Understanding what is SEO and its purpose, and how to leverage it for growth is a skill business owners, website owners, and marketers should take advantage of.
In this master guide, I’ll share with you core concepts, strategies, and my views on this Customer Acquisition Channel that can completely transform your revenue and take your brand to the next level.
Just like you use your Social Media or Google Ads, SEO is a Customer Acquisition Channel – even if you don’t use your website for business purposes.
An SEO definition for ya…
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the ranking of a website on search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. SEO entails a set of techniques and strategies used to increase the number of visitors to a website by ranking higher on the search engine results pages (SERP).
Here are some of the most common SEO strategies and techniques SEOs apply when optimizing a website for search engines:
This involves making changes to the content and structure of a website to make it more relevant and useful to search engines and users. This includes optimizing titles, descriptions, and keywords to match the terms people are searching for.
This involves building high-quality links from other websites to your own. As I always say, off-page SEO is all the things happening outside your website.
Search engines view links from other reputable websites as a sign of quality and credibility. So the more high-quality links you have pointing to your site, the higher it will rank.
Off-page is closely connected to some aspects of E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness).
This involves ensuring that a website is technically sound and easy for search engines to crawl and index. This includes optimizing the website’s loading speed and ensuring it’s mobile-friendly.
However! As an SEO professional, I treat SEO Content as its own pillar. I see on-page SEO as a means to further optimize content.
I do this because when I work on a client’s content strategy, I’m looking at keywords, a content calendar, the audiences we will attract, etc. So it’s just easier for me to make that distinction.
A site’s SEO Content – also called Content Marketing – has been specifically created to attract and engage search engines to improve the visibility of a website.
SEO content is typically optimized around specific keywords or phrases that users are searching for, and it’s designed to be informative and useful to the user.
Blog posts: These are informative articles that are typically long-form and cover a specific topic in depth. They can be optimized with targeted keywords and are often used to attract traffic to a website through search engines.
Web pages: These are pages on a website that are optimized with targeted keywords and are designed to rank highly in search engine results. Examples of web pages might include product pages, service pages, and landing pages.
Overall, the goal of SEO content is to provide value to users, while also helping a website rank higher in search engine results. This can be achieved by creating high-quality, informative, and useful content, optimized for specific search intent keywords and phrases.
The strategies we apply for Local SEO differ slightly or focus on different tools, so I prefer to treat this as its own SEO pillar.
Local SEO entails optimizing a business’s online presence to rank highly in local search results. This includes optimizing the business’s website and its presence on local directory websites and local maps.
Claiming and optimizing Google Business Profile listing. This used to be called Google Business Manager. It consists of a free listing provided by Google that allows businesses to manage their online presence across Google, including Google Maps and Google Search. By claiming and optimizing this listing, businesses can improve their visibility in local search results.
Adding the business to local directories and citations. Local directories are websites that list local businesses in a specific area. Being in these directories can improve visibility in local search results.
Optimizing the website for local keywords. This involves including local keywords and phrases in the content and meta tags of the website to signal to search engines that the website is relevant to users in a specific location.
Building local backlinks. This entails acquiring links from local websites to improve the credibility and ranking of the business’s website in local search results.
Overall, the goal of local SEO is to make it easier for people in a specific geographic area to find and connect with a local business online. By optimizing for local search, you can improve your visibility and attract more customers from your service area.
Link building is the process of acquiring high-quality links from other websites to your own. These links, also known as backlinks, act as votes of confidence for your website and can improve its ranking in search engine results.
Here are some strategies websites use to gain links and build a reputation online:
Creating high-quality, informative content that is likely to be shared and linked to by other websites. In other words, these are “shareable assets.” For example, you could create an infographic engagingly displaying data.
This is, to me, a bit like the “egg or the chicken.” Because to have findable content, it sort of needs to rank high on search results. Still, this is a great approach, but not super realistic if we are being honest (which we are, of course!)
Your site needs to already have some sort of traction to get it to the point where others share its content.
Writing articles for other websites in your industry and including a link to your website.
This is one of my faves. You can network, collaborate with other website owners, and submit content you’ve created for their website and audience.
I built my travel blog (which now I’ve sold) using this strategy and the one below. Being a guest blogger on high-profile travel websites boosted my site’s authority, traffic, and affiliate income.
This is when bloggers within your network create listicle articles and include a blurb you wrote – with a link to your site or a relevant article. Again, I did this a lot back when I had my blog, and it was great. A caveat here is that this works mainly and only for bloggers. Usually, brands are not allowed in these types of listicle articles.
