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MUST read before You Hire a SEO or a SEO Agency for your website

[A Guide for Business Owners]

By Shei Wah, TAN | February 5, 2021

88 of consumers search online statistics vector

Data Source: Ecommere Foundation

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:

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

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 33% 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:

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

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Whether the webpage demonstrates Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness or EAT

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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

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Inferior or not enough Main Content

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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:

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Low Quality Lifestyle:

Sample page here.

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Low Quality YMYL:

Sample page here.

]

Low Quality YMYL:

Sample page here.

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Lowest Quality (For Negative Reputation):

Sample page here.

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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’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.

We’ll go into each list in detail, below (and remember, if you run into any weird words, our handy-dandy SEO glossary is just a click or tap away).

Our One-Time Set-up Checklist, which covers the basics of SEO for any page, includes:

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Google Search Console set up to drive more traffic to your pages

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Bing Webmaster Tools set up to make the most of the 20 to 30% of your monthly organic traffic

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Google Analytics set up, which includes Goals (Email Enquiries, Calls, Page Views, Time on Page and Events) to gain insights that can help you continually improve your SEO

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Installing SEO-related plugins to make it easier for search engines social networks to find your WordPress pages.

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Securing the website with HTTPS, not just for security but also because Google prioritises secure sites

Our Every Two or Three Months Checklist for Keyword Research includes:

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Discovering new Long Tail Keywords using Google Suggest or other SEO tools to make sure you’re using the latest words being used by people who are searching

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Finding Solid Keywords using Google Keyword Planner to make sure you’re using the ideal keywords for your industry

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Tapping into Online Communities like Quora and Reddit to update yourself with what topics your target audience (especially those with an intent to buy) is interested in

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Identifying Low Competition Keywords, or keywords that aren’t (too) competitive for your industry) using KWFinder to help facilitate your ranking

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Finding Question Keywords using Answer the Public to help you create content that your target audience may already be looking for

Our Every Two or Three Months Checklist for On-Page SEO includes:

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Discovering new Long Tail Keywords using Google Suggest or other SEO tools to make sure you’re using the latest words being used by people who are searching

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Performing a Competitor Analysis, which involves using tools like SEMrush for taking a closer look at things like backlinks and keywords

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Doing Keyword Research, which also involves making sure keywords are part of your webpages’ URLs and whether those URLs are short URLs (because shorter, less complicated URLs are better for SEO)

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Optimising Page Titles and Meta Descriptions, making sure that your keywords are up front in all the title tags, that title tags have been embedded, and that your keyword shows up once in the first 150 words of your content

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Making sure that your keywords show up in your H1, H2 and H3 tags to help shore up your ranking

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Optimising your images with Image ALT Tags or alt descriptions to make it easier for search engines to “read” or “see” them and index them afterwards

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Making sure there are enough relevant, trustworthy or authoritative External Links in your content, because Google regards such links as “popularity votes”

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Making sure there are enough Internal Links in your content to make it easier for Google to understand the structure of your website

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Checking your Tracking Codes for Facebook, Google Ads and Analytics to make sure there aren’t any data discrepancies

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Optimising your Schema, to help Google to better understand the content on your website and increase the chances of people seeing your site instead of unrelated or irrelevant search results

Our Monthly Checklist for Content includes:

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Performing a Content Analysis, which involves identifying trending content topics as well as creating or enhancing and promoting your own content accordingly

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Performing a Page or Content Audit based on KPIs to be able to build on the content’s strengths and build up its weaknesses

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Making sure the topic on each of your pages is covered in-depth, and developing your Topic Clusters

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Conducting Content Research using tools like BuzzSumo and Google Trends to find out which content formats work best

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Making sure you’re using Multimedia such as images, charts, infographics, slideshows, videos, and interactive polls and quizzes

Finally, our list of miscellaneous things we can do to help boost a page’s SEO includes checking on widgets, filtering out IP addresses and setting up trackers.

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.

Our One-Time Set-up Checklist, which covers Google My Business, includes:

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Filling in all your Business Details correctly (e.g.business name, phone number, website URL)

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Verifying these details (via GMB verification call)

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Installing SEO-related plugins to make it easier for search engines social networks to find your WordPress pages.

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Adding relevant Images

Our One-Time Set-up Checklist covering IFTTT includes tapping existing, major social media accounts (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn) or creating them as needed, and adding social media sharing buttons to the website. This checklist also includes creating a Web 2.0 blog and tapping sites that enable the sharing of slides, videos and infographics.

Our Monthly Checklist for offsite SEO includes:

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Conducting a Link Audit, which involves finding out which websites link to your website most often as well as your most frequently linked webpages using Google Search Console; disavowing toxic links, and checking out competitor backlinks.

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Working on Social Media Engagement, which involves posting or sharing content on social media, which may be done using IFTTT.

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Keeping an eye out for any Citations, Business Reviews and Comments other people may have made in the Top 10 local listings for your business location, or on Google My Business, as well as sharing content on GMB every week.

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Sharing Documents, i.e. slides, videos, infographics or blogs

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Performing Link Building activities such as Competitor Link Building, Content Promotion, Community Participation, Link Reclamation, Broken Link Building and Email Outreach.

Because you could say that Link Building is a very special galaxy in the SEO universe, let’s go a little further into it.

What is Link Building and why is it a big deal for SEO?

Remember our definition of off-page SEO? Getting other websites to link back to your own is exactly what Link Building is all about. Google considers backlinks, or links to your website as a compelling indicator of its authority—the more backlinks your site has, the more Google is likely to give it a higher ranking in the SERPs.

