SEO KPIs Cover Image

Implementing Search Engine Optimization (SEO) campaigns increase a website’s online presence and visibility. However, it is crucial to assess the well-being of your campaigns, and it requires a thorough understanding of key performance indicators that is related to SEO.

In this guide, we go through 12 important SEO KPIs and how to set and achieve them.

What are Search Engine Optimization (SEO) KPIs?

SEO KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are SMART goals set by marketing teams to gauge their search engine optimization campaign performance.

An example of an SEO KPI would be for businesses to evaluate the performance of their SEO campaigns. it is essential to track and measure the results of their SEO KPIs over time.

Armed with insights, marketing teams will then be able to make the necessary adjustments and achieve their goals.

Marketing Objectives and KPIs

To accurately measure SEO success, a business needs to identify specific marketing objectives.

Marketing objectives should map to KPIs to demonstrate SEO campaign activities (keyword research, link-building) and steer in the direction of achieving business goals. However, do note that marketing objectives are considered to be more broad-based (increase sales) as compared to KPIs which utilizes the SMART principle (e.g. increase sales by 10% within the next three months).

12 Important SEO KPIs to track

1. Organic Traffic

It measures the number of visitors coming to the website from Google’s organic search results (unpaid search results). For any digital marketer, this is one of the most important metrics to consider, as its growth indicates a growing number of people viewing and visiting the website over a given period of time.

Working with Google Analytics allows a marketing team to easily compare and analyze organic traffic to other channels like social media or paid options.


Using Google Analytics to analyze organic traffic over a period of time


Using the Line Chart to observe organic traffic over a period of time

number of users reflected in google analytics

Diagram depicting the number of users that have visited the site organically (without paid ads)

There are a few factors that can increase organic traffic to a website. It can be attributed to an increase in brand awareness resulting in more searches for a particular brand name or product i.e. brand searches. It can also mean that the SEO titles are written in a more compelling manner and meta descriptions have compelling calls-to-action.


2. Organic Search Rankings

Many businesses view the organic search rankings of their website as an important KPI as it directly correlates with SEO success. Having a higher ranking in organic search positions also fulfils other related objectives such as acquiring more traffic, leads, and conversions.

Keyword Ranking Position Tracking

It is important to track the ranking positions for the right keywords as it demonstrates evidence that SEO efforts are paying off well.

A website’s brand keywords will naturally rank high. An example of a brand keyword for Adidas would be “Adidas running shoes”.

Long-tail keywords tend to be easier to rank higher compared to short-tail keywords.

A targeted long-tail keyword might include key phrases that are longer & more specific. An example of a long-tail keyword would be “Buy breathable running socks” instead of “buy socks” (short-tail keyword).

To monitor ranking positions for your target keywords, you can consider using tools like Ahrefs. The reports will provide data on the current positions of certain keywords and how they are changing over time.


Using Ahrefs to view the position that a target website holds in organic search results for the keywords


3. Search Visibility

The Search Visibility metric is calculated as a percentage, based on click-through rates which are influenced by how high a website’s pages are ranking on the organic search results pages.


Search visibility on Ahref

Generally speaking, it is an indicator of how prominent a website is on the organic search results pages. The higher the visibility, the more potential traffic and brand awareness a website gets.

There are techniques you can take note of in improving search visibility.

Target more long-tail keywords

As discussed previously, long-tail searches require greater specificity and signal greater intent as compared to shorter keywords.

Shorter keywords tend to have a high keyword difficulty score (more competitive) and thus result in lower chances of ranking.


Using Ahrefs to view the position that a target website holds in organic search results for the keywords


Ensure the website is mobile-friendly

Google Search may significantly downgrade the ranking of the site that is not mobile-friendly. Fortunately, many website developers depend on Google’s “Mobile-friendly Test” tool to ascertain whether the site is optimized for mobile devices.


Google certifying the website is mobile-friendly


Improve on the title and description tags

This may result in an increase in organic click-through rates (CTRs). The boost in CTR will ultimately improve in search engine visibility. When writing titles, have a format that addresses a person’s pain-points or to educate the readers without sounding like clickbait.


Write titles that grab attention


Write meta descriptions that inspire curiosity


Build backlinks from relevant sites

They are links from one website to a page on another website. Search engines consider backlinks as “votes” for a specific page. However, it does not make sense if the backlinks are derived from sources that are irrelevant to the content. Also, it will be more advantageous to have backlinks that come from trusted and authoritative websites as it is seen as vouching for the website.

Internal Links

Unlike external links which link out to pages on other domains, internal links are hyperlinks that point to pages within the same domain. Internal links when used strategically can transfer page authority (also known as PageRank) to other pages in the website.

Using tools like Ahrefs, you can easily locate pages with high link authority as shown.


The pages with the highest authority, URL Rating (UR), have higher referring domains and usually, the most authoritative page on most sites is the homepage

You can use a free tool like Google Search Console to track changes in the visibility of the site within a given period of time and establish whether the project is developing in the right direction.


Screenshot of Google Search Console that tracks impressions of a website


4. Backlinks & Referring Domains

Diagram depicting several backlinks linking to a website

Diagram depicting several backlinks linking to a particular website

A backlink is a link created when one website links to another. A referring domain on the other hand refers to the domain name of a website linking to another domain.

For example, if a website receives 10 links from 1 website, its report will show 10 backlinks and 1 referring domain. If a website receives 1 link each from 10 different websites, its report will show 10 backlinks and 10 referring domains.

Backlinks and referring domains are important to SEO, since websites that have a greater volume of backlinks from trusted and high-quality websites tend to perform better in organic search.

A few things to note in order to obtain high-quality backlinks:

Publish content strategically

Providing useful content and understanding the different types of content that performs best in different situations is important before you can expect backlinks from external sources.

With a sound content marketing strategy, you can deploy a multitude of content types like the usage of visuals (infographics), listicles, research data, in-depth guides, and videos to acquire high-quality links. Ultimately, leveraging on this strategy will benefit the users.

Use email outreach

Very often, marketers in a bid to establish relationships with related businesses to acquire backlinks or to pitch guest postings use email to connect with contacts. Email is still very relevant even till today and for contacts to take notice of the emails sent, you might want to take heed of a few pointers.

  • Personalize the email sent to the recipient.
  • Benefit the email recipients by providing solutions rather than being direct in the request
  • To get a higher response rate, identify the best time to send the email.

Be active in online communities

To have people knowing you, you need to establish a presence on various online platforms that have your profile linking back to your website. Question and answering community platforms like Quora and Reddit are great places where you can participate and share solutions to pain points and thought-leadership articles. This will naturally build goodwill and trust with the public.

Optimize the website

A good website will usually entail good user experiences and user-friendly design. These elements are critical for SEO as the audiences will dwell longer in the website signalling an interest in the site’s content.

In addition, having a quick loading time would also increase the positive experiences of audiences coming to your website.

Also, since smartphones and tablets make up more than 61% of internet traffic, do ensure that the website is responsive to account for the diversity of the devices people use to access the content online.

When acquiring backlinks, ensure that the links from websites are relevant and topically similar to your site. If your business is into retailing medical devices and is getting thousands of backlinks from a website that sells concert tickets, Google will treat these as spammy links and may even penalize you.

Furthermore, having a greater number of referring domains matters as search engines analyze both total backlinks and the various sites linking back. An example illustrating that is a website having 1,000 backlinks from 500 websites is much better than 3000 backlinks from 5 websites.

To track backlinks, you can use tools like Ahrefs to view websites linking to you, where specifically they are linking on your site and the domain rating of these referring domains.


Using Ahrefs to view the Referring pages and the related backlinks


Using Ahrefs to show on Referring Domains (Total number of unique domains linking to the targeted website)


Tools like Ahrefs help to detect a spike anomaly of high referring domains. An in-depth analysis of spikes or sharp drops in the velocity graphs needs to be conducted. It may represent a high presence of spammy and low-quality backlinks.


5. Organic Click Through Rate (CTR)

This is another important SEO KPI every digital marketer should be keeping track of.

Organic CTR is the ratio of clicks on the link to the total number of users who viewed the search results. A high CTR will translate to more page visits. In contrast, a low CTR may signal to the search robots a website isn’t relevant to what a user is searching for, which may result in lower rankings over time.

Take note that CTR is relative to the average ranking position of a website. A website that is ranked lower i.e. position 10 will have a much lower CTR than a website ranking on position 3.

These are some best practices you can adopt to increase organic CTR:

Use Brackets In Your Title Tag

By utilizing brackets in headlines and titles, it will help to dramatically increase clicks by as much as 40%. This is because it functions like a content sneak preview and because audiences know what they are expecting, they are more likely to click on it.


Statistics by HubSpot depicting headlines with brackets outperform those without brackets



Letting the audience know what they will be expecting upon clicking on the link


Include Numbers In Your Title or Headers

Whenever possible, incorporating numbers will help audiences focus on the importance of the title or headers.


Having numbers in titles make for a more captivating header


Shorter and more Meaningful URLs

Having a more descriptive URL might appeal to more people coming to your site as the page’s URL may give an indication to what the page is about. A short but meaningful URLs like clearly describe the page’s topic and intent as contrasted with

Optimize the Meta Description

Many web developers tend to ignore the importance of meta description of a webpage in relation to the title tag. People usually find themselves overwhelmed by the number of search results in Google. To help them decide on which is the most suitable link for their queries, having meta descriptions that grab the visitors’ attention is important.

Start crafting out descriptions that give readers a preview of what to expect in the article or site. However, be mindful of the character limit of approximately 150-170 characters for descriptions.


Visitors to the site will take a cue from the meta-descriptions of whether it answers their queries


Put the Current Year In the Title and Description

It is more beneficial to the website viewers if the article header highlights the current year “2020” in the title tag. This would mean that the information of the article is current and updated.


Image depicting the current year that the article is written. This signals the information is up-to-date

When it comes to monitoring click-through rates for your website, using Google Search Console allows you to analyze and track the performance of the pages.


Screenshot of Google Search Console that depicts which queries have a relatively high (or low) CTR


6. Branded Traffic and Search Volume

Branded traffic comes from users who searched for the terms that contain the company name. This type of traffic usually results in the highest conversion rates as the audiences are already familiar with the branded keywords, For example, “Pandora,” “Pandora Ring,” “Pandora Jewelry.”

In digital marketing, this is a valuable KPI as users who come to your website using branded queries are the most loyal since they are already familiar with the brand. Usually, they would visit the website with a specific purpose.

However, you can combine SEO tactics with branding efforts to increase branded traffic.

Identify and use branded keywords

To rank keywords, you might want to include both branded and generic keywords together to establish an online presence. A branded keyword contains a search query that includes the name of your brand. By adding these keywords into your content, your target users will be reminded of your brand.

Be mindful of the fact that the more branded searches are made regarding the business, the higher the website will rank organically. Examples of branded keywords are “Apple”, “Apple reviews” or “iPhone pricing”.

Use local SEO

Users with a high commercial intent will use Google to search for the brand’s location proximity. Therefore, it is imperative for businesses to optimize all local business listings that are shown on Google. This is to ensure web traffic is redirected to the site from Google directories and Maps.

Build the brand’s authority

A great way to ramp up the brand’s authority is to publish content that addresses the concerns and pain-points of the target audience. it essentially positions you as a trusted thought-leader in the industry.

Also, as discussed previously, having a greater outreach by contributing content and ideas to online communities (Quora, Reddit) demonstrates credibility in the specific field.

When it comes to tracking the branded traffic over a given period of time, you can consider using the free Google Search Console.


Screenshot tracking on the number of total clicks and impressions over time


Search volume of keywords is an important factor in SEO analysis. It measures the total number of searches that are performed through search engines, over a given period of time. It is a foundational element in SEO strategy. To target the most profitable keywords, SEO strategists need to know the number of people searching for a particular set of key search terms.

With Google Keyword Planner, you can retrieve estimated keyword traffic for free.


Screenshot of Google Keyword Planner depicting the estimated average monthly search of a keyword


7. Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is defined as the percentage of site visitors who bounced from the website without taking any action, such as clicking on a link, filling out a form, or making a purchase. Many webmasters pay close attention to bounce rate as an overall indication of a site’s appeal, and would like to reduce this number as much as they can.

Usually, a high bounce rate indicates that the site (or specific pages on the site) has issues with content, user experience, page layout or even copywriting. Bounce rates also vary across website types. To view the expected bounce rates for the different types, check out the infographic below.


