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The Advanced Intro To SEO

This guide is meant for SEO beginners who need a brief overview of SEO concepts. Starting with the most basic elements, this guide will quickly move into more advanced concepts. Hopefully, this guide can be used to educate new employees, contractors, or friends who need guidance.

Choose Your Adventure

PART 1. What is “SEO”?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) works to get a website to rank higher in search engines. Take, for example, a website that sells watches. The goal for this website is to appear high on the list when someone searches “shop women’s watches” in Google.

SEO is not the only avenue to appear at the top of search engine lists. Google, Yahoo, and Bing offer a paid option, “Pay Per Click” ads, where people pay the search engines to show up for certain searches. When someone clicks on the site, search engines receive a fee. These ads appear before organic results, but have an “Ad” tag next to it.

SEO Organic Search



  • 100% free traffic (with the exception of paying an agency)
  • Organic traffic converts better than paid traffic since users prefer organic results over paid results


  • Difficult to do properly with the constant changes and competition in SEO
  • Takes time to show results - may take months or years to see explosive results

Pay Per Click Advertising

Appearing on search engine lists means growth with both approaches - more clients, sales, brand reach, and engagement with either approach.



  • Quick results from day 1 by appearing on top of search engine lists
  • Easy to manage independently with expert knowledge
  • Self serve platform that you can manage yourself. However, it’s very difficult and still requires expert knowledge


  • Expensive - clicks can cost hundreds of dollars depending on the vertical
  • More difficult to profit than SEO - difficult to determine an ROI

PART 2. Why is SEO necessary?

Traditional marketing and advertising is usually outbound, which means brands disrupt potential customers’ attention to see their advertisements i.e. Television ads, radio, print, and social media pop-ups). Search engine traffic, on the other hand, has potential customers actively searching for a certain product or service. In order to grow your business online, organic traffic proves to be a powerful force.

SEO Organic Search


Leads generated from SEO convert at an average of 15%, which is 12% higher than the conversion rate for outbound leads.


Only 9% of businesses using inbound marketing with SEO failed to see an ROI according to a survey by Hubspot. This shows that 91% of businesses do see an ROI meaning that SEO marketing has a high enough ROI rate to be considered incredibly successful.


Blogging, when properly optimized for search, can be a leading source of leads and traffics for businesses. SEO ensures that blog posts appears on the appropriate result lists and drive traffic.

Imagine a FREE flow of customers that can grow your business exponentially.

SEO has become more complicated over the years as search engines have refined their standards. Despite the complicated nature of SEO, it is still worth practicing.

PART 3. How Do Search Engines Work?

The words search engines will now become Google from here on out since Google owns over 70% of the search engine market share with no signs of diminishing. For the most part, people only use Bing or Yahoo either by accident or because it was set as the default search engine in the browser.

SEO Organic Search


Google Search Has 2 Simple Goals

  • Keep Google users happy and satisfied with search results
  • This means servicing the best possible search results quickly and accurately.

Sell as Much Advertising as Possible

  • Google makes 90% of their revenue of $50 billion from selling advertising. As long as people continue to loyally use Google Search, this revenue is protected.

Essentially, Google need users to continue to come back and do so by refining their algorithm to serve the best results. Understanding how Google ranks websites helps businesses to use this knowledge to their advantage and rank higher in search results,

Fundamentally, Google Has a 3 Step Process:

1. Crawling

2. Indexing

3. Ranking

Bots or spiders are automated programs that Google uses to “crawl” billions of new and updated pages on the web. These bots follow links on the pages and index them into Google’s database, which interacts with trillions of pages and is more than 100, 000, 000 gigabytes in size.

Then, search algorithms sift through the data on the index to rank the pages almost instantaneously based over 200 signals, according to Google.

Google use these algorithms to determine which pages will be displayed for a particular query (i.e. “ranking”).

Google’s infrastructure handles about 63, 075 searches every second and continuously increases. SEO users do not need to be an expert in algorithms, but it is crucial to understand how Google works. When a website has an issue, it often comes back to crawling and index issues.

PART 4. The Factors That Actually “Rank” a Website

Contrary to popular belief, Google has more than one single monolithic algorithm to index pages and produce results.

