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 (xe.com) 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. Schema.org)

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 developers.google.com 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.

Conclusion

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.

Dylan Sun is the Founder of Equinet Academy, a Digital Marketing training organisation. Passionate in all aspects of Digital Marketing and Web Design, he extends his passion to helping people implement effective digital strategies to their businesses. Follow his blog at Equinet Academy to learn more about Digital Marketing and Design.

keywordtool.io 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, Keywordtool.io, 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:

Keywordtool.io does a great job on building on keyword ideas.

keywordtool.io 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.

Keyword planner 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.

Dylan Sun is the Founder of Equinet Academy, a Digital Marketing training organisation. Passionate in all aspects of Digital Marketing and Web Design, he extends his passion to helping people implement effective digital strategies to their businesses. Follow his blog at Equinet Academy to learn more about Digital Marketing and Design.

SEO Strategic Alignment

An SEO strategy is a blueprint or master plan to achieve top organic search engine rankings and visibility for a brand. This blueprint or master plan consists of four steps: Keyword research, on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and measurement and optimisation.

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 Channel Marketing 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.

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.

Conclusion

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.

Dylan Sun is the Founder of Equinet Academy, a Digital Marketing training organisation. Passionate in all aspects of Digital Marketing and Web Design, he extends his passion to helping people implement effective digital strategies to their businesses. Follow his blog at Equinet Academy to learn more about Digital Marketing and Design.

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.

SEO vs SEM vs PPC

SEO vs SEM vs PPC

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.

Similarities

  • 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

Differences

  • 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.

via GIPHY

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.

Dylan Sun is the Founder of Equinet Academy, a Digital Marketing training organisation. Passionate in all aspects of Digital Marketing and Web Design, he extends his passion to helping people implement effective digital strategies to their businesses. Follow his blog at Equinet Academy to learn more about Digital Marketing and Design.

Background

It started out when HealthXchange.com.sg, a content hub for trusted health tips tailored for Asia (by Singapore’s largest academic medical centre, SingHealth), was undergoing a site revamp and was scheduled for a move over to HealthXchange.sg in 2016.

As HealthXchange has a strong presence in Singapore’s health scene with majority of traffic coming from Google organic search results, Equinet was engaged as a consultant to facilitate the site revamp, migration of content, and change of domain names, while minimizing any negative impacts on their existing Google rankings.

Consultation and Meeting with Key Stakeholders

A meeting was set up with the lead web content manager and the web developers to discuss the existing complications and any potential complications during the process. The following points were discussed:

  1. Should the old site still be accessible to the public when the new site goes live? What impact would that have on the rankings of both sites?
  2. Which pages should be removed completely and which pages should be redirected to the new versions?
  3. What could be done to minimize any negative impacts on existing search engine rankings?
  4. How long would the entire process take?

It was decided that popular pages of the old site would be redirected to the new site before the entire migration, meaning both the old and new websites would be accessible to the public. As a result, both sites would have different page rankings for different search terms until the migration was complete.

There were many sections and pages that were not selected for migration. The pages that were selected for migration also had their URL structures modified.

Ensuring the migration was executed as swiftly and precisely as possible according to SEO best practices of site migration was vital in order to maintain top rankings.

How long the process would take would largely depend on how long it would take to create the redirect document (in excel format) which maps the old pages to the new destination URLs.

The Migration Process

The migration process was executed via the following steps:

  1. Content from the old domain was uploaded to the new domain.
  2. An Excel document directing the mapping of old page URLs to be redirected to the new domain’s URLs was created.
  3. Sitemap of both old and new domains were submitted to Google Search Console.
  4. Redirects were implemented by the technical web development team, shutting down the old site.
  5. A change of address form was completed in Google Search Console.

The End Result

Overall the HealthXchange team did a great job executing the change of domain and content migration in a professional and efficient manner. Rankings dropped at first but quickly picked up in a few weeks.

As seen below, traffic dipped as the pages from the old domain were redirected to the new domain:

The old site was shut down by end of 2016 and rankings and traffic slowly climbed back up and stabilized weeks later for the new domain below:

HealthXchange.sg is now ranking well for its popular search terms again.

For a more detailed guide on how to change domain names while maintaining keyword rankings, check out the following resource:

https://www.semrush.com/blog/16-crucial-seo-steps-to-take-when-migrating-your-website/

SEO is Earned Media

Imagine you run a fast food joint in a shopping mall and you’re paying $5000/month in rent. The foot traffic is good. But you’re located at a blindspot, so you’re barely breaking even. If this goes on month after month, you’ll probably need to close down.

One day, the mall announces to all tenants that they are offering “free” rent to limited food joints at a high traffic location, provided they prove that they are able to attract more shoppers.

The mall puts a few candidates, including you, at the entrance of the mall. Since your fast food is so delicious and you provide free food sampling, it attracts long queues and this in turn attracts passersby to walk into the mall.

After a short trial period, the mall rewards you with that spot, rent free! That’s right. $0/month for a high foot traffic location because your food is so darn good. It’s a win-win – you get thousands of foot traffic per month at no cost because the shopping mall is able to attract more shoppers.

Google works in similar ways.

What Exactly is SEO and How Does it Work?

SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is the practice of increasing a website’s visibility on the organic 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

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.

Similar to the shopping mall example earlier, as there are thousands of other websites out there trying to rank their webpages on Google as well, Google has to decide which webpages deserve to rank on the top.

Google achieves this through creating and implementing algorithms to sort the rubbish from the ones that actually provide value to the searcher. These algorithms make up to over 200 ranking factors that are taken into consideration.

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

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, analysing existing keyword data via a web analytics software) to optimise a website’s search engine rankings for.

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. Schema.org 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. www.fashionxyz.com may want to expand its international search presence to Australia and Japan. It creates two new websites on the CCTLD domains www.fashionxyz.com.au and www.fashionxyz.jp 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.

Summary

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

Dylan Sun is the Founder of Equinet Academy, a Digital Marketing training organisation. Passionate in all aspects of Digital Marketing and Web Design, he extends his passion to helping people implement effective digital strategies to their businesses. Follow his blog at Equinet Academy to learn more about Digital Marketing and Design.

Keywords Optimisation SEO

Keyword optimisation comes after you have conducted keyword research and built your list of target keywords. Here’s a sample in excel format:

Keyword Research List Example

So what we’re essentially doing here is taking these keywords and placing them into key areas of your website. They are:

  1. Title Tags
  2. Domain Name and URL
  3. Meta Description
  4. Images
  5. Content

1. Title Tags (Best Practices)

Title Tags <title>Example Title</title> tell search engines what your page is about. Search engines may then use your title tags to display your page title on the search results snippets.

Title in search results snippets

If your website is on WordPress.org, install the Yoast SEO plugin to enable the Title Tag field to fill in your title tags. If you’re on other content management systems, there should be a built-in SEO title box/field or an extension to enter your title tags.

Here are some SEO best practices for your Title Tags:

  • Place the keyword closer to the front of the title. Moz tested and concluded that this increases the likelihood of a user clicking on the search result and also helps in search engine rankings.
  • Ensure your title is unique, outstanding, and appealing. Cross check with competitor sites and your own internal page titles. Consider the searcher intent and make your title appeal to their emotions. The more appealing the title, the higher the click-through-rate. Search engines also place importance in the uniqueness of your title.
  • Keep the length of your title between 50 – 60 characters / 512 pixels wide. If the title is too long, search engines will truncate the titles and show an ellipsis.
  • Include your brand name in the title tag. It is good practice to place your brand name in front on the title tag for the homepage and at the back for internal pages of your site. This increases brand exposure and the likelihood of a user (who has repeated seen the brand’s name) clicking on a particular brand’s search result.
  • Optimise for multiple keywords. Optimising for multiple keywords increases the chances of ranking for more than one keyword. For example, business cards and name cards share similar meaning and can both be included in the title tags if there is sufficient space (512 pixels max).

2. Domain Name and URL (Best Practices)

The domain name and URL appears in the search results snippets as well.

Domain URL in Search Results Snippets

Exact match domain names (EMD) like classroomforrent.com no longer have significant direct impact on rankings after Google turned the knob down on EMDs in the recent years.

However having an EMD can indirectly impact rankings when external sites include a naked hyperlink (e.g. <a href=“http://classroom-rental.com>classroom-rental.com</a>) to your site, since keywords in the anchor text are considerably an important ranking factor.

Here are some SEO best practices for your domain name and URLs:

  • Keep all sections of your site in one domain or subdomain. It is recommended to keep your important webpages in sub directories (e.g. example.com/blog/post/ as opposed to blog.example.com/post/) as search engines use different ranking metrics for domains and subdomains.
  • Avoid nesting folders into deep layers e.g. www.example.com/folder1/folder2/folder3/example-content as search engine spiders may have trouble crawling deeper into your site. Search engines also tend not to crawl deeper into your site if you have a low domain authority.
  • Include your keywords in your URLs. e.g. https://www.example.com/classroom-for-rent/
  • Keep your domain name and URLs short and easy to understand (< 100 characters) and use lower case letters. This makes it easier for users to remember and type into the browser. Some users may not be exactly sure whether they have gotten the correct spelling of the domain name. Thus they would search for the domain name on Google instead of typing the full address.
  • Consider removing “stop words” such as and, or, but, a, etc. Shorter URLs allow users to easily remember and type the full URL.
  • Avoid rewriting dynamic URLs into static URLs e.g. (www.example.com/index.php?page=icdl-module&id=31). Though it is advisable to use static URLs as much as possible, in cases when you have dynamic content, it is recommended not to remove information (hiding parameters) to make them look static. To check whether Google has problems crawling your dynamic URLs, you can check for any issues/alerts in your GWT (Google Webmaster Tools) account.
  • Use hyphens and underscores as word separators but avoid hyphens on domain names. Using hyphens and underscores (hyphens preferred) on your URLs is recommended. It helps indicate to search engines the number of keywords used in the URL. E.g. example.com/rentalounge/ should be written as example.com/rent-a-lounge/. On the other hand, domain names should avoid using hyphens as this is common practice among spammy websites. (e.g. class-room-rental-for-rent.com)
  • Get HTTPS. Google has confirmed the use of HTTPS as a ranking signal. However it is now only a very lightweight signal compared to other signals such as high-quality content. It is still good practice to adopt HTTPS on your websites as Google may decide to strengthen this signal over time.

Further reading:

Keep a simple URL structure | Google Search Console Help

15 SEO Best Practices for Structuring URLs | Moz

3. Meta Description (Best Practices)

The meta description isn’t a ranking factor as stated by Google in 2007. It’s worth noting however, that meta descriptions can improve clickthrough (driving user traffic to your website).

Meta Description Example

Here are some SEO best practices for your meta description:

  • Keep your meta description between 150 to 160 characters. If your meta description is too long, Google will truncate it.
  • Include your target keywords in your meta description. This will make it more compelling for users to click when they see words that are relevant to their search query.
  • Make your meta description is unique, outstanding, and persuasive. Treat the meta description as your ad text. Be sure to browse through the search results (both paid and organic results) and ensure yours is the most outstanding and has the most compelling value proposition.
  • Ensure it is wrapped around the meta tags. <meta name=”description” content=“Example meta description content that will often show up in the search results snippets.”> and placed in the <head></head> section. For WordPress sites, use the Yoast SEO plugin to easily add a meta description.
  • Use only alphanumeric characters in your meta description. If wrapped in quotes “ ”, Google won’t display it.
  • Use structured data markup if it is appropriate to the content. (Use a WordPress rich snippets plugin if you are using WordPress. Use schema-creator.org/ if you wish to create your own snippets.)

4. Images (Best Practices)

Using images can help make your content livelier and also convey credibility (trust is an important factor for conversions). Avoid using overly-used stock photos. If you’re selling a product, include closeup photos of them. If you’re renting out a room, include professionally-taken photos of your rooms.

Which company would you trust?

Here are some SEO best practices for your images:

  • Use a descriptive image file name i.e. (car-showroom.jpg instead of DM9902.jpg). This will help Google understand your image better and help it rank better on Google Image Search.
  • Make your alt tags descriptive of the image and include your target keywords when possible (do not stuff keywords). <img src=“http://example.com/uploads/car-showroom.jpg alt=“car showroom”>. This is a ranking factor and will help in your rankings.
  • Reduce your image file sizes and use the right image file type (e.g. JPEG is preferred over PNG / GIF). Slow loading times can negatively impact your rankings.
  • Use unique, high quality, custom graphics/photos where possible to increase chances of people embedding/citing your images. This will help in your link building efforts. 
  • Include your images into your sitemap and submit your sitemap to search engines. It will help search engines to crawl and index your images better.

5. Content (Best Practices)

Creating the best and most relevant answer for your target search queries is one of the best principles to stick by. Think of the search query as a question (also known as the searcher intent), and your content as the answer to the question, and you’ll be on the right track.

If someone were searching for “currency converter tool”, what would be the best thing to show up in front of her?

Yup, you got it. An online currency converter software like www.xe.com.