Data is from Customedialabs

However, there are recommendations to mitigate the bounce rates and make the pages of the website “stickier”. It includes:

Embed Videos on the site

By incorporating videos on the website, it gives visitors more incentive to dwell longer. This is because people are highly visual creatures, and prefer to consume information in a more graphical and animated form. However, for videos to be effective, the duration needs to be relatively short as some may shy away from the time investment needed to watch a longer clip.

Fast Loading Speed

One of the worst problems a web visitor faces is the slow loading time of a website. This degrades the user experience of visitors using the site. Interestingly, website visitors tend to care more about the speed of loading than all the bells and whistles a website may have. A study by Google on 11 million landing pages found that slow loading speed correlates with a higher bounce rate. This is illustrated in the diagram below.


Diagram depicting higher probability of bounce with longer page loading time


Add Internal Links to Your Page

Establishing internal linking within the site naturally increases pageviews as it sends people to the other pages on the site. When someone visits another page on the site, it is no longer considered as a bounce. The main purpose of establishing links is to help users easily navigate to useful content on the site.

Make Content Easy-to-read and ‘scannable’

Website visitors would not enjoy the experience of having to read an immense, intimidating wall of text on a website or a blog. Though it might be informative, there are some ways to make it more readable.

Implement white spaces

It is important to have ample spaces around the content as it does not feel ‘congested’ and it’s easier for our eyes to process the information.


Diagram depicting white spaces for ease of reading


Make paragraphs ‘skimmable’ (short paragraphs)

This makes the content more accessible as it allows the reader to scan the content quickly in ‘groups’ to identify points that are most relevant to their needs.


Diagram depicting 1 – 2 sentence chunks


Utilize Section subheadings

Use subheaders to break up the content into discrete sections. This makes it easy for people to focus on the headings, and if it interests them, then they will read the following paragraphs.


Diagram depicting using subheaders to ‘break-up’ content for the ease of reading


To help monitor the pages’ bounce rate, we can employ the use of Google Analytics which is a free tool that collects the sessions where a visitor only visits one page and divides it by all the sessions.


Diagram depicting the bounce rate in the Overview report on Google Analytics. The metrics indicate the site-wide bounce rate


8. Average Session Duration

Bounce rate can be a helpful metric, but it does not determine whether the pages are successful or not. Metrics like average session duration spent on a website can often mean more to SEO analysts as it deals with the duration of the users staying on the website once they have clicked through to the landing page.

This is also a useful metric to measure the user engagements on the website. The goal of every marketer is to increase the average session duration spent on a website. These tips include:

Embed Videos on the site

As mentioned previously, incorporating videos allows website content to be presented more dynamically resulting in an increase of average session duration.

Intersperse Text with Images

Having high-quality images among the content will be more engaging and break from the monotony of having too much text.

Ensure the Interface Is User-Friendly

If the website’s User Experience (UX) is too complex and has unnecessary graphics or Call-To-Actions (CTAs), the chances of user abandonment might be high as visitors might be confused by the messaging.

Format Content for the Ease of Reading

As discussed previously, usage of proper formatting like employing the usage of subheadings, short paragraphs, white spaces all help to make reading easier for the website visitors.

Build a Library of Related Topics

Many businesses have blogs that are treated as a group of disorganized posts that span a wide range of topics. They are usually arranged in a disconnected manner and visitors may come to a certain article from Google and find one that is relevant. After reading that article, the visitors would then leave and miss the chance of exploring the other areas of the website.

To counter that, businesses might want to implement a hub-and-spoke model that identifies a relevant high-level topic, and then spans out articles on the related topics. This will extend the dwelling time of website visitors as you have enough related information for visitors to stay engaged.

To monitor the average session duration data of a website, again we can use Google Analytics where it displays a wealth of information relating to website traffic.


Diagram displaying the overall site average session duration


9. Pages Per Session (PPS)

This is a metric that measures on average the number of pages a user visits during a session. It includes repeated views of a single page. The values derived are crucial to many businesses as it denotes the value/quality of the site and how users navigate through it.

Having a high value to PPS is indicative of a website’s architecture depth. If it is a one-page website, then one page per session is expected. However, if it is an ecommerce site where users view multiple products and go through a multi-step checkout process, you would expect to see a higher PPS.

There is also a myriad of reasons why some websites have a low PPS value. It might indicate that the content is not interesting enough for people to seek out other content on the website. It could also mean the website navigation is confusing and this results in users leaving the website out of frustration.

This is one of the basic metrics to track in Google Analytics and every digital marketer’s goal is to keep users engaged, nurture their interest, and get them to take the next step.


Image displaying the average pages per session in Google Analytics


10. Domain Authority (DA)

Domain Authority (DA) measures the ‘trust’ factor related to the domain and is a determinant on the effectiveness of link-building efforts. DA is Influenced by the number of links to the domain and the authority of those ranks. An example would be websites with a .edu / .gov domain as it typically carries more authority than a .com or .net domain. This is because they are usually official websites, and would never link out to any spammy sites.

It translates to the higher the DA, the more likely the site would rank high on search engines. There are best practices that you can employ to increase the DA rating score. This includes:

Increase the dwell time of the website

As discussed previously, brands can incorporate snazzy videos/infographics to capture the attention of website visitors. Website designers might want to improve the navigational UX of the website to have a more frictionless journey experienced by the website visitors.

Site speed is always a perennial concern with many website visitors as a longer loading time will lead to a degradation of UX. Also, delight the customer experience (CX) by offering free eBooks or relevant templates. This would benefit the visitors and give them a headstart in achieving their purposes of coming to the website.

Remove toxic backlinks

Toxic backlinks are backlinks that harm your website’s SEO. For example, it could be links that are received from link schemes (any links intended to manipulate PageRank) or links from gaming sites.

Be smart about external linking

Having backlinks play an important role in improving a site’s domain authority.

However, do be careful in giving away too many links to others from the site without actually acquiring new backlinks. Be smart in referencing other sites as it must be mutually beneficial.

Ahrefs has a feature that displays the strength of a target website’s total backlink profile and is known as Domain Rating (DR). DR is measured on a scale from 0 to 100, with the latter being the highest rating.


Image displaying the Domain Rating of a website in Ahrefs


11. Traffic Value

Traffic value is viewed as an overall monetary value for the organic traffic of the website. It is the equivalent monthly cost of traffic from all keywords that the target website/URL ranks for if paid via PPC instead of ranking organically.

There are benefits in monitoring the traffic value:

Indicates the value of rankings

As website traffic and rankings are dependent on clicks, it also represents the value of the site’s rankings. This enables businesses to view the cost of a drop in traffic if competitors outperform the domain or due to a Google update.

Emphasizes the importance of SEO to stakeholders

It helps to persuade stakeholders of the significance of having SEO, particularly in displaying the amount of money the company would need to invest in Google Ads to maintain the level of organic traffic.

Better prioritization of pages

It allows us to be more effective in allocating resources and prioritising parts of the website that have a higher traffic value.

To assess the organic traffic value of the website, you can consider using Ahrefs. This gives a sense of how much money the target website/URL has saved in terms of ranking for keywords organically, instead of buying paid traffic.


Image displaying the organic traffic value using Ahrefs


12. Organic Search Conversions

Most SEO analysts would  be interested to know the percentage of organic traffic that converts into leads, as a high organic visit-to-lead conversion rate is a hallmark of a successful SEO campaign.

According to Marketingsherpa, the overall average percentage of organic traffic that should be converting into leads is about 16%, though it might differ for different industries.

There are several factors that can influence the average organic traffic conversion of a website. This includes :

Location on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP)

As potential customers search for products or solutions, whether they manage to find the site depends on the page where it appears in the search engine results.

According to the Research from Smart Insights, most searchers have a greater tendency to focus their search on specific keywords on the first few pages.

The Industry that you are in

There are certain industries that see a lower average conversion rate. For example, products or services that have a long sales cycle may see lower conversions from organic traffic. If it is targeted to a very niche market, or have very high price points, it will similarly suffer from low organic conversions too.

Quality of content

To increase the organic conversion rates, ensure that the website has the right content which addresses the targeted audiences’ questions and pain-points. This will aid and guide them through their own, specific buyer’s journey.

Number of website pages

By having more pages in a website, it increases the likelihood of being found via organic search. As a blog post is treated as a website page, if blogging is done regularly, this can translate into exponential growth for the site’s internet footprint.

To assess the search conversions of the website, you can consider using Google Analytics. This gives sense of the rate of conversions attributed to organic traffic. However, make sure you are comparing periods that make sense to compare. For example, if your business has seasonal sales swings, you would want to compare year-over-year results (i.e. last year and this year’s Christmas period).


Image displaying the conversion rate by organic traffic


Ending Thoughts

With the knowledge of  SEO KPIs, it functions as a guide to formulate effective SEO strategies and helps to create a strong vision of success for any upcoming SEO campaigns. Tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console support businesses in the SEO auditing process and serve as an indicator in fulfilling the SEO objectives.

By utilizing these tools, this will result in enabling marketers to develop on the strengths and fix any defects on the website.


SEO is Earned Media

What is SEO?

SEO or Search Engine Optimization is the practice of increasing a website’s visibility or ranking position on the organic or natural search engine results pages.

Every time you perform a search on Google, Google returns two types of search results – The paid search results, and the organic search results.

Organic vs paid search results

Unlike the paid search results (pay per click model) which is managed by Google AdWords, SEO is the process optimising a website to rank on top of the organic search results

To get your website to show up on the paid search results on Google, you need to have a Google Ads account set up and be ready to pay a certain amount for every click you receive. This marketing technique is known as “SEM”.

In this article however, we’ll be focusing on SEO. Which refers to the process of increasing a website’s rankings on the organic search results. This is where you won’t be paying for any clicks you receive from Google.

But first, how does Google return over 29 million results for one search query? How do they even discover the billions of webpages on the internet? One of the ways Google achieves this is by sending out robots a.k.a. search engine spiders to crawl the web. When a search engine spider crawls a webpage, it downloads the content and stores it in Google’s indexes (huge gigantic servers that store and retrieve data).

How do search engines work

How search engines work

So, before you can even rank anything on Google, the first thing you obviously need is a website.

We don’t know exactly what every ranking factor is and the relative importance of each. But what we do know is that in general, pages that rank highly on Google display the following traits:

  • Relevant to the search intent – Has to answer the question or search query
  • Provide useful information to the searcher – Content is better than most pages that talk about the same thing
  • Target keywords are included on the page – In the SEO meta tags, text body, and images
  • Original and unique – Not plagiarised or duplicated
  • Strong off-page signals – Has authoritative websites linking to it

Why is SEO Important?

SEO is important for the following reasons:

  • Inbound marketing channels like SEO have a higher conversion rates than outbound channels – 3.82% compared to 2.98% (paid), according to a report by Marketo
  • SEO has 20 times more traffic opportunity than PPC
  • Ranking high on Google builds trust and credibility
  • Organic web traffic is free
  • Long term benefits – consistent traffic and conversions
  • SEO can help you maximise your customer touch points, increasing the chances of sales – it takes 6 to 8 touch points to generate a viable sales lead.

In Singapore, Google has over 90% of marketshare among other popular search engines such as Bing and Yahoo!. As such, we will be focusing on Google SEO in this article.

To achieve top rankings for your target search terms, an SEO practitioner needs to be well-versed in the following disciplines:

  1. Keyword research
  2. On-page SEO
  3. Off-page SEO
  4. Local SEO
  5. International SEO

How Does SEO Work?

SEO typically works in 4 phases.

Phase 1: Keyword Research

This is the first phase where you discover the keywords or search terms your target audience uses to find information online.

Phase 2: On-Page SEO

This is the part where you ensure the keywords your target audience uses are also mentioned on your webpages. Other important aspects of on-page SEO include making sure your content is useful and relevant to what the user is searching for, providing a good user experience, and technical SEO, which includes ensuring your website loads quickly and is free from technical errors, such as not being mobile-optimized.

Phase 3: Off-Page SEO

In order for users to trust your brand and for search engines to rank it highly on the search results pages, you need to build more brand awareness and grow your authority.

This is referred to as off-page SEO. Off-page SEO techniques include getting other websites to mention your brand and hyperlink back to your website (also known as backlink building). It also involves growing your brand presence on social media and garnering positive reviews around the web.

Phase 4: SEO Analytics

In the final phase, you review the ranking position of your website for all your target keywords and focus on improving their positions.

