The Ultimate Guide to Mastering SEO in 2017 and Beyond

SEO is one of the essential components of digital marketing. If you are just getting started with learning digital marketing, SEO might look like a very complicated concept. But in reality, SEO is very simple. There is a lot to learn in SEO, but let’s first understand the fundamentals of SEO.

Think about why you use the search engines for in the first place. You enter “keywords” in a search engine looking for something. It could be for information (news & education), entertainment (movies & music) or transaction (buying products or services).

In all the above cases, you are searching for something that you know that it exists. Search engines are just an evolved form of yellow pages. You look for products and services that you already know about. That’s why the traffic from search engines are always of higher quality.

People are searching for something and already know what they want. If they land on a site to find what they were looking for, they are highly likely to convert.

Search Vs. Display Ads

Imagine that you are selling running shoes online via digital marketing channels. If you are advertising the shoes on display ads or Facebook, the person looking at it may or may not be interested in a running shoe.

However, someone who is searching for a keyword like ‘buy running shoes’ or ‘top 10 running shoes’ on a search engine is more likely to buy a running shoe.

With search engines, you are reaching out to people who are looking for you. You are meeting them in the middle. However, with display ads (interruption ads), you are knocking on the doors of people who may or may not be interested in what you have to sell.

Analogy: Imagine search engine like being a big marketplace, and the internet user who uses the search engine is like the guy walking into the marketplace and looking for what he wants. However, display ads are like door-to-door salespeople knocking at different doors to try to sell something. The buyers are not interested, and they did not welcome the salesman.

Buyer intent is clearly expressed in search engines compared to any other digital medium. That’s why SEO and SEM are one of the most essential components of digital marketing. And Google has the lion’s share of the search engine market.

What does a Search Engine or Google Want?

You want free traffic from Google. You want your articles to be ranked high in the search engines. That’s what you want. But Google is not in the business of sending free traffic to your websites. They are in the business of running a search engine and making revenue from the ads!

The only way to get good search rankings for your web pages is to think about what Google wants and give it to them. If you help other people get what they want, there is a high chance that you will get what you want. 🙂

A search engine like Google wants internet users to use their search engine frequently. And they can achieve that only be delivering quality and relevant results. (Who uses Yahoo or Bing anymore? We don’t use it because Google gives us better results).

So that’s what Google wants. But Google needs your help in delivering high-quality results. Because Google doesn’t create all the content in the world by themselves. They need your help in creating content. You are the content producer. If you create good quality content, then Google can help you market it. It would be a win-win.

Ideally, Google would want to review each and every page on the internet manually and rank them on the search engine result pages, for every keyword, based on the quality and relevancy. But the internet is too large, and there are hundreds of millions of pages.

So they have built an algorithm that automates this process. The algorithm checks each page for quality and relevancy and then ranks it accordingly. The algorithm is the core of the search engine. It mimics human intelligence, and that’s their greatest asset.

For Google’s algorithm to decide which pages are useful and which pages are not, they need signals. What signals? Quality and Relevancy signals! Who sends those signals? Your website users and you, the website owner (webmaster).

Two Important SEO Factors: Quality and Relevancy

When you think about search engine results, there are two important factors involved in it. One is quality, and the other is relevancy.

Quality: If you are searching for “top 10 laptops” and if there are 50 websites who have written articles about top laptops in the market, you would want the highest quality result to appear on the top. You might not want to read lower quality articles.

Relevancy: If you are searching for “top 10 laptops” and if the search engine shows results for “top 10 mobile phones”, the result will not be useful for you even if the page about the top 10 mobile phones is of superb quality. It is not relevant to you and hence not useful to you.

So the results have to be both of high quality and high relevancy. Otherwise, it will not be useful to the internet users. Quality signals are sent mostly by the web users based on their behavior, and we call it off-page SEO. Relevancy signals are mostly sent to Google by Webmasters, and we call it on-page SEO.

User Signals (Off-Page SEO)

Search engines track user behavior on a site to try to find out the quality and the relevance of the website and the pages inside it. There are many user signals recorded by the search engines, but the major ones are obvious.

Primary User Signals:

  • If a user finds an article useful and relevant, he will share it on social media. (Social Signals)
  • He may link to the article from his blog or a discussion forum. (Backlinks)
  • He will spend a lot of time on the page reading the article. (Time spent on site)
  • He will not hit the back button on the browser after clicking on your link in the search engine results. (Low bounce rate)

Off-page optimization is done by your users by communicating these signals to Google. These signals are predominantly signals of quality but have relevancy signals too. User signals are not under your control.

