.

Google also considers how pages are better appreciated in the context of the website they belong to, so it will also look at the reputation of the website according to what third parties have to say about it. If what the website says about itself doesn’t align with what the third parties say, the raters will give precedence to the third parties.

This includes customer reviews, of which raters consider the number and the quality of the reviews, bearing in mind how it’s inevitable to have a bad review or two and that fake reviews are possible.

Google also recognises how the pages of big companies or brands are usually the ones with a widespread reputation, and how the pages of smaller businesses aren’t likely to have very much said about them. This means that a website without a whole lot of third party commendations won’t have that taken against it during its quality assessment.

Google considers the authorship of the website and the content on it, and prefers that authorship be made clear. If a website contains licensed or syndicated content from a third party, the raters hold the owner of the website responsible for the quality of that content even if it was created by the third party.

E-A-T

Now let’s talk about the Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness we mentioned as one of the three main things Google considers when assessing PQ—specifically, the EAT of the content itself, the content creator, and the website.

Some topics, particularly those on YMYL pages, will require a high level of EAT, but so do others that require a high level of training or skill such as painting or playing the piano.

At NEO360, we ensure the EAT of our client’s pages using a checklist that includes

Achieving expert authorship

Improving content quality through extensive research

Highlighting the brand’s authenticity

Performing technical and onsite SEO improvements

Including all the information a website visitor needs to make an informed purchase decision

Check out the video below featuring SEO experts Marie Haynes of Marie Haynes Consulting and Lily Ray of Path Interactive to learn more about enhancing your page EAT, and consequently, your page quality:

What makes a High-Quality Page?

Google will consider a page as high quality if it has a good purpose and fulfils it by having a high EAT, enough high-quality Main Content, clear authorship, and a good reputation of the website or the content creator.

To give you an idea of what Google considers the highest quality pages, here are a few of the examples it gives its human raters:

News:

Sample page here.

Government:

Sample page here.

Financial

Sample page here.

Lifestyle:

Sample page here.

Medical:

Sample page here.

Shopping:

Sample page here.

What to avoid so your page isn’t considered Low Quality

Overall, Google will consider a page to be low quality if it doesn’t do a good job in fulfilling its beneficial purpose, often because of having low EAT. If, on top of having not-so-good EAT, the raters see that a page has
Overall, Google will consider a page to be low quality if it doesn’t do a good job in fulfilling its beneficial purpose, often because of having low EAT. If, on top of having not-so-good EAT, the raters see that a page has
Y

Inferior or not enough Main Content

Y

An exaggerated or shocking title

Y

Too many unrelated, distracting ads

Y

Too much distracting Supplementary Content

Y

A negative reputation because of the website or content creator

Y

Unclear authorship of the content on it or the website that it’s on

Again, note that raters will be stricter for YMYL pages, which means it’s easier to get a Low-Quality rating for these.

The lowest quality pages are the ones that have no beneficial purpose or are even harmful, like those that encourage hate or intentionally mislead people. EAT criteria don’t apply to these pages.

Google will also give a page the lowest quality rating if its purpose is unclear, i.e. it’s full of gibberish, has unrelated Main Content or doesn’t have any Main Content at all. Raters likewise give the lowest quality rating to pages with copied or stolen content (which is completely different from licensed or syndicated content), even if it’s changed slightly or credits the source.

Google also advises raters to give the lowest quality rating to pages whose Main Content is covered by ads, and the only way to see the Main Content is to click or tap on the ad. Interestingly, Google has pointed out bad grammar as a reason for giving a lowest quality rating.

Now here are a few examples of what Google considers low and lowest quality pages:

]

Low Quality Lifestyle:

Sample page here.

]

Low Quality YMYL:

Sample page here.

]

Low Quality YMYL:

Sample page here.

]

Lowest Quality (For Negative Reputation):

Sample page here.

]

Lowest Quality (For Impersonating A News Website):

Sample page here.

]

Lowest Quality (For Hate):

Sample page here.

What about pages that “aren’t so bad”?

There is such a thing as a “Medium Quality Page”—it achieves its beneficial purpose well enough; it’s just not outstanding enough to qualify as a “High Quality” page. In some cases, the Main Content is good, but the page design might be cluttered or hard to read, or it could use a little more Supplementary Content.