Identifying resource pages in your industry that link to other websites and reaching out to the webmaster to request a link from their page. We can also call this type of link-building “editorial placements.”
Identifying broken links on other websites and offering a replacement link to a relevant page on your own website.
Reaching out to influencers or experts in your industry and asking them to share a link to your website on their own website or social media accounts.
This works well for businesses with an address.
It consists of adding your business and website to local directories. Having your Google Business Profile is an example of this.
At the end of the day, the goal of link building is to acquire high-quality backlinks from reputable and relevant websites. These links improve the credibility and ranking of your website in search engine results and are an important part of your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.
As your backlink profile grows, your Domain Authority will grow as well.
Technical SEO refers to the optimization of a website’s technical infrastructure and architecture to make it more easily discoverable and crawlable by search engines.
This is a VERY important aspect of SEO! Technical SEO helps ensure your website is technically sound and can be easily indexed and ranked by search engines.
Here’s the T. Having a technically sound website DOESN’T guarantee rankings. What it does is that it puts your site in the best position for growth.
If You Wonder What Is Technical SEO, Here’s a Bit of The Lingo You Can Start Getting Used To…
This refers to the ability of search engines to crawl and index the pages on a website. It is key to ensure that a website is easily crawlable for it to be properly indexed and ranked in search results.
The loading speed of a website can impact its rankings. Optimizing a site for speed (especially on Mobile) to provide a good user experience and improve its ranking is fundamental.
However! (why do I always feel I have more to clarify!) It’s been controversial how much site speed ACTUALLY impacts rankings. It can become complex to improve a site’s performance, even though there are small things anyone can do without the need for a web developer.
From my perspective, an important consideration that’s often overlooked is to gauge your competitors’ site speed. Whenever I start searching for a recipe, every single website I get to is loaded with ads, and pop-ups, and works super slowly. I don’t think these sites provide a good user experience! Still, they rank top 3 and get tons of traffic. So, if “all” sites are slow, then do you REEEEALLY need to focus on site speed?
The short and politically-correct answer is YES. The long answer is: not necessarily.
Everyone accesses the internet on their mobile devices! Ensuring your site is mobile-friendly will help it rank. This includes having a responsive design that’s properly formatted content for mobile screens.
Structured data is a standardized format for providing information about a webpage to search engines. Adding structured data to a website can help search engines understand a page’s content and improve its ranking in search results.
The structure of a website’s URLs can impact its ranking in search results. URLs should be clear, easy to read, and include relevant keywords.
To wrap up this short overview of technical SEO, think of it as a way to optimize the technical aspects of a website to make it more easily discoverable and crawlable by search engines.
Keywords are a core concept in SEO. They refer to specific words and phrases people use when searching for information online.
These keywords help search engines understand the content of a webpage. They also determine its relevance to a particular search query.
Several types of keywords can be used in SEO, including:
These are short, general keywords that are often used by people who are just starting to research a topic. They are typically made up of one or two words and are very broad in nature.
These are longer, more specific keywords used by people who are further along in their research process. They are typically made up of three or more words and are more specific.
These are keywords that include the name of a specific brand or product.
These are keywords that include a specific location or geographic area.
In SEO, including relevant keywords is a MUST. That’s how you inform Google (and users!!!) what the page is about and what they can expect from your content.
There are many tools available for keyword research! These will help you identify the most relevant and popular keywords for your website or business. Here are a few examples – my personal favorite at the end of the list!
This is a free tool provided by Google that allows you to research and analyze keywords for your website or business. It provides data on the search volume and competition level of different keywords, which can help you choose the most effective keywords to target.
This is a paid tool. It provides a range of SEO and keyword research features, including data on the search volume and competition level of different keywords, as well as information on the top-ranking pages for a particular keyword. I love Ahrefs level of detail, as you can target specific locations for a more in-depth, local search.
Semrush provides a range of SEO and keyword research features, including data on the search volume and competition level of different keywords, as well as information on the top-ranking pages for a particular keyword. It’s paid, but you get about five searches a day for free.
This is a free tool that generates a list of keywords based on a seed keyword that you provide. It can be good for generating ideas for new keywords to target.
There are more tools, but my TOP favorite, which I’ve been using for over 3 years is…
I LOVE Keysearch. It’s paid but very affordable (about USD 17, much less than other paid tools that sit at over $99 for a monthly basic plan).
Keysearch has a veeeeery easy to understand interface. Also, they have a Content Assistant that helps you optimize your content. I also have AHREFS, but nothing beats KEYSEARCH.
Experimenting and using keyword research tools is a superpower! They will give you insights and help you identify the most relevant and popular keywords for your industry.
