It is not simple, not easy nor quick. You constantly have to invest energy into optimization. But you don’t have to do it alone. After reading this guide, you will know where you should start and where to head, even if you have no technical background.

You will know why you should be blogging, how to convince influencers to link to your site and why even a single minute is a life-or-death factor in ranking.

There is no such thing as free SEO – but we are going to who you how you can do it so it’s worth it for your business.

Shall we start?


What is SEO? (Basic terms and definitions)

In this chapter, we are going to talk about all the different aspects of optimization from on- and off-site methods to the ethical differences between strategies, arming you with all the basic knowledge you need to understand more complex concepts.

First, let’s clear up what we are talking about by defining…

What does SEO mean?

The goal of SEO or search engine optimization is to improve the ranking of websites on search engine result pages (or SERPs), so if someone searches for a given phrase or expression the site appears on the result page in the best possible position, thus gaining the largest amount of organic (non-paid) traffic.

PPC advertisements that you can place on the result pages of Google are not a part of this process. However, they are a part of search engine marketing (SEM). SEO focuses solely on organic results.

The history of SEO can be traced back to the ‘90s when search engines first appeared on the internet. Today it is an essential part of online marketing, but it has changed much during the years.

SEO basics

Let’s break down what kinds of subcategories can we talk about in SEO.

Technical SEO

Its goal is to build websites that search engines can understand properly. Meaning the algorithms can index the whole site, read its elements and see a search engine friendly structure.

This is the foundation on which on-page and off-page SEO solutions can be built upon. Its effectiveness can be determined by a host of KPIs and specialized professionals are responsible for it to work properly.

As a layman, if you want to know the most important aspects, you can test your site using the Google PageSpeed Insights tool. This is going to show you how fast the algorithm thinks your site is (how much time it takes to load), how user-friendly and mobile-friendly it is.

Mobile-friendliness is a very important factor which we are going to talk about in a dedicated section in this article. It has been one of the most important ranking factors for a number of years. It is not just important because most of your visitors probably arrive on your site using mobile devices and thus it has a great impact on user experience.

Google directly analyzes this as a part of indexing and it has a direct impact on your ranking.

You can test your site’s mobile-friendliness using the Google Mobile-Friendly Test.

On-Page SEO

On-page optimization deals with the content on your site and how it appears to and in the search engines. Naturally, it cannot be separated from technical SEO: you can optimize keywords, tags or URLs as much as you want: if your site has underlying technical problems and the algorithm can’t even see your content because of them, it’s all for nothing.

There are many factors to consider here, but the most important ones you should always pay attention to are these:

  • Primary keywords
  • Titles of the site and pages
  • The structure of URLs
  • Headlines, subheadlines, headings (H1, H2 etc.) on the site
  • Meta descriptions and tags
  • Titles and alt text of images
  • The copy of your content
  • Loading speed and size of your pages (which can be influenced by content on the page)

How can you improve on-page SEO?

Just a few of the solutions we use as a part of on-page optimization:

  • Adding an XML sitemap
  • Simple and easy-to-use navigation (breadcrumbs, menus etc.)
  • Properly set Robots.txt
  • Noindexing pages with duplicate or weak content
  • Removing duplicates on indexed pages
  • Using multimedia (with small size and tags)
  • Targeting the proper keywords on every page based on keyword research
  • Using LSI keywords
  • Using content categories
  • Building a quality outbound link profile (linking to quality and relevant off-site content)
  • Regularly updating content
  • Using keywords in URLs; using short and simple URLs
  • Using 301 redirects

Off-Page SEO

Off-page optimization is not happening on the website, but it still has an effect on rankings. This mainly includes link building, so it can be said that you have a much smaller influence over it – it requires the dedicated work of online marketers.

Some relevant factors in off-page SEO:

  • The quality of the sites backlinking yours.
  • The number of backlinks you have.
  • The anchor texts of the backlinks.
  • Relevance of the content and pages the backlinks are on.

Quality, authority, and relevance of the backlinks is a very important factor. You can imagine backlinking as an analog for social status based on how many people know you and what they think about you.

If you have 50 close friends, but they all have low social status than only this number won’t grant you popularity. But if you have a few friends who are themselves well-known and popular, you need fewer of them to acquire a higher social status by proxy.

How to acquire quality backlinks?

This is a topic worth its own article, and we are certainly going to dedicate one to it. But first, let’s have a look at some of the solutions.

  • Trading links: an old and not necessarily effective technique as relevance can be low and it requires a huge investment of energy.
  • Guest blogging: publishing original content with backlinks to your site on other sites.
  • Social media marketing for distributing your content.
  • Influencer marketing: hiring or convincing influencers in order to gain backlinks and visibility.
  • Content marketing: creating relevant, quality content that your target audience will distribute for you.

White-hat vs. Grey-hat vs. Black-hat SEO

The difference between these three categories is basically if you are using ethical SEO techniques or not: if you are looking for loopholes, simple but risky techniques or outright trying to trick the algorithm.

  • White-hat SEO

These are fully ethical techniques – like content marketing that focuses on regularly providing relevant, quality and useful content to your audience. Link building is also a white-hat technique and quality content is what gives its foundation. We are talking about long-term strategies here, requiring large investment, but yielding results reliably.

Sites that rely on white-hat methods are at a lower risk of having their rankings cut because of sudden algorithm changes or receiving penalties.

  • Grey-hat SEO

In the grey zone are techniques that are not explicitly banned or penalized by Google, but that are still considered risky. Non-natural link building (like purchasing backlinks) is a good example. Using these methods you should accept the risk that with a sudden algorithm or policy change at Google your rankings could plummet overnight or you may even be removed from the search result pages entirely.

  • Black-hat SEO

These are the methods that are considered completely unethical and thus they are penalized by Google and most other search engines. When you are using black-hat SEO you are basically trying to improve the ranking of your site by ignoring the human factor, user experience and creating value, and only focusing on how you can trick the algorithm into liking you.

However the algorithms today are sophisticated enough so that they can reliably recognize black-hat techniques.

This is because among the several hundred ranking factors there are many that show the search engine how users behave on your site – if they bounce, how much time they spend there if they visit multiple pages during one session if they share your content and so on.

Black-hat techniques promise quick results, but you can be almost certain that you are going to be penalized or even banned in a relatively short amount of time because of them.

Luckily this can be easily avoided. For example, the Google Webmaster Guidelines explicitly lists a few techniques that are forbidden, including:

  • Automatically generated content
  • Creating pages with little or no original content
  • Hidden text or links
  • Participating in affiliate programs without adding sufficient value
  • Loading pages with irrelevant keywords

Why is SEO important?

It is important that you know exactly how search engines work, how they see and rank your site. In this chapter, we are going to tell you exactly that, and give you an outline of the most important ranking factors and algorithm updates of the past years.

The first thing we need to do is have a look at how the automations of search engines actually work.

Search engines

What is a search engine?

Search engines are software systems, basically websites on which internet users are searching for content or products or other things on the web.

