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10 Crucial SEO Ranking Factors You Need To Know In 2022

SEO requirements keep changing and it can be difficult to keep up with the latest developments. But if you want your Google ranking to go from invisible to top of the list, you need to be aware.

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Well-optimized sites get more and more traffic over time, which means more leads and sales. Without SEO, searchers won't be able to find your site, and all your work will be for nothing.

In this guide, optinmonster attempts to answer the question “what does SEO mean” and share the essential SEO ranking factors you need to dominate search results.

By the end of this post, you will have a well-optimized site that will bring you more business.

What are the most important SEO ranking factors?

Recommended Resource: Need More Website Traffic? Learn how to rank #1 on Google with our ultimate guide to SEO.

At the very end of this article, we will finally answer the question that plagues most beginner SEO learners: which is more important, pleasing Google or pleasing my audience?

Before we get into the details of each ranking factor, let's take a look at the basics of how search engine rankings work.

Understanding SEO or “How can I rank higher on Google?”
Many people wonder how Google rankings work. So, before we get into the actual search engine ranking factors, let's start by answering some of the basic questions most people have about SEO.

What is “ranking” in SEO?

As you may know, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization , which simply means that web pages are more likely to be ranked on a search engine. But let's be honest: at this point, it really just means Google.

And how does it work exactly? Let's break it down.

In SEO, ranking refers to the position of your content on search engine results pages (SERPs). A #1 ranking means that when people search for a particular term, your web page is the top result (outside of promoted results, rich snippets , and answer boxes, which we'll discuss later in this guide).

Appearing in the top 3 results is great because your click-through rates skyrocket the closer you get to #1, as seen in the image provided by Backlinko below:

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Appearing on the first page, in the top 10 results, is also helpful. This is because 95% of people never make it past the first page.

Hence the famous joke in the world of Google SEO: what is the best place to hide a corpse?

On page 2 of Google.

What is Google looking for in SEO?

Google's stated goal is "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." Providing relevant search results is a huge part of that. Here's how they work:

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First, Google's search bots (automated software called "spiders") crawl the web. It sounds scary, we know. But all of this means that they are visiting web pages.

Second, they add properly optimized and crawlable pages to Google's index and catalog them.

Third, when people search Google, it shows what they think are the most relevant results based on the search terms they enter (among the billions of pages in Google's index).

Google has various and deeply complex algorithms to decide what content will be displayed and in what order. But we'll get to all that fun stuff later.

Once your page lands on the SERP, however, you have to rely on your page titles and meta descriptions to entice searchers to click your link and visit your site.

How do Google search rankings work?

When people want to find information, they type or say words related to what they are looking for. These are called keywords, and we'll look at them in the content optimization section of this guide.

But keeping your website ranking on Google isn't just about getting the most out of competitive keywords. It is also a question of the quality of information.

According to Google's own search quality ratings, when it indexes the main content of each page, it checks for factors such as:

  • Purpose of the page
  • Quality and quantity of content
  • Website Information and Content Creator Information
  • Website Reputation and Content Creator Reputation
  • User interaction with the page (time on page, bounce rate, etc.)
  • Expertise, Authority and Reliability (EAT)

In a moment, we will explore the latter (EAT) in more detail because it has become very important.
For now, it's enough to know that all of the factors listed above go into Google's algorithm and help determine SEO rankings.

Based on the scoring guidelines above, Google shows searchers the most relevant, high-quality results related to what they're looking for. The most relevant are displayed first, the others being displayed on successive pages.

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One of the purposes of considering SEO ranking factors is to let Google know when your pages on your site are relevant to particular search queries, so that users click on the links and visit your site.

Before we get into two different types of SEO, let's explore the concept of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness in more detail.

What is EAT and why is it important?

In August 2018, Google rolled out the "Medical Update", which emphasized Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness (EAT) as primary ranking factors. They even changed some cases of “ high quality content” to “high EAT”.