These tools will help you choose the most effective keywords to target in your SEO efforts.
Long-form blog content refers to articles or blog posts that are longer and cover a specific topic in depth – like this guide you are reading right now!
These types of articles are typically more in-depth and comprehensive than shorter articles or blog posts. They are often used to provide a detailed examination of a particular subject.
Long-form blog content is typically more than 1,500 words and can be a useful way to provide value to readers by covering a topic in-depth and offering a thorough examination of the topic. It can also be an effective way to attract traffic to a website through search engines, as longer articles tend to rank better in search results.
However, it is important to ensure that long-form blog content is well-written, well-researched, and informative to be effective. No fluff or filler words!
It should also be well-organized and easy to read, with headings and subheadings to break up the text and make it more digestible. Long-form blog content can be useful for providing value to readers and attracting traffic to a website.
The key to creating long-form content is to have it be a part of your overall content strategy. It will depend on which type of site you own and what’s your business model.
Refers to articles or blog posts that are shorter in length and cover a specific topic briefly.
These types of articles are typically less in-depth and comprehensive than longer articles or blog posts, and they are often used to provide a quick overview of a particular subject.
Short-form blog content is typically less than 1,000 words. It can be a useful way to provide readers with a quick overview of a topic or to share timely news or updates. However, short-form blog content also needs to be well-written and provide value to be effective.
Google tends to rank long-form content higher. However, your strategy can be to post short articles more often and build links to increase their visibility. As you can see, it all comes down to your content plan!
Overall, short-form blog content can be a useful tool for providing quick updates or overviews of a topic. Some queries don’t need 3000 words! For example, if I type: “How to add a user to Google Search Console” a short set of instructions will be all I’m after. I don’t want a crash course on GSC. In other words, it comes down to the intent of the keyword and how you position your content to answer it.
This is a term used to describe the most important and comprehensive content on a website.
It is the content that forms the foundation of the website and serves as a resource for other pages on the site.
Cornerstone content is typically long-form and in-depth. It is designed to be comprehensive and engage readers keen to learn. It is, sometimes, the content that ranks highest in search engine results and attracts the most traffic to a website. This type of word-heavy article also has the goal to tell Google all about your site! They are created to position you as an expert in your niche, showing off all you know!
For example, this guide you are reading is basically, a long-form article that acts as cornerstone content on my site on the topic of “What Is SEO?”
Internal linking in SEO refers to the process of linking to other pages within the same website. Internal links are used to help users and search engines navigate a website and understand the relationship between its pages.
There are several benefits to using internal linking in SEO:
Internal links help users easily find and access other pages on a website, which can improve the overall user experience.
Internal links help search engines discover and crawl new pages on a website, which can improve the visibility of the website in search results.
Internal links can help distribute link equity (also known as “link juice”) from one page to another, which can help improve the ranking of individual pages on a website.
By linking to relevant pages within a website, internal links can help signal to search engines the relevance of those pages to a particular topic or keyword.
To effectively use internal linking in SEO, you need to use descriptive anchor text (the hyperlinked text) and link to relevant pages within the website. You should also use a logical and hierarchical structure for the internal linking of a website to make it easy for users and search engines to navigate and understand your site’s content.
For example, you have your Home Page. From it, you link to your most important pages/categories: Product Main Categories, About Us, and Blog. And then, from your Main Categories, you link to specific products. Or, for example, you can have your best-selling products directly on the Home Page – to signal their importance.
A content strategy is a plan for creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to a specific audience to achieve specific goals. Here are some tips to get your SEO Content Strategy going:
Define your target audience. This includes identifying their needs, interests, and goals, as well as understanding how they consume content, and where they are most likely to go searching for it.
Next, you will need to define the specific goals you want to achieve with your content. These goals might include attracting traffic to your website, generating leads, increasing sales, or building brand awareness.
Once you have defined your audience and goals, you’ll need to determine the key messages and themes you want to convey through your content. This will help ensure relevancy and consistency. Doing your keyword research also goes here!
A content calendar is a schedule for creating and distributing your content.
You will need to decide on the types of content you will create, such as blog posts, social media posts, videos, podcasts, and more. When determining your content mix, consider your audience’s preferences and your goals. Do know: You don’t need to be everywhere or grinding to put content out. In other words…
Once you’ve determined the best content distribution channels – such as your website, social media, email, etc. – you can start repurposing content here and there. For example, I will use snippets of this blog post for Instagram posts and LinkedIn. I’ll also repurpose those IG posts as stories, and so on.
I hear you. You may be thinking…well if no one is finding my site, how can I measure traction and performance? In this case, I suggest you read my article on why your site is not showing up on Google.
