What Is SEO? Your Ultimate Guide

mobile phone showing google serps

If you’re new to internet marketing or you have been living under a rock for the last ten years, then you might not know about SEO, but I’m willing to bet that chances are you’ve probably at least heard of this term once or twice before. If you have or you haven’t really doesn’t matter because I am going to try to give you a thorough explanation of what SEO actually is and if it’s worth it for you to hire a search engine optimization professional for your business. Let’s begin, shall we?

SEO, or search engine optimization as most of us call it, is the process in which a website owner tries to positively impact his or her search rankings through a variety of different methods. Some of these methods may include, but aren’t limited to, page speed tweaks, revising keyword strategies, obtaining more backlinks,

website ranking number one on google search

What Can Impact Your SEO?

When it comes to search engine optimization at least for the Google Search Engine, many SEO professionals know that Google uses a very complex algorithm for ranking websites and there is at least to be 200 different ranking factors that can have an impact on your search engine rankings.

Website Performance

I won’t touch on this topic too much in this article since I have discussed this in previous topics; however, you should know that Google tends to rank faster websites better than slower websites.

Here are some factors that could be causing your website to load poorly…

  • Overall Page Size
  • Image Sizes & Poorly Compressed Images
  • Unused Javascript and CSS
  • Third Party Scripts
  • Unminified HTML, CSS, or Javascript
  • Non Essential Plugins
  • Slow WordPress Themes
  • Lack of Browser Caching
  • Asyncing or Defering Javascript
  • Minimizing Redirect Chains

If you’re interested in achieving better website performance scores, then be sure to check out this article.

Keywords – Making sure that you have compiled data on keywords that are actually getting search volume can help you to make sure you aren’t trying to rank for keywords with little to no search volume.

Mobile Responsiveness – The mobile friendliness of your website can also have major impacts on your overall performance in search engines and if you aren’t paying attention to how well your website is optimized for mobile, then you could be missing out on valuable opportunities to improve your website.

Your Domain Authority – Your website’s domain authority is thought to be a known ranking factor as well. In fact, it is also thought that Google places higher value on websites that have also acquired age (Learn more about this topic by checking out this article from backlinko). Furthermore, the amount of organic backlinks have also been thought to play a crucial role in increasing your website’s domain authority as well.

Type of Domain – Did you know that the type of domain you buy can also impact your search engine visibility? For example, if you buy a domain that is country specific such as .fr or .ch it does carry the probability that it will help you rank better for those geographic locations, but it may impact your visibility on a global scale.

Link Structure – Creating appropriate link silos and taking steps to ensure your permalinks have relevant keywords in them can go a long way for

AMP – Also known as accelerated mobile pages, configuring your website to be AMP friendly can help give your users an even better mobile browsing experience.

Backlink Profile – The amount of websites linking back to your website’s content also plays a role in determining your ranking factors on Google search; however, many experts at Google have hinted that they do not play as much of a major role as they used to. It is also important to know that the relevance of your backlinks is just

Internal Links – Your internal links matter, too. Remember, making additional content easier to find, and internally linking to other relevant topics makes an impact.

Good Content – You guys probably have heard the old saying that content is king, and creating good content that provides your users will useful information that is helpful can also help you boost your overall search engine rankings.

Light Content – If you tend to create light content that provides your users with minimal information, then it could negatively impact your keyword rankings.

Search Console Errors – Make sure you also stay vigilant about handling errors that come up in Google Search Console.

XML Sitemap Submission – Submitting your XML sitemaps to Google, Bing!, and other search engines can help search engines understand what your website is about.

SSL Certificate – Google has stated that one of the easiest things you can do to help your rankings on Google Search is to make sure your site has an SSL certificate.

Website Updates – For those of you who don’t know, Google and other search engines tend to look favorably at websites who update their content frequently. This applies to both creating new content and updating older content.

 

seo professional optimizing a website

Do You Need an SEO Expert?