The goal of this change was to ensure that users were not only getting the highest quality content, but also getting the right information from that content. And that's super important to understand.

Google has realized that most searchers come to their platform for just about anything. This means that the life of their users could be seriously affected, if the bad results appear.

Websites that could lead to potentially life-changing results fall under the “your money or your life” (YMYL) umbrella. Think of medical sites, financial planning sites, or anything that could change a person's state of happiness, health, and wealth.

When someone goes to Google for information that could have real consequences, Google wants to be sure to provide its users with the most accurate information possible.

This includes evaluating not only the content of a page, but also the reputation of the creator.

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So instead of just focusing on what a site's page is saying, Google is now trying to figure out who's saying it. This is especially true for YMYL sites.

This means looking at each category individually:

  • Expertise: Does the content author have the required skills and knowledge in their field?
  • Authority: Is this the best source to answer the researcher's question, or is there another "go-to" person who would be a better source?
  • Reliability: Does the author provide an honest and unbiased presentation of the subject matter in their content?

But what is Google's exact formula for measuring EATS? Well, that's the tricky part.

No one outside of Google really knows.

We do know, however, that they have a large team of human researchers to ensure EAT is measured as accurately as possible. As Ahrefs explains, Google measures EAT in three steps:

  • Engineers create an algorithm to improve search results
  • Quality raters (human searchers) see search results with and without changes made by engineers
  • Google takes feedback from quality raters into account when deciding whether to use the algorithm permanently

It's still not a perfect system. But it's surprisingly accurate for measuring a site's expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.

Now, some SEO-ers are downplaying the importance of EAT as a ranking factor. And it's hard to actually argue with them because, again, no one really understands Google's complex ranking algorithm.

That said, some very reputable people have documented strong correlations with EAT and ranking.

SEO expert Marie Haynes, CEO of Marie Haynes Consulting (MHC), sheds light on how EAT affects rankings:

"The MHC team has seen a number of websites that we believe have been negatively impacted by Google Quality updates because they lack EAT. We have also had the joy of helping companies improve their Google EAT with the resulting increase in traffic.”

Ok, but what does this mean for you and how can you increase your EAT? Here are some helpful tips:

  • Create a detailed “About Us” page on your site
  • Optimize your page for searcher intent (which we'll cover later)
  • Proudly display any awards, certificates or credentials on your site
  • Build your authority on the web with guest posts
  • Respond to positive and negative reviews
  • Keep all information on your page as unbiased and accurate as possible
  • Provide an easily accessible contact page with different ways your users can reach you or your team

These are all ways people can increase their EAT for higher rankings. And, honestly, a lot of it comes down to using best practices to manage your online reputation .

Let's be clear, though: there's never a guarantee of a first page or top ranking, and with SEO guidelines changing all the time, search engine rankings change with them.

But now, let's better understand some SEO terms that you will hear a lot in the marketing world.

What is On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO?

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Two terms you will hear a lot about SEO ranking factors are on-page SEO and off-page SEO.

On-page SEO refers to factors on your own website that you can optimize, such as the underlying code and content.

Off-page SEO refers to actions taken outside of your site to affect your site's trustworthiness and authority by creating the right inbound links and social signals.

Both types are included in the main SEO ranking factors. Before we touch on our top 10 ranking factors, make sure we're all on the same page about rank tracking and tracking.

How to Monitor Search Engine Rankings

Before you can improve your SEO ranking, you need to know your starting point.

There are several ways to find it. First, you can search Google using the terms you think your customers will use. Use a private or private window in your browser so results aren't skewed by Google's personalization. See where your content appears.

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However, this isn't practical for large sites with hundreds of pages, so you'll probably want a tool to help you out.

For example, with SEMrush , you can type your domain in the search box, wait for the report to run, and see the top organic keywords you rank for . Or, use their Keyword Position Tracker to track the exact keywords you're trying to rank for.

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But SEMrush is just one of your many options. Check out some other keyword research tools in our guide.