Here are a few examples of these “not bad but not great, either” pages that Google gives its raters to go by:

Lifestyle:

Sample page here.

Lifestyle:

Sample page here.

Entertainment:

Sample page here.

Entertainment:

Sample page here.

Education:

Sample page here.

Information:

Sample page here.

While nobody wants to get a Lowest Quality rating, everybody wants their website to be found—especially if you’re a business owner with solutions that can really help people. So rather than aiming for just an “okay page” with a Medium Quality rating, it’s good to aim for High or even Highest Quality to boost your pages’ chances of getting found—which is what optimisation is all about.
Data Souce: Think with Google

The Importance of Being Mobile-Friendly

As of May 2020, 50.34% of all searches on a search engine are done on a mobile phone, with desktop computers being used 46.67% of the time, and tablets taking a 2.99% share of the search device pie.

It makes sense, therefore, for Google to place a lot of emphasis on how mobile-friendly a webpage, and consequently, a website, is. In fact, Google has given a heads up to all webmasters that their mobile-first indexing switchover will be taking effect in March 2021.

Raters need to have a good grasp of what people use search engines on their phones for, as well as how they use them—which includes voice search. This makes sense when you consider how people usually perform mobile searches on the go, like when they’re looking for a restaurant in a specific area or for directions to a certain location.

Google also understands how the mobile search and browsing experience can differ between phone models, operating systems and browsers.

This makes making sure that your website provides a great user experience on all these different phones that much more crucial. Will people have a hard time reading your content, for instance, or will they be able to open your PDF? This also means providing timely information, as people conducting mobile searches usually need real-time results that are up to date.

Note how the results of a mobile search are often, also presented as a Special Content Result Blocks or SCRBs in the results because this makes it easier for mobile users, with each block containing webpages.

Google uses the Needs Met rating system for assessing the mobile-friendliness of the SCRBs. At the top of the scale is Fully Meets, which means a block “fully meets” the needs of someone searching on a phone. At the opposite end is Fails to Meet, which means a block is no help at all to a mobile user.

Note that getting a Fully Meets rating also depends on how clear the query or search term was when the search was conducted. Because of this, it’s also possible for some SCRBs to not be rated Fully Meets, like if the query was too broad and serves up results that aren’t specific enough to “fully meet” the needs of the searcher.

When needed, Google also flags certain mobile search results as pornographic or upsetting/offensive as well as pages in a foreign language or failed to load, asking human raters to use their judgment for which pages should be labelled accordingly. Examples of “Did Not Load” pages include 404 pages and malware warnings.

It’s also possible for a block and the webpage within to be rated Fully Meets and flagged “Foreign Language”, as long as it fulfils the person’s search intent. Remember that ratings for foreign language results are always relative to the searcher’s location and preferences. English pages, for example, may be preferred even if the search was typed in another language.

The key thing to remember is that the “Needs Met” rating system is dependent on the quality of the query or search terms, while “Page Quality” is not.

What is your SEO Game Plan for 2021?

Neo360 Seo Game Plan For 2021
Diagnostic Stage
  • Full SEO Audit Report
  • Analyze Google Analytics Data Report
  • Competitor Analysis Report
  • Keyword Research (Top, Middle and Buttom Funnel) Report
Technical SEO
  • Technical SEO (Audit & Improvement)
On-Site SEO
  • Meta Title and Description
  • Topic Cluster Planning
  • Internal Linking
  • Adding ALT Text
  • Adding Schema Markup
Content Creation & Marketing
  • Content Creation (Blog)
  • Content Creation (Videos, Infographic and SlideDeck) – Linking Building
  • Content Marketing (Native Marketing, Facebook & Email Marketing)
  • Link Outreach
Off-Site SEO
  • Optimized GMB & Add Website in Local Directories (Major Directories in Singapore)
  • Setup IFTTT Account

What’s onsite SEO?

Now that you know a little bit more about how Google evaluates search quality, let’s talk about how you can start to work on the SEO of your pages. We’ll begin with SEO specialists call “onsite” or “on-page” SEO or optimising the content on a specific webpage to make it easier for a search engine to find and rank it.

There’s a lot that goes into optimising the content on a webpage, which is why at NEO360, we use checklists to ensure we don’t miss anything (because every little thing helps in making your content the best it can be).