According to the most recent data by StatCounter the global market shares of the main search engines currently looks like this:

  • 90,91% Google
  • 3,18% Bing
  • 2,46% Yahoo!
  • 1,37% Baidu
  • 0,58% Yandex

(Google dominates even more on mobile, running 94% of all searches globally.)

The goal of the algorithms is, of course, to provide the most relevant results possible for every search ran by the users.

This is what validates their service: a search engine that simply provides results that are perfectly optimized but not necessarily relevant and valuable for the user cannot be useful itself.

What do search engines do?

Search engines automatically index websites on the internet, using specialized bots. These bots are called spiders or crawlers.

Data gathered from indexing is validated by complex algorithms that create rankings for different keywords based on a number of ranking factors. The exact ranking factors and their weight is not known.

We know of most of the factors of course: we know Google tracks user behavior, analyzes content, checks mobile-friendliness, HTTPS certificates and so on. But the algorithm is currently uses several hundred ranking factors, and not all of them are known to the public.

How do search engines work exactly?


After launching your website, the crawlers fin it and analyze its technical background and content. These are automated bots and what they see from your sites mainly depends on the technical SEO solutions – for example, websites built on Flash, which is no longer a supported technology, can’t expect anything good.

The crawlers scan the content on the site and try to determine what the site is about. You can help Google understanding your site by using LSI keywords for example.


In the next step search engines catalog the sites, ensuring that in the future they can quickly find them based on the assigned values and tags (which come from the information scanned by the crawlers).

Search engines index every page of your site (ideally), so if you launch new sites it may be useful to check if they have already found and indexed them. If your pages are refreshed, the database is refreshed too.

During indexing, the crawlers also read the Robots.txt file (if there is one) that can be found in the root folder.

In this, you can set if you want the crawlers to index the sites or specific domains on it. For example, no-indexing makes sense for admin interfaces or landing pages with duplicate content.

Important: The noindex meta tag on specific pages has a similar function and helps you prevent unfortunate events like your checkout page turning up in Google.


When a user runs a search, the engine determines which are the most relevant and highest quality sites it should display based on the previously assigned values and creates a ranking. (Remember, we are talking about hundreds of ranking factors.)

Rankings can also be influenced by a number of other factors apart from which keyword(s) the search is run for, for example:

  • On what device (mobile, tablet, desktop) the search takes place
  • Where the search takes place geographically
  • Search history of the users
  • What type of browser user is running the search in

Tips for search engine optimization

  • If you want to know what pages are indexed on your domain you can check this by running a simple search. Use the site: search function in Google like this:
  • If you are using videos on your site you should create transcripts for them, so the crawler will know what the page is about and your main keywords also appear.
  • Don’t forget to use outbound links: they may not strengthen your link profile directly, but their usage is strongly advised.
  • Use 2-3 internal links in a piece of content and always pay attention to having a properly working internal link profile where link don’t lead to 404 pages.
  • Using an SEO browser (like Browseo) you can check what your site looks like if you remove everything the crawlers can’t see. Flash, JavaScript or CSS formatting disappears but the content, headlines, pictures, multimedia, links remain.

Search intent

Based on what the user wants to achieve with a given search we can distinguish 3 different basic search intents.


  • Navigational

This is when instead of typing an URL into the browser you search for websites or brands using the search engine, for example when you don’t exactly remember an URL or have never visited a site before.


  • Informational

When you need information on something and you ask Google about it – how can you make goulash, how to get to London or how you can optimize your website for search engines.


  • Transactional

Ran when the user wants to purchase something (or gathers information before making a purchase, like comparing prices). Usually involves searching for products categories (furniture, gardening equipment etc.) or specific products (Nike Air max or men’s running socks etc.). These are often accompanied by additional keywords (buy, price etc.), creating long tail keywords.

Rules of website ranking

Google ranking factors in 2018

As we have already stated, Google uses hundreds of ranking factors when creating the rankings for search result pages. We know most of them, but we don’t exactly know how they weigh in ranking – and even if we did it wouldn’t of that much use because of the daily changes in the algorithm.

The best what you can do is to keep an eye on every factor that we know of and apply long-term sustainable strategies in the most important areas (like content) based on current research.

You will not learn the exact importance of give ranking factors from any research however, – as there are hundreds of them, we can only establish certain correlations.

In the lines of this thought, here is a list of some important factors that influence your rankings.

The list is of course by no way complete as it simply can’t be. We even skipped some factors we thought are of less importance, not clear or are too vague.

Domain factors

  • Age of the domain. Currently, it has little weight.
  • Keywords in TLD (top level domain). It provides relevance, but it has less weight than it did a few years ago.
  • Domain registration length. Google policy states that those domains that are registered for years in advance are viewed as more legit than those registered for only a year.
  • Keyword in the subdomain. According to MOZ experts, this might improve your ranking.
  • Domain history. If a website switches owners, replaces content frequently, if its traffic is hectic, these are bad signs in the eyes of Google. History is also important because domains carry on the penalties even if the owner changes.
  • Exact domain match (EDM). Since EDM updates it is not enough if the domain exactly matches the keyword, but it is still useful.
  • If the Whois information is private or public. Google might think that if you don’t make your Whois information you might try to hide something, which is not a good sign.
  • Whois owner panelized. If an owner is viewed as a spammer, it will also influence the ranking of their other sites.

Website factors

  • Keyword in the title tag. Not as important as it was before, but you should keep an eye on it.
  • Keyword in the description. Google doesn’t really care, but it can certainly influence your SERP click-through numbers, and that Google cares about. (As you can see, here we also have a correlation instead of a direct effect.)
  • Keyword in H1 tags. Google considers it a secondary relevance factor.
  • Length of content. According to research, in recent years Google started to favor sites with content lengthier than just a few hundred words. It is more probable that this depends on how the users treat lengthy content (more people find it because there are more relevant topics covered in it, they spend more time on the page etc.) so here we also have a correlation. Studies show that content between 1000 and 3000 words performs best.
  • Table of contents, with internal site links that helps Google better understand what a given page is about.
  • Keyword density. Using too many keywords on a page or site is directly harmful to rankings, so what you should keep an eye on is to have your primary and secondary keywords appear in headlines and the copy so Google can better understand what the page is about.
  • LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords. These also help Google with understanding, interpreting context. These are contextually relevant words, expressions, synonyms and so on.
  • LSI keywords in headlines and subheadlines.
  • Site loading speed. This is a very important factor, particularly because of UX: every plus second in loading time could mean a higher bounce rate, fewer visitors and worse rankings.
  • AMP. Not a direct ranking factor, but it can be an advantage.
  • Original content. Google, according to policy, doesn’t penalize content duplication, but it does favor pages with original content, which basically means the same in terms of ranking. Although you will not be banned if you have duplicate content, you won’t have good rankings either.
  • Canonical tag. Telling the Google about original content is important.
  • Optimized images. Filename, alt text, title, description, and size can all be important.
  • Content recency. Fresh content is favored by Google, however other factors can strengthen page with older content, like domain authority.
  • Frequency and scale of content updates. If you regularly update your content without making it weaker (and your technical background is fine) it signals to Google that you are developing your site with a focus on user experience.
  • Spelling and grammar. This is more important for your audience, but Google also tries to evaluate it as best as it can.
  • Mobile-friendliness. One of the most important ranking factors since Mobilegeddon.
  • The number of outbound links. They are inherently useful, but if you have too many dofollow outbound links, it may hurt your overall link profile.
  • Multimedia. Content with at least one picture included ranks better according to research.
  • State of internal link structure. If you have broken links, leading to 404 pages it will hurt your rankings.
  • Reading level. Apart from your grammar, Google also tries to estimate the difficulty of reading your content. The best ranking content is usually an intermediate level.
  • URL length. Too long or complicated URLs can have a negative impact on rankings.
  • Sources, references – just as outbound links, having too much can have a negative impact. However, if you have just a few, that can be a positive sign and even help Google understand when you are citing something instead of just duplicating content.
  • Quantity and quality of other keywords the page ranks for. If a given page ranks for a great number of keywords, Google might see it as a sign of quality.
  • User-friendly design. Google favors sites that are easy to use, but other factors resulting from it (like an increased average time spent on the site) can also contribute to better rankings.

