The starting point for SEO for beginners

The Beginner's Guide to SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

By Daclaud Lee, SEO/Developer at Archmore Business Web

Are you new to SEO? Do you want to know more about what an SEO professional does? The Archmore Guide to SEO provides the basics of Search Engine Optimization so you understand exactly what SEO is and how it can help with your website and keyword rankings. It also gives you a better idea of what we do on a daily basis as SEO consultants and as a Digital Marketing company.

What is SEO?

SEO in a nutshell is the process of getting your website or web page indexed in a search engine.

Black Hat SEO and White Hat SEO

There are many types of SEO practices, the two types are Black Hat SEO and White Hat SEO. Obviously Black Hat SEO tactics are SEO practices that you should NOT do. We want to make sure that your website does not use Black Hat SEO tactics because you do not want to get penalized by Google's Algorithms. Unfortunately, there are still many webmasters do not realize they are doing Black Hat SEO, because they just have not taken the time to research what it is.

We don't want you to make any Black Hat SEO mistakes! Therefore we have compiled a list of Black Hat SEO examples, so you will not make the mistake of accidentally committing an SEO crime and get penalized by Google. As they say in real life: ignorantia legis neminem excusat or rather in the case of SEO "ignorance of [Google's] law excuses no website."

Examples of Black Hat SEO Strategies

  • Duplicate content and plagiarized content
  • Invisible text and stuffed keywords
  • Cloaking or redirecting the user to another site or page
  • Links from sites with non-relevant content
  • Spammy internal and external links

For more examples of what not to do when it comes to SEO, please read our Black Hat SEO Guide.

White Hat SEO is the only way to go. While it can be confusing to people who are unfamiliar with the SEO community as to what is a White Hat SEO tactic, the general rule of thumb is to make sure you are not doing Black Hat SEO. Pretty much everything that does will not get you penalized is considered White Hat SEO. For more information about White Hat SEO tactics, please read our article about 10 Must do SEO tips and implementations.

Examples of White Hat SEO Strategies

  • Unique and relevant content
  • Well labeled (alt text) images
  • Relevant internal and external links and references
  • Complete sentences and good grammar
  • HTML compliant website standards
  • Unique and relevant page titles

Things, of course, are not just black and white... And yes, just like the alignment system in D&D rules (that's Dungeons and Dragons for all you non geeks out there), SEO has gray area too. SEO that incorporates a little black hat and white hat tactics is called Gray Hat SEO.

What is Gray Hat SEO?

Gray Hat SEO is not easy to define. These are basic practices that could be considered "ethically dubious" and could one day become a Black Hat SEO tactic if Google decides to drop the hammer, but for all purposes, they will still work. The best example of a Gray Hat SEO is Fake News (Donald Trump spoke about this) and other click bait content that is meant to generate traffic. Fake news is not against Google guidelines because they currently have no way to effectively enforce this. I am not a lawyer, but I'm sure sites like The Onion and The National Enquirer are protected by the First Amendment even though some uninformed person may actually believe it to be actual news site rather than a parody.

When it comes to SEO, Gray Hat SEO is like Boba Fett or Han Solo (before he joined the Rebellion) from the Star Wars universe. It is the mercenary who is borderline good and bad. For all you nerds out there, it is any Neutral Alignment in the D&D Universe (True Neutral, Chaotic Neutral, Lawful Neutral).

On Page SEO

The first step in the SEO process is On Page SEO. This is the initial content that you create. The age-old saying in the SEO community is "Content is king." Therefore, if you have good quality content, then you can get ranked for any keyword. It's not as easy as it sounds though. For example, if you are trying to rank for a keyword that is highly competitive that is featured on millions of websites, then your website will have a difficult time getting to page 1 ranking in Google search.

Content Quality - Google does not like thin content. Nowadays thin content is pretty much anything under 1500 words.

Things you need for quality content:

  • Rich content (1500 or more words)
  • Images (be sure to use alt text)
  • Video (be sure to have a good video description)

Note: Obviously video is not mandatory for every web page, but if you are trying to rank a YouTube video (which is content by itself), then you need a good video description.

Keyword Usage - If you want to get ranked for a keyword, then you have to actually use that word in your content. If you do not use a keyword in your content, then your content will never rank, because Google has no idea you want to get ranked for that keyword. Google's algorithms are pretty sophisticated and can detect synonyms pretty well, but it still looks at keyword density as a ranking factor. So if your keyword only appears once in your content, then do not expect it to rank very well if at all. If you have a WordPress site and have the Yoast Plugin installed, then you will notice that they do not recommend that you want at least a one percent keyword density, but do not go over a 2.5 percent keyword density (although other SEO researchers might argue that anything up to five percent is acceptable). I would personally recommend not going over three percent, just to be safe.

The Yoast Plugin is a must have for every WordPress site because it will analyze your content to help your website rank better. If you would like to know more about WordOress Plugins, be sure to check out our article about 10 Must Have WordpPress Plugins.

Internal Linking - Having a good internal linking structure on your website is important to get your website and its pages ranked. Search Spiders will crawl your website and index it accordingly, but the more internal links you have the better. In a nutshell, internal links count as an "upvote" to whatever page you want to rank. Having a good internal linking structure includes anchor texting your keywords (just don't do this is a spammy way) and having good calls to actions (CTA) so that your visitors stay on your website.

Off Page SEO

The next step in the SEO process is Off Page SEO. Off page SEO is about getting other websites to link to your website. There are many different off page SEO strategies and some are easier to implement than others.

Examples of Off Page SEO:

Backlinks - These are incoming links to your website.  Whenever a website links to your website, it is called a backlink. There are many different ways to get backlinks, but you NEVER want to buy them, otherwise Google's Penguin 4.0 will penalize you for link spamming because it knows this is a common Black Hat SEO tactic.

Social Media - I don't think I need to reiterate that nearly everyone is on social media. Therefore having a social media profile is essential to every business, organization or individual who wants to get ranked in the search engines.

Classified Ads - This "Gray Hat SEO" process could easily turn in to Black Hat SEO if you spammed the classified ad site with your ads. However, if you do it correctly, it can be a viable White Hat SEO strategy, because you are in full control over your classified ads as well as generating possible backlinks (note: not all classified ad sites have the ability to insert a backlink but most do). For more information about how classified ads work and which ones give backlinks, please read our article about 10 Best Free Classified Ad Sites.

Directory Sites - Having your information on directory sites will help your SEO by telling Google that your business or organization is legit. Having consistent NAP information (Name, Address, Phone number) is actually a ranking factor that Google uses. So, therefore, if your NAP information is incorrect on directory sites, then your rankings may be affected.

Do you need more help with your SEO strategy?

As you can see from this beginner's guide, SEO is mandatory in order to get your website ranked in any search engine. If you do not implement the basics of SEO, then you will not be able to rank. Archmore Business Web is in the business of helping businesses and organizations get ranked for keywords within their industry. Contact us and let us know how we can help you with your SEO strategy.