It’s interesting to note, however, that Google isn’t oblivious to SEO specialists using link building as a way to game its algorithm and rank higher. That’s why Google also updates its algorithms to penalise websites whose owners might be a tad overzealous when it comes to link building.

Websites that get penalised either receive a warning from Google (via Google Search Console), which gives you time to fix your website’s SEO, or just automatically experience a steady and significant drop in their rankings. If you fixed your website’s SEO after receiving a warning, you’ll need to resubmit your website to Google for reconsideration.

As you’ve seen in that last item in our monthly offsite checklist, there’s more than one way to skin the offsite cat, so to speak, but allow us to go briefly into each.
Competitor Link Building Offsite Seo

Competitor Link Building involves checking out websites which are linking out to the websites of your competitors, but not to yours. Because websites usually link to other websites on the premise that they are authoritative, this may be done simply by reaching out to a website that you want a link from and presenting your site as more authoritative.

Content Promotion Offsite Seo

Content Promotion involves getting more people to view and engage with the content on your website. You can do this by sharing it via social media or email or reaching out to a related site. If you use social media, you can try using boosted or promote posts to enable your content to reach an even wider audience.

Community Participation Offsite Seo

Community Participation involves using forums like Quora or Reddit to drive traffic to your site by answering relevant questions or engaging in related conversations and including a link to one of your webpages.

Link Reclamation Offsite Seo

Link Reclamation involves finding links within your own website that don’t work using tools like Ahrefs Site Explorer and reclaiming, i.e. repairing these links. The links to these pages usually lead to 404 errors or pages that were deleted.

Broken Link Building Offsite Seo

Broken Link Building involves finding defective links to your webpages from other websites, and reaching out to the webmaster of those sites so that you can offer them working links. You can also use Ahrefs Site Explorer to find these links as well as Screaming Frog and Google Analytics.

Email Outreach Offsite Seo

Email Outreach involves emailing the webmasters of other sites to ask them to link to your content. Note that this isn’t about shooting off a single email and expecting a link in return. This is a relationship-building task where you earn the trust of the webmaster over a series of back-and-forth emails which, if done correctly, can result in backlinks to your site.

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.

Here are a couple of things you’ll have to take care of for High Impact SEO:

1.Making sure your website loads faster than 3 seconds, because any longer than that and your visitor-slash-potential customer becomes an ex-visitor-slash-customer—and also because Google prefers faster loading sites. You can do this by:

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Finding out what the benchmark loading speed is for your top 10 landing pages

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Finding out what your website loading speed is by using a tool like Bitcatcha

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Finding out what your website loading speed is on mobile by using a tool like Google Pagespeed Insights

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Finding out what specific things you can do to speed your site up by using Google Developer Products

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Finding out whether the things you did are working by using Google Analytics

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Developing a mobile-friendly website with the help of tools like the Mobile-Friendly Test and Google Search Console

2.Making sure your site has a well-designed and carefully planned site structure, because every click or tap needs to be able to take your website visitor to where they want to go as quickly as possible. It also needs to be “easily crawled” by Google spiders. You can do this by:

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Mapping out the way each webpage relates to each other by creating a diagram

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Adding and categorising blogs on your site by using topic clusters

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Adding breadcrumbs to your site to make it easy for people to find their way back

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Making sure you have updated sitemaps to make it easy for the crawlers to find key pages

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Making sure your sitemaps are included in your robots.txt and you don’t have any orphan pages

Now here are some things you’ll need to take care of for Low Impact SEO:

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Finding and fixing broken links or 404 errors with 301 redirects, because even though the spiders don’t see them, your website visitors will, and 404’s can be a real mood-killer.

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Making sure you don’t confuse Google’s spiders with messy redirects by getting rid of redirect chains, because confused crawlers can hurt your SEO

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Finding thin content using tools like Screaming Frog, then enhancing or eradicating it, because Google’s Panda Update doesn’t appreciate content that offers little or no value to website visitors

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Finding duplicate content within your own website using a tool like Siteliner, or across websites using a tool like Copyscape, and then getting rid of these duplicates because it confuses the crawlers

We also have regular technical SEO checklists that look something like this:

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Prepare and analyse a Crawl Report using tools such as Google Search Console and SEMrush, and fix anything that needs it as indicated by the Report

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Find out How Google Views Your Page, or what version of your website Google currently has in its index by using the URL Inspection Tool

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Make sure your website is Mobile-Friendly by using the Mobile-First Index notice in Google Search Console

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Fix Broken Links using tools like Screaming Frog, SEMrush or Dr. Link Check, because broken links, including broken external links, are bad for the user experience and for your SEO

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Fix Duplicate Meta Tags using SEMrush or Google Search Console because it makes it harder for Google to figure out which among the duplicates is the best, which may cause it to lower the rankings of the entire site altogether

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Check your website’s Loading Speed using Google’s PageSpeed Insights which doesn’t just figure out how fast a page is, but offers suggestions for speeding it up

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Perform a Link Profile Audit, which involves a closer look at the links leading to your website to see if there are any problems or possibilities for improving your backlink profile

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Conduct a Market Landscape Analysis, which shows you opportunities for improving your own website so it can be better than competing websites

But instead of making your head spin with all of them, we’ve condensed them here for you to know what you’ll need to keep tabs on. Our “non-techie” technical SEO checklist includes:

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Making sure you’ve added all the right tracking codes to all the right pages using tools like the Facebook Pixel Helper

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Finding out how many of your webpages have been indexed by Google using tools like Google Search Console