Creating a content strategy requires careful planning and consideration.
Both for your audience and for the specific goals you want to achieve with your content.
OMG. There’s always so much controversy around this topic. My issue is that I can see both sides of the coin.
SEO CAN be challenging, just like anything else. But then, what makes this acquisition channel even more “obscure” than many others? My take is: because it changes so fast.
HOWEVER!!! There are easy-to-grasp fundamentals that remain and can shield great results for those willing to apply them consistently.
Some agencies sell SEO as “oh, you don’t need to wait and pay for long” etc. Others say “SEO takes long…” From my perspective, it does take time to catch on, but once a site starts flying, it can grow fast!
I think, at the core, setting the issue of SEO as it being hard or easy is just missing the point. The point here is SEO can make you LOTS of money, build your brand and serve your audience. I personally see SEO as a more fair ad sustainable way than focusing solely on Social Media – just to name an example.
Rant over. LOL.
With all this said, here’s why I think SEO can be considered challenging:
Search engines are constantly updating their algorithms, which can make it difficult to stay up-to-date on the latest best practices and strategies.
There is often a lot of competition for high rankings in search results, which can make it challenging to achieve high rankings.
SEO involves many factors, including on-page optimization, off-page optimization, technical SEO, and more. It can be challenging to keep track of all of these and ensure they all work together effectively.
SEO can be time-consuming and require a significant investment of resources, including time, money, and expertise.
The way that people search and consume content online is constantly changing. This makes it difficult to predict and adapt to shifts in user behavior.
With a clear understanding of SEO principles and consistent action, it is possible to achieve EXCELLENT results and improve your site’s visibility and sales.
An algorithm update is a change made to the algorithms that search engines use to rank websites in search results.
Search engines periodically update their algorithms to improve the quality of search results and make them more relevant to users.
Algorithm updates can have a significant impact on the ranking of websites in search results and often result in changes to website traffic.
Some algorithm updates are minor and have a limited impact. Others are more powerful, called “CORE UPDATES” and can have a massive impact on search results.
Here are some examples of Core algorithm updates:
Aimed at improving the quality of search results by penalizing websites with low-quality or thin content.
Aimed at penalizing websites that engaged in spammy or manipulative link-building practices.
Aimed at improving the quality of search results by better understanding the context and meaning behind queries and providing more relevant results.
This update, which was released in 2015, was a machine learning system designed to help Google better understand the meaning of queries and provide more relevant results.
This update, released in 2015, increased the importance of mobile-friendliness in search rankings.
This was a major advancement in natural language processing that helped Google better understand the context and meaning of words in searches.
Quite self-explanatory. This update aims to feature the most relevant and helpful content, valuing a site’s experience, authority and expertise.
Algorithm updates are a CORE part of the search landscape, and website owners and SEO professionals need to stay up-to-date on the latest updates to ensure that their websites are optimized for search engines.
Domain authority (DA) is a metric used to predict the likelihood that a website will rank well in search engine results. It is a score that ranges from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating a greater likelihood of ranking well in search results.
Domain authority is calculated by several factors, including the age of the domain, the number and quality of external links pointing to it, the presence of social signals (such as shares and likes), and the quality and relevance of the website’s content.
Domain authority is not an official metric used by search engines. It’s a metric developed by MOZ. “DA” is a useful tool for SEO professionals and website owners to use when assessing the strength of a website and its potential to rank well. It is important to note that domain authority is not a static metric, and it can change over time as a result of changes to the factors that contribute to it.
E-E-A-T stands for “Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.”
It is a concept that was introduced by Google’s search quality rater guidelines as a way to evaluate the quality of websites and pages.
This is very new and was just announced at the end of 2022. It refers to how hands-on and, literally, experienced you are in your niche and what you can do to prove it.
Refers to the author’s or website’s level of knowledge and skill on a particular topic.
The author’s or website’s reputation or credibility.
The website’s reputation for being honest and transparent.
Google states that E-E-A-T is an important factor in its ranking algorithms, as high-quality pages are often created by experts or organizations with a lot of experience on a particular topic.
Improving your website’s E-A-T can help to increase its visibility in search results and improve its overall quality. There are several ways that you can improve your website’s E-A-T, including:
For example, if you have a tools review site, show yourself handling the tools you are reviewing!
Make sure you are knowledgeable about the topics you are writing about and can provide accurate and useful information to your readers.
Build your reputation and credibility by earning high-quality backlinks from authoritative websites and by promoting your content on social media and other platforms.
Be transparent about your website’s purpose and any relationships that you have with other organizations or businesses. Provide contact information and make it easy for users to get in touch with you.