Webmaster Signals (On-Page SEO)

Google also wants signals from webmasters (website owners) about the type of content that is available on our websites. These signals are predominantly relevancy signals than quality signals. Because every webmaster would claim that their content is of the best quality!

Webmaster Signals:

  • Title of the page and website as a whole
  • Meta description of the pages
  • Images and image alt tags on the pages

SEO Factors that Webmasters can Control

Apart from sending relevancy signals, there are other things that webmasters can do to improve their website’s search friendliness. Here are some of the major ones.

  • Give a good user experience (make it mobile friendly, easy to read)
  • Have a good hosting and high page load speed
  • Help users navigate through the site in the best way possible

Once you have got these SEO basics right, you can master SEO. Tactics and strategies to achieve the above will keep changing over time.

SEO Fundamentals Do Not Change, Ever

Any new SEO technique that comes up will fit into the above framework. All you need to do is check if it helps your users and the search engines and if it is a yes, you can go ahead with it. That’s the only long term SEO strategy that you can have.

For example, the latest trend in SEO is AMP (accelerated mobile pages), but it is just another factor that helps with good user experience. Internet users would like to get the web pages fast and not wait for it.

Many webmasters try to game the system by bending the rules. For example, webmasters may try to send false user signals of quality and relevancy. Such practices are termed as ‘black hat’ SEO. They may build backlinks themselves instead of earning links organically. They may boost fake social shares.

With such practices, some webmasters may get results in the short-term, but in the end, if you have to win the SEO game forever, you have to make it a win-win-win situation for your users, the search engines and yourself.

Now that we have discussed the fundamentals of SEO, let’s start looking at methods to optimize your website for the search engines. We will discuss both off-page and on-page SEO methods and we will start from the most important to the least important factor.

On-page SEO Factors

We will start with on-page SEO factors because when you start a new website or blog, you start with on-page SEO. There is nothing you can do in off-page if you don’t have a page in the first place.

Page Load Speed

Page load speed is a very important factor in SEO. When people search for keywords in the search engine and when they click on a link, they want the page to load fast. While a page like Google’s home page will load very fast because there is hardly any content there, a page from my blog will take a few seconds to load.

You have to strike a balance between content and page load speed. A very high page load speed is good but you should not sacrifice on content. Some elements take some time to load on my blog, such as the exit popup or the chat module, but they also help me collect email IDs on my blog and help me grow my subscriber base, so I cannot ignore them.

Page load speed can be checked online from a few reputable tools. Here are the top 3

One of the pages on my blog tested with page speed insights gave the following results.

Google also gives you suggestion on where you need to improve. Many of the answers may be technical for you, they are best solved by going with a good web-hosting solution.

The following factors impact page load speed:

1. Your Web Hosting

Your web-hosting company plays a major role in page load speed. Most of the bloggers use WordPress and it a heavy content management system. Your hosting should be capable of handling it. Basic hosting services at the range of $10-$15 a month use shared hosting (meaning they will hosting 100s of sites on a single server).

Such hosting will not give good speeds. Managed WordPress hosting services are the best for mid-stage bloggers. If your blog starts getting more than 5,000 sessions per day you should get a VPS or a Dedicated Server to ensure maximum page load speed. Some bloggers use managed WordPress hosting even at high traffic levels but the costs will also be high.

One more factor to note: you should use a caching plugin to speed up your WordPress blog. I use W3 Total Cache. If you use a managed WP hosting solution, they will configure it for you.

2. The Size of The Page

The size of your web page in MBs should be as low as possible while delivering maximum content. You can find out the size of a page from your browser. You can also find out the heaviest elements of your website.

If you are using Google Chrome browser, right-click on the page and click on inspect element. Then click on network. Go to the refresh button on the page, right-click on it and click on Empty Cache and Hard Reload. You will see this option only when you have the inspect element window open. 

You can see that this very page is 1.3mb in size and loads in 6.82 seconds. This varies based on the speed of your internet connection as well, so this load time is not the same for everyone. You can also sort the elements on your web-page to determine which elements are the heaviest.

Usually, images take up a lot of size and you should try to compress the images before you upload them to your page. There is a WordPress plugin called WP Smush which helps in compressing the images automatically as you upload them on your WordPress blog.

You can also use TinyPNG.com which helps you compress images online. Screenshots can usually become unnecessarily heavy and you can compress them with TinyPNG.

The above screenshot was compressed using TinyPNG and you can see that I reduced the size by 72% from 160kb to 44kb!

3. Content Management System

Your content management system plays a role in page load speed. If you want the highest speed then a simple HTML page would work best. However, you cannot manage a blog by creating HTML pages yourself. If you are planning on having a static site, then plain HTML pages hosted on Amazon S3 servers would be the best choice.