Google’s algorithms have been refined to:

  • 1 Correct spelling mistakes
  • 2 Distinguish between terms like Mustang the breed of horse and Mustang the car brand
  • 3 Show you a list of local coffee shops from a search query of “coffee shops” based on your location
  • 4 Display relative information about “Barcelona” the soccer club after searching “Barcelona vs arsenal”

How These Algorithms Work

Only certain people inside Google know exactly how the algorithms work. However, web developers can make educated guesses about the general impact of over 200 signals to rank pages.

Here are a few:

The number of “links” that are directed to your website.

Google uses “links” to “crawl” through websites. The links act as popularity votes and the more links to a website, the higher the chance to rank on Google. (A link is when another website mentions a certain website and “links” it to it as attribution. Many factors go into links, but generally if a website that attracts a lot of links from high quality sites, it will rank higher.

Keywords appearing in important places on important pages.

Keywords should appear in titles, URLs, subheadings, and body text. Without overdoing this, these keywords can help Google associate your pages with queries.

Quality content with depth

The quality of content shows Google if the website is worthy of being ranked. This means a website should cover relevant topics with substantial content since “thin” content does not provide any valuable information for searchers.

The speed and page load times of the website.

People hate when a website page takes more than 3 seconds to load and will be more likely to click away if that happens, raising your bounce rate. Fast-loading pages rank higher in results.

Optimization for mobile use

Google announced in 2017 that more searches use mobile phones than desktops. They’ve also stated, many times, that sites that do not optimize for mobile will rank lower.

By covering all of these signals, users will be able to get the most useful answer to search queries with little difficulty. Google’s mission aims to provide value to users, which also applies to successful SEO.

PART 5. How SEO Has Changed Over the Years

In 2012, it was easy to rank on search engines with basic SEO:

  • 1 Identify main keywords
  • 2 Strategically place those keywords in page titles, URLs, and throughout body text
  • 3 Build links to your pages (quality optional)

Back then, a website can rank in a matter of days. Now, it is not as simple.

Ranking takes months of hard and consistent work to see results. SEO cannot be done through any shortcuts and as a result, a random site cannot rank at the top of the list. Google’s algorithm continues to learn and grow in intelligence to understand all aspects of what a quality search result looks like.

Google constantly looks to improve the quality of their search results and continuously tweak search algorithms to provide a better experience for those who use Google. Although the algorithm is constantly updated, there have been several major updates over the years that resulted in a drastic change in the SEO game.

How these algorithms work:

Panda - February 2011

Panda weeded out sites with low quality, duplicates, and keyword stuffed content. It also assigned a quality score for pages and since its inception, multiple versions have come out.

Penguin - April 2012

Panda penalized sites that used bad linking practice such as spam links or links that had an over optimized anchor text.

Hummingbird - August 2013

Hummingbird targeted sites that had low quality content and poor keyword spread use.

Pigeon - July 2014 and Possum - September 2016

These algorithms affected sites that had poor onpage and offpage SEO, which had a massive impact on location related search.

Mobilegeddon - April 2015

This updated algorithm targeted sites that were not optimized for mobile

RankBrain - October 2015

AI capabilities were added to the algorithm that affected sites with poor UX (user experience) and had a lack of relevant, query specific content.

Fred - March 2017

Sites created with the sole purpose to drive ad revenue were eliminated with this update.

PART 6. The Direction of SEO

For beginners who have reached this point may be a tad confused, but SEO is hard and it’s getting harder.

Client work for SEO professionals provides concrete data on what practices work and what doesn’t. In addition to the “traditional” SEO ranking factors, many new factors have been introduced:


Google’s Algorithms Involve Machine Learning

Fret not, this just means that algorithms learn continuously about what a quality result should look like and make adjustments to the algorithm accordingly.


Satisfying the Searcher

It is important to understand what a user does after clicking a result on Google. Considering the time spent on a website - whether or not the user clicks away immediately - and then their refined search query provide essential and invaluable data. This data provides Google a better understanding of how users search for certain things. Web developers should then be aware of the quality of their pages to ensure satisfaction for the searcher’s intent.


Algorithm Query Levels

Speculation shows evidence that mini algorithms can be triggered at query level. Google “learns” what a good result looks like based on the search query. For example, “payday loans” is an industry that produces web spam. The algorithm, in theory, understands how to shift through the spam and understand at core level the top sites are and measure other relevant websites to this. This means that to improve a website’s ranking, web developers must understand the industry and what the current top result has done to get that place.


Approaching SEO from a more holistic organic standpoint.