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Noindexing, or deindexing pages that Google might consider as duplicate, thin or low-quality content (even if it isn’t) like thank you pages, admin pages and login pages (note that this is different from nofollowing pages), to make sure these pages don’t come out in the SERPs

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Making sure all your webpages are secure, or are HTTPS

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Making sure all your URLs have the best format (i.e. are slashed (/) and have “www”) and lead to the preferred version of your website, to avoid duplicate URLs

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Making sure you don’t accidentally create different URLs with the same (or almost the same) content, because doing this makes it harder for search engines to find and index your valuable content

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Making sure you have updated HTML sitemaps, which makes it easier for both crawlers and your website visitors to find what they’re looking for

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Making sure the spiders only go where you want them to go (and not to pages like those with thin content or test pages) by validating your robots.txt, which also helps you save bandwidth and server resources

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Adding structured data to the webpages that need it to help search engines to better understand the content of those pages.

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Adding a favicon to your website, because it helps with brand recognition, building credibility and trust, encourages follow-up visits, and saves time for your website visitor

Twelfth on our “non-techie” technical SEO checklist is doing all these “little extras” that help speed up your website which, if you’re using WordPress, includes:

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Leveraging your browser cache

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Optimising your images

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Being consistent in using your URLs when serving resources to the search engine

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Keeping redirects to a minimum

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Deferring the parsing of your JavaScript

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

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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

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Off-page SEO specialist

Technical SEO specialist

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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.

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.

Screaming Frog

If you’re new to SEO, you might think of Screaming Frog as a “spider on steroids”—it doesn’t just crawl your site the way the spiders of a search engine does, but it also looks for errors. That way, you can fix these errors before they affect your SEO and make it harder for potential customers to find your business.
 
You can use Screaming Frog for free, but like most other freebies, you’ll have to pay to be able to use it to the full. You can find a quick start guide, here, but you’ll also have to download it into your computer before you can use it for the following:

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Finding broken links so you can fix them ASAP

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Auditing your redirects and backlinks to make sure they’re all working

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Analysing your page titles and meta data to make sure they’re all the right length

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Finding duplicate or thin content so you can fix these, too

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Extracting data to figure out how well your website’s working

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Reviewing robots and directives to make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to

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Making and updating sitemaps

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Connecting to Google Analytics, Search Console, PageSpeed Insights and more

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Crawling your JavaScript website

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Mapping out your site architecture with easier-to-understand diagrams

SEMrush

If Screaming Frog is a spider on steroids, SEMrush is an “SEO assistant on adrenaline”—it’s a platform that offers solutions for a whole bunch of things (not just SEO) that includes PPC, social media, content marketing and market research.

But here’s what SEMrush can do that makes it well-nigh indispensable to SEO professionals:

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Audit a website’s technical SEO

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Check out your own backlinks of those of your competitors

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Create SEO strategies for boosting your organic traffic

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Figure out what your competitors’ SEO strategies are

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Get ideas for keywords and find keywords you don’t usually come across

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Keep tabs on your ranking every day

You can try using SEMrush for free, but you’ll eventually have to pay to use it on a regular basis. You can find a guide for using it, here, but note that SEMrush also offers free SEO training that you can get by just registering as a SEMrush user.

Ahrefs

So if SEMrush is your adrenalised SEO assistant, Ahrefs is your SEO secret weapon that helps you hit the ground running—it makes it easier for you to start working on your SEO right away.

Businesses new to SEO may find it overwhelming because of everything SEO entails, but the nice thing about Ahrefs is it helps you zero in on key areas from the get-go:

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Discovering the best content being created for your industry

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Finding out what your customers are looking for

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Keeping an eye on what your competitors are up to

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Making your website search engine friendly

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Monitoring your daily ranking

Ahref has a cloud-based crawler you can watch in real time, and prioritised suggestions that tell you what you need to fix on your website first. It also has a data explorer that helps you find pages according to what you want to find out, such as pages with organic traffic but no meta titles or descriptions.

You can try Ahrefs out for seven days for USD7, and also get free access to their training for 30 days, but here’s a list of 10 things you can get started on by using Ahrefs, already.

But say you don’t have the resources right now for paid, pro versions of Screaming Frog, SEMrush and Ahrefs, here are a couple of free tools you can use for your SEO:

Google Search Console

If your goal is to rank well in Google’s search results, it makes sense to use tools from Google itself, wouldn’t you say?

Formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools, Google Search Console helps you to better understand the way Google sees your website. It serves up free information such as how whether Google can crawl or index your site, how many people visit, what device they’re using to browse, and whether your site has any errors.

Though Google says the Search Console may be used by novices and nerds alike, the well-nigh overwhelming amount of information available can make it challenging to get the most use out of it. How much help Search Console will be to you will also depend on how much experience you have with HTML and a few other site development details.

It’s also a good idea to connect your Search Console account with Google Analytics because the information from each of them differs in intent and focus, even if they might seem the same at first glance. Connecting them can be a bit tricky, but there’s bound to be a guide or two out there that should be able to help.

Bing Webmaster Tools

Remember what we said about Bing? About how its market share continues to increase, and that it really is one of the best search engines out there? Well, their free-to-use and easy-to-use Bing Webmaster Tools are among the best out there, too.

Indeed, Search Engine Land says Bing’s tools are more advanced and SEO-friendly. They come with a dashboard and tools for reporting, diagnosing and researching what people are looking for as well as areas you may want to focus on.

There’s also a Bing Mobile Friendliness tool and a tool for making sure any requests coming to your site are from bonafide BingBots. You don’t even have to sign in to use these tools.