Currency converter tool example content

Content can come in many forms, including some of the following:

  • Blogpost – Copy that’s a couple of hundred (or thousands of) words long and may include images, written in a friendly, second-person point of view style.
  • Article – Online news reports, magazine, or a shortened form of a white paper are all examples of articles, written in a more serious tone as compared to a blogpost.
  • Video – If someone were searching for “how to bake a cake tutorial”, a blogpost with a detailed step-by-step video detailing how to bake a cake from scratch would be a great answer.
  • Product Page – A page zooming in on a product’s specific details on an e-commerce website.
  • Listicles – Think of search terms like “best restaurants in my area”. What would be the most appropriate results? – Most probably content publishing sites like www.thesmartlocal.com featuring an blogpost titled, “21 Best Local Restaurants in Singapore”.

The list goes on and on…

Here are some SEO best practices for your content:

  • Ensure your main content (MC) and supplementary content (SC) is relevant to your target keywords and provides the best answer to the searcher intent. This helps to minimise “pogo-sticking” (where a visitor bounces back to the search results pages right after clicking on a search result), as visitors expect to see a relevant and useful content after clicking on a search result.
  • Mention your primary and secondary keywords early on in your copy. It is good SEO practice to mention your primary and secondary keywords in the first paragraph of your copy. This signals to search engines that your content is relevant to your target keywords mentioned in your title.
  • Primary and secondary keywords should be included in subheadings and distributed evenly throughout your copy. On the other hand, stuffing your target keywords on every paragraph of your copy can be a signal of spam and get your pages penalised by search engines.
  • Ensure your content is unique and has E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness). Write like you’re the subject matter expert and worry about keyword optimisation later. These are indicators which Google uses to access the quality of your content and are used in their ranking algorithms.
  • Link out to relevant internal pages of your website or relevant external websites where appropriate. To improve your pages’ relevancy score and help search engines understand the topic of your pages and index them better, link each page back to its category or subcategory pages, related internal pages of your site, and external relevant and reputable sources.

Key Takeaways

  1. Conduct in-depth keyword research prior to keyword optimisation so that you won’t miss out placing any important keywords in your title, URL, meta description, images, and content.
  2. Always be relevant when choosing keywords to optimise for. You don’t want to confuse users by showing them keywords that aren’t relevant to their search queries. For this, you need to really understand the intent of the search queries (searcher intent).
  3. Do not spam or stuff keywords. Instead, develop your content naturally first and get a subject matter to craft your content. Worry about placing your target keywords in your copy later.

There’s a fine line between optimising your pages for search engines and catering to humans. If you optimise your content too heavily, you risk speaking to search engines rather than writing in human language. If you totally ignore how search engines rank your content, you’ll miss out on optimising for the right keywords.

As SEOs, we have to be creative, resourceful, and flexible in order to keep both search engines and humans happy!

Dylan Sun is the Founder of Equinet Academy, a Digital Marketing training organisation. Passionate in all aspects of Digital Marketing and Web Design, he extends his passion to helping people implement effective digital strategies to their businesses. Follow his blog at Equinet Academy to learn more about Digital Marketing and Design.

A-Z SEO Glossary of Terms and Definition

A-Z SEO Glossary of Terms and Definition

Welcome to the A-Z Glossary of SEO Terms & Definitions.

You may use the search bar below to filter the table of SEO terms, then click on the search results to navigate to the definition.

Alternatively, you may download this glossary as a PDF file.

Numbers 0 - 9
200 OK
301 (Moved Permanently)
302 Found (New HTTP Version 1.1)/Moved Temporary(Old HTTP version 1.0)
307 (Temporary Redirect)
403 (Forbidden)
404 (Not Found)
410 (Gone)
500 (Internal Server Error)
503 (Service Unavailable)
A
Above The Fold
Ahrefs
Absolute URLs
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
AJAX
Algorithm
Algorithmic Penalty
Algorithm Update
Alternate Text
Anchor Text
B
Backlink
Backlink Checker Tool
BackRub
Bing
Bing Keyword Research Tool
Bing Webmaster Tools
Black Hat SEO
Block-Level Link Analysis
Blog
Blog Commenting
Blog Comment Spam
Blog Network
Bot
Bounce Rate
Brand Keywords
Brand Mentions
Breadcrumbs
Broken Link
C
Canonical URL (rel=canonical)
Cache
Country Code Top-Level Domain (ccTLD)
Click-Through-Rate (CTR)
Cloaking
Co-Citation
Co-Occurrence
Correlation vs Causation
Code Swapping
Content
Content Delivery Network (CDN)
Content Hub
Content Marketing
Content Uniqueness
Conversion
Conversion Rate
Crawl
Crawl Budget
Cross-Linking
Curated Content
CSS
D
De-Indexed
Directory
Disavow
Dofollow
Doorway Page
Domain Authority
Domain Name
Duplicate Content
Dwell Time (Time Spent On Page)
Dynamic Content
Dynamic Serving
Dynamic URL
E
E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, Trust)
Editorial Link
Egobait
Entity
Everflux
Exact Match Domain (EMD)
External Link
F
FLASH
Frames
Freshness
G
Google AdWords Keyword Tool
Google Alerts
Google Bombing
Google Dance
Googlebot
Google Keyword Planner
Google My Business
Google Sitelinks
Google Slap
Google Suggest
Google Supplemental Index
Google Trends
Google Webmaster Guidelines
Google Webmaster Tools
Guestographics
Guest Blogging / Guest Posting
H
Hummingbird
HTML
HTML5
HTML Sitemap
HTTPS
I
Image Filename
Image Sitemap
Image Title
Impression
Inbound Link
Index
Indexability
Infographic
Internal Linking
International SEO
Interstitials
Inverse Document Frequency (IDF)
IP Address
J
JavaScript
jQuery
K
Keyword
Keyword Cannibalisation
Keyword Categorisation
Keyword Density
Keyword Difficulty / Keyword Competition
Keyword Optimisation
Keyword Rankings
Keyword Research / Keyword Analysis
Keyword Stuffing / Keyword Spam
Knowledge Graph
L
Landing Page
Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)
Link
Link Age
Link Acquisition
Link Bait
Link Building
Link Burst
Link Buying
Link Condom
Link Diversity
Link Juice / Link Authority / Link Equity / Link Love / Link Popularity
Link Exchange
Link Farm
Link Hoarding
Link Reclamation
Link Relevancy
Link Rot
Link Spam
Link Text
Link Velocity
Linkerati
Local Citation
Local SEO
Long Tail Keywords
M
Main Content (MC)
Main Navigation Menu
Manual Penalty
Meta Description
Meta Keywords
Meta Refresh
Meta Robots
Mirror Site
Mobilegeddon
Mobile-Friendly
MozRank
Multiple Keyword Optimisation
N
Natural Language Processing (NLP)
Natural Links
Negative SEO
Newsjacking
Niche Keywords
Nofollow
Noindex
(Not provided)
O
Off-Page SEO
On-Page SEO
Online Reputation Management
Organic Search Results
P
PageRank
Page Authority
Page Loading Time / Page Speed
Pagination
Paid Links / Paid Inclusion
Paid Search Results
Panda Algorithm
Penguin Algorithm
Pigeon Algorithm
Pogo-Sticking
Press Release
Primary Keywords
Private Blog Network (PBN)
Proximity (Local search)
Q
Query Deserves Diversity (QDD)
Query Deserves Freshness (QDF)
Query / Search Query
Query Refinement
R
RankBrain
Rankings
Rank Checker Tool
Reciprocal Linking
Reconsideration Request / Re-Inclusion
Redirect
Referral
Rel="alternate" hreflang
Rel="nofollow"
Relative URLs
Responsive
Reverse Engineering
Rich Snippets
Robots
Robots.txt
Roundups
RSS Feed
S
Schema.org
Scraped Content
Search Console
Search Engine
Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)
Search Engine Result Snippet
Search Engine Penalty
Search Engine Submission
Search History
Search Operators
Search Term / Search Query
Search Terms Report
Search Volume
Secondary Keywords
Semantic Search
SEO Audit
SEO Copywriting
Site Architecture
Sitemap
Sitewide Links
Sneaky Redirects
Social Bookmarking
Social Signals
Spamdexing
Spider
Splash Page
Splog
Static Page / Static URL
Structured Data Markup
Subdomain
Subheading
Sub Navigation Menu
Supplementary Content (SC)
Supplemental Results
T
Target Keywords
Term Frequency
Thesaurus
Title / Page Title
Title Tag
Top Heavy
Top-Level Domain (TLD)
Touch Element
Trackback
Trust Flow
TrustRank
U
Uniform Resource Locator (URL)
Unnatural Link
URL Parameters
User Experience (UX)
V
Vary: User-Agent HTTP Header
Video Optimisation
Viral Content
W
White Hat SEO
X
XHTML
XML Sitemap
Y
Yandex
Yahoo!
Yelp
Z
Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT)

Numbers 0 – 9

200 OK

http-200-status-code

HTTP Status Code – 200

The 200 HTTP status code is used to indicate that the request of a webpage (http://example.com) was successfully received, understood, and accepted.


301 (Moved Permanently)

301-status-code

HTTP Status Code – 301

If you have a page that’s permanently changed URLs (e.g. www.example.com/old-page has changed to www.example.com/new-page), you should implement a 301 redirect and relink all previous resources to the new URL.

A 301 HTTP status code indicates that the requested resource has been permanently assigned a new URI (Uniform Resource Indentifier).

301 redirects pass 100% PageRank from the old page to the redirected page, though it was noted otherwise previously.


302 Found (New HTTP Version 1.1)/Moved Temporary(Old HTTP version 1.0)

If you have a page that’s temporarily under going maintenance, you’d implement a 302 redirect. Take note that search engines may not index the redirected URL as a 302 signals temporary redirection. If your page is moving permanently, you should use a 301 instead.

302 redirects pass 100% PageRank as well.


307 (Temporary Redirect)

The 307 redirect is the successor of the 302 redirect, albeit many pre-HTTP/1.1 user agents do not understand it. The 307 was introduced to improve certain conditions in which user agents behaved when they received a 302 response.


403 (Forbidden)

403 (Forbidden) HTTP Status Code

403 (Forbidden) HTTP Status Code

A 403 status code forbids the user from viewing the content on the resource page and indicates why the valid request has not been fulfilled (e.g. due to not having the necessary permissions).

Google will very quickly remove your content from its index when it sees a 403 status code. Many sites have lost a ton of pages in the Google index due improper use of 403s when they should have been using a more temporary status code such as a 503 (Service Unavailable), which doesn’t lead to immediate removal from the index.


404 (Not Found)

The requested resource could not be found and may have either moved or may be available in the future.

Do 404s hurt your site rankings? Not directly at least. Google prefers that your “dead” pages return a proper 404 or 410 response code rather than a “soft 404 ” (an unclear signal for dead pages e.g. returning a response code other than 404 or 410).

Inbound links/external references to 404 pages should also be modified to point to relevant live (200 OK status code) web pages.


410 (Gone)

For requests for resources that are no longer available permanently and without any known forwarding addresses, a 410 status code is used.

If the server is unsure whether the condition is permanent or temporary, a 404 status code should be used instead.


500 (Internal Server Error)

A 500 status code is a generic error message given when the server encounters unexpected conditions, preventing it from fulfilling the request.


503 (Service Unavailable)

The server is currently unavailable due to a scheduled maintenance or is temporarily overloaded. When Googlebot comes across a 503 status code, they will not immediately deindex the page and will attempt to crawl it again at a later time. However if repeated attempts to crawl the page is not possible due to the 503, the page will eventually be removed from the index.


A

Above The Fold

Having the content is above the fold of the page means the content is immediately displayed without scrolling down further on the page.

Google is against having too many ads or sites that don’t have much content above the fold of the page. Meaning to say if a user has to scroll farther down to avoid the ads in order to see the content, that constitutes to a bad user experience and your rankings will decline (see Top Heavy).


Ahrefs

One of the best backlink checker tools in the SEO industry. Ahrefs suite of tools also expand to keyword research and popular content explorer.


Absolute URLs

An absolute URL takes the full form of the URL e.g. http://www.example.com/resource-page/ and is recommended for proper on-page SEO.

See also: Relative URLs


Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

The AMP Project is an open-source initiative aiming to make the web better for all. The project enables the creation of websites and ads that are consistently fast, beautiful and high-performing across devices and distribution platforms.


AJAX

AJAX stands for Asynchronous Javascript and XML. It is a client-side script that exchanges data with a server/database without reloading or refreshing the page.

This method of displaying information is quicker and can provide a better user experience, however it can be difficult for Google to crawl content coded with AJAX.


Algorithm

Algorithms are complex computer programs that can perform complex calculations, data processing, and automatically accomplish conditional tasks.

Search engines use algorithms to return your questions with relevant answers. Google’s algorithms rely on over 200 signals including things like keyword mentions, page speed, and page authority in order to accomplish this task automatically on a massive scale.


Algorithmic Penalty

If you see your rankings drop heavily overnight (like from #3 to #59), you might have received an algorithmic penalty. Check your Google Webmaster Tools Search Console to verify whether you might have also received a manual penalty.

Sites that receive algorithmic penalties typically resolve on their own (regain their rankings) after fixing any issues that may have triggered well known algorithms such as Panda or Penguin.


Algorithm Update

Google updates their algorithms 500 – 600 times a year on average to combat spam. Once in awhile Google releases public statements when they make major changes to their algorithms. Notable algorithmic updates in the recent years include Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, Mobilegeddon, and RankBrain.