Let's now take a detailed look at the main ranking factors and how to master Google search engine optimization. After all, SEO is all about getting that #1 spot specifically on Google.

Top 10 Current Ranking Factors for Google

1. A secure and accessible website

Not surprisingly, the first of our SEO ranking factors has to do with the right type of URL. Specifically, it is a URL that Google bots can easily reach and crawl.

In other words, Google needs to be able to visit the URL and look at the content of the page to understand what this page is about. To help the robots you will need:

  • A website created with a well-coded website builder
  • A robots.txt file that tells Google where it can and cannot search for your site's information
  • A sitemap that lists all your pages If you are using a WordPress site, you can set up a sitemap through Yoast SEO. Otherwise, you can use an online sitemap generator.

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HTTPS isn't a factor in deciding whether or not to index a page, but Google's John Mueller tweeted that it's a "lightweight ranking factor" and that "having HTTPS is great for users”. We at OptinMonster agree.

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If you haven't enabled SSL security on your website yet, go there.

2. Page speed (including mobile page speed)

Page speed has been cited as one of the top SEO ranking factors for years. Google wants to improve users' experience on the web, and fast-loading web pages will do just that.

Google announced a search engine algorithm update focused on mobile page speed that began affecting sites from July 2018. If your site is not loading quickly on mobile devices, it could be penalized.

Use Google's Mobile Testing Tool to see how your site ranks.

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And, if you use WordPress, check out these tips for speeding up a WordPress site from WPBeginner.

But the best idea is to start using Google Search Console (if you haven't already). This has an entire section dedicated to updating you on your site's performance, including speed.

For a more in-depth overview, check out this guide on how to use Google Search Console to improve your SEO.

3. Mobile friendliness

While we're talking about mobile, mobile friendliness is another major SEO ranking factor. More people use mobile devices than desktop computers to access the web, and that's one of the reasons Google changed search results.

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The Google Mobile-First Index is now a reality, which means it gets its results first from mobile-optimized sites, rather than desktop-friendly sites. If your site is not mobile optimized , you risk being unnecessarily underranked.

Many of the SEO ranking factors we'll look at in this article will help lay the foundation for good search engine rankings, but you also need to worry about the user experience when people land on your site.

Things to watch include if you:

  • Have a responsive site that automatically resizes to fit the device
  • Use large fonts for easy readability on a small screen
  • Include accessible menus to make your site easy to navigate
  • Make sure essential content isn't obscured by ads

Get more tips on mobile-responsive design to improve Google search rankings in our guide to improving your mobile conversion rate.

If you have the team, the time, and the energy, you might want to explore Google AMP (accelerated mobile pages). The advantage is that your pages load almost instantly from mobile devices. There have also been rumors that Google ranks sites built with AMP higher than others.

The downside is that you have to create another version of your site following the AMP guidelines. Then you have to maintain everything. As you can imagine, this can be a long project.

But whether you decide to try Google AMP or not, you should always ensure that your site is 100% optimized for mobile devices.

4. Domain Age, URL and Authority

Did you know that nearly 60% of sites that appear in the top 10 Google search results are three years old or older? Data from a two million page Ahrefs study suggests that very few sites less than a year old achieve this ranking.

So if you've had your site for a while and optimized it using the tips in this article, that's already a plus.

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In some cases, the domain name is important. Although Google has penalized exact match domains (those where the target keyword is found in the URL), this penalty usually affects spammy sites with light content.

Moz research shows that exact match domains that are considered relevant, valuable, and high-quality may see a boost in rankings because of it. However, if you already have an established website, you don't need to go looking for a domain that matches your business exactly.

The best route to choose your domain? Focus on a URL that reflects your business and optimize that instead!

When it comes to search engine ranking factors, authority matters. As you'll see, it's usually a combination of great content (see next tip) and off-page SEO signals like inbound links and social shares. And thanks to EAT, it can also include the authority of the content creator.

Moz has codified this into Page Authority and Domain Authority scores, both ranked from 0 to 100, which tell you how likely a particular page or domain is to rank in search results.

