mastering seo

The Complete Guide to Mastering the Art of SEO

By Aayush Narang

The importance of building a search engine-friendly website is unquestionable. In the contemporary world, consumers rely on search engines to help them find everything from destination recommendations to B2B software providers.

Your brand needs a website and your website needs SEO.

Once you have a website, it’s important to optimize it to make sure it gets a higher rank on search engine result pages and gets you to your desired goals.

In this article, we are going to look at some of the most important steps to effectively carry out search engine optimization — on-page, technical and off-page — for our websites. We will have a look at the key steps involved and then cover some of the important don’ts of performing SEO.

On-Page SEO

On-Page SEO refers to optimizing your website internally. Let’s have a look at the major steps involved in performing an On-page SEO.

1. Keyword Research

The first step should be to do thorough keyword research for your website and the products/services you wish to provide through it and make a list of all the relevant keywords for which you wish your website to rank on a search engine.

It is important to do keyword research because in every step following this, you would be adding these keywords everywhere appropriately in different areas of your website be it content, meta titles or meta descriptions. Google Keyword Planner is one of the most widely used tools for keyword research.

Now, what are these meta titles and meta descriptions and why are these important for SEO, let’s have a look.

2. Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions

These are the titles and descriptions of each page as seen on a search engine results page whenever someone searches for your website or related keywords for which you wish your website to show up.

These titles and descriptions should include your primary, secondary and tertiary keywords for your website to rank on a higher place.

Keep in mind your meta title should not exceed 80 characters and your meta description should be between 160-180 characters (could go up to 200).

An important thing to note while including keywords in various pieces of content on your website is to avoid keyword stuffing.

What is keyword stuffing?

It is a spam technique adapted by marketers to rank higher on a search engine and gain an advantage over the competitors. In this, a large number of keywords are loaded into meta tags, content, or backlink anchor text.

Let’s continue with some more things to keep in mind while performing an On-page SEO.

3. Images

Images are a crucial part of any website as they make websites visually attractive and engaging, and you need these images to have a positive impact on your website’s SEO.

Let’s have a look at how you can use images to your advantage.

The first and most crucial aspect to keep in mind is that you should have the copyright to all the images on your website and that they are not copied or exported from somewhere else. Why is that you might ask? The answer is that search engines might penalize you for this and it can cause a copyright issue which in turn can have a tremendously negative impact on your website.

Now that you have made sure that the images on your website are all original, next comes the step to optimize these images. Here, Image Alt texts come into play. It is a small description that tells what the image is about.

Note: Make sure to include a few keywords effectively and, as mentioned earlier, avoid keyword stuffing.

Now that you have optimized your content, titles, descriptions, and images, it’s time for you to let the search engine bots know which pages to crawl and which ones to skip. Here comes the role of sitemaps and robots files.

4. XML Sitemap

According to Google, “A sitemap is a file where you provide information about the pages, videos, and other files on your site, and the relationships between them. Search engines like Google read this file to more intelligently crawl your site. A sitemap tells Google which pages and files you think are important in your site, and also provides valuable information about these files: for example, for pages, when the page was last updated, how often the page is changed, and any alternate language versions of a page.”

So, an XML sitemap becomes a crucial part of your SEO as it enables search engine bots to effectively work towards getting your website to the search engine result pages.

5. Robots.txt File

Now that you have listed the pages on your website in the sitemap, you might want search engine bots to crawl some of them and skip a few. This is achieved by creating a robots.txt (also called robot exclusion protocol or standard) file for your website.

Now, you might be wondering why would anyone want to skip some pages? Well, the reason for that is that there might be some pages which contain sensitive user information like a page containing payment gateways or other login details for admins of your websites that you would not want to get registered on the search engine, you can mention them in the robots file to prevent the bots from crawling them.

Technical SEO

Now that we have gone through the key steps involved in the on-page SEO, let’s also have a look at key steps involved in performing technical SEO for your website.

1. URLs

You might think no one even cares about URLs but guess what, the search engines do. The search engine bots while crawling your website will first have a look at your URLs and then go further. That’s what makes URL optimization a key step.

Having said that, the URLs must be precise and properly labeled with the right words and without any GiMmiCky words or characters that might confuse the search engine bots.

One more thing to keep in mind while optimizing the URLs is keeping a check of broken links on your website. A broken link is a link which takes you to an unwanted page instead of a desired one or shows a 404 error message, and should be immediately rectified.

2. Page Speed Analysis

In the SEO world, page speed refers to the time taken by a webpage to load and give the first impression to the user. To minimize your Page speed, there are a few points you should focus on:

Reduce page size:

  • Enabling compression: Use GZIP for compressing CSS, HTML, JavaScript files that are larger than 150 bytes.
  • Minifying CSS, JavaScript, HTML: remove spaces, commas, and other unnecessary characters.
  • Optimizing Images: Use smaller size images, preferably PNG. Use CSS Sprites to combine images.

Improve server response time:

  • Reducing redirects: Reduce hops from one page URL to another.
  • CDNs: Use Content Distribution Networks to distribute loads.
  • Browser Caching: Leverage Browser caching by setting “Expires Header“ on Server.

Let’s continue with some other key steps of a technical SEO.

3. Canonicalization

According to Google, canonicalization can be explained as follows: “If you have a single page accessible by multiple URLs, or different pages with similar content (for example, a page with both a mobile and a desktop version), Google sees these as duplicate versions of the same page. Google will choose one URL as the canonical version and crawl that, and all other URLs will be considered duplicate URLs and crawled less often.

If you don’t explicitly tell Google which URL is canonical, Google will choose for you, or might consider them both of equal weight, which might lead to unwanted behavior.”

Hence, it becomes important to use canonical tags wherever required.

Off-Page SEO

So far we have learnt some of the major steps involved in performing an on-page and technical SEO. Now, let’s have a look at the key steps involved in performing an off-page SEO.

1. Link Building

Link building is a process of acquiring backlinks from other websites to your own. Backlinks are a crucial part of a website’s Off-page SEO. Acquiring quality backlinks from reputed websites can have an immensely positive impact on your website’s overall health and ranking.

Backlinks are of two types, namely, Dofollow and Nofollow.

Dofollow backlinks provide link juice to your website which in turn impacts the Domain Authority of your website and more the domain authority, the better your site will rank on a search engine.

On the other hand, a Nofollow link also provides link juice but it has no impact on the domain authority of your website. But, it doesn’t mean that it is all bad. The Nofollow links can still drive quality traffic to your website and help increase your website’s popularity.

Guest blogging, forum submissions and article submission are some of the ways to acquire backlinks.

2. Directory Submission

You need to enable your potential audience to find you online, that’s where Directory submissions come into play. These directories enable you to get high-quality nofollow backlinks and in turn, helps the potential audience to reach you more efficiently.

Now that we have come this far, and have seen the Do’s of performing an SEO, let’s quickly have a look at the list of Don’ts of performing an SEO.

  • Avoid keyword stuffing
  • Avoid acquiring backlinks from spam websites
  • Avoid plagiarism of content and images
  • Avoid thin, affiliate heavy or ad centered content
  • Do not exceed the character limit while writing your meta titles and descriptions

These are some of the don’ts that you should keep in mind while performing an SEO. The reason is that the search engine algorithms can now detect fallacious activities being performed and can penalize your website and affect the overall health of your website.

Let us know which of these tactics you put to use for your website.

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Aayush Narang
Aayush Narang is the founder of Spark Eighteen Lifestyle Pvt. Ltd a Digital Marketing Agency in Delhi. He is a Startup Evangelist. Entrepreneur. Business and Tech Enthusiast.

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