These checklists include what we need to do once, or at the very beginning of our work for a client’s website; things we need to do every two or three months, and things we need to do every month. We also have a list of miscellaneous things we can do to help boost a page’s SEO.

Learn more

Still curious? Click here to find out What’s onsite SEO?

What’s offsite SEO?

If there’s an “onsite”, there’s an “offsite”—meaning there are things you can do outside of your webpages or website to help boost your ranking. With “offsite” or “off-page” SEO, you’ll be finding ways to get other trustworthy or authoritative websites to link back to yours, with the aim of convincing Google of your own trustworthiness or authority.

Again, there’s a lot that you can do to build the credibility of your pages other than on your own website. These things include Google My Business (GMB), which helps to boost the local ranking of your business’ website. This means that anybody within the vicinity of your brick-and-mortar address who is looking for your services will be able to find your website faster.

There’s also IFTTT or If This Then That, which gives you a way to syndicate or publish your content on other platforms simultaneously. e.g. When you publish a blog, for instance, you can use IFTTT to share it on Facebook, LinkedIn and elsewhere.

This is why we also have checklists at NEO360 for these off-page tasks to make sure we do everything we can to help your site rank higher.

These checklists likewise include what we need to do once, or at the very beginning of our work for a client’s website; and things we need to do once a month. We’ll detail each of these lists in turn, and don’t forget to refer to our SEO glossary if you run into a word or two that prove to be too technical for your taste.

Learn more

Still curious? Click here to find out What’s offsite SEO?

What’s technical SEO?

Technically (no pun intended), everything that falls under technical SEO falls under on-page SEO, but after you see what goes into it, you’re bound to see why it’s called “technical”.

In a way, technical SEO covers everything else that doesn’t come under on- or offsite SEO, but is just as crucial to helping your website rank. This is because it’s primarily all about making it easier for search engines to understand your site and crawl through your pages, and making sure your site loads fast enough.

Because of its role in facilitating things for search engines, it can be easy for a lot of people to start thinking that technical SEO is the be-all, end-all of SEO itself—which is just not true. Bear in mind that though technical SEO caters to the need of the search engines, its ultimate goal is to enhance the user experience.

In making sure your website loads quickly and is designed in such a way as to be clear and easy to understand, you’re making your website a joy for humans to use, which in turn, “pleases the search engine”. Putting your human users first doesn’t and shouldn’t contradict your technical SEO, which should never be prioritised over the user experience to begin with.

At NEO360, we make a distinction between high- and low-impact technical SEO, the former focusing on things like loading time and mobile-friendliness, and the latter focusing on things like content issues and broken links. Again, as we go through these “things”, any “unfamiliar-looking things” you might come across may all be found in our SEO glossary above.

Learn more

Still curious? Click here to find out What’s technical SEO?

What tools do you need to help you do SEO?

There’s a plethora of SEO tools out there to help specialists to do their job, some of which, like webmaster tools and keyword planners, you may have already seen as you make your way through this guide.

Many of the tools you’ve seen so far are meant for highly specific tasks such as assessing your webpage loading speed or identifying the right search terms for your business. In this section, we’ll take a closer look at our top three SEO tools here at NEO360, which are used mainly for auditing and which we can say are the tools you really need for working on your SEO.

Learn more

Still curious? Click here to find out What tools do you need to help you do SEO?

What are the common SEO mistakes I need to avoid?

The course of true love never did run smooth, and until SEO specialists acquire the superpower of being 100% perfect, human errors are bound to be made, however well-meaning the specialists may be.

Still, there are mistakes that SEO specialists worth their salt ought to be able to avoid—yet given how commonly these mistakes are committed, we thought it best to warn you, the owners of these business websites, of these errors.

Learn more

Still curious? Click here to find out What are the common SEO mistakes I need to avoid?

Who has NEO360 done SEO for?

We’ve had the privilege of helping clients out in various industries with their SEO, such as healthcare, B2B, B2C, business and finance, fintech, lifestyle and lifestyle tech.
Allow us to share four case studies featuring actual results we’ve achieved by taking our 360 Approach to SEO.
Learn more

Still curious? Click here to find out Who has NEO360 done SEO for?

Do you have any resources for learning more about SEO?