Some metrics used to measure a site’s performance in terms of SEO are:
This is the position of a particular keyword or phrase in search engine results. Tracking keyword rankings can help you understand how well your website is performing for specific keywords and identify areas for improvement.
The percentage of people that find your content and actually click into it.
The times the search engine has shown your content to someone searching on the internet.
This is the number of website visitors who arrive via a search engine as opposed to other sources – such as paid advertising or referral traffic.
This is the average amount of time that visitors spend on a website. A higher time on site can indicate a higher level of engagement with the content.
This is the percentage of visitors to a website who take the desired action, such as filling out a form or making a purchase.
These are just a few examples of the types of metrics that can be useful for measuring site performance in terms of SEO! Tracking a range of metrics to understand the effectiveness of your SEO efforts is the way to go.
If you ask me to point out one tool, I must say that’s GOOGLE SEARCH CONSOLE. Why? Because it DIRECTLY impacts your organic results and visibility.
As I always explain to my clients, this is like having a direct conversation with Google and knowing what it thinks about your site.
In other words, GSC is a free tool provided by Google that allows monitoring website visibility in Google search results.
It provides a range of features and tools for understanding how Google crawls and indexes a website, as well as for identifying and fixing any issues that may impact visibility.
Google Analytics 4 is the brand new evolution from Google Analytics Universal – which will stop tracking hits after June 2023.
Google Analytics is a free web analytics service provided by Google that allows website owners and marketers to track and analyze the traffic and behavior of visitors to their websites.
It provides a range of features and tools for understanding how visitors interact with a website, including data on traffic sources, demographics, user behavior, and more.
As I shared above, there are many tools and browser extensions you should be using for your keyword research. Some are paid, and some are free. Some are more expensive because include all sorts of other features, and some are cheaper and more basic yet super powerful.
I actually suggest NOT creating content without first researching keywords. At least if you want to drive organic traffic to that content!
I don’t want to go down the rabbit hole, but it would be irresponsible not to mention to use a good website audit crawling tool. The ones I use all the time are:
Screaming Frog – Free for small sites. To analyze over 500 URLS you need to buy a license.
Sitebulb – Similar to Screaming Frog but provides tons of reports and is highly customizable. It’s paid but very affordable if compared with classics such as Semrush and Ahrefs.
There are LOTS more. But let’s keep it simple!
Crawling a website refers to the process of using a computer program, known as a “crawler” or “spider,” to automatically access and scan the pages of a website to gather information about them.
In other words, this process is related to how search engines work. Again, they use crawlers or “spiders” to discover new web pages and to update their indexes with the latest information about the content and structure of a website.
When a search engine crawls a website, it follows links from one page to another and indexes the content of each page. The information gathered during the crawl process is used to create a search engine index, which is a database of all the pages that have been crawled. When a user performs a search, the search engine uses the information in its index to return relevant results to the user.
Crawling a website is an important part of the search process. It allows search engines to discover new web pages and to keep their indexes up-to-date with the latest information about the content and structure of a website.
Website owners need to ensure that their websites are easily crawlable to improve their visibility in search results.
This will depend on where you are now and where you are going. If you are looking to grow your site exponentially, then YES. Hiring an expert saves you time and brings up a whole set of intel you didn’t know. More so because the rules change all the time!
There are three different business models we can apply here: DIY vs. DWF vs. DFY
When you go at it alone. This is usually the case with businesses in the early stages.
When you get guidance. A step up. When you engage a professional to help, coach, consult, etc.
The ultimate service. When you don’t need to invest your time to get things done.
Here’s what I love the most about SEO…it WORKS. But above all, it’s about SERVICE. I see it as a customer-first strategy.
When you provide a great UX, offer great original content, serve your audience, and have an authoritative site, Google rewards you with top search engine rankings.
Getting organic traffic offers a sustainable and robust way to grow your brand. I see SEO as a Top of Funnel strategy. It’s how you attract customers. Then, it’s up to you to fulfill your promises!
What now?! So by now, you are equipped with lots of lingo, concepts, and strategic ideas you can apply to your website (or your clients’ sites if you are a marketer).
If you’d like to work together, check out my SEO Coach consulting service, and monthly SEO packages. At Joyful SEO, we are all about growing your business with joy – because it’s so incredibly fun and rewarding to see your labor shield results!!!! We work with small to medium-sized businesses and marketing agencies. Get in touch, and get ready to win!
Let’s keep the conversation going! Send me your most pressing SEO Question (i.e., What Is Paid Search?), and I will address it here as a blog post or on my Instagram Channel. Email:
SEO you soon!