Title, Description, URL and Content

The title, meta description and the content on the page play a major role in ranking your web pages on the top. When someone is searching for a keyword, your website’s title and description have to match what the internet user is searching for.

In the above screenshot you can see that if someone is searching for “Google AdWords Certified”, my blog is showing up with a similar title.

When the search keywords and the page title match, it leads to higher CTR. As discussed before in this article, it is a sign of high relevance. And relevancy is linked to on-page SEO.

You can see that the URL and the meta description (the 2 line description below the URL) also plays a role here. The keywords also get bolded in the description to show the search engine user that the content is same as the searched keyword.

The Power of Content

After title, URL and meta description (which appears on the SERPs – search result pages), the next important component is the content itself. The page content is more important than the title, URL and description because we are not always targeting a single keyword.

50% or more of all the keywords searched on the search engines are new. Since people’s thoughts are unique, the keywords are very varied. Everyone will search for the same thing a little differently. Search engines will try to match these keywords with the content on the page and rank it accordingly.

When you look at the search term report on Google AdWords or the keywords on the search console, you will see that they way people search are very varied.

Here’s one example from my search console. 41 visitors have come in the past 30 days with the keyword ‘Google AdWords Certification Cost’.

Though the title doesn’t contain this keyword, I had mentioned somewhere in the article that the certification is free and doesn’t cost anything. So when someone searched specifically about the cost, Google brought up my article!

In such cases, the meta description also changes based on the keyword that an internet user is searching for. Here you can see that the search engine has picked up some content from my page and added it to the meta description by overriding my default meta description.

The words that match with the search keyword has also been bolded so that the internet user knows that it is relevant for him/her.

So you have to keep in mind that it is not always about the primary keyword. There are a lot of auxiliary long-tail keywords around the main content that you publish and you will attract search traffic for those keywords.

When I did some in-depth analysis of the traffic that I got to my blog from the various keywords using the search console, I discovered that I received more than 50% of the traffic from the auxiliary and long-tail keywords than the main keywords that I was targeting.

This is where the power of content marketing really kicks in. The more content you have, the higher are the chances for keywords matching with your content, and it will lead to more search traffic. (However, also keep in mind that you should create content only when there is a demand for it).

Search engines are getting smarter by the day and include a lot of complex algorithms to find out if your content will be useful for the people searching for it. The content on your page is by far the most important on-page SEO factor!

More on-page SEO factors and other off-page SEO factors will be updated here soon.

Conclusion

I hope this post helped you understand the fundamentals of SEO. Once you get the basics right and make sure that you are in a win-win game with the search engines, you would never need to worry about another algorithm update from the search engines. If there is an update, it would only help you get better rankings and more traffic! 🙂

In the future lessons, articles, and courses we will discuss how to master the SEO game. I will also keep this post updated with new SEO concepts once in a while.

More SEO Topics

  • Keyword Research – finding out what users are searching for
  • Local SEO – How to get results based on location and geography
  • Rich Snippets & Schema markups – adding additional information such as price, ratings etc in the search results
  • Using Google Search Console to monitor the SEO health of your websites
  • Advanced On-page and off-page SEO
  • Video SEO and other media types that enhance SEO
  • Advanced SEO Tools that give you insights for ranking better (Moz, Ahrefs etc.)

Stay tuned for more SEO lessons in the near future.

Have questions? Leave a comment below 🙂

122 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Mastering SEO in 2017 and Beyond”

  1. Thanks a ton Deepak for publishing another awesome post here.

    I liked your way of mentioning the Off-Page SEO and On-Page SEO here as User Signal and Webmaster Signal, very much.

    I think it is a unique point of view about these two kinds of SEO.

    Keep great works up.

    Cheers.

    Subhabrata.

  2. Thanks Deepak for such precious tips to improve SEO. I like the tips you have mentioned. I would be in touch in case of any issue. Hope you will assist me?

  3. Really awesome post sir.

    It helps me a lot!

    With help of your free digital marketing course, I have learnt a lot and recently started one website for digital marketing practice. Please check my site once.
    http://gosearchle.com/

    Presently I am doing SEO and SEM for this website…

    Any suggestions or advice on this to improve traffic will be more helpful to me.

  4. Thanks for Providing the Great info really you are best on Digital Marketing. I liked your way of mention the digital marketing tips here as User Signal and Webmaster Signal, very much. I think it is a unique point of view about the digital marketing tips. Keep great works up.