Related Content: Domain Authority: What It Is and How to Improve Yours

You can check domain authority or page authority with Open Site Explorer. Just plug your URL into the site search box and you'll get a report showing domain authority, page authority, established links, and new links.

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5. Optimized Content

We have talked a lot about the contents of this guide on Google SEO ranking factors. Indeed, it's one of the most important search ranking factors (along with user experience, links, and RankBrain, which we'll get to in a while).

Now, let’s dig in and see what optimizing content for SEO really means.

As we said in our guide to keyword research, Google's search algorithm is based on keywords. These are the words and phrases searchers use when looking for information. These are also the words and phrases that describe the topics that concern your site.

Ideally, this will match. This is why it is so important to use keywords in your content .

One negative SEO ranking factor to be aware of is duplicate content. For SEO, fresh and original content is always best. And if you have similar content, tell Google which should be ranked as more authoritative using canonical URLs .

But one of the biggest questions we get at OptinMonster is about how to use LSI keywords to optimize content. So let's start there.

Understanding LSI Keywords and SEO Ranking

SEO is not just the main keyword. It's also important to include terms related to the main terms people search for. These are called LSI (latent semantic indexing) keywords. They provide a kind of online word association to help Google know which results to show.

For example, using the right LSI keywords will tell Google that when searchers type in “mini,” your page is relevant to the car, rather than the skirt, and vice versa.

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It should be noted that more people are searching by voice , content optimization includes optimizing questions and natural language searches. This means that some LSI keywords will be longer because people tend to speak differently than they type.

Think about it: Let's say you own a restaurant. And half of your customers type in the phrase "best restaurant near me." But then people are also looking for “what is the best restaurant in Montreal” when they do a voice search.

Even though the two questions are aiming for the same thing, Google's result may appear differently. Using LSI keywords would be one way to make sure your restaurant ranks for both sets of questions. The more you can help Google understand your content, the more likely you are to rank in your niche.

Here's an important point, though: keyword stuffing is prohibited as it will lead to poor quality web pages and hurt your SEO rankings.

So make sure that once you target your keyword, you only include it (and your LSI keywords) organically and looks natural.

Understanding Search Intent for Content Optimization

Search intent is also important when optimizing content. This means understanding what people are really looking for when they enter search keywords.

For example, let's say you've identified "Florida real estate" as the keyword you want to rank for. You might think that writing content for people looking for real estate in Florida is a good idea. But if people searching for that term also include real estate agents looking to sell in Florida, your content won't meet their needs and your page won't rank.

Through a series of low click-through rates and high bounce rates (which we'll discuss in more detail in a moment), Google will capture the fact that your content doesn't match their user's search intent.

Sometimes it's clear what people are looking for. For example, if they use the word "compare", they are probably trying to decide between buying a product. And if they use the word "buy", they are looking to make a purchase.

The keywords they use will change depending on what they want:

  • Find a particular website (navigation)
  • Get the answer to a (informative) question
  • Look for information before making a purchase (research)
  • Make a purchase (transactional)

Well-optimized business sites will include content for each of these search types.

So how do you go about ensuring your keyword matches user intent? Go straight to the source!

Open a Google search in your private browser and enter your keyword. Check out the currently ranked results and determine if your content would be a good fit or not. Otherwise, you need to restart your keyword research. If so, take the opportunity to see why certain pages are ranking.

You can do a competitive analysis of the top 10 SERP results to see how to improve your content even more! You can then fully optimize your content by improving current search results.

Still a little confused? Learn more about keyword ranking, LSI keywords, and keyword intent here.

Is content length an SEO ranking factor?

In a word, yes. Google wants content to be quality and have a certain length. It is never advisable to write more words just to stretch the length, if a subject asks for depth give it depth.

Research suggests that content longer than 2000 words gets more than ten top positions in Google search engine rankings.

