It’s frustrating to be a website owner who doesn’t understand the basics of SEO. You’re frustrated because you don’t know what you should do and why. You want your site to rank on Google, but all the tutorials are either too basic or too complicated. It feels like nobody understands your situation! This blog post is for people like you. We will cover the basics of SEO in a way that is easy to understand, so that you can see results from your efforts much faster!
Let’s start at the beginning: What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. A lot of people confuse SEO with search engine marketing, but they are two different things. The basics of seo is increasing your rank in Google by doing the basics right: having quality content and adding keywords to pages so that when someone searches “keyword” on Google, you show up at the top of “the list”, meaning, the websites you can click on from Google.
How does seo work?
The basics of SEO are fairly straightforward. You create quality content, add keywords to the page and then drive traffic to your site by publishing articles on other websites and social media channels like Facebook or Twitter. The more people who read your content and share it with their friends, the better chance you have of ranking in Google.
Getting the process started: The importance of keywords and keyword research.
The basics of SEO start with understanding the importance of keywords and keyword research. When you write content, it is important to include your target audience’s search terms as well as generic words related to your topic so that people searching for similar information will find what they need on your site.
They say that a ship with no destination in mind will surely fail it’s mission. SEO is the same. If you don’t know what keywords you’re targeting, you won’t really rank well for anything at all!
Think about what your target audience might be searching for and try to include these words (as well as common synonyms) into your content. This will make it easier for people looking for information related to a certain topic or niche to find your site more easily.
Then, use a tool like Google Ads Keyword Planner to identify Search Volume and other key metrics.
Next, create quality content.
Remember that the content on your site is what will make or break it.
A big mistake that many website owners make is thinking they need to write for the search engines. That is actually not necessary.
The best SEO practice is writing for your potential customer.
The modern Search Engines (Google, Bing, DuckDuckGO) are all intelligent enough to understand user intent.
This is a tricky topic because there is no 100% right answer…
If your content is too short, it will be overlooked by Google.
If your content is long, it needs to be very high quality.
Many experts say that the sweet spot is between 500-1500 words.
However, there are exceptions to this rule (such as long articles about a certain subject).
A common misconception among website owners is how often keywords should be used in content. The key here is not using your keyword too much while still showing Google what your website is about. In other words… Google does not know what your website is about until you tell them.
A great strategy for this is to reread what you write and ask yourself if it sounds “spammy”.
By spammy… you can think if it sounds like you are using “keyword stuffing”, which should be fairly obvious.
On Page Optimization
Title Tags (Page Titles) and Meta Descriptions:
It is very important to have a good title tag and meta description.
The Title Tag: This should contain your domain name, keywords related to the content on that page, and sometimes even your company’s slogan.
It’s important to keep your title tag under 65 characters, otherwise, this will be trimmed by Google (and that is a negative signal to Google as well).
Your Meta Description will be what appears as the descriptive line of text under your link when Google shows their results.
The character limit here is 156 characters. Like the page title, if it’s too long, it will be trimmed by Google.
Heading Tags (H1, H2, etc.)
Heading tags are the text at the top of your page that define what content is on each section.
When designing a web page, it’s important to have clear headings so that search engines can identify and categorize sections of your pages.
The most important of these tags is H1, second most important is H2, and etc.
Be sure to organically (naturally) include keywords into these elements.
Also, be sure to only have one single H1 tag because Google will remove all the value from them if there are more.
Image Alt Tags:
Alt tags are the text descriptions that show up when a web page viewer hovers over an image. These images can be found in blog posts, and they’re also used as links for social media sites like Instagram or Pinterest.
In order to maximize your ranking on Google, it’s important not only have keywords included in the alt tag but also be descriptive of the image.
Like many things that you’ll come to learn with SEO, you don’t want to have any signs of “spam” or appearing to try to “game” Google.
These are defined as links that point to another page on your own website.
Internal links are great for when you want to rank well with Google because they show the search engine spiders how much content is on your site. By having these backlinks, it gives Google guidance as to what each page is about as Google’s robots are crawling your website.
