Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is something every website or blog owner should care about and know something about; even if it’s just the basics. Why? The answer is simple… SEO affects every web property on the Internet and determines how much traffic will be sent to that property.
No one article can fully explain the ins and outs of Search Engine Optimization, but we’ll do our best to help you better understand the basics. SEO expert extraordinaire, Neil Patel, goes into more detail in his post, SEO Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide.
What is Search Engine Optimization?
The short answer is SEO is how people searching for information on the Internet find your business or product. SEO includes all the actions webmasters/marketers take to improve the chances of a website ranking high in the search engines; the most popular being Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
That’s the goal.
If you’ve ever wondered why search results were presented to you in a particular order; if you’ve ever wondered why more often than not websites look great on your mobile devices with their itty bitty screens; or if you’ve ever wondered why some websites load with lightning speed while you can take a nap waiting for others, now you know.
As a consumer you probably never gave it a thought. As a marketer, you must give it a lot of thought. This is search engine optimization at work doing what it’s supposed to do. Search engines, particularly Google, operate on the principle “cream rises to the top.” Good, consistent SEO equals high page rank in the search results.
Search engine optimization is not a hard concept to understand although it is a bit tricky to master. Some techniques are easy to learn and implement; others… not so much. But over time adopting good SEO practices will become automatic.
You can learn SEO techniques and do it yourself or you can hire an SEO consultant to do it for you. In fact, you might want to consider a bit of both options.
For example, you might want to hire an expert to initially optimize your website and teach you what you need to do on a routine basis to optimize your posts/pages/articles as you create them for publication.
Why Does SEO Matter for Your Website?
So now you understand that good search engine optimization will result in a higher ranking in the search engines. You might also be saying to yourself, so what? What does a high rank in search results mean to my business? Good questions and here’s what happens.
If someone enters a search term and your business or article or some content you posted is returned on page 6 of the results, chances are really good no one will find you. However, if your content was returned on page 1, well, that’s a different story, especially if you placed in the first three.
That means your content will be seen by all. That will translate into more traffic to your site, more sales, more subscribers, etc. In short, that is how you grow your business with search engine traffic. You should take the time to learn as much as you can about search engine optimization.
If you’re a small site or small business, this would be important if you don’t have a large advertising budget… or no budget at all. While establishing and adopting an SEO strategy may cost a few bucks initially, the resulting traffic from search engines is free. And it just keeps coming.
Large businesses such as Amazon don’t need to worry about SEO. Everybody on the planet knows Amazon and thousands, if not millions, of visitors head over to Amazon daily. Lack of traffic is not an issue for them.
Small websites do not have that luxury. They cannot rely on their size and world-wide popularity to rank so they need to use SEO techniques to make sure people can actually find their site in the search engines.
SEO Techniques to Get on the First Page of Search Engine Results
You understand the concept of search engine optimization and why you should be paying attention. Now the question is what specific strategies can you employ to make SEO work for you?
You may also be wondering where to go to learn about SEO, how much it will cost, etc. Basically you want to know how to get started and you want to do it now. Fair enough. Let’s cover some of the basics to help get your content on the first page of search engine results.
Search engine optimization is broken down into two categories; on-page and off-page. These are the techniques you adopt on your website to optimize for search engines and the techniques you employ off-page, or elsewhere, to bring traffic to your website.
Of the two categories we discuss in this article, on-page SEO is probably the easiest to understand and master. These are actions you will take over and over again and will become second nature.
Post Quality Content Consistently
If you want to reach the front page of Google or the other search engines the first rule is post quality content and post it consistently… period. That means no skimping, no taking shortcuts, no playing games. Just post top-notch content and do it on a regular basis. If you can’t even do that, then you’re not taking your business seriously.
Now, does that mean you need to update your site every hour, on the hour? No… of course not. You don’t even need to post once a day, although with some planning, that could be accomplished without you slaving away at your computer 24/7 just to create the content.
Search engines punish websites with low-quality, skimpy content so don’t waste your time. They do, however, reward the longer posts and other high-quality content. These are seen by the search engines as adding value to the website and, therefore, creating an environment for a user friendly experience.