Alternate Text

alt-tags-example

ALT Tags Source Code

The alternate text or shorthand term “ALT tag” refers to the attribute within an image tag (e.g. alt=”description”). ALT tags should be descriptive of the image to tell search engines and users the nature of the image.

If the image is contextually relevant to your resource, try to include the your target keyword(s) in the ALT tags.


Anchor Text

Example of an Anchor Text

Example of an Anchor Text

The anchor text is the text within a hyperlink that is clickable. Upon hovering the cursor over and clicking on the anchor text, the user will be taken the destination URL specified in the hyperlink code.

The words in the anchor text can influence the search engine rankings of the page that it links to. Therefore it is good practice to ensure that the anchor text is relevant to the destination page.


B

backlink-illustration

Backlink Illustration

A backlink is any external link from another domain that links to any page on your domain. Backlinks are a major ranking factor in Search Engine Optimization and that means having more backlinks correlate to higher rankings.

Note that there are dofollow and nofollow backlinks. Dofollow links pass PageRank but nofollow links do not.


Backlink checker tools help you analyze your backlink profile to see which websites linked to your website. Here are a few recommended ones:

  1. AHrefs
  2. Moz Pro
  3. Majestic
  4. SEO Spyglass
  5. Semrush

BackRub

BackRub was the initial name of the gigantic search engine Google. Here’s the history of Google in depth.


Bing

What is Bing? – A heap, especially of metallic ore or of waste from a mine. Source – Google.

Bing is one of the most popular search engines in the world after Google. It is currently owned and operated by Microsoft.


Bing Keyword Research Tool

A keyword research tool by Bing to get keyword ideas and data from Bing’s organic and paid search.


Bing Webmaster Tools

A webmaster dashboard by Bing to provide webmasters reporting tools, diagnostic tools, notifications, and a summary view of how their websites are performing on Bing’s organic search results.


Black Hat SEO

Black hat SEO refers to the use of shady practices, automated programs, and aggressive techniques aimed at manipulating search engines to drive a site’s rankings up.

Websites that go against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines risk getting dealt with a manual or algorithmic penalty.


This approach of link analysis sprung from the idea that links from different sections of the page or webpage blocks are weighted differently. In layman terms, a link in the footer may not count as much as a link in the header.


Blog

A web log or weblog, more commonly known as a blog, consists of entries/posts/blogposts listed in reverse chronological order (most recent entry appearing first).

Blogposts tend to be written in a more conversational and informal tone than white papers and press releases. It is a great way for SEOs and content marketers to build relationships in similar communities and acquire backlinks.


Blog Commenting

A great way to build relationships and increase personal branding/brand awareness. Most blogs allow readers to post their comments and include a link back to their own websites.


Blog Comment Spam

A black hat SEO technique where “black hatters” aggressively post irrelevant comments that include links (usually with over optimized anchor text) back to their websites in hopes of manipulating search engine ranking signals.


Blog Network

A network of blogs, usually privately owned by an SEO agency, SEO consultant, or in-house, in effort of manipulating search engine rankings through off-page SEO techniques such as pointing exact match anchor text links to a target domain.

In recent years, Google has clamped down on many blog networks, most notably MyBlogGuest, in efforts to deter low quality sites that use deceptive tactics to game the search engine results pages (SERPs).


Bot

Also known as search engine spiders, robots, crawlers. These automated software agents crawl content on the web for the purpose of understanding and indexing the content in order to pull the most relevant results to a searcher’s query.


Bounce Rate

The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors landing on a single page of a website and leaving without viewing any other pages of the same website. There are certain default conditions set by web analytics tools such as Google Analytics and several modifiable conditions that constitute to a bounce such as page inactivity for 30 minutes or more.

High bounce rates, especially when the traffic source is from Google search, also correlate with a decline in rankings. See pogosticking.


Brand Keywords

Branded keywords are queries that include a brand’s name. For example the search term “amazon web services” is a brand search query of the company Amazon.

Brand keywords take little to no effort to rank highly for, especially for a brand’s official domain. So a newly created website e.g. www.ilovepurses.com will almost always rank #1 for search terms such as “ilovepurses catalogue”.


Brand Mentions

A brand mention is any mention of a brand name in any web document. It is also a link building strategy known as Link Reclamation, where brand mention tools are used to track and alert a brand of any brand mentions across the web. Following which the PR team can perform an outreach to request the text where the mention occured to be updated with a hyperlink back to the brand’s website.


breadcrumbs-example

Breadcrumbs example

The internet equivalent of Hansel and Gretel’s trail of breadcrumb navigation method. Breadcrumbs are used as a navigational aid for users to keep track of their location when browsing a website.


Any link that leads to a 404 page not found, bad gateway, or internal server error. Link equity is also lost when a hyperlink leads to a 404 page, unless the 404 page redirects to a live URL (200 OK).

This is due to the fact that Google treats 404 pages as non-existent (a black hole) and any link equity that flows to the page ends there.

Further reading:

Do 404s hurt my site?


C

Canonical URL (rel=canonical)

<link rel="canonical" href="http://example.com/canonical-url-you-want-indexed/">

The rel=canonical tag is used to tell search engines that various URLs have essentially similar content. Search engines will then only index the canonical URL. This takes care of duplicate content issues which confuse search engines as to which content they should rank.

The rel=canonical code is placed on the duplicated pages which you do not want search engines to index. Search engines will then follow the specified URL and index it instead.

Further reading:


Cache

A computing term in which data is stored into a hardware or a software (e.g. browser) so that future requests can be served faster.

Page speed is one of the signals Google’s algorithms look at when ranking pages. Leveraging browser caching can enhance the loading speed of your webpages, reduce bounce rates (which may be a negative ranking signal), and allow search engines to crawl more pages on your site.


Country Code Top-Level Domain (ccTLD)

Two-letter internet top level domains designated for specific countries.

www.example.com.sg
www.example.ca

The letters marked in red are ccTLDs.

Having a ccTLD signals to search engines and users the geographic location in which a site originates. Google uses this signal to rank a local site higher in local search results. This means that with everything else equal, example.com.sg will rank higher than example.com in google.com.sg search results pages.


Click-Through-Rate (CTR)

The ratio of clicks to views from advertisement, email, video, or page links. So if an ad creative had a 1% CTR, it had 100 views and 1 click.

Does CTR influence search rankings? Check out the following articles and be the judge:


Cloaking

A deceptive search engine optimisation technique in which content is presented to search engine spiders is different than that returned to a user’s browser.

Cloaking is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.


Co-Citation

A co-citation is a similarity measurement technique used to determine whether a subject is similar to another subject and based on whether a third party source referenced both subjects in a single document.

In simple terms, if webpage A and B are cited by webpage C, A and B may be said to be related to each other, even though they don’t directly link to one another.

It is speculated that search engines may be able to assume similarities between page A and B based on the number of co-citations from different third party sources, and rank pages based on those signals.


Co-Occurrence

Co-occurence on the other hand refers to particular phrases mentioned in close proximity to each other.

It is speculated that exact match anchor text links are weakening and if a particular keyword was mentioned in close proximity to an outbound link, it would signal to Google that the citation had contextual relevance to the keyword.


Correlation vs Causation

A phrase used to emphasise that correlation does not imply causation. In other words, the mutual relationship between two variables does not necessitate that one causes another.

In SEO, this phrase is commonly used when an SEO activity did not directly influence a page’s rankings, but rather in an indirect way.

For example, pages with high social media share count tend to rank higher on Google than pages with lower social media shares. As social media signals aren’t used by Google as a direct ranking signal, this event is a correlation rather than a causation.


Code Swapping

A form of black hat SEO where a page is optimised for ranking, and then swapping another page’s content in its place once it has achieved top rankings.


Content

The currency of online marketing and SEO. Quality content is essential for influence and maintaining SEO rankings.


Content Delivery Network (CDN)

A network of servers that speedily deliver web content to users based on their geographic locations.

As page speed is a ranking factor, delivering web content at high speed is a good enough reason to get a CDN.


Content Hub

A one-stop destination where web users can find any type of content (guides, ebooks, branded, curated, user generated, faqs) related to a particular topic.


Content Marketing

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action. Source – Content Marketing Institute.

Content marketing and SEO are interrelated but not entirely integrated. SEO comprises of two main parts – On-page SEO and Off-page SEO. On-page SEO is more technical and off-page SEO (the link building part) relies heavily on content marketing.


Content Uniqueness

The uniqueness level of a piece of content. We all know that duplicate content usually doesn’t bode well when it comes to rankings. So what’s the magical percentage?

Unfortunately there isn’t a set percentage for determining the content uniqueness level. Rather, it is the unique value that a content provides that influences its rankings, even if it has duplicated parts in it.


Conversion

A conversion is an important action that takes place in a customer’s buying journey. It could range from anything from a contact form enquiry, view of a key page, average time spent on a page, to a sale.


Conversion Rate

The ratio of the number of total visits to the number of conversions in terms of percentage.


Crawl

A term used when search engine spiders discover and process information of web documents.


Crawl Budget

The number of pages of a website and the number of times a day a search engine will crawl a website. It is important that all pages of a website that intends to rank on top of Google get discovered and crawled, otherwise they would not be indexed and ranked in Google’s search engine results pages.

The higher the domain authority of a website, the higher crawling priority Google assigns it. Note that there are a myriad of other factors that affect crawl budget such as how often a page is updated (e.g. About Us and Contact Us pages do not update very often and therefore Google does not crawl these pages as often as trending news articles).

In order to conserve a website’s crawl budget, a robots.txt file is used to block sections of a website that have no intention of ranking on the search engine results pages.


Cross-Linking

Reciprocally linking between two different websites or two separate webpages within the same website. This signals to search engines that the linked content are somewhat related to one another.


Curated Content

Curated content is relevant information on a particular topic that has been gathered and presented in an organised and meaningful way.


CSS

CSS = Cascading Style Sheets – A plain text file saved with the extensions .css that is used to style and format web elements in a presentable way.


D

De-Indexed

Refers to the process of a website vanishing from Google’s search results pages.

One of the ways to check whether your website has been de-indexed, is to use the search operator site:www.yourwebsite.com and enter it into Google search. If you don’t see any results, unless your website is relatively new (a few weeks old), it is likely you have been de-indexed.

example-site-search-operater

Example of site search operator


Directory

A collection of data and links to websites, webpages, and web documents, organised into respective categories and subcategories. There are free and paid directories, with free directories offering free submission of website listing and paid directories charging for inclusion for a one-time or recurring fee.

Directory links have been receiving flak from Google’s web spam team since the past few years.


Disavow

A method of dealing with spammy backlinks that were not intentionally acquired by a webmaster.

Google launched the disavow tool in October 2012 to provide an avenue for SEOs to vouch against low quality links that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and prevent a manual penalty.

Google however strongly advises this tool to be used as a last resort, and that SEOs should do their best to take down low quality links manually or through outreach.


Dofollow

A dofollow link is a hyperlink without the rel=”nofollow” attribute. See nofollow links. A dofollow link passes PageRank and other ranking signals (link juice) to the link destination.


Doorway Page

A form of cloaking or spamdexing. Doorway pages or websites are created with the objective of ranking highly for specific queries, which may lead a user to multiple similar destinations instead of one useful final destination.

Examples of doorway pages include:

  • Having multiple domain names or pages targeted at specific regions or cities that funnel users to one page.
  • Pages generated to funnel visitors into the actual usable or relevant portion of your site(s).
  • Substantially similar pages that are closer to search results than a clearly defined, browsable hierarchy.

Domain Authority

An SEO metric created by SaaS company Moz. Domain authority or DA can be used to predict the ranking ability of a website using a scale of 0 – 100, with 0 being the lowest and 100 being the highest.

Further reading:

What is Domain Authority? – Moz


Domain Name

A domain name e.g. www.example.com represents an Internet Protocol (IP) address e.g. 192.168.1.1 and is mapped to a computer server so that it can be accessed from anywhere in the world on the World Wide Web.

There are different top-level domains such as .com, info, net, org, edu (gTLDs) and country code top-level domains such as .sg, my, ca, us, au (ccTLDs).


Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is showing similar content on multiple locations (webpages/URLs). This causes problems when search engines don’t know which version to show to users and can result in 1. dropping all versions of the content from the search results pages and 2. ranking the wrong version.

There are many examples and different variations of duplicate content listed in this article.


Dwell Time (Time Spent On Page)

In layman terms, dwell time is measured starting from when a user clicks on a search result, spends time on the page, and ends when the user goes back to the search results pages.

Why does this metric matter to search engines? Since search engines aim to to serve useful content to their users, a longer dwell time signifies that a content must have been useful enough for a user to spend time digesting it.

Further reading:

Dwell Time: Does This Ranking Factor Really Live Up to the Hype?


Dynamic Content

Dynamic content, the opposite of static content, serves content that changes based on the user (e.g. browsing behaviour).

Further reading:

Dynamic Content & SEO – Having Your Cake & Eating It

Penalisation for personalisation: Google, dynamic content & SEO


Dynamic Serving

Serving different content to different users based on their device type. This is implemented to provide a mobile-friendly experience to mobile users as well as a desktop experience to desktop users, and optimise content for mobile searches.

Another popular method for mobile SEO is responsive design.