A great example of this in action is Wikipedia.
Basics of Technical SEO:
This is a bit more technical than basics of SEO, but it’s still important for your website to be optimized.
Site Speed Optimization
Your customers today are moving fast and they want answers fast. Having a fast website is part of that process.
Google also rates your site’s speed as a factor in their ranking algorithm.
This is generated by how quickly your website loads. Google has created an online tool that will help you determine the basics of this, so it’s worth checking out.
Mobile Search Optimization
There are more and more people searching on mobile devices each day and having your website load correctly on a mobile device is vital.
The basics of this is to ensure that your website’s code, images and text are optimized for mobile devices.
Be sure to validate that no “side scrolling” is necessary to view your content.
The standard practice of 2021 is to make sure you are using “responsive design” which means your website responds and loads correctly no matter what your screen size is (mobile or desktop).
This refers to the process of making sure that all of your website’s pages are identified correctly.
Be aware, Google has a system in place where if you have more than one page for the same content then they will show only one and it might not be the most recent or accurate version of the information. By tagging your content with a “rel=canonical” tag, you essentially define to Google what the correct version of the content is.
Redirects and Header Responses
Google’s goal is to have their visitors land on the best user experience possible. If Google sees that you have a bunch of 404 errors and broken pages, you’re less likely to see success.
These can be corrected manually by updating your website or by using 301 redirects to force the visitor to the correct page.
This file is a list of all the website directories that are (or are not) accessible to Google and other bots. If you have pages with sensitive information or links on your site then it will help protect these areas from being indexed by search engines.
Sitemaps (XML and HTML)
This is a document that outlines your pages to Google.
It’s a way to communicate what you have on your site and how the files are structured. It should be submitted periodically so that Google knows if anything has changed on your website since they last visited it.
It is important to note that not all crawlers will find every page of your website, but this document goes a long way in helping them.
Backlinks are the original SEO tactic that made Google unique. The process of getting backlinks involves having other websites link to you.
This can be done by getting a mention on a popular website, or through an article you wrote and published for them.
What’s important to know is that backlinks come in many formats such as news articles, blog posts, social media shares, forum posts etc. This means there are lots of different ways to get backlinks that would be favorable in the eyes of Google.
A word of warning: getting backlinks is a game of quality, not quantity. Getting MORE low-quality links does more damage than having only a few high-quality links.
Basic SEO Tools
This is a free tool that will tell you everything about your website, including traffic sources. You can use this information to generate more content and also use the data as queues for changes to be made. We will likely have a whole other blog post about Google Analytics in the future because that’s a whole world in and of itself.
Google Search Console (webmaster tools)
This is another free tool that will help you understand how Google sees your website. In addition to telling you about crawl errors, it can also tell you about specific problems with the way search results are being displayed on your site. This is a great place to start if you’re noticing low traffic or rankings for certain keywords but don’t know why.
There are MANY tools that can be paid for and will get you some great information.
Here are a couple that I’ve used over the years and can vouch for:
SEMrush: great for insights into keywords that are driving traffic to your site and valuable in helping you understand the competition. It also has a basic SEO audit, but I do like Screaming Frog better so use this as supplemental data only.
Moz Pro: Another paid tool from one of my favorite brands, Moz (formerly SEO MOZ). Great community behind this tool and it’s always evolving.
AHREFS: Similar to SEMrush, this is a paid SEO tool that has been my secret weapon for many years. You can get more insights on your competitors and even see what they are doing wrong! It’s also great at telling you which keywords people are using to find you (even if it doesn’t mean much).
Screaming Frog: This does have a free version if you’re in a pinch, but the paid version is really insightful.
It crawls your entire website and gives you insights on crawl errors, duplicate content, missing title tags etc.
SEO may be more complicated than you think. It’s not just about picking a few keywords and posting content on your website, it really is an art form that requires getting your hands dirty to learn the tricks of the trade. Sure, tools make things easier but there never is a “magic win.” If you have questions or would like to sign up for a free audit, get in touch!