Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

The Ultimate Guide to being found and attracting those who matter to your business.

Search Engine Optimization

Introduction

Definition

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the practice of optimizing a website or webpage to improve its visibility and ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs) for specific keywords or phrases.

This is done through a combination of on-page and off-page techniques, such as keyword research, content optimization, link building, and technical SEO.

The goal of SEO is to increase organic (non-paid) traffic to a website by making it easier for search engines to understand the content on the site and rank it higher in search results.

Importance of SEO in marketing

In today's digital landscape, businesses must have a strong online presence. One of the main ways businesses increase visibility is through search engines like Google, Bing, or Baidu to find products or services they are interested in. By understanding how search engine optimization works and by optimizing their websites for search engines, businesses increase their chances of being found, leading to a stronger overall online presence and increased website traffic.

The best place to hide a dead body is page 2 of Google search results.

Keyword research

How to identify relevant keywords for your business

The process of identifying the words and phrases that people use when searching for products or services related to your business. This is important because choosing the right keywords can help to attract the right kind of visitors to your website. To identify relevant keywords, you can start by brainstorming a list of words and phrases related to your business. You can also use tools like Google Keyword Planner or Ahrefs to help you find popular keywords in your industry.

Tools for keyword research
There are many tools available to help with keyword research, and we are using a number of them at Aspiration Marketing. Suggested tools to consider include:

  • Google Keyword Planner: This is a free tool provided by Google that allows you to see the search volume and competition level for specific keywords.

  • Ahrefs: This is a paid tool that provides detailed keyword data, including search volume, competition level, and the number of clicks a keyword can generate.

  • SEMrush: This is another paid tool that offers keyword research capabilities, as well as a range of other SEO and marketing features.

  • KWFinder: This is a paid tool that provides keyword data, including search volume, difficulty level, and cost-per-click (CPC) estimates.

  • Ubersuggest: This is a free tool that provides keyword suggestions and data on search volume and competition level.

SEO is not about tricking Google. It’s about creating a website for users that makes it easy for search engines to understand and rank your content." - Rand Fishkin, Co-Founder of MOZ

Topical SEO / Content Optimization

Google, the leading search engine, emphasizes the importance of creating high-quality and valuable content for your website. By regularly publishing fresh and informative content, your website can improve its search engine visibility and attract more traffic. It is important to note that SEO has shifted from focusing solely on keyword optimization to prioritizing topical optimization.

Topical authority refers to the level of authority a website has on a specific subject matter, as determined by the quality of its content.


By establishing oneself as an authoritative expert in an industry through informative and high-quality articles, a website can gain more trust from readers and a higher level of topical authority. For example, a blog post about SEO written by a well-known expert in the field would be considered more authoritative than one written by a beginner or someone who hasn't yet established themselves as an expert on the topic.

Gaining topical authority is crucial for demonstrating a website's understanding of its audience and the information they are searching for online. It can be achieved through various means, such as high-quality content, authoritative links pointing to the website, and social media shares. Topical authority is a key metric that ranks websites according to the quality of information they offer, and it's essential for any website that wants to thrive in today's digital landscape.

Key contributing elements include:

Creating high-quality, unique, and informative content that is regularly updated.

Creating high-quality, unique, and informative content that is regularly updated is an essential part of any successful digital strategy. The first step in creating this type of content is research. By researching your topic, you can identify what information is already available and look for gaps in existing content that you can fill with your unique insights and perspectives.

Once you have a solid understanding of your topic, developing a content plan that outlines the topics you will cover and the frequency of updates is crucial. This will help you stay organized and on track and ensure that your content is consistent and relevant.

When writing your content, it's essential to use clear and engaging language and to proofread and edit your work to ensure that it is error-free and easy to understand. Additionally, optimizing your content for search engines by including relevant keywords and meta tags will help increase its visibility and reach a wider audience.

Content Marketing

Use a variety of content types

Keep in mind the target audience while creating the content and optimize it for the platform on which your target audience spends its time. The intent is to have your content resonate with the intended audience to facilitate increased engagement and sharing. Various content types can help to diversify the content strategy further and increase reach.