Site-level factors

  • Unique and valuable content. If you publish content Google views as original with the added value you have a better chance of good rankings.
  • Contact page. Proper contact information is a sign of quality and user-friendliness.
  • Website structure. A good sitemap and clear hierarchy, using categories and so on: these are factors that help the search engine recognize a quality site.
  • Uptime. If your website experiences too much downtime that means it’s not reliable. This is why you must have a good hosting service.
  • Geographical location of the server.
  • SSL certification. Without it you will not rank well, security is a very important factor for Google.
  • Privacy policy: also a sign of trustworthiness.
  • Duplicate metadata. It can make your ranking worse, but luckily you can uncover these with Google Search Console.
  • Breadcrumb navigation. It enhances user experience and the algorithm also favors it.

Backlink factors

  • Age of domain of backlinking websites.
  • The number of backlinking domains.
  • Backlinks from .edu and .gov sites have more authority in the eyes of Google.
  • Authority of backlinking sites and domains. Backlinks from ‘stronger’ sites worth more than backlinks from ‘weaker’ ones. (See the chapter above.)
  • Backlinks from competitors: links directing to your site from other sites ranking for the same keyword.
  • Nofollow links: Google says they don’t matter, but research and our experience suggest they can improve your link profile.
  • The context of backlinks. Links that are placed in the relevant text with relevant anchors are more useful.

The most important Google algorithm updates

The algorithm changes multiple times a day – but these are mostly changes hardly anyone notices. In the past years, however, there have been several major updates, changing some factors fundamentally. And of course, causing unpleasant surprises for hundreds of sites using grey hat techniques.

Let’s have a look at some of them for you to see what can you expect if you don’t follow the rules set by Google…

2018: Medic Core Update

A ‘broad core algorithm update’ according to Google which was rolled out in August and affect most sites in the health and wellness industry. But not exclusively: effect was confirmed to be large-scale,  e-commerce, insurance, finance, business to business, entertainment sites were also impacted.

2018: Mobile Speed Update

After a month of teasing it, Google officially made site loading speed a major ranking factor in the case of search results displayed on mobile devices.

2016: Adwords Shake-up

Google maximized the number of ads appearing above organic results in 4 and in the meantime ditched the ads appearing in the right column of SERPs.

2015: RankBrain

A new, complex part of the Google algorithm, based on machine learning. Currently, it is the third most important of all ranking factors. (We will talk about this in detail in the next section.)

2015: Mobile-friendly update (‘Mobilegeddon’)

Websites with a mobile-friendly have officially begun to be favored by Google (mainly in the case of searches run on mobile devices, but this affects ranking as a whole).

2014: HTTPS/SSL Update

Google started to officially prefer sites with proper security, also adding encryption to the site, according to official communication can boost rankings slightly.

2013: Hummingbird

A core algorithm update which aimed at improving semantic search and Knowledge Graph – meaning that quality content has become even more important.

2012: Penguin

One of the most important updates ever that had a great effect on SEO and link building. It primarily penalized sites with backlinks from weak sources: as a webspam update, it targeted spammers and reformed off-site SEO forever.

2011: Panda

One of the major historical updates that shook up the entire internet. Google started to penalize sites with low-quality content, using keyword-stuffing, aiming to trick the algorithm into giving them better rankings. In the meantime they announced that from this moment on they would prefer sites with quality, original and relevant content, providing real value to the users.

UX aspects gained a much larger weight with this update in both website and content development. A new age of SEO and content marketing has started.

What is the RankBrain update?

Note: A major algorithm update, introducing machine learning into rankings. It is one of the most important ranking factors currently and it helps Google selecting the best results to rank from indexed sites.

In order to do this, RankBrain analyzes how users interacted with certain results before and rank sites accordingly.

The two main factors it considers:

  • How much time do users spend on a given site?
  • How many users click through to a given result on the SERP?

Dwell time

It is the amount of time a visitor spends on a given page before they return to the SERP. A very important factor not just in ranking, but content marketing as well as it signals very well how engaging the content is on a page. If it is engaging, it is likely relevant and valuable for the target audience.

Research confirms the claims by Google that this is a very important factor and we also know that in the case of sites ranking on the first page the average dwell time is 3 minutes 10 seconds.

Of course it matters greatly if a site is ranked as first or ‘just’ on the first page – much of the traffic usually goes to the first 3 results.



It is not enough to have a good ranking – if you don’t appear properly, you won’t stay there for much longer. If it is not clear what your page is about, that the user will find there what they are looking for the chances of them clicking through are much lower.

And the click-through-rate is a very important ranking factor.

You can improve it

  • by using better meta titles and descriptions.
  • Give your page a title that will catch the attention of users and invite them to click through and a short, clear description about what they are going to find there.
  • It can also have a positive impact if you use the primary and secondary keywords.

Meta titles and descriptions don’t have a direct effect on rankings, in theory at least – but they have a large indirect effect as you can see. But it can also directly help your ranking if it helps Google understand better what your page is about.


SEO and content

In here you will find a list of useful tools and advice on exactly how you should use them, a short guide on link building, and also the most common mistakes that can be committed at the beginning of planning and implementing a content strategy.

So, the he crawler visited the site, scanned how many times the keywords appear in the titles, meta tags and the copy itself, and gave better rankings to sites with higher keyword density.

This is, of course, an oversimplification of the process, but basically, this is how it worked back in the day.

This is by far not the case anymore. Search engines are interested in providing the best possible results to their users, and the most relevant, most valuable content is certainly not going to be a near incomprehensible pile of text stuffed with keywords.

The best ranking sites today tend to be those that cover a topic in great detail so users can find all the information they might need in one place. Google also considers context and tries to semantically understand them. This is why in the last decade quality content became such important.

Of course, you don’t have to publish a War and Peace type copy on all your pages. The minimum is 150-300 words of relevant, comprehensible, well-worded copy that helps to describe what the page is about to crawlers and users alike.

