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Learn SEO Online – A Free Step by Step Guide (2020)

Whether you’re new to SEO or want to learn advanced strategies, this SEO guide will help you jumpstart your SEO learning curve like a Pro.

So without further ado, let’s learn SEO online for free.

What is SEO?

SEO AKA Search engine optimization is the technique for improving a website’s organic ranking on the Search Engine Result Page (SERP). The one thing to understand about SEO is that the higher the rankings on the search results, the more people will see your site and better the conversion for your business. 

SEO has come a long way since it started in the 90s and is now one of the most essential parts of organic marketing strategies for almost all business types. 

Before you start learning SEO, be prepared to put in a lot of creativity, technical prowess, and analytical skills. The ultimate goal of SEO is to get higher rankings in organic searches. This can be achieved with the combination of perfect technical structure and high-quality well-optimized content that connects with your target audience.

How does a search engine work?

The question of the century is ‘How do Search Engines work?’ While the actual ranking factors followed by the Search Engines are not revealed, we SEO experts do understand the basics of it.

What we do understand is that Search Engine like Google uses high-tech spider bots that crawl the thousands of websites published on the Internet almost every day.

The bots are programmed to search the website’s data, store it in Google’s database and display it to users who are searching for relevant content on the search engines. Thus, we know this for sure the search engines are crawling, Indexing and Return Queries. 

Don’t worry will explain all three of them in detail.

Crawling

As the name suggests, at this stage the search engine bots crawl all the content published on the web pages on the Internet. From one page, the bots detect other links, go to those pages and further crawl the links on those pages and on and on it goes.

The Google bots are programmed by Google to search for and find all the web pages and links and are crawl the web and are thus called spiders. When you understand and apply the tactics of SEO on your website, these bots can easily crawl your web pages that will lead to higher rankings for your website.

Indexing

The Indexing process is basically storing the data of the web pages on the Google Database. From this point on, Google will be able to search and display your content from its own database instead of crawling your website every time a user searches about your service.

The thing to understand is that these spiders are bots and they don’t understand English. So you need to include Meta Titles, Meta Descriptions, Keywords, Content, etc. The website’s source code are the lines of codes that Google bots see and understand on your website. 

Returning Queries

This is the stage where you are finally rewarded for all the efforts you put in for your website’s SEO. Your potential customers AKA target audience will search for a query related to your business in the search engine.

Google will fetch your website’s data from the their database for results that closely related to the search query and display it on the SERP.

As I said, nobody really knows the exact determinants of Google’s search result rankings. Google’s algorithm is a secret that’s secured just as much as the nuclear codes. However, over the years, Google has given out a few hints about the workings of the algorithm. SEO industry experts decipher these subtle hints to identify SEO best practices. 

Further Reading: SEO Tutorial for beginners

Keyword Research

One of the most important tasks for implementing SEO is creating a functional keyword research strategy. I will teach you how to find effective keywords for your business that you can easily rank for.

Understand this, without proper keyword research, even quality content will not give you results. Without optimizing your content with appropriate keywords, your website will not rank well in the SERP and will affect the traffic received on your website.

In simple words, to generate enough high-quality traffic, you need to know the keywords that your target audience is searching for.

When you understand what your target audience is searching to find you or your business and create your website content around the keywords that answers their specific queries.

Please ensure that you don’t stuff keywords in your content. Google can easily understand keyword stuffing and penalize your rankings.

What are SEO Keywords?

Search phrases or key phrases that are blended in your website’s content are called SEO keywords. These keywords are the most important part of your SEO strategy as they help you in improving your search engine rankings.

Basically, without keywords, there is no SEO. There are different parameters that you need to keep in mind while choosing the keywords for your website content. Those parameters include the search volume of the keywords, keyword difficulty, CPC and more. 

Why are SEO keywords Important?

As I said earlier, search engines only read codes and keywords to understand the ethos of your website. Relevant keywords help the search bots understand what your content is about and result in a better-ranking website.

And there is one thing that we have established so far, the higher the ranking, the better the traffic on the website and that ultimately leads to more conversion that means more revenue. Thus, using relevant keywords in your content is essential for SEO for higher rankings. 