    • Blog Posts: Research your topic and create an outline, and write the post using SEO best practices.

    • Infographics: Use a tool such as Canva or Piktochart to design your infographic. Make sure to include relevant data and statistics.

    • Videos: Use a video creation tool such as iMovie or Adobe Premiere to create a video. Script, storyboard, and plan the video before filming.

    • Images: Use a photo editing tool such as Adobe Photoshop or Canva to create images. Ensure that the photos are high-resolution and of good quality.

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Optimizing the content for both users and search engines.

Optimizing content for both users and search engines can be done by including keywords, meta tags, and meta descriptions. Here are some steps you can take:

Keyword Research: Research keywords relevant to your content and that people are searching for. Use tools like Google Keyword Planner to find popular keywords.

Include keywords: Use the keywords in your content, but make sure to use them in a natural way. Don't stuff keywords in unnaturally; this can negatively impact the user experience.

Meta tags: Meta tags provide information about your page to search engines. The most important meta tags for SEO are the "title" and "description" tags. Make sure to include your keywords in the title and description tags, as search engines often use these to display your page in the search results.

Meta descriptions: Meta descriptions provide a summary of your page's content. It's important to include your keywords in the meta description and make it compelling enough to encourage users to click through to your site.

Optimize images: Optimize images by compressing them, using relevant file names, and including alt tags that describe them. By following these steps, you can help search engines understand what your page is about and make it more likely to rank well in the search results.

When in doubt, create relevant content that makes sense to the person you are looking to engage. Eventually, that's what matters. - Joachim Koch, Aspiration Marketing


Creating the topical infrastructure

A great topical infrastructure takes the ingredients and combines them into a dominant topical force:

    • Blog posts:  Educational core elements of any content marketing strategy. A blog post is published regularly and is used to educate, inform, and engage an audience. These attract visitors across all stages of the buyer's journey, Awareness, Consideration, and Decision Making, with specific content for each stage.

    • Pillar pages:   a comprehensive and in-depth guide on a specific topic that is the foundation of a website's content strategy. These pages provide detailed information on a specific topic while also linking to related subtopics; they establish the website as an authoritative source on a specific topic, improve the website's search engine visibility, drive more targeted traffic to the site, and create a strong internal linking structure that enhances the user experience and increases the crawlability of the website by search engines. Pillar pages are often between 5,000 and 10,000 words.

    • Landing pages A web page designed to receive and convert website visitors into a specific action, such as filling out a form, making a purchase, or signing up for a newsletter. These pages are created to match the search intent of users and are typically tailored for a specific campaign or marketing goal. A landing page should be optimized for the user experience and conversion rate, with a clear and compelling call-to-action, relevant images, and minimal navigation to minimize distractions. 

    • Product/services pages: Created to showcase product or service features and specifications to potential customers. Product/Services pages should be optimized for search engines by including keywords, meta descriptions, and structured data. They should also be optimized for user experience by providing clear, concise, and complete product/service information, high-quality images, and product reviews.

On-Page Optimization

On-page optimization (AKA on-page SEO) refers to all measures that can be taken directly within the website in order to improve its position in the search rankings. See the video on using Semrush, one of the leaders in the space:

  • Title tags and meta descriptions: HTML elements that help to provide information about a webpage and provide useful search results. The title tag appears in the browser tab and is also used as the main headline for the page in search engine results. The meta description summarizes the page's content that appears below the title in search results. Both the title tag and meta description should include the main keywords for the page and be written in a way that is attractive to users and encourages them to click through to the page.

  • Headings and content organization: Headings indicate the main sections of a webpage and can help to organize the content in a logical and user-friendly way. HTML defines six levels of headings. A heading element implies all the font changes, paragraph breaks before and after, and any white space necessary to render the heading. The heading elements are H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, and H6, with H1 being the highest (or most important) level and H6 the least. It is important to include your main keywords in the H1 tags and to use subheadings (H2, H3, etc.) to break up the content, make it easier to read and give search engines a hand in understanding your content.