Placing too many ads on your site might have a negative impact on your ranking, so keep their number to a minimum, and position them below the fold, so they are not the first thing users come to see when they click through to your site.

The formatting of your copy can also greatly affect UX. Make it clear, well-readable with headlines and subheadlines (H1, H2 and so on), highlight the most important information and use short paragraphs. Make sure that even those who only skim your site will understand what it is about.

Important: You should also pay attention to using various types of content besides copy: videos, images, infographics, animations if you need to. This can help the user better comprehend your message and thus improve user experience.

We have also mentioned duplicate content: try to avoid displaying the same content on multiple pages, because while in theory Google does not penalize duplication, research tends to show that it still hurts rankings.

Of course, duplication can occur even if you are using only white-hat techniques. For example, if you are testing multiple variations of landing pages or run an online store with several thousand products.

In this case, you should be paying attention to noindexing duplicate content (see the section about the Robots.txt), reusing 301 redirects to the original content, using canonical tags, canonical URLs signaling on which page crawlers can find the original content.

This is particularly important if others tend to cite or republish your content as it happens often in the case of news sites.

In the next section, we are going to have a look at some types of content that can help improve the ranking of your pages. You should use a mix of these, publishing content regularly that focuses on the problems and needs of your target audience.

Google will reward this not only because of the freshness of the content, but it will also increase your organic traffic – which in turn will help in better rankings. (Learn more about what is organic traffic in our step-by-step guide!)

Types of content


You should definitely include a blog on your site. You can publish posts with personal opinions, stories about the everyday life of your company, test, reviews, skyscraper articles covering a given topic in the most detailed way possible.

You should publish a piece of content on it 2-3 times a week ideally, and not only posts with a few hundred words.

Provide a chance for your readers to comment, format your content properly and pay attention to the user being able to see the most important information right away (like the headline, date of publishing, author, category, reading time etc.).

Product pages

When writing the copy for your product pages, pay attention to including not only the features but also the benefits. Include multimedia, show your product in high quality and from every angle, use storytelling.

Tests and reviews

Testing and reviewing can serve as great fresh and relevant content and is usually popular if you find the niche suitable for you. They can also be great for gaining backlinks and shares on social platforms from experts and influencers of the niche.

Case studies

Detailed case studies describing the problems of your target audience and the possible solutions for it can be extremely effective pieces of content and serve multiple purposes. They might drive you organic traffic but you can also use them for gaining leads by making a case study downloadable in exchange for contact information for example. Use storytelling techniques when creating them and be certain to include:

  • The description of your target audience;
  • The detailed description of the problem;
  • Solutions that didn’t work;
  • The solution that did work;
  • The method by which they can also solve the problem themselves;
  • Possible alternate solutions.


By using infographics you can explain more complex ideas, processes or data sets in a much more engaging and comprehensible form. You can also create great expert articles around them. They are particularly useful if you are looking to gain social shares and backlinks marking you as a primary source of the content.

Guides, how-to articles, tips & tricks

You can create very popular detailed content in this category. For example, you can take a solution you previously presented in a case study and provide a step-by-step guide for your target audience so they can apply it themselves.

This way you can give a positive experience to your audience by providing them a solution to one of their problems – a solution they themselves can use. They will attribute the positive feeling caused by their success to you. (And you can also strengthen your expert brand.)

How does this help with optimization?

Note: Pages with how-to guides are great for keyword optimization and usually the dwelling time is also high. Also, users tend to return to these pages for additional advice – and this is all going to help you to rank better.


In any niche you can find a number of factors by which you can create lists – of places, products, people and so on. The most important is to choose a popular subject as the basis of the article and rank things that your audience knows and can be useful to them.

For example, you can rank the best pubs in a city – which is not only great for starting a discussion (as people love to share their opinion and their own additions regarding things they are personally involved in) but it can be also very useful for those visiting the city.

It may also help you with gaining backlinks, as those you include on your list will likely be grateful for the mention and share your content on their own channels.


Interviewing experts and influencers can be great for you for a number of reasons.

First, they help you build your brand as an expert: your audience is going to see that your are publishing the opinions, expert insights of people with great credibility in the niche, thus lending you their credibility.

They are also very useful for the purposes of link building: your interviewees will most likely give you backlinks from their own sites and other sites in the niche might cite the interview and your page as the source.


There are certain segments of users who like videos better than reading articles. (C-level professionals for example.) You can indulge them by creating videos based on your articles so they enjoy it in the way they like to consume content the most.

You can also use videos to compliment your copy or present things the written word would not be suitable for.

If you are publishing videos, try to always include a transcript so Google will also understand what is it about.


Downloadable informational products can greatly help your rankings: they are useful, valuable to your audience, thus they provide the good user experience. And if you create a good landing page for them (and don’t forget to get it indexed) they can also rank excellently just as product pages or guides if you can target users searching for a solution of a given problem.

Of course, in order to do this, you must know the most relevant keywords – we are going to talk about this in a minute.

Optimized URLs

As we have mentioned, your URLs should be short and include the most important keywords you want to rank for.  So instead of using automatically generated URLs like this:

Use simple, to-the-point and easy-to-interpret ones like this:

Some experts say: short URLs tend to rank better, but this is likely not a direct effect. It is more probable that because they are short and easily understandable they have a positive effect on the click-through-rate, thus influencing ranking indirectly.

Headlines and title tags

We could write a whole book about how to write a headline – here we are only going to focus on aspects directly related to search engine optimization.

  • A good title has to be clear: the user should be able to tell what the page and the content on it are about.
  • A good title catches attention: it makes the user curious about the content and gets them to click on the link.
  • A good title contains the primary keywords, so the users and search engines can both see the result is about what the search is about.
Important: This of course doesn’t mean you should use a clickbait headline, this is not what catching attention is about. In most cases it is more than enough if you can summarize the core problem and solution in a few words. Be informative.

And use the 3 criteria above in H1, H2, H3, headlines, subheadlines and meta titles too.

Common mistakes in headline & title writing (and how to avoid them)

  1. Not using title tags. Don’t just let Google pick something from your site and display the result like that. Optimize and shorten your titles in the title tags and try to get the users to click on it.
  2. Duplicate headlines. Always use original titles for every page and content. This way both users and algorithms can tell which one of your pages is the most relevant regarding any given search.
  3. Writing titles that are too long. What you write after 50-60 characters won’t appear on the SERP, so try to include everything in that. If there is content on your pages with a headline longer than that, make it shorter in the title tag.
  4. Writing titles that are too short. Let’s say you have an e-commerce site with a blog on it. You can’t give the title ‘Drone’ to a blogpost, but ‘Xiaomi Mi Drone 4K test’ is just right: still short, clear and descriptive.
  5. Over-optimizing. Your title should be natural, not just a string of keywords.
  6. Keyword Cannibalization. Your content should be optimized for one primary keyword, but not your entire site. If you don’t differentiate your pages, they will be making each others’ rankings worse.
  7. Incorrect abbreviations. Do a keyword research to find out how people search for your product and pay attention to how they abbreviate words. When searching for data, ‘stats’ is proper, but ‘statist.’ is not.
  8. If you want to target a local audience, include that in the title. This way the search engine will know who it should show your site and you can also target local long tail keywords better. (Remember, geographic location can be a factor influencing rankings.)
  9. Be relevant. Your title may be optimized for keywords, but maybe not the right ones. If the content on your page is about something else, you deteriorate user experience: you mislead the user and they will bounce from your site, and that will also have a negative effect on rankings.

