Chapter 1 – What is SEO?

It’s exciting that you have decided to take action and start moving rankings for your website.

If you already know what SEO is and why it is important for your website then you can move onto the next section. I do recommend that you take the time to read through this, no matter how advanced your SEO skills already are. It will not hurt to refresh the memory.

This chapter will help you build a foundation of SEO and give you some motivation to move on and take action. You will be confident that the changes you make to your website will have a positive impact on your rankings and organic traffic.

What is SEO?

SEO is an acronym of “search engine optimization”. It is a process that allows a person to increase their website rankings and in turn increase traffic received from the search engines like Google and Bing. SEO will allow your website to climb or fall in the organic rankings (not the paid advertising section).

You must be aware that in order to improve your rankings you must understand that your website is for the searcher (user) first and foremost. This concept goes hand in hand with rankings and what the search bots require for a top keyword plecament.

The process starts with someone search online using Google or Bing. The person will type some words into the search bar, these words are referred to as keywords and sometime search terms. If your web page/post can answer the questions the searcher needs you have a starting chance of getting indexed and placed in the results pages.

If you want any SEO campaign to pay off for you then you will take note that it’s not just good practice to have unique quality content to rank higher, it needs to be optimized for the search phrases both on-site and off-site.

What is a search engine?

A search engine uses a spider to crawl and index web pages. The words on those pages determine what search phrases (keywords) they rank for. The search spiders discover new content by following links on other web pages and from sites submitted through webmaster tools that the big search engines like Google and Bing offer.

The search engine results pages are made up of web pages, videos, images, and even PDF documents. All of these resources are discovered by the search engine crawl spiders through following other links on the internet and from using submitted content to the SERPs manually. Later on you will discover how to submit your content to be crawled and indexed by a search engine.

What are paid and organic search results?

The paid search engine placement spots are always at the top and the bottom of the page. In between the paid sections are what is known as the organic search results. This is where you can earn a placement for a particular keyword through effective on-site and off-site SEO work. The adverts in the SERPs are clearly labelled, you know which sites are paying for keyword placements.

The search engine results pages (SERPs) have a changing interface depending on the search term, some include ads, some do not, some include videos and questions and answer sections, others do not. The way the organic results pages show depends on the search term used. If the search term is shopping related then you will sometimes see an image carousel showing products related to the search, these are also paid for through advertising campaigns.

For example, if you search for “buy a laptop”, you will see an image carousel of laptops available for purchase. If you search for “roof repair York” you will see a what is known as a “local pack” consisting of local roofers in the York area. This is all set up to help the searcher get what they require as fast as possible, most times without even having to leave the SERPs.

The search engines goal is to ensure it solves your problem, this ensures you keep coming back, which in turn allows them to make money. They make money from the advertising shown in the SERPs and from ads placed on some websites too. If your site is the best knowledge base to solve a searchers problem then it will rank high, in most cases at the top.

The part of the SERPs that we are interested in is the organic section, this can be changed through clever on-site and off-site SEO tactics. This includes the local pack, the featured snippet (known as the zero result rank), and the questions section.

You should be aware that when you see very high authority sites ranking top for certain search phrases it will be very difficult to push them off. High authority health sites like WebMD and Wikipedia will always be highly placed, so pick and choose your keyword battles wisely. This is why I always state that keyword research is without doubt the most important part of SEO.

Why is SEO so important?

There are many ways to drive traffic to a website, however search engines remain and probably always will be the biggest resource and traffic driver. The organic search results will drive a lot of traffic to your website if you undertake SEO, the organic results are used by searchers a lot more than paid adverts. Why is this? It is because the organic section includes sites of trust, they have achieved a listing based on quality content and have not paid for it.

In 2011 research was conducted and discovered that from 1.4 billion search from UK citizens 94% clicked on organic search results on Google and Bing, only 6% of the time did people click on an advert. In simple terms, organic traffic is huge on mobile and desktop devices compared to PPC advertising.

SEO is a time investment, it is the only marketing option that will pay off over and over again over time. Writing a great piece of content that has been well optimized around keywords will always pay off big time, rankings will go up, traffic will increase, and it’s all completely free. With advertising you need to keep adjusting your campaigns and worst of all, you have to pay for it.

The search engine bots are improving all the time, but they still need the website owner to establish what their pages are about. Optimizing a web page correctly tells the search bots what your content is about, it will help it appear in the SERPs for selected target keywords. As there are free tools to help you discover keywords and even tell you how much a keyword is search for over a month you can establish how much a keyword is worth to your business if a top ranking is achieved.

Can I do SEO myself, or do I need to hire an agency?

If you are low on funds and are just starting out, then you can undertake basic SEO by yourself. However, SEO is an ongoing process and as your site grows you will need to keep evolving on a daily basis on-site and off-site to stay ahead. This can become very time consuming, that is where you will need more hands on deck and look into hiring an SEO agency to help things along. It really depends on your time and availability, can you give your site the time it needs to achieve a top search engine placement?

