Search engine optimization is a topic that can quickly become complicated. To be sure, there are plenty of complex, high-level techniques that can be used to tune a website for better search results. But those are for later in your SEO journey. If you are just getting started, you need to focus on the basics. And you are in the right place.
In the marketing world, SEO is one of those terms that gets tossed around without any explanation. But if you are just getting started, you might not know what SEO is, or why it is so important. Let’s use some quick points to explain what search engine optimization is and why it deserves your attention.
SEO is the process of tuning your site with the goal of ranking as high as possible in the organic search results on sites like Google and Bing
When someone uses a search engine, the results of their search show up on the ‘results page’. That page will hold paid ads and organic results. The organic results section is what you are targeting with your SEO efforts
There are a variety of ways to improve your SEO, from adding quality content to adding backlinks, and more
At this point, you might be thinking it would be easier to simply buy some ad space to attract potential customers to your website. And, for some businesses, that will be the right way to go. But buying traffic is expensive, and you might not have those funds in your budget. Even if you do, pursuing SEO is worthwhile because it can be a source of ‘free’ traffic for years to come.
Much of what you do in search engine optimization will come down to one main focus – trying to obtain the number one spot in the organic search rankings for as many keywords as possible. You’ll be particularly motivated to get to #1 for the main keywords you have targeted in your research (more on that later).
Why do you want the top spot in the rankings? Well, being the first result on the list, your site is going to collect more organic clicks than any of the other results. In fact, you’ll likely get somewhere in the neighborhood of 30% of searchers for a given keyword to click on your site. That’s an extremely powerful position to hold, and it can drive amazing growth in your business.
Keywords are at the heart of SEO. When we talk about ‘keywords’, we are actually talking about both words and phrases. Anything that is entered into the search engine by a web user is considered a keyword. Since search engine users can enter anything they’d like into the search bar, there are billions of potential keywords out there. You can’t target all of them, but you can perform research to pick out the ones that are most important to your success.
Doing keyword research is something you should prioritize early in your SEO process. Picking out the right keywords, and staying away from the wrong ways, will be a huge help in seeing results from your efforts. There are plenty of paid keyword research tools available, and you might want to invest in one at some point to boost your SEO work. To get started, however, you don’t even have to go that far.
Think it through. For basic keyword research, you can just put yourself in your customer’s shoes and think about what they would be likely to search. If they were looking for the kinds of products and services that you offer, what would they search? Despite the low-tech approach of just using your own brain and intuition, you can actually land on many great keywords this way. The key is to avoid the temptation to overcomplicate the task. If you own a pest control business in Los Angeles, for instance, the phrase ‘pest control Los Angeles’ is sure to be a big one for your business.
Google Autocomplete. You are already familiar with this Google feature, even if you have not previously considered using it for business. All you need to do is start typing in the Google search bar and it will automatically give you ideas to finish your search. This is a great way to find keywords. Start by typing in the beginnings of a phrase and see what suggestions pop up. For instance, using this method reveals plenty of ideas to add on to ‘pest control Los Angeles’, including the words ‘organic’, ‘roaches’, and ‘beetles’.
Competitors sites. If you already know who your competitors are, bring up their websites and see if you can determine which keywords they are targeting. This should be pretty easy to do by reading their content and paying attention to the phrases that come up repeatedly.
There is an art to performing proper keyword research and you are sure to get better as you practice. Even without honed skills, however, you can pretty easily assemble a list of solid keywords that will get you going in the world of SEO.
The algorithm that Google uses to sort out websites and display them in a ranked order is not public information. In fact, this algorithm would be one of the most valuable things in the world if it were available, as knowing how it works behind the scenes would allow you to cut to the front of the line. We aren’t going to know the exact formula – and that formula is always being adjusted – but we are aware of some pieces that influence rankings.
The presence of keywords. This is why keywords are so important – they are going to help you rank for the terms that you are targeting. Including the right keywords on your pages won’t guarantee rankings success, but this should be seen as an essential starting point.
Backlinks. The subject of backlinks is worthy of its own article – or book – but we can introduce the concept here. Simply put, a backlink is a link from another site that points to your domain. These are a positive ranking factor as other sites linking to your site signals to the search engines that there is something worth seeing on your pages.
Security. On the modern web, you should be serving your visitors with a secure version of your website. Having HTTPS in place is not only a smart move for SEO, but it’s best for your audience, as well.
A mobile-friendly design. These days, the majority of the visitors to your site will be using a mobile device. For that reason, your site should include a mobile-friendly design, meaning the pages are rendered on phones and tablets in a way that makes them easy to use.
The speed of your site. How long does it take for one of your pages to load when a new visitor arrives? Make sure your site loads quickly, as this can help both SEO and the experience that a user has on the site. The quality of your web hosting company will have a lot to do with how fast your pages load.
If you are looking for quick marketing wins, SEO is not the place to start. This is a game you plan with the long run in mind. Building a platform of solid SEO practices that can help your site bring in traffic for many years to come takes effort and persistence. Many business owners and marketing managers give up long before they reap the benefits of their hard work. Don’t count yourself among that crowd. Stick it out and enjoy the rewards when they start to roll in. Good luck!