We have already talked a lot about keywords, so it is time to introduce you into using them as best as you can – and as a first step, finding those that are the most important for you.

Keywords and keyword research

There can be no search engine optimization without keyword research. The technical background of your site may be perfect, your content valuable, your titles informative and descriptive.

But if you have no idea how users search for the things relevant to you, if you know nothing about their behavior you won’t be able to get ahead of your competitors.

But let us start with the first steps.

What is a keyword?

Simply put anything a user types in the search field of a search engine.

The name might be a little misleading, as more often than not we are not talking about singular words but expressions with multiple words, even complete sentences.

We can distinguish three different types:

  • Head: containing a single word, e.g. ‘restaurant’.
  • Body: short, simple combinations or expressions, e.g. ‘vegan restaurant’
  • Long-tail: longer, more complex searches, e.g. ‘vegan restaurant San Diego prices’
Pro tip: Usually, long-tail keywords possess the largest potential. Short searches containing only a few words usually have a very high difficulty level, meaning you have little chance to get to the top of those SERPs – you would need high domain authority, large organic traffic, content and an audience interacting with it and of course hundreds of backlinks. And they may not be that relevant to you.

A long-tail keyword can be hyper-relevant. If you have a vegan restaurant in San Diego (a there is a significant search volume for it) you can get that organic search traffic without worrying about competitors, and you can rank right at the top with a few pieces of quality content and backlinks.

What is keyword research?

The process that will help you determine the keywords you could target for the most effectively. To know these, you have to figure out how your audience uses search engines, what words they use, if they use slang, abbreviations, what they type in to get more relevant results and so on.

Luckily there are many excellent tools available for you to do your keyword research: the Google Keyword Planner and Ahrefs are perfect to start with.

Your best keywords are likely going to…

  • Be relevant regarding your products or service and your content.
  • Have a low competition, meaning you can relatively easily get ahead of the pages currently ranking for them.
  • Have high search volume, so optimization is going to worth it.

How to find keywords (and how not to)?

As we have mentioned, the goal of keyword research is to understand the behavior of your audience. But how does this work in practice?

It is best if you use a keyword planner tool. Start with the most basic keywords that may be relevant for you: ‘body’ type searches like ‘book’, ‘groceries’ or ‘skincare’.

Then has a look at the longer versions: what other words they include in the search and what long-tail keywords have the highest volume. Search for relevant keywords until you cannot find any more that are truly relevant for you and your target audience.

Important: What you shouldn’t do beginners usually select some keywords they think are relevant, feed them into Google Trends and if they see a sufficiently high search volume they start optimizing right away, without looking at any other metric.

And with that, they shoot themselves in the foot. Keywords with the highest search volume are rarely relevant enough to reach an audience with the right intent, and competition is usually huge. Your chances to reach top ranking and bring in significant search traffic are minimal, but you can certainly burn a lot of money and energy trying to rank better…

Keyword planners

Let us give you a few tips what tools you can use to do all this. From the most basic, we have…

Google Keyword Planner

If you want to use it, you are going to need a Google Ads (formerly AdWords) account. This is the most basic tool you can use.

To find the best results you can set a lot of options and get relevant keywords and search volumes.

Note: If you want to be more efficient, also use Google itself and check what long tail keywords are suggested to you via autocomplete. Also, check the bottom of SERPs where more relevant searches are suggested. (These usually also work as LSI keywords, which we are going to talk about in detail in a bit.)

MOZ Keyword Analyzer

A great tool that will give you a lot of data on your potential keywords, for example:

  • Search volume
  • Cost-per-click
  • Keyword Difficulty
  • Keyword opportunity
  • Keyword potential
  • Related keywords

Opportunity shows you how many click-throughs a give SERP actually generates, which is a very important metric you can compare to search volume. It can be very telling – if the number of CTs is much higher for example it can mean that users are not finding what they are looking for. Or, in case of a transactional search it can mean that they are comparing prices and products.

Also, the higher the CT number the greater your chance of bringing in significant amount of organic traffic by ranking in a good position.

Potential shows you it’s even worth to work with a keyword considering expenses and difficulty.


It shows what keywords a certain website ranks for, which is itself great: you can get familiar with your own site but also your competitors’.


Basically, an extension of the Google autocomplete function. You get more than a handful of suggestions: a complete list you can work with.

Keyword Shitter

Provide a basic keyword and you get a list of ideas for long tail versions that you can feed into other tools – basically, it helps you with the creative part, with determining the direction you should go with your research.


One of the best tools on the market: it gives you very detailed search profiles for websites and also give you long tail and related keyword ideas, with tons of valuable metrics including search volume, keyword difficulty and others. If you are even a bit above beginner level in SEO, you must try it out.

Primary and secondary keywords

If you were successful in your research and already know the behavior of your target audience, and also have a list of your most optimal (long tail) keywords, then you must do your own ranking.

You will probably have a lot of keywords that indicate the same intent. ‘Used cars San Diego’ and ‘San Diego used car prices’ may be different technically, but the intent of the user is clearly identical with both versions.

Choose the keyword with the highest potential and optimize your page accordingly: this is going to be your primary keyword.

Pro tip: The rest of the keywords that communicate the same intent will be your secondary keywords: you should use this in subheadings, in the meta descriptions and of course in the copy itself. This way you can rank better for a number of related searches with the very same content, and without keyword cannibalization. Smaller investment, greater efficiency.

LSI keywords

LSI keywords help Google in understanding what a given page is about and determine if it is relevant or not.

For example, you max be optimizing your page for the word ‘apple’. But Google will only know if you mean the fruit or the tech brand from the context – which is provided by LSI.

If the crawler finds words in the content like ‘fruit’, ‘tree’, ‘pie’, ‘health’ and so on it will know that your page is about the fruit – and it can provide more relevant results to its users.

So in short: these are word, phrases, and expressions semantically relevant to your primary and secondary keywords.

If you want to find your LSI keywords, you can check related searches in one of the keyword research tools (see above), or you can use a dedicated tool like the free LSIGraph.

Layout and design

Design is primarily important because of user experience, not crawlers. Users are going to spend more time on your pages, they are going to consume your content only if you give them a chance.

Meaning that you don’t make navigation or reading the text on your site hard for them.

We are not going to include a lengthy guide about webdesign basics here, but there are a few fundamental factors you have to consider.

Your pages and the content on them should be properly formatted: instead of large blocks of text use shorter paragraphs, separate blocks instead of a background with only one color, use easy-to-use navigation.

Headlines, subheadlines (H1, H2 an so on). Make reading easy and design your site in a way so while reading the users feels they are progressing with it.