Dynamic URL

Dynamic URLs may change based on the session id which typically looks something like this http://example.com/page?id=21 or includes any of these characters: ? = &. Contrast to static URLs which look like this http://example.com/page.

If you have dynamic parameters, Google recommends that you do not rewrite them into static URLs as this may result in Googlebot crawling the same piece of content needlessly via many different URLs with varying values for session IDs.

Further reading:

Dynamic URLs vs. static URLs


E

E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, Trust)

Indicators which Google uses to assess page quality. Found and mentioned repeatedly in Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines.


editorial-link-illustration

Editorial Link

A hyperlink embedded within a page’s main content e.g. a blogpost.


Egobait

A link building technique used by SEOs to acquire backlinks. An egobait is essentially a link building asset created to stroke the ego of the target linker with the purpose of increasing visibility among influencers and hopefully acquire backlinks in the process.

Further reading:

Content Networking: 5 Types of Ego Bait Posts

Ego Bait for Links, Visibility, and Authority

A Guide To Producing Effective Egobait


Entity

Google has been moving towards entity search which is based on the knowledge graph. When users search for a particular entity e.g. “mount fuji”, Google displays specific information on this entity on the right side of desktop search results.

Google is able to do that by analysing past searches and user browsing behaviour to determine what information users are looking for, then displays the information within graph panels on the search results pages.


Everflux

Everflux essentially means constant fluctuation and refers to the way Google updates its index – by continuously crawling the web for new content and integrating it as quickly as possible into a separate index.


Exact Match Domain (EMD)

Back in the early days of SEO, exact match domain names (EMDs) ranked very well even without any on-page or off-page optimisation.

An exact match domain refers to a keyword targeted domain. For example if you wanted to rank for the keyword phrase “how to create a server”, you would buy www.howtocreateaserver.com and you would rank on top of Google.

The new EMD algo update in 2012 served to reduce low quality “exact match” domains in search results as quoted by Matt Cutts.


An external link is any hyperlink that points to a destination URL other than its own domain. If your website (e.g. www.yourwebsite.com) links to another website (e.g. www.anotherwebsite.com), the link is known as an external link.

Similarly if another website links to your website, it is also considered an external link.

There are some ongoing debates on whether linking externally to another website will help or hurt your SEO.


F

FLASH

A programming language that search engines have difficulty crawling and understanding content built with it.


Frames

Using frames on a page is the act of dividing the screen into different windows, displaying content from different URLs in a single view. Not a recommended technique as this may cause search engines to rank the wrong page on their search results.

Further reading:

Why Google doesn’t like frames in your sites


Freshness

A ranking signal which Google has explored many ways of using to influence the search results, as seen in many patents filed by Google.

Further reading:

10 Illustrations of How Fresh Content May Influence Google Rankings (Updated)

Google Freshness Algorithm Experiment


G

Google AdWords Keyword Tool

Google Keyword Planner was previously referred to as Google AdWords Keyword Tool.


Google Alerts

Google Alerts is a free tool provided by Google which allows you set up email alerts to monitor the web for interesting content and mentions of your brand, your competitors, and any particular entity.


Google Bombing

A practice whereby webpages are optimised to rank highly for irrelevant search terms.

One of the most infamous Google bombs in history was bomb targeting US President George W Bush for the keyword “miserable failure”.


Google Dance

Refers to an algorithmic fluctuation of Google’s search results pages as a result of rebuilding its rankings for a period of time.


Googlebot

Google’s web crawling robot, also known as a “search engine spider”. See crawling.

Further reading:

Search Console Help – Googlebot


Google Keyword Planner

A keyword research tool provided by Google. You need a Google AdWords account in order to use this tool.


Google My Business

A free Google business listing service that will enable a business to be found on Google Search and Google Maps.


Links shown below some of Google’s search results to help users navigate directly to various sections of a website. At this point in time, sitelinks are automatically analysed and selected by Google’s algorithms, therefore a webmaster won’t be able to control them directly.

Sitelinks example

Sitelinks example


Google Slap

Google slap has two references. One for their paid search results and the other for their organic search results.

Receiving a Google Slap on the paid search results means you haven’t been adhering to the Google AdWords guidelines and best practices, resulting in a significant drop in the Quality Score of your target keywords, or an account ban.

For the organic search results, getting a Google Slap means you haven’t been abiding by Google’s Webmaster Quality Guidelines (e.g. building spammy backlinks and keyword stuffing), resulting in a significant drop in keyword rankings or complete removal of your website in Google’s index.


Google Suggest

Suggested search terms that show as you type in your search queries on Google.

Google Suggest Example

Google Suggest Example


Google Supplemental Index

Contains supplemental results which reside in a secondary database that are deemed less important by Google.


A free tool by Google that allows you to explore trending search topics.


Google Webmaster Guidelines

A set of general guidelines, best practices, and principles for webmasters to reference in order to avoid getting penalised by Google.


Google Webmaster Tools

A free tool for webmasters to track their website’s search performance with Google, get support on site issues, and perform a variety of actions such as fetching Googlebot to crawl a page, submitting a sitemap, and targeting a website to a specific country.


Guestographics

Guestographics is a link building technique in which a link builder posts an infographic on his/her site, reaches out to other bloggers that published similar content, and offers the infographic to visually represent their content, possibly earning links in the process.


Guest Blogging / Guest Posting

A marketing method whereby a blogger contributes an article to another blog. This achieves several things:

  • Establishes authority on a subject matter
  • Increase traffic
  • Enhances reputation and brand exposure
  • Build links for off-page SEO
  • Strengthens relationship with other bloggers

However over optimising anchor text and guest blogging purely for links is frowned upon by Google.


H

Hummingbird

As Google moved toward semantic search, focusing on user intent and returning contextually relevant results, Hummingbird represents a newly revamped version of Google’s algorithm.

Interesting fact: Hummingbird is the name of Google’s algorithm.

Further reading:

FAQ: All About The New Google “Hummingbird” Algorithm

How Google Hummingbird Changed the Future of Search


HTML

Hyper Text Markup Language or HTML is a set code or markup language used to create structured documents on the World Wide Web.

There are a range of HTML elements such as the <title> tag and meta description tag that are picked up by search engine spiders and are used as clues or ranking signals to determine the ranking relevance of a page.


HTML5

HTML5 is another SEO-friendly markup language that delivers several improvements from HTML such as increased user experience (audio & video) and provides a good alternative to less SEO-friendly languages like Flash and Silverlight.

Further reading:

SEO Benefits of HTML5 & Schema

SEO Best Practices For HTML5: Truths, Half-Truths & Outright Lies


HTML Sitemap

A HTML sitemap, unlike an XML sitemap which is specifically catered for search engine spiders to crawl, is more user-friendly where users can find on a site and navigate to different pages by clicking on the links provided.

It looks something like this:

HTML Sitemap Example

HTML Sitemap Example


HTTPS

HTTPS or Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure signifies that all sending and receiving of information are encrypted and secured.

This is also a ranking signal as publicly declared by Google.


I

Image Filename

The text before the extension of an image file e.g. (image001.jpg). It is recommended for the image filename to include your target keywords for SEO purposes, provided it is contextually relevant.


Image Sitemap

A sitemap listing images available on your website which increase the chances of your images getting picked up by Google and displaying on Google Image search results.

You may separate your image sitemap and XML sitemap, or you may choose to include them together.


Image Title

The image title and caption is the content surrounding the image and provides search engines with information about what the topic and content on the page is about.


Impression

The number of times a search result is seen regardless of whether it is clicked or not.


A hyperlink from another website to your website. An inbound link may be “followed” or “nofollowed”. See rel=”nofollow”.


Index

A search engine’s index is similar in concept to a library’s index of books, whereby information is sorted and organised by predefined parameters so that it is easily retrievable when a search is conducted.

Additionally, indexing refers to the process of adding webpages to a search engine’s index.


Indexability

A page’s indexability refers to how easily or likely that a page can be included into a search engine’s index. It is dependent on a variety of factors such as the coding language used and how unique and authoritative the content is. Pages built with Flash and Javascript risk not getting indexed because search engines may not understand the contents of the page.


Infographic

An abbreviation of the phrase “information graphic”. An infographic is a graphical representation of information, data, or knowledge and is designed to be visually appealing.

It is also a popular link building technique.


Internal Linking

A method of hyperlinking different pages within a site to one another in efforts to signal to search engines the relevancy between the linked pages.


International SEO

The process of optimising a website to improve its search engine rankings in multiple countries. A few methods include:


Interstitials

Interstitials are ads that appear in a form of a popup, lightbox, or a separate browser window when you are browsing or waiting for a page to load.

Google announced on 10 January 2017 that they will start cracking down on “intrusive interstitials” on the mobile experience.


Inverse Document Frequency (IDF)

A numerical statistic that evaluates how important a word in a document is, based on a range of factors such as the weight of the term (or term frequency) in the document.


IP Address

IP stands for Internet Protocol and the address refers to the unique blocks of numbers (e.g. 192.168.1.1) which uniquely identifies devices on a computer network.

Acquiring many backlinks from unique IP addresses is a strong ranking signal as it signifies the diversity of a website’s backlink profile.


J

JavaScript

A lightweight programming language that can add dynamic interactivity to your website (for example, clicking on a button to display hidden content).

Further reading:

We Tested How Googlebot Crawls Javascript And Here’s What We Learned

Why All SEOs Should Unblock JavaScript & CSS… And Why Google Cares


jQuery

jQuery is a fast, small, and feature-rich JavaScript library. It makes things like HTML document traversal and manipulation, event handling, animation, and Ajax much simpler with an easy-to-use API that works across a multitude of browsers. – jQuery.com


K

Keyword

Keywords, in SEO context, are words and/or phrases used in webpages to help search engines connect users searching for relevant search terms to your website.


Keyword Cannibalisation

A bad occurrence whereby multiple pages target the same keyword (e.g. duplicate page titles), causing confusion to search engines and negatively affecting search engine rankings.

Further reading:

How To Prevent Keyword Cannibalization


Keyword Categorisation

The process of grouping multiple keywords that are related to a specific topic into a section of a website or a single webpage. This enables you to develop more targeted content to rank for a group of related keywords.

Further reading:

What Is Keyword Categorization Technology and Why Does It Matter to You?


Keyword Density

The percentage of a keyword or phrase to the total number of words mentioned in a web document. There isn’t a set rule on the ideal keyword density percentage required to achieve good rankings. However keyword density does shape what search engines think about the overall topic of your content and this can influence your rankings.

Further reading:

Shattering The Myth About The Keyword Density Formula

What Is Keyword Density?


Keyword Difficulty / Keyword Competition

Keyword difficulty or keyword competition is a measurement of how much effort would be required for a webpage to rank for a particular keyword.

They are a variety of keyword difficulty tools to automatically calculate keyword competition:

  • Ahrefs
  • Semrush
  • Moz

Keyword Optimisation

The process of including target keywords in specific locations of a web document (for example the title tag, meta description, and URL) to increase search engine rankings.


Keyword Rankings

The position of a webpage on the organic search engine results pages (SERPs).


Keyword Research / Keyword Analysis

The process of discovering what keywords your prospects are using and understanding their intent to better optimise your pages for both users and search engines.


Keyword Research Tool

An online or offline instrument that enables you to retrieve keyword data and insights.

Suggested keyword research tools:

  • Google Keyword Planner
  • Ahrefs Keyword Explorer
  • Keywordtool.io

Keyword Stuffing / Keyword Spam

A black hat SEO technique whereby the same keyword is repeatedly mentioned in a web document with little regard for a meaningful user experience.


Knowledge Graph

An enhancement to Google’s search engine which delivers new information quickly and easily by deeply understanding the meaning of the search query.

Further reading:

Introducing the Knowledge Graph: things, not strings

The Beginner’s Guide to Google’s Knowledge Graph


L

Landing Page

In the context of search engine optimisation, a landing page is any page that a user lands on after clicking on a search result.


Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)

Latent semantic indexing or LSI is a formula used by search engines to determine whether a page’s content is semantically relevant to a keyword by looking for synonyms of the keyword or words that are related to the subject.

For example home, real estate, property, stamp duty, and property tax, are all LSI keywords.


Any hyperlink (clickable text, button, or image) that takes users to another section (internally or externally) of a website or webpage.


The total time a link exists in a search engine’s index. It also presumed by many SEOs that link age is used as a ranking signal.


The process of acquiring a backlink to increase search engine rankings.


A piece of content (infographic, case study, research paper, blogpost, image) designed with the purpose of attracting content creators to hyperlink to it.

Further reading:

What is Link Bait?


The process of acquiring backlinks through outreach, submission (e.g. to resource pages), and PR.

Further reading:

A 4-Step Link Building Methodology

Link Building Tactics


A significantly rapid increase in the quantity of backlinks pointing to a website, especially new websites.

This may alert the Google manual web spam team to look into the matter, since links typically build up slowly over time.


The act of buying or selling links that pass PageRank. I.e. putting a rel=”nofollow” tag to the hyperlink on a sponsored link is fine.

Buying or selling links goes against Google’s Quality Guidelines – Link Schemes. This extends to non-monetary transactional deals such as exchanging free gifts for links.


Links that block PageRank from flowing to the destination URL. This is done by placing the rel=”nofollow” tag e.g. <a href=”http://example.com” rel=”nofollow”>click here</a>.


