The Book in Three Sentences
This guide teaches you everything you have to know about SEO and how to rank at the top of Google. SEO 2023 walks you through the practices you need to optimize your website and get a lot of traffic. This is one of the most comprehensive and up-to-date handbooks on the subject.
SEO 2023 Summary
Chapter 1: Introduction to How Google Works.
A lot of people are spreading information about Google and SEO that isn’t true and there’s a lot of outdated information that no longer works. A long time ago, you could write an article repeating keywords into a page to rank high. In November 2008, Google revealed an update called “Florida” to stop spammers. In 2012, Google released “Penguin” which punished sites that had too many links with the same anchor text. If you’re afraid your business can suffer from future updates:
- Never rely on one strategy
- Your tactics should rely on the best SEO practices
There are four principles to consider if you want to rank well on Google:
- Trust: offer high-quality content referenced by reputable sources.
- Authority: this is the site’s strength in your niche. This includes social media followers and backlinks.
- Relevance: relevant sites in a given niche often rank higher
- User Experience: this is how users behave when visiting your site.
Google uses the following factors to rank a website:
- Direct visits
- User engagement
- Number and quality of backlinks
- Page load speed
- Content relevance and keyword usage
- Brand strength
- Font size
- Number of images
In October 2015, Google started using an artificial intelligence technology called RankBrain. RankBrain establishes connections across terms to determine what a user wants. For example, looking for “fastest runner” gives you results of Usain Bolt.
In March 2018, Google unveiled the mobile-first index which means that the most-used search engine uses the mobile version of a site to rank and index. So make sure, you improve your site’s mobile support.
Chapter 2: Keyword Research. The Most Important Step of SEO.
Keyword research is important because you can discover how much traffic it will attract and you’ll find the best keywords to rank well in search results. Keywords are words or phrases that users write on a search engine and then get results according to several factors. Relevance is paramount when it comes to keywords.
To generate a potential list of keywords:
- Steal keywords from your competitors using Keyword Density Checker
- Brainstorm a master list
- Research your niche in Reddit, Quora, Facebook Group, or Twitter
- Use professional tools like Ubersuggest, Answer The Public, or BuzzSumo
Chapter 3: On-Page SEO. How to Let Google Know What Your Page Is About
On-page SEO makes sure that your site’s readable to search engines. For better recognition by search engines, you should use the following practices:
- Search Engine Friendly URLs: make them clean, logical, and friendly to both users and search engines.
- Internal navigation: this is how a page links to another page from your site and so on.
- To make Google identify the keywords you want, include those keywords naturally and make them visible on your page.
- The title tag should have around sixty characters and the meta description tag between 155 and 160 characters. Google will shorten those tags if you exceed the character limit.
- One of the strongest factors Google considers when ranking your pages is your site’s speed. So host the site where most of your users live, use a CDN, enable load speed technologies, and shrink large files.
- A file called sitemaps.xml allows search engines to easily discover your pages. This is a map of your site that’s usually generated automatically. Another must-have file is robots.txt and this one tells search engines which pages not to list on their results.
- Make your site accessible for all devices, including computers, tablets, and phones.
- Increase your content quality by proofreading and editing.
- Use clean code on your site
- Take it easy on the popups and advertisements
- Improve the overall “operability” of your site which involves fixing broken links and images and fixing 404 errors.
Mobile support is important because sites that have it will rank higher. To best support these users:
- Create a responsive site
- Dynamically serve different content to mobile and desktop users
- Host your mobile content on a separate subdomain
To improve performance in the mobile search results, use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool and then test your mobile speed and performance. Use the results you get to make changes if you have to. Ideally, you want a responsive site that caters to both mobile and desktop users and charges the size of the screen depending on the device they have.
Google’s business revolves around making sure that people get high-quality and reliable results. The most important factors to consider are expertise, authority, and trust. That’s what’s important for Google, but what does it mean for site owners?
- Include the real name, company name, and contact information on your about page.
- Be conservative with the links in your footer and sidebar
- Never use monetization over content
- Include the names of editors and contributors
- Always give sources
- Include financial transaction pages if you have an e-commerce site
- Financial information pages should be high quality
A lot of people have ignored readability and this proved to be a mistake. Readability refers to content that’s well-researched, spelled correctly, and that has been proofread with clarity in mind. Language and grammar structures should be simple. Write content so that 13-15-year-old students can read it.
To rank well on Google, you must offer unique, new content. To improve your traffic:
- Post new content on a regular schedule
- Leverage your social media accounts
- Reach out to bloggers writing roundup posts
Also, consider upgrading to HTTPS and SSL certificates on your site. These suggest that the connection is encrypted which makes it safer for users to navigate since a third party trying to eavesdrop on said connection won’t see any information.
User behavior signals such as bounce rate, time on site, and click-through rate determine how well you rank on Google. To use this to your advantage, you must optimize user behavior.