Keyword Research

Keywords, sometimes referred to as search terms, search queries, and key phrases, are the foundation of Search Engine Optimisation. Take away this element and search engines become redundant.

Keyword research is the process of selecting keywords based on market research (e.g. using a keyword research tool such as Google Keyword Planner, analysing existing keyword data via a web analytics software) to optimise a website’s search engine rankings for.

Google Keyword Planner

Once you have chosen your target keywords (i.e. built your keyword list), the next step is to populate your website with the selected keywords.

Further reading:

How to Do Keyword Research in 4 Steps

4 Pro Keyword Research and Analysis Tips

On-Page SEO

On-page SEO refers to the practice of optimising a website and its individual webpages to improve its search engine rankings. It can be further divided into two parts:

  • Non-technical on-page SEO
  • Technical on-page SEO

Some activities of non-technical on-page SEO include inserting keywords into editorial copy, tailoring content to satisfy the intent of the searcher, and organising website content architecture in a silo-ed fashion to deliver a good user experience (in terms of navigating around your website).

For technical on-page SEO, some of the activities include modifying webpage meta tags (e.g. title tags, meta description, and rel canonical tags), developing mobile-friendly pages with AMP content, implementing SEO-related markups (e.g. markup, rel=nofollow, and rel alternate hreflang), and dealing with duplicate content (e.g. rel canonical tags, redirect, and noindex).

On-page SEO Cheatsheet

Basically, both technical and non-technical on-page SEO aim to make a website search engine friendly, which increases the chances of it ranking higher on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

Further reading:

On-Page SEO – Keyword Optimisation Guide

10 SEO Content Best Practices

Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO refers to techniques and activities carried out externally from the website to improve its search engine ranking position. Some of the activities include:

  • Content marketing
  • Link building
  • Online PR for brand exposure
  • Earning brand mentions
  • Building an online community (e.g. on social media platforms, blogs, and forums)
  • Garnering reviews
  • Local citation building

All the above off-page activities come down to establishing an online brand presence, which boost brand recall and build backlinks to a website. And we all know that backlinks play a major role in influencing a website’s search engine rankings.

Further reading:

How to Build Links to Your Website – A 4-Step Link Building Strategy

Local SEO

Local SEO refers to the practice of boosting the visibility of a local brick and mortar business’s listing on the local search results.

Local SEO Results ExampleSome of the techniques used to increase the visibility of local businesses with physical locations on Google include:

  • Local citation building: Submitting your company details (business name, address, phone number) to local business directories.
  • Garnering reviews: Getting your customers to leave reviews on your Google MyBusiness page.
  • Local link building: Acquiring backlinks from local websites (e.g. getting websites, journalists, and local influencers/bloggers to hyperlink to your website)

International SEO

International SEO refers to the practice of optimising a website to increase its global presence on international search engine domains.

It involves segregating content by language and currency (if applicable), based on various target audiences, into different country code top level domains (CCTLDs), subdomains, or sub directories.

For example, an online fashion retailer e.g. may want to expand its international search presence to Australia and Japan. It creates two new websites on the CCTLD domains and and tailors its content to the local languages of both countries. This helps Google and other search engines to rank the correct version of the website in the right country.

White Hat Vs. Black Hat SEO

Unfortunately, in this competitive industry, many marketers resort to questionable or shady techniques to try and manipulate their organic search engine rankings. This is known as black hat SEO.

Examples of black hat SEO include keyword stuffing and cloaking, where the keywords are mentioned repeatedly on a webpage and even made invisible to web users.

Another example of a black hat SEO technique is writing a ton of low-quality blog articles and publishing them on the same domain to trick search engines into thinking the website is an established content hub, when it really is the opposite.

White hat SEO on the other hand, is the more effective approach in the long run. It gears toward providing a great experience for site visitors through creating high quality content that answers each search query in the best way possible.

A great brand with great content and great products will grow its reputation in the online space naturally. This will result in more positive reviews, brand mentions, and backlinks off-site, sending positive ranking signals to search engines. At the end of the day, search engines were created for humans and will always strive to improve for us all.

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Its vision is to provide an important service to the world, which is to – instantly deliver relevant information on virtually any topic.

This would not have been possible without the advent of search engine algorithms.

According to Google, an algorithm is a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.

Google has dozens of algorithms programmed to determine the relevance and quality of a content piece to a given search query, and these algorithms are improved upon several times a day.

Therefore, trying to game search engine giants like Google is a constant uphill battle, and you will be better off optimizing your content for humans, which was what search engines were built for in the first place.

What Does it Take to Do SEO?

Search Engine Optimisation or SEO can be a tedious process and requires someone (and sometimes a team) with a diverse set of skills which includes but not limited to:

  • Web development knowledge – for technical on-page SEO implementation
  • Good content writing and copywriting skills – With the rapid advance of search engine algorithms and natural language processing, there is no room for poor quality content to rank on top
  • Excellent online PR skills and content marketing skills – to build off-page SEO signals such as link building
  • Good project management skills – SEO is highly competitive and requires someone who can get **** done

If you found this post helpful, you may also find the following resources helpful in furthering your SEO knowledge.

Further Reading:

A-Z Glossary of SEO Terms and Definitions

SEO Tutorial Step-By-Step Guide

Sign up for a course:

WSQ Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Certification Course

If you are bringing your brick and mortar store online or planning to launch an eCommerce store, having a marketing strategy in place would increase your chances of success. Today, many businesses evolving by ramping up their digital presence.

The introduction of easy-to-use eCommerce platforms such as Shopify, Magento, Woocommerce, combined with the power of social media and the advancement of search engine technology have only made going digital the most obvious option for any businesses looking for a competitive edge.

In this article, let’s take a look at organic Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and discuss the benefits of it.

Ads are a rather costly way to increase website traffic and sales. However, with the help of SEO, you can leverage, grow, and multiply your online business all without splashing your budget on ads.

Need more convincing to focus on SEO marketing for your business?

Here are 5 top reasons why you need SEO marketing for your business in 2019 and beyond.

1) Saves costs on ads, both physical and digital
2) Long-term sustainability
3) Increase your sales and revenue
4) Customers come to you instead of you going to them
5) Boost your online presence

Reason 1: Saves costs on ads, both physical and digital

Did you know that Facebook made more than $40 billion in revenue in 2017, and about 89 percent of that came from digital advertisements?

That signifies two things. One, there’s a lot more competitors bidding on this auction-based ads platform. Two, the costs of running effective ads are climbing.

In this case, you do not always get what you pay for. You will need to carefully segment and target your audiences to better optimise your ad budget, otherwise your cost per acquisition will go up significantly and lower your profit margin.

More Competition on Digital Ads Platforms

How Facebook ads – like most ads platforms work – is by an auction-based bidding system. The highest bidder is the winner. On Facebook ads manager, you are able to put an ads budget on how much you’re willing to pay (in a day or lifetime of the campaign).

Facebook ads became much less effective starting from the 2nd quarter of 2017 where the advent of the eCommerce spearheaded by Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, caused a spike uptrend of eCommerce sites popping up left and right.

These sites then use advertising platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Google Ads which in turn causes massive amounts of competition leading up to 2019 this year.

Since advertising platforms are mostly auction-based, it depends on the budget that you have to spend and because of this smaller-scaled business owners aren’t able to compete with big companies’ exorbitant marketing budgets.

Thus, smaller-scaled owners compete with a ton of other small-scaled owners, making advertising much less effective than the years before 2017.

Physical Ads Remain Just As Expensive

Outdoor, print, and guerrilla marketing and physical advertising aren’t cheap either – I’m talking about 5-figure costs for a static ad.

The estimated cost to put up wall scapes at four locations for one month would be around $39,000. As for having your ads on train stations, cost ranges from $54,500 to $61,500 per month depending on which station it’s displayed at. These prices are in 2017 to 2018, and following the trend of ads cost, costs will only increase in the future.

Comparing paid ads (digital and physical) with SEO, the latter wins in terms of cost for sure.

Reason 2: Long-term sustainability

Short-term strategy is not a bad thing compared to long-term strategy. It is important to have both of them so that you can sustain your business presently and in the future.

SEO is great for long-term strategy and ensuring sustainability because when you’ve built your website’s SEO well, traffic will still come in even when you don’t do anything for that day or two. Compared to ads, there’s a constant need for output to have input.

The bottom line of every business is the to get more sales with a cost-effective marketing strategy. Relying on paid ads alone is unwise because competition is getting greater. With an SEO strategy and efforts in operation, you have another channel of website traffic without needing to compete with companies of bigger budgets or pay to get your brand seen.

For example, when you search for ‘gym clothes for sale singapore’, you’ll see some organic search results (picture on left), and paid ads search results (picture on right).

google search example

The example on the left shows up on the first page on Google for free whereas the example on the right paid for those spots.

The left one gets website traffic for free whereas the right one pays for every click it gets. Even if someone doesn’t actually buy something from the site, they have to pay for that click.

Clearly, getting free organic traffic is better than paying for it.

Reason 3: Increase your sales and revenue

Based on a Smart Insights report, 2.5% is an average conversion rate. Therefore, it is relatively safe to assume that for every 1000 additional visitors you receive, thanks to your SEO strategy, 25-30 new customers may emerge. Return on Investment (ROI) here would be exceedingly great.

51% of all website traffic comes from organic search according to Bright Edge. By improving your SEO, it’ll mean more traffic to your website. Based on the stats above, more traffic means more sales likely to occur.

Reason 4: Customers come to you instead of you going to them

Ads are literally digital versions of salespeople who approach you near the train stations. You feel disturbed, interrupted, and most of the time – you ignore them.
It is worlds apart as compared to you choosing to go into a boutique or picking up the phone to call in air-conditioning servicing.

The state of mind the consumer would be in when he/she searches for something, your website shows up on Google, and they voluntarily click on it is the key difference here.
According to Think with Google, 39% of purchases made were influenced by a relevant Google search.

Image Credit: Think With Google

Image Credit: Think With Google

It is much easier to convert people who are searching for you instead of you trying to search and sell to them. Remember, people don’t like to be sold to but they like to buy things.

Reason 5: Boost your online presence

Good online presence simply means that you can be found for the things you want to be found for.

In a study done by HubSpot in 2018, they found out that 61% of marketers say improving SEO and growing their organic presence is their top inbound marketing priority.

For example, you’re a business owner of a Muay Thai Gym in Singapore. You want people who are entering search terms such as Muay Thai Training; Muay Thai Gym in Singapore; Martial Arts Singapore to find you.

Google search bar example

Optimising your website’s SEO can help you build a strong presence online for such relevant searches on top of other marketing efforts. Improving your online presence would not be dependent on a sole platform or stream.

Combine SEO, paid ads, social media, and interacting with targeted communities can help your eCommerce business be more known in our big, big internet world.


In summary, SEO marketing can help your business to saves cost on ads, both physical and digital, help your business be sustainable in the long-term, increase your sales and revenue, bring customers to you instead of you going to them, and boost your online presence.

With these five reasons, I’m sure that you’re excited and ready to start working on your SEO. If you would like to learn exactly how you can get started, check out Equinet Academy’s WSQ SEO course here. We also have the full suite of digital marketing certification courses that cover the fundamentals of Digital Marketing to equip you with the necessary skills to launch a digital marketing campaign. It includes :

These fundamental courses will help in applying actionable strategies for your future digital campaigns. Ultimately, the completion of the 6 core modules will lead up to a Certified Digital Marketing Strategist (CDMS).

Should You Hire an SEO Agency? Here's 3 Things I've Learnt Cover

SEO services are in high demand in Singapore, with over 480 and 720 monthly searches for the terms “seo agency” and “seo services” respectively. If you add “seo agency singapore” and “seo services singapore” to the list, you’re looking at a whopping 35,040 searches a year on average (as of the date of this post).

seo agency keyword search volumes

seo agency keyword search volumes

With the huge and growing demand in the SEO services industry, let’s explore what an SEO agency does and whether you should hire one for your business.

What Does an SEO Agency Do?

An SEO agency typically starts off with an SEO audit of your website. This is done to see where you’re standing in terms of your website’s ranking position on Google. The good ones will also take the extra effort to learn more about your business and marketing objectives in order to recommend the best plan of action i.e. prioritise optimising for keywords with the highest returns on investment (ROI).