Link diversity refers to the assortment of the kinds of links in a website’s link profile. These attributes can be classified into:

  • Diversity of anchor text
  • Follow vs. nofollow
  • Location of the link on the page (e.g. footer, header, sidebar, editorial links)
  • Type of website (e.g. forum, blogpost, resource list, .gov, .edu links)

Further reading:

20 Attributes that Influence a Link’s Value – Whiteboard Friday


Link authority refers to the amount of value a link passes to the destination page. This includes:

  • Dofollow links
  • Links from topic-related pages pass topical relevancy signals
  • Redirects (301, 302, 307, meta refresh)
  • Links from pages with high PageRank

Also known as reciprocal linking. Reciprocal linking is perfectly “legal” if it is naturally acquired. For example if website A links to website B from the footer with the anchor text “visit our sister company”, it is considered natural.

However sending unsolicited emails to a ton of different websites saying you will link to them if they link to you is a form of a link scheme, according to Google Webmaster Quality Guidelines.


A network of websites that link to one another although the content is often unrelated and of low quality. The idea is that this reciprocal linking pattern will improve search engine rankings. However the opposite is true as search engines have developed algorithms to detect this pattern of unnatural linking.


The act of trying to prevent link juice from flowing out to other websites, such as by adding a nofollow tag or not linking out at all.

This is generally a bad idea as Google easily detects this method. On the other hand, some studies conclude that outgoing links play a part in rankings.

Not linking out to other sites also reduces your chances of cultivating link building relationships.


A link building technique of reaching out to someone who has mentioned your brand or referenced your content, but did not link to you, and asking them to link to you.

Further reading:

Link Reclamation Best Practices – The Complete Guide

The Definitive Guide to Link Reclamation

Link Reclamation – How to Get the Links You Deserve


A measurement of how relevant a link is to the destination URL. Some clues search engine algorithms look for include:

  • Are the target keywords found in the anchor text?
  • What is the URL of the page where the backlink was found?
  • Is the topic of the page where the backlink was found relevant to the link destination?

Further reading:

Moz – Anchor text


Link rot refers to any hyperlink on the web that is no longer functioning as it was intended. It may come in the form of broken links (links that lead to 404 pages) or the page in which the link was found was taken down. This is bad for your SEO, as broken links lead to a loss of link value.

Here are some possible causes of link rot:

  • Links that no longer work due to some form of blocking such as a firewall or content blocking filters
  • Links to website that changed domain names without redirecting the old domain to the new one
  • Links to a page in which the content was intentionally taken down by the webmaster
  • URL structure may have been changed or restructured

Further reading:

SEO: Avoiding link rot with your aging website


Any form of link building which goes against Google’s Webmaster Quality Guidelines – Link Schemes. Some examples of link spam include:

  • Creating low quality links through Private Blog Networks
  • Posting irrelevant links on forum threads
  • Buying cheap links on low quality websites

Throughout the history of SEO, Google has been constantly cracking down on link spam (spammy link building activities).

Some of Google’s most notable link spam algorithms:

  • Penguin
  • Payday Loan

Also known as “anchor text”. The clickable text of a hyperlink.


The rate (how fast or how slow) in which links are acquired within a span of time.

A steep rise in acquired backlinks in a short amount of time can be a red flag to search engines for suspected unnatural link building techniques. On the other hand, a slowdown on link acquisition can signal to search engines that the web is losing interest in the domain and affect its domain authority.


Linkerati

A term describing website owners and content creators who link out to other websites, coined by Rand Fishkin.


Local Citation

Where your company’s Name, Address, Phone number (NAP) is mentioned on other websites such as directory listings.

This helps to rank your Google My Business listing page better on the local search results.

local-search-results-example

Local search results example


Local SEO

The method of optimising a local business to rank on the local search results. This includes building local citations, earning Google My Business reviews, and building the website’s Page Authority.

Further reading:

Local Search Ranking Factors – Moz


Long Tail Keywords

Keywords phrases that are longer and more specific to the searcher’s intent. The reverse would be short tail keywords which are more generic in nature.

Examples of short tail keywords in the real estate niche include:

  • buy property
  • real estate
  • purchase house

Examples of long tail keywords in the real estate niche include:

  • how to buy a private property in singapore
  • northvale condo floorplan and pricing
  • what to look out for when purchasing a home

M

Main Content (MC)

All content on a webpage can be classified as either Main Content (MC) or Supplementary Content (SC).

The MC is any part of the webpage that directly helps the page to achieve its main purpose. For example, the MC of a currency converter tool page would be the currency converter tool itself. It should be displayed above the fold and in a prominent location of the page.

Further reading:

Official Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines


Contains links to internal pages of a website, usually located in the header section.

main-navigation-menu

Main Navigation Menu

Further reading:

Mega Menus & SEO – Search Engine Land


Manual Penalty

A manual action whereby a human engineer from Google or Bing has manually reviewed a site flagged for spammy activities relating to Search Engine Optimisation and purposefully prevents the site from ranking highly.

Further reading:

Fighting Spam – Inside Search – Google


Meta Description

A HTML attribute that is used to provide search engines with a summarised description on the contents of your webpage. It is commonly used by search engines to display as the preview snippet of the search engine results pages.

<head>
<meta name=”description” content=”Meta description that will show up in the search engine results preview snippets.”>
</head>

Note: Meta description isn’t a ranking factor, however it may increase the click-through-rate of your search results, resulting in increased website traffic.


Meta Keywords

A HTML attribute that lists the keywords that are found on the webpage. It is no longer used as a ranking factor by major search engines. In fact, spamming this meta tag can have adverse effects on your rankings.

<head>
<meta name=”keywords” content=”keyword 1, keyword 2, keyword 3″>
</head>

Further reading:

Is the Meta Keyword Tag Still Used by Google, Bing, And Yahoo? – Chris Edwards


Meta Refresh

A method of getting a web browser to refresh a page after a give time interval e.g. after 5 seconds. It can also be used to instruct the web browser to redirect the user to a different URL upon refreshing the page.

Here’s how a meta refresh tag looks like:

<meta HTTP-EQUIV=”refresh” CONTENT=”0;URL=http://www.site-you-want-to-redirect-to.com/”>

Google recognises meta refresh as a page redirect and allows PageRank to flow from the current page to the redirected page. However it is more recommended to use 301 permanent redirects if you the URL of the page has permanently changed.


Meta Robots

A HTML attribute that instructs search engines to obey a set of rules such as not indexing a page and not following any links on the page.

<head>
<meta name=”robotscontent=”noindex,nofollow” />
</head>

Further reading:

The Ultimate Guide to the Meta Robots Tag – Yoast


Mirror Site

A mirror site is a replica of another existing website. It is commonly used for the following reasons:

  • To increase speed by serving identical sites that are located closer to the user’s geographical region
  • For SEO purposes – Setting up multiple identical sites to build an online presence, and then diverting the traffic back to the original website. (This may result in a search engine penalty)

Mobilegeddon

A Google ranking algorithm update that launched on 21 April 2015. It ranks webpages on mobile search results based on how mobile-friendly (readable text size, touch elements well spaced out, etc) they are.

Further reading:

Mobile-first indexing – Google Webmaster Central Blog


Mobile-Friendly

Describes how accessible a webpage is to users who are browsing the page on a mobile device. For example:

  • How fast does the page load on a mobile device?
  • Are there interstitials and do they disrupt the user experience (e.g. pop up and cover the whole screen)?
  • Can the code be processed by the mobile browser? (Don’t use FLASH)
  • Are the buttons too small for the fat fingers?

The best way to check whether a webpage is mobile friendly is via the Mobile-Friendly Test Tool provided for free by Google.

Further reading:

Mobile Optimisation – Moz


MozRank

MozRank represents how important a webpage is by calculating the number and quality of webpages that link to it (link popularity). It is originated from Moz.

Further reading:

What is MozRank


Multiple Keyword Optimisation

The method of optimising SEO tags and contents on a webpage (images and text) for a variety of keywords.

For example the title tag of a page could include more than one variation of the keyword:

<title>Rent a meeting/conference room</title>

Where meeting and conference are synonyms but are both included to optimise the title for multiple keywords.


N

Natural Language Processing (NLP)

In SEO context, NLP or Natural Language Processing is the ability of a computer program to interpret human language and understand the meaning behind a query, and then be able to return relevant answers.

Post rollout of Google’s Hummingbird and RankBrain algorithm update as well as the Knowledge Graph has seen significant improvements in terms of Natural Language Processing.


Backlinks that are acquired through non-spammy techniques such as one to one outreach, quality guest blogging, and submission of webpages to high quality web resources.


Negative SEO

A deliberate act of spamming black hat links to a competitor’s website with the aim of sabotaging its rankings through a search engine penalty.

Further reading:

A Startling Case Study of Manual Penalties and Negative SEO


Newsjacking

A creative link building technique whereby SEOs ride on a trending news story and contribute their own piece of the story, in efforts to drive links back their content. This usually involves a lot of participation in popular social media channels.


Niche Keywords

Groups of keywords and keyword phrases that contain keywords related to a particular niche.


Nofollow

A HTML attribute that can be added into the code behind hyperlinks to tell search engines not to pass PageRank to the destination URL.

<a href=”http://www.example.com/” rel=”nofollow”>This link does not pass PageRank</a>

This is generally done when webmasters don’t fully trust a source that they are linking to, thus preventing PageRank to flow to the given source.


Noindex

A HTML attribute to tell search engines not to index a particular webpage.

<meta name=”robotscontent=”noindex“/>


(Not provided)

Since 2011, Google started blocking webmasters from viewing what search queries their website visitors keyed into Google Search and clicked on their search result. Thus


O

Off-Page SEO

Refers to external website related activities (mainly link building and content marketing) in order to boost a website’s search engine ranking positions.

Extends to Local SEO where local citation building and link building play a big part in ranking Google My Business pages on the local search results.


On-Page SEO

Refers to internal website activities such as keyword, site speed, mobile, and content optimisation in order a boost a website’s search engine ranking positions.


Online Reputation Management

Online Reputation Management refers to the practice of monitoring and attempting to positively influence the public perception of a brand or a person on the web.

Some strategies include addressing negative comments directly on social media platforms (forums, Facebook, Twitter) and performing search engine optimisation on brand search terms to ensure the first page of the SERPs do not contain any negative results.


Organic Search Results

The non-paid section of a search engine results page, usually below the paid ads. Ad fees will be charged to the advertiser when a user clicks on a paid ad result. Whereas no fees are charged when a user clicks on an organic search result.


P

PageRank

A ranking algorithm created by Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to calculate the importance, authority, and reliability of a web page from a scale of 0 – 10, with 0 being the lowest and 10 being the highest.


Page Authority

No one explains this better than Moz, the creator of Page Authority:

Page Authority is a score (on a 100-point scale) developed by Moz that predicts how well a specific page will rank on search engines. It is based off data from the Mozscape web index and includes link counts, MozRank, MozTrust, and dozens of other factors.


Page Loading Time / Page Speed

The amount of time it takes for a webpage to load.

Page loading time is a Google ranking factor which may affect your rankings if it loads too slowly. Google recommends your pages load in 4 seconds or less.

If your site is loading slowly, you may check for any issues with this tool: PageSpeed Insights

Some common issues include:

  • Bloated code. In which case you may want to minify your HTML/CSS files.
  • Slow server response time. In which case you may want to upgrade your web hosting plan or switch web hosts.
  • Synchronous Javascript code blocking resources. In which case you may want to switch to asynchronous code.
  • Not leveraging browser caching. In which case you may want to install a browser caching plugin if you’re running on WordPress.
  • Huge image file sizes. In which case you may want to reduce your image file sizes.

Pagination

The process of segmenting content onto multiple pages and including paginated links to those pages. Here’s an example of pagination:

pagination-example

Pagination example

Google recommends that you indicate paginated content as this will help them index your content better on their search engine results pages.

Further reading:

Pagination: Best Practices for SEO & User Experience

Indicate Paginated Content – Google Search Console Help


Paid inclusion refers to the act of transacting in order to acquire a link back to one’s website. In other words, buying links.

This goes against Google’s Quality Guidelines and may result in a manual penalty.


This refers to the search results located above the organic search results, controlled by Google AdWords.


Panda Algorithm

A Google algorithm focusing on penalising websites with low quality on-page content. As of 2016, the Panda algorithm is now part of Google’s Core ranking signals.


Penguin Algorithm

A Google algorithm focusing on penalising websites with spammy backlink profiles. As of 2016, the Penguin algorithm now runs in real time within the core search algorithm.


Pigeon Algorithm

A Google algorithm aimed at providing more accurate and relevant local search results.


Pogo-Sticking

Refers to the act of clicking on a search result and clicking back to the search engine results pages because they did not find what they were initially searching for.

This is often discussed to be a bad ranking signal as it is one of the factors that show a page did not serve its intended purpose.


Press Release

A publicity technique usually involving a compelling news story that is distributed to news sites.

This used to be a very popular link building technique until Google indicated that optimised anchor text links in press releases fall under unnatural links that violate their guidelines.


Primary Keywords

The primary keywords are high priority keywords that are included in more prominent areas within a page such as the title tag, when optimising a webpage for rankings.