All the same, now that you’ve read our Guide for business owners, we’d like to supplement the knowledge we offer you here with extra resources for helping you understand SEO even better as you work on optimising your website. These resources include further reading, our SEO Glossary, and our very own Pillar Page Content Guide.
Learn more

Still curious? Click here to find out List of other helpful resources to learn SEO.

How many people does it take to really do SEO?

Even a cursory look at all our checklists so far will show that it takes a lot of work and a lot of specialised skills to keep your business’ website on the up and up on the SERPs. Does that mean having just one person to work on your SEO isn’t enough? A lot of businesses get lone freelancers to babysit the SEO of their websites—should yours be one of them?

Just like any other business discussion involving costs, there are several factors to be taken into consideration when figuring out just how many people you actually need to work on your SEO. Search Engine Land’s list of factors includes

How large or complex your website is

How often your website gets updated

How many people at your business are involved in actually implementing those updates

How many people are preparing content for how many products or services

How many people are working on design and development

k

How many people are writing or creating the actual content (and how experienced they are)

How much you place on analytics and reporting

How much everybody involved with your website actually knows about SEO

At NEO360, all of our SEO clients have at least one of each of the following on our team working on their SEO:

On-page SEO specialist

0

Off-page SEO specialist

Technical SEO specialist

k

Writer

Designer

Web Developer

Client liaison/account executive who helps to keep everybody aligned during the day-to-day

A manager who oversees quality control for everybody

Unless their websites happen to be very small and not very complicated, businesses that outsource their SEO to a lone freelancer run the risk of that single person not having all of the necessary skills to ensure quality SEO work.
 
That’s not to say it isn’t possible for an individual, independent SEO specialist to be a great writer, designer and coder who knows everything about on- and off-page and technical SEO, because we’re fairly sure those unicorns exist.

But businesses may want to bear in mind that they may not be the only client of that lone specialist, and there are only so many hours in the week this person will be able to devote to their websites.

Note that the solo specialist will also be performing all the necessary tasks, and each of those tasks on those multiple checklists we’ve just described can take several hours to perform in earnest.

Also note how SEO is not a one-night stand, but a long term commitment. This means engaging the services of individual freelancers on a per-project basis (unless your definition of a project spans several months), which many businesses often do, may be less than ideal for your SEO performance in the long run.

How long does it take to rank?

This is arguably the burning question every business owner shelling out for SEO wants to know—and with good reason, too. After all, if you’re going to pay good money for all the people you really need to do SEO, as you’ve seen in a preceding section, you naturally want to know when the return on your investment can be appreciated.

The only possible honest answer is, there is no straight answer; and definitely not less than six months, at best.

You may remember how we’ve mentioned that SEO is a long-term commitment, because the fact of the matter is that SEO is not designed for quick results. It’s about establishing yourself as an authority in your industry, and showing people why they should choose you and not your competitor.

SEO is all about making sure you are found on search engines, and that when you’re found, potential customers or clients come to regard your business as the go-to for their needs, over time.

It’s not about shooting up the rankings in the SERPs overnight (that is, if your SEO is done correctly, without using black hat or underhanded tactics).
 
Nobody becomes an authority in their field overnight—not Einstein in Physics, Michelangelo in art, or any business in their industry. It takes time, and patient, consistent, carefully planned effort which, once your rankings are established and the conversions start rolling in, you’ll find will be well worth it, in the end.
There are three main factors that affect the speed of your SEO results:

How long you’ve been doing SEO

What you’ve been doing for SEO

How competitive your industry is

These factors differ from business to business, or from website to website, and even if two websites in the same industry go live on exactly the same day, no two websites are ever really the same. This is because they’ll be worked on by different people with different approaches to SEO.
This doesn’t mean, however, that SEO is completely unpredictable, and that the results are left completely to chance. At NEO360, we’re able to show our clients the kind of results they can expect from a solid SEO strategy over a 12-month period.

The results vary according to the Key Performance Indicators or KPI’s set for each month, which are metrics you can check on to find out whether your SEO strategy is headed in the right direction.

You see, it’s not enough to just wait for your ranking to go up; you need to be sure that what you’re doing is contributing to its rise, even if the results may not be apparent, yet. Get the full list of KPI’s and the results you can reasonably expect per month in our detailed answer to “How long does it take for SEO results to be seen?”

What’s the real cost of SEO?