It also matter: what colors you use on your site – if they harmonize with each other, texts are easily readable, if the site is consistent with the basics of color theory. You should also pay attention to fonts: use 2-4 at most, and use them consistently for headlines, highlights and so on. If you use too much or use them randomly, inconsistency will make consuming your content harder.

Formatting and layout is of vital importance: it will define the users’ first impression and long-term user experience as well. So, let’s speak about UX.

User Experience (UX)

Improving user experience is continuous, never-ending process: UX has to be a fundamental factor in any webdesign process. One of the reasons for this is that if you provide bad user experience, users will definitely show their dissatisfaction.

They will spend little time on your site, bounce and never return. These metrics are also watched by Google and they are important in ranking. A site that is not liked by the users can’t reach top position in rankings as it would worsen the perceived quality of the service provided by Google.

Good user experience can depend on a number of things, starting with choosing and using the proper colors to using the right language in your content.

Other factors may include:

  • The structure of your site.
  • Navigation.
  • Design and layout.
  • New features, development.
  • Quality, relevance and usefulness of the content.
  • Structure of the content.
  • Technical background.
  • Communication with the users.

This is why it can be a bad idea to create one-pagers or slider on certain sites: because you take away from the control the user has over their experience, and in most cases, this is something that can erode the user experience.

Link building

What is link building?

Almost an art form. The greatest challenge in SEO and also probably the most important factor in its success. Link building requires a lot of creativity, determination and investment to work properly.

Its purpose is creating a strong backlink profile for your domain or a given page on your site.

Gaining backlinks that are high-quality, relevant and are from high-authority pages is no easy task – you can’t just buy them (that would mean leaving the white-hat zone), and you can’t count on your prospects being nice: you will only get backlinks if you create and provide value.

GOOD TO KNOW: Search algorithms follow the backlinks they find on the crawled sites, this is how they create the backlink profile.

As we have mentioned before, the more and higher authority sites you have with backlinks directed at your site you will have more authority in the eyes of Google.

Off-site SEO is mostly link building. This is currently one of the ranking factors with the greatest weight and this is not likely to change in the foreseeable future, thus your backlink profile directly affects the rankings you can achieve.

Link building also has an on-site element: structuring your internal links which we have already talked about in this article.

Link building basics

Internal Linking

A few hundred internal links are a good foundation for your internal link structure. You can develop your internal linking further with creating content and linking relevant content along the way.

Of course, the inherent navigation of a site can be much more complex in the first place, just think about how even the most basic online stores work: category pages, product suggestions, the search result pages generated and so on.

It is also important to have the proper links horizontally and vertically: for example horizontally between category and products sites, and vertically from the main page down.

Using the right anchor texts also matters – make them relevant, use keywords instead of generic expressions like ‘click here’. Make the anchor text descriptive so bots and human users can also understand where they are directed.

One of the most important factors is not to have broken links in your internal structure: continuously check your site with tools like SEMRush to make sure you have no internal links leading to 404 pages.

Properties of a great backlink

We have already touched this subject, now we are going to elaborate further.

It is important that you get backlinks from sites with high authority. And a site will have high authority if they use SEO techniques right, if they have a proper technical background, quality content and an audience that likes the page and uses it in a way so that Google understands that. And one of the most important factors in building up authority is that they themselves have backlinks from other high-authority sites.

Editor note: A good backlink is also relevant: it should be on a site where the content is relevant to your own (they are in the same niche, have similar products or services, publish content in similar topics etc.). This is one of the reasons why a backlink from a niche site is worth more than one from a link directory.

A quality backlink is also useful: users click on it because it provides additional value in the given context, elaborating further on a subject, citing an industry expert etc. In other words: by clicking, users get additional information that is useful for them.

And finally: the best backlinks are natural. They are not purchased or traded, they are placed on a site because someone on the linking site genuinely thinks it represents value for them and their audience.

Link building strategies and content

In this section, we are going to have a look at some basic link building strategies.

  • Link building with content: creating content that is high-quality and valuable enough so they are able to generate social shares and backlinks by themselves, and also bring in organic traffic.
  • Social media marketing: sharing and promoting your pages and content on social platforms, pőroviding the highest possible reach and increasing the chances of shares and gaining backlinks.
  • Guest blogging: publishing your content as guest posts on relevant sites in your niche and including backlinks in them, directed at relevant content on your site.
  • PR: creating your own research, roundups, lists. Create content in which you gather the best sites or most notable experts, influencers in your niche for example. After publishing, you can start an outreach campaign to notify those who you mentioned, but content like this can also easily gain backlinks organically.
  • Asking your audience: simply by telling your community that you would be very happy if they linked to your site is easy and as you give nothing in return other than the great content it is not considered as a grey- or black-hat technique.
Note: The most important thing about link building is that is must be continuous: your work is never done, as your competitors are also busy building their own profiles, so in order to keep your rankings achieved by hard work you have to include this in your monthly budget.

One of the ground rules is that a few high-authority backlinks always worth more than dozens of weak ones. And the more naturally they appear, the more valuable they are considered by Google.

Try to actively avoid using link directories or backlinks from spammer networks.

If you want to build a proper backlink profile, your best starting point might be the profile of one of your competitors: map it with the tools we have mentioned before and try to figure out how to get similar results.


Summary: what you have to know about SEO

In this chapter, you will find a handy checklist to see if you have thought about all the aspects you have to consider as well as some actionable advice on improving CTR and setting realistic expectations. And also, some of the best online tools that can help you with all this.

By following the steps we lay out, you can be sure you didn’t forget anything. Start by drawing up a step-by-step plan…

SEO in 2018

Let’s start wrapping up what we have talked about. How does SEO look like in 2018, what steps should you take to start this (never-ending) journey towards being a market leader with the best rankings?

  1. Choose the proper niche. (If you already have a business, this won’t be hard.)
  2. Do a thorough keyword research using the best online tools available.
  3. Start planning your content strategy based on your research.
  4. Create a platform, a site where you can publish your content.
  5. Optimize your content with further keyword research.
  6. Create a social presence where you can publish and promote your content.
  7. Publish and run on-page optimization.
  8. Publish all your content on social media.
  9. Continuously test how your content performs, how your backlink profile looks like, how are you performing compared to your competitors.
  10. Start actively building your backlink profile, start off-page SEO.

…and then continue all of this until you become a market leader with the best rankings for the best keywords. And then – don’t stop.

SEO Checklist

Research phase

  • Do market research.
  • Analyze your niche.
  • Do a competitor analysis.
  • Do keyword research.
  • Compile the relevant data (use Google Analytics, historical data, backlink profile etc.)
  • Check your site (technical background, broken links, penalties, site structure etc.)

On-page SEO

Basic factors

  • Do you have an XML sitemap?
  • Is your navigation user-friendly? (Do you have breadcrumbs, menus etc.)
  • Do you have a Robots.txt?
  • Are you using canonical tags?
  • Are you using no-index tags?
  • Have you fixed the problems uncovered by Webmaster Tools?
  • Are you using meta tags?