Private Blog Network (PBN)

A PBN is a network of sites usually created and maintained by an SEO or SEO agency. It is then used to manipulate the rankings of targeted websites by creating keyword-optimised anchor text links to them.

Google has shut down many PBNs and are consistently issuing manual penalties that devalue any outgoing links from websites that link unnaturally to other websites.

Further reading:

Google Warning: Get A Free Product To Review, Nofollow That Link & Disclose


Proximity (Local search)

An important local ranking signal used by Google to determine the local ranking position of a business based on its proximity to the searcher.


Q

Query Deserves Diversity (QDD)

A ranking system used by Google to return diverse search results to search queries, particularly generic queries, branded search terms, and news search terms.

Take this example search query “water” and see what Google returns.

QDD Example

QDD Example

Google returns the definition of water in the first result, some of the latest news on water, how water works, and an organisation dealing with water solutions.


Query Deserves Freshness (QDF)

A “freshness” algorithm created by Google to return fresh results for search queries revolving around a trending topic.

In the 2016 U.S. elections, the term Donald Trump spiked to a peak search volume of 30 million worldwide.

Donald Trump QDF Search Results

Donald Trump QDF Search Results

The key to appear on the fresh results would be to publish breaking news stories as soon as possible.


Query / Search Query

Keywords or keyword phrases entered into a search engine with the intention of getting relevant results.


Query Refinement

Query refinement refers to the process of correcting or refining a search query to return more relevant results. Query refinement can be done by either the search engine or the user.

In the case of query refinement by a search engine, the search engine will suggest related search terms, correct spelling errors, and attempt to automatically complete your search query as you are typing it out.


R

RankBrain

RankBrain is a machine learning algorithm created by Google to help process and sort through search queries and return more useful and relevant results.

Further reading:

FAQ: All about the Google RankBrain algorithm


Rankings

The ranking positions of a website’s target search queries, also commonly referred to as keyword rankings.


Rank Checker Tool

A software that allows you to check your search engine ranking positions for selected search phrases and keywords.

Here are some free rank checker tools:


Reciprocal Linking

Reciprocal linking refers to two or more different websites linking to one another.

In general, natural reciprocal linking is fine, such as if Website A links to a content resource on Website B, and Website B links to Website A’s blogpost. However the links must not be manipulated i.e. over optimised anchor text.

What isn’t acceptable is “Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking” – as stated in Google’s Link Schemes.


Reconsideration Request / Re-Inclusion

A submission-based appeal to Google or Bing to lift a manual penalty as a result of spamdexing a website (failing to comply to Google Webmaster Guidelines and Bing Webmaster Guidelines).

Further reading:

Submitting a reconsideration request (Google)


Redirect

The instance of sending users and search engines to a different URL than the one initially requested.

There are various types of redirects such as:

  • 301 permanent redirect
  • 302/307 temporary redirect
  • Meta refresh

Referral

Refers to the referral traffic sent from other websites to yours typically through hyperlinks. The more quality backlinks earned, the more referral traffic from these sources.


Rel=”alternate” hreflang

A HTML tag used to markup pages that are similar in context but targeted to different countries and/or languages.

For example if you have a Japanese version on www.yoursite.com/jp and an English version on www.yoursite.com/en you would put the following markup on both the Japanese and English versions:

<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://yoursite.com/cn” hreflang=”jp” />
<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://yoursite.com/en” hreflang=”en” />

This will signal to Google that there are two geo-targeted versions of your website and help them to show the correct version on both google.co.jp and google.com.

Further reading:

Hreflang: The Ultimate Guide – Yoast

Use hreflang for language and regional URLs – Google


Rel=”nofollow”

A HTML attribute attached to the code behind the hyperlink to signal to search engines that page does not endorse the destination URL.

<a href=”http://www.externalwebsite.com/” rel=”nofollow”>Nofollow link</a>

Also commonly referred to as “nofollow links”, these links do not pass PageRank or link juice.


Relative URLs

Relative URLs are much shorter than absolute URLs, displaying only the path e.g. /resource-page and omitting all other details such as the protocol e.g. https:// or domain name e.g. example.com.

This may cause on-page SEO problems such as:

  • Spider traps
  • Protocol-relative URLs
  • Relative canonical URLs

Further reading:

Why Relative URLs Should be Forbidden for Web Developers – Yoast


Responsive

Used to describe how flexible or fluid the contents of a webpage are when it is requested from various devices of various screen sizes such as mobile phones, smart phones, and tablets. Such as the following example:

Desktop Vs Mobile Responsive Versions

Desktop Vs Mobile Responsive Versions

To be on the safe side, you may want to check whether your responsive webpages pass Google’s Mobile Friendly Test tool.

Further reading:

Make sure your site’s ready for mobile-friendly Google search results


Reverse Engineering

Reverse engineering is an SEO link building technique by which you run your competitor’s domain through a backlink checker tool like Ahrefs and analyse their backlink profile.

Once you’ve identified websites (who’ve linked to your competitors) that may also potentially link to you, you’ll go out there and get links from these websites or similar-themed websites.


Rich Snippets

Rich snippets or structured data markup are a type of microdata markup (using the Schema.org vocabulary) that are added to webpages, with the purpose of making the webpage result on the search engine results pages more visually outstanding, and also display information related the query.

Rich snippet example

Rich snippet example

Further reading:

Introduction to Structured Data


Robots

Robots, also referred to as search engine spiders, are computer robots programmed by search engine engineers to crawl webpages and process information for data storage and retrieval purposes.


Robots.txt

A text file that website owners use to provide instructions to search engine spiders about which files and directories to ignore when crawling a website. The robots.txt file is stored in the root of the domain. Here’s an example of what it looks like:

User-agent: *

Disallow: /members-area

Where * signifies all search engine robots that are programmed to obey a robots.txt file, and Disallow: /members-area tells search engine robots not to crawl the member section of the website.

This conserves the crawl budget of a website by blocking access to unimportant directories, thus allowing more important sections of the website to be crawled and processed.


Roundups

A curation of the best content on a related topic or industry in a blogpost. Also used as a link building technique by SEOs.

Further reading:

How to Get Traffic and Links from Blog Roundups


RSS Feed

RSS feed stands for Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary. It is an XML-format file in which web authors can update the feed list by adding new stories/blogposts and readers can access this list by subscribing to it.


S

Schema.org

Schema.org is a set of vocabulary types, properties, and enumeration values that can be used with a variety of encodings including RDFa, Microdata and JSON-LD to markup webpages, emails, and many other applications.

When used on webpages, it can create rich snippets that display marked-up data on the search engine results pages.


Scraped Content

Scraped content is content that is copied and/or slightly modified from other sources and published on your own site.

In general, this is a negative term used to describe stolen content and goes against Google’s Quality Guidelines – Scraped Content.


Search Console

Previously known as Google Webmaster Tools, Google Search Console is a free web service help website owners monitor their site health and maintain their search presence on Google.

Webmasters can submit their websites to Google Search Console and verify their ownership. Once verified, webmasters can perform a range of actions including:

  • Submitting a sitemap
  • Fetching Googlebot to specified URLs
  • Checking for crawl errors
  • International targeting
  • Check for malware
  • And more

Search Engine

A program designed to allow users to search for and retrieve information on the World Wide Web.

Popular search engines worldwide include Google, Bing and Yahoo!, Baidu, Yandex, and Ask.com.


Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)

SERPs are pages displaying links to webpages in response to a query entered by a search engine user. It contains two main types of results – Paid search results (ads) that advertisers have to pay search engines for every click, and organic search results which are ranked by algorithms based on dozens of ranking factors.


Search Engine Result Snippet

A summarised version of a webpage that is displayed on the search engine results pages. This snippet can be customised by editing the meta description of the page.


Search Engine Penalty

A form of punishment dealt by search engines to websites that implement spammy web activities in effort to manipulate their search engine rankings.

This may come in one of two forms – An algorithmic penalty (punishment dealt by search engine algorithms) or a manual penalty (a manual action dealt by a human search engineer).


Search Engine Submission

The process of submitting a website to the search engines and one of the ways to get into a search engine’s index.

Note: Submitting a website/webpage to a search engine does not guarantee indexation. Some reasons a website/webpage may not get indexed are, duplicate content and thin/shallow content.


Search History

A collection of search queries recently performed by a search engine user. Based on a user’s search history, search engines may tailor search results to individual users, thus the results may appear different from user to user.


Search Operators

A set of vocabulary that can be added to search queries in order to filter the search results.

Here’s an example of a search operator that searches only for keywords found in a page title:

intitle:”write for us”

Search operator title example

Search operator title example

Another example of a search operator that filters results found only on a particular website:

site:www.example.com


Search Term / Search Query

A keyword or phrase entered into a search engine for the purpose of retrieving information (search results) related to the search query.


Search Terms Report

A report generated by Google AdWords that displays the exact keywords a user searched for and clicked on a paid ad result.

Here’s a sample of a search terms report:

Search terms sample report

Search terms sample report


Search Volume

The specific number of searches performed for a particular keyword or keyword phrase. Search volumes for specific keywords can be research through keyword research tools such as:

  • Keywordtool.io
  • Google Keyword Planner
  • Ahrefs Keyword Explorer

Secondary Keywords

Keywords that are of a lesser priority than primary keywords that need to be optimised on a website or webpage. Keywords of a higher priority go in the <title> tags, meta description, and other important locations on a webpage.

Keywords may be prioritised according to:

  • Search volume
  • Conversion rate
  • User intent

Semantic search is a scientific method of seeking to accurately understand the intention and context of a search query in effort to return highly relevant search results to the searcher.


SEO Audit

An on-page and off-page review or assessment of a website to identify any issues that may cause a website to be “unfriendly” to search engines, such as blocking search engines from crawling and indexing an important web resource.

An SEO audit may be performed manually or via a tool such as Semrush. An on-page SEO audit may involve checking a range of items including:

  • The presence of a sitemap
  • Target keywords included on key landing pages
  • Page loading time

An off-page SEO audit may involve checking for:

  • Spammy backlinks (negative SEO)
  • Keyword-optimised backlinks

SEO Copywriting

SEO copywriting is writing copy that is keyword-optimised for search engine ranking purposes. It is generally frowned upon these days, as SEO copywriters have gotten a bad rep for writing copy intended for search engines rather than for humans.

Here’s an example of an extreme case of bad SEO copywriting:

SEO Copywriting at its worst

SEO Copywriting at its worst

As Google shifts toward semantic search and delivering ultra useful results to searchers, good SEO copy is no longer a priority, rather providing a great user (and useful) experience should be the primary focus while placing keyword optimisation second.


Site Architecture

The site plan of a website’s navigational structure.

It is recommended to separate main category (broad) content from sub category (specific) content. For example, “Digital Printing” is a broad category keyword and “Flyer Printing” is a more specific category, therefore they should be separated pages.


Sitemap

A sitemap can be in HTML or XML format. HTML sitemaps are included on the front end of the website for users to gain a birds-eye-view and easily navigate through a site. Whereas XML sitemaps are created to submit to search engines for better site crawling and indexation.

You may submit your sitemap to:

  • Google Webmaster Tools
  • Bing Webmaster Tools

Sitewide links are hyperlinks that are found on the same location of multiple pages of a website. E.g. a sidebar or footer link.

Google’s algorithms consolidates sitewide links and may count them as one.

Further reading:

Are related sitewide footer links the key to dominating Google?


Sneaky Redirects

A redirect is the action of sending a user to a different URL other than the one they requested. A sneaky redirect on the other hand is intended to deceive search engines by displaying different content to search engines and cloaking. This is also known as cloaking and can result in a manual action by search engines.


Social Bookmarking

Social bookmarking involves the act of bookmarking, annotating, and sharing web documents through online bookmarking platforms such as Delicious, Scoop.it, and Digg.

Social bookmarking can be a way to drive traffic and links (usually nofollowed) to your website, although links may come indirectly (as a result of increasing the visibility of your content to bloggers).


Social Signals

As Google evolves its algorithms, social signals as a ranking factor becomes a hot topic for discussion in the search engine community.

Google representatives have suggested and reiterated that Google does not use social signals as ranking factors.

Great content that’s shared heavily on social media networking platforms tend to rank well on search engines. However it may not suggest a direct causation.

I.e. If page A, which has 10,000 Facebook shares and 100 backlinks, is ranking on SERPs position #1, there is a correlation between having more backlinks as a result of a increased content visibility. And links as we know, are a major ranking factor.


Spamdexing

Spamdexing is a form of spamming search engines to manipulate a page’s rankings on the search engine results pages.

Spamdexing includes but is not limited to:

  • Displaying different content to search engines and humans
  • Keyword spamming
  • Creating superfluous backlinks
  • Mass acquisition of low quality backlinks such as unmaintained web directories,

Spider

A spider or a search engine robot is a computer program that discovers web pages/documents and process their contents for search engine indexing and sorting purposes.


Splash Page

A splash page is a webpage a visitor first sees upon visiting a website, and allows the visitor to select an option to continue further into the site. For example, choosing a country/region or language to view the site in, or displaying an advertisement or “quote of the day” for a set amount of time before allowing the visitor to click into the site.

Splash pages are usually thin with content and not keyword-optimised, thus making it bad for SEO.