I am pretty sure that many of you reading today’s article are asking yourself this very question, so I thought I would expand on this topic a bit in hopes of helping you to decide if you need a professional SEO consultant or if it would make better sense for you to try some good home grown DIY SEO. So, to help you make a better informed decision, ask yourself the following questions and then decide if hiring an expert would be the right option for you.

  • Do you know how to perform keyword research?
  • Can you create content?
  • Are you familiar with Google’s Best Practices?
  • Do you know On Page SEO?
  • Do you know how to organically build links?
  • Can you perform your own SEO Audit?
  • Can you write meta descriptions?
  • Will you be able to troubleshoot performance issues?
  • Do you know what an HTML and XML sitemap is?
  • How much do you know about robots.txt?

Can I Do This Myself?

Absolutely. If you take the time to learn best practices and take a proactive approach to learning as much as you can, than most definitely. In fact, many people take this approach, but most of it boils down to time. If you don’t have the time or the patience to learn search engine optimization (and there is a lot to learn), then hiring a search engine optimization expert is probably a better option for you.

However, if you do take the time to learn search engine optimization techniques, you will not only be able to help yourself, but you’ll be able to help other people, too!

Is SEO Worth The Investment?

This is probably another question many of you (especially business owners) are asking yourselves, and it’s definitely a good question to ask. Unfortunately, this question is very one sided and the answer will almost always depend on several different factors. Keep reading to learn about these factors before taking on the commitment to hire a professional SEO or a digital marketing agency for your SEO needs.

Expectations SEO is not a quick fix or a get rich quick strategy. If you’re looking for short term monetary gains, then I suggest you learn about Google AdWords or other online advertising platforms. However, setting your website up early to be SEO optimized and ensuring that you or anyone on your team that manages your site knows and follows proper SEO techniques is worth its weight in gold later on.

Budget – If you have budget constraints, then sit down with your potential hire and get his or her opinion on what SEO related tasks should take priority and use your budget to make sure those items get handled regardless. Remember, higher budgets mean more work can get done and if you can’t afford a long term commitment with your SEO expert, then it’s best to make the best use of each other’s time while you can.

Goals – If you are looking to hire an SEO professional because you think he or she may be able to help you rank on page one on Google in a short period of time, then I encourage you to re-evaluate your options. As I stated before, search engine optimization is a long term play and should be treated as such. However, that isn’t to say that you won’t rank a brand new website extremely well, but you shouldn’t expect it in a relatively short period either.

Experience – Evaluating the experience of your preferred SEO contractor is probably one of the very first things you should do before making the commitment to work with someone and you should focus on developing a comprehensive plan tailored to your needs before taking the plunge.

I bring this up because some SEO professionals and or agencies may only specialize in a certain number of SEO related tasks such as meta descriptions, title tags, alt image text, or basic header tag fixes and may lack the professional experience to help you achieve improvement in other areas such that require more technical knowledge or development prowess.

seo friendly website

Technical SEO? What?

If you’re still sitting here and scratching your head, then you probably aren’t the only one. Search Engine Optimization is a fairly robust topic and as you probably know from reading most of this article, there is a lot more to SEO than writing meta descriptions or strategic keyword placement. If you thought that writing good content, getting relevant backlinks, and following Google’s Best Practices was enough, I am sorry to be the bear of bad news, but it’s not. Even if you do everything correctly I can almost guarantee that there will come a time when your website will need some good old fashioned TLC that will force you to get under the hood a bit.

Random Google algorithm updates are notorious for forcing website owners to adapt new ways of doing things in order to make sure they keep their website SEO friendly. For the purpose of this example let’s jump back in time and go back to July 1, 2019. This was when Google officially adopted Mobile First Indexing. This algorithm update explicitly states that Google will start predominantly using the mobile versions of websites for indexing and ranking.