How to find keywords for SEO?

While it’s easy to say keywords are important and you must use them in your content, finding correct keywords for your business is a difficult task. Here, I am sharing the tips and tricks I use to find keywords for my own blog.

Find a list of topics

The process of finding topics for your business is simple. All you have to do is search for the questions that your target audience would search for if they were looking for your business. In my case, the queries would include what is digital marketing, social media marketing, search engine marketing and more. 

What queries would you search for your business? 

Keep in mind, these are not your final keywords, these are merely the broad topics that your users will be searching for. 

How to find keywords?

The next step after finding a broad topic is to discover all the keywords. Let’s get started with that-> 

A- Google Suggest

Google Suggest for Keyword digital marketing

Step 1- Go to Google Search Bar

Step 2- Search for one of your broad topics

Step 3- Note down the suggested keywords on the Google search bar. These are the other terms people are searching for to find your topic. 

Step 4- Repeat the same process for YouTube Suggest as well. 

B- Google “Searches Related to”

Google Related Keyword Search for Digital Marketing

Step 1- Go back to Google search bar and this time hit the search query. 

Step 2- Scroll down to the bottom of the page once you are on the SERP and find the “Searches Related to” section. These search terms here are all the related keywords suggested by Google. Note down all the keywords here.

Step 3- Click on these related keywords and repeat steps 1 and 2. 

Repeat this process a few times till you find enough keywords. 

Other platforms you can find related keywords are

  • Reddit
  • Quora
  • Wikipedia
  • Forums
  • etc

Finding keywords using keyword research tools

Deviating from the manual process of finding keywords in the previous process, you can even use keyword tools to easily find the SEO keywords to be used in your content. These tools make are a lifesaver when it comes to finding the right SEO keywords. Here are some of my personally recommended SEO tools keyword research. ‘

  • Ubersuggest
  • Google Keyword Planner
  • SEMrush
  • Keywords Everywhere

Further Read: Keyword Research for SEO

Long-tail Keywords

Keywords with more than 3 or 4 words are known as long-tail keywords. These long-tail queries are more common among users than single word queries.

Long-tail keywords are great for getting a jump start to ranking on top of the SERP as the competition is comparatively less with long-tail keywords.

For instance, when your main keyword is Social Media Marketing, the long tail phrase for this keyword could be “How to create a social media marketing calendar”. 

How to select the right keywords?

Once you have collected all the keywords, you now have to cherry-pick the right keywords that will work best for you. Filter the keywords based on the search intent. The search intent is of 4 types: 

  • Navigational – when the user is searching for a specific website/brand (vikenpatel.com or Viken Patel)
  • Informational – when the user is looking for information for example “best social media marketing courses”
  • Transactional – when the user is looking forward to making a purchase online (“buy banarasi saree online”)
  • Commercial – the research before making the final purchase

For example, if you write a blog about daily fashion tips, you don’t need to rank #1 for the team “fashion”. Instead, you can try ranking for a long-tail query like “best fashion tips for summer” or more. Based on this search intent and the target audience you can filter your keywords and create a final list. 

The next step is to search for those keywords in the keyword tools to check the value of the keywords based on the parameters like 

  • Search Volume
  • Difficulty
  • Cost Per Click

The next step is to choose the right keyword. Most newbies believe that you need to select a keyword with a high search volume. However, you need to check the keyword difficulty and CPC value of the keyword as well.

The ideal keyword will have a satisfactory search volume and high CPC because there must be a reason that people are paying big bucks to rank for this keyword. Nothing like if the same keyword has a low SEO difficulty value. Combine all the values to find the most fitting keywords for your business. 

Further Read: Long-tail Keywords Guide

On-page SEO

You can read as much as you like about On-Page SEO but it won’t really help you get your rankings up unless you take action on them yourself. In this section of my learning everything about SEO in 2020, I have included all the major aspects of On-page SEO to help your direct organic traffic to your website. 

What is On-Page SEO?