Splog

A Splog is a shortened term for a Spam Blog (Spam + Blog = Splog). It is a blog created for spammy purposes such as:

  • Stealing authority content from reputable websites and placing ads on them to earn ad revenue
  • Used to create superflous backlinks to targeted websites (a form of spammy link building)
  • Spinning stolen high quality content to make it look unique to search engines in hopes of ranking for specific keywords

Static Page / Static URL

A static page delivers content to visitors exactly as per developed. The URL does not change as well.

A dynamic page on the other hand, shows content that may change from time to time. A page displaying the latest blogposts (blogroll) is an example of a dynamic page, whereas an About Us page that doesn’t automatically change its contents would be an example of a static page.


Structured Data Markup

Structured data markup is a text-based organisation of data that is used to increase the visibility of pages in the search result snippets. This is done by using JSON-LD and Microdata to create various markup data types such as critic reviews, recipes, and online courses.

Once the markup is done, it may be tested for validity on Google via the Structured Data Testing Tool.


Subdomain

A subdomain is another part of a website. It takes the following form subdomain.maindomain.com.


Subheading

The subheading is a heading given to a subsection of a page. It should include your target keywords when possible.


The sub navigation menu are the links that take the user to another section of a website when clicked on. It is a best practice to keyword-optimise (do not over optimise!) the sub navigation anchor text links.


Supplementary Content (SC)

The supplementary content as mentioned repeatedly in Google’s Quality Rater’s Guidelines refers to content that supports the overall content of a page in providing a good user experience.

For example, the main content of a currency converter tool page would be tool itself, and supplementary content would be the latest foreign currency exchange trends and updates.


Supplemental Results

Supplemental results are URLs that are considered less important and are placed in Google’s supplemental index (a secondary database).

Pages in the supplemental index don’t rank well and it may be time to run a few checks on things such as:

  • Page Authority. Are you getting enough backlinks?
  • Duplicate content. Is your copy very similar or partially similar to another existing article?
  • Internal linking. Are enough internal pages on your linking to the affected page?

T

Target Keywords

The keywords or search terms you intend to optimise your website and webpages to rank well on the the search engines results pages.


Term Frequency

The term frequency refers to the number of times a term is repeated on a document. It is a metric (as part of a weighting system) that is used by search engines for page ranking purposes.


Thesaurus

A resource that lists related terms or synonyms of a word. It can also be used as a tool to aid in keyword research.


Title / Page Title

The title of a page is generally visible near the top of the page, and is usually surrounded by the <h1> tag. It is a best practice to include your target keywords in the page title.


Title Tag

title-tag

Title Tag on the search results snippets

The title tag <title>Page Title Goes Here</title> is used by browsers to display at the top of a browsing tab and is also often used by search engines to display on the search engine results snippets.


Top Heavy

A Google search engine algorithm used to filter or downgrade webpages that place too many ads above the fold of the page.


Top-Level Domain (TLD)

The top level domain is appended after the domain name e.g. www.example.com, where example is the domain name and .com is the top level domain.

It is recommended to get a .com domain if you plan to target an international search audience, as .com domains can rank better across Google Search’s international domains (e.g. www.google.com.sg). On the other hand if you decide to target only one country or region, you may get a ccTLD (e.g. www.example.sg).


Touch Element

A touch element refers to a button or link on a mobile device. It is one of the signals used in Google’s Mobile ranking factors.

Touch elements should not be sufficiently large in size and not too close to another touch element, otherwise users may accidentally touch unintended elements.


Trackback

A trackback is a notification sent automatically by one website (website A) to another website that it (website A) has linked to.

This is a great technique for relationship building among bloggers from similar niches and can encourage reciprocal linking as well.


Trust Flow

Trust Flow is a metric created and trademarked by Majestic. It is a quality score assigned to webpages on a scale of 0-100, and is calculated by analysing a site’s backlinks from trusted third party websites.


TrustRank

A metric for determining the trustworthiness of a link, described by researchers Zoltan Gyongyi and Hector Garcia-Molina of Stanford University and Jan Pedersen of Yahoo!.


U

Uniform Resource Locator (URL)

The Uniform Resource Locator or URL is commonly referred to as the website address and is used to locate and access webpages (HTML, Javascript, FLASH), documents/files (PDFs, video, images) on the World Wide Web.

It is recommended to include your target keywords in your URL to better your search engine rankings.


Used to describe links that are obtained or created unnaturally for the purposes of manipulating a website’s search engine rankings.

If this sort of spammy link building tactic is detected by Google or Bing, it may result in a manual investigation and demotion of the site in question.


URL Parameters

URL parameters, also known as query strings, are dynamic URLs and are appended to the back of the Uniform Resource Locator after the ? symbol (e.g. www.example.com/page?sourceid=123&sessionid=2).

Google recommends not to rewrite your dynamic URLs into static URLs unless you only intend to remove unnecessary parameters, as this can cause Google to misinterpret the information and cause indexation problems.


User Experience (UX)

User experience (UX) is a person’s overall experience when interacting with your website or webpage. Reader-friendly fonts, alluring images, great copy, and appropriate call-to-actions all play a role in delivering a satisfying user experience.

Search engines were built to serve users searching for useful information pertaining to their search queries. Google, Bing, and other major search engines constantly update their algorithms to serve that purpose – delivering useful, authoritative, and trustworthy content (content that provides a satisfying user experience).


V

Vary: User-Agent HTTP Header

The Vary: User-Agent HTTP header indicates to servers, caches, and search engines that there is a different version of a webpage served to mobile and desktop users.

When using dynamic serving (automatically detecting device types and serving specific content to each type), adding the Vary: User-Agent HTTP header signals to Google that there is a mobile-optimised content version and allows Google to crawl the content faster and serve them appropriately in search.

Further reading:

Dynamic Serving | Mobile-Friendly Websites | Google Developers

Vary: User-Agent header | Varvy


Video Optimisation

The process of optimising a video for search engine rankings. It includes:

  • Placing target keywords into video file name, title text, description, tags.
  • Getting quality viewership (e.g. majority of viewers watched the entire video)
  • High average user rating (e.g. a substantial number of video likes on Youtube)

Viral Content

Viral content or contagious content refers to content (infographics, blogposts, controversial articles, memes) that spreads on the web (social media networks, community blogs, forums, news/PR sites) like wildfire.

Great outcome for brand awareness, link building, and social media marketing campaigns.


W

White Hat SEO

White Hat SEO refers to the act of optimising a website for search engine rankings while abiding by search engine guidelines such as Google Webmaster Guidelines and Bing Webmaster Guidelines.


X

XHTML

XHTML stands for Extensible Hypertext Markup Language and is quite similar to HTML, the basic language for constructing web pages on the World Wide Web.

XHTML is part of the XML family and, like HTML, it is also easily understandable by search engines.


XML Sitemap

A sitemap is sort of like a directory of all the pages, images, and files existing within your website. Think of a shopping mall directory, where you have all the shop unit numbers in one list.

An XML sitemap is a type of sitemap that contains metadata about each URL and is added to the root directory of a website and submitted to search engines (e.g. submit an XML sitemap to Google Search Console) where it will be crawled and processed by search engines.

This sends important signals to search engines such as the organisation of your site content and the importance of each page.


Y

Yandex

A popular Russian search engine.


Yahoo!

A rude, noisy, or violent person. Source – Google

Yahoo! is a web search engine that was merged with Bing in December 2009.


Yelp

An authority business directory that houses a community of reviewers of businesses, publishes events, and more.


Z

Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT)

The Zero Moment of Truth represents how consumers shop and make purchase decisions throughout the customer buying journey in this day and age.

How is this related to search? There are over a 100 billion searches on Google each month, and a handful of them are searching for product-related information prior to purchasing from a brand (e.g. third party customer reviews). Google calls this the Zero Moment of Truth or ZMOT.


 

Dylan Sun is the Founder of Equinet Academy, a Digital Marketing training organisation. Passionate in all aspects of Digital Marketing and Web Design, he extends his passion to helping people implement effective digital strategies to their businesses. Follow his blog at Equinet Academy to learn more about Digital Marketing and Design.

In SEO terms, a link/backlink/inbound link is a hyperlink from one website to another. Link building refers to the effort of acquiring these links to improve a website’s rankings on the search engine results pages (SERPs).

There’s no question that links are crucial in improving a website’s rank on the SERPs. A search ranking factors correlation study conducted by Moz and a new Google ranking study concluded that links are among the more influential factors for search engine rankings.

Getting links isn’t tough; getting quality links is. So before you go about sending random link requests and submitting to every A-Z directory, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do your links offer any value to the user?
  • Are your link destinations contextually relevant?
  • Are your links self promotional in nature?

If the answers are yes, yes, and no, you’re on the right track.

Not all links are equal

Remember that links with the nofollow attribute aren’t counted in Google’s overall algorithm.

<a href="http://example.com/" rel=”nofollow”>link</a>

The kind of links that will get you on the first page of Google are editorial links. That is, links that are placed in the content body of a blogpost, article, or whitepaper.

Let’s look at two examples of editorial links from two separate articles.

Example A:

According to a study <= (link) conducted in 2012, 80% of people love sushi.

Example B:

Today, selling insurance policies <= (link) is even more challenging than it was 10 years ago.

In example A, clicking on the anchor text “a study” would take you to a research paper to back its claims. In example B, the anchor text “insurance policies” would take you to the author’s insurance policy sales page.

Which do you think offers more value? Which do you think is more contextually relevant and non self promotional? – Example A is the clear winner.

It’s really about providing value

If you want to acquire high quality links (and we’re talking about links that really move the needle in rankings), you have to keep one key thing in mind – Can you provide value in exchange for the link?

Let’s say you’re reaching out to a popular food blog to write about your newly opened restaurant, what incentive could you give the blog to feature you?

You’d probably have to offer something like a $100 dine-in voucher. If we’re talking about well-known blogs, they would charge you a handsome fee for their review.

Similarly, if you were pitching a guest article to a popular blog in your industry, you’d have to make sure your content provides great value to their audience.

One of the best advices from Rand Fishkin is to give before you receive. Reach out to your community’s top influencers, friends, colleagues, and associates and ask them whether there’s anything they would like you to promote to your network out of good will.

Quoting Rand, “This is not a direct reciprocation, like, “Well, I did this for you, so now you do this for me.” This is just seeding the pot. You are creating a positive impression with these folks. Trust me, a lot of the time, even if you don’t have something to promote, if you do this for people in your network and people in your world, just try and make their lives better and promote their stuff, they will automatically be incented for the next few months to do something nice for you. If they can think of anything, they will try and do it for you. They will be more likely to help you out. If you do ask for a share, you’ll be more likely to get it.”

Go out there and get those links

Link building is an on-going process. You don’t just build links overnight and expect to rank on top forever. There’s always going to be competition. It also takes awhile for search engines to pick up your links and work out your rankings. So be consistent if you intend to stay on top.

A method of approaching link building

Link building methodology

It starts from analyzing the landscape, defining your linkable assets and target audience, developing and executing your strategy, and finally measuring your success so you can optimize better for the next campaign.

PS: We’ve also included a link building methodology template to use when executing your link building campaigns.

Analyze

Imagine you’re planning to launch a roundup and your goal is to acquire backlinks to it. Where do you start?

You could start by analyzing the results of similar roundups that have been published in the past. Using tools like Buzzsumo and Ahrefs, find out the quantity of social shares and backlinks these articles earned.

Go to Buzzsumo.com and enter a keyword that you’d use in your title and analyze the buzz effects of similar content out there on the web:

buzzsumo roundup search example

Next, pick out a couple of them and check out their backlinks with Ahrefs:

AHrefs roundup example

If you’re not seeing the success (lots of social shares and links) that you’re hoping to achieve, it may be a better idea to try a different content idea or you might end up in the same boat. I recommend reading this post by David McSweeney on 8 Actionable Ways To Get Backlinks By Spying On Your Competitors.

We once did a roundup titled 40 web design trends in 2015. This article was picked up by the Slideshare team and featured on their homepage.

With this credential, we reached out to 40 different people mentioned in our blogpost and got a response rate of 20% – some invited us to guest write for their blog and others told us they loved it and would share it on their social networks.

However even with all that effort and buzz, we only managed to secure one link. Quite a letdown, considering the buzz and enthusiasm it generated.

Had we analyzed the results of similar articles beforehand, we’d have discovered articles like these do well in acquiring social shares but weren’t very “linkable” so to speak.

How then would you go about analyzing the landscape if you’re a startup and your website is newly launched?

If your site is new and you don’t have any idea where to start, a good way would be to Google your top 5 competitors and analyze their link profiles. This may help you to spot some link opportunities you otherwise wouldn’t have thought of.

Here’s what we did with one of our websites (in the training room rental niche). Upon analyzing the backlinks of our competitors with Ahrefs, we found that customers were linking to their “how to get there” page from their event landing pages. This made a lot of sense given how detailed the directions to the training centre were.

With this new insight, we replicated that strategy and suggested to every new customer that they could link to our “how to get there” page from their event landing pages so their attendees wouldn’t lose their way.

You can see how detailed our directions to our training rooms are (it’s really about providing value).

In the next section, we’ll go through what you need to define in order to devise effective link building strategies.