Bing has a simple two-step guide (with optional steps 3 and 4) for getting started with its tools, which have recently gotten a makeover that make them cleaner to look at and more responsive to use. You can find a nifty visual guide to using the new and improved version from Search Engine Journal, here.

But wait! As a sort of “bonus SEO tool review”, we’d like to put in a word about Majestic.

Link building, as we’ve discussed in Section 5 on “What’s offsite SEO?” is a pretty big deal for SEO, and as such, merits its own special tool for helping specialists build links as best they can.

Majestic is a tool for levelling up your link building that you can register for, and use for free, but will again have to pay for to use to the full.

Majestic analyses backlinks and provides a summary of those links leading to your site. On top of a list of external links, that summary includes metrics like Trust and Citation flows, crawled and indexed URLs, and referring domains and IP addresses.

You’ll also be able to sort through the links to see which are high or low quality, as well as see where links are on a webpage, e.g. whether they’re toward the top, clumped together (maybe with other links) in the middle, or toward the bottom of the content.

Majestic also has a topic report that identifies your website’s niche based on backlinks rather than your actual content, and a generator that lists similar sites to your own (which you might use for checking out your competitors).

But as Backlinko points out, apart from certain features like the Trust and Citation Flow metrics and the topic report, much of what Majestic can do can also be done by Ahrefs and SEMrush. While Ahrefs and SEMrush do cost significantly more than Majestic, you’ve seen that they also do much more than just focus on backlinks.

And unless you’re well up in your SEO skills, you may want to leave the use of Majestic to SEO pros.

All the same, if you’re using Chrome, you might try adding Majestic to your browser to get a free, quick-and-easy way to gauge how well a page is doing based on its backlinks. The data comes with much more detail if you have a Majestic account.

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 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.

1. Linking from low-quality links, before the Penguin update

Penguin is an update Google made to its algorithm back in 2012, primarily for zeroing in on sneaky, black hat link building practices.

These practices came about in the first place because Google used to place a lot of emphasis on the number of links a website had when determining its rank. This emphasis resulted in a lot of websites with low-quality content ranking really well in the SERPs.

Penguin made it so that websites with naturally incorporated (not stuffed in there for no good reason) high-quality incoming links, i.e. links that were from authoritative or relative sites performed better in the rankings.

As long you keep a close eye on the links going to your site (which you can easily do using the tools we’ve discussed in one of the previous sections), you should be able to avoid making this common mistake.

2. Over-optimisation

Check it out: it’s actually possible to over-optimise your website. Super hell-bent on taking their clients’ websites to the top, some overzealous specialists end up making the mistake of getting carried away and overdoing their SEO.

You see, when you over-optimise, you don’t give the search engine a chance to index any of the new changes you’ve made on your site. What’s worse is you might actually be harming your website’s ability to rank higher in the SERPs.

So how do you know whether you’re over-optimising or not? If you’re doing any of the following, chances are, you are:

Keyword stuffing
This includes stuffing them into your internal links, your footers, and stuffing for keywords that have nothing at all to do with your site.
H1 stuffing
Like the immortal 80’s movie says, “in the end, there can be only one”—your page must only have one H1 or main heading; any more is just over-optimising.
Link stuffing
This involves having way too many links to your homepage or contact pages, and not enough to deep, internal pages
Linking to low-quality sites
This involves linking without considering the domain authority of the sites being linked to—which could very well backfire on your SEO.

3. Poor website structure implementation

Having a beautiful website that is structurally unsound is like having a glittering skyscraper with wooden instead of steel girders—it may look good, but it may not perform (i.e. bring in customers) in terms of SEO. It’s true, your website needs to look good, but it’s got to be well optimised, too.

Common website structure issues include broken internal links, having no breadcrumbs, duplicate URLs, slow loading speed, and having URLs that aren’t optimised. Your website structure may also be old, or in dire need of an update.

But even if you are aware of these issues and have a nice, new website structure planned out, those plans will only work as well as the way they’ve been carried out.

And the only way to make sure that great “architectural plan” is implemented is to have a specialist, team or agency with a proven track record to do the actual implementing.

4. Using metrics the wrong way

All the data in the world won’t help you if you aren’t able to make sense of it—which means keeping tabs on your metrics won’t do you much good in measuring your SEO performance unless you do it correctly. Ways metrics are commonly misused include:
Confusing “Sessions” and “Users”
Careful, now: “users” are individual website visitors, while “sessions” are the visits themselves. A single user can generate multiple sessions (i.e. visit your website more than once), but not vice versa.
Taking Averages at face value
Note that “Average” metrics may not show you the whole picture. For example, Average Time Spent won’t tell you whether someone read your content, or how long someone was on the page of your site that they visited last, or even whether someone just left your page open (but wasn’t reading).
Regarding each metric as “standalone”
Taking metrics on their own is much like taking them at face value when, to be effective, they need to be considered alongside one or more metrics. Bounce Rate on its own, for instance, gives you a clearer picture of your SEO performance when taken in context of Click Through Rate or CTR.
Not differentiating “Micro” from “Macro” Conversions
“Micro conversions” are minor actions taken by your website visitors like signing up for your email newsletter, “macro conversions” are major actions like making a purchase. Lumping them together may not be an accurate reflection of how well your SEO is doing.
Tracking the wrong keywords
Tracking keyword ranking is perfectly all right, but you need to make sure the keywords you track are those that help you assess your website performance. You can, for instance, refer to your historical data to look for correlations explaining why one of the keywords you’re tracking dropped in the rankings, and what happened to your conversions (both micro and macro) when it did.