So, let’s think about what this meant for users back then from a technical standpoint…

Basically, users knew that the mobile versions of their websites were going to start becoming more and more important as time went on and it started forcing everyone to make sure their websites were properly formatted for mobile phones and tablets. For some people this was an easy fix if there wasn’t much that needed done, but for people who had either neglected their website or for those who had little technical knowledge of how they could start making their website more mobile friendly, it probably became quite the headache.

The main point I am trying to make is that SEO is much more involved than most people think and if you find yourself not staying well informed about the latest updates regarding Google Search, then your overall presence on organic search could suffer rapidly. This is why it definitely pays to get at least a little acquainted with the technical side of SEO.

Other Examples of Technical SEO Fixes Include….

  • Fixing Flash Of Invisible Text (FOIT)
  • Using appropriate Canonical Tags
  • Using Nofollow links When Appropriate
  • Using Proper 301 Permanent Redirects
  • Utilizing Schema Markup
  • Minimizing Your Use of Javascript
  • Making Your Website Mobile Responsive On All Devices
  • Reduce or Eliminate Render Blocking Javascript
  • Serving Images in Next Gen Formats Such as WEBP, JPEG 2000, or JPEG XR

In case you’re wondering how you could improve on your technical SEO why not trying checking out Google PageSpeed Insights? This handy little tool will tell you if you need to fix most of the items I mentioned above (excluding Nofollow links, Schema Markup, Canonical Tags, or 301 redirects). To see if you should be using those or not, I suggest doing a quick Google Search and getting well acquainted with the terms and how they should be used on your website.

Blackhat SEO Explained

Some of you reading this might already be familiar with the term “Blackhat SEO”, but for those of you who aren’t, let me explain. Blackhat SEO refers to tactics or strategies that go against Google’s Best Practices and are used to exploit search algorithms in the hopes of ranking a website rather quickly. Regardless of how tempting that might sound, I can assure you that it is not worth it and here’s why.

First of all, practicing any form of Blackhat SEO could get your website deindexed from Google Search altogether and you may or may not ever be able to get the ban lifted. Secondly, even if you do experience a short term boost in your rankings, it will probably be very short lived and fail to provide you with any real positive impact.

A few examples of Blackhat SEO include….

  • Buying links from linkfarms.
  • Keyword stuffing your pages (this includes hiding invisible text)
  • Creating several similar websites in order to rank for the same terms or geographic location.
  • Cloaking – the process of showing search engines one piece of content, but showing the user something totally different.
  • Abusing schema markup and structured data snippets.
  • Link spamming other websites or blogs with a link back to your own website in the comments section.
  • Engaging with a PBN (aka Private Blogging Network). These networks are similar to link farms and are made for the sole purpose of building links.

The moral of the story is you should never knowingly, or unknowingly participate in any Blackhat SEO techniques that could run you the risk of getting your website possibly removed from Google Search. Unless you want to create a website that will forever remain a ghost town….

A Final Thought

Well, I hope this article has helped those of you reading this and I also hope that I might have taught the more experienced readers a few new tricks as well. It was definitely a lot of fun writing this article and remember, if you have any comments, questions, or things you would like see added into this post, please feel free to leave me a comment and I’ll reply to you as soon as possible.

Oh, and for those of you who own a local business and want to improve your SEO even further, be sure to check out our post on How to Use Google My Business.

 

What is a CDN?

cdn dashboard

Many of you have probably heard the term CDN while browsing the internet or from talking to a digital marketing consultant. So what is a CDN and what exactly do they do for your website? Let’s talk about that.

CDN (Content Delivery Network) A CDN or a content delivery network is a group of servers that are distributed in several geographic locations that work together in order to serve your content as fast as possible to your users.

If you’re unsure if your website would benefit from a content delivery network or you just feel like learning more about them in the meantime, I encourage you to keep reading this article because I have provided you with some great information and additional resources about this topic that will not only help your current website, but will also help any of your future web projects. Enjoy and happy reading!

 

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Content Delivery Network Benefits

Connecting your website to a Content Delivery Network is definitely a good choice for most website owners (even if you have a small website) and there are several added benefits that come with connecting your website to a CDN. So let’s continue this topic by discussing some of these benefits and what they can do for your website.