Define

There are three main things you need to define before executing any link building technique:

  • What are your objectives (how many links do you intend to earn)?
  • What are your linkable assets (your content, products, how-to guides, resource pages)?
  • Who are your target linkeratis (people who will link to you)?

What are your objectives?

Your objectives shouldn’t just be limited to earning links. They should also aim to drive brand awareness, build relationships, and increase your social presence.

If your only objective for guest posting were to earn links, you wouldn’t really care where your article went as long as you acquired the links. You’d submit your blogpost to random article directories, low quality blogs, etc.

Say if your objectives were to increase brand awareness and drive traffic back to your site, you’d be looking at very different avenues (popular blogs with lots of user comments and domain authority).

What are your linkable assets?

Before you decide whether a piece of content, resource, or product is link-worthy (something people will not hesitate to link to), put yourself in the shoes of people who might link to you.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Would you link to your own piece of linkable asset and why? (Would you link to that case study you’ve just written?)
  2. Would it provide any value to the target audience?
  3. Is it contextually relevant?
  4. Is it self promotional by any nature?

There are a ton of spam guest contribution requests out there. If you’re outsourcing a 500-word guest article for $5 and linking heavily to your product-centered content, your pitch will probably get deleted.

Who are your target linkeratis?

Your target linkeratis are people who might link to you. They range from bloggers, forum users, to content creators and resource editors.

An example of a resource editor would be a government official managing a “useful links” resource page. In this case if you have something useful to contribute to that page, ensure your outreach formally written. No slangs and informal abbreviations.

On the other hand, if you’re reaching out to an industry blogger to submit a guest post, you can add a little personal touch to your outreach email (e.g. telling them how much you like their content).

The key is to connect your linkable assets to your target linkeratis and view your pitch through their eyes. You should always ask yourself the aforementioned questions:

  1. Why would I link to this?
  2. Would it provide any value to my target audience?
  3. Is it contextually relevant?
  4. Is it self promotional?

Develop & Execute

Once you have defined your objectives, linkable assets, and target audience, it’s time to develop and execute a strategic approach to acquiring those links.

Let’s look at a couple of link building examples that still work well today, provided you take good precaution not to “piss search engines off” (Like spinning your articles to make them unique and submitting them to dozens of low quality article directories):

  • Creating evergreen content
  • Guest posting
  • Relationship building
  • Directory/resource submission

Creating evergreen content

If you don’t have any existing linkable assets, you can start by creating evergreen content (content that never becomes outdated).

It could be a case study with comprehensive and conclusive research data, a definitive guide, a huge list post, a glossary of industry terms, and anything that is impossible to create for five bucks. This can help you to attract links naturally and also allow you to link back to them in your guest posts.

Browse popular articles with lots of social shares through Buzzsumo. Do keyword research on industry search terms and create 10x content (content that’s 10 times better than any other similar content).

When your content is ready, publish it on your blog and promote it. If you’re new in your industry, your newly created content will be like a tree on a remote island. You have to get the word out if you want to earn links and social shares.

Send outreach emails to people who might be interested in it, share it across all your social channels, and link to it from existing blogposts (both on-site and off-site).

Guest posting

If you’re intending to submit a guest article to a popular blog in your industry, make sure your topic is relevant to the blog’s audience and your content is unique and highly useful. Otherwise your pitch will most likely get rejected.

Use advanced search operators to find blogs that accept guest posts. An example would be typing intitle:”write for us” your industry to yield search results of blogs in relevant industries that accept guest contributions.

Advanced search operator example

There are a few key things to note for a successful guest posting campaign:

  • The pitch
  • The author’s profile
  • The submitted content

The pitch is important especially if a site does not openly invite guest contributions. For that, I suggest you check out outreach letters for link building by Peter Attia.

If a site already has guest posting guidelines set in black and white, be sure to read them very thoroughly before you decide whether or not to contribute. There may be cases where you realize your content idea may not be what the site is interested in.

The author’s profile is also an important deciding factor. We get a ton of spam emails requesting to guest post for our site. Here’s a recent one we received:

Hello,

I’m [name], constant and avid follower of your blog posts and I’ve liked most of the blog posts written here. I noticed that you’re accepting guest authors on https://www.equinetacademy.com/become-contributor-write-us/. I also realized you’ve already published some great guest posts from different authors with distinct styles and I’d be privileged if I were provided with an opportunity to delight your blog followers with some informative blog posts.

I’m a content expert and I’ve contributed some sensible and informative articles to surplus niche-specific blogs. I realize the value of content and its part in helping out numerous people out there in the space.

The blogs offered by me are absolutely free of cost for your website. As a reward, I would like to earn dofollow backlinks from your end.

I think I’m crisp & clear. If you have any confusion for the aforementioned points, you can freely revert me.

Looking for a positive response!

Unless you want to piss Matt Cutts off, don’t ever mention you would like to earn dofollow backlinks in return. Just… no. The above email pitch doesn’t tell us much about the author or their writing style, except that they’re pretty much hungry for backlinks.

It would be good to reference your previous guest contributions (the chances of approval would be higher if you have posted before on authority blogs) and suggest one or two topics you’re willing to touch on. Here’s a good example (keep it short and sweet and right to the point):

Hi,

Do you accept guest contributions to [site name]? I have previously published for a variety of online publications on marketing topics and was wondering if I could possibly guest write for you too?

My most recent article published to date here: [reference your recent post on an authority site], but I have also published for [authority site 1], [authority site 2], and many others.

I publish quite a bit on [topic] and could write about anything you have a content gap.

Looking forward to your response.

Through referencing your previous guest contributions, one can see your writing style and profile. If you want to maximize your approval rate, I suggest writing for the top blogs in your industry first.

Last but definitely not least (if you’ve already made it far enough and have gotten a response), don’t disappoint with thin and low quality content. Write something that offers a unique perspective on a trending topic, be detailed with examples, free it from grammatical errors, and basically try to follow everything outlined here and here.

Relationship building

Search for popular bloggers in your niche using tools like Followerwonk.com, Alltop.com, Buzzsumo.com, and just browsing through social media channels such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. Make it a commitment to comment daily on at least 3 to 5 blogposts/social media posts/forum threads of your target linkeratis to build rapport.

Once you’ve built rapport and gained their trust, they will be more willing to look into your link requests and accede to them.

As mentioned above, one of the best relationship building advice by Rand is to give before you receive. Send an outreach message to them, tell them that you love their content, and ask if there is anything they’d like you to share with your audience.

Through building your online presence, you may have earned some name/brand mentions from loyal customers or industry associates. These mentions could be anything from recommended partners (like the one below) to testimonials.

Recommended partners page example:

Recommended partners page example

Testimonial example:

Testimonials and link mention

Browse through the blogs of your contacts on a regular basis and spot any opportunities for link requests, or use a tool like Google Alerts to alert you of any name/brand mentions (both yours and your competitors’) found across the web.

Google Alerts

For Google Alerts, make sure you wrap your brand name in double quotations to avoid any irrelevant notifications. So for example if your name is Dylan Sun, make sure you set the alert as “Dylan Sun”. Otherwise you might receive content that include phrases like “Bob Dylan” and his soundtrack “House of the Rising Sun”.

If you do manage to find any mentions from close friends, business associates, and past happy customers, all you have to do is ask them to convert the mention into a link.

Directory/resource submission

Ensure your site is free of viruses and looks trustworthy (no broken image links and 404 pages) before submitting to any directory. Use advanced search operators to find directories and resource pages (e.g. intitle:”business directory” intext:”your niche”).

Generally you’re looking for directories and resource pages that have human reviewers manually approving submissions. You want to make sure you fulfill the stated requirements of a directory, especially if you’re submitting product-centered content (e.g. a course outline) to a course directory, otherwise the chances of getting approved are slim.

Early this year in Singapore, the Workforce Development Agency (WDA) launched a national movement known as SkillsFuture which provides SGD$500 in credits to every Singaporean above the age of 25 to apply for approved courses.

Our company was one of the first to submit our courses to be eligible for the funding, which got approved under one of the directory’s category listings, earning us a good dofollow link.

Directory link to WordPress course example

In order to obtain a high approval rate, your website design also needs to look trustworthy (i.e. not too many ads above the fold of the page, no broken images and links, etc.) and your content has to offer value. Of course, our WordPress course curriculum had to be really comprehensive and structured as you can see.

This example is one of the more common and acceptable instances where product-centered content can earn links, as it is generally more difficult to acquire links to product-centered content than to free, helpful resources (e.g. how-to guides, glossary of industry terms, etc).

Measure

Basically you want to measure these two metrics:

1. Your rankings after acquiring the links. Monitor your rankings after acquiring the links through a tool like Firefox Rank Checker or Moz Rank Tracker. Note that it takes 10 weeks on average to see one rank jump.

2. Your link acquisition success rate in terms of percentage. If you sent out link requests to 10 linkeratis and received 1 link, it’s a 10% conversion rate, which is pretty decent. But if you’re sending 100 guest post requests and only getting 1 or 2 replies, you may need to refine your pitch.

Your Turn

Do you have a link building framework, guideline, or methodology you apply when doing link building? Please share them in the comments!

Dylan Sun is the Founder of Equinet Academy, a Digital Marketing training organisation. Passionate in all aspects of Digital Marketing and Web Design, he extends his passion to helping people implement effective digital strategies to their businesses. Follow his blog at Equinet Academy to learn more about Digital Marketing and Design.

So you’ve done weeks of research and consultations from various SEO consultants. If you’re on your final step to choosing your desired SEO agency, do this 5-step checklist first before submitting your first payment deposit, because it might just make you think twice about signing those papers.

1. Run their proposed list of target keywords on Google Keyword Planner

This happened to one of my past clients whom I had consulted. The SEO company targeted keywords which had little or no search volume. Upon highlighting this issue, incredibly, the SEO consultant was “amazing” enough to tell us not get “fixated on the numbers”.

Here’s the screenshot of our conversation:

SEO-Agency-Convo

So above, my reply and a screenshot of their proposed list of target keywords on the then Google AdWords Keyword Tool (Now Google Keyword Planner).

And here was their reply on this:

Appreciate your feedback.

Yes, I agree that “Google Keywords Tool” does play an important role in keywords/ key-phrases research, but don’t get fixated on numbers. Years of our tech team experiences have shown the current site’ content strength to guide through the research. Some keywords/ key-phrases may have very low search volume but will be relevant to your site and industry. 

We provide quality service as our guarantee. If the milestone are not met, we work free for you. 

Moving ahead, setting you apart.

Cheers!


Obviously it was a poor argument on their end but my client still went ahead with them. In the end they did not deliver and blamed it on Google’s algorithm updates. Way to go.

I highly recommend you conduct thorough keyword research before even looking for an SEO agency. That way you’ll be more knowledgeable when you’re discussing the deliverables and campaign objectives.

2. Conduct an on-page SEO audit on their past/existing clients

You may use an on-page SEO analysis tool and run one of their past/existing client’s sites on it. Still, I’d rather do a manual SEO audit, just because I don’t fully trust the accuracy of automated tools.

Some obvious telltale signs you can look out for are checking the title tags and meta descriptions on a couple of pages to ensure they have solid copywriting skills and are not spamming keywords into these areas.

To do this, open up the page on your Chrome browser and right click on a blank section of a page, then click “View source”. Search for the “title tags” and “meta description” by clicking “Ctrl+f” for Windows and “Command+f” for Mac and analyze them.

How-to-View-Page-Source

3. Check on the backlink profiles on their past/existing clients

Many SEO consultants promise to earn you white-hat links that abide by Google Webmaster Guidelines. When in actual fact a lot of them resort to Private Blog Networks (PBNs), classified ads, over-optimized anchor text on forum posts, and many more questionable link acquisition techniques.

By running a check on one or more of the backlink profiles of their past/existing clients, you can get a clearer picture on their link building activities. Of course, do note that the results you see may be reflective of a previous SEO agency and not the one you’re looking to hire. Therefore you should perform this backlink check on a few clients to check for consistent results.

So what are some recommended white-hat link building techniques? Some of my favourite are:

One to one outreach

Online publicity campaigns

Building links in person

Link building with local events

4. Call up their past/existing clients

What better way to get first hand information than hearing from the horse’s mouth?

Ask your SEO agency for a sample SEO report of their past/existing clients. Navigate to their websites and fish out their contact information.

Hopefully you’ll be able to get a couple of minutes with the marketing department to gather some feedback that will aid in your decision-making.

5. Read through the contract again thoroughly

There was one SEO agency that stated on the contract, “If client changes content without the permission of [SEO company], [SEO company] has the right to stop all works immediately and nullify this agreement”, which was little too extreme in my opinion.

A good SEO agency will work closely together with you to develop and optimize content on your site without resorting to such extreme measures. Check that the contract protects you and the SEO agency to a reasonable extent, or else you might get terribly burned.

One final tip when hiring an SEO firm – know what SEO is all about. If you have a good overview of what SEO is and how to do it right, you’ll know exactly what questions to ask during a one-to-one consultation with your SEO consultant and be equipped with the knowledge to spot any tell-tale signs.

 

Dylan Sun is the Founder of Equinet Academy, a Digital Marketing training organisation. Passionate in all aspects of Digital Marketing and Web Design, he extends his passion to helping people implement effective digital strategies to their businesses. Follow his blog at Equinet Academy to learn more about Digital Marketing and Design.