  • Does your site contain duplicate content?
  • Do you have a user-friendly design and interface?
  • Are you using multimedia in your content? (Do they have proper descriptions, tags, size etc.?)
  • Are you optimizing for the proper keywords?
  • Are you using LSI keywords?
  • Are you using categories?
  • Do you have static pages? (Contact, a sitemap, privacy policy etc.)
  • Do you have an internal link structure?
  • Do you have quality outbound links?
  • Do you regularly update your content?
  • Are you watching your bounce rate?


  • Is your site mobile-friendly?
  • Does it appear properly in all browsers?
  • Is your load speed low enough?


  • Do your URLs contain your keywords?
  • Are they simple enough and not automatically generated?
  • Are you using 301 redirects when URLs change?
  • Do you have a redirect from your non-www site to the www site?

Off-page SEO

  • Have you set notifications for your brand?
  • Have you looked for backlink opportunities, pages that mention you but don’t have links to your site?
  • Are you using your competitors’ profiles to plan your own?
  • Are you getting backlinks from sites ranking good with similar content?
  • Acquire backlinks by looking for broken links.
  • Create a social media presence.
  • Talk to the influencers in your niche.
  • Guest blog.
  • Comment on niche blogs and forums to build your expert brand.
  • Look for events you can get behind.
  • Appear on official industry sites.
  • Appear in industry catalogs and directories.
  • Publish your content on LinkedIn.
  • Be active on websites where the experts of your niche can be found.
  • Build a good relationship with publishers.
  • Look for sites using your content, infographics and ask for backlinks.
  • Appear in the media.
  • Create badges your audience and community can use on their own sites.
  • Write testimonials.
  • Be active in CSR.
  • Post your relevant content on Q&A sites.
  • Create better content based on the available best (using the skyscraper technique).

And everything else

  • Social media
    • Create accounts for your brand(s)
    • Add sharing options to your site
    • Link your social pages
  • Knowledge Graph
  • Track your rankings
  • Track your brand mentions, reviews
  • Optimize your conversion rate
    • Use Google Analytics
    • Set you KPIs and track them
    • Run A/B tests
    • Don’t duplicate your content
    • Lower abandoned cart rate
  • Continuously check if your technical background is working properly (server settings are right, there is no downtime, hosting can serve your traffic etc.)
  • Pay attention to Google algorithm updates
  • Run regular SEO audits
  • Regularly audit you backlink profile

Improving your organic CTR

How can you improve your organic click-through-rate? There are many copywriting techniques for this. Let’s have a look at some of the most basic ones that you can use when crafting your meta descriptions, titles, and headlines.

First, you need to do some research:

  1. Find the content on your site with the lowest CTR.
  2. Create a statistical analysis of the correlation between CTR and organic rankings.
  3. Find the keywords where ranking is good but CTR is low.

What you have at the end: that is what we are going to work with.

Important: Try to avoid titles and deadlines that focus only on the keywords. If you are only paying attention to using the right keywords you can improve relevance, but as it won’t be natural, you can’t really expect CTR to radically improve. To achieve that you have to use other tricks.

Use emotions! The best you can do is trying to affect the emotions of your potential audience. The emotion can be anything that suits your needs – satisfaction, anxiety, fear of missing out and so on. The question is what do they respond to the best. In order to find this out, you should always test your titles and headlines, ideally on social platforms or using an email list.

An SEO optimized title might look like this:

Without SEO: 10 facts about search engine optimization

And one that is also targeting emotions like this:

Your chances with no SEO: why you are losing profit

Use numbered lists! According to research, these are particularly effective in catching the attention of your audience. (Even more so if you use odd numbers.)

Use copywriting templates! You can find hundreds of proven headline templates and formulas all over the internet – this time we are not going to deal with these, because it would double the length of this article.

For every piece of content, you should test multiple versions of headlines and measure how your audience reacts to them. Post your content on social platforms with different titles and descriptions and you can get a pretty good picture of what kind of CTR you can expect.

Free SEO tools

We don’t want you to dive in blindly, so in this section, we are going to provide a list of tools you can use when you start your SEO efforts.

These can all help you greatly, we have tested and used them ourselves, so save this list and at least try every item on it to figure out what is best for you.

On-page SEO

  • Link Assistant: You can track your rankings even locally, get keyword ideas and even analyze the backlink profile of your competitors. You can create reports and track basically every important SEO metric.
  • Yoast SEO: It helps you optimize content, snippets, meta tags and descriptions on your WordPress site. It checks a large number of factors including reading difficulty, keyword density, backlinks in the text and others.
  • Google Search Results Preview: It shows you how your site is going to appear on the result pages so you can optimize meta tags, titles and snippets better.
  • SEMRush: One of the most useful and complex tools out there: it will analyze your site, show you the errors it encounters, helps you track the most important relevant metrics, creates automated reports, helps you check the backlink profile of your site and your competitors’ and so on.
  • Bing Webmaster Tools: The diagnostic tools here give you a chance to better optimize for the behavior of your audience, discover how you appear in search results, create reports and set notifications.
  • Google Trends: Shows you the search volume for specific keywords and the trends all the way back to 2004. You can also check regional trends and compare keywords. It is a tool you must use if you do SEO.
  • Google Search Console: Be sure Google can see your content: send in your newly published pages, wait for the crawlers to check it out and learn what errors they detect on your site.
  • Google Marketing Platform: It helps you understand the behavior and intents of your target audience, gives you access to a huge amount of analytics and thus helps you optimize your processes.
  • Wordtracker: It will help you find keywords with the right search volume and provide you with additional suggestions so you can start creating optimized content. A very simple, easy-to-use tool.
  • LSI Graph: Provides suggestions for LSI keywords that you can use in your content and meta tags, so you can make Google better understand your site.

Off-page SEO

  • Majestic: It helps you create backlink profiles for you and your competitors. You will see the network of connections, influencers you should target, news sites where you can appear with original research and so on.
  • MOZ Link Explorer: A basic link building tool: it will analyze your backlink profile and tell you from which sites you should get backlinks in order to rank better, all based on a vast, daily updated database.
  • NetMarketShare: It shows you the most current market shares for browsers and search engines so you can focus your optimization efforts better.

Technical SEO

  • PageSpeed Insights: It shows you what Google thinks about your site: how fast it is, what kind of problems it can see related to loading speed and how can you fix those.
  • Tags Manager: With it you can manage your tags without any coding knowledge so you can achieve better rankings.
  • Mobile Friendly Test: It shows you how Google sees your site on mobile: if its mobile-friendly or not, and what kind of problems can it detect (and also suggestions on how you may fix them).

SEO misconceptions and realistic goals

If you got to this point, you may think something along the lines, ‘okay, so SEO is basically black magic’. Or something that is only good for burning your marketing budget.

Note: But you are far from being right. You just need to know where to start. The entry level is low, there is no exam, no accreditation you have to get to start.

You just have to start watching the needs of your target audience and do you homework. And we have given you every possible resource, tool and basic knowledge you need to do exactly that.

But there is still one thing we have to do. We have to make sure you start with the right expectations. So now we are going to have a look at what you can realistically expect from starting optimization and in some cases what you should focus on instead.