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This is not a set rule, and there are certainly some exceptions. But as a general rule, your content should be around the 2k word mark or more if you really want to be competitive on the SERP.

Longer content also attracts more links and shares , which are two other important ranking signals we'll cover shortly.

SEO Ranking Factors: Answer Boxes or “Position Zero”

Google is increasingly providing answers via answer boxes, so this is another aspect of optimizing for better search engine rankings. This is what a response box looks like:

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Our experience suggests that answer box optimization means:

  • To answer questions
  • Include questions as headers with properly formatted title tags (more on that in the next tip)
  • Make sure the answers are correct, relevant and not too long
  • Target content to keywords that already have answer boxes
  • Adding lists or tables

There is, however, a downside to the coveted “zero position”:

This sometimes prevents people from clicking through to your site.

Since people are getting the answer to their question straight away, they may not have a reason to skip ahead to the content. This means that 100,000 people may see your placement in the response box, but only 10,000 people actually clicked on the article.

But let's be honest: getting that zero position because it means Google places a lot of importance on your content (which is always flattering), you'll get way more brand recognition and you'll also end up with more traffic than you expected. would have.

Also, if you don't get that spot, someone else will.

Using Video to Improve SEO Ranking

According to Cisco, video content will account for 80% of online traffic by 2021.

Our summary of video marketing statistics shows that:

  • People watch videos in all age groups
  • 79% of people would rather watch a video than read a blog post
  • People are using video to help them make purchasing decisions (remember those transactional searches?)

At the end of the line? Start including video in your content strategy . The video is played, shared, and linked to, providing plenty of signals to boost your search rankings.

6. Technical SEO

We said earlier that getting the code right is one aspect of optimizing content for better search engine rankings. This can be intimidating, especially if you're more of a wordsmith and less of a 'techie'.

Here are some of the aspects you can control even if you are not a coder:

  • Adding keyword phrases in page titles is where Google first looks to determine what content is relevant to what search
  • Use header tags to display content hierarchy starting with your title at h1, then use h2 or h3 for subtitles
  • Create a meta description that both appeals to readers and includes your keyphrase
  • Keep those meta descriptions short and catchy at around 160 characters
  • Use keyword phrases in image alt tags to show how these images are relevant to the main content
  • Including alt tags also allows visually impaired people to enjoy your site with screen readers
  • Use schema markup to tell Google what kind of content you're producing

7. User Experience (RankBrain)

For some time, Google has been using artificial intelligence to rank web pages better. He calls this signal RankBrain. This includes other signals that affect your search engine ranking. These include:

  • Click-through rate: Percentage of people who click through to visit your site after an entry appears in search results
  • Bounce rate (including pogo-sticking): the number of people who click through to your page and quickly return to search results
  • Dwell time: how long visitors stay on your site after arriving

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If people land on your site, dislike it, and bounce back, Google will think it doesn't fit their needs. If enough people are doing this, it may be harder for your site to rank higher in search results.

This is probably a good indicator that your content is not matching searcher intent. You may need to go back and target a more effective keyword.

On the other hand, if people click on your webpage and stay for a while, that tells Google that your content is relevant to their search.

So when you optimize titles, descriptions, and content to get the clicks and drive value on the other end, you can increase your search engine rankings.

8. Links

As we said at the beginning, the web is built on links. So, naturally, links are a crucial SEO ranking signal. There are three types of links to consider:

  • Inbound links
  • Outgoing links
  • Internal links

All three are usually linked with descriptive anchor text.

Inbound links

Google uses inbound links as a way to determine the authority and relevance of your content.

Ideally, an authoritative site includes a relevant link to yours in some of their content. So if the Content Marketing Institute includes a link to your content marketing resource, it will be perceived better than if a random person with a low-quality site links to it.

You've probably heard inbound links called "backlinks." Your goal is to get as many authoritative sites to refer you to. It also means that you want to have very few inbound links from low quality domains.

You can find your inbound links using a tool like SEMrush or one of the keyword research tools shared earlier in this guide.