In comparing SEO and Paid Search, website owners who are new to digital marketing in general often tend to “let names speak for themselves” and think that SEO is free while paid search isn’t. But as business owners, you know for sure that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and SEO, if referred to as such is a multi-course meal.

You’ve seen in a previous section of this Guide just how many people it actually takes to do SEO, all of whom will have to be duly compensated for their time and often tedious labour.

But if you want to know what the cost of SEO covers, Search Engine Land breaks down the factors that affect the cost, which include

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How well your business’ website is ranking now

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How you want your business’ website to rank

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How quickly you want your business’ website to achieve that rank

A cursory glance at these factors tells you straight off that cost will vary amongst businesses across industries and between businesses within a single sector. Though they may be from the same industry, different businesses will be of different sizes and have different objectives.

Say you have a medical practice with a dozen branches across several districts, or a university offering everything from undergrad courses to PhD’s, and a family GP’s clinic or a private college offering diplomas for working professionals. There’s going to be a world of difference in the cost of their SEO.
 
“You get what you pay for” is another maxim that’s oh-so-applicable to SEO. If an SEO specialist or agency’s rates seem too good to be true, that’s probably because they are; that is, they are up to no good, i.e. black hat tactics.

But if you’re looking for a ballpark figure: Drawing from research conducted by Moz, Search Engine Land also points out how 29% of surveyed businesses in the US are paying USD1,000-2,500; 27% are paying USD500-1,000, and 20% are paying USD2,500-5,000 in monthly SEO fees.

If you’re looking to do some preliminary calculations to figure out how much you can expect to spend on your own SEO, you can find a guide and SEO cost calculator from Search Engine Journal, here.

What are the common SEO concerns that businesses have?

Whether you’re new to SEO or you’ve been doing SEO for a while, you’re bound, as a business owner, to have one or two burning questions about how optimisation actually benefits your bottom line.

In this section, we’ll answer two of the top three of the most common SEO concerns we’ve come across over the years coming from clients from multiple industries. No. 1, “How long will it take to get results?” has been covered in a previous section on “How long does it take to rank?”

Why isn’t my website ranking?
There are many reasons why your website isn’t showing up in Google’s results when your target market searches for what you offer. Neil Patel says the most pressing reasons are usually something you’re not doing:

Not making sure Google is able to crawl and index your site

Not making sure you don’t have duplicate pages

Not making sure your website is mobile-friendly

Not making sure your website loads fast enough

Not creating high-quality content consistently

Not being active on social media

Not registering with Google My Business

But what if you’ve done all these things and more, and your business’ website still isn’t ranking? Moz and Yoast say it may be because of another list of things you’re not doing for SEO:

Not setting up your Google Search Console

Not finding out what your current ranking is so you can improve on it

Not updating the content you already have

Not focusing on the right or less competitive keywords

Not working on building your site authority through link building

Not working on your technical SEO

Not having a well-organised internal linking structure

Not targeting the right search intent

How does SEO for my website help my other digital marketing campaigns?

Some business owners who’ve only just begun to use digital marketing or have already been using one or two digital marketing channels apart from SEO, may wonder what the point is in doing SEO at all.

“I already have ads on social media; what do I need SEO for?”
“I have some Google Ads running and they’re doing pretty well. Why bother with SEO?”
Sound familiar?

Well, here’s an eye-opening newsflash for these business owners: SEO isn’t just an MVP, it’s also one heckuva team player. In other words, SEO doesn’t just work wonders for your business on its own; it also complements and amplifies your other digital marketing activities.

The reason for SEO’s super team playing powers lies in the buyer’s journey which, simply described, traces how a person finds and buys what they’re looking for—in the digital marketing context, it’s how that process takes place online.

That process generally begins when a person becomes aware of the need for what you offer and of the fact that you exist, and that you have a solution to meet that need. Chances are, yours won’t be the only solution out there for that particular need, and the person will spend some time considering yours alongside the others.

The process generally (but not definitively) ends when the person decides on a specific solution (ideally, yours). And all throughout this buyer’s journey, this potential customer of yours is going to be looking online for information to inform that all-important purchase decision.

And where do you think the potential customer is going to find the most informative and useful information about the solutions you offer?