Remember, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with keeping tabs on metrics—it’s all in how we use them, and use them to report on how well your website is helping to grow your business.

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?

Z

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

Z

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

Z

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

Z

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.

 

Client Testimonial Neo360 Seo

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.

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.

Case Study 1: A Cosmetic Surgery Practice in Australia

Client Profile
One of the leading cosmetic surgery clinics in the country
Client Challenges
Client’s strong SEO start and website traffic in 2010 was negatively affected by major Google algorithm updates from 2011 to 2017.
Client Objectives
  • To increase the number of doctor’s consultations at its clinics in Canberra, Brisbane and Sydney
  • To counter the effects of the Google algorithm updates
  • To assess and improve content
Our Strategy
  • Redesign the client’s website
  • Create search term-focused service pages
  • Complement SEO efforts with Google, Facebook and Instagram ads

We moved quickly to counter the effects of the algorithm changes by performing a technical SEO audit and link profile audit, and redesigning the practice’s website to make it mobile-friendly with load time optimisation. We also developed a solid strategy to assess and improve content quality.

The client worked with NEO360 on creating search term-focused service pages by preempting questions from their prospective clients. In 2016, we worked on developing the client’s FAQ’s to make sure website visitors will get the answers to their questions without going to competitor websites.

To complement these efforts to regain the practices’ ranking and traffic, we also ran a highly targeted Google ads campaign to compensate for the decrease in conversions brought about by the algorithm change.

As the competition began to heat up in Australia, the practice chose to run Facebook and Instagram ad campaigns to make sure its clinics remained relevant both on search and social media.

Our Results:

Website Visits

(18.08%)
Increase in Website Visits

Email Enquiries

(13.89%)
Increase in Email Enquiries

Number of Calls

(128,7%)
Increase in Number of Calls

**ORGANIC SEARCH DATA based on 2017 vs 2018, Google Analytics

Case Study 2: A Gynaecologist in Singapore

Client Profile
An obstetrics and gynaecology specialist practising at a medical centre
Client Challenges
Lack of brand visibility for key search terms in both organic and local search results; “Medic” core Google algorithm update caused declines in ranking and conversions
Client Objectives
  • To rank for key search terms
  • To address the negative impact of the Medic update
  • To increase conversions
Our Strategy
  • Develop an SEO strategy
  • Create search term-focused service pages
  • Run a local SEO strategy

We built an SEO strategy centred on “obstetric and gynaecological services” content to position the brand as an authority and to start converting more visitors into paying customers.

The client worked with NEO360 on creating search-term focused content by preempting questions from their prospective clients. In 2018, we started building topic clusters for key services to increase awareness of services that their clients are searching for on Google.

Alongside the blog content we created and posted on the client’s website, we decided to create infographics and videos for this client to differentiate their website content from their competitors and also to improve the visitor’s user experience.

Site audits were conducted regularly to detect and fix any reported errors both on-page and off-page. While waiting for the website to rank in Google’s organic search results, we also ran a local SEO campaign to increase the clinic’s visibility in local search results.

Our Results:

Website Visits

(36.29%)
Increase in Website Visits

Email Enquiries

(88.09%)
Increase in Email Enquiries

Number of Calls

(5.04%)
Increase in Number of Calls

**ORGANIC SEARCH DATA based on 2018 vs 2019, Google Analytics

Case Study 3: A Dermatologist in Singapore

Client Profile
Clinic that provides aesthetic dermatology and hair transplant services
Client Challenges
Client had a five-year-old, slow-loading website with poor site structure.
Client Objectives
  • To increase organic rankings
  • To improve user experience
  • To update the clinic’s branding
Our Strategy
  • Create a new website design
  • Create and implement a Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) strategy
  • Create and implement an SEO strategy

We improved the homepage content by highlighting important procedures, the doctor’s credentials, the Google My Business (GMB) review widget and contact form. We also strategically added call-to-action buttons above the fold on all services pages.

In addition, to help their prospective customers navigate their website easily, we categorised blog content based on the skin and hair issues that their prospective customers might be interested in. We checked the Google keyword planner to verify the interest in these topics.

We also mapped out their existing content according to search intent and the different stages of the buyer’s journey.

Our Results:

Website Visits

(45%)
Increase in Website Visits

Number of Leads

(88.09%)
Increase in the Number of Leads

%

Lead Conversion Rate

(94.7%)
Increase in Conversion Rate

Data Source: August 2020 Vs January 2020 Organic Search + Local Search Traffic Data

Case Study 4: A B2C Business in Singapore

Client Profile
Provider of high-quality, custom-made, non-surgical hair replacement systems
Client Challenges
Client had an outdated website with poor site structure, a disorganised e-commerce store, and low organic ranking on Google
Client Objectives
  • To update the website
  • To revamp the e-commerce store
  • To rank higher for product-related search keywords
Our Strategy
  • Develop an SEO-friendly site structure
  • Redesign the website for UX
  • Create and optimise content

In order to build a website that incorporates SEO and UX, we developed an SEO-friendly site structure that is easier for bots to crawl and access the content for indexing.

By incorporating web design with content optimisation, we created relevant content that addresses the user’s intent and webpages that make an impression on the users. This encourages them to remain on each page and learn more about the client, engage their services, or buy their products.

Improving the site’s structure and design also provides a better user experience, which improves dwell time, reduces bounce rate, and leads to improved site rankings. After launching the website, periodic Site Audits were conducted to fix any reported site technical errors.

NEO360 likewise assisted the client with blog creation to provide relevant content to increase organic traffic.

