SEO for Beginners
Search engine optimization, or more commonly referred to SEO, is the process of optimizing websites to increase traffic through organic tactics as opposed to paid. It’s an extensive process that includes three important facets: on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO, all of which work together to help pages perform well on search engine results pages (SERPs).
SEO is an important part of any business’s marketing strategy as it works to make your site visible to potential customers through search. Unlike paid search, or pay-per-click (PPC), SEO is all about the way your site crawls to the top of the SERP organically, as opposed to paying for ad space on the page. While it isn’t as quick of a fix as PPC — it can take anywhere from 6 to 9 months to really see the results of your SEO work — it more than pays off in the end because not only will the quantity of traffic increase, but the quality will as well. In short, SEO is a long-game strategy that, when implemented effectively, allows your business to reap the benefits over time.
Not sure where to begin? Don’t worry, that’s why we’re here. In this blog, we’ve laid out the five basic steps you should take in order to achieve SEO success. By utilizing these tips, your site will be ranking #1 on Google in no time!
STEP 1 – Keyword Research
Before you can begin to optimize a site, you need a plan. Ask yourself, “What is the goal of this website?” Whether it be selling a product, educating a group, sharing ideas, blogging about personal experiences, etc., performing thorough keyword research should always be the first step in an SEO strategy.
Keyword research is the process of gathering data around which words and phrases are commonly searched by your target audience and the frequency of those searches. Once you have a better understanding of what people are searching for, you’ll be able to come up with target keywords that are relevant to your industry. This is also a time where you should be doing competitor research, or analyzing what your competitors are ranking for and how you can use that to your advantage.
Without doing this research, you won’t really have an idea of what users are looking for, so you won’t be able to properly optimize your site. The whole purpose of SEO is to make yourself more visible on the SERPs, so using popular keywords will increase your chances of being seen.
STEP 2 – Content Creation
After you’ve done keyword research, you should have a better idea of popular terms and phrases that you can shape your content around. Website content can include anything from web pages, images, videos, blog posts, infographics, and much more, so you have plenty of opportunities to insert those target keywords and begin ranking higher on SERPs.
When developing content, you should find natural ways to inject those keywords and phrases into your content in a way that makes sense.
The more quality content you have on your site, the better — but make sure you’re providing quality content that matches your audience’s search intent! Great content is rewarded by SERPs because it provides the users with the information they need, but thin, low-quality content is often penalized. The main goal of search engines like Google or Bing is to lead the searchers to the answers they’re looking for; if your content isn’t doing that, it’s unlikely to rank highly.
To learn more about creating optimized content, check out our blog “The 5 W’s You Need For Content Creation.“
STEP 3 – On-page SEO
On-page SEO, sometimes called on-site SEO, is everything you can do to your own web page to help improve your ranking in the SERP. Pages that are effectively optimized for on-page SEO will include the subject of the page in the title tag, meta description, URL, headings, subheadings, and throughout the content as a target keyword.
All of these elements are important factors in ranking highly because they not only make it easier for the search engine to understand what your page is about, they also make it easier for the searcher as well. We already discussed how you’ll be rewarded for providing users with the best content, so making sure you’ve optimized the metadata is crucial for improving the user experience.
Another easy, yet effective way to optimize your pages is to utilize internal linking, or linking to other pages within your own website. This helps the search engines and the searchers find because they’ll be led through your site on a path that makes sense through these links that relate to one another, so it improves their experience. But it also helps you — the more a page is linked to, the higher it will be ranked because search engines assume whatever the information on the page is, is helpful. Or else, why would so many other sites be referencing it?
STEP 4 – Technical SEO
Technical SEO encompasses how your content is displayed on search results, how search engines crawl your pages, which pages they will crawl, the language preferences and coding that is used, mobile-friendliness and so much more. You should regularly test the site speed, mobile-friendliness, sitemap, and any other site errors that could prevent you from performing well on the SERP.
These things matter because they all lead back to the user experience, and remember — the search engine wants to provide users with the best experience possible. For example, you want your site to be fast because people are not likely to stay on a web page if it’s taking forever to load. You can check the speed of your site using tools such as Pingdom or Google PageSpeed Insights. Similarly, they won’t want to keep bumping into 404 errors, pages that aren’t optimized for mobile searches, or pages that are just overall hard to navigate through. Performing a technical audit every few months is important to staying on top of your site’s issues because you can identify and solve problems before they arise.
STEP 5 – Off-page SEO
Off-page SEO is everything that happens outside of your website that helps promote your ranking. Having other credible and reputable sites link back to your website or mention your company gives you one of the highest SEO boosts available.
Think of it this way: if you are starting your own line of soft drinks, would you prefer to have Coca Cola recognize you as a legitimate company and link back to your site, or someone brewing soda in their basement that no one has ever heard of? While recognition from anyone competitor is great, you’d obviously shoot for the endorsement of a household name. If Coca Cola links to your site, it will lead users to you and you’ll already have built-in credibility because of the connection to a popular brand. Search engines look at industry leaders as a way to validate other companies in the same industry.
Another off-page SEO strategy you should do is claim your Google My Business listing. This listing shows up on the right side of Google’s SERP and includes information about your business such as the website, address, phone number, customer reviews, and more. This provides users with the useful information needed to more easily find your business and increases your chances of ranking, especially if you are a local business close to the user.
Continuing to Achieve SEO Success
We hope this blog laid the foundation for those new to the world of SEO, but if you’re looking to take it a step further, check out our free, downloadable SEO Guidebook. In this guide, we delve deeper into SEO best practices to drive quality traffic to your website and help you build a comprehensive marketing strategy. As always, we’d be happy to provide our SEO services if you decide you could use help from the professionals!