There’s only so much you can say in a Google Ad or on social media, what with character counts and rules and what not. But on your website, you can explain away to your heart’s content why this person should choose you and not your competitor. You can also tailor your website content to suit the different buyer’s journey stages.

And though Google Ads and social media ads are super fantastic at creating awareness, and even driving traffic to your website, there’s no overlooking the fact that 82% of evergreen shoppers use a search engine related to their shopping.

Think with Google also points out how 53% of shoppers say they always do research before they buy to make sure they make the best possible choice. This particularly holds true for major purchase decisions like buying a car, picking out a university programme or going in for an elective procedure.

SEO makes it far easier for the more in-depth information on your website to be found by these shoppers conducting their research than it would be using display or social media ads alone, or even combined. That’s all thanks to the way search intent comes into play with SEO, versus the keyword focus of display, or the product focus of social.

How do you choose an SEO service provider?

Before we answer this question, know that it is actually possible to do at least some SEO on your own. But just like anything that involves professional skill—setting a broken leg, for example, or fixing your plumbing—it’s so much easier and you get better results when you let a professional handle it.

In our previous section on “How many people does it take to really do SEO?”, you’ve seen how it is also actually possible to engage just one SEO specialist rather than an entire agency. If you decide that this is the way to go for your business, do check out Google Webmasters video below to make sure you pick someone who can really help:
The questions raised in the video regarding that two-way interview that should take place between you and your potential SEO specialist are worth taking special note of. As the owner or key decision-maker of the business, you should have ready answers to these questions if (in the best case scenario), your prospective specialist asks you:
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What makes your business, content and/or service unique and therefore valuable to customers?

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What does your common customer look like? How do they currently find your website?

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How does your business make money? And how can search help?

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What other channels are you using? Offline advertising? Social networks?

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Who are your competitors? What do they do well online (and potentially offline)?

Your answers to these questions will help whoever’s working on your SEO—whether it’s a freelancer or an agency—to create the best optimisation strategy for your business. And as the business owner, no one can answer these questions better than you.

Now say you’ve decided to engage an agency to do your SEO—you’ve read the section on the number of people it takes for SEO and you’ve seen the pros and cons of hiring a freelancer flying solo instead of a team of dedicated experts.

If you’ve read all the other sections, too, there’s a chance you might want to leave all that stuff—particularly the technical stuff—to a team of SEO pros. You’ll find a guide to finding a reliable agency in 10 Questions You Should Ask an SEO Agency Before Hiring.

Are there any downsides to doing SEO?

If you’ve read our articles comparing SEO with paid search, you will have read the inherent weaknesses of working on your ranking organically or slowly and steadily versus paying for the top spot on the SERPs. In summation, these weaknesses include

Being at the mercy of changing SEO algorithms, which means the search ranking of a business’ website, even if it’s No. 1, can drop at the drop of a hat

How much time it takes to build authority, particularly since you don’t know what your competitors’ next SEO moves are going to be

How much time it takes to rank, as it takes months to make your way up the SERPs

How much you actually have to spend on SEO, even though it seems free of charge because it has a paid counterpart

How much effort it takes to build relationships with other websites for link building

No clear rules for SEO—SEO experts have generally tried to compile all of Google’s ranking factors, when Google itself says its mix of factors changes over time

The challenge of attribution, or showing where people are coming from when they visit your site

But one downside that we haven’t mentioned doesn’t stem from doing SEO per se, but rather of SEO in general is the “free audit”.

You’ll find “audit” in our handy-dandy SEO glossary of terms, but very simply, an SEO audit is figuring out what issues need to be addressed so your website can improve its ranking. Given that definition, who wouldn’t want a free audit, right? They sound super helpful, and after all, the best things in life…

The thing is, there is no such thing as a free audit, really, and we’ll tell you why.

You see, free audits are generally done to attract unsuspecting clients who likely don’t know a whole lot about SEO. “Oh, these people say so and so is what’s wrong with my site, so maybe they can fix it, and when my customers use Google they’ll find me,” is probably what they’re thinking when they come across these freebies.

All you have to do is Google “audit my website SEO for free online” and you’ll find a boatload of freebie tools where all you’ll have to do is enter your website’s URL. For all you know, that’s exactly what someone offering you a free audit did, too.

The honest-to-goodness truth is that anybody worth their salt in SEO knows that a real, honest-to-goodness audit of a business’ website involves a lot of know-how, time, and effort.