In some industries, SEO can be too competitive for small websites. A website that sells jeans will be almost impossible to outrank The Gap for “jeans” and related keywords. As an iconic brand, online and offline with a proven track record with consumers, it will most likely always be most relevant. Businesses can still build a profitable organic presence on Google with creative strategies. It is important to follow traditional SEO practices with websites as well as building organic channels off site.

Yelp and other sites like it can be a gold mine for local businesses. A page full of positive reviews on a reliable site will drive customers to businesses.

Avvo and Clutch are examples of platforms that provide opportunities for organic exposure. For high intent searches, these sites rank well and if a website ranks on top of those platforms, it will be as powerful as ranking your website on Google.

YouTube video views prove just as important, if not more important, than a person reading a blog post.

This means that web developers should not limit their SEO to “rank” for main keywords. In some cases, a website may not be able to reach the top spot, but a shift in focus to other organic opportunities can increase exposure.

Google loves brands.

Google publicly state that “brands” do well for SEO as people trust them and want to find them in search results.

For example:

When a person buying TVs online sees results from Best Buy and Bargain TVs - it is most likely that they will click on Best Buy. Brands carry a level of trust with consumers that the search algorithm “likes”.

For regular people, this can be difficult to overcome since brands take years to establish. Some websites, however, are able to rank quickly without being a traditional “brand”.

Google does not determine a “brand” like a person does. The algorithm considers quality signals that dictate the authority or “brand” power of a website. Link and content are traditional aspects that still play a major role, but websites with no links and no content can rank number 1 for competitive keywords. The rank number one since the websites have a lot of “branded search” or, in other words, every months thousands of people search directly for the website’s product and website.

Brandest search is the highest quality signal. It is impossible to emulate branded search unlike other ranking factors. It shows Google that when people look for a certain product, they want to see a specific website. This powerful association with a product that is so popular since people do not want to see any other search results.

A branded search can built just like a traditional brand with some differences.

Offline advertising - radio, TV, print ads

When people see an ad that catches their attention, they go to the next step to Google to search for the business associated with the ad.

Influencer advertising - Instagram, YouTube, Twitter

This type of advertising proves powerful. Since Instagram does not allow for users to link to a website on individual posts, users who repeatedly see other people mentioning a product, they go to Google to get more information. Some influencers can reach millions of people within seconds and this is the best way to increase branded search. However, it is expensive.

Public Relations

Consistent coverage in online and offline media outlets can increase branded search. If expert assistance is out of reach, web developers can start at the bottom and do it themselves. They do this by applying to write on big sites, work to get on popular podcasts, and start a blog filled with good content.

Having a great product / service

Word of mouth drives more potential consumers to Google to learn more about a product or service that they hear about. The quality of a product or service can be a great and powerful marketing asset.

Saturated and automated content quality can make or break a marketing campaign.

Quality content is understood to be an asset to all marketers in the industry. So much so, bots create content at an alarming rate and in the near future, most content will be written by bots.

Google does not want to waste bandwidth with the large amount of bad content on the web by indexing it. In order to combat this problem, the algorithm has evolved to be adept in understanding real “quality”. Without the rare, official word from Google, industry experts agree that Google builds an overall quality score for your website. There are other factors such as having too much thin, outdated, and low quality content that can build a negative perception of quality about a website.

With bad content, Google loses trust in websites and:

  • Less bots will crawl it
  • The website loses indexed pages that leads to a consistent downward decay
  • The website eventually loses rankings

The following information will discuss exactly how to create, clean up and maintain the highest quality content (on a budget).

Links still hold the same importance, but quality is what truly matters.

Experienced SEO experts have access to important data the organic traffic data of thousands of links from building websites. This data helps experts understand the true impact of links on organic traffic:


Links have a positive impact on organic traffic

about 75% of the time. Pages built with links increased in organic traffic over a six month period.

The quality of a website matters

When analyzing sites to build links, experts look at more than just Domain Authority (DA) such as:

  • Social following
  • Quality of published articles - 1000+ words, well written, includes images and other media, etc.
  • The relevance of topics on the website
  • The types of websites that it links out to - random or relevant?

The quality of a link matters

Experienced users and experts can identify a paid link through the article. Paid link articles have no images, 500 words or less, and have a random link to a site. If a human can determine this, so can Google’s algorithms. Even with a high authority website, the link makes no difference.

The links you choose to place and where they lead on a website matters

E-commerce product pages, in the past, used to be full of links. Google has learned to identify low quality and paid links as well as irrelevant links.

Matching link types to content type is important when building links

For example, a business that sells shoelaces may have very few organic links to the product page.

  • Product reviews - however, Google knows that many product reviews are paid.
  • Listicle pieces for “Best of products” - A page for “Best dog breeds” would benefit a link to a relevant product if you are included on the list.
  • Quora, forms, Reddit, and blog comments are the purest places to place a product link where potential customers actively discuss a certain product or service.

Experts have found that product pages did not react well to direct links, but did with the types listed above. Content, or in-depth articles, react more positively to links. A link to an in-depth piece of content is more natural than a product or service page. Blog posts that rank well can drive more traffic. Links are used for “citation” purposes just like a footnote in an essay.

We found that product pages did not react overly well to direct links, only the types listed above. Content (i.e. in depth articles) react much more positively to links. We believe it’s because getting a link to an in depth piece of content is much more natural than a product / service page. The blog posts that we build links to ranked very well and drove a ton of traffic for clients. Links are supposed to be used for “citation” purposes, like footnotes in your high school essays.

Google does not punish websites, but just ignores it and loses trust. In the past, SEO experts built guest post links to e-commerce product pages, which now can be penalized. A page without links will not be contextually mentioned in blog posts.

Rather than penalizing a page, the links have no effect and Google ignores them. Google, over the years, seem to have learned their lesson from penalizing websites. Most websites outsource their SEO to an agency and do not appreciate being penalized for the actions of an outside business. Link building takes a lot of hard work and money and website developers do not want to waste resources on useless tactics that do not affect traffic.

Despite all of this information, core concepts don’t and won’t change.

SEO experts advise to focus on three things:


Build a website that is organized, fast, and follows all of Google’s guidelines. For small businesses should build on Wordpress, which will handle almost all of this for them.


Populate websites with the content that is relevant to what the targeted audience wants, needs, and tries to find. It is advisable to make it a point of pride to not publish any irrelevant pages that will not help your customers. Quality is very, very important.


Finding ways for other websites to discuss a brand to build exposure. In the beginning, this must be done manually. With active participation in forums such as Reddit, Quora, and Facebook groups, businesses can determine the voice to interact properly with potential consumers and provide value to them. Finding the best and popular blogs in the industry and guest-writing for them can help people discover a website and assume that it has quality content and hopefully discuss the website organically.

PART 7. The Evergreen Approach to SEO

Regardless of the industry, SEO experts follow the same template for optimization for any industry, though every website needs to customize their strategy for optimization. Whether a website aims to get more participants for a yoga studio or an ecommerce store selling bracelets, the basis of good SEO remain the same for each.

It can be broken down into 5 phases:


Phase 1: Learning / Discovery Period

In this phase, a web developer much know as much as possible about the website including past SEO work and the industry. From this knowledge, web developers can determine the best strategy for the campaign.

Learning all about the website is crucial for the campaign especially with clients, as the learning continues while still meeting client needs. This process assists in managing expectations as well as delivering high quality work on time.

This section focuses on planning and following through with new projects quickly and effectively with audits and reports that are customized.


Phase 2: Improve Past SEO Work

When it comes to organic traffic, the fastest work comes from making small changes to existing pages. This is done through a number of audits and data crosswalks to determine which key pages can improved to increase traffic.

Existing SEO data helps determine which pages hold the most value in this phase. This phase involves keyword research for pages that already exist, “on page” SEO corrections, schema markups, and more.


Phase 3: Creating New Assets

To understand keyword “gaps” on a website, it is important to analyze competitors and industry leaders. These gaps drive traffic to competition as the website does not have the pages to rank for traffic.

This section focuses on finding keyword gaps, keyword intent mapping, and building new pages on a website for both content such as blog posts and resource guides, or landing pages that involves sale based content.


Phase 4: Promoting Assets

It is not enough to only focus on “on page” corrections and creating quality content. For explosive traffic gains, the website needs to be promoted by acquiring links and mentions on relevant industry websites.


Phase 5: Reviewing Assets

After waiting some time after SEO efforts go live, such as a year long campaign, web developers then evaluate the progress of the campaign in order to determine a benchmark. Whether it is a client’s work or personal, it is important track the progress over a certain period of time to see what works and what doesn’t.