  • Image optimization: Optimizing images for SEO involves using relevant, descriptive file names and alt tags, as well as compressing the images to reduce their file size. This can help search engines understand the content of the images and improve the page's ranking in search results.

  • Internal linking: Internal linking refers to the practice of linking to other pages on your own website. This can help to improve the user experience by making it easier for visitors to find related content and can also help search engines to understand the structure and hierarchy of your website. It is important to use descriptive anchor text (the text that links to the other page) and to link to relevant pages whenever possible. Internal linking is a core component of topical SEP, implementing your topic cluster approach.

Off-Page Optimization

  • Link building: Link building or backlinking is obtaining links from other websites to your own. These links are considered "votes of confidence" and drive the importance of backlinks search engines place on them, helping to improve a website's ranking in search results. There are several ways to build links, including creating high-quality content that other websites will want to link to, participating in industry forums and discussion groups, and reaching out to other websites to request a link. It is important to build high-quality, relevant links from reputable websites.

  • Local SEO: Local SEO refers to optimizing a website for a specific geographic location. This is important for businesses that serve a local market and can help to increase visibility in local search results. Techniques for optimizing for local SEO include claiming and optimizing your Google My Business listing, including your location and contact information on your website, and getting listed in local directories.

  • Social media presence: Having a strong presence on social media platforms can help to improve your SEO in several ways. By sharing your website's content on social media and engaging with your followers, you can drive traffic to your website and increase the number of links to your site. In addition, search engines may take your social media activity into account when ranking your website in search results.

SEO Optimization
Technical SEO is the process of optimizing the technical aspects of a website to improve its visibility and ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Technical SEO 

Technical SEO involves various techniques and best practices to make it easier for search engines to crawl, index, and understand a website's content.

It is distinct from on-page and off-page SEO, which focus on optimizing the content and backlinks of a website, respectively. When doing technical SEO, there are several topics to look at:

  • Site structure: Ensure that your site has a clear and logical structure that makes it easy for search engines to crawl and understand. This includes having a sitemap, using descriptive URLs, and organizing your content into categories and subcategories.

  • Website speed and performance: Make sure your website loads quickly and is optimized for both desktop and mobile devices. This includes compressing images, minifying code, and using a content delivery network (CDN).

  • 301 redirects and broken links: Any broken links or 404 errors need to be resolved by setting up 301 redirects.

  • Meta tags and structured data: Use meta tags and structured data to provide search engines with information about your website and its content. This includes title tags, meta descriptions, and schema markup.

  • Robots.txt and XML sitemap: Create a robots.txt file to control how search engines crawl and index your website, and submit an XML sitemap to help search engines understand the structure of your site.

  • HTTPS and security: Ensure that your website is using HTTPS and has appropriate security measures in place to protect user data. A nice tool to identify security issues in your domain is hardenize.

  • Analytics and tracking: Use analytics and tracking tools to monitor your website's performance and identify any technical issues that need to be addressed.

  • Internationalization and localization: If your website is targeting multiple languages or countries, make sure to implement hreflang tags and to have unique URLs for each language/country version.

Technical SEO is an ongoing process that requires regular monitoring and maintenance to ensure that the website remains optimized and that any issues are identified and addressed promptly. It's essential to the success of any website, as it ensures that search engines can easily understand and rank the website's content, improving its visibility and reach to potential customers.

Local SEO

Local SEO is optimizing a website for local, geographically limited search results to increase the visibility and ranking of a business in search engine results pages (SERPs) for specific geographic locations.

This is typically done for businesses with physical locations, such as brick-and-mortar stores, restaurants, and service providers that serve a specific geographic area, e.g., attorneys, doctors, and realtors. Local SEO includes elements such as:

  • Creating and optimizing a Google My Business listing, which is a free listing on Google that helps businesses to appear in Google Maps and Google search.

  • Ensuring that your website's NAP (Name, Address, Phone) information is consistent and accurate across all online directories and platforms.

  • Building local citations, which are mentions of your business on other websites, such as online directories, review sites, and local news outlets.

  • Optimizing your website's content to include relevant keywords, location-based terms, and other details that help search engines understand your business's location and services.

  • Generating positive customer reviews on popular review sites like Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.