Our Results:

%

Increase in keywords ranked on page one

%

Increase in organic website visits

%

Increase in appointment bookings

** 3rd Month of Search Optimization Implementation, Google Analytics

Do you have any resources for learning more about SEO?

Give yourself a pat on the back—you’ve all but made it through all of our Guide. But just like riding a bike, baking or ballroom dancing, the best way to learn about SEO is through constant practise and experience. (You can read about the waltz or the foxtrot, for instance, but you only really learn how once you hit the dance floor.)

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.

Because we know it takes a lot more than an ultimate guide to learn SEO, here’s some suggested FURTHER READING:

Because we know a lot of SEO terms can sound like Greek to you, here’s our handy-dandy SEO GLOSSARY:
301 redirects

The act of moving a webpage from one URL to another.

404 errors, 404 pages

This happens when a server can’t find a page on a website that you wanted to visit.

Ahrefs

Software used to analyse a website’s link profile, keyword rankings and overall SEO health. Contains tools for link building, keyword research, competitor analysis, rank tracking, and site audits. See Ahrefs under Section 8, What tools do you need to help you do SEO?

Algorithm
In SEO, this is a system that a search engine uses to retrieve data from its index and serve up the best possible results whenever someone uses it to search.
Ahrefs
In SEO, this is identifying the source, or the instigator, if you will, of an action that was taken. If, for example, you want know where someone who downloaded your brochure came from, attribution will tell you they came from your blog when they clicked on the Call To Action. See Call to Action.
Audit, auditing
In SEO, this is what you do to find problems that keep your website from ranking better in search engine results.
Average Time Spent
This is the average amount of time someone spent on a page of your website. See Dwell Time.
Backlink, backlink profile, link profile
What you call a link that leads from one website to another. Also called “inbound” or “incoming” links. Your backlink profile or link profile is a list of all those links.
Black Hat SEO
Attempting to boost your ranking by using practices like keyword stuffing which are prohibited by the search engines’ terms of service.
Bounce Rate
This is the percentage of people who visited and left a page of your website without doing anything like clicking on a link or making an enquiry.
Breadcrumbs

Remember Hansel & Gretel? These are bits of clickable text that work just like the breadcrumbs in the story—you usually find them at top of a page where they serve as a handy reference for your website visitors to know exactly where they are on your site. An example would be “Home > Blog > Hair Loss”.

Broken Links, dead links
Links that don’t work, probably because the website is down, had its URL structure changed, or had a page was removed. See 404 pages.
Broken Link Building
This is when you find a broken link, put up another page with the content that used to be on it, then tell people to link to that new page, instead.
Browser Cache
This is where web pages get stored on your computer to make it easier for your browser to load these pages (along with their pictures, sounds and so on) when you need them. See Cache.
BuzzSumo
A tool for finding out which pieces of content are popular or trending on a particular website or topic.
Cache, caching
In SEO, this is what you call temporary storage or the act of storing website files on your computer temporarily to enable speedy file retrieval.
Call To Action (CTA)
This a piece of copy or text that’s usually clickable and trackable telling your website visitors what you want them to do. “Contact Us”, “Download” and “Buy Now” are some of the most common examples of CTAs.
Canonical Link Elements, canonical tags
A bit of code in the HTML header of a webpage that lets search engines know whether there’s a more important version of that page to help it decide how the page should be ranked. See HTML.
Click Through Rate (CTR)
This is how you measure how many clicks something gets—on an ad, let’s say, or a CTA. See Call To Action.
Convert, Conversion
What you call someone doing what you wanted them to do, like clicking on a link, filling out a form or making a purchase. See Call To Action.
Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO)
Conversion rate is the percentage of website visitors who convert. CRO is all about making improvements on your website and content to increase the number of conversions. See Convert.
Crawl, crawler, re-crawl
“Crawling” is what a search engine does automatically to visit a webpage and check out its content, and “crawlers” (AKA web crawlers, spiders, search engine bots, robots) are the ones that do the crawling. “Re-crawling” is when crawlers go back over a page, maybe because changes to the page were made.
Crawl Report
This tells you what the Googlebot was up to on your website in the last 90 days, which includes going over all the different kinds of downloadable content like PDFs and images. See Crawl.
Disavow
In SEO, this means getting rid of harmful links leading to your website, i.e. links that have a negative effect on your ranking. When Google comes round to rank your site, you can actually ask it to disregard these links by disavowing them.
Domain, domain name
The name of your website.
Domain Authority
This is a scoring system of 1 to 100 that Moz developed to predict how well your website is going to rank in the SERPs. The closer you are to 100, the better your site ought to rank. Note, however, that Google does not take Domain Authority into account when ranking your site. See Search Engine Results Pages.
Dwell Time
This is how much time someone spent on your webpage. Note how it differs from Average Time Spent. See Average Time Spent.
EAT
In SEO, stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. See E-A-T under Section 3, What should I know before working on SEO?
Email Outreach
Using email to build a relationship with an influencer or prominent website to promote your content or ask for a backlink to your site. See Backlink.
Evergreen Content
Content that never gets old or needs to be updated. News articles, for instance, aren’t considered evergreen.
External links, external linking
What you call a link from your site to another, or a link to your site from another site.
Favicon
A contraction of “favourite icon”, or the icon you find in the browser tab of an open webpage.
Google My Business
This is a free listing that enables you to show up in search results, making it a great marketing tool for businesses of all sizes. You can list your contact information and post updates such as new products or services, or whether you’ve changed your operating hours to adjust to current events.
Google Search Console
This is Google’s free service that helps you monitor, maintain, and perform troubleshooting for your ranking in Google SERPs.
Heading Tags, H1, H2, H3 tags
These are tags used to identify headings or headlines throughout your content to help the search engine understand it. They start with H1, which is your main headline, and go all way down to H6 which is your least important heading.
HTML
Very simply, this stands for Hypertext Markup Language and it’s the standard language for all webpages.
HTML Sitemap
This is a page where all the subpages on your site are listed, usually found in the footer and visible to all viewers to help them navigate your site. See Sitemap.
HTTP, HTTPS
HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol and, very simply, it’s what makes it possible for browsers and servers to communicate with each other. HTTPS is an extension of HTTP where the S stands for Secure—that extension protects whatever is communicated between browsers and servers by encrypting it.
IFTTT
Stands for If This Then That. A free online service that centralises and automates the actions of the apps, devices and services of a single user. See Section 5, What’s offsite SEO?
Image ALT tags, alt descriptions
This is a text that describes an image you put on a page that comes out in case the image doesn’t load. These tags help visually impaired visitors to your site, and help search engines to better understand your content when they come to crawl your page.
Index
This is the database a search engine uses containing all the information it was able to find on all the websites it was able to crawl. If a website isn’t on the engine’s index, people won’t be able to find it. See Section 2, How do search engines work in ranking a website?
Internal Links, internal linking
These are links that lead from one page of your site to another page within that same site.
JavaScript
Very simply, this is a programming language used to enable animation, interactive features, scrolling updates and pretty much anything other than plain text on a webpage. Optimising this is part of technical SEO in making sure your site is easy to crawl, index and rank higher. See Section 6, What’s technical SEO?
Keyword
Also called “search query”, this is a word or phrase people use to look for things on a search engine.
Keyword Stuffing
This when you overload a page with keywords in an attempt to boost your ranking. See Black Hat SEO.
Landing Page, lander
A page on your website meant specifically to turn visitors to your site into leads for your business. This page is written and structured in such a way as to guide visitors toward the action you want them to take, e.g. fill out a form.
Link Audit
An analysis of the links leading to your website to assess their quality and level of optimisation in context of their ability to help boost your site’s ranking.
Link Building
The way you get high-quality links to your website from relevant and authoritative websites to improve your visibility in online searches.
Link Juice, link equity, SEO Juice
This is a ranking factor that considers links to your website as “votes of confidence” in your site’s value and authority.
Link Reclamation
Getting a backlink you had, back after losing it. You may have lost a backlink because the site linking to you removed the link, or the page linking to you is either a 404 or a 301. See 301 redirects, 404 errors.
Link Stuffing