The SEO audit consists mainly of the following:

1. Competitive keyword ranking analysis – to see how you’re fairing against your competitors in terms of visibility (total number of keywords you’re ranking for and the click through rates)

Competitor Ranking Distribution Report in Semrush

Competitor Ranking Distribution Report in Semrush

2. A technical on-page SEO audit – to check for slow page loading issues, duplicate content, crawl-ability/accessibility of your website to search engine spiders, and a hundred more potential issues your site may be having that could hinder your rankings

Site Audit Report in Semrush

Site Audit Report in Semrush

3. Off-page SEO audit – to check your domain authority, quality vs quantity and diversity of backlinks, any low-hanging fruits, bad backlinks that could result in a penalty, etc.

Ahrefs link building report

Ahrefs link building report

4. Any manual penalties – checking Google Search Console to detect any ranking penalties

Search Console Manual Action Report

Google Search Console Manual Action Report

They will then propose a set of keywords you should focus on optimising your website for.

Depending on how large your website is, the entire project fee may vary from a couple thousand to tens of thousands and the duration of the contract may span from 6 months to a year.

This is what SEO agencies are expected to be doing. But while many SEO agencies in Singapore claim they are white-hat, many do completely the opposite of what is stated in Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

What I’ve Learnt

Training more than a thousand marketers in search engine optimisation (SEO) and auditing over a hundred SEO campaigns have taught me three things:

  1. If you don’t know what you’re getting, others will get the better of you
  2. It’s hard to fully trust someone else
  3. Sometimes it’s better to do it yourself

1. If you don’t know what you’re getting, others will get the better of you

A past SEO course participant’s website I audited showed evidence of their SEO company embedding a hyperlink (backlink) to another of their client’s website. This was done without client A’s consent in efforts of ranking client B. What’s worse was that they used Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to push the backlink 5000 pixels off the screen. Meaning it wouldn’t be visible to the user’s browser, but Google would be able to detect the link.

2. It’s hard to fully trust someone else

You will come across SEO agencies in Singapore who guarantee number one rankings or your money back. These agencies usually engage in shady link building methods such as harvesting link farms or private blog networks that could potentially get your website penalised by Google. i.e. removed entirely from the search engine results pages.

Here’s an example of a shady backlink from a private blog intended to increase Google rankings for their target keywords.

Shady private blog backlink

Shady private blog backlink

The words in red are exact-match anchor text promotional backlinks which, when clicked on, links to the following shopping page.

Backlink target of shady backlinks

Backlink target of shady backlinks

Totally against Google’s Link Schemes.

3. Sometimes it’s better to do it yourself

I’ve seen many cases where SEO agencies and consultants had failed to deliver their milestones they had promised after securing the deal. Even I have been guilty of this, due to sudden increases in workload and lack of manpower resources. As such, it is better to take your SEO campaigns in house if SEO is one of your highest ROI marketing channels.

Should You Hire an SEO Agency?

If you’re referring to the typical SEO agency that guarantees you number rankings yet refuses to be transparent with what they’re doing behind the scenes, then no.

But if you’re strapped on budget for manpower resources and have trouble finding an SEO specialist with the relevant technical and creative skills, it may be better outsource your on-page SEO campaigns to a reputable digital marketing agency.

My advice would be to leave your off-page SEO strategies to your in-house content marketing and marketing communications team to handle your link building campaigns or engage a content marketing and PR agency.

What Can You Do in the Meantime?

If you’re about to hire an SEO company or still considering what to do with your marketing budget at this point, here are 4 things you can consider doing in the meantime.

  • Stay updated to SEO news and keep abreast of SEO trends
  • Ask the right questions and do your homework before hiring
  • Get hands-on and do it yourself
  • Attend an SEO course to know what you want and what you’re getting
Useful SEO Tools That Are Completely Free

Doing SEO for a website isn’t as easy as “writing an article and praying that Google picks it up”.

Instead, a lot goes on behind the scenes to help content rank on search engine results pages (i.e. SERPs).

For example, this involves keyword research, structuring your content in a certain way, getting backlinks, etc.

However, if you had to pay to do all these, you may end up burning a big hole in your pocket.

Fortunately, you can find many online tools offering these features for free.

That’s right – zero dollars. Zilch. Nada.

In this article, I’ll be discussing 13 useful SEO tools that are completely free. Whether you’re new to SEO or a seasoned digital marketer, chances are you’ll find some of these free SEO tools handy for supplementing your SEO practices.

Let’s dive in!

Optimisation of WordPress website

1. Yoast SEO

By itself, the WordPress content management system already allows for the building of SEO-friendly websites. But you can take your WordPress website’s SEO to the next level by installing Yoast SEO.

Yoast SEO tool

Yoast is jam-packed with features for WordPress SEO, such as:

  • Writing of custom titles and meta descriptions for webpages
  • Customising of titles, descriptions and featured images for Facebook posts and tweets of your webpages
  • Generating and updating of XML sitemaps to help search engines find, crawl and index your webpages
  • Analysing the readability of your content

Yoast has over 5 million active installations as of writing, which only proves the popularity of this plugin.

2. All in One SEO Pack

A close contender to Yoast SEO is All in One SEO Pack.

All in One SEO

It offers pretty much the same features as Yoast, and there are constant debates over which is the better WordPress SEO plugin.

Having used both, I like All in One’s cleaner interface and ability to toggle certain features on/off as and when you need them.

And unlike Yoast, All in One allows you to bulk edit SEO titles and meta descriptions from your Posts/Pages page.

However, All in One doesn’t offer Yoast’s content readability analysis or breadcrumbs navigation features.

That said, both plugins do a good job of optimising your site, and I would say which you use doesn’t matter that much. Just choose one and stick with it.

Keyword research

3. Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner is located within the Google Ads platform, and generates keyword ideas based on your target keyword(s).

It shows the monthly search traffic estimates for all these keywords and how much people are bidding to advertise on them.

With these insights, you’ll be able to gauge the popularity and competitiveness of keywords that you intend to rank for.

Google Keyword Planner

You can also use your chosen keywords to run ad campaigns within the Google Ads platform. If you want to learn how, Equinet Academy is a great place to do so! Read my review of Equinet Academy’s Google Ads Fundamentals course for more info.

Backlink checker

4. Ahrefs Free Backlink Checker

Check which websites are pointing to your website, or conduct an analysis of your competitors’ backlinks, using the free version of Ahrefs’ Backlink Checker.

For any provided URL or domain (including subdomains), Ahrefs’ Backlink Checker will return an overview of:

  • That URL or domain’s URL rating and domain rating
  • The number of backlinks that URL or domain has obtained
  • The number of domains referring to that URL or domain

Ahrefs Backlink Checker

You can also drill down into the details of that URL or domain’s top 100 backlinks, top 5 anchor texts and – for domains only – top 5 pages with backlinks.

SERP competitor analysis

5. MozBar

The MozBar Chrome extension allows you to check the Domain Authority and Page Authority of webpages currently ranking for certain keywords. This is useful for assessing how easy or difficult it might be for you to rank for those keywords yourself.

MozBar SEO

Click on “Link Analysis” for deeper analysis of these pages’ competitiveness in Moz’s Link Explorer. For example, you can view their backlinks and the number of keywords that they rank for in Google.

To use MozBar, you’ll need to sign up for a free Moz Community account. There is also a cap of 10 free uses of Link Explorer every month.

Content readability checker

6. Hemingway Editor

Hemingway Editor SEO

Having article content that is scannable and easily understood will keep users reading your content for longer. This helps increase engagement with your content and reduce your bounce rate, among other benefits.

To check the readability of your content, try pasting it into the Hemingway Editor. It highlights issues in your writing and recommends improvements.

For example, you may need to shorten sentences that are too long, or simplify your wording.

Hemingway Editor doesn’t spot spelling or grammar mistakes however, so you’ll need to use different tools for that. (Try Grammarly or Microsoft Word’s built-in spell-check features, for example.)

SERP snippet simulator

7. SERPsim

With SERPsim, you can preview how your articles’ SERP snippets will look like in the Google SERPs. Previews for both desktop and mobile devices are available.

This is handy for checking whether your article titles and meta descriptions fit within the Google snippet container.


Compared to other SERP snippet simulators, I prefer SERPsim as it presents the container limits in pixels instead of characters.

This allows for more accurate optimisation of your SERP snippets, given how Google uses pixel widths instead of character counts to determine how much of your descriptions to show.

On-page SEO analysis

8. BrowSEO

BrowSEO breaks down your webpage contents according to how Google understands it, ignoring all fancy stylings that your webpage might have.

From here, you’ll be able to check whether Google is reading your webpage in the way you intended.

Browseo seo tool

For example, BrowSEO will flag out:

  • Heading tags
  • Website redirects
  • The number of internal, external and nofollowed links in the webpage

It also provides a preview of the webpage’s SERP snippet so you can check if your title and description fits within the container limits. (And if they don’t, use SERPsim to correct that – see the previous point.)

Testing validity of structured data

9. Google Structured Data Testing Tool

After adding structured data to your website, you can check if it’s correctly implemented using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.

To do so, simply paste your webpage URL or code snippet into the tool.

Google Structured Data Testing Tool

The Structured Data Testing Tool then returns a list of the structured data it has found. Any errors will be highlighted in red and accompanied by short explanations on the errors.

Note: this tool simply detects all the structured data present in a webpage or code snippet. To check whether such structured data can generate rich results in the Google SERPs, use Google’s Rich Results Test tool.

Monitoring your website’s visibility in Google search results

10. Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a powerful tool for keeping tabs on your website’s visibility in the Google SERPs.

Google Search Console tool

With Google Search Console, you can:

  • Submit new (or updated) webpages for indexing by Google
  • Track your average SERP positions and clickthrough rates for various keywords
  • See which websites are linking to you
  • Monitor your website’s useability on mobile devices
  • Be alerted to detected security issues on your website, and more.

If you use Google Analytics to track your website traffic, Search Console will also feed data on how you acquire traffic to your Analytics reports. This allows for even more detailed traffic analysis in Analytics!

Keyword rank tracking

11. SerpRobot

To check your webpages’ Google SERP rankings, you could manually Google your target keywords and look for your webpages in the SERPs.

Or, you could let SerpRobot do that for you.

Just key in your domain or webpage and up to 5 keywords that you want to check your rankings for.

SerpRobot will then return the URLs of your domain that are ranking for those keywords (if any) plus their SERP positions.

SerpRobot tool

With this tool, you can also:

  • Check your SERP rankings for localised Google searches (e.g. or
  • Compare your rankings against your competitors’

12. FatRank

Instead of SerpRobot, you can also use the FatRank Chrome extension to check a webpage’s SERP rankings. The difference is that FatRank can only check rankings one page and one keyword at a time.

First, visit the webpage to be checked in your Chrome browser. This webpage can be either your own or your competitors’.

Then, activate FatRank and type in the keyword that you want to check the webpage’s SERP ranking for.

FatRank SEO

If you’re checking multiple SERP rankings for a single webpage in one session, FatRank also allows you to export your findings into a CSV file for further analysis. SerpRobot doesn’t offer this feature.

Broken link checker

13. BrokenLinkCheck

Broken links are bad for user experience and SEO. Use BrokenLinkCheck to scan your website for broken links so you can fix them ASAP.

Its free version scans up to 3,000 webpages (no URL limits per page), which should be sufficient for small to medium-sized websites.

Broken Link Check SEO

Apart from telling you which webpages the broken links can be found on, BrokenLinkCheck also provides the source code for such links.

This will help you find the links’ anchor texts much quicker, because you don’t have to manually skim through webpages to find them yourself.

Final thoughts

So, whoever said that doing SEO involves breaking the bank?

There are a ton of free SEO tools out there, each of them covering one or more aspects of doing SEO for a website.

Try them out to see how they can help your content rank better, and bring in more organic traffic for you!

What free SEO tools do you use? Leave a comment!


In this comprehensive SEO tutorial for beginners, I will cover the essential fundamentals of Search Engine Optimization.

This tutorial is divided into 3 sections:

If you finish reading this entire guide…

You will understand SEO better than 90% of beginner internet marketers out there.

Section 1: Introduction to Search Marketing

When you enter a keyword into any search engine, you instantly get results (webpages) that are closely related to or match your search query.

SEO Keyword into Google

To an average user, this doesn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary. But to many businesses, being right in front of their customers every time they show interest in a related product or service can mean big bucks… and I mean steady, monthly recurring income.

First, what is SEO?

What is SEO?