Click-Through-Rate: this is the percentage of people who see your result and click on it. To boost your CTR:
- Fill out the meta title and meta description tags
- Make meta tags appealing to users
- Use numbers to stand out above the rest
- Use keywords in your URLs
- Make URLs short
- Target features snippers and rich snippets
- Improve pages with low CTRs
Time on site: these are the metrics that determine how engaged users are to your content. To boot time on site:
- Include internal links
- Make content readable
- Use longer word counts
- Include videos
- Add interactive media
Chapter 4: Link Building. How to Rank Extremely High on Google.
Links are necessary if you want to rank high on Google. Links are a sort of web currency because the number of backlinks works as value. Ideally, you want to pursue links on sites that have authority and are relevant and high quality. The best practices to acquire links are:
- Do it naturally over time
- Avoid purchasing links
- Don’t link-swap or link-trade
- Don’t spam forums, websites, comments sections, or message boards with poor-quality content
- Never use paid networks that offer to build links
Anchor text is the text that has a link and it’s one of the determining facts to get top rankings. The Google Penguin update changed this, so building anchor text should be a natural process.
Link-building strategies include:
- Directory links: these should make up 10-20% of your links. Use relevant and high-quality sites.
- Stealing competitors’ links: use sites to export the backlinks of your competitors and take advantage of them
- Video link-building: videos, news updates, and instructional videos on YouTube are well-received by users, so link to relevant pages
- Link bait: this is compelling content to acquire links from others sites. Create amazing content that’s useful to people and users will share it. You can also contact other website owners
- Posting guest posts on other blogs: this involves getting in contact with other blog owners and asking them to work on guest posts for their website
- Broken link-building: contact big sites with a link to their broken link and convince them to share an updated link to your website instead
- Broken brand mentions: sometimes people share your brand but forget to include a link, so contact them and ask for a link
- Paid links: this is a dangerous strategy you should avoid
- Donate to charities and non-profits: once you do, you’ll get a link
- Better business bureau: consider signing up since they offer the best links
Link Outreach is a common tactic. There are two parts to link outreach campaigns:
- Prospecting: finding link opportunities and contact information
- Outreach: establishing relationships
Once you have contact information, you send personalized emails to authors or editors and suggest a beneficial opportunity.
You can also get links from big news outlets (CNN, NY Times, Fox News) for free using a service called Help or Reporter Out or HARO for short. HARO sends you several emails a day requesting people to contribute to certain stories. When you have something to contribute, do so and you’ll be featured.
Other link-building opportunities include:
- Create your own authority links: buy a website and turn it into a source of relevant links to your site. This is risky and you can be penalized though.
- Relationship link-building: this is linking to another blogger’s site and hope they do the same
- Testimonial link-building: you get one of these links when you buy a product and your testimonial’s featured on a site
Chapter 5: Social Media & SEO.
Google says that social signals aren’t used in its algorithm, but SEO experts believe it’s a factor to achieve good rankings. Social media increases the strength of your SEO, it also creates backlinks and increases referral traffic. Social media should be part of any SEO project or marketing project.
Facebook is the most popular social network. If you can only use one social network, it should be Facebook. Twitter is all about breaking news stories and events. It isn’t as popular as other social networks, but Twitter is still a good way to strengthen your SEO strategy. The best social networks to use are Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. But there are several other platforms to consider, including Linked In, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Chapter 6: Web Analytics in a Nutshell. How to Measure Your Success.
To grow any online business, you need web analytics. You should:
- Track your search rankings
- Use Google Analytics
- Study acquisition
- Look at organic search details
- See Segments, a powerful tool that identifies part of your audience
- Call tracking
Chapter 7: Troubleshooting Common SEO Problems & How to Fix Them.
Although you might experience SEO problems, they are usually recoverable. Common problems include:
- Your site’s not listed in Google: to fix this, generate links to your site or tweet a link to your site and wait twenty-four hours.
- Your business isn’t ranking for your own business name: build links to your site as anchor text. This takes weeks.
- Your rankings dropped off: a competitor probably has more backlinks or social media activity. To solve this, start a link-building campaign
- Look for professional help for free: free resources include MOZ Q&A forums, Pro webmasters, Quora, or WordPress answers.
Chapter 8: Local SEO. SEO for Local Business.
Google Business represents a solid marketing tool for local businesses. Users have access to opening hours, contact information, reviews, and more. To attract more traffic, use traditional SEO and local SEO. To rank high with local SEO, your business’s name is probably mentioned across the web.
Some factors that determine how well you rank on Google include:
- The proximity of the business to the city center
- Links with keywords in anchor text
- Quantity and quality of backlinks
- Relevant Google My Business category
- Keyword relevance of content
- Responsive site
- Authority of links
- Geographic keyword relevance
To get started with local SEO, create a Google My Business account and complete as many fields as possible, build links (this happens when your name, address, and phone number are mentioned), acquire reviews, and encourage people to take photos and videos in your business.
Chapter 9: How to Dominate Search with Rich Snippets.
Rich snippets are large rankings on top of the search results and usually attract the most traffic. To use rich snippers, you must tell Google which content it needs to consider using “structured data”. For this purpose, Google recommends a technology called JSON-LD. This is a code you use to tell Google that your content is appropriate for Rich Snippets.
