An Introduction to Search Engine Optimization
Everyone wants their business to appear at the top of the Google search results. However, most business owners don’t have the first clue about what it takes to achieve this. Google results are broken up into 2 sections – paid and organic. The most important part to recognize is there is no quick and easy way to get to the top of the organic (free) results – unless you want to risk getting penalized. It takes considerable planning, time, and effort.
Moz offers a comprehensive introduction to SEO, but for the sake of simplicity, here are the fundamentals you should understand.
1) Determine Your Target Keywords
Building a SEO strategy starts with selecting good target keywords. It’s important to make sure your keywords are highly relevant, not overly broad (as those will be more difficult to compete for), but popular enough that there is some interest in the terms.
Tip: If you have existing traffic to your site, examine your analytics to find out how your visitors are finding you and look for keyword clues there.
2) Optimize Your Website For Your Target Keywords
With target keywords in mind, it’s time to begin implementing your SEO strategy throughout your website. Each page on your website needs to include the various elements that help Google understand the relevancy of the page. Each website page should have the following elements focused around one of your keywords:
- Page Title (under 70 characters)
- Meta Description (under 155 characters)
- H1 & H2 Title Text (break up main content by describing it with sub-headers)
- Alt Text (every image needs a title)
- Keyword in Content (a few times, naturally)
Tip: Write content for your users, not for search engines. Create useful, information rich, and original content for your website without “stuffing” it with keywords, and you’ll find that both users and search engines alike will benefit.
3) Develop An Ongoing Website Content Strategy
Once you build your site, it’s important to continuously create new content. This helps grow the amount and quality of pages that are relevant to your business, as well as ensures your site doesn’t get stale, which is something Google looks down upon.
Great content answers the questions your audience is asking in their minds (or out loud), informs and educates, exudes candor and authenticity, and is ultimately captivating. Google looks favorably upon this engaging content that serves the user well and keeps them on your site.
To further support your website content strategy, you can create a blog.
Companies that blog get 55% more web traffic and 70% more leads than those that don’t. – HubSpot (Inbound Marketing Company)
Every new post that you publish is an opportunity to target new keywords. These articles can also be promoted and distributed socially to drive additional traffic to your site and help you build authority.
The key to effective blogging is to write about the kinds of things your visitors are interested in learning about. Don’t be overly promotional about your own products or services. As mentioned, your content should be authentic and valuable.
Tip: You can create links to pages within your own site to help create connections between your content.
4) Obtain Quality Backlinks
Inbound links to your website, or backlinks, are created when other websites link back to your website as a relevant resource in support of their content. Obtaining links from vendors or other partners as well as authoritative sites within your industry can send great signals to search engines that your site is relevant.
Finding good distribution channels for your content is critical so that your target audience may discover it and ultimately link back to it. Be proactive about promoting your site and content through channels such as social media and engaging with your audience outside of your site and you can really speed up the process of search engines taking notice.
You can also contribute quality content to other relevant sites, typically in the form of guest blog posts. The idea behind guest posts is that everyone wins. The site posting your content gets quality content that benefits their audience, while you get to expose yourself to a new audience and position yourself as an authority in your industry. A natural, properly placed link back to your website you also provide a quality inbound link that will benefit your search engine optimization efforts.
Tip: Backlinks are no longer about quantity as much as they are about quality. Focus on creating valuable content that earns you relevant backlinks from prestigious sources.
5) Analyze, Refine, and Repeat
It’s important to monitor your metrics to determine what tactics are most effective and uncover new opportunities. Give extra attention to keywords that aren’t moving enough and repeat the steps you took that brought results in the past. You’ll get better as you go and as you build momentum, you’ll see an exponentially increasing impact.
Tip: Without reviewing and understanding your metrics you’re working blindfolded. Use tools to help you plan your strategy, manage your tactics and monitor your results.
This should serve as a road map for your efforts and help you understand the time and resource commitment that you should expect.