SEO or Search Engine Optimization is the process of optimising a website’s visibility on the organic search engine results pages (SERPs) for a target set of keywords/keyphrases.

The higher the position of a webpage on the organic search results pages, the more “visible” the page will be.

Related: What is SEO Marketing and How it Works

How do search engines work?


Search engines use algorithms to calculate how worthy a page is to a relevant search query. There are hundreds of factors (Google uses over 200 ranking factors) that are used to calculate the authority of a webpage, and PageRank (based on a scale of 0 – 10) is one of them.

Google assigns PageRank to every webpage it crawls. When another website links to your website, some of its PageRank is passed on to you. The more sites there are out there linking to you, the higher your PageRank will be and the more trustworthy your site will look to search engines.


Search engines use bots or “spiders” to crawl billions of pages across the web by following links they find from billions of pages around the web.


Search engines then store the information it collects into its index.


When a search query is entered, a search engine digs into its index for pages matching the user’s search query, then sorts and displays the most relevant results to the user.

The order in which the pages are displayed are calculated by search engine algorithms, taking into account hundreds of ranking factors. Each page is then given a ranking score.

In order to rank highly on the search engines, your site needs to score higher than all the other sites that are eligible to show up for a relevant search query.

However, be warned that if you engage in shady methods and try to deceive the search engines, you will get yourself burned. Google is very strict on sites that try to manipulate their rankings and if you’re caught doing so, your site will get penalized and removed from the SRPs a.k.a. the “Google Slap”.

Google Major Algorithm Updates: Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird

Every year, Google changes its algorithms some 500 times, that’s 1 – 2 times on average each day. Every once in a while, Google rolls out a major algorithm update, and when they do so, many sites suffer a drop in rankings while many others enjoy a raise in rankings.

Panda (2011)

Lower the rankings of low-quality sites.

Penguin (2012)

Decrease rankings of sites that engage in black-hat SEO.

Hummingbird (2013)

Relevancy and knowledge graph update (Semantic search).

RankBrain (2016)

Machine learning to improve search result quality.

BERT (2019)

A revolutionary natural language processing model to better understand the meaning and intent of user search queries.

Read for more details on the Google algorithm change history.

What are some Black-Hat SEO techniques?

Cloaking – Displaying different results to search engines and users with the intent of manipulating SE rankings.

Mass acquisition of low quality links in a very short period of time.

Overuse of keywords in article title and/or content body in a weak attempt to boost rankings for relevant target keywords or keyphrases.

View Google’s content guidelines on various link schemes to avoid.

How do you do White-Hat SEO?

Well, just avoid doing Black-Hat SEO and you’ll be doing White-Hat SEO!

We will cover essential on-page SEO such as image optimization, good internal linking structure, quality and uniqueness/originality of the content, and more later on.

SEO is divided into two parts – Internal SEO, and External SEO

To give you a better picture of SEO, let’s pretend you’re building a new shopping mall.

Before constructing your shopping mall, you first have to take into consideration internal and external factors. Most importantly, you have to take into consideration what makes a great visitor experience.

Internally, what is your shopping mall about? Is the theme of your shopping mall unique? Are different shop themes categorized into different levels? Do visitors find it easy to find their way around the mall?

Externally, have you taken the steps to put the word out that your shopping mall exists? Is your shopping mall listed in map directories, roadside signboards, or brochure stands in neighbouring malls?

If you’ve taken good care of both internal and external factors, chances are your mall will be booming with business.

Similarly, before building your website, have you considered…

Internally, what is your website about?

If you don’t even know what your site is about, it’s very likely search engines won’t as well.

Is your site’s theme unique in any way?

Search engines love unique content and will reward high quality content. On the other hand, duplicate or scraped content will not do well on the SRPs.

Are your content themes properly organized and well interlinked?

Websites that have clean site structure with content properly organized into different categories enable search engine spiders to easily crawl through internal pages and index them appropriately.

Do users find it easy to navigate through your site?

Search engines can detect whether users will find it easy or not to navigate through a site. A well-organized site provides a good user experience, which is precisely what search engines were built for in the first place. Sites with a clean structure and a clear purpose tend to rank higher on the SRPs.

Externally, have you made the effort to communicate with other webmasters in your related niche?

Search engines encourage you to actively participate in your community and provide value. Providing value to your community boosts your reputation and increases the chances of attracting inbound links to your site.

Are the chances of them linking to your site high?

Have you taken the initiative to share your content through popular social networking sites? If your content is interesting, share-worthy, and of high quality, chances are you will attract a lot of inbound links.

Do you have a lot of other sites linking to your site, increasing your popularity?

The more inbound links (backlinks) you acquire, the more trustworthy search engines will deem your content.
If you answered yes to all the above questions, you’re doing great SEO!

Search engines were built by humans, for humans. Focus your site on delivering a great user experience and you can rest assure that your site will do well on the search engines.

How Can SEO Enhance Your Overall Digital Marketing Strategy?

Improve Overall User Experience On Your Site

Having good knowledge on the topic of internal SEO and on-page ranking factors will help you better organize your site structure (arranging different categories according to specific themes) to deliver a great user experience, construct a good internal linking structure for better user navigation, and make your site more engaging, resulting in higher conversion rates.

Increase Offline Sales

Help your customers find you better with local directory listings such as Google Places, Yelp, and Street Directory.

80% of internet consumers in the product awareness stage conduct research online before deciding whether or not to make a purchase.

Online Reputation Management

Protecting your online reputation is getting more and more important these days as more and more consumers search for brand names on search engines instead of just entering the direct url i.e. “” and the last thing you want them to see is a bad review of your company ranking above your company website.

Read: What is an SEO Strategy and Why You Need an Integrated Marketing Strategy?

Section 2: Internal SEO

Internal Optimization Process

Internal Search Engine Optimization Process

There are 4 main steps when it comes to internal SEO – Keyword Research, Organizing Site Structure, Constructing Content, and On-Page Optimization. Let’s go through each step one by one.

Step 1: Keyword Research: Competitive Market Research

Long-tail keywords

When starting out, you want to look out for as many long-tail keywords as you can. Long-tail keywords (more words) are not as difficult to rank highly for as generic keywords (fewer words). Long-tail keywords are also more specific to a user search query and are more likely to result in a conversion.

Start with a generic theme i.e. “Website Design”, if you are a web designer, then expand your list of keywords from there i.e. “Ecommerce Web Design”, “Affordable Web Design”, etc…

Use the Google Keyword Planner to conduct your SEO keyword research.

SEO keyword research

Researching for new keywords

If you’re building a brand new site, keyword research should be the first thing you do before filling up your site with content. If you’re already running a site, it is also good practice to constantly expand your list of target keywords.

Keyword research can help you discover what consumers are actually searching for. When you know what your consumers are looking or asking for, you can better design your content to answer their queries by speaking to them in their language. For example if you know people are searching for the exact keyphrase “How do you make a website”, you can create an article titled “How to Make/Create a Your Own Website”.

You can develop a variety of content ideas just by going through your list of keywords.

Keyword Research

Google Search for keywords

You want to build a long list of keywords before you start constructing and organizing your articles.

Below is an example of a list of keywords generated by a web design firm:

Build a list of keywords to optimize later on

Referencing the above list of keywords, a web design firm will have a good idea of which keywords to optimize for and how to structure their website (SEO Siloing). i.e.

Web design packages
=> custom web design
=> affordable web design

Analyzing existing keywords that your site is already ranking for

If your site is already up and running for some time, you may want to sign up for Google Analytics (if you haven’t already) and check which keywords your current visitors have been using to get to your site. These keywords in your analytics report are likely the keywords that you are already ranking well for, so you want to put more focus on them first.

Once you’ve identified these keywords, the next step is to focus your internal optimization efforts on these keywords in the next 3 steps – Organizing site structure, constructing content, and on-page optimization.

Analyzing search queries

Step 2: Organizing Site Structure: SEO Siloing (Website Theming)

Remember the shopping mall example? Let’s say you love electronic products and your focus is on building the largest electronics shopping centre in town. If your shopping mall has a specific theme i.e. Electronics Centre and all retail shops in your shopping mall are dealing with electronic goods and categorized into different electronic themes at different levels, as opposed to a generic theme i.e. Downtown Shopping Mall with only a few electronic retail shops, chances are your Electronic Centre will stand out in consumers’ minds whenever they think of buying any electronic products.

Similarly, Google and other search engines like Yahoo! & Bing give preference to theme-specific sites when deciding which results to show for a relevant user search query. But if you’ve already built a multi-themed site and want to rank for themed-specific search terms, it’s not the end of the world.

Introducing SEO Siloing/Website Theming/Content Hubs

As mentioned, Google, Yahoo! & Bing favour sites that are theme-specific. Sites with clear structures, relevant high-quality content, and written in clean and neat code (no flash, minimal javascript, use HTML for most of their site) also tend to do very well in the search engines.

Therefore it is safe to assume that you do not need to have only one topic on any one site in order to rank well for a theme-specific keyword.

Another scenario would be a box of macarons.

SEO Silo

1st Scenario: A box of Green Macarons, Brown Macarons, and Red Macarons mixed together.

In this scenario, search engines will likely classify this site as “A box of Macarons”.

2nd Scenario: A box of Green Macarons, A box of Brown Macarons, A box of Red Macarons all separated into different boxes.

In the second scenario, search engines will likely classify these 3 sites as… A box of Green Macarons, A box of Brown Macarons, A box of Red Macarons.

3rd Scenario: A box of Green Macarons, Brown Macarons, and Red Macarons organized into separate sections.

In the third scenario, search engines can clearly distinguish between the 3 different themes of macarons and index them according to their specific themes.

So what is a silo in terms of SEO?

A silo is a group of theme-specific subjects or topics in a website.

What is SEO siloing and why is it important in search engine optimization?

SEO siloing is the process of organizing different groups of content topics into specific categories. Much like a bookstore organizing different genres of books into different sections.

In terms of SEO, this organizational structure is very important in order for the search engines to understand the theme and intention of your website and rank your site accordingly.

There are two methods of SEO siloing. Physical siloing and Virtual siloing.

Physical Siloing

Physical siloing is organizing similar-topic content into similar categories or directories. Much like organizing your computer files into different folders.

Virtual Siloing

Virtual siloing on the other hand, is utilizing internal links to relate subject-specific content to one another. i.e. linking from one blogpost to another, whereby both blogposts exist in different directories or categories.

Diagram of a Silo-ed Site Structure:

Diagram of SEO Siloed Site Structure

Above example: How a dating niche content site organizes its site structure.


Bruce Clay on SEO Siloing –


You also want to create a HTML or XML sitemap and submit it to the search engines. It’s recommended to include a HTML sitemap for your visitors to refer to and an XML sitemap to submit to the search engines.

You can create your sitemap using free sitemap generator tools like

In order to submit your sitemap to Google, you will need a Google Webmaster Tools account.

Step 3: Constructing Content: Creating Your Landing Pages

What are landing pages?

Landing pages are the pages that your visitors directly land onto when they click on a search result. It is important that your landing pages capture your visitor’s attention and lead them to the inner pages of your site.

If your landing page doesn’t answer the search query or isn’t compelling enough and majority of visitors landing on your landing page click the “back” button and go back to the search results, you’d likely see your rankings dipping over time.

There are three steps you should follow in order when constructing your landing pages:

1) Plan your article using your researched keywords.

2) Write your article, keeping your keywords in mind.

3) Insert your keywords where appropriate. In the title tag, content body, image alt tags, and subheadings.

Step 4: On-Page Optimization: On-Page SEO Factors

Once you’ve completed steps 1 to 3, you’re ready for step 4 of the internal SEO process.

On-Page SEO Factors

Refer to the above diagram when performing on-page SEO, or SEOgoodguy’s Make a Blogpost SEO Friendly article.

Also take note of page loading speed (a ranking factor), as Google is obsessed with page speed.

Section 3: External SEO

What is external SEO all about? External SEO, more commonly known as off-page SEO is basically link building/marketing – Acquiring the most relevant backlinks from as many relevant high authority sites to achieve and maintain high rankings on the SRPs. A relevant backlink is an inbound link from one of the pages (with relevant meta information such as the title, description, etc.) of another similar-topic website.

Planning a successful link building campaign

In order to plan and execute a successful link building campaign for your site, you first need to understand that link building is a long and tedious process. One that requires skillfulness and extensive knowledge on the topic of SEO.

However if you persevere, stick to white-hat rules of SEO, animal-proof (Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird) your SEO campaigns by staying updated, you will eventually taste the fruit of success.