Linking to high-ranking sites that have nothing to do at all with yours. See Over-optimisation under Section 10, What are the common SEO mistakes I need to avoid?

LSI Keyword
LSI stands for Latent Semantic Indexing, and this kind of keyword is a word or phrase that’s super related to your topic. Google uses these keywords to help it assess the quality and relevance of your content. For example, if your topic is “breakfast”, LSI keywords could include “toast”, “kaya” or “cereal”.
Long Tail Keyword
This is a more specific keyword that people are more likely to use toward the end of their buyer’s journey. For example, “strawberry shortcake singapore delivery” is a long tail keyword versus just “strawberry shortcake”.
Markup
Very simply, this is what you call the characters in a text file that says what the file is supposed to look like when it’s displayed online. People often refer to these characters in a file as “tags”.
Meta
In IT, it’s a prefix that means “description of”. See Meta Data, Meta Description, Meta Tag, Meta Title, Meta Robot No Index.
Meta Data
In SEO, this is what you see in the SERPs for each website that comes out after a query. It usually includes the page title and a description. See Meta Description.
Meta Description
This is the descriptive text below the title of a webpage that usually contains a summary of the page content.
Meta Tag
These are bits of code that tell search engines what they need to know about your webpage, like what the page is supposed to look like in the search results.
Meta Title, title tag
The title of a webpage.
Meta Robot No Index
This is a tag that tells search engines what to follow and what not to follow.
Nofollow, noindex
This tells the crawler not to follow any links on your webpage or pass any link equity to another page. This is part of the robots meta tag. See Robots Meta Tag.
Offsite SEO, Off-page SEO
This covers link building, social media and local SEO. See Section 5, What’s offsite SEO?
Onsite SEO, On-page SEO
Optimising individual webpages to rank higher in search results and increase relevant traffic. See Section 4, What’s onsite SEO?
Optimise
To perform the “O” in SEO, is to analyse your website, conduct the necessary research and to do whatever is needed to find and address the issues that keep your site from ranking better. Taken literally, you might define it as “making the most” of your website to get the highest possible ranking.
Organic, organic traffic
In digital marketing, “organic” refers to anything that occurs naturally without having to pay for it. “Organic traffic”, therefore, is what you call visits to your website that come from search results that don’t include paid ads.
Orphan Pages
These are your webpages that don’t have any other pages on your site linking to them.
Page Rank, page ranking
This is the position of a website in search results, i.e. whether it’s one of the first or the last websites listed on a SERP.
Parser, parsing
To “parse” is to gather and extract information from online sources automatically, and a parser is what carries that process out.
Pixel
In this Guide, this refers to the Facebook Pixel which is a bit of code you put on your website to help you understand what people do on your website. Every time someone does something on your website like adding to cart or buying something, the pixel fires and the data is collected.
Prefetching, preloading, prerendering
This is loading the content even before someone clicks to make sure the page loads faster.
Preferred Version, preferred domain
This is the version of your website that you want to come out in the SERPs, and the version you want people to see whether they type in “www” or not. See Domain.
Question Keywords
Keywords that come in the form of a question that are growing in popularity, e.g. How much is an MBA?, What are the best acne treatments? See Keyword.
Redirect, redirect chains
What you do when you send someone to a URL that’s different from the one they wanted to go to. A chain happens when you send someone to a URL that’s already been redirected.
Robot
Another word for “crawler”. See Crawler.
Robots Meta Tag
This is a bit of code that tells the crawlers which directories, pages or links to look at and index, and which ones not to. See Nofollow.
Robots.txt
This is a file that tells the crawlers which pages or parts of a website they have permission to search.
Scheduler
In SEO, it’s a software or tool that helps to automate SEO tasks. In this Guide, in particular, this is the part of the search engine that decides which webpages get crawled first. See Section 2, How do search engines work in ranking a website?
Schema, schema markup
This is a kind of data that you add to a webpage to give context to the content.
Screaming Frog
Named for the company that created it, this crawler extracts data and audits your site to help you sort out SEO problems like finding broken links and duplicate content and reviewing robots and the instructions they’ve been given. See Screaming Frog under Section 8, What tools do you need to help you do SEO?
Search Engine Results Pages (SERP)
These are the pages that come out after you enter a search query into a search engine. They contain both organic and paid search results.
Search Term, search query
What you enter into a search engine when conducting a search. See Keyword.