Not only do you want to create quality content, you want it to be unique. If you copy and paste PLR articles, for example, you’ll just end up being one of many. I strongly recommend you rewrite the PLR content you use to make it unique to you.
Don’t worry about the duplicate content nonsense you might find floating around. You won’t be penalized; however, your content won’t be given the weight it would otherwise. That’s defeating the purpose of your search engine optimization efforts.
If your website is new you should consider hiring a writing service to create some articles to get you started. Will they be unique? Sure, that’s what you’re paying for. Will they be well written? That’s the catch when hiring a service. There are some good ones out there so do some research.
Use Keywords and Keyword Phrases
As previously mentioned, keywords are words or phrases people use when they search for anything on the Internet. It could be for information, a business, a product, whatever. Before you can retrieve information from the Internet you need to enter keywords.
Because we know this, marketers will use these keywords on their blog or in their content. They target relevant keywords based on their research, with the goal of ranking for that keyword in the search engines. And they do this for every piece of content they publish.
Not only does the marketer research relevant keywords, they also consider the number of searches these keywords generate each month. Trying to rank for a keyword that receives 10 searches a month is pointless. Nobody is using that term to search for anything.
And then, depending on the circumstances, you want to factor in the profit potential of that keyword. It becomes a balancing act, so to speak.
Ideally, you want keywords with high search volume and, at the same time, medium to low competition. The most efficient way to conduct your keyword research is to use keyword research software.
The most popular is the Google Keyword Planner, however there are many available; free and paid. When you do your research keep in mind that not all keyword tools are created equal. You may end up using several as some excel at a particular function.
You should consider investing in a good keyword research tool to make the most of your search engine optimization efforts.
Fill in the Alt Blank
Alt tags are used to “describe” images for the bots. Generally speaking, you would include your keyword or keyword phrase so search engines know what the image is about. That’s how bots “see” your website images.
While the alt=” ” is for the bots; the title=” ” is for people. If for some reason an image doesn’t appear, the title of the image will. So, even if it’s not a ranking factor, it doesn’t hurt to include the title blank. You fill it in at the same time and you’re good to go.
Link to Your Pages
You also want to include internal linking in your search engine optimization efforts. Yes, internal linking is a ranking factor. Internal linking is when you connect your own pages within your website or blog. And, before you ask, internal linking isn’t some kind of black-hat trick to game the system. Not only is it legitimate; it’s expected. Just ask Google.
So what do we know?
1. Internal linking makes it easier for search engines to crawl your website.
2. Using anchor text appropriately has value. Make sure the text you use flows well within the content of your article.
3. Internal linking makes it easy for your readers to go from article to article on the same or related topic.
Make it Easy to Share Your Content
If you haven’t established yourself on social media, then you should make that a priority. A strong social media presence is a top ranking factor of the search engines.
With respect to on-page SEO, you want to encourage your visitors to share your content on social media. To that end, be sure to place social media icons on your blog posts or information pages to make it easy for your readers to share your excellent content.
There are more on-page SEO techniques you should adopt; learn them and use them.
Now we’ll briefly discuss ways to improve your ranking using off-page techniques.
Backlinks Are Still Relevant
Link building is an important factor to consider when you’re trying to increase your search rankings. The more links you have the higher you are going to rank. But search engines aren’t just looking at the number of links to your website; they are also looking at the quality of the links. Do they come from websites with high Domain Authority?
In addition, you need to consider the relevancy of the website linking to you; is it relevant to your niche. If your site is a travel blog, submitting a guest post, “Your First Destination After You Retire,” to the AARP blog would certainly give you a relevant backlink.
Please understand we are not talking about buying links or exchanging links or any other black-hat tactic. Those days are over. We are talking about obtaining legitimate links relevant to your blog or website over a period of time.
And when I say time, that’s exactly what I mean. Proper link building takes time and occurs naturally. If 100 backlinks suddenly appear out of the blue, your site will get flagged and most probably burned by Google and the gang. So don’t do it.