It’s god to have some basic knowledge of SEO before you hire an expert, this allows you to ask them some questions before you hire them to understand if they know what they are doing. There are many agencies out there that provide SEO service, as you would expect, they vary in quality. As a rule of thumb, pick an SEO company that has proven results, take a look through their blog to get an understanding of what they know and what they can deliver. If the SEO agency is ranking for many keywords then it’s a good yardstick that they can do it for you too.

What is White hat, grey hat, and black hat SEO?

Google has set guidelines that webmasters must follow in order to not manipulate the search results. If you follow the guidelines to the letter this is known as white hat SEO techniques, it’s main focus is on optimizing your content and promoting, you must earn backlinks and not build them yourself.

Black hat SEO and grey hat SEO are the same things, if you build backlinks yourself you fall into this category and if discovered can get your site penalized, sometimes removed from the SERPs altogether. These techniques do work, however, you have to be very careful and cover your back. Black hat and grey hat SEO includes buying backlinks, this is something that goes against Google Webmaster Guidelines.

When you select an SEO agency you must ask them how they are going to promote your website, are they going to manually build backlinks? This could completely destroy your rankings, and if your business is solely online, it could ruin your business into nothing.

How do search engines align with SEO professionals?

The search engines want to discover and index new content, it is what they crave, it is what keeps them ahead of the competition. You can go hand in hand with them, give them what they desire. Google often give out statements on social media to help SEO professionals, make sure you follow their Twitter feed for any recent algorithm changes or future algorithm changes.

You can also discover ranking SEO help and advice at the Google Search Central Help Community page. You will find crawling, indexing, and ranking help along with other useful tips relating to site security and structured data.

As you would have guessed, the alogrithm changes from search engine to search engine, however one rule remains the same, do not try and manipulate the bots in any underhand SEO tactics, like building and buying backlinks. Be focused on writing quality content that the searchers desire and constant promotion on social media to get the word out there. With that aligned your content will earn backlinks and gain traffic from the organic SERPs.

What Are The Google Webmaster Guidelines?

The very basic outline of Google Webmaster Guidelines include:

  • Help Google discover your content
  • Help Google understand your content
  • Help your visitors use your pages

Things to do to get it right:

  • Make pages/posts for the user and not the search bot.
  • Do not try and manipulate searchers.
  • Avoid tactics to improve rankings, like buying and building backlinks. Everything should evolve around improving the users experience.
  • Have in mind what makes your content unique, valuable, worthwhile. Offer something different (USP) to the rest of the sites in the results pages.
  • Monitoring your site for hacking and removing hacked content as soon as it appears.
  • Preventing and removing user-generated spam on your site.

Things that you might do that will get it wrong:

  • Use generated, or scraped content, or copied content that does not read well.
  • Build or buy backlinks.
  • Create content with few words that is not unique or original in any way.
  • Cloaking
  • Redirects – passing juice from one website to another.
  • Hidden text or links within the body content.
  • Set up affiliate pages/content without adding value
  • Stuffing keywords into content that is not relevant to the main page focus.
  • Creating pages with malicious behavior, such as phishing or installing viruses, trojans, or other badware.
  • Manipulating structured data markup.
  • Sending automated queries to Google.

What Are The Bing Webmaster Guidelines?

The very basic outline of Bing Webmaster Guidelines include:

  • Help Bing find your pages.
  • Help Bing understand your pages.
  • Help visitors use your pages/website.

Things to do to get it right:

  • Provide relevant content.
  • Have clear calls to action and have in depth content to keep the user on your site as long as possible.
  • Keep your content up to date and fresh.
  • The hosting location is also a ranking signal, very important if you are ranking for local search terms.
  • Have a fast loading and mobile friendly website that is secure.

Things that you might do that will get it wrong:

  • Cloaking, showing one version of a web page to the search bots, and another page to the visitors.
  • Avoid building links and buying backlinks.
  • Avoid social media schemes, fake social signals to game higher organic keyword placements.
  • Duplicate content that has been generated or copied from another source on the net.
  • Keyword stuffing of random words that are not related to the main core content.
  • Affiliate programs without adding any value for the searcher.
  • Malicious behavior including phishing or installing viruses, trojans, or other badware.
  • Misleading structured data markup, it must represent what is on the page.

Getting your local business listed on Google SERPs

If you have a business that operates in a local area then you can set up a Google My Business listing. To do this you will need to verify the business address, you do not need to have a website to get this. Google also has a list of guidelines for what you should and should not do when setting this up:

The very basic outline of Google My Business Guidelines include:

  • You must have a business address, this can also be your home address. You must interact with customers face-to-face at your location or at theirs.
  • You must provide honest and accurate details about your business. This includes the brand name, address, phone number, website address, business categories, hours of operation, and other features.

