So, you have heard that SEO can give you excellent ROI and you are here to learn all the search engine optimization basics to get started.
That’s awesome! SEO is 100% one of the best ways to increase website traffic and, in turn, increase leads. This means more potential customers and clients for your business.
But SEO is not a magic wand you can wave over your website and apply within a day or two. SEO is a long game. It takes time, hard work, and a lot of trial and error.
But do not worry, this guide will walk you through what SEO even is and all the beginner SEO tips you need to get started.
What Is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
Search Engine Optimization describes all the processes involved in improving the visibility of your web pages in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
The higher your web pages on these results pages, the more impressions/views, and clicks/traffic. Good implementation of SEO techniques results in organic, sustainable, and unpaid traffic.
Because it is the most popular search engine, this search engine optimization basics guide will concentrate on optimizing web pages for Google search.
On-Site Search Engine Optimization
There are two main types of SEO: on-site SEO and off-site SEO. Alternative names are on-page and off-page but they are the same thing.
On-site SEO is everything you can do yourself to optimize your website. Off-site is a little trickier. Let’s take a look at on-site SEO first.
Content (Written and Media)
The strength of your SEO efforts lives and dies with your content. Without content, there is nothing for users to find in SERPs. And the more content you have, the more chance you have of appearing in SERPs.
Website content is often split up into two types:
- Informational pages (about, FAQs, meet the team, etc.)
- Blog posts (how-to guides, news, listicles, etc.)
Each of these web pages will have a title and URL. Most will also have images and sometimes videos. Extra media gives you more chances of appearing in Google image searches as well as the main search.
You should split your content into sections with headings, making it easier for users to consume.
Google prefers quality content that meets its E-A-T guidelines:
- E – Expertise
- A – Authoritativeness
- T – Trust
This means that all the content you create should focus on building up your E-A-T for your users.
For example, if your business is a vegan restaurant, all your content should be about veganism to cement your expertise. Your blog posts should be high-quality, knowledgeable, and better than your competitors. And you should steer clear of including recipes with dairy as that would damage your trust.
Keyword Research and Optimization
Keywords or keyword phrases are search queries that users type into Google to find answers or information. Website owners can target their content towards specific search queries.
In the end, you want to have a sizable backlog of blog posts that target all keywords relevant to your business. This is so your users do not have to visit any competitors for their queries.
But starting out, you want to write content that targets high-volume keywords with low competition.
You can use free tools like Google Trends and Adsense to research good keywords, but a paid tool like KeySearch is more helpful.
To start, brainstorm all the topics you want to write blog posts on. For example, you may want to write about “vegan dessert recipes” but this is a broad topic by itself. You could split it into several blog posts targeting different keywords:
- Vegan chocolate desserts
- Vegan desserts for one
- Sweet vegan pie recipes
If “Vegan chocolate desserts” is your keyword, you should input it into the following areas of your blog post:
- Meta tag
- At least one heading
- At least once in the body
Do not overstuff your keyword into the blog post as this is not conducive to a user-friendly website. Google penalizes unnatural behaviors like this.
Internal and External Links
Linking is one of the less important search engine optimization basics. But it is so simple to apply it is very worth doing.
When creating content, you should be linking to other content on your site. These are internal links. And you should link to content on different websites too, which are external links.
Internal links help pass on SEO authority between each other and make it easy for the user to find other relevant content. External links also help the user plus they tell Google that you find a particular website a good source.
An external link is like a vote of confidence. Google relies on them to determine which websites are authoritative and which are spammy and worthless.
Web Design and Speed
Website speed and web design are recent SEO ranking factors but very important ones. Google likes to rank mobile-friendly websites that are easy for Google’s spiders to crawl and load in under three seconds.
There are some factors that affect your website’s loading speed:
- Hosting company and location
- Size of images on your pages
- Too many plugins, widgets, and add-ons
You can check your site speed using tools like Google PageSpeed Insights or GT Metrix. If you have technical issues, it is a good idea to hire a speed professional.
But you can resize images yourself using an online compressor. And, you can change hosting companies to a faster host and one with a server nearer to your customers.
With web design, it is best not to reinvent the wheel. Keep things simple with a sticky menu and lots of white space so you do not confuse your users. Make sure you do not have too many clickable elements near each other and the font is a readable size.
To create a user-focused web design, this eBook on centralized total care site management explains more about the digital user experience.
There are two more simple on-site SEO techniques: having a sitemap and an SSL certificate.
A sitemap is a list of all your URLs stored in the backend of your website which makes it easier for Google to crawl. If you use the WordPress Content Management System (CMS), you can install a plugin called Yoast. Yoast will create a sitemap for you and you do not have to do anything else.
Websites with SSL certificates display the little padlock to the left of the URL box. This means they are encrypted and safer for users than sites without the certificate. Google prefers ranking safe websites above ones that are not secure.
Hosts often offer SSL certificate redirection for free so ask them about it today.
Off-Site Search Engine Optimization
Those are the on-site search engine optimization basics. Off-site SEO is harder for web owners to control. These are actions that other websites and internet users take that affect your website’s search rankings.
This is, by far, the most important off-site SEO ranking factor. It is one of the most important ranking factors in general. A backlink is a link to your website that another web owner inputs into their content.
Like your external links tell Google that you trust an outside website, a backlink is another website telling Google that they trust yours.
The weight of that backlink rests on different factors, including:
- Quality of the linking website
- Anchor text used for that link
- How high up their web page your link is
The most ideal way to earn backlinks is by becoming a famous and noteworthy authority on a subject. Then, news outlets, celebrities, and influencers will feel inclined to link to your website from theirs.
This is optimistic yet unrealistic in the beginning. The best way to start building up a backlink profile is by asking other websites if you can publish a guest post on their website in exchange for a link to your website.
You could also offer products or services to influencers in exchange for the same.
Social Media Mentions
This is a lesser “vote of confidence” in the eyes of Google than a backlink from a website, but it is still a ranking factor.
Links on various social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter also affect your ranking factor in Google. This is why it is a good idea to create topical, shareable content.
Not only to improve your rankings but so that people will visit your website through these links on social media and increase your traffic.
Search Engine Optimization Basics: Everything You Need to Know
Even learning the search engine optimization basics can seem overwhelming at first. But it all starts with one piece of optimized content. Use all these tips in that one post and it will be easier to reproduce with others.
And if you do that, soon you will have a collection of web pages all bringing in traffic. Traffic means customers and clients which, in turn, means sales and a return on your investment of time.
Like this article? Check out our other tech articles for more tips and advice!