Google helps users to find exactly what they are looking for online. Every website owner should optimize their site in order to be placed as high up as possible in the search results. This is beneficial to the reader and customer as well as the search engine itself. Optimizing is not only about content; it also includes structural and technical aspects.Search engine optimization: basics for beginners
The topic of search engine optimization is complicated: as well as a long list of individual disciplines and measures, you will also encounter many technical terms in the field of SEO. Don’t be put off if you don’t know terms like link juice, SERPs, or backlinks, you can learn the most important SEO terms in this article.
The anchor text (also known as link text) is the clickable text of a hyperlink that is integrated into a website. An anchor text is usually highlighted and if you click on it, you will be forwarded to the target URL. The target URL and the anchor text are shown separately and the reader only sees the selected anchor text on the website, and not the URL.
The URL and anchor text are integrated into the source code like this:
<a href=‘www.anexamplewebsite.com’>anchor text</a>
In this example, the website visitor would only see the term ‘anchor text’.
In the field of SEO you distinguish between:
- branded anchor text (brand or target domain in the name)
- money anchor text (contains a money keyword)
- compound anchor text (combination of money keyword and brand)
- non-money-non-branded anchor text (doesn’t contain a brand, a company name, or money keywords. Many of these word combinations come across as more natural than money or compound anchor texts, which can seem more like advertisements. Examples: ‘read more information here’ or ‘click here’)
The word ‘backlink’ describes inbound links, which lead from website A to website B. These inbound links are important for a web presence since they have a positive influence on the search engine ranking. A backlink from a topic-relevant and trustworthy site (Google determines the quality factor) is counted as a recommendation by the search engine and increases the site’s trust value. The higher the trust value (also known as TrustRank), the more reliable Google rates the links that come from this website. A site’s backlink profile (amount and quality of links) is among the most important ranking factors for Google and other search engines and is a central point of search engine optimization.
Black hat SEO
Black hat SEO describes the unethical use of search engine optimization strategies. The term comes from the Western film genre where the villain wore a black hat and the hero, a white hat (cf. white hat SEO). This method of SEO involves ignoring the proper guidelines of search engines, such as Google or Bing. Spam practices, as well as links generally bought abroad, are used for link building. If these methods are discovered, the site will most likely be excluded from the search engine index.
A web crawler (also known as a search bot or spider) automatically browses internet sites in order to analyze them for certain criteria. The crawler operates independently and automatically repeats its assigned tasks. Search engines, such as Google, use search bots to maintain their index by listing new sites, deleting non-existing sites, and updating the ones in the index.
Duplicate content is the name given to content that is very similar or identical to that found on other websites. Duplicate content has a negative influence on the search engine ranking so it’s best to avoid it. Google prefers high-quality and unique content. If the crawler finds identical content on different sites, the site with the most recently uploaded content will be ranked lower. When optimizing for SEO, duplicate content is found and replaced.
Internal links refer visitors to different subpages of the same website. Internal linking is one of the most important instruments of search engine optimization. Useful links offer value to the reader since they help them find further information faster. It also means that the website structure is better optimized thanks to the useful links. Google has relevant quality criteria when it comes to evaluating a site. The Google bot reads the internal link structure and factors this into the ranking. Since link juice is also passed on via internal links, it’s possible to improve the ranking of subpages and category pages using it.
Keywords are certain words or phrases that describe a page’s content. In the context of search engine optimization they refer to the typical search terms that users enter into the search engine in order to find information relating to a particular topic. Websites should be optimized for certain keywords so that the search engine sees how relevant the sites are for search queries. Your site will then appear higher up in the search results.
Landing pages serve as entry points of a website and are important for marketing and advertising purposes. They are keyword-optimized for the search engine so that they appear higher in the search results when certain keywords are searched for. A landing page is similar to a digital leaflet where a product or service is sold. The main content, information, and a direct call to action should be presented in a clear and precise way.
Link building refers to the selective construction of a backlink profile. Here the quantity and quality of backlinks should be increased. Since backlinks are only external links, the optimization takes place on third party sites, rather than on yours. Collecting these evaluations for your own site is one of the most important tasks of off page search engine optimization. Google and other search engines classify backlinks as recommendations, meaning that they are a very important ranking factor.
The link juice is determined by the distribution of backlinks throughout a website. The quality (strength, reputation) of the links plays a role as well as the quantity. Link juice can be passed on from website A to website B via a link. If the source of a backlink is rated well by Google, more link juice will be brought onto the site through the inbound link.