Things to avoid doing:

  • Use entities on your listing that your business is not eligible for.
  • Stuffing keywords into your business details, or entering a fake address.
  • Use a PO box instead of a real street address.
  • Do not add fake reviews to your listing or enter negative reviews to your competitors pages.

Go to the Google My Business Help center for more information about this.

A local business will rank for keywords that include their local search area, for example, “plumber in Northampton”. These are often less competitive and require much less work to get to the top. However, many sites will need to rank on a national or international level. We will go into more detail on this later in the guide.

How to ensure the user is satisfied?

If you follow the Google and Bing guidelines, you will be intent on making sure your visitor is fulfilled when they visit your website. This means you must deliver what the searcher requires, which of course all focuses around your target keywords. This is known as “user intent”, it is when a user searches for something, be it football tickets, a new tv, or the answer to a question.

If a person has searched for a “ring”, are they looking for a wedding ring, a rubber ring, a cock ring, or something completely different?

If you are working on an SEO project it is your task to give the users the content that they are looking for.

Here are the most used types of intent searches on the net:

  1. To Purchase: A searcher is looking to buy something and will enter a search like “buy electric wheel chair”.
  2. Seek a Brand: A searcher will be looking for a particular brand and will enter a search like “Samsung”.
  3. Get Information: A searcher is looking for some information and will enter a search like “how can I get whiter teeth”.

Obviously you will know the user intent for your keywords based on the website that you run. You can even pop your keywords into Google or Bing and discover this, do you see products for sale? Do you see a big questions section?

One of the most important parts of the keyword research phase is doing just that, you must manually search the keywords and look at the top ranked sites. This is what the search engines are looking for, you then ask yourself can you add something extra into the mix that is not only better, but unique?

By adding relevant, unique, high-quality in depth content on your website helps it rank higher, in many cases without any backlinks at all. It doesn’t matter what kind of site you run, you can always add content to your website. For example, if you run a roofing business, you can add blog posts on a regular basis on how to do “roofing” tips and tricks with actual photos of jobs you have done. This builds trust on your brand and will help convert your visitors into paying customers, so it helps Google and you.

You can’t go ahead and write content on anything, you need to have a plan. That comes as the main part of any SEO plan, it is your keyword research. This helps you understand what people search for relating to your website, then you can start writing about what people need, what people are searching for.

Understand your website road map

Every single website will have a different set up, but there is one thing you must keep in mind and will be the same for every website. This is to have your most important pages just one click away from your homepage and will be available from the main menu. These pages will be focused around your biggest search volume keywords, or your high converting keywords. Remember that some low search volume keywords convert higher than high search volume keywords as they are highly targeted to what the visitor needs.

You will determine your best keywords, write or optimize existing content, then track your rankings and traffic. You can calculate how much a keyword is worth to your website based on it’s search volume and your product/service price. This way you will know how much effort to put into each keyword, you will know the return on your investment into SEO.

A great way for any website to know that any SEO campaign is paying off is to use a chat agent on the site. These chat agents allow you to monitor your traffic, you will even see what country they are located in and where they cam from e.g Google, Bing, a social site, or somewhere else.

You will know your SEO is paying off when you get more:

  • Leads
  • Visitors
  • Sales
  • Emails
  • Downloads
  • Calls
  • Live Chat Consultations

If you have a Google My Business listing then you will know it has hit the three pack if you get more:

  • Clicks to call
  • Clicks to your website
  • Clicks for directions
  • More reviews

Higher rankings will bring you more traffic, but this will not necessarily mean more leads, visitors, downloads, sales, calls, or emails. This is why you have to target the right keywords to get this going.

Just because you learn about SEO does not mean you will make more money, you must target the right search terms for your business, you must also have a well constructed site that converts at a high rate.

SEO will get you more traffic as the rankings improve, what you do with that extra traffic is the important part to making money. There is no point in ranking high if you do not make anything from it. There are many ways to monetize your content, even if it is informational.

For example, if you run a plumbing website, you would be better to have:

  • 150 monthly visitors with 5 converting into customers. Than….
  • 3000 monthly visitors and 1 converting into a customer.

This is determined by the keywords that you target. If you are getting into SEO to drive traffic and sales, you need to select the right keywords to get it done. It helps to set your SEO targets before you start, this way SEO can be done to make it happen.

SEO is a lot more than just higher rankings and more traffic. If you have your targets set at the start you can achieve more sales/downloads too, whatever it is you need at the end to be successful.

Our guide has been developed to not only get you more traffic, but to get you more sales or sign ups etc. Many SEO experts miss out this final step, how the website performs when the traffic comes.


  1. What is SEO
  2. The Dynamics of a Search Engine
  3. Keyword Research
  4. On-Site SEO
  5. Technical SEO
  6. Off-Site SEO – Backlinks and Promotion
  7. Measuring SEO Results – Track Keyword Rankings
  8. SEO Glossary