SEMrush
A multipurpose SEO tool whose uses include conducting keyword research, keeping tabs on your competition’s keyword strategy, auditing your blog, and finds backlinking opportunities. See SEMrush under Section 8, What tools do you need to help you do SEO?
Serve Resources
This is an error that comes out when a file uses multiple URLs, which in turn slows down the loading time of a page.
Site Architecture, site structure
This is how your webpages are structured and linked together. Ideal architecture makes it easier for your website visitors and the crawlers to find what they’re looking for.
Sitemap
A list of the URLs of your website that helps search engines crawl your site more efficiently and find isolated URLs. See HTML Sitemap.
Snippets, rich snippets, rich results
These are search results with extra data that Google extracts from the structured data of a page (provided that the page was set up to make it possible for Google to do so). Check out the difference between a normal snippet and a rich snippet below. See Structured Data.
Special Content Results
These are results shown in blocks designed to show content on the SERPs themselves, so that users won’t have to click or tap to load another page. See The Importance of Being Mobile-Friendly under Section 3, What should I know before working on SEO?
Spider
Another name for robots or crawlers. See Crawler.
Structured Data
This is a standardised format for giving search engines information about a webpage. See Schema.
Subpage
A page that comes out below top-level or main pages of a website. For example, www.site.com/services would be a subpage of www.site.com, while www.site.com/services/airconditioning would be a subpage of www.site.com/services.
Technical SEO
Refers to improving the technical aspects of a website to improve its ranking and is all about making a website faster and easier to crawl to understand. See Section 6, What’s Technical SEO?
Title Tag
The title of a webpage and what comes out in the SERPs as a clickable result. Should be an accurate and concise description of a page’s content.
Title Tag Modifiers
These are extra words like “best” or “2020” added by the search engine users themselves because they want more specific results.
Topic Cluster
A group of webpages whose content is related to a single core topic. Organising your content in such clusters helps search engines identify your area of expertise and to understand the relationship between pages. An example of a topic cluster would include pages on knee surgery, knee replacement and knee injuries.
Toxic Links
Backlinks that are bad for SEO because they hamper your site’s ability to rank well in search engine results. Examples of toxic links include paid links and links from adult websites or gaming sites.
Tracking Code
In website analytics, this is a bit of automatically generated JavaScript code that tracks what a website visitor does by collecting data. These codes are unique to each website and need to be installed on every page to be tracked. See Pixel.
URL
Stands for Uniform or Universal Resource Locator and is the address of a page on the World Wide Web.
User Experience (UX)
What you call the overall experience of someone using a website or an app. Keeping this in mind while designing and developing your site and its content will make sure your give your website visitors (who may be potential or current customers) a meaningful and enjoyable experience.
Web 2.0
This is what you call the second generation of the World Wide Web which is more organised, focused on providing web-based applications, and emphasises the ability of people to collaborate and share information online.
Webmaster
Anybody who manages a website and is usually responsible for making sure the server is running smoothly, designing the site, creating and updating webpages, replying to feedback, and monitoring traffic.
White Hat SEO
The polar opposite of Black Hat SEO, it refers to anything that enhances your site’s rankings while maintaining its integrity and remaining within the bounds of search engine terms of service. See Black Hat SEO.
Widget
An app or an interface component that displays information or gives people a specific way to interact with the app itself. Examples of widgets include search boxes, stock market tickers and calculators.
Wordpress
A free, easy-to-use Content Management System or CMS used to build and maintain websites that is notable for its blogging features.
YMYL
Stands for Your Money or Your Life, and is Google’s definition of content covering a person’s future happiness, health, safety, investments or financial stability. See Quality of Content under Section 2, How do search engines work in ranking a website?

We’ve done our best to simplify as many SEO terms as we could, but there’s bound to be a few bits of jargon here and there that we may have missed and consequently may have gone over your head. If our Guide’s got a word or two you’d like us to explain further or you’d like to add to our Glossary, we’d love if it if you let us know.

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?

It’s our Pillar Content Strategy. (Shh.)

Find out how it works when you download this handy-dandy deck which summarises why our killer combo of content, topic clusters and pillar pages is so effective — and could be effective for you, too.