To recap, when building your backlinks, keep in mind search engines consider:
1. How many websites are linking to your website?
2. How long you have you been “building” these links?
3. Are the websites linking to you relevant to your website or niche?
4. Do the websites linking to you have high domain authority?
It should also be noted that the majority of your backlinks should be pointing to your internal web pages not your home page.
Guest blogging is an off-page strategy that goes hand in hand with your link building efforts. You want to submit blog posts to high authority websites to get the most “bang” for your efforts.
As a guest blogger you have control over where your content resides and who you associate your business with. These aren’t random selections; you do your research first before you make contact with blog owners.
And, of course, the same rules apply with respect to your content. You want your guest posts to meet the same high standards as if you were posting the article on your own blog.
You can look at guest blogging as a “twofer.” There is the SEO aspect; the backlink to your website. And then there is the added benefit of generating traffic from the blog you posted to. Additionally, you take that link and promote your content to your social media networks, spreading your post far and wide. It’s a win all around.
Become Active on Social Media Networks
As mentioned above, making it easy for your visitors to share your content is important. Just as important is to actually establish a social media presence. Social media is the best way to introduce your business, establish your brand, and get the message out about your business.
Be sure you understand the social media dos and don’ts. Many marketers made the mistake of trying to sell all the time. They soon discovered that was a big mistake.
You should become active to let your audience get to know you. You want your personality to come through. Through your interactions you can post informative articles, answer questions asked, and offer solutions to problems discussed.
Then as you begin to build trust and authority, you can start promoting your products or affiliate products. You don’t necessarily have to reinvent the wheel… just link back to previously published posts on your website or to previously published guest posts.
But most of all, you want to be sociable. And by all means, have some fun! It doesn’t have to be all business all the time.
Additional Search Engine Optimization Must-Dos
Two things you must do regardless of any other search engine optimization considerations. First, your website must load quickly. Load speed is a huge factor for your human visitors and your non-human visitors. If your site takes 20 seconds to load, your website may never see the light of day.
Your human visitors won’t stick around waiting for your site to load and the bots will give you a big “thumbs down.” You can go to Google’s PageSpeed Insights at https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/, enter your URL, and see how quickly your website loads. If it’s good, that’s great. If not, fix it per the recommendations.
Then, and even more important, you website must be mobile friendly. This is a huge factor in search engine optimization and you must take it seriously. Your website must be responsive to all mobile devices. This means your site needs to be viewable from a tablet or phone.
Most themes these days are responsive “out of the box.” But if you have an older website or if you’re using an older theme, you want to verify your website is mobile-friendly.
Making a website mobile-friendly is a major ranking factor for search engines, and it doesn’t happen by waving a magic wand. In fact, if your website isn’t mobile friendly you’re doomed regardless of all your other SEO efforts.
To see if your website is mobile-friendly, go to https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly
Off-page SEO isn’t hard; it just takes more time and effort. If you’re serious about your business; by learning and adopting even some of the the on-page SEO and off-page SEO strategies, know you will be rewarded well into the future.
Besides, they don’t cost you anything to implement so what do you have to lose?
While SEO isn’t exactly easy to master, it isn’t rocket science either. There are tweaks you can make to your website and your articles/posts. And, yes, there are some “rules” you should adopt. What’s important is that you don’t blow it off because you think it’s too difficult or a waste of time.
Search engine traffic isn’t the be-all and end-all of traffic generation, but it is important and you should understand how it works. And don’t forget it’s a free source of traffic for the long term. So do consider SEO when finalizing your post.
Others may disagree but the rule of thumb I’ve adopted from the get-go is to write for my human audience first then optimize for the bots. Keyword stuffing never made any sense to me because such articles or posts never made any sense. They were “unnatural” at best or just a bunch of gobbledygook at worst.
Your objective once someone lands on your website is to give them what they want. Offering up a bunch of gibberish isn’t going to make them want to share your content or to come back for more.
Understanding and adopting SEO techniques and strategies is the easy part; actually ranking in the search engines takes time and it takes a plan. You need to put in a lot of effort before you can reap the rewards.