Fundamental off-page SEO concepts

Before we begin the link building process, let’s first go through and understand some fundamental concepts.

What is a backlink?

A backlink is an inbound or incoming link (hyperlink) to a particular website, referenced from another website. Search engines rely on links to crawl the web and evaluate the authority and relevance of millions of websites.

What is an anchor text?

An anchor text is the text you click on that takes you to a referenced url. i.e. (This sentence is an anchor text).

It is recommended that the anchor texts of inbound links be diverse (mix of target and non-target keywords, brand mentions, synonyms of target keywords, non-related words, etc.) and not all “exact match” to the target keyword that a site is aiming to rank highly for on the SRPs.

A link profile with majority of inbound links that have exact-match anchor texts looks very unnatural, and search engines will devalue these inbound links or even de-index the site.

Anatomy of a Strong Backlink

  • High domain authority
  • High PageRank
  • High TrustRank
  • Relevant co-citations
  • Relevant page title
  • Relevant content topic
  • Target keywords in anchor text
  • Placed in main content area
  • Age of page
  • Age of backlink
  • Dofollow link

High Domain Authority

High Domain Authority Diagram

All inbound links pointing to a website’s main domain ( as well as its internal pages contribute to the domain authority.

Getting a backlink from a high domain authority site is always valuable. Sometimes, that is all you need in order to get on the 1st page of Google for a target keyphrase.

High PageRank

High PageRank Diagram

PageRank is only one of over 200 ranking factors which Google uses to calculate and decide which page should rank over another.

Inbound links pointing specifically to an internal page of a particular website contributes to the PageRank of the specific page.

However if a page of say PageRank 6 has two outgoing links, the outgoing PageRank is diluted into half (PageRank 3 each).

With everything else equal (i.e. Relevant page title, equal number of backlinks, etc.), a site with a higher PageRank will rank above the site with a lower PageRank.

High TrustRank

High TrustRank Diagram

Sites that receive a lot of quality relevant inbound links are more trusted than sites that receive lots of inbound links from low-quality, spammy sites.

Getting a link directly from a very trusted site such as will increase your site’s TrustRank tremendously. Obtaining a second-tier, third-tier, or fourth-tier link will also increase your site’s TrustRank but the value starts to drop the further it goes.

Let’s have a look at the following scenario:

Your website provides financial consultation and you are not able to get a link directly from However you’re able to obtain a third-tier link from one of the websites that links to. => => =>

100% TrustRank => 50% TrustRank => 25% TrustRank => 12.5% TrustRank

The above figures are made up and only used to demonstrate the point.

Relevant Co-citations

Relevant Co-Citations Diagram - SEO Tutorial

If you are getting inbound links from an external page (Page A) and it is linking to Page B and Page C which are both relevant to your site’s content topic, this is a strong signal to search engines that your site is relevant to that particular topic.

Relevant Page Title

The page title should summarize the page’s content topic. Or rather, the main content topic should reflect the title of the page. Search engines use the page title as an important ranking factor when it comes to displaying relevant search results to the user.

Relevant Content Topic

Similar to the above Relevant Page Title ranking factor, an inbound link from a page with relevant content topic to your site will increase your relevancy score.

Target Keywords in Anchor Text

The anchor text of a link is another ranking signal that search engines use. The wide-spread belief before the 2012 Google Penguin Update was that a keyword rich anchor text was a strong ranking factor.

As a result, many webmasters started over-optimizing their inbound anchor texts by stuffing their target keywords in (exact match), in attempt to manipulate their rankings. Majority of the sites with over-optimized keyword-rich anchor texts who were hit by the update saw a big drop in rankings.

Post-Penguin, anchor texts should not be over-optimized. i.e. If you want to rank for “financial consultation”, your anchor texts shouldn’t all be “financial consultation”. There should be a good mix of different types of anchor text. It should sound natural as if someone were to mention your brand name in a conversion.

Here are a few examples of the different types of anchor texts a property/real estate website should have a good mix of:

Exact match – “Properties for sale”

Broad match – “List of properties for sale” or “Properties for sale in [country]”

Synonyms and related search terms – “Condos for sale” or “Private property for sale”

Brand mentions – “Realtoria Property Investment Firm”

Non-related – “visit this page” or “click here”

It’s good to have a couple of inbound links with exact match anchor text from high domain authority sites. Just make sure it looks natural and doesn’t make up the majority of your backlink profile.

Placed in Main Content Area

The location of the backlink is also an important factor. A footer link isn’t worth as much as a sidebar link, and a sidebar link isn’t worth as much as an editorial link in the main content section.

Age of Page

How long a page has been in Google’s index is also a ranking factor. Creating a website is getting much simpler. There has been an increasing number of fly-by-night sites and many webpages come and go frequently. Therefore the older the page, the more trustworthy it is (provided it is frequently updated).

Age of Backlink

Similarly, the older the backlink, the more TrustRank it gets.

Dofollow Link

Dofollow links are regular links without the rel=“nofollow” attribute in the HTML code and they allow PageRank or Link Juice to be passed on to the linked page.

Example of a regular dofollow link (allows PageRank to be passed on):

<a href=“”>anchor text</a>

Example of a nofollow link (doesn’t allow PageRank to be passed on):

<a href=“” rel=“nofollow”>anchor text</a>

While you’re in the process of acquiring dofollow links, you also want to obtain nofollow links.

Although you won’t get any PageRank from a nofollow link, the main reason you also want to include nofollow links in your link profile is that search engines are able crawl a nofollow link and read its anchor text.

Even though you don’t get any PageRank flow, you’d still be awarded points for relevancy. Not to mention a link profile with thousands of dofollow inbound links and without a single nofollow backlink looks a little fishy.

In a Nutshell…

Basically you want to acquire as many backlinks from other sites that are closely related to the topic of your site and your site’s internal pages.

You also want a diverse and natural-looking link profile;

Links from different types of sites (blogs, news sites, .edu & .gov sites, forums, directories, social media, etc…) with natural linking patterns, and a good mix of dofollow and nofollow links. (No heavily keyword-optimized anchor texts!)

External SEO is basically link building and creating social signals for search engines to determine the authority of your site as well as the context of your site. Here’s a guide to SEO link building you should really check out.

Do be careful however not to violate any of Google’s Content Quality Guidelines or participate in link schemes (A.k.a. Black-hat SEO) while in the “joyous” process of link building. As long as you avoid doing any Black-hat SEO, you’re most probably doing White-hat SEO.

If you’d like to learn practical techniques on how to search engine optimize your website internally (on-page SEO), as well as externally (off-page SEO), you may want to attend our hands-on SEO course in Singapore.

I hope this beginner’s SEO tutorial has given you a better understanding on the topic of SEO as a whole. To have a more holistic digital marketing landscape, we cover the core modules of Digital Marketing that includes :

The completion of these modules will lead the learners to attain a Certified Digital Marketing Strategist Certificate.

10 SEO Content Best Practices to Rank in 2019

Ranking your website on the first page of Google isn’t as straightforward as it was back then (before Hummingbird and RankBrain changed the way Google evaluated and ranked content).

Way back in the early days of Google and up till 2012, in order to rank your website prominently on top of the search engines, you just had to include your target keywords in your content (meta tags, headlines, copy, etc.) and get a ton of keyword-rich anchor text backlinks from external webpages (usually spammy article directories) with high PageRank.

Try the latter now and risk getting slapped with a manual penalty.

Today, you actually need to have solid content that’s extremely useful and relevant for your target ranking keywords in order to nudge your way up to the top of the search results. Stuffing your title tags and content with keywords and building a ton of backlinks alone won’t cut it.

With the uprising trend of voice search (approximately 20% of mobile searches are now voice searches), Google has revolutionised the way search engines understand content and deliver search results to users.

For instance, keywords in the title tag no longer need an exact match to the search query for the page to rank well.

Google Search non exact title tag to search query matching results

Google Search results – non-exact title tag to search query matching results

In the case of the search query “what do hamsters eat in the wild”, the title tag (in blue) matched only one keyword from the search query – hamster.

The rest of the search query keywords were found deep in the content body of the article. Yet, it was still able to rank on the featured answer box on top of the Google search results page.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t still follow traditional SEO copywriting best practices like keyword inclusion (they still work to a certain extent).

Rather, you should adopt a healthy balance of writing and optimising content for both humans and search engines. Prioritise for humans however, as search engines were fundamentally built to serve humans and are continuously evolving towards serving humans better.

With that in mind, here’s a list of SEO best practices to adopt when you craft your next content masterpiece.

SEO Copywriting and Content Best Practices

To stand a good chance in ranking well on Google, ensure the following SEO best practices are met:

  • Content is unique and more useful (solves the searcher’s query) than any result already on the first page
  • Content and content format is relevant to the searcher’s intent and snippet entices clicks
  • Group similar-themed keywords on one page rather than focusing on one keyword per page
  • Include target keywords in the copy, images, meta tags, and URL
  • Use markup where necessary (e.g. Schema, AMP, hreflang, opengraph)
  • Page loading speed is fast < 3 seconds
  • Page is device responsive without mobile intrusive interstitials
  • Page content is accessible and crawl-able – adopt good internal linking practices
  • Website is secured with HTTPS
  • Content is amplify-able (easily earns social shares, mentions, and backlinks)

The above list pretty much sums up the what you need to do in order to stay on top of Google in 2019. Let’s break down each SEO best practice in more detail.

1. Content is unique and more useful (solves the searcher’s query) than any result already on the first page

Have you ever clicked on a search result and after skimming through it in the first 10 seconds, found that it didn’t answer your questions and clicked back to the search results page? That’s pogo-sticking.

Since RankBrain was deployed, user experience signals have become more and more important than off-page signals i.e. backlinks.

As a result, dwell time or the average time users spend on a webpage has been correlated to higher rankings. Meaning, the opposite is also true.

If users spent less time on search result A compared to search result B, they most probably did not find search result A very useful. Over time, Google will rank search result B above A.

Content uniqueness – ensure your content isn’t copied from elsewhere on the web. If it is ripped off entirely from another publication, Google will consider it duplicate content and it won’t rank well.

What can you do?

Conduct a search on your target keyword and analyse the top 5 results. Click into each result and digest each content. Then ask yourself, is there any unique value you can add to the question/search query? Can you develop content that’s 10 times more shareable and linkable?

2. Content and content format is relevant to the searcher’s intent and snippet entices clicks

Imagine typing in “currency converter calculator” into Google and the first result (like the one below) explains how to use the tool rather than the actual tool for you to use.

Google Search Result returning query for currency converter tool

Example of Google Search Result returning irrelevant query for currency converter tool

Though it may be relevant to the query (as in the keywords match), the result may not be relevant to the searcher intent. Most users would skip the first result and click on the tool in the second result like the example below. Note that higher click through rates (CTR) correlate to higher rankings.

Currency converter calculator search result

Currency converter calculator search result

They would spend more time on the second result ( since they would be actively using the tool, resulting in a higher dwell time – higher dwell times correlate to higher rankings.

However, in the above case, since the searcher is looking for a tool to use, long form content is not an essential ranking factor.

In another scenario, if your search query is “how to bake cheese tarts”, the most relevant content formats would be a step-by-step recipe guide and/or a how-to video tutorial.

For generic search queries that are one or two words in length, it can be difficult to determine the exact intent. In this case, Google’s Query Deserves Diversity (QDD) algorithm kicks in and returns diversified results.

For example, the query “shoes” returns local map search results, a definitive article on shoes, and an e-commerce store selling shoes.

Shoe query

Shoe query

Certain queries also deserve freshness (see Google’s freshness algorithm). If the intent of a particular query was, say “taylor swift’s new boyfriend 2018”, an article on Taylor Swift’s new boyfriend in 2017 won’t make it to the top.

What can you do?

Take some time to reflect and analyse your target keywords in order to understand the searcher intent. Next, determine the most suitable content format (e.g. video, brand landing page, blogpost, services page, category listing, tool, fresh and up-to-date, etc.). Finally, apply creative copywriting skills to make your snippet enticing enough to click through.

3. Group similar-themed keywords on one page rather than focusing on one keyword per page

Again, with RankBrain as Google’s third most powerful ranking factor, we are seeing single page URLs ranking for more and more similar-themed keywords.

For instance, this page ranks for over 157 keywords.