Google supports different rich results, including articles, books, breadcrumbs, carousels, courses, critic reviews, dataset events, fact checks, FAQs, How-Tos, job postings, logos, movies, questions and answers, recipes, reviews, videos, and more.
If this sounds complex, you can use the Merkle Schema Markup Generator to create the code for you.
A popular rich result is “People Also Ask”. You can target these by:
- Using question-type keywords
- Providing clear answers
- Having a Q&A section
- Providing valuable information apart from the answer itself
- Add JSON-LD code to relevant pages
Virtual assistants such as Alexa and Google Assistant are popular and Google wants to capitalize on this. Solid answers can be spoken aloud through these assistants and people are more likely to check out your site. US-based news publishers can use Speakable. Other publications can be featured in voice assistants too. To do so:
- Provide short answers in the form of long articles
- Have HTTPS and SSL certificates installed
- Build an authoritative site within your niche
- Make a site that loads as fast as possible
Chapter 10: Powerful SEO Tools.
- Also asked: shows the “People Also Ask” questions on every topic
- KW Finder: gives you traffic data for keywords
- Google Ads Keyword Planner: provide estimated traffic for different keywords
- Google Trends: shows you search trends over a period of time
- MOZ: this site has keyword analysis, rankings traffic, search engine crawl tests
- SEO Quake: this is a toolbar that gives statistics for a site you visit
- Ubersuggest: downloads long-tail keywords
- LSI Graph: provides long-tail keywords suggestions
- Answer the Public: generates a list of questions people are asking
- Google Page Speed Insights: this tool helps you speed up your site
- Google SERP Snippet Optimization Tool: lets you write title tags and meta tags to see how they’ll look as search results.
- Google Search Console: the most popular SEO tool. This alerts you about several problems on your site
- HTTP Status Code Checker: this site makes sure URLs redirect properly
- Lighthouse: this advanced tool provides website performance, accessibility, SEO, and more.
- Robots.TXT Analyzer: this free analysis tool lets you check if your site has errors
- Robots.TXT Generator: this tool lets you create a robots.txt file
- Schema Markup Generator: this is a resource to generate Rich Snippets Markup
- Pingdom Website Speed Test: this tool monitors how fast your site loads and suggests actions to make it faster
- Screaming Frog SEO Spider: crawls your site and gives you stats, such as 404 errors, 301 redirects, server errors, and more
- XML Sitemaps: lets you create an XML sitemap to send to Google
Link Building Tools
- Link Clump: a free chrome extension to highlight and copy links on a page
- Ahrefs All-in-one SEO Toolset: the best index of links pointing to websites. You can also use it to see the data of your competitors
- Buzzstream: can help you find the contact details or send emails
- Hunter: helps you find contact details
- Mailshake: helps you send personalized email campaigns
- Ninja Outreach: helps you find contact details, send emails, and more
- Pitchbox: an outreach platform best suited for large teams
- Moz-Link Explorer: lets you see the links pointing to your site or your competitors’ sites
Web Analytics Tools
- Google Analytics: helps you track visitors and your site
- Call Rail: another web analytics tool that has text messaging, geo-routing, and voicemail
- Call Tracking Metrics: this one’s similar to Call Rail but some people find it harder to navigate
- Crazy Egg: gives you visual maps of how your visitors interact with your site
- Looker Studio: visual reports to monitor calls, ad campaigns, search ranking, and more
Bonus Chapter 1: Google Algorithm Updates.
- Google’s Bert Update: Bert stands for bidirectional encoder representations from transformers. This is a machine-learning technology whose purpose is to understand human language better.
- Page Experience Update: then Google introduced the “Core Web Vitals” that measure a user’s experience during a page visit. The Core Web Vitals are three metrics that determine a user’s experience and they are: loading (how long content takes to load), interactivity (how long a page responds to interactions), and visual stability (how a page changes as it loads).
- Google’s July 2021 Link Spam Update: websites with several low-quality links had no benefits from Google ranking.
- Google’s May 2022 Core Update: websites that had content generated by software were replaced with high-quality content. Smaller websites with less brand authority rank worse. Large websites and brands got a boost in traffic.
- Google’s Helpful Content Update: through this update, Google uses AI to determine how good your content is.
- Google’s September 2022 Core Update: this core update focused on several big things. Sites with copied and unoriginal content were negatively impacted, and so were sites that had trust and privacy problems.
- Google’s October 2022 Spam Update: Google improved its technology to identify spam and removed it from search results.
Future updates might include search improvements, AI updates, and improved user privacy.
Bonus Chapter 2: The Quick and Dirty Guide to Pay-per-Click Advertising with Google Ads.
PPC campaigns have some advantages over traditional SEO:
- You get customers in hours instead of months
- Track results depending on your budget
- Get more customers thanks to a combination of PPC with other marketing efforts
Google ads text ads are a good starting point because google has the biggest market share and you get instant results. To be successful with a Google Ads campaign, you have to research and have a plan. First, you have to get your keywords right. Successful campaigns usually have great text ads.
Text ads have a headline, description lines, and a display URL. Once you’ve designed compelling text ads, find your ideal price and only pay a price you can afford. Over time, you’ll see results, so review and make tweaks often.