SEO for dummies: things you can’t ignore

Do you remember when Lycos existed? When Yahoo was a good option for Internet searches? Well, it's because of these and other names that SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and not GSO (Google Search Optimization, an acronym that has just been coined to give you an interesting introduction to this post). Nowadays, we all know that when we talk about SEO, we are talking about strategies that sites put into practice to be visible where it counts the most: among the first results of Google in the reference sectors. The most attractive site in the world won't do much good if you can't attract visitors. To generate traffic, your site must have a series of features and taking care of these particular details is what we call SEO. Here are some simple rules to keep in mind.

Optimize your site for all platforms

This means that you will need to consider users browsing from mobile platforms, such as smartphones and tablets. In some countries and market segments, in fact, users who primarily or exclusively use mobile devices now outnumber PC enthusiasts. For this reason, Google will not rank sites that are not optimized for mobile browsing. Ranking, in case you don't know it, is your best friend. Moreover, it is your Holy Grail, it is the goal of all your web design work, it is the deepest aspiration of your soul, while building a site. The ranking depends on the position that your site will occupy in Google searches made on certain keywords. If your exercise is placed on the tenth page of a Google search, you have a big problem.

The keyword is king

Once you've established that your goal is to be at the top of Google search results, the question is "what search? If for example you have a pizzeria in Milan, you have no particular interest in being at the top of the search for "stationery in Catania", which is only obvious when you have contemplated the horrors of SEO on some sites. The main tool at your disposal are keywords, to be inserted in your site pages, in your blog posts and in the appropriate fields of your CMS. Keywords are used by Google (and yes, even Bing, if you care), to understand what your site is about, because - despite appearances - Google is not an all-knowing, sentient robot that reads and remembers your embarrassing habits, but an algorithm that, to understand what you're talking about, has to count how many times you repeat the words "pizzeria", "pizza", "margherita" and "four seasons". However, Google has one thing in common with the average human reader: it notices if you're trying to make fun of it and when it does, it charges you for it. So, if you write "Ariana Grande in a bikini" as one of the keywords for your pizza shop's website and on your site there isn't really an Ariana Grande in a bikini, Google will be very disappointed and throw you into the fiftieth page of searches coming from Pakistan, because you are lying scammers trying to gain hits with sleazy idiots.

Is the neighbor's SEO always greener?

That's not true, actually: sometimes the neighbor's SEO is a disaster, but the title was pretty. It all depends on the neighbor, of course. In every semantic galaxy (pizzerias in Milan, science fiction authors, religious cults in Ohio), there are reference names, which are more famous and therefore more searched on Google (yes, I agree, even on Yahoo) and, presumably, have professionally managed sites with high ranking and excellent SEO. These will be the most relevant sites or blogs in that specific category. When a link to a site is present on another site, possibly in the same industry and with a good reputation, the ranking of that site increases. It follows that if your site is linked to one of the most important sites in your industry, your ranking will increase significantly. In this case, there is a double benefit: direct, because a site with high traffic will direct some of its users to you, and indirect, because Google will make you climb a few more positions in the search "pizzerias in Milan". How to get all these benefits? Simple: produce interesting content that others want to share through their sites. Easier said than done, of course, but it's the only really effective way to get noticed.

Be careful!

There are many ways to attract traffic to your site and not all of them are accepted in the same way by Google. I'm not saying that it's not technically possible to "mock" Google's algorithm to get a higher ranking that you don't deserve (naughty), but be careful: unless you know exactly what you're doing (and in that case why did you read an article for dummies?) you might hurt yourself. Because Google will notice you and punish you like the time you added the tag "Ariana Grande in a bikini" to your pizza with buffalo mozzarella post. Among the so-called "black hat" SEO practices, i.e., those that are considered unfair, there are some you could implement without even realizing it. Filling your posts with tags, for example by inserting all elements, even those that are remotely related to the topic of your post, is counterproductive. Limit yourself to a reasonable number of relevant tags that illustrate the most important topics covered in your post and the keywords that are truly relevant. Other techniques, such as using invisible text or fake pages to attract eyeballs, can't be accidental and risk removing you from Google search results altogether.
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