Equinet Academy organic search engine ahref organic keyword report

Equinet Academy organic search engine ahref organic keyword report

Let’s have a look at how similar the theme of these keywords are:

similar themed keywords ranking same page

similar themed keywords ranking same page

As you can see, instead of creating one page for “digital marketing training”, one for “internet marketing courses”, and another one for “marketing short courses in singapore”, Google recognises the page is relevant for all these terms and ranks the same page on top for all of them.

What can you do?

Adopt a systematic approach to your keyword research process to group similar-themed keywords on one webpage.

Track and monitor your keyword rankings for the page.

If there is a huge disparity in ranking position between the keywords (i.e. one keyword is on position 1 while another keyword is on position 80), then the lower ranking keywords may need to be moved to another page.

4. Include target keywords in the copy, images, meta tags, and URL

Yes, this best practice has been around since more than two decades ago. The thing is, it still works.

Even though very few voice search results have the exact search query in the title tag, Google still tends to extract voice search answers that match the search query from within the copy.

Images also tend to rank better in Google Image search results when tagged with the keywords in the image file name and alternate tags.

Google tends to show the written meta description only when the search query is found in it.

What can you do?

Be sure to include your target keywords in the:

  • Title tag
  • URL
  • Meta description
  • Subheadings (H1, H2, H3…)
  • Image alt tags and image file name
  • Copy
  • Internal links

5. Use markup where necessary (e.g.

Google works hard to understand the content of a page. You can help Google understand your content better by including structured data on your pages.

For instance, if you’re writing an article, you can mark up your content with structured data elements and describe the article or video there. This can help your content gain placement in the Top stories carousel and other rich result features.

Top stories carousel

Top stories carousel

What can you do?

Check out to identify types of content items that can be marked up.

6. Page loading speed is fast < 3 seconds

Ever landed on page that took forever to load? You most probably became disinterested and hit the back button after the 6th second. Studies have shown that the probability of a user bouncing off a page increases 106% from 1 – 6 seconds of page loading time.

Page speed has also been confirmed as a ranking factor by Google for mobile searches.

What can you do?

Check your site with the PageSpeed Insights – Google Developers tool to diagnose slow loading issues such as large CSS files and images and optimise them. Develop accelerated mobile page (AMP) version of your articles.

7. Page is device responsive without mobile intrusive interstitials

Mobile searches are dominating desktop searches at a rate of over 60%, and it’s still growing fast. If your website still doesn’t load properly on mobile and tablet devices, your mobile rankings will be suffering by now.

Google has also confirmed the rollout of mobile intrusive interstitials penalty in January 2017. So, be sure to avoid interstitials such as these.

Types of Mobile Interstitials to avoid

Types of Mobile Interstitials to avoid – Source: Google Webmaster Central

What can you do?

Check out whether your pages are mobile friendly with the mobile-friendly test tool by Google. Link your website up with Google Search Console to be notified of any mobile-related design and development issues.

8. Page content is accessible and crawl-able

Search engine spiders need to be able to access and crawl a page in order to properly index and rank it.

How do search engines work

How search engines work

Here are some possible reasons why a page can’t be accessed or crawled:

  • 4XX and 5XX errors – e.g. page cannot be found or server errors
  • Too many redirects e.g. redirect chain or broken redirects
  • Robots.txt file blocking crawlers from accessing a page
  • Page is coded in web languages that search engines have problem understanding such as Flash or Java

Either way, if search engines can’t access or crawl your pages, they won’t rank well.

What can you do?

Conduct a full SEO website audit with an SEO auditing tool like Ahrefs Site Audit tool to identify webpages and web resources that can’t be accessed or crawled. Avoid having orphan pages – i.e. pages that have no links pointing to it. Be sure to submit a sitemap to Google Search Console and include more internal links between your pages where appropriate to ensure Google can easily discover them.

9. Website is secured with HTTPS

Google confirmed HTTPS as a ranking signal in 2014. Meaning, websites that have adopted HTTPS will see a slight boost in overall rankings.

What can you do?

Contact your web hosting provider or web developer to secure your site with HTTPS.

10. Content is amplify-able (easily earns social shares, mentions, and backlinks)

This is the last and one of the most important best practices to follow.

As Google relies on off-page signals to determine whether your content deserves to rank (though this factor has been decreasing in influence over the years), if your content isn’t Shareable, Mentionable, or Linkable (SML), it’ll be tough to maintain top rankings, much less rank on top of Google.

On the other hand, SML content not only tends to rank much higher, but also continuously earns publicity (in the form of shares, mentions, backlinks) the longer it stays on top.

Let’s have a look at an example. A resource page titled “What is SEO” by SearchEngineLand has a clear and comprehensive video explaining what SEO is. The quality of the content alone has allowed it to gradually gain backlinks over the last five years or so.

Steady growth in backlinks- referring domains report by Ahrefs tool

Steady growth in backlinks- referring domains report by Ahrefs tool

What can you do?

Get 10 people in your industry to read your content and ask them whether they would be open to share, mention, or link to it if there was an opportunity to do so. If the result is 0/10, it might be time to rethink the content.


Though Google’s algorithms continue to evolve (algorithm updates happen once or twice a day), the fundamental principles of good SEO remain the same:

  • Provide high value content that’s relevant to the searcher’s intent
  • Ensure your content is accessible and friendly to search engines and humans
  • Amplify your content to earn social shares, mentions, and backlinks

Follow these SEO content best practices to rank well in 2019. Check out my other article on the 22 must-have elements in your blog post, with a bonus template for easy reference. Also, to know more about SEO and other Digital Marketing disciplines, at Equinet Academy we offer a range of Digital Marketing courses for you to up-skill yourself. sample keyword generated

In this article, we will cover what is keyword research, how to conduct it, and how to develop a keyword research document to inform your content strategy and website architecture.

What is Keyword Research?

Keyword research is finding out what search terms your potential customers are using on search engines, so that you can optimise your website better with the data. It is usually conducted using keyword research tools such as Google Keyword Planner,, Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, and Semrush.

Why is Keyword Research Important?

Keyword research is an essential part of the SEO process. It provides you with insight on what problems your customers could be facing and what solutions they could be looking for. This can help you to:

  • Curate useful content that hasn’t yet existed on your website: By conducting keyword research, you’ll discover exactly what questions your consumers are asking. The next step would be to understand the searchers’ intents and create relevant content that will provide the best answers/solution to each question/query.
  • Keyword-optimise existing content: Knowing what keywords your potential customers are using can help you better optimise your content for them and for the search engines (e.g. by including the keywords in your title tags, URL, meta description, copy, and image alt tags.)
  • Restructure your website architecture: Prior to keyword research, you may have grouped too many unrelated keywords on one page, confusing search engines about the main topic of the page, resulting in subpar rankings. Keyword research can help you group the right keywords into relevant silos i.e. create new pages for new groups of keywords. This enables search engines to understand the main topic of your page better and results in higher rankings.

How to Conduct Keyword Research?

Here’s a 4-step keyword research process we can adopt to conduct keyword research. By the end of this process, you should be able to produce a keyword research sheet.

Keyword Research Process in 4 steps

Keyword Research Process in 4 steps

The four steps in the above process are:

  1. Brainstorm
  2. Build
  3. Organise
  4. Prioritise

Step 1: Brainstorm

First step, identify your personas by:

  • Brainstorming with your team: Setting up a meeting with your team to brainstorm and list down all possible personas.
  • Conducting keyword research: Using keyword research tools such as Google Keyword Planner to identify personas.
  • Analysing existing customer enquiries & profiles: Looking through your past customer enquiries and existing customer profiles to help you identify personas.
  • Conducting market survey: Investing in paid market research data, conducting surveys with 3rd party and existing customers, visiting forums and attending community events where your potential customers hang out.

Then, pen down any keywords you think your customers may search with on Google.

It can be as simple as this example, e.g. a car rental company.

Keyword research table example

Once you have a substantive list of seed keywords, you can build on/expand your list of keywords in step 2.

Step 2: Build

To expand/build on your keyword list, dump your seed keywords into at least two of the following keyword research tools: does a great job on building on keyword ideas. sample keyword generated

Using the car rental company example, you may have gathered groups of keywords that don’t fit on a single webpage. For example, your list may look a little messy initially, like this:

  • car rental Singapore
  • car rental company singapore
  • cheap car rental Singapore
  • cheap car rental
  • luxury car rental
  • daily car rental
  • monthly car rental
  • car leasing
  • car leasing Singapore
  • lease a car in Singapore
  • where to rent a car in Singapore
  • how much does it cost to rent a car in Singapore
  • car rental costs in Singapore
  • car rental requirements
  • what are the requirements to rent a car in Singapore

Putting all of the above keywords on the same page can kill your rankings for specific search queries i.e. long tail keywords such as “where to rent a car in Singapore”, as Google may get confused about the topical relevancy of your page in relation to your target search queries. You may however get to rank that page for more generic keywords such as “car rental Singapore”. Therefore, if you want to rank for a higher volume of keywords, you need to organise your keywords and pages into silos in step 3.

Step 3: Organise

Again, with the car rental company example, we can organise the above keywords with relevant webpages and determine an SEO title for each set of keywords. The SEO title is the text that appears in the headlines of Google’s search engine results.

SEO Title tags snippet example

In the keywords column on the above below, we’ve grouped the keywords in relevancy to the SEO titles.

In simple terms, the keywords column represents the questions (search intent), and the SEO Titles column represents the answer (web page). The key is to rank a page for as many relevant keywords as possible.

Keyword table sample data

In the first row, both keywords have the same intent, in that the consumer wants to find a list of car rental companies. It is still pretty unclear what his exact intentions are as they are still pretty generic. Therefore, the homepage would be a good starting point.

In the second row, the consumer’s main concern is the affordability of the car rentals. Therefore, Allstar Cars has curated a list of its cheapest cars into a category page.

In the third row, it would be too much of a hassle to create two different pages (i.e. one for daily car rental and one for monthly car rental), especially since the daily and monthly rental rates are also easier for a visitor to view on a single page. Therefore, ranking the same page for both keywords not only reduces time and cost, but also provides a good user experience.

In the last row, the intent of the question is to find out or calculate the total cost of renting a car in Singapore. A consumer may be looking for details such as road toll charges, parking costs, insurance, etc. He may not be ready to rent a car yet. Therefore, an informative article (i.e. How much will it cost you to rent a car in Singapore) would be a better search result.

Step 4: Prioritise

Now that we have an organised keyword list with each keyword group mapped to related content, which keywords should we prioritise ranking for?

To make a decision on which keywords to prioritise rankings first, we need to look at the following factors:

  • Searcher intent: How likely is the searcher to make a purchase based on his or her search query
  • Keyword difficulty: How competitive a keyword is (i.e. how hard is it to rank a given keyword)
  • Search volume: How many people are searching for a given keyword (i.e. how “popular” a keyword is)

Searcher Intent

Different keywords have different intent. Not all keywords have buying intent. It is important to segment the keywords based on the searcher intent. Here are a few common intents:

  • I want to go (e.g. Search term: Car rental companies in City Hall)
  • I want to buy (e.g. Search term: Rent a car in Singapore)
  • I want to know (e.g. Search term: What are the costs of renting a car in Singapore)

For the search term “Rent a car in Singapore”, the intent to purchase is relatively high. And we can select transactional or product-focused content to rank for keywords like these.

For the search term “What are the costs of renting a car in Singapore”, a searcher may not be interested to rent a car yet, and is looking for information on renting a car before making a decision. Therefore, an informative article would be a better page to rank for this keyword.

If we had to prioritise which keywords to rank first, we would focus our SEO efforts (i.e. link building and off-page SEO activities) on high purchase intent keywords.

Keyword Difficulty

It can take months or even years to rank for highly competitive keywords. Therefore, keyword difficulty can be a factor of consideration as to whether you should prioritise ranking a given keyword.

There isn’t a foolproof way of calculating exactly how difficult it is to rank for a given keyword (if there was, it wouldn’t be 100% accurate anyway since Google wouldn’t divulge exactly how their ranking algorithms are developed). We can therefore only rely on estimates calculated using tools such as Ahref’s Keyword Difficulty Tool. Though it’s a paid tool, you can conveniently derive a keyword difficulty score, providing you with insight on how difficult it might be to rank for a particular keyword.

ahrefs keyword difficulty sample data

Other ways to determine keyword difficulty would be to examine whether the competition have thoroughly optimised their pages for a given set of keywords. If you discovered a long tail keyword that no one has optimised for, it shouldn’t be too difficult to rank for it. A straightforward example would be brand names e.g. Allstar Cars.

