Basics of SEO

Author: Miguel Teixeira , Raquel Nascimento
2016-03-30
Tags: SEO, Marketing, Website


When you create a website, you want to have the most page views you can get. Therefore, appearing on one of the first positions of Google's search results page is key to generate lots of free traffic to your website.

What is SEO

There are over 47 billion websites available on the Internet, an average of more than 6 pages per person. It's a lot. With these numbers, search engines needed to find a way to rank the pages in a given search result and make sure people would find useful and trustworthy information on the web. For that, they created an algorithm to rank webpages. As soon as this algorithm was created, companies tried to crack it, in order to understand how they could reach the top of the search results page. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the area of knowledge dedicated to the improvement of a website’s position in the search results page. The pages with higher SEO score, have a better position in Google's results pages. There are several rules Google uses to evaluate web pages and has put forward guidelines with best practices.

Page authority

Google created an algorithm named Page Authority to attribute a score to a webpage, and although the score of each page is kept secret by Google and other search engines, we know that:

  • This score goes from 1 to 99, being 99 the best score possible,
  • To determine page authority, Google takes into account two kinds of variables: Internal and External factors,
  • To calculate page authority they multiply the two groups of factors (Internal and External).

Through the years, information on Google’s algorithm was leaked and deducted from empiric knowledge. Nowadays there are several online services that provide you information on your page authority score. Although some of those services are pretty accurate, none of them can claim to be 100% right. We advise you to use these services, to get a sense of where your website stands, but take the data with a pinch of salt. It is absolutely paramount that you keep track of how Google looks at you, and you should do it using their webmaster tools.

Internal vs External factors

In the internal factors of a page Google tries to appraise the quality of its contents. They are divided into:

  • Speed of the page,
  • Depth of content,
  • Adherence to Google guidelines.

The external factors are exclusively related to the amount of backlinks a page has. The rationale behind it is that a good webpage is referenced by others. Backlinks are measured by the amount of times a page is referred in other pages through links. Because page authority results from the multiplication of Internal and External factors you should take both under consideration. A low score in one of them will undermine your efforts in the other factor (example: If a page has a great amount of backlinks but poor content, the result is a low page authority and vice versa).

What are Backlinks

Although all links are useful, not all of them will help your page improve its page authority score. Links from other sites are always a good source of traffic. However to add score to your page authority they must not be rel=”nofollow”. You can check this out by inspecting the element of the link:

  • A link is not useful when their reference to your page is rel=nofollow, as you can see in the picture. We can save you some time and tell you that all social media pages are rel=nofollow, and therefore useless as a backlink. This means that every share of a website page you make on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, adds nothing to your website’s page authority.
  • A backlink counts if the link is not rel=nofollow. When you inspect the element, as you can notice by observing the second picture, and the rel=”nofollow” attribute is not present then the link is adding score to the page.
baclink nofollow link baclink follow link

The better the page that references you, or the higher is the page authority, the more score it adds to your page. So, how do you find out the amount of score a link can give you? There are several providers of backlinks analysers out there that will help you make this assessment. At the moment, we rather not recommend any specific one, but we do suggest you use one.

How to get backlinks - important tips

  • The key to get high quality backlinks is to focus on getting an effective Marketing strategy to your pages, rather than using endless schemes that won't lead you far.
  • Create a blog associated with your page. For instance, if you sell doorbells the only goal of your website is to be a sales page to your product. You may have a hard time getting other pages to backlink your website. You can turn things around if you create a blog with useful information about doorbells and their importance in safety with frequent questions about them. This way the goal of your blog is to become the most significant source of information about doorbells in the web, gathering links from all websites related to the subject. Once you build a strong score on your blog you can link to your webpage, not only directing traffic, but also adding score to your webpage. If indeed your blog becomes the biggest authority in the web regarding doorbells, and your website is frequently referenced by the blog, then the top 2 pages in Google search on keywords related to doorbells will be yours.
  • Get your partners to link you from their website. Don’t forget to ask them to link to your website. This is basic and usually forgotten.
  • Get a strategy to appear on media. Doing something outside the box will be an attention grabber. The media will take interest. (example: build a statue out of doorbells).

Page speed

Does your page take more than 1.5 seconds to load? If your answer is yes, then your page is slower than recommended and you should analyse what is affecting your page speed. Your page speed can be influenced by several factors, such as:

  • Large images - optimize your images in order to reduce their size. You shouldn’t put a 5000px wide photo in a 1300px wide page, instead reduce its size to fit. Try not to exceed 200kb per photo. And if you have many photos in a page, try to go under 100Kb for each photo.
  • Unminified HTML CSS and JS files – Minification is a process used to reduce a file size, by getting rid of spaces and other useless junk. You should minify files to reduce their size.
  • High latency - your page response time can be improved by using a CDN. To find out more read this article on website performance and why you should use a CDN.

Content depth

Google values pages whose content shows:

  • Depth - A page with less than 500 words has a low evaluation by Google because is depicted as irrelevant.
  • Scannability - You should make your pages scannable. This means you need to write content having that in mind.
  • Other media - Last but not least, you should use images, videos and links on your articles as much as possible. Remember to tag your images in HTML, through alt-tag them, to provide text description accessible to search engines.

All of these aspects define what is considered as useful content by Google. To learn how to write an article for the web read here.

Google Guidelines

To optimize the information internet users search for, Google has to crawl through all webpages and score them. In that process, Google has a way of filtering all kind of webpages to find out which are legit. So they created a set of guidelines with best basic SEO practices that Google recommends. The violation of those guidelines can result in a lower page authority score or even the removal of a webpage from Googles' search results. Some of the most penalised acts from Google are:

  • Inappropriate use of syndicated content - they check if your page is using copied content. If so, your page is highly penalized and can be removed,
  • Wrong use of pages with affiliates - pages with contributors are only good if they have original reviews. Google has a way to know if a page has original comments,
  • Doorway pages - their only goal is to lead users to another page and therefore they are considered poor quality pages.

Another aspect to consider related to Google guidelines is the usability of your website, not only on desktops but also on mobiles. If you make it easy to find anything in your page, that is a sign of good usability. A page with good usability allows their users to have a good experience visiting your page. Optimized pages for mobile have a higher score by Google. Google prizes that and makes them appear on a better place in the search results page when using those devices.

More information on Google's guidelines can be found in their website. If you have a new website, you should look deep into these basic SEO Practices and make sure your pages follow them basic rules.

Google Guidelines best practices

Final remarks

The best strategy to put your website on the map is to have valuable content on your pages and trustworthy backlinks.

Our last advice on this is to have white hat SEO practices (legit and organic practices, result of an effective Marketing strategy) instead of black hat ones (i.e. buying backlinks, or anything against Google’s guidelines). These black hat SEO practices can lead to exclusion of Google's search page and it is just not worth the risk. You want to have lots of free traffic to your website, so the more you follow the rules the better your pages’ position in search results will be.

We also advise you to add your website in Google’s webmaster tools, and get access to your free search console. In here you can track the SEO performance of your pages. We advise you to read our article on how to drive traffic to your website.

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