  5. Hi deepak, have you been to Edupristine digital marketing training or their training orientatation session before??
    You write just very similar to them even experience is also same.
    Well i must say well written and explained. Thanks for helping people like me to learn and apply.
    Good luck!

  6. Hello Deepak Sir,

    Thank you so much for sharing very important and valuable information. I Create a blog/website learning from your free course. The name of my website is http://www.playtofitness.com . I learn lots of things from your and future as well. Keep Sharing.

    One more thing I am very excited to get that Digital Deepak Certificate from you 🙂

  7. Thanks Deepak,

    Valuable information to the people who want to excel their career in the digital marketing especially SEO & SEM. I am also one of the aspirants in this field. While reading this article, few questions arrived in my mind. I would be obliged if you can help me in them.

    1. How to use If function
    2. How to improve quality score
    3. How to use location extension

    Hoping for Answer

    • These answers are there in my advanced adwords course. They are big answers and I can’t answer them here 🙂

  8. Thank you Deepakji for posting most useful information. Is there any specific strategy to get good Alexa Rank? Can you please post an article on the importance of alexa rank & best strategy for that?

  9. Hi Deepak,
    Thanks so much for the favour you are doing by introducing me to the world of digital marketing that too for free :)..thanks.
    BTW, have a question.
    What if the two different webmasters selling same product, have understood the technique of SEO and other Digital Marketing modules/components very well and implemented it for their respective websites. Off and On page SEO is also optimal, whose website would be displayed by the search engine ..first?
    Regards
    Raj – HyderabadSpecial.com

  10. Thanks a lot sir,
    I just subscribe to your free digital marketing course and get to know about you. You are an inspiration for many aspirants seeking their future in digital marketing. And i also going to shift my career into this.
    Sir want to meet you personally.further i have some queries.

  11. Sir,
    Thanks for your SEO post. I am looking for more information about SEO. If possible, make SEO tutorial also.
    I have made a new website. Can you please tell me the free WordPress SEO friendly theme which has fast loading speed?

    I will wait for your next SEO post.

  12. Dear Mr. Deepak,
    Very informative & thought provoking article.
    Organic way to improve visibility of website !

    With SME giving instant ( but temporary) results, sometimes we get
    confused on the optimisation ratio for SEO/SEM.

    Though your article gave good insight for SEO.

    Regards

  13. Thanks Deepak for such a valuable post i am a learner and i follow your every post and very helpful for learners would like to know about sachemas rich snippet and AMP.

  14. Deepak ji,

    Nice to hear from you once again. Sir I have also hired someone for SEO for my e-commerce website, but a question arises in my mind that how a unknown person can observe the guy that he is on the right track and is he fulfilling the promises which he has made?
    Could you please help me to track? My mail id baghel.sunil@gmail.com

  15. Thanks Deepak, great post! There are not many marketers out there who can explain digital strategies to beginners in the same easy-to-follow way that you do. I like that you simplify your explanations and build up to more complex strategy from there.

    I’m looking forward to reading your next lessons on SEO.

  16. thank you so much sir, as a beginner its really helps alot but i want a whole detailed tour of it as you give us in google adword ( paid one ). your content is really valuable for us or kindly send me the link if you are ready with that particular session right now .

    thank you sir hope you get me back soon .
    thanks alot

  17. Awesome article sir. I have just started my career as a SEO Analyst and will be very glad to get such awesome tips from you.

  18. Great article deepak. It sets the basics right for digital marketers.

    Looking forward to your next writeup on digital marketing.

    Warm regards
    Rajinder

  19. Very motivateing and relative content for SEO….I m looking forward to get indepth knowledge on SEO ….hope you also give a course on SEO very soon …kindly update me when ever you are going to provide us paid SEO course ,i really needs it .
    thank you sir very soon get my related content .thanks

  20. Hello Deepak,
    Thanks for sharing the valuable information about The Ultimate Guide to Mastering SEO in 2017 and Beyond.Great list of blogs for motivating people. Appreciate you share.

  21. Such a good information. It reallly help everyone to get better results. Keep posting such post. Thanks for sharing. May i ask you something ? Currently i m handling Australian Projects for 1 months and these projects have bad ranking how can i improve this?

  22. Thanks fir this free valuable knowledge. I have just started & really happy that I understood everything of the topic. I will continue with the same enthu. Thanks again Deepak Sir.

  23. Hello Deepak,

    Your articles always bring a lot of information in digital marketing. Bookmarked this SEO Guide. Eagerly waiting for the SEO Course.

    SEO on Social Media

    Thanks

    Vishal

  24. Hello Deepak,

    The article is very nice, and easily understanding all kind of people.

    Thank you very much for sharing such nice information.