In the following example, the keywords “car rental Singapore aljunied” has no competitors optimising their SEO title for the keywords:

Low competition keywords ranking on Google

Although the search volume is less than 10 every month, it can still drive high quality traffic and conversions.

Search Volume

If the above two factors are equal, then search volume would be the deciding factor which keywords should have priority in ranking. We can check the search volume of a keyword on Google with Google Keyword Planner.

Google Keyword Research Planner Tool sample data search volume

As you can see, car rental Singapore has a higher search volume than cheap car rental singapore. If cheap car rental singapore were as competitive as car rental Singapore, we would then prioritise ranking for the higher search volume keyword which would be car rental Singapore.

Summary of Keyword Research

Keyword research can be a tedious process and take weeks or even months to execute. But it creates a strong foundation for your on-page SEO activities and can provide insights on customer intent and behaviour. The 4-step keyword research process streamlines your keyword research activity and enables you to perform effective and efficient keyword research.

I cover more in-depth keyword research techniques in my 2-day Search Engine Optimisation course. Get hands-on and sign up to learn how to rank your website on top of Google. All the best!

SEO Strategic Alignment

An SEO strategy is a blueprint or master plan to achieve top organic search engine rankings and visibility for a brand.

As this is an intermediate to advanced level article, I recommend reading this beginner SEO guide first if you’re relatively new to SEO.

To achieve optimal results in the long term, an SEO strategy should also be integrated with, and complement other channel marketing strategies, particularly content marketing, search engine marketing (SEM), social media marketing, Online PR, and digital advertising.

In this article, I’ll break down why and how an SEO strategy should be integrated with other channel marketing strategies.

Why and How an SEO Strategy Should Be Integrated with Other Digital Marketing Channel Strategies

It is common to think that the main objective of a successful search engine optimisation campaign is to achieve high rankings for a carefully selected group of keywords. But is it really the case anymore? As search engine algorithms constantly evolve, ranking number one for every keyword you target is becoming a seemingly impossible task. On a side note, if an SEO agency promises/guarantees you number one rankings, there’s a high chance they might engage in search engine spam techniques which can do more harm than good, so veer far away.

Your objectives and tactics in your SEO strategy should align with other channel marketing strategies’ objectives and tactics.

SEO Strategic Alignment

Aligning SEO Strategy with Marketing Strategy

The key to a successful integrated SEO strategy is to understand what a successful SEO campaign can bring to the table and how to effectively integrate various channel marketing strategies (such as content marketing, social media marketing, and digital advertising) to achieve common objectives (e.g. increasing brand awareness, engagement, and sales).

For example, the benefits a well-executed SEO campaign can reap for an electronics retailer include:

  • Increase in brand awareness – by ranking for top of the funnel keywords searched by your target audience. Examples of top of the funnel keywords for an electronics retailer include more generic search terms such as “electronic products” and “electronics stores”.
  • Increase in engagement (e.g. traffic and time spent on site) – by ranking for relevant search terms potential customers may use along their buying journey and making sure the content that ranks actually influences their buying decision.
  • Increase in sales – by ranking for bottom of the funnel keywords where potential customers are more ready to commit to a purchase such as “buy ssd drive for macbook pro” and “cheap ram ddr4 16gb”.

As you may have already noticed, the above objectives are very similar to almost any general marketing strategy. How then, are you supposed to integrate other channel marketing strategies with your SEO strategy?

First, you need to understand what an integrated marketing means. Here’s an excellent definition taken from thedma.orgIntegrated Marketing is an approach to creating a unified and seamless experience for consumers to interact with the brand/enterprise; it attempts to meld all aspects of marketing communication such as advertising, sales promotion, public relations, direct marketing, and social media, through their respective mix of tactics, methods, channels, media, and activities, so that all work together as a unified force. It is a process designed to ensure that all messaging and communications strategies are consistent across all channels and are centered on the customer.

Second, if you’re attempting to meld the various aspects of marketing communication into a unified force, you need to be proficient in or at least sufficiently familiar with the pillars, tactics, and benefits and constraints of other channel marketing strategies. In other words, you need to be a T-shaped marketer.

Let’s say you want to increase brand awareness through content marketing. A well-executed, standalone, content promotion campaign such as getting influencers to review your products and link to your website will achieve that objective. Speaking about unified force, the backlinks acquired from the influencer’s blog or website will also increase your keyword (SEO) rankings.

Adding to this point, in order to rank and stay on top of the search engines in the long term, you need a constant influx of backlinks. And to achieve that, you need a robust content marketing strategy, one that will consistently earn you natural backlinks.

Example of an Integrated SEO Marketing Strategy

Here’s an example of how an integrated SEO and content marketing strategy produced a well-thought-out and well-crafted content piece that generated thousands of backlinks for Moz and positioned them as the authority of their industry.

Moz Google Algorithm Changes

Moz knew the search term “google algorithm change history” was a popular search term that would bring a good amount of regular traffic and wanted to capitalise on that. They also knew it was going to be a content piece that SEO bloggers would likely link to in the long run, as it would be an incredibly challenging task to maintain its freshness, much less to create and organise the entire timeline of Google algorithm changes.

After a good initial content marketing campaign boost and some basic SEO on-page keyword optimisation, the page initially gained backlinks from 514 websites. But it was enough to rank it on the 1st page of Google. And as SEO bloggers wrote SEO content that talked about google algorithm changes, they Googled for sources like this and eventually linked to Moz’s.

Using Ahrefs’s Site Explorer tool, we can see that over the past 5 years, it has generated backlinks from over 5000 referring domains! Not only did the tremendous link equity to the Moz domain boost its overall keyword rankings and increased brand awareness, engagement, and sales, it also helped position Moz as the authority in the SEO industry.


At Equinet Academy, we integrate SEO into every other channel marketing strategy where possible. The reason why we’re so invested in SEO is due to the positive results the organic search channel has brought us over the years.

Multichannel Funnel Reports (Google Analytics)

Multichannel Funnel Reports (Google Analytics)

As you can see in our Google Analytics Multi-Channel Funnels report above, the organic search channel contributed to 34.76% of assisted conversions and 37.42% of direct conversions. That’s more than one-third of all sales, leads, and engagements.

In conclusion, if you do your best to integrate SEO across your various channel marketing strategies, you will gradually see a consistent growth in traffic, engagement, and leads.

If you learned something new from this post, here are some recommendations from us for additional reading:

SEO, SEM, and PPC. These terms have been used interchangeably for the longest time. But are they really the same?

This article aims to iron out the definition of each discipline and provide you with a clearer understanding on the features, differences, pros, and cons.

What is SEO and SEM, and What is PPC Exactly?

SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is the process of optimising a website to rank prominently on the organic search results.

SEM or Search Engine Marketing is a subset of digital advertising, associated with targeting a website to rank on the paid search engine results pages.

PPC or Pay Per Click refers to the buying model in which advertisers pay a fee for every click their ad receives.



Based on the above definitions, SEO and SEM both exist within the umbrella term “Search Marketing”. And while PPC is a buying model which is commonly and inaccurately used interchangeably with SEM, it isn’t wrong to say that SEM and PPC co-exist within the same subset of Digital Advertising – Search Advertising.

Note that there are other subsets of Digital Advertising that include: 

  • Display Advertising
  • Social Media Advertising
  • Programmatic Real Time Bidding
  • Mobile Advertising

The Main Difference Between SEO and SEM

The main difference between SEO and SEM is that SEO is a method of ranking a website on the organic search results while SEM is based on a pay per click model of displaying text ads above the organic search results.

To better illustrate this, let’s put on the hat of a Marketing Executive of a B2B organic food supplier.

Your clients are looking for products like yours on Google and they’re typing in search terms such as “organic food”.

Example of SEO vs SEM and the difference

Example of Pay Per Click buying Model in the search channel, organic search and paid search results

To be visible and potentially acquire clients at this crucial moment, your website needs to be ranked highly on the paid search results, organic search results, or in the best-case scenario, BOTH.

To rank on the paid search results, you set up your ads and target keywords on Google AdWords. Within a day, your company website ranks on the top 4 positions of Google whenever a potential client searches for your target keywords e.g. “organic food suppliers”.

However, you have to pay Google AdWords a fee every time a user clicks on your ad. That’s because Google AdWords charges advertisers based on a pay per click or PPC model.

After evaluating your costs vs results, you realise you may not be able to maintain your budget for the long term as more and more competitors bid and compete for the same target keywords.

You decide to invest in an SEO strategy to rank your website on the organic search results instead, where clicks don’t cost you anything.

The Similarities and Differences Between SEO and SEM

We know that both SEO and SEM are subsets of search marketing that co-exist in the same channel of search. We also know that we have to pay a fee for every click for SEM traffic while we pay nothing for clicks from SEO efforts.

With that said, here’s a list of similarities and differences between SEO and SEM.


  • SEO and SEM both co-exist on the same channel – The search channel
  • Both SEO and SEM are intent-based marketing
  • Being visible on either SEM or SEO search results boosts brand awareness regardless of whether you get any clicks


  • SEM search results (up to 4 paid search results) appear above SEO search results (up to 10 organic search results)
  • SEM search results are demarcated with an Ad symbol while SEO search results aren’t
  • SEO search results have different features from SEM search results such as featured snippets while SEM results have ad extension features
  • SEM drives paid traffic while SEO drives organic (non-paid) traffic
  • SEO efforts take a longer time to show results than SEM efforts

SEO vs SEM – Pros and Cons

The pros and cons of SEO and SEM, as outlined in the comparison table below.

Pros and cons of seo and sem comparison table

Pros and cons of seo and sem comparison table

People become more aware of your brand when they see your website ranking for multiple search terms, even if they don’t click into it. Traffic acquired from the search channel tend to have higher conversion rates, as search is an intent-based marketing channel.

SEO may not be very effective in the short term but it boosts long-term returns, and SEO efforts can take anywhere from weeks to months to see visible results. Once you’re ranked high organically, you’ll be up there for a good amount of time. This isn’t the case for SEM as your ads will stop showing the moment your ad budget runs out. Organic search results also tend to get more clicks than paid search results, but it depends on the industry and specific search terms that are used.

With SEM, however, it can take less than an hour to set up a Google AdWords campaign and start driving traffic. That’s as fast as launching a makeshift lemonade stand along the street.


You also get more precise targeting options such as choosing what time and day to show your ads, which countries you want your ads to appear in, and which position you want your ad to rank. On top of that, you’re able to track exactly what search terms were used to get to your website from Google (You get limited data from the organic search results).

For example, if you targeted the search term “organic food Singapore” and a user typed in close variant “organic foods Singapore”, you’ll be able to see the plural form in your reports as well.

Both SEO and SEM require technical and platform expertise to outperform your competitors and generate a positive ROI. This means it can be difficult and costly to hire in-house specialists to execute and oversee your campaigns. Because of this, the option of hiring a digital marketing agency is a rather popular choice for marketing departments.

Should You Do SEO or SEM?

It depends. Ask any digital marketing expert, and he or she will advise you to run both SEO and SEM campaigns if you have the sufficient required marketing budget. However, there are several factors that could affect your decision whether to do only SEO, SEM, or both.

For instance:

  • Short customer lifecycle: If you’re launching a promotional product marketing campaign with a short buying cycle i.e. 1 month, you won’t have the time to wait for your SEO efforts to boost your website to page 1. You need to execute an SEM campaign and get on top of the search results pages asap.
  • You want to maximise traffic from the search channel: Studies have shown that ranking on both the paid and organic search results pages result in incremental clicks overall. In this case, you want to run both SEO and SEM campaigns simultaneously.
  • Competition on paid search is over the roof: If a click costs you $58.64 and your profit margin is negative, you shouldn’t be doing SEM unless you’re okay with donating to Google.
  • You want to test the market: Since SEM can get you visibility very quickly, you can test which keywords convert better. After analysing your performance, you can then direct your focus to keywords that convert better in your SEO campaign.

There are many factors that could affect your decision whether to run SEM, SEO, or both. Take the time to analyse your industry and make a decision driven by data, not guesswork.

If you want to learn how to improve your organic search engine rankings via SEO, check out our hands-on SEO course. If you need to quickly generate search traffic and can’t wait six months or longer for SEO to take effect, SEM may be a better choice. In this case, our Google Ads course covers how to set up an Google SEM campaign from scratch.