  • You want to be first

Just as hundreds of your competitors.

The strongest keywords usually are the most difficult: because of the competition, it takes a large amount of investment of time, energy and of course money if you want to achieve anything.

Because of that, you may be better off by focusing to finding the right long-tail keywords.

You may be targeting a keyword that your site wouldn’t rank good for organically.

There might be a reason for this if you are overhauling your site or changing your product line. But in other cases, you should look for less competitive keywords where your chances of ranking better with a reasonable amount of effort are better.

Also, it shouldn’t really your goal every time to achieve top ranking. Google in past years has rolled out many tools like answer boxes, image packs, knowledge panel or local packs. If you manage to get in one of these you might even get better results while you don’t have to reach for the very top.

  • You want to post as much as you can to get ahead

Your capacity is finite. It is likely that the more you post the lower quality and detailed content you can create. And those are very important factors, much more so than how much you create or how fresh it is.

If you can only create one article in two weeks, but then you can publish a skyscraper article, offering real solutions, you can achieve much more than pushing out articles with a few hundred words daily.

Also, if you do that, your page will likely be competing with each other for the best rankings for a lot of keywords – in other words, you will commit keyword cannibalization and fail to achieve good results with any of your articles.

  • You want to post as much as you can to get ahead

Your capacity is finite. It is likely that the more you post the lower quality and detailed content you can create. And those are very important factors, much more so than how much you create or how fresh it is.

If you can only create one article in two weeks, but then you can publish a skyscraper article, offering real solutions, you can achieve much more than pushing out articles with a few hundred words daily.

Also, if you do that, your page will likely be competing with each other for the best rankings for a lot of keywords – in other words, you will commit keyword cannibalization and fail to achieve good results with any of your articles.

  • Keyword optimization is the most important

It is true that keyword research should be considered the main priority. Although it will result in a huge list of relevant, primary and secondary and LSI keywords.

Forget that you have to include certain keywords on a page to rank better for them: Google really doesn’t care as long as you include those words or expressions in the right places a few times. Focus on the other few hundred factors too…

Use your keywords as a place to start, build relevant and quality content on them, use them naturally and they will do the work for you without over-optimizing.

  • You want results in the first months

I am not saying you can’t get any – but to achieve really significant results, you have to understand the SEO is a long-term game. If you expect to have top rankings in the first few months, you will be disappointed.

Of course, there are techniques that can get you there real fast – and these are usually considered black-hat.

Concentrate on building a site on the long-term that can achieve good rankings organically and that way you can worry even less about being overthrown by your competitors on the result pages.

  • You want to replace PPC with SEO

The two concepts are fundamentally different. You simply can’t replace a failed PPC campaign with starting search engine optimization. You always have to be optimizing, because you cannot expect to achieve good organic results on the long-term without it.

Also: your paid campaigns are likely not working because you don’t do your homework with a proper keyword and competitor research, you are not watching KPIs, don’t use multiple variations and track CTR and conversion rates. SEO is not going to help this but the two areas nicely compliment each other if you start to build your paid campaigns based on data and align them.

GOOD TO KNOW: We should also mention that it won’t help your rankings if you run Google Ads. It is a common misconception, but it is still false: before and after a paid campaign your organic traffic will remain basically the same lacking proper SEO on your site, no matter how high your conversion rate or paid traffic volume was. Search engine optimization prices won’t change just because you are also running PPC.

But in terms of building trust SEO and PPC are great together. Research confirms that users trust brands more that they see in both organic and paid results, thus it is likely you will get a higher rate of click-throughs. But clicks are likely to come from organic results anyway.

  • You expect your IT guy to solve SEO problems

They won’t. It and SEO are two entirely separate professions. This doesn’t mean that an IT expert can’t be an expert in optimization, but don’t expect to get two for the price of one.

Search engine optimization today requires such a vast array of knowledge including the in-depth knowledge of more creative professions like content creation that you simply can’t expect someone with a technical focus to be an expert.

  • More traffic doesn’t necessarily mean more profit

You may get more organic search traffic via good SEO, but it is not in any way certain this will also help you with generating more sales. If you want to increase your conversion rate you have to pay attention to more than UX.

You have to consciously build a sales funnel and hire a copywriter who can guide your potential customers through the process by applying pressure on the right pain points, communicating product features and benefits and using storytelling.

SEO only provides you with the basics, and the increased traffic won’t be the finish line. If you have that, you are given the opportunity using on-site marketing and proper sales processes.

(On how different KPIs might influence each other, read our comprehensive post about eCommerce strategies and statistics.)

  • Social media marketing will take care of it

Social won’t directly affect your rankings. Its role is to direct traffic to your site, help you in building a community and gaining backlinks by increasing visibility. But only because you post on your social channels, because people share your content or like it you won’t achieve top rankings.

Your goal should be to reach people who could link to you or mention you later, because you are providing them quality content.

  • Page loading speed doesn’t really matter

Although according to Google speed is only an important factor if the other factors are more or less the same in the case or multiple results, experience shows otherwise

As a direct ranking factor this may be true, but as a UX factor it has a huge impact on how your website ranks. The slower it loads the more visitors you loose, and that means saying goodbye to top rankings. Optimizing the performance of your website therefore is very important in SEO.

  • You think link building is dead

It is not, it has simply changed a lot. Today it is not enough to trade links and send in your site to link directories. These techniques are not favored by Google and in some cases, they are even penalized.

The algorithm can recognize these, so even if they are not frowned upon, they have little use.

What you want to achieve is organic backlinking, which can provide the best results. Backlinks are one of the most important ranking factors, and you only have a chance to get real results is you get them from high-authority, quality, relevant sites.

This you can only achieve if you publish content that is expertly done and has great added value. Skyscraper articles, your own research that can get mentions from niche influencers and experts, professional sites or news sites.

How to set realistic expectations?

First, run a technical audit. Check what steps you must take in technical SEO, how Google sees your site if it even works well enough so you can start working on on-site SEO solutions. (For some of these, we recommend you check out our very detailed SEO case study.)

As long as the load speed of your pages is slow or they are not displaying right on mobile there is really no point in thinking about content creation. Your first step should be fixing your site with the help of a good developer, providing good UX and make it sure that Google sees everything is in order.

Then you can start creating your long-term strategy and setting long-term goals. It can be a realistic goal, for example, to rank in the top 3 for some less competitive keywords in the first months, to acquire a certain amount of organic traffic based on search volume and than to optimize the conversion rate of your sales funnel.

And for all these you need thorough planning, a well-thought-out strategy and time.

In this article, you can find all the help you need to start this yourself. Start with the most basic steps and don’t try to achieve everything at once. Track your results and performance continuously, set your KPIs that will show you if your work is efficient if it brings you the return on investment in money and time.

If the invested money, time and energy is not worth it, find yourself an expert. Because you might not be able to turn SEO into success, but someone has to – in 2018 you simply can’t be a serious player on the market without it.

In this case use your newly acquired knowledge to track and validate the work of the experts and to find out if it’s worth it for you as a client to work with someone.