That kind of professional effort and expertise isn’t just given away (last we checked, SEO wasn’t charity or a work of mercy), mainly because the specialists (yes, plural/more than one specialist) conducting the audit also have bills to pay.

You should also know that free audits aren’t always complete—mainly because of the blood, toil, tears and sweat that go into a real audit. And basing any improvements of your website on incomplete data is always dangerous.

So the downside to offering free SEO audits is that they give a false impression to business owners who are relatively new to SEO. They lead businesses to believe that SEO is done “just like that” and affect the SEO decisions of these businesses, accordingly. This guide is meant to help you make better informed SEO choices.

How does NEO360 do SEO?

You’ve read the sections on what you should know before doing SEO and EAT; onsite, offsite and technical SEO, the number of people it takes to do SEO, the SEO tools you need, and how long it takes to rank. In those sections, we’ve described how we carry out all the different SEO activities at NEO360.
 
We do all we can to ensure the quality of the content we produce, and we use checklists to make sure we don’t miss doing anything that can help our clients to rank. We have specialists to take care of all the different aspects of performing SEO, we use the right tools, and we let our clients know about the kind of results they can expect.

But what really sets our SEO services apart is how we do not do SEO in a vacuum.

We know SEO is one of several components in the great digital marketing machine, and we understand how each of those components works best when they work together. This is what we call our 360 Approach to SEO and to digital marketing as a whole.

If you recall our section on the common SEO concerns businesses have, we have a subsection that discusses how SEO complements other digital marketing campaigns as potential customers go on their respective buyer’s journeys. You can get a better idea of how search engine use comes into play in the infographic below:

As you can see, when that potential customer comes looking for the solutions that your business offers, you’re going to want to be the first result that person sees when they look for your solutions on Google.

The solutions we offer for SEO at NEO360 are effective on their own. That means that if you’re new to digital marketing and SEO happens to be the first channel you want to explore, you can expect to see results even if you aren’t doing anything else to market your business online.

But because we use our 360 Approach to SEO, your site will be optimised for working with other digital marketing channels if and when you decide to add, say, Facebook Ads and/or Paid Search to your SEO activities.

This means that your SEO becomes even more effective with the support of these other channels, and vice versa—more so when those channels are also using our 360 Approach.

How can I get started on SEO?

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of our Guide for Business Owners giving you All You Need To Know About SEO. If you’ve been kind enough to read through every section and you’ve yet to get serious about optimising your business website, you probably understand that coming to the end of this Guide is just the beginning.

We mentioned in Section 13 on How to Choose An SEO Provider that it is actually possible to start working on your own SEO on your own, which is why we’ve given you our free Pillar Page Content Guide. (If you haven’t already downloaded it, now would be a good time.)

But say you own or manage the marketing communications of a larger enterprise and you know you haven’t got the time or the skillset needed for the nitty-gritties of ensuring your ranking.

Even if you’ve already decided on getting professional help for SEO, there are a few things you can do now to get started on enhancing your ranking.

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Think about what makes your business special, how it works and what your website’s role is in helping it grow—more so if you mean to have your website act as your actual place of business, i.e. e-commerce.

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Think about your target market, because these are the very people you want to find your site and who will be visiting and using it. You might try creating a buyer’s persona to help you out.

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Think about the kind of content you want to create for your target market, which you naturally want to be of use to them and of the best possible quality. Content marketing and SEO go hand in hand, and you can get some quick tips for getting started with that right here.

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Think about social media and how you’re using it because while it may not have a direct effect on your ranking, social media does affect your SEO. (Remember how social media is included in our offsite SEO checklist?)

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Think about your competition and what you’ve seen them doing on search engines and elsewhere. Do their websites show up when you Google your own products or services? How do their sites or social media profiles stack up against yours?

Yes, there is a fair bit of thinking to be done way before you start listing keywords, mapping out site structures or telling those bots what to do, and there’s just no getting around that.

The good news is that you don’t have to do all this thinking on your own, and that it does a world of good to think out loud with someone who’s done all this before.

Want to know the secret behind our competitive edge?

Finally, because we’d like you to have a head start in optimising your website, here’s our PILLAR PAGE CONTENT GUIDE which you can download for FREE: