What Is SEO?

SEO is short for Search Engine Optimisation.

The lovely people at Moz define SEO as: “…the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.”

Now, after reading that you might still be none the wiser as to what SEO is.

But that’s only because you don’t understand SEO terminology.

And you’re not alone.

That’s why we came up with our own definition and it is this:

SEO is when you change certain aspects of a web page, then get people to link to that page, so that you get more visitors to your website.

Hopefully that’s cleared up any confusion.


Why Is SEO Important?

The reason why search engine optimisation is important is that you have two choices when you build a website:

  1. Hope and pray that your new site miraculously gets visitors

an seo myth

  1. Use a step-by-step SEO plan to ensure that people searching the web can find you.

The vast majority of website owners choose option #1, hoping that their snazzy new website will get lots of Google love.

While that’s a nice idea, we can assure you that it never, ever happens.

The people who choose option #2 follow a tried and tested process for ranking their site in Google and attracting lots of free visitors.

SEO is important for you because it gives you a huge advantage over your less-knowledgeable competitors.


Why Does Search Engine Optimisation Exist?

Google’s entire business model is based on one simple idea: Provide people with the best possible answers to the questions they type into the search bar.

These are known in SEO circles as “keyword searches”:

random keyword search

In an ideal world Google would simply be able to automatically figure out which site offers the best answer to a question, and send that searcher your way.

That day will come, but it’s not here just yet.

In the meantime you need to provide Google with a series of indicators and clues to tell them what your site is about.

And that is how you “do SEO” – you give search engines just enough information about your site for it to make sense for them to come take a look at it.

Google doesn’t actually like the idea of search engine optimisation, because it means you’re taking deliberate steps to improve how your site ranks.

But if you want to rank in Google (or any search engine) then you have no choice but to learn SEO.


The Different Types of SEO

There are different types of SEO?

Nobody mentioned that before I arrived here…and it all sounds a bit confusing.

Don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it sounds.

There are three different types of SEO.

image of white hat seo

White hat

When somebody tells you they only do white hat SEO it means they use techniques and strategies that stick firmly to Google’s webmaster guidelines.

White hat SEO can take longer to increase your traffic, rankings and ROI but you never run the risk of getting a penalty from a Google algorithm update.

This type of search engine optimisation means developing a long-term mindset for SEO, and from where we stand it’s the only sensible approach because it protects you from future Google updates and penalties.

It’s no fun having to reinvent the wheel every 6 – 12 months, which is exactly what most SEOs wind up doing because they’re chasing the next search engine, trick, gimmick or loophole.

Grey hat

This type of SEO is made up of mostly white hat SEO, but with a hint of slightly more risky black hat optimisation tactics.

Some SEOs use grey hat tactics to speed up how quickly they can make their customer’s pages rank in Google, usually by using powerful but sneaky links to trick Google into putting their site on page one.

But when Google realizes they’ve been tricked they just switch off the flow of free traffic to your website…and you have to start all over again.

black hat seo

Black hat

And finally we come to the SEOs who will use any tactic, strategy or technique they hear about to rank a site in the search engines as quickly as possible.

They do this in the full knowledge that Google will ban the site, and maybe the entire hosting account, once they catch up with you.

There are still tens of thousands of people willing to buy into the myth that black hat SEO is somehow safe if you do it properly.

This is despite all the evidence that it’s getting harder and harder to get results with black hat tactics.

In fact, Google has cracked down so much on many black hat SEOs that they’ve become white hat SEOs instead.

Kind of like when Darth Vader turned to the light side of the Force at the very end of the best trilogy of movies ever.

But we digress.

The terms “white hat” and “black hat” come from the hacking community to show whether or not you’re the evil type of hacker, or the more benevolent type.

Why did they choose these colours?

Because the villain in a western always wears a black hat, and the hero always wears a white one.


What are SERPs?

This stands for Search Engine Results Pages, or what page on Google (or another search engine) your site is ranking on for a specific keyword.

So, the next time you hear somebody talking about SERPs they’re just referring to what page their site ranks on in Google.

If you want more information on the subject WordStream have a great article on it. We’d recommend instead circling back to this link once you finish this guide– you’ll only distract yourself otherwise.


What’s Organic Traffic and How Do I Get It?

All search engine traffic is organic traffic, and this means nothing more than people found your site in a Google result, clicked on the link and then arrived on your site.

Organic traffic is completely free.

Well, it is except for the time or money you invested in search engine optimisation.

This type of traffic can be extremely valuable when you get the right type.

Oh no…there are different types of organic traffic too?

To be fair, what we’re talking about here is the fact that not all keyword searches have the same value.

organic search engine traffic

Let’s say you own a business selling men’s clothing, specifically business suits.

Would you want lots of organic traffic arriving to your site for the keyword “free business suits”?

Obviously not, because that’s somebody looking for a freebie, and not a paying customer.

Instead you’d prefer to have lots of organic traffic for keywords like “3-piece business suit” or “brown wedding suit”, for example.

But…how do you get this magical organic traffic we’re talking about?

You optimize your website by doing intelligent keyword research, follow Google’s advice on best practices, and stick to white hat SEO.

Don’t worry, the keyword research section is coming up soon.


Content Relevance and Authority

The smart way to approach search engine optimisation is with a long-term focus.

We know there are lots of “gurus” out there more than willing to promise you #1 rankings in six weeks…now all they need is your credit card number and CVV code.

There was a time when you could rank any website in Google for any keyword in a matter of weeks, and even days in some cases.

Those days are over.

Anyone promising you unusually fast results is either using extreme grey hat SEO, or outright black hat SEO.

Either way they’re a bad investment.

A much simpler approach to ensuring that you get great results from your SEO for years to come is to build authority within your niche or market, and by building this authority you get Google’s “trust”.

Another important aspect of building authority within your niche market is to ensure that each page of your site is relevant to the overall theme of your site.

What we mean by this is that if Google comes to your site and finds that most of the pages are about wedding suits, but you also promoting gambling sites, then this will give you a lower relevancy score.

And a lower relevancy score means lower rankings, and rankings means less traffic to your site.

Remember that Google’s only job is to provide searchers with the best possible answer to the questions they’re asking.

If you make that task difficult, they will simply ignore your site.

The reality is that the world of SEO is changing, and sites that offer authoritative content are going to exist long after all the spammy sites have vanished into Internet history.


Keyword Research

As we mentioned at the start of this guide, the words that people type into Google to find answers to their questions are referred to as keywords.

Good keyword research can be the difference between your site attracting lots of the right types of visitors, or no visitors at all.

Most beginner’s guides on search engine optimisation will advise you to dive straight into a keyword tool and start typing in words or phrases related to your business.

We actually advise against doing this.

The reason why is because even the best keyword tools can lead you astray You get so wrapped up by all the information on display you forget why you were there in the first place.

The best place to start your keyword research is with a pen and paper, sketching out what keywords you think people would type into Google to find your site.

Ask yourself what types of questions would they ask?

Would they use any specific types of jargon or terminology to find your site?

Spend about 15 – 20 minutes writing down your ideas.

Your next step is to then simply type each of these keywords into Google. Then scroll to the bottom of the page and you’ll see a section called ‘Searches Related To‘.

We’ll go back to our example of “brown wedding suit” here.

As you can see below Google actually tells you what keywords people are using to find brown wedding suits.

Google related searches
Yes, you can rush out and spend £99 per month on some super-duper keyword research tool…or you can just use Google’s data instead.

Now if you want even more searches than the ones you find there, we can recommend the amazing ‘Keywords Everywhere’ tool for Chrome or Firefox.

keywords everywhere seo tool

It shows lots of other searches related to the keyword you just typed into Google.

And yes, Keywords Everywhere is 100% free.


What’s The Difference Between Broad and Phrase Match Keywords?

This aspect of keyword research is something SEO beginners often find confusing, but it doesn’t need to be.

A Broad match keyword is where you type something like “best wedding suit” (without the quotes) into Google.

broad match keyword

This produces 767,000,000 (767 million results) because Google is showing you every page that includes any of the words “best” “wedding” and “suit” in your results.

A Phrase match keyword is where you use the search term “best wedding suit”, but this time you include the quotes.

phrase match keyword research image

You now only see 109,000 results because Google is only displaying sites that have that exact Phrase somewhere on the page.

We recommend to only ever do keyword research using Phrase match keywords, and this is exactly what most keyword tools do in the background.

What’s Keyword Density?

Many moons ago you could rank in Google by simply including your keywords several times on the page, in strategic locations.

This obviously made it very easy to rank your pages in Google for whatever keywords you wanted, often in just a few weeks.

Google realized their search results were being manipulated, allowing spammy pages to rank on page one of their search results.

This left them with no choice but to change how Google Search works, and they rolled out the infamous Google Panda Update.

keyword density in google
Source: https://searchenginewatch.com

SEOs and affiliate marketers using keyword density tricks saw their sites disappear from the SERPs overnight.

Their traffic disappeared quicker than you can say “Where’s all my traffic gone?”

The impact of Google Panda was so serious that it forced many SEOs and affiliate marketers to quit and go back to their day jobs.

There is no “secret keyword density formula” that will help you rank in Google – it’s just an SEO myth peddled by people who are trying to sell you the equivalent of magic beans.


Latent Semantic Indexing

The Wikipedia definition of LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) is “…an indexing and retrieval method that uses a mathematical technique called singular value decomposition (SVD) to identify patterns in the relationships between the terms and concepts contained in an unstructured collection of text.”

Your eyes probably glazed over at the thoughts of complex mathematical calculations.

We know exactly how you feel.

But the truth is that LSI is actually very straightforward – it’s how Google tries to understand how the words on a page relate to each other.

It’s about the overall “theme” of a page.

seo expert meme

Let’s use our earlier example of “wedding suits”. Google would obviously expect to find that keyword on a page about wedding suits.

But what about the other keywords related to wedding suits that might also appear there?

Here are some examples: wedding, suit, shirts, groom, collection, suit hire, formal shirts, hugo boss, grooms suits.

Both human searchers and Google would expect to find keywords like these used somewhere on the page, because it’s about wedding suits.

But if Google doesn’t find those keywords on the page they could assume the page has no content, and is therefore low quality, or isn’t related to wedding suits at all.

And that’s what LSI means – including relevant, “themed” keywords on a page of content because they would and should appear there naturally.

Here’s a great video that explains what LSI is and why it’s important.

Google Algorithm Updates

You might have heard friends and co-workers talking about Google algorithm updates, but you didn’t ask any questions because you’re not really sure what an algorithm does.

You’re not alone.

Most of the people you hear talking about algorithms don’t know what they do either.

An algorithm is simply a set of mathematical rules that produce a specific result.

In the case of Google their original algorithm was based on two very simple principles. The first of these was to look at how many links were pointing at a website, the second was what those links said about it – what words were used in the hyperlink.

google panda algorithmBelieve it or not this is what allowed Google to eliminate Yahoo, AltaVista and all other search engines competitors in a matter of months.

Since then Google has modified their core algorithm on a regular basis to facilitate better search results for their users.

Most Google algorithm updates were benign in nature, simply looking to provide searchers with a better user experience.

But unfortunately black hat SEOs eventually polluted Google with so much spam that they were forced to release far more extensive algorithm updates to make their search engine usable again.

The spamming got so bad at one stage that many people stopped using Google and started using Bing and other search engines instead.

Google came close to losing their control over the search engine market, so they took drastic action.

The only three Google algorithm updates you really need to know about are:

  • Google Panda
  • Google Penguin
  • Google Hummingbird

You can read about all the most recent Google algorithm updates here.

Why do some people freak out when Google updates their algorithm?

To be honest the only people you see worrying about these updates are people who have been using grey or black hat SEO to manipulate Google to rank their website – or worse again, their clients’ websites – higher in the SERPs.

That’s when the digital marketing and SEO forums sound a lot like this:

It is highly unlikely that your website will be penalised by Google during an algorithm update if you are using purely white hat SEO techniques and strategies.


SEO Basics

Now we need to take a look at the two key areas of SEO that anyone interested in search engine optimisation needs to spend time learning.

There are lots of expensive SEO training courses out there that cover the same information we’re about to share with you here, except we’re not charging for it.

In fact, we want to make sure you don’t buy one of those courses unless you really feel the need to.

If you can get your head around the concepts we share here, you’ll know more about how search engines work than most digital marketers.

On-Page SEO

This refers to all the elements of a page which you can alter to enhance and improve its ranking in Google and other search engines.

The weird thing is most SEO’s are obsessed with building backlinks to websites, completely ignoring on page SEO opportunities in the process.

What we’re about the share with you here are best practices for optimising your site to get the best possible rankings in Google…and potentially without ever creating a single link.

Meta Tags

Once upon a time the only thing you needed to do to rank in Google was to stuff keywords into your Title, Meta Description, and Meta Keywords tag.

Those days are long gone.

But you should still spend quite a bit of your time optimising your meta tags for Google. You can ignore the Meta Keywords tag however, as it no longer matters.

We still see a worrying number of SEO agencies implementing the Meta Keywords tag on client websites, even though they know it will have absolutely no effect on the site’s ability to rank in search engines.

Title tag

This is the first line of text you see in Google search results when you use a keyword to find information on a given product or service, as illustrated below.

example of seo title tag

It also displays in browser tabs once the page loads:

title tag in browser tab

The only thing you need to concern yourself about is to include a keyword you wish to rank for in your Title tag, and making sure your it isn’t any longer than 65 characters.

If you’re not sure how many words that is, just use a site like Letter Count to help out.

You can add a Title tag to your page by using the Yoast (or similar) plugin for WordPress, or the relevant SEO tool for your own website.

Please don’t stuff your title tag full of multiple keywords because Google will see that as an attempt to manipulate the search results and may actually demote your site in the SERPs as a result.

Meta description

The Meta Description tag is the small block of text displayed beneath your title tag in the search results, as illustrated below:

example of meta description tag for seo

The best way to use the Meta Description tag is to firstly include an additional keyword that you’d like to rank for, or a variant of the main keyword used in your Title tag.

You can add a Meta Description tag to your page by using Yoast, or whatever SEO tools come as part of your website.

You should also write your Meta Description tag in a way that would entice a searcher to click on your result in the SERPs.

How do you get them to click on it?

Brian Dean has a great blog post on this subject – conversation rate optimisation.

H1 – H6 Tags

Hx tags were pieces of HTML code originally used on webpages to create headings and sub-headings within a page of content.

They were also a great way to give Google a strong clue about what keywords to rank your page for. But most SEOs you speak to these days will tell you that using H1 – H6 tags is a waste of your time.

We can agree with them on one point, and that is that using the H4, H5, or H6 tags isn’t worthwhile.

But you absolutely should make sure that you are using H1, H2 and ideally H3 tags on each page of your site.

This actually happens naturally on most websites because the headline of your page should automatically be enclosed by a H1 tag, without you having to do anything.

Each of the subheadings on your page should automatically be enclosed in a H2 tag, and any sub subheadings should be enclosed in a H3 tag.

Your main keyword should be included in your H1 tag and any additional relevant keywords should be used within your H2 and H3 tags on each page.

The odd thing is that black hat SEOs use Hx tags extensively because they know how powerful and safe they are for on-page optimisation.

The majority of other SEOs ignore them because somebody told them to.

Many businesses are willing to pay several thousand dollars per month just for on-page optimisation of a site.

And they do this quite happily because they know they’ll see long-term results from professional on-page optimisation.

Image Alt Tags

Google can’t read images in the same way you can.

So you have to tell them what the image is about by putting keywords in the filename of the image, and also using a special command called an Alt tag.

You’ve probably seen Alt tags before and not thought about them – they usually appear when you hover your mouse over an image.


Source: https://www.wpbeginner.com/

Let’s say you have a website all about inkjet printers, and you use your camera to take an image of a brand new Canon Pixma.

The camera automatically names the file as DSC44596.jpg.

So when you add it to your site Google can see a file called DSC44596.jpg, but has no other information on the image because you didn’t include an Alt tag.

Now let’s assume you rename the image file to something more relevant and include a short description of the image in your Alt tag:

Canon-inkjet-printer.jpg and “Canon Pixma Injet printer” lets Google know exactly what this image is about and where to display it in Google Image searches, for example.

You should always use Alt tags on every image of your site.

Internal Links

These are links on that point to other pages on your site. They’re usually underlined and look something like this:

example of internal link
Internal links are also an important part of any comprehensive search engine optimisation plan.

The reasons for this include:

  1. They help your visitors discover other valuable pages on your site
  2. They tell Google you have other pages on your site related to the main topic you’re linking from

Should you include internal links on every page of your site?

Only if they’re both relevant and useful for your visitors.

External Links

Some SEO “experts” will tell you that you should never link to other websites from your own. Their reasoning for this is because you’ll accidentally send visitors to another site, and they might stay there.

Here’s a question for you to think about for a moment: Is it natural for any website to never link out to other sites on the Internet?

The answer we hope you came up with is “No”, and that’s exactly what Google would think too.

Linking to sites that your visitors might find really useful is a great idea, and you can even win some Google brownie points by doing that.

Here’s a great case study on whether or not linking to external sites can help your search engine rankings.

Spoiler: It does.

SEO Optimised Content

You’ve probably heard that “content is king” in digital marketing, and as time goes by this is becoming more and more relevant for achieving long-term results in Google and other search engines.

But the difference is now that the type of content you need to publish to get Google’s attention needs to be authoritative.

This is a fancy way of saying that the pages or posts you write should provide comprehensive and in-depth answers to a searcher’s query.

In the future this approach will become even more important as Google voice search slowly starts to take over from normal search.

Just remember that when you create content it should be optimised for the reader and not just for search engines.

Far too many SEOs are still trying to create content that is for search engines first, and for visitors next.

We can assure you this does not produce the types of results it once did.

User Experience

Google recently released an update to their core search engine algorithm.

This update introduced something called Google RankBrain.

RankBrain has one single task, and that is to measure how searchers interact with your page once they land on it.

What this means is that Google now measures how long a person stays on a page before they click away from it, and how often that page is clicked on in the first page of the SERPs.

Google then runs a calculation in the background to assess how well you are answering the searcher’s query.

They will either give you a boost in search engine rankings as a result, or push your page further down the search results if you’re not doing a good job of answering specific queries properly.

Providing a positive user experience is now part of the process for ranking in Google, and that includes not forcing pop-ups or advertising on visitors before they get a chance to find the information they were looking for.


How Long Should My Pages Be?

There’s a lot of talk online right now about the “perfect” length for a web page.

SEO guru (and we mean that) Brian Dean ran a huge case study where he found that most of the pages that rank on page one of Google are at least 1,800 words in length.

This is true.

But it doesn’t mention that not every result on page one of the SERPs is 1,800 words long

If you analyze enough pages you’ll find that the SERPs have lots and lots of pages that are much shorter. In fact, some of them only contain a few hundred words of text, at best.

Why does this happen?

Because they offer relevant information that answers a searcher’s question, so Google ranks them on page one.

When creating content for a website you should focus on:

  1. Keeping your content relevant to the search query
  2. Providing Comprehensive information on the topic

If that means you can fully answer a searcher’s query in 500 words, then that’s exactly how long your page should be.

But, if you need 2,750 words to cover the topic in adequate detail, then that’s exactly how long your page should be.


Off-Page SEO

This aspect of search engine optimisation comes down to one simple thing: building links to your site.


Now, the weird thing is that Google actively tells Webmasters that building back links to their website, by asking people to link to it or by paying for links to your site, is actually black hat SEO.

It is completely against their Webmaster guidelines.

The problem with this is that although you can use just on-page optimisation to get a page to rank in Google, in the real world you do actually need to get at least a handful of links if you want to rank on the first page of the SERPs.

So, this leaves you with a little bit of a dilemma because you need links to allow your website to rank on the same pages as your competitors, but Google doesn’t want you to do that.

And this is where an intimate understanding of white hat SEO is critical.

There are perfectly legitimate, and safe ways for you to build back links to your web pages, but very few SEO’s are actually willing to put the work in, or to wait several weeks to see an improvement in ranking.

Instead they focus on trying to trick Google into giving them higher rankings by using shady optimisation tactics like buying links, blog comment spam, and anything else they can think of.

But what this ultimately means is that the site will either be pushed down to page 20 of the search results, or in extreme cases Google will simply remove the entire site from their SERPs.



Congratulations, you’ve completed our guide on SEO for beginners.

Did any particular section give you a “Eureka” moment?

Why not share that with us by leaving a comment below .


The world of SEO is full of terminology that seems utterly confusing because people talk only in acronyms…and not English at all.

To the outsider it might sound like gibberish, but it’s not.The trick is learning which of the hundreds of different terms are most important to you as a business owner.

We’ve put together this list to explain, in layperson’s terms, exactly what the most important pieces of terminology mean for you in your online marketing efforts.

So, bookmark this page, grab a notepad, and prepare yourself for a quick-fire education in search engine optimisation terminology.


Google Panda
A 2011 update to the Google algorithm that reduced the visibility of sites with low quality (thin) content, or very little content. This update directly affected content farms, specifically article directories and similar sites.

Google Penguin
This 2012 algorithm update from Google penalized sites that bought links from private blog networks (PBNs), but it also directly attacked the PBNs themselves. Hundreds of PBN businesses were shut down overnight.

The Google Sandbox is a separate area of the search engine where it stores brand new websites until they’ve proven that they’re genuine. Opinions vary, but most SEOs agree that a new site will stay in the Google Sandbox for at least 90 days after it goes online for the first time.

Search Engine Algorithm
A set of rules, based on a mathematical formula, designed to solve a specific problem. Google’s algorithm analyses dozens of different factors when deciding whether or not your website is the best source of information for a given range of search queries.


These are words typed into Google by people looking for information on a given subject. Google then looks for pages that match the keywords entered, and presents the best set of results it can generate.

Keyword Cannibalisation
Google can become confused when it encounters a website that has multiple pages optimised for the same keyword. This then leads to poor results in the SERPs because Google can’t decide which of your pages is the most relevant or the most useful.

Keyword Density
This is the very, very outdated practice of trying to calculate how many times you should include a certain keyword on a web page to get it to rank in Google. No self-respecting SEO has advised on this since 2008 because it’s now viewed as “web spam” by Google.

Keyword Stuffing
There was a time when you could simply stuff your page, Title, Meta Description and Meta Keywords tag full of a variety of keywords that you wanted to rank for. This was common practice in the days of Yahoo and AltaVista because it worked, but Google deeply dislikes sites that use keyword stuffing.

Head/Seed Keywords
A “Head” keyword is the base keyword used to generate long-tail keywords from e.g. finance. These keywords tend to have an extremely high volume of searches each month, but those searches won’t convert into sales or leads as well as long-tail keywords do.

Keyword Research
The process of finding keywords and key phrases which are relevant to your market/niche/vertical, but that also have the right level of search intent. Keyword research tools like KWFinder, SEMrush and Ahrefs are the quickest way to find the best possible keywords for your website.

Long-tail Keyword
These are multiple word key phrases that SEOs focus on because they tend to have a higher buyer intent than phrases with just one or two words. An example of a long-tail keyword is “best financial adviser in Chelsea” – people searching using these types of keywords are close to making a decision on their purchase.


Anchor Text
These are the underlined, clickable words in a link to another website, or when another website links to you. What you should avoid doing is building links to your site that all contain the same words in the anchor text because this will incur a penalty from Google.

A backlink is a link from another website pointing to a specific page on your website – Google views these links as a “vote” for your site. Backlinks can either occur naturally or they can be paid for, or arranged through guest blog post opportunities.

Blog Comment Spam
Leaving a comment on a blog you like is a perfectly acceptable way to build a white hat backlink to your site. Hiring an outsourcer to spam 5,000 blogs with the same repetitive comment is spam, no matter what way you phrase it.

A citation is simply an online reference to your business name, address or other contact details. A citation doesn’t need to link directly back to your website to be effective for local SEO.

Deep Links
Somewhere around 70% of all inbound links are to the homepage of any website. A deep link is an inbound link that points to an internal page of your site, increasing its authority and potentially allowing it to rank for more keywords.

DoFollow Links
A DoFollow link is one where some of a site’s authority is passed to the page they’re linking to, although this tends to be a tiny amount. These links have a positive impact on how you rank in Google.

External Linking
These are links from your site to other websites that you think your visitors will find useful. Some website owners will insist on adding the NoFollow attribute to all external links, but Google can view that as an unnatural linking pattern.

Guest Blogging
The process of creating an article for another website to publish, with the caveat that they allow you to link back to your website from within the guest blog post. Some SEOs argue that guest blog posts are “paid links” and therefore black hat, but that’s only true if the blog post is published on an unrelated website e.g. you have a real estate business and the guest post is on a gambling site.

Internal Linking
When you create links to other pages on your website, either to enhance the user experience or for SEO purposes. You can use internal linking to boost the ranking of a page on your site by pointing links with keyword-focused anchor text at it.

Link Building
In an ideal world people would link to your website because they love the content/service/product you offer. But we don’t live in an ideal world, so the vast majority of you reading this will need to actively build links to your site. Don’t worry – it’s not as difficult as it sounds – here’s our link building guide to help you along.

You know when you find a resource online that’s so great that you not only bookmark it and share it on social media, but you also tell all of your friends about it? That’s linkbait. It can be something as simple as the most comprehensive, in-depth guide on a subject, or a web-based app like a mortgage calculator. The idea is that you create a resource that other website owners will link to without being asked.

NoFollow Links
Adding the NoFollow attribute to a link tells Google that you don’t’ want to pass any authority to the website you’re linking to. Some website owners avoid getting NoFollow links to their site because they don’t think they’re worth the effort – but we can assure you they are.

Off-Page SEO
Your off-page SEO is all about building links to your site, and what those links say about the content on your site, and where the links come from. Off-page SEO (building links) is one of the single most important factors in terms of ranking your site on the first page of Google for your preferred keywords.

Private Blog Network
A private blog networks (PBN) is a “farm” of websites that were created, using expired domain names, for the sole purpose of selling links to website owners. Buying links from a private blog network is risky, and will incur the wrath of Google when they catch up with you. And they always catch up with PBN links.

Reciprocal Link
A reciprocal link is where Website A links to Website B and then Website B links back to Website A. This was common practice before Google reduced its effectiveness to zero many years ago. You can still use reciprocal links, but it would require Website A linking to Website B, and then Website C linking back to Website A.

Web 2.0 Sites
These were the second generation of web sites, designed to encourage users to create content – Blogger, Typepad, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. They can be used as part of a backlink building campaign, but not as your only source of links.

Web Directory
This is an online list of websites, usually arranged into specific categories, that you can pay to have your business listed in. A listing in a web directory includes a link back to your website, but not every link from a web directory is worth investing in. Fortunately there are plenty of industry-specific web directories that are still worth getting a link from.

The most popular, and expensive, web directory used by SEOs was the now defunct Yahoo Web Directory. It cost $299 per year, but for a very brief time being listed in the Yahoo Directory would guarantee you ranked on the first page of Google within days.

On-page Optimisation

Above The Fold
The topmost area of any webpage, typically the first 1/3 of the page. Heat map experiments have shown this is where most visitors’ eyes naturally gravitate to. Your most important messaging, adverts, or lead generation elements should be located on this part of the page.

Alt tag
Google can’t read or understand what images “look” like, so you have to add an additional snippet of code to the images on your site to tell them what they mean. Alt tags are also very useful for visitors with visual impairments because their screen reader software can read these tags.

Duplicate Content
This is where the same, or a slightly altered, piece of content exists on different parts of your website. This is often accidental, but some companies do it deliberately in the hope of tricking Google into sending them more traffic. Google, however, will simply ignore all those duplicate pages, and might also demote you in their search rankings.

Heading (Hx tags)
Back in the early days of the Internet, there were limited options available to web developers to create engaging typography. The Heading tags (H1 – H6) allowed web designers to create larger typefaces. An additional benefit was that search engines paid attention to the keywords inside those Hx tags – and they still do today.

Landing Page
A page of content designed with the specific purpose of getting a visitor to complete a required action e.g. sign up for a newsletter. Landing pages are typically used in lead generation campaigns, with either organic traffic or PPC ads used as the traffic source.

Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)
This is a three letter acronym that causes more confusion than it should. Latent Semantic Indexing is simply Google’s way of understanding how the words on a page relate to each other. For example, Google understands that a dog and a hound are the same animal, and that a puppy is a different search term, but they’re all still dogs.

Meta Keywords Tag
This is a Meta tag that hasn’t been used in years because Google no longer counts it as a ranking factor. You shouldn’t invest any time or effort in using this tag on any of your web pages.

Meta Description Tag
These are part of the source code that make up each page of your site, and are displayed under the title of your page in search results. You should try to include keywords relevant to your niche or market in your Meta Description tag – this can be done quite easily with the Yoast plugin for WordPress, for example.

On-Page SEO

These are all the elements of your site that Google analyses when trying to figure out where to rank you. On-page ranking factors will include things like your Title and Meta Description tags, Heading tags (H1,H2, H3), URL optimisation, image optimisation, etc. Or you can just read our on-page optimisation blueprint – it covers everything you need to know.

Term Frequency Inverse Document Frequency is the most recent attempt by SEOs to understand what keywords you should include on a page and how many times they should be included i.e. it’s an attempt at calculating keyword density. Is it effective? That all depends on how competitive the search term is, but generally speaking your time is better spent focusing on creating engaging content, and not just a random selection of keywords.

Title tag
Although people might disagree, the Title tag is still one of the most important aspects of on-page SEO. You should include your most important or relevant keyword in your Title tag, while also focusing on creating Title tags that entice people to click on them in the search results.

Skyscraper Content
Brian Dean of Backlinko coined this term after he analysed 1 million search results and found that the average word count for a page ranking on the first page of Google is 1,890 words.

He asserts that creating long-form content of at least 1,890 words is a key ranking factor right now, and we agree to a certain extent. The only area we disagree on is that 890 words of relevant, focused, useful content will quite easily outrank 1,890 words of fluff.

Technical SEO

301 Redirect
When you change the name or location of a web page, you need to redirect the visitor to the new page or location. There are a few ways to do this, but the most effective from an SEO point of view is called a 301 redirect, or what is also known as a permanent redirect.

Canonical Tag
Used to let Google know which of the pages on your site it should treat as the master or “key” page, especially if you have several pages on your site that are almost identical to each other. This can happen quite frequently on e-commerce sites.

Cloaking Page
You’ll also hear these referred to as “doorway pages”. The idea is a simple one – present Google with one page, but then anyone visiting your site will see another page. Using doorway or cloaked pages is a quick way to get penalised by Google.

Domain and Page Authority
If you want to know how authoritative a website is in the eyes of Google, then Domain (DA) and Page Authority (PA) are a great way to gauge that. You can examine the authority of any website by simply installing the MozBar and setting up a free Moz account. The higher a sites Domain Authority, the more difficult it will be to outrank.

Domain Name
This is the unique internet address of your website, and Finetunedigital.com is an example of that. There are dozens of different domain extensions, but .com is still the most popular, with country localized versions following a close second e.g. co.uk, .ie, .in, etc.

Google PageRank
PageRank was a once-used rating of the authority of a website, rating it from zero to ten. This rating was also displayed in the Google Toolbar up to 2011 when Google stopped updating it. Some SEOs still talk about PageRank, but a more accurate measurement is Domain Rating (DR), as displayed by sites like Ahrefs.com

Link Sculpting
The process of using NoFollow and DoFollow links to “sculpt” the link profile of a given page. This is a reincarnation of PageRank sculpting, designed to increase the authority of a handful of pages on a site. While this is not a black hat SEO technique, it most definitely is grey hat.

This command simply tells Google and other search engines to ignore a particular page on your site. Why would anyone want to do that? Usually because the page is of no value to external visitors e.g. company policy documents.

A proprietary measurement of link and page authority created by the team at Moz.com. While very popular in the past, it has been overtaken by the more popular DR (Domain Rank) measurement used by Ahrefs.

Ranking Factor
A range of criteria and checks deployed by a search engine when they’re deciding where to rank your pages in their SERPs. Nobody knows exactly what Google’s ranking factors are, but what SEOs do know is there are dozens of them to take into account.

This is a small text file located on your web hosting account that tells search engines how to interact with your site. It can tell search engine spiders to ignore certain pages, or entire categories of pages, for example.

Where an SEO uses a tool like Scrapebox, or similar, to automatically harvest tens of thousands of URLs, keywords or other data from a number of different search engines. Scraping is also most commonly used in mass blog comment spam campaigns, so this practice is purely in the domain of grey or black hat SEOs.

Search Console
Part of the Google Webmaster Tools suite, Search Console allows you to track visitor activity on your site over the last 90 days. You can use it to generate reports on clicks, impressions and what keywords each page of your site ranks for in Google.

This is an acronym for Search Engines Results Pages, and is used to describe the page of results that appear in Google when you search for a keyword.

This stands for Search Engine Optimisation, and is an all-encompassing term that covers everything required to optimise a website so that it can attract lots of free organic traffic from Google and other search engines.

Search Engine Marketing is a type of digital marketing that focuses on generating traffic to websites using only paid traffic, although some people will use SEM interchangeably with SEO.

A specific page on your site, usually in XML format, that contains links to all the different pages on your site that you want included in Google’s index.

A small computer program which visits your websites, analyzes the content, internal links, external links, and then reports this information back to Google, or Bing, for example.

Unique Visitor
This is a measurement of how many unique individuals visit your site within a given timeframe. So, if the same person visits your website (from the same IP address) 30 times each month, they will still only show up in your search analytics software as a single unique visitor.

Another acronym, this time standing for Uniform Resource Locator. This is another way of saying “web address” e.g. wwww.finetunedigital.com is a URL.

Web Host
A web host stores all the text, images and other media that make up your website. Choosing a fast web host, or dedicated web hosting, is important because the speed your web pages load is now an important ranking factor in Google. This will cost more but the benefits are more than worth it.

Webmaster Tools
This is a suite of free software from Google that allows you to monitor different aspects of visitor activity on your website. Search Console is a key component of Google Webmaster Tools.

Web Spam
In much the same way that email spam clutters up your inbox, web spam is what black hat SEOs do to clutter up the search results pages (SERPs) with sites they’re ranking for customers. Google has an entire team dedicated to fight web spam, so it’s a bad idea to do anything they consider spammy.

Types of SEO

Black Hat SEO
When you use SEO strategies and tactics that Google doesn’t approve of because they’re designed to do nothing more than boost the rankings of a website, even if the site is of very low quality.

Grey Hat SEO
A grey hat SEO will use a mixture of both white hat and the less risky black hat SEO strategies to help you rank in Google. Grey hat SEOs are usually black hat SEOs who haven’t figured out that white hat is less expensive and more effective in the long term.

White Hat SEO
This is when you only ever use on-page and off-page SEO techniques that Google approves of. It’s very rare for a website using 100% white hat SEO to be penalized by Google.

User Experience (UX)

Authority Site
A high quality website that features dozens, hundreds or even thousands of pages of in-depth content on a given subject. TheWirecutter.com was a perfect example of an authority site, and it recently sold to The New York Times for US$20 million.

Bounce Rate
This is a measurement of how “sticky” your site is for visitors. Your bounce rate is calculated as a percentage of how many people visit your site, read one page of content, and then leave. An average page will have a bounce rate of around 70%, which is considered “normal”. Abnormal bounce rates are anything over 80%, although this depends on the market you’re in, and shouldn’t be taken as an absolute.

Conversion Rate Optimisation
The process of increasing the number of visitors to your site who take a preferred action e.g. downloading an app, filling out a form, or ordering a sample. Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) allows you to get more leads/sales from the same level of traffic your website has right now.

Click Through Rate is a measurement of how many people click on your website listing in Google, on a PPC ad, or on an internal link on your site, versus the number of people who saw the link in the first place.

Summing It up

So what’s your favourite piece of SEO terminology, or is there anything we missed in our roundup?

Let us know in the comments section below.

Anyone around digital marketing for more than a few years has already heard several times that SEO is deader than a Norwegian Blue parrot in a Monty Python sketch.

In fact, you’ve been told this so often you’re probably wondering why people are still even talking about search engine optimisation.

But…is it really dead, or are those blog posts just clever marketing?

The reality is that SEO has changed, but it most certainly isn’t dead – no matter what you read.

Most of the articles you read on the subject are nothing more than click bait.

They’re usually published by somebody trying to scare you into buying their course on paid advertising, email marketing, or whatever the latest shiny object is.

Does that sound cynical?

If it does it’s because we’ve seen any statement on SEO being dead quickly followed up by a marketing campaign for the “next big thing”.

So, in this blog post we’re going to look at both sides of the “SEO is Dead!!” argument, starting out with the fact that certain types of SEO are actually dead.

the death of search engine optimisation

Is SEO Dead?

Yes, it is…but only the strategies that date back to the early 2000s.

The same people who keep shouting about the impending demise of SEO will usually point at the fact that  the search engine optimisation isn’t as easy as it used to be.

There’s a huge difference between something not being easy and being absolutely pointless…or dead, for that matter.

Do you think professional athletes get to where they are by taking an easy route? Or do they have to work hard to achieve their results and their income?

SEO is very much the same in that regard – getting long-term results takes work.

You see, there’s no easy path to the top of the search engines.

Yes, there are loopholes.

But we can guarantee that when you use these loopholes, your fall from page #1 of the SERPs is inevitable…and it will be painful and expensive.

Google has banned entire web hosting accounts, with dozens of domains on them, even if those domains weren’t exploiting the loophole. And they’ll shut down AdSense accounts linked to those sites while they’re at it.

So, old school SEO is most definitely dead, and here are some “strategies” to avoid:

Building Thousands of Links

Once upon a time you could purchase a domain, slap some cheap articles on it, blast it with links, and rank on the first page of Google within a few weeks.

That doesn’t work anymore.

You can still follow this approach, but Google will simply sandbox your site, ignore the links and then forget about you.

Google now values link relevancy and authority over the number of links you have pointing to your site.

They were forced to take this step to prevent manipulation of their search results, and something called link bombing.

Getting one single link from a relevant and authoritative website is worth far more than 5,000 spammy links you bought from some random SEO service.

Exact Match Domains

The idea of having keywords relevant to your niche or vertical as part of you domain name might seem like a perfectly sensible thing to do.

After all, you’re simply telling your visitor and the search engines what your site is about.

Google once awarded SEO brownie points to any website doing this.

But then everything changed when Google updated their algorithm to penalise websites using exact match domains (EMDs).

They did this because lots of “gurus” were advising people to buy an EMD for every keyword they wanted to rank for…because it worked.

Back then, we tested the idea by registering a brand new domain for a keyword with 1,000 searches per month, adding 100 words of content to it, and watched it rank in #1 on Google three days later.

So, Google demolished the effectiveness of using exact match domains.

Never, ever stuff your domain with keywords.

Keyword Density

Back in the early 2000s you could optimise your pages of content by including your keyword x number of times on the page, and this would magically push you to the top of Google’s search results.

However, this strategy hasn’t worked since about 2010, again because Google realised that SEOs were gaming their search engine and dropped the hammer on this tactic.

blog network spam

Private Blog Network Links

A Private Blog Network (PBN) is a farm of websites using expired domains, which have been created solely for the purpose of selling links from to website owners.

Google has invested a lot of time and money in finding and shutting down these networks, and they’re getting better at it with each passing day.

At this stage even the most accomplished and clever PBN network owners have to constantly revise their strategies to stay one step ahead of Google.

Many of them are now walking away from black hat SEO and focusing on white hat SEO instead.

Ranking For One Keyword Per Page

Google has evolved faster than most SEOs can even begin to understand.

And part of this evolution is the development of an AI (artificial intelligence) system that understands human language patterns.

So, that means there’s no point in creating a page for “financial services company in Exeter”, and an additional page for “Best financial services company in Exeter”.

Google knows exactly what you’re trying to do here, and they won’t like it.

Producing dozens or hundreds of keyword-focused pages hasn’t been of any value since 2011, or the equivalent of 30 years ago in SEO terms.

Instead, you should focus on creating pages of content that can rank for hundreds of keywords.

The Perfect Optimisation Strategy

Anyone who tells you that they have the “perfect” strategy, especially one they read about elsewhere, is fooling themselves.


Because it’s only a matter of time before Google updates the algorithm to filter websites using that strategy out of their search results.

If there’s any SEO strategy worth pursuing it’s one that focuses on content relevancy and user experience.

Everything else takes second place.

seo webspam image

Bad SEO Played Its Part

We completely understand why some marketing managers got sick of SEO.

There’s any number of search marketing agencies out there who will promise you they can rank your business for any keywords you want, and they can do it all in just a few weeks.

Several months later you realise they’ve done nothing except send you “vanity statistics” – a lack of tangible improvement wrapped up in charts and graphics that mean nothing.

So you cut the agency loose, and swear you’ll never make the same mistake again.

To be blunt, there’s no agency charging you £299 per month for SEO that can deliver the results your business needs.

A few hundred pounds per month only allows them to outsource the work to the cheapest overseas vendor they can find, and hope that it all works out.

That’s why we know there are thousands of marketing managers in the UK alone who have had their fingers burned by dishonest digital marketing agencies.

And that’s why paid digital ads are popular – they deliver instant results.

But that doesn’t mean digital ads are necessarily the best way to spend your marketing budget – they’re not.

SEO Tactics That Still Work Like A Charm

Now that you know what aspects of SEO are dead and gone…is there any light at the end of the tunnel?

The funny thing is that the same guys who never shut up about the negative aspects of outdated SEO strategies never, ever mention that modern SEO is actually alive and well.

In fact, all those Google algorithm updates are great news for any business because they’ve all but eliminated black hat SEO, levelling the playing field for ethical search engine optimisation strategies.

And what strategies are we talking about here?

Relevant Content

If your website can provide a web searcher with the best possible answer to their question, then Google will fall in love with you. That’s the core of their business – providing answers to questions.

Businesses all over the world generate billions in revenue by simply giving the visitor the information they need.

There are no tricks or gimmicks involved – you’re simply providing the searcher with value, and Google rewards you with higher rankings as a result.

Authoritative Content

You can’t just publish 500-word blog posts and expect visitors to bookmark them or share them on social networks.


Because there’s a limited amount of value you can offer in 500 words.

A better approach is to look at the content your competitors are publishing, and then create a new piece of content that is 10x better – this is what SEO guru Brian Dean refers to as skyscraper content.

This is a new term for the tried-and-tested search engine optimisation tactic of providing visitors with the best possible information on a subject.

Doing this allows you to become the authority in a given niche or market, which has a compounding effect of drawing in lots of additional traffic from Google.

Content Upgrades

Remember those 500-word blog posts we mentioned earlier on?

There’s every possibility that you have at least a handful of these on your site. The good news is that you can upgrade these blog posts to make them far more powerful in terms of attracting organic traffic.

Doing this means making the page of content far more valuable by including charts, graphs, screenshots, bullet points, videos and another 500 – 1000 words of content.

click through rates

CTR Improvements

Google now pays a huge amount of attention to how web searchers are interacting with your website.

So, let’s imagine you have a website ranking in position #7 in Google for a specific keyword. If you were to optimise your title tags to entice searchers to click on them more often than your competitors, then Google will most likely reward you with a ranking boost.

Yes, you can actually beat your competitors out of their search position by simply optimising things like your Title and Meta Description tags.

SEO vs. Digital Ads

Here’s the main reason why we know for a fact that search engine optimisation isn’t dead – PPC (Pay per Click) ad costs are soaring.

Did you know that there’s been an almost 500% increase in the cost of running digital ads since 2008?

That means a either a 5x increase in your advertising costs to get the same results, or a 5x% decrease in the number of potential visitors you’ve been able to attract, when compared with any of your competitors.

Over the years what we’ve noticed is that the same doom and gloom merchants you find online preaching that SEO is dead are usually the same people selling PPC courses.

They do this because the only real deciding factor in PPC is the size of your budget – if you have enough cash then you can outrank every single one of your competitors. But you need to keep spending that money to outrank them.

SEO, on the other hand, is about focusing on long-term goals, maximising your lead generation and revenue while also minimising your advertising spend.

This is based on the fact that Google makes about 500 – 600 updates to its search engine every year.

Staying aligned with these updates is a full-time job.

So, no matter how often the “experts” tell you that SEO is dead, that doesn’t stop Google generating 3.5 billion searches every single day.

That’s a whole lot of organic searches going somewhere!

SEO in Numbers – Dispelling The Myths And Rumours

You could quite easily simply view this blog post as an opinion piece. Finetune is, after all, an SEO agency.

So, how can you be certain that we’re telling you the truth about the position of modern search engine optimisation in the digital marketing landscape?

Here are some numbers to think about:

search engine behavior statistic

Source: neilpatel.com

If you think about it, people are automatically geared to use search engines. Children now use them without having to be taught, and Googling is just something we all do. And the average person has to Google something 3.5 times each day.

organic search statistic

Source: https://www.brightedge.com/

This isn’t a recent development, PPC has always struggled to compete with organic search traffic.

That’s why Google shifted their entire page layout to move Google AdWords ads from the right-hand menu to where they’ll get the most views – at the top of the page.

Even then, well over 50% of people choose to click on organic listings instead. And that’s without factoring in the surging popularity in ad blocking programs.

mobile search call stat

Source: Acquisio

The one major shift in SEO is from desktop to mobile search, and this has the added benefit of allowing customers to call you directly from your search listing – something they’re unlikely to do from a desktop or laptop computer.

Analysts expect the above number to double by the early 2020s.

estimated seo investment


This number is another one set to grow over the coming years, with the average business investing £3,500 per month in using SEO to grow their brand presence and organic traffic.

Again, we expect the above number to increase year-on-year for at least the next decade.

seo lead conversion vs ppc


People hate being sold to.

Even a complete Internet newbie can tell a paid ad from an organic search listing. It’s gotten so bad that people have become so jaded by online advertising they develop something called “banner blindness”. This is when they subconsciously tune out paid ads and their eyes go straight to the organic listings instead.

mobile search statistic


What’s your first instinct when you remember you have to purchase a gift for somebody? Do you look for a catalogue, or Google for gift ideas?

You already know the answer to this question, so you’re actually part of the reason why SEO isn’t dead.


We expect to see voice search becoming a major aspect of SEO within the next 3 years, thanks in no small part to Google Search, Siri and the Amazon Alexa range.

Source: Hubspot

More marketers are making organic search engine traffic a priority because it has long-term benefits.

PPC ads have the advantage of providing instant results, but your traffic stops flowing when your budget is gone, and there’s no residual traffic from your PPC efforts.

The cost of advertising solely with digital ads has become prohibitively expensive for many businesses, so they’re turning to search engine optimisation instead.


That’s 5.5 devices for every man, woman and child on the planet – assuming a population of approximately 9 billion people at that point in the future.

Not all of those devices will be capable of allowing you to conduct a search query, but they will be more than capable of running a search query themselves .e.g. ordering food for you when your fridge is almost empty.

As you can see from the above statistics, SEO is not only alive and well but it’s absolutely thriving.

The reality is that SEO was never dead, or even close to it.

Search engine optimisation is actually driving more traffic to websites than ever.

What is true is that SEO will continue to evolve over the coming years. But once you understand what those changes mean to your business, your organic traffic levels will continue to improve

could SEO ever die

Could SEO Ever Die?

That’s a hard one to call, but it’s an interesting question

Let’s take a few moments here to speculate on what might come our way in the next decade or so.

Google are rapidly developing their artificial intelligence systems, and they’re already using some of that technology as part of their search algorithm. We expect Google RankBrain to expand its scope in terms of gauging what is deemed to be a good or bad search result.

AI will have a definite impact on search results, because it will eventually mean that Google can provide individualised search results just for you, based on your online habits.

This will be like using cookies to personalise your shopping experience, but millions of times more powerful.

Google could eventually fall foul of an anti-monopoly move by a future government, forcing them to split the company up into its constituent parts. That would be the ideal time for a competitor to appear.

If that were to happen then it could change the SEO landscape dramatically, especially if some elements of web search were put under government control.

Why would any government ever take control of search?

Because of growing security concerns around the data mining capabilities of companies like Google.

And let’s not forget that Yahoo and AltaVista once dominated the search market, until Google came along. The big search engines of the time thought Google was a joke, and would never be taken seriously.

How wrong can you be?

Right now, there’s a team of developers somewhere creating an algorithm that will make Google as ineffective as Yahoo or Altavista. The question is who will get to buy this technology first?

The one constant in SEO is change, so whatever worked last year to rank websites and get organic traffic might not work just a few years from now.


To badly paraphrase Mark Twain, “…the rumours around the demise of SEO have been greatly exaggerated“.

And we can say that with our hand on our collective hearts because we’ve seen the results our customers get.



SEO is such a broad subject it can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to understanding how it can benefit your business.

Search engine optimisation is often sold to businesses as some sort of digital voodoo that only a select few understand.

The people behind the curtain don’t want you to know that SEO is more about a methodical approach to what you’re doing. There’s no “magic” – just lots of testing.

And when it comes down to it there are really only two areas of SEO you can focus on: on-page and off-page.

That’s it.

So, what we’ve put together for you is an on-page optimisation blueprint for you to follow.

Our goal with this blueprint is to help business owners make more informed decisions when it comes to deploying on-page SEO techniques on your website.

An additional goal is to dispel all the chronically outdated on-page SEO advice spread on forums and elsewhere online.

By the time you’ve finished reading this on-page SEO tutorial you’ll understand exactly what you need to do to make your on-page SEO shine.

onpage seo tutorial

What Is On-Page SEO?

In technical terms it’s the optimisation of your domain, UX (user experience), page design, keywords, content, link structure, URLs and source code (in the form of meta tags) to ensure that each page of your site ranks in Google.

In layman’s terms, it’s changing different parts of your web page to make sure that Google pays attention to your site.

Each page of your site presents you with the opportunity to attract free search engine traffic, based on not only the relevancy of your content to the keywords people are using to search, but also to how well your page presents that information.

What on-page SEO is absolutely not about (well not since 2004) is keyword stuffing i.e. shoehorning keywords onto your page in the hope that Google will fall in love with you.

Those days are over.

Effective on-page optimisation is one part SEO methodology and one part copywriting, and if you can nail your on-page SEO you’ll be several steps ahead of your main competitors.

Seriously – you have no idea how many outdated, ineffective SEO techniques we see deployed on brand name websites.

Why On-Page SEO Is Important

The real reason why you should pay careful attention to your on-page SEO is because most of your competitors are either perfecting their approach, or are completely ignoring their site in terms of on-page optimisation.
If you look at how most businesses approach SEO, it’s all about building backlinks and getting social shares, etc.

But there’s very little attention paid to the actual pages on their site in terms of how well they’re optimised for both the search engines and human visitors.

Make no mistake, on-page optimisation is a critical element of your online marketing efforts, and for more reasons than just keeping Google happy.

domain names and onpage seo

Your Domain Name

If you’re at all familiar with SEO, or you’ve had the distinct displeasure of getting caught talking to certain “gurus”, you’ll have heard that having your keyword in your domain is really important.

That would be true, but only if you own a time machine and can travel back to 2008.

In 2012, Google rolled out an algorithm update to penalise domains stuffed with keywords.

google emd penalty

Source: Search Engine Land

This means that registering a domain like “BestFinancialAdviser.co.uk” today won’t give you any advantage in ranking your business.

Having your keyword in your domain is still a ranking factor. Just don’t do it solely for that reason and don’t expect to rank on page #1 just because of it.

A memorable domain name is worth way more in terms of UX than one with all your keywords crammed in there.

Always ask yourself how your domain would look on a business card.

It looks like spam? Then avoid it.

It makes sense for your business or brand? Go for it.

Page Design in SEO

user experience and on-page seo

Now here’s an aspect of on-page SEO that very few people talk about – the layout of your page.

The best place for your main content is on the middle of the page, and not in sidebars, sub-menus, tabs, or in “accordion” sections. Google is smart enough to read text in these areas, but the best place for your content is front and centre on the page.

The reality is that Google won’t ever rank your site based on a flashy design.

If anything you’ll actually lose certain ranking “points” because you’ve made your site difficult for their spider to navigate.

Thrive Themes ran a very interesting study on how much of a negative impact poor site design can have on on-page SEO.

Simple design works best in terms of ranking, almost without exception.

Content Relevancy

Search engines have one job to do, and they take it very seriously: To match a searcher with the best possible result for their query.

Or, put another way, Google’s job is to provide the best possible answer to a question.

Years ago you could trick search engines into ranking your page by simply including your keywords in certain places, and that would be enough. Google’s search algorithms have evolved at an incredible rate over the last decade, so those on-page “techniques” now don’t work.

Instead search engines care about how relevant your content is, and it scans your entire page to gauge that. It will then decide what your page is about based on the keywords, and variants, you’re using.

Don’t believe us?

Open up Google, and type in the phrase “grey games console”.

grey games console search

How many of the results specifically mention the phrase “grey games console”?

Google understands that people looking for a grey games console are very likely to actually want a Nintendo Switch.

You can test this yourself, and you’ll find in many cases that very few search results include a page based on the exact phrase you used. But what you will find is that the results you get are very targeted to your actual search intent.

Google understands search intent than you can ever hope to.

There’s another great example of this technology in action on the Ahrefs blog – this time it’s about chocolate labs.

Your Keyword In The First 100 Words

Although this is pretty solid SEO advice, it’s also kind of an invitation for people to start shoehorning keywords into their first paragraph of text. They’ll do this because they heard somewhere that it’s the silver bullet for better rankings in Google.

seo keywords

Google invested heavily in LSI technology a long time ago. Google can understand the intent of a page no matter what keyword you include in the first paragraph.

In fact – and this has happened in the past – forcefully including keywords in your content is a quick way to alert Google to the fact that you’re trying to manipulate their search results.

And once enough sites start doing this Google will roll out another algorithm update to reduce the effectiveness of including keywords in the first 100 words of text.

The trick that most SEOs miss out on is that you can include your keyword in the first 100 words of your text, but it doesn’t need to be included “whole“.

Let’s take the following keyword as an example:

Financial adviser Chelsea

Amateur SEOs will try to cram that exact keyword somewhere in the first 100 words of text, no matter how unnatural it sounds.

But here’s a more natural approach that can give you even better results:

You’re facing an uncertain future and looking for a trustworthy financial adviser? For those of you in Chelsea, Fiscal Friends are here to serve you.

Yes, that approach does work, plus it sounds natural and keeps the visitor reading. Even if you Google that exact phrase now you’ll notice that Google highlights certain words in their results:

lsi keyword technique

None of the above search results include the exact match keyword anywhere in their Title tag or Meta description tag.

You also won’t find the exact keyword of “financial adviser Chelsea” in the first 100 words of text on these sites.

Theories are fine, but cold, hard proof is much more valuable.

Case closed.

Content Freshness

This is basically about how “old” your pages are in the eyes of Google. There’s a lot of talk around this, with some SEOs advising that lots of new (fresh) content will attract more traffic.

The problem with this theory is that it’s not entirely accurate. You can test this for yourself by searching for a random keyword in Google and then looking at the date the page was published.

In the vast majority of cases you’ll find that content ranking on page one of Google is anywhere from two to ten years old.

Here’s an example of what we mean when we Googled “how to lose weight in 7 days” – an extremely competitive keyword.

does content freshness matter

There’s even a result there from 2013!

As you can see, Google cares far more about how relevant your content is – the fact that you published it more recently than some other site simply isn’t a ranking factor.

The only exception to this is if your site has older, less in-depth content on a given subject.

In these situations it’s always a good idea to do what’s called a content upgrade, where you expand on your original ideas, provide more answers to questions, and also include more media on a page.

Upgrading older content to make it “fresher” can have a massive impact not only on your rankings, but also on the amount of traffic you get.

Just don’t go publishing blog posts every single week because you think this is what Google wants, because that’s not true.

Keywords in Your URLs

Does having your main keyword in your URL help your site rank better?

The short answer to this is “Yes”, but it’s not the only thing you have to do.

As you can see from reading through this article, on-page SEO is way more nuanced than just performing three or four steps and then magically ranking for your desired keywords.

So, let’s take the example of “best financial adviser in Chelsea“.

Does this mean your URL should look something like this?


No, and for a number of reasons.

The first is that your URL includes the stop word “in”. The second reason is that you’re obviously trying to manipulate the search results, so you’re only an algorithm change away from a penalty.

You’ll get just as much SEO benefit from using www.domain.com/financial-adviser-chelsea/ as you will from trying to cram tons of keywords in there.

Keywords in your URL do matter, but this one factor alone probably accounts for no more than 5% of your overall on-page SEO.

URL Length

Shorter URLs are better, and not just from an SEO point of view, but for general user experience (UX) too.

Plus, Google has shown a preference for shorter URLs both now and in the past.

URL optimisation

So, instead of having a URL like www.domain.com/what-is-the-best-gourmet-restaurant-in-london, you should instead use something like www.domain.com/gourmet-restaurant-london.

The second URL is shorter, more memorable, strips out all the stop words, and tells Google everything it needs to know.

external links for onpage seo

Outbound Links

Some SEOs (and business owners) are incredibly paranoid about including outbound links on their pages because:

1. They think they’re “sending” visitors away from their page
2. They’re afraid it will drain their domain authority (DA), reducing their ability to rank

The truth is you have no reason not to include outbound links to related websites that your visitors might find useful.

As for the idea that it will drain your domain authority, that can be catered for by simply adding the “no follow” tag to your outbound links. That’s only if you’re really paranoid about the idea of outbound links though.

Most importantly, Google expects to see outbound links on a site because it’s the natural pattern you’d find on any website, especially on a site ranking on the first page of Google.

How many outbound links on a page are bad for SEO?

If you were to include dozens of outbound links on a single page, then this might impact your SEO, but we rarely see site owners adding 2 – 3 external links, never mind dozens of them.

Title Tags

We know there are lots of SEO “gurus” out there saying that Title tags don’t matter any more, but we beg to disagree. Including your keyword in your Title tag is foundation-level SEO – so it’s something every business or site owner should be doing.

Even outside using it for SEO benefits, this tag provides you with an opportunity to sell your brand, product or service.

Again, you can’t just stuff your exact keyword into the title, but you can still use a variant and some synonyms for improved rankings.

Writing modern SEO title tags is part science and part copywriting, but when you get it right you will see an improvement in how your pages rank in Google. We’ve seen this across numerous sites and in numerous verticals.

Having a clickable title is just as important as getting your keyword in there, so don’t overlook that.

Google RankBrain appears to reward the most clicked search results with higher rankings, and a major aspect of that is having a title that entices the casual browser to click on your search result.

You can create clickable Title tags by using what are called modifiers.

Here’s what that might look like:

title tag ctr optimisation

Now, sit back and ask yourself which of the above would you click on first?

Yes, the second title is a little bit clickbaity, but it will outperform the first title every single time.

Should you frontload your keyword in your title tag, which basically means including your keyword at the very start of that tag?

This can work well for keyword rich inbound links – your target keyword is already in your URL so it’s automatically part of a naked link. That’s an easy SEO win for you.

Should you include your brand name in every instance of a Title tag? Here’s some interesting research on that subject.

How long should your title tag be?

As of right now it should be no more than 60 characters. You can write Titles that are much longer than that, but Google will truncate them after it hits the 60 character limit.

So, should you include your keyword in your Title tag?

Yes, this is a perfect place to include the keyword most relevant to that page, but don’t cram extra keywords in there.

Meta Description Tags

You’ll hear “experts” in SEO forums tell people that the Meta Description tag is a waste of time, and nobody uses them, so neither should you.

meta description for seo

That’s funny because we recently ran a test for a new client who had very little SEO work done on their site.

After putting together a roadmap for them, we realized their WordPress theme prevented us from implementing Title tag changes. So we went ahead with updating their Meta Descriptions while their web dev team sorted out the technical glitch.

The net result?

Each page we optimised jumped several places, including placing their site on page #1 for a desired keyword.

And that client is in the education niche.

The lesson here is to be cautious about who you take SEO advice from, especially because they don’t test their theories – they’re just spreading them around on forums so they can sound clever and earn some social currency.

How long should your Meta Descriptions be?

Google recently caused minor chaos by increasing the character count from 160 to 300 characters. Then they changed their mind again, and told all site owners that 160 characters was the max length.

Kind of, because they apparently make exceptions in some cases i.e. Meta Description tags that are 300 characters in length are acceptable in some situations.

To save you any future confusion keep your Meta Description tag length to 160 characters.

What we love about the Meta Description field is that it’s the perfect place to include a variant of your primary keyword, you have space to sell your brand, and to even include details like your telephone number.

Meta Description tags are still an important aspect of on-page SEO, but they’re only part of a larger on-page whole.

Broken Links

Broken links can be either internal links to other pages on your site, or outbound links to external pages.

Monitoring what external sites you’re linking to be can be difficult, especially because websites go offline all the time, and without warning.

Monitoring broken links to internal pages is something you should be on top of though.

The reason why you should check for broken links is that they’re bad for UX and they send the wrong signals to Google. Every time Google crawls your site and finds a broken link it’s a signal to them that something is wrong with the site.

They won’t necessarily penalise you for it, but you need to avoid having broken links on your page.

Here’s a free tool that checks for broken links on your site.

Header Tags

Otherwise known as H1/H2 tags, these have been part of on-page SEO since the very beginning.

They were originally designed to improve the typography on web pages – this was long before CSS was even a thing.

So…should you still use Hx tags as part of your on-page strategy, including putting your keyword in a H1 tag for your headline?


They’re not as powerful as they used to be, but it only takes seconds to include them, and there is a definite SEO benefit involved, no matter how minor.

The basic format is as follows:

  • H1 tag – your primary keyword
  • H2 tag – used for sub-headings and focus on long-tail keywords
  • H3 tag – sub sub-headings within large blocks of text, again with an LSI or long-tail keyword

Should you include your exact keyword in a H1 tag or a synonym/variant?

We’ve tested using a synonym – there was very little variance in how the tested pages ranked.

What most business owners don’t realize is that their site either doesn’t have or doesn’t support the use of Hx tags, so this is something you should always check.

Keyword Density

It’s almost funny to hear digital marketers and SEOs talking about keyword density because it hasn’t been a tangible SEO factor for several years.

But they’re still quite happy to take your money and then make excuses once your site is penalised or ignored by Google for trying to stuff keywords into your pages.

This is how we react when we hear alleged SEOs talking about keyword density.

We actually do a double face palm, but we prefer this image.

The latest incarnation of “keyword density” is something called TF-IDF. This stands for Term Frequency Inverse Document Frequency.

Relax, it sounds really complicated but it’s actually very simple.

TF-IDF tools research the top competitors for a given keyword, analysing content length and how often certain words appear on a page.

They then present you with a list of keywords you should think about including, and the frequency at which you should do that.

The theory is that by creating a longer and more TF-IDF focused piece of content around a keyword, that you will outrank your competitors.

Does it work?

Yes…and no.

If you have a lot of existing domain authority, then TF-IDF can give you some quick wins for low competition keywords.

But if you’re starting out with a brand new domain, then this approach is time intensive, the analysis tools are expensive, and there’s no guarantee of results.

The issue with TF-IDF is that it seems to present a “formula” to beat Google.

But rest assured, every time Google thinks it’s being manipulated it will drop the hammer on those sites with an algorithm update.

Image Optimisation

Optimising the images on your site might not seem like a big deal, but it’s still an important part of on-page SEO.

The first element of image optimisation is naming your image files, ideally to include a keyword/synonym that’s relevant to your page.

We see far too many business sites with multiple images on each page, but the file names are usually something like “image6778-small.jpg” or “company-logo.jpg”.

Google will struggle to understand how these images relate to your page, and probably won’t index them as a result.

Let’s imagine you were running a photography site, and you were reviewing a brand new Canon DSLR.

Your first image is of the camera itself, so the file name should be “canon-rebel-t6.jpg” instead of “image6778-small.jpg”. You would also rename your “company-logo.jpg” file to “dslr-reviews-logo.jpg”, for example.

Most business owners don’t realize that you can generate traffic and links just through Google Image search.

Next up are pieces of HTML code known as Alt tags.

Google understands written text remarkably well, but it’s not capable (yet) of examining an image and understanding what the content or context of the image is.

Alt tags are a way of adding descriptive text so that Google can understand how the image relates to the content on your page. An often overlooked use of Alt tags is that they’re also required by accessibility software, such as screen readers for visually impaired people.

Adding an Alt tag  to your image takes a few seconds, gives you an opportunity to include a keyword, and is basic SEO for all website owners.

It won’t have a huge impact on your rankings, but every little helps.

does pagespeed matter

Does Page Speed Matter?

Like it or not, having a website that loads slowly can impact your ability to rank in Google, so it’s not something you can ignore.

Is it a significant on-page ranking factor?

We’ve seen some evidence to support this, in that Google seems to prefer sites that load more quickly because they have a less cluttered interface. This probably has a lot to do with their mobile first index, and a drive to support mobile search.

How can you check your site’s page speed?

There are two free tools we’d recommend using:

How quickly should your homepage load to steer clear of any potential Google penalty?

Less than 3 seconds, with under 1 second being the goal.

You can achieve these targets through a combination of clean page design, a caching plug-in for your CMS (Content Management System), or even swapping to a web host that has better response times.

If your site takes 5 – 10 seconds to load right now, that’s bad from both a UX and SEO perspective.

How Many Words Do I Need?

At this stage you might be wondering how many words should be on a web page for SEO purposes?

Brian Dean’s study on this appears to be the seminal answer to the question of how long your content should be – approximately 1890 words. After all, his team examined 1,000,000 search results to arrive at their conclusion.

But there’s a problem.

You see, while Brian’s analysis is absolutely spot on in terms of how effective skyscraper content can be, it leaves out the fact that ranking on page #1 isn’t only about reaching a specific word count.

In fact, this will encourage some marketers to create pages with a certain word count, regardless of how valuable or relevant the content is to the search query it’s targeting.

Case in point are sites that can rank on the first page of Google for competitive terms, but with content that’s between 500 and 1,000 words.

Here’s an example of this.

Search term: best caviar

Here’s the word count for the top five results for that keyword:
#1 2140
#2 1910
#3 541
#4 1073
#5 905

That’s a pretty big variation in page length, yet these pages occupy the top spots in Google for what is arguably a competitive keyword. During tests we noticed some pages ranking on page #1 that contained only 93 words of text.

The real kicker is that the #3 result is the most visually appealing of the bunch. It has lots of large images, the content is well written, and you can read the entire thing in under 5 minutes…and it’s only 541 words in length.

Long-form content has its place online, but it’s not an absolute i.e. you don’t need to create 2,000 word blog posts to rank on the first page of Google.

Readability To Enhance On-Page SEO

This is yet another aspect of on-page SEO that most marketers and businesses ignore – how well the page reads.

Web searchers hate reading large blocks of text.

It’s very hard for the average person to stay completely focused on long paragraphs. The split second you lose their attention they’ll wander off to do something else.

That’s exactly why this guide is written the way it is.

Lots of white space, and a mixture of long and short sentences.

It’s not done to meet some weird formatting guide – it’s because it’s encouraged you to keep reading this far.

Pretty cool, right?

So, we’ll offer you the same advice. Write sentences that vary in length, and break up large blocks of text with images, bullet points, quotes, graphics, screenshots or whatever else works with the tone of your piece.

Adding bold or italic effects to key phrases or terms is another great way of keeping your visitors focused on your content.

Basically, the edge of your page should look like an undulating mountain range.

Or a rollercoaster, if that makes more sense.

And last, but by no means least, consider using BuzzFeed style headlines to grab the attention of the casual reader. Then use the formatting tips we’ve shared here to keep them reading.

How is this even relevant to on-page SEO?

As of right now you’ve invested at least 5 minutes of your time reading this guide.

Keeping visitors on your page for more than 3 minutes sends Google a very strong signal that you have something of value to offer them.

Or, to put it in more technical terms, creating readable content promotes long session times.

Google loves sites with long session times.

Backlinks Vs On-page

So, after reading everything we’ve shared so far you might be asking yourself “Which is more important on-page SEO or link building?”

Can you rank for low competition keywords using just on-page techniques?

Yes, given enough time you can.

But if those keywords have no transactional value then you’ve wasted your time. Some businesses get carried away with the desire to rank for keyword x, even if the traffic it generates is worthless.

That’s not a good investment of time or resources.

Backlinks are, and always will be, just as important as on-page optimisation. A truly comprehensive SEO strategy will focus on both great on-page optimisation and great off-page optimisation.

It’s the only way you can compete online these days.

Getting Results

How long does it take before on-page SEO takes effect?

That’s a pretty broad question because it depends on a number of factors, including how competitive your niche or market is, how much domain authority your site has, and how well your on-page optimisation is implemented.

On-page tests we’ve run in the past typically deliver results in about 14 days from when the changes are implemented. If you have a DA60+ domain you might see results literally overnight.


Congratulations – you’ve finished our on-page SEO blueprint.

We hope you enjoyed your journey and that we’ve opened your eyes up to what does and does not work in the world of modern SEO.

…and why it’s time to invest in SEO

The online marketing landscape is becoming more competitive with each passing day.

This is even more true if you’re relying solely on paid advertising for traffic…because the costs involved with running paid advertising campaigns seem to increase every few weeks.

In fact, PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising has become so expensive that you’re now probably looking for other options.

How Expensive Is Paid Advertising?

This isn’t just your imagination – online advertising costs have soared since 2005, and look set to continue their upward trend.

Average CPCs (Cost Per Click) in 2005, for example, were $0.38c.

average cost of ppc ads

Source: https://www.hochmanconsultants.com

By 2016 the average CPC had increased to $2.14!

average cost of ppc ads 2018

Source: https://www.hochmanconsultants.com


Even more shocking is that the cost-per-conversion in paid advertising has increased by almost 500% in a little over a decade.

The nature of paid advertising is that each platform starts out being very affordable. Then within a few years the CPC costs double and triple, forcing advertisers to move over to a new platform.

The harsh reality is that many small businesses are now finding themselves priced out of the paid advertising market, and have no idea what to do next.

We would suggest that your first step should be towards making search engine optimisation part of your overall marketing strategy.

online advertising

But…PPC Is Easy

Yes, it is.

You simply choose your keywords, create some ads and get instant traffic to your landing page.

In the good old days this speed of execution and delivery helped a lot of marketers get very wealthy almost overnight.

But the issue with PPC is that the results are transitory.

Once you switch off your ads/run out of money, then your traffic stops.

There’s no residual traffic, even if you’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars. Executing a PPC campaign is far more straightforward than learning the complexities of SEO…but with SEO you do get residual traffic.

So, the shift from PPC to SEO is of adopting a mindset of long-term growth as opposed to instant results.

But…SEO Is Dead!

You’ve probably heard this SEO myth from more “marketing experts” than you can shake a stick at.

We find this strange because both major brands and small businesses are investing increasing amounts of time and money in search engine optimisation.

The ironic thing about the “SEO is dead” myth is that the same people who spread it are the same people who sell digital ad training courses, tools and services.

It’s in their interest to whip you into a state of paralyzing fear, convincing you that you can only get results with paid advertising.

And then you find yourself taking the paid-advertising-only route…and you’re not even sure why.

SEO is most definitely evolving, but it’s nowhere close to being “dead”.

Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something.

Why Companies Choose Paid Advertising First

One theory is that Google has made SEO increasingly more difficult to “nudge” businesses towards the relative ease of paying for their traffic instead.

Why would they do that?

Probably because Google earns an estimated US$95.4 billion per year from its AdWords PPC platform.

how much money makes from Google AdWords

Google AdWords revenue…in billions.

Google is doing everything in their power to push paid ads to the top of their search results, and it has nothing to do with providing you with the best answer to your question.

It’s motivated entirely by generating profit. And there’s nothing wrong with a company wanting to generate profit.

Just understand that they’re interested in their own prosperity, and not yours.

Omnipresent Branding

One of the key benefits of paid advertising is also its Achilles Heel – presence.

You can switch your online presence on and off at will, but you’re only ever “front of mind” with online shoppers when you’re running ads, for the right keywords and at the right time.

That’s an incredibly frustrating set of tasks for any business owner to mentally juggle.

Imagine instead if a system existed where you could build an online asset, and then have that same asset send free traffic to your business for years.

That’s what SEO is – placing yourself in front of your audience at all times, regardless of your cash flow or current business setup.

Or what we like to refer to as omnipresent branding.

Google Is A Verb

Before Google there were multiple search engines, such as AltaVista, Ask Jeeves, Yahoo and many others.

But no other search engine has become part of our lexicon in the way that Google has – it officially became a verb in the Oxford Dictionary in 2006.

Nobody talks about “Yahooing” something, but everyone knows to “Google” something when they need information.

Google is a perfect example of the “omnipresent branding” we mentioned just a little while back.

The simple fact is that people default to using Google organic search when they need to research or buy something.

Nobody ever sits there and thinks, “I wonder which of these paid ads is the most relevant to me?”

PPC advertising specialists have to deal the constant struggle around most people actively ignoring ads.

It’s only when somebody has exhausted the organic search results that they might consider clicking on a paid advert instead.

Google has conducted numerous eye-tracking studies to find the “hottest” real estate on a page of search results:

seo heatmap eye tracking

Source: TravelTripper.com

What they found each time is that web searchers pay attention to the information they find at the top of the page.

And that’s exactly why Google moved their paid ads from a sidebar to where they are now.

Your potential customers and clients expect to be able to Google you, and if they can’t then they’ll simply go and find somebody else instead.

People Hate Being Sold To

No matter how much you dress up the copy used in paid ads, the net result is the same – the ad is doing its best to sell the person something.

There’s something in each of us that hates being sold to, especially when it’s done in such an overt way.

In fact, this has lead to a new phenomenon called banner blindness.

People have become so accustomed to seeing paid adverts literally everywhere online that they subconsciously tune them out.

This is what happens in real life too, like the last time you impatiently skipped past yet another YouTube ad because you wanted to see the content instead.

Are you more likely to buy from a pushy salesperson that just won’t get out of your face?

Or will you wait for the salesperson who gave you some mental space, asked if you needed help, offered impartial advice, and then left you alone?

The answer to that question is the same every single time.

Search engine optimisation – content marketing being part of that process – is also about engaging people at an emotional level.

But there’s a different outcome, because you’re not trying to directly sell to your visitors, just like the friendly, passive salesperson mentioned above.

Instead you want to engage them with your content, to share it with their friends, and become a repeat visitor to your site.

There Are No Restrictions With SEO

Certain paid advertising platforms are becoming almost puritanical in their approach to what ads they’ll display.

Facebook, for example, is becoming increasingly difficult to advertise on.

We know of one example where an author of a weight loss book was prevented from running ads that displayed his six-pack.

Facebook was absolutely fine with displaying a picture of him when he was morbidly obese, but not one of him with his shredded body.

He never got a straight answer back on this, but they suggested it had to do with “nudity” and the potential for causing offense.

Yes, that really did happen.

The Internet is full of similar tales of woe, where people with popular products or services suddenly found their PPC platform of choice no longer wanted their money.

And it’s always because of some minor update to their TOS (Terms of Service) that now bans authors from showing their six-pack. Or because they no longer support your drop-shipping business model, etc.

In situations like this a small business can see their traffic and revenue streams dry up overnight

And it’s a very short journey from there to bankruptcy.

marketing relationship building

You Can Use SEO to Build Relationships

Paid advertising campaigns – those run by professionals – want people who click ads to do one of two things:

1. Buy/signup/subscribe/download

2. Go away

No business in their right mind pays for advertising for any other reason than to generate a specific result.

That’s the cold hard truth of PPC advertising.

So, the paid advertising mindset is very different to that of SEO – you actually want your visitors to stick around, read through your content and maybe even bookmark it.

Organic search is selling people on the value of your content.

You’re reaching out to help people.

You want to build a relationship with them.

Sure, you could build a great page of content and drive paid traffic to it, but if your content is already worth that cost then Google will invariably choose to rank it…free of charge.

As you build relationships with your visitors you’re also automatically building authority and loyalty.

You become the “go to” site on your particular subject for thousands of new searches each month.

The same effect is very difficult to reproduce with paid advertising.

Become Platform Independent

Putting all your eggs in one basket is an age-old proverb, a warning against investing all your effort into one area of your life.

seo means freedom

Yet we see businesses do this all the time – focus all their time and effort on one source of traffic, and from one specific paid advertising platform.

Allowing your business to become dependent on a single marketing or traffic platform is a terrible idea.

Ask any of the thousands of former Squidoo publishers who saw years of work wiped out with one single change to the site’s TOS.

You’ve never heard of Squidoo?

That’s exactly our point, yet at the time it was a platform that many content publishers relied on for 100% of their income.

What would you do in the morning if you woke up to find that paid advertising is now banned on all social media platforms because of some new EU law?

Or what if Google decided to ditch their AdWords program because of losses incurred by YouTube?

If your business is relying on one single source of traffic for your revenue then you are literally rolling the dice on the future of your business.

SEO isn’t a single platform – it’s far more organic than that.

Even if Google were to disappear in the morning, a replacement search engine would appear. Your business would still get traffic, just from a different source.

The Internet is now an indivisible part of our culture.

There is no scenario we can foresee where organic search simply ceases to exist.

You’re Creating An Asset

Building landing pages and driving paid traffic to them is a perfectly acceptable business model.

But how would those landing pages fair if paid traffic was removed or didn’t exist?

Would they rank well in Google, or disappear to page 20, never to be seen again?

Most landing pages would suffer the latter fate, simply because they were never designed with organic search traffic in mind.

seo is an asset

Source: https://www.mainstreetroi.com

Building a website that attracts lots of search engine traffic is a tangible asset. It’s something your business can benefit from for decades to come.

And if the day ever comes that you get tired of running your business, well you then have an asset you can sell for up to 37x its monthly net income.

Unmatched Return on Investment

Let’s assume you have a marketing budget of £5,000 to spend on digital advertising.

Based on current CPC statistics, that budget would buy you roughly 2,500 paid clicks.

If you spend your entire budget within 30 days (entirely possible, by the way), then you need to keep paying to play.

Investing that same £5,000 budget in organic SEO for your business can deliver the same number of visitors you got from PPC, but for several months, or even years.

SEO is simply more cost effective than paid advertising

Here’s an example of a real SEO expert generating 15,000 organic visitors in 30 days.

ryan stewart

Getting the same number of visitors via paid advertising could cost you anywhere up to $30,000…in 30 days.

And you’d have to do that month after month, whereas with SEO your costs can be a once off event.

Even if you did invest $30,000 in organic SEO, you will still get a better deal than with paid advertising.


Because SEO tends to have what are called compounding returns.

This is a fancy way of saying that in the first month you might get 2,000 new visitors. Then in month two you get 4,000 visitors. By month three you’re at 8,000 new visitors, and by month four you’re at 16,000 new visitors.

Paid advertising simply cannot compete with organic, white hat SEO in terms of return on investment.

As long as you’re following a sensible SEO roadmap you’ll see a growing return on your investment.

This is because any website that gains Google’s “trust” tends to enjoy a snowball effect in rankings and traffic, month after month.

There is some maintenance involved, but it’s minimal when compared to the potential nightmare of juggling a massively expensive PPC campaign.

conversion rate - cro

Conversion Rates: Organic Traffic vs. Paid Traffic

This is a debate that’s gone on for a long time, with no real consensus ever coming from it. But we know this is a question you’ve probably asked before, so we wanted to do our best to answer it.

The first thing to consider here is what gets clicked on the most on a page of search results – organic links or paid ads?

According to a study conducted by Moz, “…the first 5 results account for 67.60% of all the clicks and the results from 6 to 10 account for only 3.73%.”

Even more interesting is that only about 15% of the traffic that hits that page will click on a paid ad.

So, that’s a pretty clear result in terms of the gross percentages of clicks on each.

But now the question is…how well does that visitor convert to a sale or lead once they reach the destination page?

That’s where PPC has a slight advantage because the landing page is designed with one single purpose: get the visitor to take a specific action.

Regular pages of content are rarely created with that goal in mind.

But again, the numbers are what we care about here, and other studies have shown that organic traffic converts at around 19% and PPC traffic at about 9%.

That’s a pretty huge margin.

But, let’s take it down to an even more granular level – your cost per acquisition.

When you acquire customers solely through pay-per-click advertising that comes with a recurring cost. Customers acquired through organic SEO traffic have instead what is effectively a “once off” cost.

So, let’s assume that two different companies have £2,500 to invest in advertising.

Company #1 spends it on a PPC campaign, with a CPC of £1.

Company #2 invests £2,500 in an SEO campaign based on viral content marketing.

Source: Unbounce.com


Both companies acquire 500 new customers in their first month, so they both have the same cost per acquisition of £5 per customer.

However, the following month company #1 has to spend another £2,500 on their paid advertising, whereas company #2 acquires 500 new customers from their previous SEO efforts.

By this stage company #2 is now acquiring customers for £2.50 each. By the third month their cost per acquisition is now down to £1.25 per customer, and so on.

That’s a very rough example of why you need to look deeper than just the number of clicks, and conversion rates – because if you can reduce your cost per acquisition to almost zero, then your profits are going to skyrocket as a result.

You Don’t Need To Watch The Faucet

Forgetting about your paid advertising campaigns can be a very costly experience.

The reality is that unless you’re actively monitoring your paid advertising efforts you could quite easily wind up with a bill for thousands of pounds/dollars in wasted clicks.

how to waste money on ppc ads

So, the campaign that was achieving a CPC of 40p for each keyword suddenly falls foul of a quality score change for your ads.

Without warning your clicks suddenly start to cost £1 each.

And unless you’ve set strict budgets for the campaign, the first notification you’ll get of this is when you receive an invoice for 3x or 4x what you were expecting.

This means that you need to be able to dedicate a certain amount of time and effort to managing your PPC campaign.

Not doing so could cost you tens of thousands of dollars.

What happens if you stop monitoring your SEO?

Well, your rankings might drop, but you’ll instantly notice this in your web analytics and sales conversions.

That’s still a pain, but you won’t get a bill for £10,000 just because you forgot to turn something off.

Borrowing Authority From Google

The fact that your site ranks on the first page of Google suggests to people that they can trust your business.

borrow authority from google

After all, Google is the biggest search engine on the planet, and they wouldn’t allow just any business to be on the first page of their results, right?

Without digging into the muddy moral psychology of this, the fact remains that being present in Google’s top 10 for any given keyword allows you to borrow some of their authority.

Your organic rankings in Google are basically pre-selling your business.

With paid advertising the average person knows you’ve paid money for your ad to appear where it does.

These same people also know that your site appears in organic search based on its merit, the quality of its content, and a positive user experience.

That sends people a very strong signal about how good you are at whatever you do.

Paid ads tell prospective customers that you have the money to pay for advertising. Nothing more.

People Expect It

Have you ever gone looking for a business online…only to find that they don’t have a website?

Maybe they have a Facebook page…but nothing else.

What does that tell you about them?

In reality it doesn’t tell you anything but…you’ll probably have one internal thought, “…that’s not very professional.”

The reality is that your clients expect you to not only have a website, but to be able to find it in Google using specific keywords.

Whether you like it or not, having a presence in Google is now as expected as having a Facebook/Twitter/Instagram page for your business.

The big differences here are that your website has actual value because it’s platform independent.

You own it.

You own the content, and you can guide it in whatever direction you want.

Lots of small businesses built their online presence based on getting free organic reach through their Facebook pages.

Then in 2017 these same people noticed that their organic reach on Facebook was declining. But when they asked Facebook about this they were told “…we’re just testing something.”

Then in January 2018 Facebook dropped the hammer on organic reach. Overnight small businesses saw their ability to reach customers reduced to almost nothing.

facebook organic reach drop
Source: Neil Patel.com

And what did Facebook suggest they do to counteract their lack of reach?

Yup, buy some ads on Facebook.

Funny that…almost like it was planned years ago.

Your Serious Competitors Use SEO

No business will advertise that they’re deploying a variety of SEO strategies across their website.

The reason for this is that it would send a clear signal to their competitors that they’re trying to dominate one corner of that online market.

But – and you can take our word on this – businesses of all sizes are quietly investing thousands of pounds each month in search engine optimization.

They’re investing in content created by real copywriters.

They’re hiring the very best SEOs their business can afford to.

And they gladly do all of this because they know that the ROI on this strategy can be enormous.

Major brands are doing it. Small businesses are doing it. Your competitors are doing it.

A study by Search Engine Land found that organic traffic from search engines made up almost 75% of all traffic to business sites. This is compared to just 10% of traffic generated by paid advertising for the same sample set of businesses.

And it’s not just small to medium size businesses that rely on search engine traffic to power their marketing efforts.

Not even close.

In fact, companies like Yelp, Uber and other multi-billion dollar businesses all rely predominantly on Google to send them customers via organic search.

But…SEO Is Hard!

Paid advertising is easy.

Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, there’s a very good chance you can figure out how to create a set of PPC ads that send visitors to your website.

SEO, on the other hand, means being on a continual learning curve.

You see, the SEO landscape shifts every few months, and unless you stay at least aligned with the curve, then your competitors can outrank you.

That’s why hiring an SEO agency makes more sense than taking a DIY approach. There’s nothing wrong with managing search engine optimisation internally.

But good SEO agencies live and breathe SEO.

They’re aware of the latest trends that can impact your rankings long before you’ll read about them on some random blog.

They can guide you in everything from on-page optimisation to the best way to use content marketing to drive more traffic to your site.

So, yes, SEO is hard, but only when you don’t know what you’re doing.

But when you do know what you’re doing, the results are almost always more than worth your investment in it.

It’s Never Too Late

If you were to listen to some experts you’d believe that the “golden age” of SEO was from 2001 – 2008. You could stuff pages full of keywords and rank without really trying.

Others will gush about the good old days before the Google Penguin and Panda updates, the days when you could set up a site, buy a bunch of links and rank with zero effort.

We remember those days too, but we look at them slightly differently.

The truth is that they were the bad old days.

They were the days when black hat tactics meant anyone could grab a #1 position in Google, even if their pages were nothing but badly written content covered in ads.

The funny thing is that Google would never have had to update their core algorithm if black hat SEOs hadn’t kept trying to manipulate it.

Greed is a terrible thing.

Google’s algorithm updates can be a pain to deal with. But they’ve truly leveled the playing field for businesses who are using ethical SEO strategies to promote themselves.

It’s entirely possible for a brand new site to go from zero to tens of thousands of organic visitors within a few short months.

Summing Things Up

We hope you now have a much clearer picture of why using SEO makes more sense now in light of soaring CPCs on paid advertising platforms.

There’s a lot of misunderstanding around search engine optimisation, most of it driven by people who are trying to sell you something to do with paid advertising, or email marketing, or the latest sales funnel gimmicks.

If you take nothing else away from this article then let it be this: Never put all your eggs in one basket.

Even if you’re not willing to abandon ship on paid advertising, we would encourage that you at least take a hybrid approach in your digital marketing efforts.

And we say that for the good of your business.


SEO changes incredibly quickly, and truth be told, it’s a full-time job keeping up with the constant changes.

The constantly shifting sands of SEO means there are lots of theories floating around that aren’t actually true.

It’s all too easy for business owners and marketing managers to fall prey to search engine optimisation “facts” doing the rounds in forums and Facebook groups that are wildly inaccurate.

You want to know how SEO works in 2019, but if you ask ten different people you get 10 different answers.

What worked in SEO in 2013 is often woefully ineffective today. In fact, some of these outdated optimisation strategies can actually harm your ability to rank in Google.

There are also misconceptions based on misinterpretations of how and why SEO has changed. Google’s algorithms may have gotten a lot smarter about shady backlinks, and content may be more important than ever, but backlinks still matter.

The reality is you still need an SEO strategy, but a more holistic one than you’re using right now.

In this post, I’m going to cover some of the most common SEO myths I’ve run across when talking to clients. It saddens me to hear how often prospective clients are using outdated SEO tactics that no longer work.

Here are 38 of the top SEO myths and misconceptions, fully debunked.

Myth #1: Don’t worry about SEO, just make great content.

This misconception is a very modern one. Content marketing is here to stay, and content is also important for SEO.

What Google is actually trying to do is to provide the best results for any given search query, creating a better user experience. No one wants to search for something, then fail to find anything that actually answers their questions.

Pages that rank in Google have awesome content. But there’s more to it than that. You can’t ignore SEO completely, then expect to get any organic traffic.

Now, I do want to point out that organic search traffic may not be super important for every single business out there.

There are plenty of websites that drive traffic primarily through other channels like PPC, paid Facebook ads, or display ads on other websites. But it’s probably safe to say that for most websites, focusing on SEO is definitely worthwhile.

Myth #2: “I need to use exact match keywords in my content.”

There was definitely a time when this was true, but as Google has become more sophisticated, it’s no longer an issue. Recent technical developments, like latent semantic indexing, have helped the search engine gain a better understanding of context and relevance.

While it still can’t read your content exactly as a human being could, Google can understand that, for example, “digital marketing” and “web marketing” are different terms for the same thing.

This is actually great news for content creators. It means you don’t need to shoehorn awkward keywords like “how do I remove mold from my roof” into your writing a million times. You can write more naturally, which is much better for your readers.

Myth #3: “Meta descriptions are really important for SEO.”

You know that little snippet of text underneath each link in the Google search results? That’s called a meta description.

If you don’t create a designated meta description, Google will automatically generate one from the first few sentences of your content.

You can use SEO plugins for WordPress, like Yoast and All-in-One SEO, to customise the meta description, as well as the meta title, that will show up in Google’s search results.

In the past, meta descriptions really were a ranking factor. It was important to optimise these snippets of text for your target keyword. But this actually hasn’t been true since 2009.

But, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write a good meta description. It may not matter to Google’s algorithms, but it does matter to the humans who see your website on the first page.

You should craft the meta description for people, not machines.

Myth #4: “Keyword optimisation is the most important part of SEO.”

This is another thing that used to be true, but isn’t anymore. It used to be that to win at SEO, you needed to heavily optimise for your exact target keyword. We used to do things like create separate 500-word posts or pages for similar keywords like “dentist in Bristol” versus “dental practice in Bristol,” because these really were two separate queries.

But as Google has gotten better at recognising context, keyword topics that are related to one another can still come up for searches that aren’t an exact match. This is good, because it means you can optimise for your human readers instead. You’re free to use synonyms and related terms to make the content read more naturally.

Myth #5: “Link building is no longer important for SEO.”

Link building today is a lot different from what it was like in the past, but this myth couldn’t be further from the truth. Links are still a huge part of how Google decides what sites to show on the first page.

Getting good backlinks is a time-consuming process, and it’s definitely not cheap or free. But unless you’re trying to rank for an incredibly low-competition keyword, it’s one of the most important parts of SEO

Myth #6: “More pages will help my website rank better.”

There are sites out there that rank high for their target keywords, despite having only a few pages of content. Quality is much more important than quantity when it comes to SEO.

Create pages if they add value to your site, but their mere existence isn’t going to help your site rank.

It is true that Google does favor “fresh content” and relatively recent updates. This is where your blog comes in. You don’t have to post every day but a blog is a great way to keep adding new content to your site without creating clutter.

Myth #7: “I need as much content as possible on my homepage.”

One of the big developments in SEO in the last couple of years has been a move toward longer, more in-depth content. It used to be that 500 words was the gold standard for a blog post, and we’d create quite a few articles and post frequently.

But in early 2016, Brian Dean of Backlinko found that the pages that ranked first in Google tended to be closer to 2,000 words.

This makes sense. Not only is Google better at picking up on context and intent — eliminating the need for tons of separate posts and pages for related keywords — but longer content usually provides more value.

But with all of that said, none of this means that you need to fill up your homepage with 3,000 words of text.

Think of your homepage as a doorway into the rest of your website. When someone goes there, they probably want to navigate somewhere else on your site, like the Services page or the Pricing page.

No one’s pulling up your homepage to read paragraph after paragraph of exhaustive text content.

Focus on how your users are going to approach your site. In many cases, simplicity creates a better homepage user experience.

Myth #8: “I should focus exclusively on building more links, not on creating more content.”

Both content and links are vital to SEO, but without good content, what exactly are people going to link to? You really do need to put time and resources into content creation.

Remember that Google cares more about the quality of your backlinks than the quantity. One killer link from a high authority, respected website could mean a lot more for you than dozens of links that are easy to get.

Content isn’t just for SEO, either. It’s a part of inbound marketing as a whole — this means attracting people to your site with content they want to see. Creating blog posts, web pages, social media posts, and guest posts on other websites can all help you attract potential customers and build consumer trust.

Myth #9: “I don’t need to worry about optimising my images.”

Whenever you embed an image on your website, you can optimize it for SEO by using an HTML attribute called an alt tag. Alt tags are what search engines will see, since they’re not sophisticated enough quite yet to view pictures like a human would.

Adding alt tags to your images is super simple, especially in WordPress. For example, if you’re a plumbing company and you have a stock picture of your employees on your homepage, you may want to add something like “bob’s plumbing company team” as the alt text.

Myth #10: “I don’t need to be concerned about optimising for mobile.”

There’s no way around it: optimising for mobile is a ranking factor that Google does take into account. If your site isn’t mobile friendly, it could be harmful for your SEO.

Keep in mind that people are using their smartphones and tablets more often than ever before. For some people, their phone might even be the primary way that they access the internet.

Mobile internet use overtook desktop use back in 2016, and this trend shows no signs of slowing down. Your website needs to be as easy to use on mobile as it is on a desktop or laptop computer.

If you’re not quite sure, Google offers a mobile friendly test tool that can help you figure out whether your website qualifies as “mobile friendly.”



Myth #12: “I need to manually submit my website to Google.”

If your website is brand new, you can submit your URL to Google to be indexed. But as long as your technical on-page SEO is sound, Google’s crawlers will find and index your site just fine.

Myth #13: “Having a secure website isn’t essential.”

Ever notice how some sites start with “http://”, while others start with “https://”? You may also have noticed that the latter has become increasingly common.

That little “s” basically means that the user’s connection to the website is encrypted by something called a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). This prevents anyone malicious from intercepting your data.

In September 2016, Google announced that its Chrome browser would flag websites as unsafe if they didn’t start with “https://”.

Ever pull up a website on your browser, only to get a notification page that says it might not be safe? Chances are, you clicked on the “Back to Safety” option, rather than proceeding to the website.

If your site isn’t using SSL encryption, you could end up with a higher bounce rate. The good news is that you can get an SSL certificate easily, either for free or for a small fee.

Myth #14: “The goal of SEO is to get the #1 position on the first page.”

While it’s true that getting onto the first page for your target keywords is part of the goal of SEO, it doesn’t actually matter all that much if you’re number one or not. Just being in the top ten, which display on the first page, can cause your organic search traffic to skyrocket.

Think about it: when you do a Google search, you don’t just click the first result, and nothing else. You probably open a couple different links in new tabs, to find all of the information you need.

Plus, Google’s been adding more and more features at the top of the page that help the user avoid leaving the Google Search results page at all.

You may be familiar with the Answer Box you’ll get for certain queries.

There’s also what’s colloquially known as the “map pack,” for local searches related to brick and mortar businesses.

So even if you ignore the PPC ads at the top of the page, being in the #1 slot on Page 1 doesn’t even mean that your website is the first thing on the page, or that users don’t have to scroll down to find it.

Myth #15: “SEO is something I can let my IT guys handle.”

I must admit I haven’t run into this one yet in real life, but I’ve heard about it from other SEO professionals on multiple occasions.

Because SEO is related to computers and technology, some business owners do assume that it’s a task for the same IT workers who handle their servers or fix faulty desktops in the office.

It’s actually not. Now, it is true that you’ll find freelance web designers and web developers who offer basic SEO services — mostly technical optimisation — when you hire them to create a new website for you. It also works the other way: agencies and independent consultants specialising in SEO usually also offer web development services. So there’s some overlap there.

But these things aren’t quite IT, per se. The IT contractor who fixes your frozen office laptop may know very little about SEO, and even about web development. “Computer stuff” covers a very broad range of occupations and specialities.

Myth #16: SEO just isn’t working for me, so it probably never will.

While SEO isn’t the primary source of traffic for every website, it can work in the vast majority of cases. If you’re handling your own SEO and you’re not seeing results, keep in mind that these things take time.

This is especially true if your site is brand new. Although Google has never confirmed or denied its existence, many people have experienced a phenomenon called the “Google sandbox.”

What this means is that it’s possible that Google might filter your website for the first six months or so, putting it on a sort of “probation” that can prevent you from ranking.

seo myth 16

If it’s real, the idea behind it would be to prevent spam sites that use the “rank and bank” approach. These sites use black hat tactics to rank quickly but temporarily for profitable keywords, collect their money, then rinse and repeat when Google brings down the hammer.

Even if the Google Sandbox isn’t a real phenomenon, SEO is still a long-term game. It takes time, effort, and in most cases, money. But over time, the results can be well worth the wait.

Myth #17: “Google will penalise my website for duplicate content.”

This is a really common misconception about SEO. In truth, duplicate content will never result in an outright penalty. Google has confirmed this numerous times.

What Google actually does is simply ignore and disregard duplicate content. So if you’ve plagiarised all your website’s content from elsewhere, don’t expect to rank.

But it’s perfectly natural to have a few instances of duplicate text here and there. Don’t stress about it.

If you’re not sure whether two pages are too similar to one another, try running them through Copyscape.

Myth #18: “Local SEO is just like national SEO.”

Local SEO does involve some factors and strategies that aren’t present when you’re doing a nationwide or international SEO campaign.

Simply having a website isn’t enough. You also need a verified Google+ My Business Page, one of the few instances where social media has a direct effect on SEO. With local, our big goal is generally to help get you into the “map pack” at the top, which gets the most clickthroughs and, on your end of things, the most sales.

In 2014, Google introduced a new algorithm for local search, called the Google Pigeon update.

It improved the distance and location parameters for local searches, making it more convenient for people to find services near them.

So local SEO does involve a distinct set of concerns that make it a different subset of search engine marketing than national SEO.

Myth #19: “I can have bad sites linking to me, without getting caught by Google.”

This is the type of SEO myth that can cause your traffic to dry up overnight, even if that is just temporarily.

Most Google link penalties are algorithmic, although they also issue manual penalties after your site is reviewed by humans. For that reason, it’s better to just play it safe when building links to your site.

The release of the Penguin 4.0 update changed the way Google handles “bad” backlinks, and especially their ability to detect “paid for” links.

seo myth 219

It’s now easier to recover from a penalty if you’re targeted by negative SEO, a black hat tactic where someone points spammy links at a competitor’s site.

But with that said, your own SEO strategy should stick to white hat techniques, along with the occasional “grey hat” tactic.

PR, journalist outreach, guest posts, legitimate directory links, and other white hat approaches to link building work well, and they will most likely stand the test of time.


Myth #20: “SEO services are nothing but snake oil.”

I’ve come across this one, and honestly, it kind of saddens me that scammers and spammy SEO companies have tainted people’s conception of SEO services.

There are bad SEO services out there. Those spam emails from overseas countries that offer to make you rank #1 for $150 a month are a perfect example.

There are also people out there doing freelance SEO consulting who have really good intentions, but who don’t understand modern SEO best practices nearly as well as they think they do. This happens because freelance SEO work has a low barrier to entry.

There’s no degree or certification, so anyone can label themselves an SEO specialist and start selling services to clients. This factor can complicate things quite a bit, especially if you’re using platforms like Upwork to try to find a freelance SEO consultant.

Myth #21: Blog comments are spam

This is one of those myths that started out as a rumour and gained momentum thanks to discussions in various digital marketing forums. The problem is that the same people spreading this type of misinformation never take the time to test whether or not it’s true.

Even Matt Cutts has gone on record to say that there’s nothing wrong with commenting on blogs as part of an SEO strategy…so long as you don’t spam thousands of blogs with pointless, generic comments.

Blog comments are an excellent way of generating backlinks for your site or business, while also creating business networking opportunities.

Blog comment spam is dead.

But commenting on high traffic blogs to get a backlink and some referral traffic is very much alive.


Myth #22: You don’t need to have your keywords in your domain

If you’ve been marketing online for more than a few years you’ll probably remember the days of the best-keyword-domain-in-the-world.com style of domains. The thing is that hyphenated domains worked really well back then.

Then some SEOs figured out that using exact keyword match domains could “trick” Google into ranking their websites almost overnight, and with zero backlinks required.

So, you could register the domain LG52inch3DTV.com, create a basic website, and start getting traffic from Google almost instantly.

Google then dropped the hammer on the EMD (Exact Match Domains) strategy, so 99% of SEOs abandoned the idea of using EMDs as part of their overall ranking strategy.

But having keywords in your domain is still beneficial, just don’t overdo it and only use it if it makes sense e.g. KentPlumbingServices.com, if your name happens to be Kent or you live in that area.

Will including keywords in your domain guarantee your SEO success?

No, but it won’t have any negative impact either.


Myth #23: Automated link building still works

Every time Google closes a loophole, black hat SEOs work as hard as they can to find the next gap in Google’s armour.

Automated link building does still work, but what none of the “experts” mention is whether or not it actually improves your rankings.

Here’s the answer to that: Automated link building does not improve your rankings, and even if it does the effect is so temporary that you’re basically wasting time and effort in doing it.

Google doesn’t like dishing out “Manual action” penalties, but using automated link building tools is the quickest way to make that happen.

I’d suggest using the following approach if a digital marketer offers you any type of automated link building service:


Myth #24: PageRank is still a thing

It’s not.

Google hasn’t discussed PageRank in a meaningful way since 2013. They haven’t used PageRank since they disabled it on the Google Toolbar.

Any SEO or digital marketer who still talks about PageRank might need a gentle reminder that the only people measuring it are Google themselves. And they’re not sharing that information with anyone.

That’s as much as you need to know about that particular myth.


Myth #25: Social signals are a waste of time

Will posting every single day on <insert your social network of choice> help build traffic and backlinks to your website or blog?

No. No matter how often you post.

Does Google give “brownie points” to websites or businesses that have an active social presence?

That certainly appears to be the case, so social signals do matter.

Nathan Gotch describes links from social network pages as “foundation links”, and that’s exactly how should treat them – as an integral part of your backlink profile, but nothing more than that.

Myth #26: Tool X will fix all your SEO issues

There are some truly excellent SEO tools available today, like SEMrush, Ahrefs, KWFinder, and others.

But none of them can make your search engine optimisation problems go away.

At best they can audit your website and backlink profile, providing you with a list of recommendations to work on. In fact, tools like SEMrush can generate detailed, automated reports for you showing you exactly what you need to change.

The issue faced by most people is knowing how to execute those changes.

SEO is part art and part science, so until the day some type of “Skynet” becomes self-aware, you will have to invest time and effort in keeping your SEO skills up to date.

SEO myth 26

Myth #27: Google won’t rank you #1 unless you use AdWords

It’s amazing how often I hear this during client consultations, or even from other SEOs. No doubt Google loves this rumour because it means their $10 billion a year paid advertising model gets a boost.

There is absolutely no evidence to back this myth up, and that goes for any form of PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising having a positive impact on organic search traffic.

After all, if it was that easy wouldn’t everyone be doing it?


Myth #28: All you have to do is follow Google’s rules

Search engine optimisation is one of those areas of online marketing where you need to pay more attention to what people are doing, and less attention to what they’re saying.

And that goes double for Google itself.

Following their Webmaster Guidelines reduces your risk of receiving a penalty from them to almost zero. But in the same breath, Google also advise against building backlinks, even though that’s the only way to rank your business for competitive keywords.

So, obeying the rules is the path to SEO success…to a certain extent.

The key is to keep your SEO strategies firmly out of black hat territory, and stray into grey hat tactics at your peril.


Myth #29: How quickly your site loads isn’t important

Google now focuses on UX (User Experience) as a key ranking factor, and there’s also nothing worse from a user’s perspective than having to wait for a site to load.

Data shows that the average user is willing to wait no more than 3 seconds for a site to load fully. That’s where user expectations are right now.

If your site doesn’t load quickly enough, then your visitor will bounce back to the search listings and try again.

That sends Google a very, very strong signal about the quality of the user experience when it comes to your site.

High-speed web hosting is more affordable than it ever has been, so there’s no excuse for your site to load so slowly it brings people to tears.

You can test how quickly your site loads using either GT Metrix or Google PageSpeed Insights.


Myth #30: H1, H2, H3 Tags Don’t Matter

Using “Header” tags in a structured way on a page won’t guarantee a place on the first page of Google, but they are still very relevant.

I’ve tested the impact of H1, H2 and H3 tags on ranking, and I can share that including your keywords/LSI keywords in Hx tags does have a positive impact on where your site ranks in Google.

Are Header tags a significant ranking factor?

No, they probably make up about 5% of the overall SEO picture, but they are still an important part of any SEO strategy.

Again, look at what other SEOs are doing, and not what they’re saying.


Myth #31: You can’t rank without a sitemap

This is completely untrue.

While a sitemap does help Google to better understand the structure of your site, it is not a deciding factor when it comes to where they’ll rank your site.

In fact, most smaller websites don’t need a sitemap if their site navigation is structured properly.

Larger authority or e-commerce sites will benefit from having a sitemap because it allows Google to spider their entire website very quickly, but they still won’t receive a rankings boost simply because they have a sitemap.


Myth #32: You don’t need to link to your own internal pages

Not only does it make sense to link from one page to another on your site from a visitor’s point of view, but there’s now a tangible benefit to doing this.

Internal linking has always been an important but often overlooked part of SEO, even though it basically allows you to tell Google what a specific page is about by using a an exact match keyword link to do that.

And doing this can have an impact on how individual pages rank, and you can do it almost as often as you want. Here’s Matt Cutts, former head of Webspam at Google, with an explanation…

Internal linking allows you to create what are called “Topic Clusters“, which is an ethical way of improving the search engine position of a specific page on your site.


Myth #33: Keywords in inbound anchor text doesn’t do anything

Again, this is a misunderstanding which became a rumour and is now accepted as fact.

Google rolled out a penalty to stop SEOs manipulating the search results by using keyword focused hyperlinks.

What this means is that all you used to need to get on page one of Google is a few dozen/hundred links pointing to your page with the exact keyword you want to rank for mentioned in their hyperlinks.

So, while it’s true that you should not, under any circumstances, use dozens of exact match hyperlinks pointing back to your site, you still need to have at least a few using variants of your focus keyword so that Google knows what your site is actually about.

The jury is out on exactly how many of your backlinks should be keyword focused, with some SEOs saying 1% and others saying 10%. Nathan Gotch has some great insights on what works and what doesn’t:


Myth #34: Black Hat SEO is pointless

As much as I hate to admit it, black hat SEO does work. And depending on the skill of the SEO it can work very, very well.

What you need to understand is the risk involved in using any black hat SEO strategy or technique.

Are you, for example, willing to build an online business that could be banned by Google once they figure out what loophole you exploited?

Or, would you rather invest your time and effort in white hat SEO strategies that take longer but deliver long-term results?

Black hat SEO = quick rankings and quick traffic, but Google will find and de-index your site.

It’s just a matter of time.

Myth #35: Outbound links are bad

The myth is that too many outbound links will “…leak your PageRank away”.

Again, PageRank isn’t a thing anymore, so stop worrying about it.

Might an outbound link pass some of your domain authority to the site you’re linking to? Yes, and that’s the purpose of an external link – it’s a “vote” for another website.

Google won’t penalise you for doing this. In fact, it appears that Google actually rewards websites that link out to other useful and authoritative resources.

Create your external links with two things in mind: moderation and relevance i.e. does it make sense to link to an outside reference/source from within your page, and if it is does it makes sense to link to that source more than once?


Myth #36: Guest posting is dead. RIP.

It’s true that cheap, paid guest posts are dead.

Like the ones you used to find on Fiverr, and similar platforms. Google hates any form of paid link, and the early form of guest posting was nothing more than paid link placement.

But high-quality, relevant guest posting is still an excellent way to build links to your website, even if the links are “no follow”. You should guest post if for no other reason than to generate referral traffic to your site.

You just need to avoid using exact match keywords in the hyperlinks back to your site, because that’s a signal to Google that you’re trying to manipulate their search results.

You can and should guest post to help promote your website, but take the white hat approach when doing so.


Myth #37: Dwell Time/Bounce Rate don’t matter

If you’re not familiar with the terms “dwell” or “bounce”, don’t worry.

Dwell time simply means how long a visitor stays on your site, and is usually referred to as “on-page time”.

“Bounce” is how many people come to your site, read a single page and then leave.

Google actively measures both dwell and bounce rates in relation to your site and how well it answered a searcher’s query.

If Google RankBrain notices that a lot of people hit your homepage and then bounce off it after 15 – 20 seconds, then it tells them that whatever information, product or service they found there didn’t answer their query.

Google then adjusts your search ranking based on that.

Yes, dwell time and bounce rate do matter.


Myth #38: SEO is dead

This myth gets rolled out after almost every major update to the Google algorithm – lots of SEOs and marketers running around telling people to abandon ship…and sign up for their course on PPC/Social influence/YouTube ads instead.

The only point that search engine optimisation could be considered to “dead” is when we create an artificial intelligence that can speak, read, write and interpret language as well as a human being can.

SEO is more difficult than it used to be, but that really only affects black and grey hat SEOs in any serious way. For everyone else it means focusing on long-term results and putting the hours in.

The constant Google algo updates might seem annoying, but they’ve levelled the SEO playing field in a way that makes quality not only matter, but be truly effective in earning organic traffic.

Saying Goodbye to SEO Myths

SEO is ever-changing, and over time, former truths become myths, and best practices become spammy and blackhat. If you’re not up to date, it’s easy to have a lot of misconceptions about what works and what doesn’t.

If you’re handling your own SEO for your website, the best thing you can do is educate yourself.

Fortunately, there are a ton of great resources out there that you can use to brush up on what’s current in the world of SEO.



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