The Ultimate Guide To SEO

In this article we’ll look at the basics of Search Engine Optimization also known as “SEO” for short. But first, what is SEO and why should you care? SEO is the process of optimizing your website and individual webpages so that they rank more highly in the search engine results pages of popular search engines like Google. Billions of people search for keywords in Google every day, which means that if you can get your business to rank highly for keywords related to your product, service, or other business (e.g. a marketplace like Airbnb) you can get a lot of customers / users without having to pay for ads.

Imagine for example that you own the company Airbnb. You want people searching for a place to stay when they are traveling for vacation to use Airbnb rather than a hotel. You might try to rank a page on your site for the term “best places to stay in Atlanta, Georgia”. You know that someone searching for that phrase is likely traveling to Atlanta, Georgia and if your page can show up at the top of the search results you can get a new booking for your company – Airbnb. Now imagine that you could rank for every variation of keyword when someone is looking for accommodations (e.g. best places to stay in San Francisco, California). Doing this automatically for hundreds of thousands or millions of pages is called programmatic SEO and is something we will discuss later in this article. For now, let’s discuss some of the basic principles of SEO.

Google has a few different factors it considers when deciding how to rank a website and webpages. One factor is relevancy – how relevant is the page to the search query someone types into the Google Search box. Relevancy also includes answering the question “does this page match the intent of the searcher?”. For example, if someone typed “online doctor toronto” into Google, Google would likely return relatively short-length landing pages of companies / services that allow you to see a doctor online (telehealth) rather than a longer article comparing different telehealth services or an article explaining telehealth.

The reason for this is that Google knows that the intent of the searcher is to book an appointment with a doctor, and it will therefore rewards page that allow the user to accomplish their goal as quickly as possible. The searcher wants to be able to fill out a form or calendar and book an appointment, not to get stuck on a 4,000+ word article about telehealth. If they see a 4,000+ word article and can’t find what they’re looking for — a way to book an appointment with a doctor — there’s a strong chance that the time the user spends on the page will be low. User signals like time on page can indicate to Google if the page it’s listed in its search results actually matches the intent of the searcher. For this reason it’s important to type the queries you are trying to rank for into Google yourself and to see if you can notice a pattern in the type of pages that are ranking in the top 10 results of Google, and especially in the top 3 positions so that you can model the pages on your website to have a similar format.

Another factor in ranking is authority. Authority means that not only are the individual pages on your site, as well as your overall site relevant, but they have trust signals from other sites on the internet that Google already recognizes as having high authority. For example, if you got a  link from the BBC News website, you’d immediately get a ton of authority in Google’s eyes since News sites carry extremely high authority in Google’s eyes. Additionally if you got many of these links from high authority news sites, or high authority sites in your niche you immediately get Authority / Credibility in the eyes of Google.

So we’ve covered two of the main ranking factors in the eyes of Google so far: 1. Relevance and 2. Authority. Now let’s discuss how you can boost how Google scores you across these two dimensions!

With relevance, we want to do four things:

1. Make changes on our website content to show Google that we are “relevant” to the words the searcher uses.
2. Make sure our content / pages match the search intent of the query that someone searches for.
3. Make sure that our overall website conveys to Google that it has topical authority related to all of the queries in a particular niche / for a particular topic. We want Google to know that we are a site that provides an online doctor service, not a generic news or directory site (for example) that published 1 page about how to see a doctor online. Google wouldn’t see the primary focus of the site as related to Telehealth.

4. We can also optimize the anchor text that people link to us with (e.g. our partners or people we reach out to). The anchor text is the text used for a link. In this case the anchor text would be “text used for a link”. It’s useful to have the anchor text that points to your pages be relevant to the topic of your website. To go back to our Airbnb example where we wanted to rank for “best places to stay in Atlanta, Georgia”, it would be useful to have anchor text that’s the exact keyword or close to the query we want to rank for. Some examples of strong anchor text include: “Places To Stay Atlanta Georgia”, “Best Places To Stay – Atlanta Georgia”, “best places to stay” and “best places to stay in Atlanta Georgia”. An example of how this might naturally show up on a website in a sentence is “If you’re planning to visit Atlanta, Georgia Airbnb has a list of the best places to stay”. In the last example, the anchor text only partially matches the full query “best places to stay in Atlanta, Georgia” but it’s still strong because the terms Atlanta, Georgia are in the sentence — the rest of the keywords in the sentence are in close proximity.