1. Website Speed

As you probably have already guessed (and we talk about this a little more later on in this article as well) Content Delivery Networks can boost your website performance and speed by a great deal. Most CDNs will allow you to add browser caching to your website and it serving cached content to your users is one way this service helps to improve the overall speed of your website on both mobile and desktop versions.

Want to learn about other ways you can improve the speed of your website? Click here.

2. User Experience

The website speed enhancements also come with a side benefit as well, and that is a better user experience. It is common knowledge that people get annoyed when they have to sit around for a website to finish loading and slow load times lead to increase bounce rates and user drop offs. When you’re building out your website, always try to remember that improving the UX of your website will help you to gain, retain, and increase your user base.

3. Extra Layers Of Security

Most CDN’s also come with additional security features such as Firewalls, Bruteforce Hacking Protection, DDos Protection, and more. These security solutions can help you to protect your website or web applications even further than what normal web hosting companies might offer you and I definitely think they are worth looking into if you value the security of your platform.  I won’t be discussing the different types of security exploits in this article, but if you’re interested in learning about them, Cloudflare has some great information on these topics and I encourage you to check out any of the following links if you want to find out more.

Bruteforce Hacking Explained

What Is a DDos Attack

What Is a Firewall

Will a CDN Improve My SEO?

The short answer is yes. SEO experts have known for quite some time now that speed is definitely a performance indicator when it comes to Google’s ranking algorithm and they have even started measuring your website’s performance on mobile, so connecting your website to a CDN can definitely help your website with its search engine optimization. Let’s also not forget that CDN’s all usually have built in caching features which is another metric that is checked by both Google Page Speed Insights and GTmetrix.

Are There Any Downsides?

To be quite frank, there aren’t any real downsides to having your website connected to a Free CDN that I know of. However, once your website starts scaling or you want to add things like a cookie free browsing experience, some Content Delivery Networks will make you pay for additional features.

Enterprise CDN Solutions Are Expensive

If you have an established website in need of enterprise CDN solutions, then you might eventually have to start shelling out some additional cash. In case you’re not familiar with said features we are discussing, here is a quick list. Now for most of us, including the average WordPress user, we will never need an enterprise CDN Solution, but for those of you who do, please take time to read further.

  • Even Faster Paint Metrics Some CDN’s can even improve page load times even further for mobile devices on slow networks.
  • IOT Security – If you’re concerned about IOT Security, many CDN companies offer this type of security solution when you pay for one of their Enterprise plans.
  • Increased Scalability – Many Content Delivery Networks also offer some type of additional scalability package if your website has periods of frequent traffic.
  • Custom Nameservers – Another added benefit of many paid CDN solutions is that you can have the ability to create your own custom nameservers.

Are CDN’s Only For Websites?

The answer to this question is no. CDN’s are available for websites, web applications, SAAS applications, and even native iOS mobile applications. Since this article is more targeted towards website owners, that is all I am going to say about this for now; however, feel free to do a quick Google search if you’re trying to look for a CDN solution that is unrelated to improving your website performance.

What CDN’s Do We Recommend?

If you’re wanting to get serious about your website’s performance, then I highly advise you to take the plunge and connect your website to a content delivery network. Setup is usually virtually painless and usually takes like than 10 minutes, so what’s not to love about that? You will be able to get better GTMetrix Scores, improve your overall SEO, and you’ll be able to wow your users with how fast your website is with the help of a CDN.

Here’s our list of trusty CDN Providers we know and love.

Cloudflare

BunnyCDN

MaxCDN

KeyCDN

Akaimai

As always, I hope you guys get a lot of value and insight from this article and I want you to check back soon to read about an upcoming article I am writing about setting up your CDN for WordPress. Hope to see you all soon, and remember if you want to comment on this topic or have any questions for any of us here at Digital Brain Food, leave a comment!