In my early attempts to grasp this beast called organic SEO, I came across dozens of articles that talk about content, quality, unique, beautiful, you-name-it content. I call this the ‘great content’ rhetoric. Then the classical optimize-your-HTML discourse, like if you do that, you’ll beat everybody to Google’s first page, first position because they are all too dumb to figure it out and do the same thing! The more I read, the more I grew frustrated. Something, not to say many things, was/were missing. Although I knew a lot about organic SEO, thanks to these articles (of course, they deserve credit), I felt completely disoriented. That’s what I call the head and tail problem in approaching such subjects. Where is the head, the starting point, from which I am supposed to make progress towards the summit. In other words, where does the whole organic SEO journey start? The aim of this article is to point out the starting point, and give the first hints to move forward. Ideally, by the end of this article, you should have your basic SEO compass with your eyes fixed on the initial reading.
Definition of organic SEO
I suppose you know what organic SEO is. If it’s hazy, I’ll just say that it is web content targeting a given keyword with the objective of pushing it to the top of Google‘s search engine results page (SERP). Why do you have to do it? Because in Google, everything beyond the 1st SERP is virtually useless, it has no business value. People are afraid to say it or maybe I am just pessimistic, but technically and economically, that’s very bad news. Essentially, your content can measure in the thousands of pages, which put you in Google’s keyword radar for let us say a thousand keywords but if your search position for each and every one of them is above 20 (that’s Google’s 3rd SERP), you simply do not exist. You get no clicks, you make no money, and you can starve sitting on a huge pile of quasi-visible, in effect invisible, web content. Let us now go back to looking for the conceptual and technical starting point.
The starting context
The ideal staring point is a virgin web site with just its menu, some initial pages, one for each menu item and an empty blog. What else do you need? Well, a dream keyword (and its variations, or to use a more technical term, keyword permutations), the one that will make you rich, if only you can manage to push it to position #1 of Google’s page #1. What next? Something to tell you where you are? How good are you? Where is the north, the south? Some kind of control panel with a few measuring instruments, perhaps a radar.
Google Search Console: The SEO Radar
Google Search Console (GSC) provides an answer to SEO’s most fundamental parameter: position relative to a keyword. Besides, it gives a second fundamental statistic: the number of impressions or how many people have searched that keyword. The screenshot below shows GSC’s most relevant interface. It lists all the keywords present in your content that actually appear in Google’s search results. For each keyword, it lists the fundamental couple (#Impressions, Position). It also gives the number of clicks and the click-through ratio, but we said we are in the beginning of the organic SEO journey, so … no clicks yet.
Now let’s summarize the ingredients of organic SEO’s starting point:
The End of the Beginning – The SEO Capsule
Suppose your web site was a blog site on financial freedom. You want to teach others how to be financially free and build one of the world’s best financial freedom blogs. Because targeting a 2-Gram (that’s the linguistically sophisticated way of saying 2-word) can be a very ambitious goal to begin with, you’ll start with ‘financial freedom blog’ as your dream keyword KGold. This keyword should be the value assigned to the HTML <TITLE> tag of your web site’s home page. You are free to change it later, but it will serve to extract the initial fundamental search statistics from Google that are directly related to and those that revolve around this keyword.
<title>Financial freedom blog</title>
For reasons of space, I will suppose you have a sitemap for your website in which the home page and some of the related pages of the site are listed. Now, all you have to do is come back a few days later, once Google has indexed at least once your site and open the Google Search Console. Go straight ahead to the Search traffic à Search Analytics submenu, click on the ‘Queries’ radio button, check the ‘Impressions’ and ‘Position’ check boxes and verify the values for your keyword : (#Impressions, #Avg. Position). That’s it, now you know your location on Google’s search space for this keyword, the all-important initial position of an SEO keyword. We illustrate this with the following symbol in which, your initial average position is 73.5, which means you are in the 8th results page and having ‘captured’ 55 impressions. This is SO fundamental to our thinking about organic SEO, that it deserves its own term; we’ll call it SEO capsule. Remember that it only take a few SEO capsules bubbling up to Google’s first position to make you rich, I mean … financially free.
Significance of the Initial Position
What does your initial position tell you? Where does the value 7.5 come from? How does Google calculate it? While only Google himself can give a precise answer, it is very important to know that it does condense one fundamental piece of information: the competitiveness of the keyword and the amount of work needed to reach the first SERP position. However, it has an indicative value. For example, the keyword ‘Financial Freedom’ might probably yield an initial of 290.0 for position if it does appear at all. By the same token, a long tail keyword such as ‘real estate financial freedom blog’ might have an initial position of 23.3 (beginning of the 3rd page) meaning that it might need much less work and/or content at least to point your head at the bottom of page 1 (position 10, or 9.x).
The way forward
Having given you the initial ingredients, the main software tool you are going to use to perform SEO analysis (Google Search Console), and the main conceptual tool to reason about SEO optimization, the SEO capsule, we conclude by putting the capsule on the map and show you the direction forward. Below is a king of SEO positioning graph on which you can plot one or many keyword capsules and reason visually about the next step forward, the highest priority capsule, the capsule that might yield the biggest value, the one that is easiest to push to the first page, and so on and so forth:
While there is a plethora of articles on the internet about organic SEO, little has been written about a clear starting point and the minimal ingredients to start to see where you are. In this article, we defined the SEO capsule as a fundamental visual unit of reasoning about SEO optimization, as essentially distilling the technical 3-tuple (Keyword, #Impressions, #Position). Most important of all, the initial position reading of your SEO capsule on Google Search Console’s Search Analytics screen IS your healthiest starting block. Plot your target SEO capsule on an SEO positioning graph, look North-East and think about how to move forward in that direction.