SEO: A Basic Tutorial
What Is SEO?
SEO, or search engine optimization, is the practice of optimizing a website to rank higher within the search results of a search engine such as Google or Bing.
“An SEO” can also refer to an individual who does SEO for a living.
Main Components of SEO
There are countless tutorials on the internet teaching you the basics of SEO.
While very complex, ranking better on the search results boils down to three main umbrellas:
- Technical SEO
- This is everything from how a site is organized in a taxonomy, breadcrumbs, structured markup, mobile optimization, load time, etc.
- Content (AKA On-Page SEO)
- This is the actual text and other rich content you have on the page. The elements which carry the most SEO value are the title tag, H1, and H2’s of the page (in that order), followed by H3’s – H6’s and simply having the text found in paragraphs
- Linkbuilding (AKA Off-Page SEO)
- This is what SEO is notorious for. Google needed to come up with a criterion that correlated with the authority of a website, but was extremely difficult to manipulate. Building high-quality links from authoritative websites (that have high quality links themselves) is one of the primary drivers for SEO.
How Search Works: A High Level Overview by Google
Technical SEO is everything on your website that can be optimized which is technical in nature.
Let’s go into a little detail on some of the ways you can enhance your technical SEO:
1. Creating a sitemap
A sitemap is a list of all of the pages on your website. Sitemaps are created in a format known as “XML,” which allows you to list each page, as well as the amount of SEO weight that you would like to place on that page (this is on a 0 to 1 scale, with 1 being this highest).
-Creating a sitemap can be done using this tool.
-Placing a priority of 1 for every page is the equivalent of 0.5 — Google will read how much priority you give a page relative to how you weight other pages.
-The URL most commonly chosen for a sitemap is www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml.
2. Creating a robots.txt file
You can and should create a robots.txt file. This file tells search engines which pages they should and should not crawl and index on your site.
If you would like all crawlers to crawl all pages, then enter the following:
‘User-agent’ = robots/search engine spiders
* = All
Disallow = which pages or folders should not be crawled
(blank) after “Disallow” = There are no pages that should not be crawled.
Sitemap = The URL where your sitemap is located
If you had gated content under the folder “/gated-content/” that you did not want crawled, you could change the robots.txt file to be:
Upon comletion, upload your robots.txt file to the root directory of your site. The URL for the robots.txt file should be set to www.yourdomain.com/robots.txt.
3. Structured markup
You can and should used structured markup (also know as schema markup) to tell search engines what content on your site is (in a structured data format).
Here are some examples of what can receive structured schema:
If I wanted to use structured schema on this article, I would type in this page’s URL, selected elements on the page, and use Google’s handy markup tool to add schema to my page.
Take a look at www.schema.org for more information on structured markup.
4. Mobile and load time optimization
I probably shouldn’t be lumping these two together, but they both fall under the category of on-site optimization.
Using Google’s pagespeed insights tool, you can check your site’s load time and overall performance.
If you’re experiencing a slow load time and aren’t very technical, at the very least resize your images to the lowest resolution possible without compromising quality — this will do a lot of the heavy lifting in speeding up load time.
Mobile optimization is different from being mobile friendly. As you build your site, know that Google has officially switched to a “mobile first” priority and will judge your site based on how optimized it is from a mobile perspective (having a responsive web page for a mobile device is not enough).