On-page Search Engine Optimization includes all the steps you need to take on your website to ensure that search the bots of the mighty Google can easily crawl your website and understand the subject of the web page. When the Bots know the subject matter of your website, your website rankings will improve and help you source organic traffic to your site. 

Targeting the right audience 

Identifying your target market is the crux of any SEO strategy. Your target audience is the specific group of people most likely to purchase your products and services.

All your marketing and SEO strategies will revolve around offering the best user experience to them. The target audience can be categorized based on attributes like age, gender, demographics and more.

The more you know about your target audience, the easier it will be for you to generate content that will attract and engage them. Knowing who your target audience is can also help you find the right keywords for you as well.

You can read as much as you like about On-Page SEO but it won’t really help you get your rankings up unless you take action on them yourself.

The next step of on-page SEO is to add the focus keyword that you selected earlier in all the right places. 

  1. Add your target keyword in the Meta Title
  2. Add your target keyword in the Meta Description
  3. Use targeted keywords in your page URL
  4. Use your focus keyword are in H1 Tag and Subheadings
  5. Include your focus keyword in the first 100 words content
  6. Include your focus keyword a few times in the remaining content as well
  7. Add the keywords in the alt tag for images

Apart from using the keywords in the right places, the other on-page SEO factors include

Use Internal and External Links

As we discussed earlier, bots crawl the links on the web pages to determine the subject matter of the web page. Thus internal and external links are an important part of on-page SEO as they help the bots to understand the topic of the web page. Additionally, high-quality external links also add weightage to the value of your content as well.

Use Schema Markup

One of the most important factors of on-page SEO is the use of schema markups. These are the content snippets that give a direct answer to your query in the SERP itself with star ratings, FAQs or reviews and more.

They are added to make it easier for the search bots and the searchers to understand the content, and context of your website.

It is highly possible that the schema markup content can be a part of Google’s Knowledge Graph too.

You can use a Schema Pro plugin to integrate the Schema Markup to your WordPress site.

Add Latent Semantic Indexing (Related Keywords) to your content

Google uses advanced AI technology while displaying the most accurate search results to your target audience. This technology is so advanced that search engines can easily determine synonyms of the actual keyword as related keywords.

Thus, it is advisable to use LSI keywords in the content as well as the meta description as a part of the On-Page SEO process. 

Further ReadOn-page SEO for Beginners

Technical SEO

In all fairness, technical SEO is also a part of SEO just that you deal more with technical elements of SEO. While technical SEO does require a wee bit of development skills but it’s not something to panic about if you don’t have those skills or a web developer. You do conduct most of the optimization on WordPress easily. 

Let’s discuss the Technical SEO

Google Search Console

One of the most basic practice of technical SEO is to connect your website to the Google Search Console (earlier known as Webmaster Tools).

With Google Search Console, you can easily keep tabs on how your website is performing on the Search Engine.

You can get complete details on your website’s keyword rankings, Click Through Rate (CTR), crawl errors, site errors, mobile usability and more.

Further Reading: Google Search Console Tutorial

Improve your website speed

If you know anything about Google, you know how much they value great user-experience. Thus, a slow loading website can seriously affect your website’s ranking as it hampers the user experience and can also lead to a higher bounce rate. Tools like Google Page Speed or Webpagetest.org will not only help determine if your website is slow or not but can also suggest methods to improve your website speed. 

Other tools like lazyload script can help you optimize the images on your website and decrease the website load time too. 

Content Delivery Networks (CDN) also help you save your website load time by saving your website on multiple servers in multiple locations. 

Further Reading : 11 ways to improve your page load time to increase conversions

Mobile-friendly website

There is no way that you can do without a mobile-optimized website and have a functioning business/ blog in 2020.

Even though most WordPress themes are mobile-optimized, you can always walk the extra mile and install a plugin to ensure that your website is responsive.

Additionally, Google itself provides tools like Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) that helps in enhancing mobile experience. You can test how mobile-friendly is your website using this free tool.

If your site is not as optimized as it should be, you can follow the tips offered by the Google tool to enhance the performance of your mobile site. 

