SEO 101: Class is in Session
Welcome to SEO 101! For many new business owners, search engine optimization (better known as SEO) is a vague, half-understood mystery. Everyone knows it’s important, but with so many SEO how-to’s on the web (approximately 77 million search results, to be exact) it’s hard to know where to start. Which is exactly why we’ve created this handy three-step guide to get you acquainted with the often-ambiguous SEO.
First things first, let’s simplify what Search Engine Optimization (SEO)is all about; at the basic level, it’s about helping people who are looking for you online actually find you online. To do that, you have to match the content on your website to what people are searching for. Easy enough, right?
But as we start talking SEO, let’s keep in mind that this isn’t a traffic competition. It’s not about getting the MOST people to your site, it’s about getting the RIGHT people to your site—Right being those visits that will convert into sales. Let’s talk some initial steps:
1. Research, research, research
There is no way around it, you’re going to have to research some keywords. Start by coming up with keywords that are relevant to your site and match your business’s purpose. Try to think of the keyword as the question, and your business as the answer. What keywords would a potential customer type in if they wanted to find a business like yours?
Next, run your keywords through a keyword research tool. The most popular is the Google Adwords free keyword planner, but if you’re serious about investing in SEO look into others like Moz and SEMRush. Using your keyword planner, you want to note the keywords that have high search volume (keywords people actually look for), low competition (smaller amount of results mean your chances of ranking are higher), and those that are, of course, supported by your content and what your business offers.
It’s not a popularity contest, focus on the long-tail keywords
One thing to keep in mind– you shouldn’t just pick keywords that get the most traffic. As an example, say you’re a shop that sells handmade wooden model cars. The keyword “car” may get thousands (in reality millions) of searches each month, but what are the odds that someone typing in just “car” is looking for your specific product? Or that you’ll rank for that keyword due to all the competition? The odds aren’t great. So instead, focus on what are deemed “long-tail keywords.” Long-tail keywords are three-and-four-word phrases which are very specific to what you are selling. These keywords may not have as high a search volume, but you know a customer typing in “handmade model cars” is looking for a company like yours, and thus has a higher chance of converting into a sale.
2. Start generating good content
Now that you have a well-researched keywords list, start thinking about your website’s content. Google has little bots that crawl your site, and your content is what helps them understand what your site is about, and thus, where/when it should show up in search results.
You should never write only for the purpose of ranking on search engines for keywords—this often makes your content robotic, stuffy, and overall uninteresting. But you can and should still optimize your content for SEO by including your targeted keywords in what you put online.
Here are a few content-related steps that will help with SEO:
• Freshness: Be sure to add new, interesting content to your site on a regular basis. A blog is the best way to do this! Also, if you use WordPress as your CMS, check out the Yoast tool. It does a great job of guiding SEO best practices, particularly for blog posts.
• Keywords: Referring to your newly-researched keywords list, try to weave these keywords into the various (and relevant) pages on your website. Don’t force it (because writing for people comes first) but strategically add keywords when it makes sense.
• Links: Link to other high-quality sites that compliment what your business is about. For example, if you’re a bakery, link to other bakers or recipe sites. This will encourage sites to link to you as well, and having quality links to your site helps with SEO.
3. Speaking of Links…
Having quality (and relevant) links that direct to your website is a vital component of SEO. Trusted sites linking to you show that your site is valid and has authority. Google takes note of this authority and popularity; the more quality links you have, the better for your site’s rankings.
But again, it’s still no popularity contest—More links doesn’t mean better rankings if these links are spammy/irrelevant to your site. You have to focus on getting high-quality links to improve search result rankings.
Here are a few ideas for generating quality links:
• Social media: Share great content on your social media channels and others will be encouraged to share it and link to you.
• Forums: If you post in an online forum relevant to your website, you can include a link to your site in your signature.
• Directories: There are a lot of business directories out there, be sure to submit your website to the directories that make sense for your content/business.
• Ask nicely: There are a lot of tools you can use to find out who is linking to your competitor’s sites. For example, SEMrush lets you type in any website and see their backlinks. Check out who is linking to your competitor’s websites and ask if they’d consider linking to you as well. You may be surprised by how many people are willing to add your site to the links they share.
Now get started!
Congrats, you’ve officially passes SEO 101! However, there is still plenty left and one big thing in particular: optimizing your website’s code. This gets a little more into the technical side of things, so we’ll save that for a later blog. But if this post has sparked an insatiable SEO hunger and you just can’t wait until then, be sure to check out this Kissmetrics post for some helpful information on how to optimize source code and beyond