    Thanks,
    Prashanth

  25. Thanks for this article and other valuable lessons. Only an experienced person can teach you this type of knowledge, not some books
    Thanks a lot, !!
    Regards,
    Anupras

  26. Hello Dipakji,
    I am new to this concept but I am liking it and trying to follow it in my upcoming website. Thanks for sharing this post.

  27. You are, I dare say, just a wonder digikid. Many may not have gotten what I meant by this new word coined by me just now, not even me. But I hope you got what I meant. May you have grand success in your endeavour.

  28. Hi Deepak,
    Much thanks for these deep insights. Can you advise how bloggers make money directly through their blogs?
    Regards
    Daniel

  29. Thank you so much, sir, for this valuable information article.
    I am commerce Student i read ur blog this guidence help me to start blogging.
    Can you please check my recently started blog on entertainment. https://funnewz.com To guide me
    And tell me what improvements I should do.

  30. Hai sir Usefull contwnt and iam new to seo and iam intrested to make carrer in digitalmarketing can you please give information about making keywords for site and how to know the sites which give us good ranking and which site will make rankings down

  31. Thank you deepak sir, for this deeply exlained article, i have also learned from you a free digital marketing course and it helps me so much, my website almost ranked high in google. thank you again.

  32. Sir,
    Thank you for this post. I started learning digital marketing through your free DM videos and now i have started my own website on song lyrics mp3songsweb.com.
    Sir one thing i want to know is that what all off page SEO techniques should i be using as Off Page SEO techniques are not elaborated in your article.
    It would be a great help sir.
    Thank you and keep inspiring people like me.

  33. Thanks Deepak for sharing this wonderful article with us. I have following all of your posts quite closely. Now I would like to add points in your case study as SEO and generating backlinks are evolving rapidly. So the point is having tons of irrelevant backlinks won’t work for you, in any case, quality matters above quaintly all the time in SEO. So those who are looking for creating backlinks are advised to get your backlinks from all the top web 2.0 sites. That will help you.

  34. Hello Deepak Sir,

    Hope you are doing well !
    Have heard about your page through my friend when I was hunting for guidelines in this domain. Following your vblogs has given me an inspiration to come up with something different that has a market value.

    To start with it, SEO optimized content will be very important.
    Do I need to look at Google trends for the specific keyword and then go ahead ? It would be great if you may guide me as how should I go about it.
    Looking forward to hear from you.

    Thanks and Regards
    Shivangi

  35. Hello Deepak Sir,

    It’s been worth the read. I am so much enlightened by the concept of SEO after reading your blog. It’s been a great help for. Please also write on other fields of DM. Your concept is so clear and you explain it so well through your words.
    Thank you so much for this blog and helping people like me to clear the SEO concepts. Looking forward for more blogs on DM from you.

  36. I have been reading your blogs Deepak and following your tips for my projects …can you tell about best offpage activities that is going to increase traffic?? And what actual quantity of offpage should we do??

  37. Beautifully written Deepak!

    We look at the SEO from one perspective that is to gain most of the things from search engines. However strong and qualitative content along with proper SEO techniques can only help the website to reach the vast audience. Hence main focus should be on content. Post creating content you should optimize it for search engines but keeping your end-users in mind.

  38. Hello Deepak Sir, I am happy to get in-depth knowledge about SEO but I am happy if you can help me to share your knowledge in Local SEO.

    Here is my query

    I have been working on a client website for last 2 years and we are on top rank on Organic Results as well as in Google Map Results but unfortunately, at present, we are nowhere in Google Map result and still rank on Organic Results.

    I discuss with Google Expert and they told me, our listing is absolutely perfect you just need to increase your Map URL traffic.

    Please guide how to do that and how to get our ranking back on Google Map.

    Waiting for your reply.

    Regards,
    Nirav Patel

  39. Thanks a tonn for comprehensive guide !!
    Can you please consider writing similar guide on Double-click which will help to understand paid advertisements.

  40. Hello,
    I am an emergent digital marketer. Your blog is really informative. Can you please suggest- How bloggers make money through blogs?
    Thanks for sharing valuable information.

  41. Nicely explained the things very deeply, I have a domain name http://www.aksharaconcept.com,
    I found you 100 days video course and these articles are more than enough to start with
    a user does not need to go for other help if everyone is concentrating on your courses and blogs
    then nobody can stop them to succeed, I am really a fan of you from now.

  42. Really great information Deepak Sir! I was searching for in-depth SEO tutorial from a long time. Your article cleared my all doubts on this game of Ranking blogs. Thanks a lot for this… Waiting for new updates

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