XML Sitemap

Just like everything in SEO, even the addition of Sitemap is added to help search engines to find and crawl your website.

A sitemap is basically a document that lists all the sections of your website. Sitemaps are particularly useful for large websites with a complex structure. However, adding sitemaps is not a compulsory move. Meaning that it might benefit you but Google will not fine you for not having a sitemap. 

Robots.txt

If you have a few pages on your website that you don’t want to be indexed by Google, you can add a Robot.txt file. This file informs Google crawlers about the sections that you don’t want them to locate. The file is public and can be located at https://example.com/robots.txt. 

Duplicate Content

As the name suggests, duplicate content is the one that is copied directly from other websites or other website pages. Google is very strict about plagiarism and can penalize your website in case your website has a lot of plagiarized content and of course impact your website ranking negatively.

Site Structure

The way your website’s pages are structured and navigated is known as the site structure. Your website’s architecture should be all about making it easier for the search engines bots to find and index all the pages of your website. It also helps your visitors in effortlessly find what they are looking for and build link authority too.  

These are the basic yet the most important aspects of technical SEO that you need to keep in mind while creating your SEO strategy for 2020. In the next section, we will talk about the importance of Link building. 

Link Building (Backlinks)

I feel that backlinks are not given enough credit even though they are a pretty crucial part of the SEO strategy. In this part of the SEO Guidebook, I am going to cover the importance of backlinks and how to secure them along with tips on how to promote your blog

What is Link Building?

The process of building/ creating hyperlinks to other websites is known as link building AKA backlinks. Some of the most popular methods of increasing backlinks include content marketing, blogging, broken link building and more. 

Why are backlinks important?

Backlinks are an important determinant to understand the authority of a website. With the Google Penguin update, the focus shifted from the number of backlinks to the quality of the backlinks and thus, high-quality backlinks help you get better rankings on the SERP.

Backlinks are of two types

  • Do-follow backlinks: These are the types of links that pass the authority of the page linking to the page getting linked which is also known as “link juice”.
  • No-follow backlinks: These are the types of backlinks that don’t offer any power to the linked website. However, in some studies, it shows that these has very less value in terms of SEO so you can build No-follow links.

How to identify high-quality backlinks?

There are various elements of a backlink that can determine if a backlink is of high quality or not, and they are:

  • Domain Authority
  • Page Authority
  • Other link profile quality metrics
  • Relevancy
  • Link placement

Different sources of high-quality backlinks

  • Backlinks from authoritative websites as they pass more link juice (also known as PageRank) to your site.
  • Backlinks sourced from websites that are from a similar business domain as yours.
  • Do follow links. No-Follow links also help but Do-follow links offer more authority.
  • Backlinks from unique domains.
  • Backlinks with a keyword as anchor text

7 proven methods to get high-quality backlinks to your website 

Here are a 7 best practices in the industry that you can follow to get backlinks. 

  • Guest blogging
  • Create Exceptional Content on your Website
  • Broken Link Building
  • Create resources that people will share 
  • Review products and services
  • Submit content to web directories in your industry
  • Link Building Tools

Further read: The Ultimate Link Building Guide

UX signals

There was a time when Google only assessed your website’s ranking based on backlinks and basic on-page SEO. However, things have changed drastically since those ancient times. With the introduction of RankBrain, Google bots heavily rely on “User Experience Signals” in their algorithm to rank your website. 

These UX signals are all about calculating and understanding the way that your audience is interacting with your content and based on that data, enhance the content quality. 

In this section, I am going to give you an idea about how different UX signals work and you can use them to optimize your website for higher ranking. Here are some of the most important UX signals that impact your SERP rankings

Dwell Time

The amount of time your target audience spends on your website is known as Dwell Time. The higher the dwell time the higher are the chances your visitor actually converting into a lead. The dwell time of a user on your website impacts your SEO and SERP ranking as well. 

Bounce Rate

The percentage at which the visitors of your website leaves your site without taking any required action like clicking on link, buying something or filling a form to become a lead is called the Bounce rate.

Your bounce rate increases if the website visitor doesn’t find what they were looking for and immediately goes back to the SERPs.