Outgoing links

At the same time, you want to show that you are creating quality content for your visitors. This involves using outbound links by linking to relevant and authoritative sites in your niche.

Does that mean you just have to distribute tons of outbound links to build your authority? Absolutely not .

All of this means that when doing research, you should only pull from trusted sources with high domain authority. To be honest, for the sake of your users, you should probably do this anyway to ensure you provide the most value.

Internal links

Finally, linking to your own content can help link the pages between Google and your visitors, making each page more valuable. If you have an authoritative page and link to another page on your site, that helps your visitors find the other page and also conveys some authority.

This helps that second page improve its search engine rankings.

When creating new content, be sure to build a strong network of internal links so your pages can support each other. Also, remember what we said at the beginning of this section:

All three types of links are linked to descriptive anchor text. When you add a link to a piece of text in your content, that text should describe the direction of the link!

Related resource: Check out the ultimate guide to SEO link building to learn the tips and techniques experts use to build quality links.

9. Social Signals

When people share your content on social media, that's another sign that it's valuable. The Cognitive SEO study of 23 million actions found a definitive link between social shares and search engine rankings.

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The official word from Google is that social shares are not a direct ranking factor. Links from Twitter or Facebook are not counted in the same way as links from other authoritative websites.

Still, there's no denying that the top-ranking pages in Google search results usually have a lot of shares. Although this is likely due to a few related factors:

  • More social shares drive more traffic to the page itself
  • More shares also make your content more likely to build backlinks.

For this reason, getting more social shares helps your search engine rankings, if only indirectly.

Not only do you need to be present on social media, but you also need to make it easy to share your content and amplify those social signals. We have great tips for doing so in our guide to guest blogging and guide to growing your email list with social media .

We also highly recommend using a plugin like Smash Balloon :

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Smash Balloon makes it easy to display your Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feed right on your site. Or, if you want to be more aggressive, OptinMonster recently created a contextual campaign designed to grow your social media:

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This little campaign packs a punch when it comes to building your social media brand.

10. Actual business information

This last tip is important for businesses targeting particular local areas. The presence or absence of business information is one of the most crucial local SEO ranking factors.

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It is therefore important to take care of areas such as:

  • NAP (name, address, phone number)
  • Business listings on Google My Business and Facebook
  • Reviews on these sites and relevant directories like Yelp and others
  • The right local search terms

That's it! You now know the essential SEO ranking factors. For more useful information, check out our other SEO guides:

  • SEO tips and best practices from the experts
  • How to Use SEO for Lead Generation

And, you'll want to check out these SEO stats to help you increase traffic to your site.

Exclusive Bonus: Download the SEO Ranking Factors Cheat Sheet to quickly boost your search engine rankings.

But let's end by discussing the question on every new SEO-er's mind.

Should your business strive to please your audience or please Google?

This really is the essence of SEO. Is the goal to create content that Google can easily read and rank, or is it to create content that your users will enjoy?

Unfortunately, the answer is much less critical than you probably would like: both.

Asking which of these two aspects is more important is like asking which side of a pair of scissors is sharper. Both parts of SEO need to be perfectly in place to rank well. That said…

You should never sacrifice your user experience (UX) to make Google happy. This will only annoy your audience, which ironically will penalize you with Google!

Also, you should keep in mind that while ranking on Google can help kick your business to the next level, Google will never be your paying customer. Your readers, on the other hand, might.

So if you want to get the best SEO tips ever, here it is:

Create awesome content your users will love. Then, with an equal amount of energy, optimize that content to help Google understand why your audience likes it so much. But always, no matter what, start with your user in mind.

The multi-billion dollar SEO industry simply boils down to this.

Are you a beginner SEO apprentice or an experienced SEO expert? Anyway, we would like to have your comments regarding the article and also regarding the secret of SEO cracking.

And for more awesome tutorials, head over to optinmonster 's YouTube channel . They have loads of videos that can help you up your email marketing game and such.

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