  • Optimizing images and videos for local search, including using local keywords in the file names and alt tags

  • By implementing these Local SEO best practices, a business can improve its visibility and ranking in search engine results for specific geographic locations, which can help to attract more local customers and increase revenue.

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Measuring and Tracking

Key performance indicators (KPIs)

SEO Key performance indicators (KPIs) are metrics that are used to measure the success of an SEO campaign. Some common KPIs for SEO include:

    • Organic traffic: This is the number of visitors who come to your website through a search engine, as opposed to through a paid advertisement or another source.

    • Keyword rankings: Tracking the ranking of your website for specific keywords can help you to see how well your website is performing in search results.

    • Conversion rate: This is the percentage of visitors to your website who take a desired action, such as making a purchase or filling out a form.

    • Cost-per-click (CPC): The amount you pay for each click on a paid search advertisement.

Website Grader

Tools for tracking and analyzing SEO performance

There are several tools available to help you track and analyze your SEO performance, including:

    • Google Analytics: A free tool allowing tracking website traffic, user behavior, conversions, and many other metrics.

    • Semrush: Semrush provides a wide range of professional SEO and marketing features, including keyword tracking, website audit and recommendations, backlink data, and competitor analysis.

    • Ahrefs: Offers a range of SEO features, including keyword tracking, backlink analysis, and competitor analysis.

    • Moz:  Provides a range of SEO and marketing features, including keyword tracking, website audit, and link-building tools.

Google Search ranking updates

To present their users (about 90% of us, worldwide) the most relevant content on an ongoing basis, Google updates its algorithms on an ongoing basis. This page lists the latest ranking updates and the associated implementation timeline made to Google Search. To learn more about how Google makes improvements to Search and why Google shares updates, check out our blog post on How Google updates Search. You can also find more updates about Google Search on Google's blog.

SEO is not a one-time effort but a continuous process. It is important to regularly update and optimize your website to ensure it performs well in search results. This may involve ongoing keyword research, updating content, and building additional links.

Common SEO pitfalls to avoid

  • Keyword stuffing: Keyword stuffing refers to the practice of cramming as many keywords as possible into a webpage in an attempt to manipulate search engine rankings. This is a black hat SEO technique that is generally frowned upon by search engines and can harm a website's ranking. It is important to use keywords naturally and in moderation rather than trying to stuff them into the content.

  • Hidden text or links: Another black hat SEO technique is using hidden text or links. This refers to text or links that are visible to search engines but not to users. This practice is considered deceptive and can result in a penalty or even a ban from search engines.

  • Duplicate content: Duplicate content refers to identical or nearly identical content that appears on multiple pages or websites. This can confuse search engines and lower rankings for the affected pages. It is important to ensure that all of the content on your website is original and not copied from other sources.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is SEO and why is it important?

SEO, or search engine optimization, is optimizing a website to improve its visibility and ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs). This is important because higher rankings in search results can lead to increased website traffic, higher sales, and a stronger online presence.

How do I optimize my website for SEO?

Many factors can affect a website's ranking in search results, including the use of relevant keywords, the quality and structure of the content, and the number and quality of backlinks from other websites. To optimize your website for SEO, you may want to conduct keyword research, optimize your on-page elements (such as title tags and headings), build high-quality backlinks, and ensure that your website is mobile-friendly and has a fast loading speed.

How do I track the performance of my website in search results?
Several tools can help you track the performance of your website in search results, including Google Analytics and SEMrush. These tools can provide data on metrics such as website traffic, keyword rankings, and conversion rates.
How long does it take to see results from SEO?
The time it takes to see results from SEO efforts can vary depending on several factors, such as the competitiveness of your industry and the strength of your website's current SEO. Generally, it can take several months to see significant results from SEO efforts.
Is SEO the same as paid search?
No, SEO and paid search (also known as pay-per-click or PPC advertising) are two different strategies for increasing visibility in search results. SEO involves optimizing your website to improve its ranking in organic (non-paid) search results, while paid search involves paying to have your website appear as a sponsored result in search results. Both strategies can be effective, but they work differently and serve different purposes.

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