The meta description is a short text (up to 156 characters) that describes the content of an HTML document. In one or two sentences it should describe the website’s content to the user. The meta description appears in the list of search results (SERPs) as part of the snippet beneath the title. If the webmaster doesn’t include their own description, Google will generate its own from the first few lines of the website or from the sentences that include the keywords. During optimization meta tags (consisting of meta descriptions, title tags, meta keywords) that are user-friendly as well as most frequently searched for are deposited in the header of an HTML document.
Key terms with high search volumes, and thus highly sought over, are known as money keywords (e.g. ‘buy shoes’ or ‘cheap smartphones’). Obviously most shops want to rank well for these keywords. If you appear high up in the search results list for relevant search queries, potential customers will find you more easily. Many of these keywords can give the user ideas as to what they’re looking for. The reason behind it is that if someone enters ‘buy shoes’ into the search engine, it usually means there is a transaction-orientated buying motive. The searcher knows that they want to buy shoes, but just aren’t sure where to buy them from. When it comes to search engine advertising (SEA) money keywords generally achieve a high cost per click (CPC). You should exercise caution when using money keywords as you optimize your web presence. If these are overused, you could be penalized by Google.
The nofollow attribute enables website owners to label links that they don’t want Google to index. The way to achieve this is to add the attribute rel=‘nofollow’ next to the relevant link in the HTML code. This tells the Google bot not to track the link. The attribute was first introduced in 2005 and prompted website owners to mark all links that weren’t of an editorial nature with a ‘nofollow’ tag. This also stops backlink profile manipulation (e.g. people leaving their website URLs in guest book comments), and curbs link spam. Nofollow links are now part of a natural backlink profile and are taken into consideration during an SEO analysis.
On page SEO
On page SEO (also known as on page optimization) describes all SEO measures that are directly linked to your own website. The optimization lies in the hands of the website owner and has nothing to do with any third parties. It primarily involves content alignment (keyword research) and content optimization. Structural and technical aspects are also taken into account when it comes to on page SEO.
Off page SEO
Off page SEO (also known as off page optimization) deals with all SEO measures outside of your own website. It relates to all external factors (especially backlinks) that influence the ranking of your website. Since backlink profiles are an important central ranking factor, the focus of off page efforts is on link building. Different strategies are used in the process in order to achieve the best result.
Read more on the topic of on page and off page SEO in our guidebook.
Google’s Panda update was executed in 2011. With it came a permanent change to Google’s ranking algorithm as well as the work of search engine optimization. Due to the update, many poor websites ended up with decreased rankings. Since its implementation, evaluating content quality has played a central role on top of factors such as backlink profile, bounce rate, and retention time. Whereas valuable and unique content provides more value for the reader, duplicate content and unnatural keyword stuffing is punishable. Since the update, the saying ‘content is king’ has definitely become more applicable as content quality now has an even stronger influence on the SERPs.
The penguin update consists of a series of Google algorithm updates, which took place between April 2012 and October 2014 and had a big influence on SEO analysis, just like the panda update did. Google’s aim with this update was to curb link spam and to prevent any manipulation of the search engine. An algorithm was developed that could detect unnatural site optimization (e.g. unusually quick link building, keyword stuffing, irrelevant links). Google web master guidelines prohibit these spam techniques. If you don’t conform to the guidelines, you could receive penalties and be penalized by Google.
Google penalties are sanctions that Google files against a website. These come in the form of manual as well as algorithm punishments. Breaching Google web master guidelines leads to penalties, which can include a decline in the visibility index and a lower placement in the SERPs.
SERP is the acronym for ‘search engine result page’. The user will be shown results relating to their search query on the SERPs. These results are known as snippets and contain the title, link, and meta description. The order depends on the relevance, which the search engine decides according to the different ranking factors such as user ratings, backlinks, and the retention time of the site visitor. The aim of all SEO measures is to obtain a higher position in the SERPs.
The title tag specifies the title of a website and is shown in the browser as well as in Google’s search results. The user can reach the site by clicking on the title. Short, precise, and explanatory wording is very important for a good click rate. The title tag belongs to the Google ranking factors and is taken into consideration when it comes to search engine optimization. For every single URL a unique title should be used and it is best to include the keyword at the beginning of it.
White hat SEO
White hat SEO, as you’ve probably guessed from the name, is the opposite of black hat SEO. On the contrary to black hat concepts, the guidelines are strictly adhered to and spam tactics are steered clear of. If a mix of both is used, it’s referred to a grey hat SEO and is the most often used concept when it comes to search engine optimization. Web masters principally stick to the search engine guidelines and interpret them freely, but may occasionally fall back on one or two tricks.