The bounce rate is obviously a ranking factor because a high bounce rate indicates that there are issues content, user experience, or the content structure of the website. 

Pogo sticking

You know at times when you are searching for something on Google, you click on the first result and don’t get what you are looking for, so you go back to the SERP and click on the next link and so on. This action is called Pogo Sticking

When several people start pogo sticking for the same query, this is a clear signal to Google that the users are not satisfied with the #1 result and will drop down your website a few spots. 

Organic Click-Through-Rate

Organic Click Through Rate or Organic CTA is the rate of people that click on your website link on the SERP. Your website’s ranking on the SERP, your website’s title tags, description, URL, rich snippets- all influence your organic CTR. 

Search Intent

Search intent also known as User Intent is the main intention of the searcher behind searching for specific queries on Google’s search engine. The most common search intents include Informational, Commercial, Navigational and Transactional.

For example, you are looking to have a quick coffee and you search on Google for “coffee shops near me” and click on the first search result.

However, the coffee shop on the first link is actually quite far from your current location. So you go back to the SERP and click on the second result and you find a great coffee shop just 500 meters away from you. 

If enough people in your location search for “coffee shops near me” and find their result in the second link, that result will get pushed upwards to the #1 ranking.

We have already established the importance of UX signals. Optimizing your website’s content and structure for enhanced UX and UX signals will not get your higher rankings but will enable your visitors to interact with your website easily leading to higher conversion rate.

SEO Tools

After working in the SEO industry for a long time, I realized that there are a lot of SEO tools out there but no definitive guide of which tools are best. 

For people like you and me who love free stuff, in this guide, I have curated a list of awesome SEO tools that you can use for free.

What are SEO tools?

SEO tools are either solutions or web apps that make it easier for you to perform search engine optimization on your website with the utmost accuracy and efficiency. You can use these tools to perform activities like Keyword Analysis, Website Analysis, backlinks analysis, page speed optimization and more.

Further Read: 25 Free SEO Tools you should be using to increase your rankings

How to promote your blog for free?

It is common sense that the more people who see your content, the more they will share it and offer you backlinks. So promoting your blog is an obvious way to attract more visitors and get more backlinks. 

  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Answer questions on reputed forums
  • Use the power of Social Media
  • Guest Blogging
  • Outreach Strategy

Further Read: How to promote your blog with 9 free promotion tactics

Other SEO resources

Apart from the end-to-end SEO guide for 2020, there are several other resources for you to gain your SEO expertise. There are blogs, courses, ebooks, infographics, videos and so much more. 

On the other hand, we know that too many cooks can spoil the broth, especially for beginners who can get overwhelmed by the number of choices. 

Thus, I cherry-picked a few resources to help SEO beginners to learn everything about SEO. Here we go- 

SEO FAQs

How long does it take to learn SEO?

It takes dedication and desire to learn SEO. You must be interested in this subject. You can either learn for free from YouTube and blogs or buy paid courses. And most importantly, you must practice what you learn consistently.

How do you implement SEO on a website?

SEO changes all the time. So continuous updates on the website is the key. You can analyze the areas of improvement and start implementing them. SEO updates including, content changes, meta title updates, code adjustments, link building, and more. There is no right idea or method, and what works differs based on industry and website.

How long does it take for SEO to start impacting?

It may take 3, 6 or even 12 months or more. It depends on how the changes are implemented, and how flexible, and open you or your client with the required updates.
 
It’s not magic. It takes time, planning, strategy, measuring the results, and continued efforts to make it work. Most of time, you will see results within 3 to 6 months.

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO is a process of optimizing your website for local search queries in your region. For example, if you run a restaurant, someone may search for “Restaurants near me”.
Rank for such localized queries and Google Business listing are part of Local SEO. It’s mostly helpful for brick, and mortar businesses.

What is the difference between SEO and SEM?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a process of improving your website’s search engine
ranking via organic methods such as website updates, link building, keyword research, and more.
Search engine marketing (SEM) is the process of optimizing the paid marketing campaigns via platforms like Google Ads. It is also called as PPC (Pay per click).



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