SEO 101 for Beginners

Promoting your business online can be an exciting opportunity for many – having a website of your own is akin to hanging your shingle in an offline world on your storefront, telling everyone you are open for business.

But one thing you may discover early on is that unless you understand and adopt a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, you are unlikely to be able to compete for targeted traffic on Google and elsewhere.

Organic traffic (traffic you do not pay for directly) is one of the biggest struggles you may face when building a presence for your business on the Internet. There is a lot of competition for every single keyword phrase, and only those who leverage a solid SEO plan get to enjoy the traffic and sales from their efforts.

Many people never take the time to learn what SEO is or which tips they should implement to improve their search engine results page (SERP) rankings. This article is intended to help you understand the basics of this all important activity.

SEO Can Be a Game Changer for the Success of Your Site

As a beginner to SEO, you want to take time to understand exactly what it means and how it can affect your site now and in the future. Search engine optimization is when you tweak your website, and the content on it, so that when it is crawled by search bots that visit your site to index it, they will see the value and proper architecture of your site and rank it over your competition.

SEO is not just one task. It is made-up of many different elements, including things you do on your site as well as off your site. It requires you to understand how you should structure your site for a good user experience, too.

Google and other search engines take these and other factors into account when ranking the site results for their users. They don’t want to send their users to someone’s site if the pages don’t quickly, if the content is weak, etc.

They have an algorithm that their search bots use to see where your pages should rank. When it comes to SEO, you always want to be on page 1 and at or near the top of the page whenever possible.

If your site is buried on page 2 or even farther in the SERPs, you won’t be able to enjoy the organic traffic others are getting. Your ranking can generate free traffic for you for months or even years, compared to the fleeting traffic you’ll get from a paid ad that you might run from time to time.

Not only do you benefit from the ranking financially when your pages are shown to buyers regularly, but you get to enjoy the positive branding that you get from search engines delivering your site as a trusted resource.

Technical SEO Guidelines Are Easy to Implement

There are different elements that you have to learn regarding SEO. One that is extremely important, yet easy to implement, is the technical aspect of optimizing your site.

This is a fundamental user experience concern. Search engines are looking to present sites to their users that have their technical SEO mastered. The first thing you want to do is make sure you are using a mobile responsive design for your site.

Many people never bother to check their theme or sight to see if it works well on devices other than their personal computer. You should be able to pick up any type of smartphone or tablet and access your site so that it is viewed correctly.

If you are currently noticing that your website looks “off” when it is viewed on a mobile device, you may need to switch to a responsive design, which is a quick and easy fix. That way, the theme you are using will automatically adjust your site to fit whatever screen the end user is viewing it on.

The next thing you want to be sure of whenever you are tackling technical SEO is that every one of your pages on the site load quickly. This is a big priority for Google and other search engines, because consumers will click away if it takes too many seconds for the site to load.

If you aren’t sure whether or not your site loads quickly, you can use a tool online to give you the exact number of seconds it takes for your pages to load. You’ll also find that your bounce rate, which is when people click away because they are tired of waiting for your site to load, will reduce whenever your pages load more quickly.

If you find out that your pages are too slow compared to the competition, you can take steps to improve this situation. For example, you might want to reduce the file size of your images or videos so that they load quickly.

You may also want to use a plugin that can cache your site for you. In addition to being able to access your site on a mobile device and having it load quickly everywhere, you want to make sure that the navigation of your site is clear and easy to follow.

Google bots and other search bots are looking for structure and organization on your domain so that people can find exactly what it is they’re looking for. Not only do you want it to be laid out so that people can easily find the links and categories they’re looking for, but you want to label them with a name or word that is easily recognizable and understandable, not vague.

Keywords Will Play a Big Role in Your SEO Efforts

Another thing you want to do when implementing a good SEO strategy is conduct a great deal of keyword research.This is because keyword phrases are what consumers use to find your site through the search engines. Some of them are broad, which means they are short such as one or two words, and some of them are longtail keyword phrases, which means that have three or more words.

The longer the keyword phrase, the easier it is to rank in the SERPs. there is always higher competition for shorter keywords and phrases than for longer ones. Keywords are going to help you with your SEO in several ways.

First and foremost, it’s going to help search engine bots and humans determine whether or not your site is relevant for the keyword they’re typing into the search engine. This is where long tail keywords come in handy.

If someone simply types in a keyword such as dogs, you don’t really know what they want to know about that topic. They might want to know all about the different dog breeds or where to adopt a dog.

So you can imagine many sites will be competing for the ranking of that particular single word and big authority sites will likely dominate for it. If you have a long tail keyword such as dog grooming supplies for a small dog, You are going to have results that are very specific and targeted for that topic.

If you are using good keywords for your content, search bots will use that data to improve your ranking as one of the relevant results to show to their users. This can help you enjoy organic traffic to your site, which will ultimately lead to more subscribers and increased sales or commissions.

In order to find the keywords you need to be using for your SEO plan, you want to start by simply brainstorming a list of all of the words and phrases you know are relevant to the topic of your site.

Next, you can begin using tools to help you add on to that list. There are both paid and free keyword tools where you can enter a basic keyword for your topic and look at all of the related keyword phrases for it. If you do a search on Google ofr the term “Keyword research tools” you will have a long list of tools to choose from – Google itself has a free keyword analysis tool that is very useful.

So if you know you want to rank a page for the phrase dog grooming supplies, you can look that phrase up in a tool and get a list of related phrases to use, too. These might include things like:

  • Dog grooming tools and how to use them
  • Dog grooming tools cost
  • Dog grooming tools for shih tzus
  • Dog grooming tools for long haired dogs…and so on

With some keyword tools, you will be able to see what the search volume is for that particular phrase and how much competition there is for it when ranking your page in the SERPs.

Once you have your list created, you’ll be able to make a plan for utilizing these on your site so that you can begin increasing the rank of your pages. You’ll be using keywords in the content itself, in the tags, in the title of your posts, etc.

Adopt Both an On-Page and Off-Page SEO Strategy

When you’re learning about search engine optimization, you may hear the words “on-page” and “off-page” SEO. you need to know the difference between the two and make a plan for both of these approaches.

On-page SEO are strategies that you can use directly on your own website, such as optimizing your code. Off-page SEO are things you can do on other sites that will help your site be seen as an authority figure, ultimately rising in the ranks.

You want to take a two-pronged approach to your search engine optimization and address both of these matters. However, on-page SEO is usually a bit more important than off-page – and it’s more within your control, so we would suggest that you start with that and then move to off page activities.

Start by optimizing your own website. We’ve already talked about improving the load speed of your pages. But there are other things you can do as well. Not only do you want to shrink the file size of your images, but you want to use keyword relevant file names for them as well.

When you are coding your content, you can use these keywords in the alt tags as well as in the meta description to help search engines understand how to present your domain, and help users decide whether or not they want to click on your link.

You also want to be weaving those keywords and phrases into the title of your post as well as a subheadings, whenever you are using header tags like H1, H2, and H3 (which means the size of the font being displayed – with H1 being bigger than H2, and so on).

This helps search bots navigate your page better, and it also helps human visitors skim the content to find exactly what they need. The next thing you want to do is focus on the off-page SEO.

This is where you will be building backlinks from other online entities so that they point to your site and help send traffic there. When Google bots crawl these other sites and see a link pointing to your domain, preferably with some anchor text using a relevant keyword, it works in your favor to help them see the value in your pages.

When you write really good content, people will naturally want to link to it as a beneficial resource for their own readers. But you can nudge the process along a little bit by using several different strategies.

For example, you might offer to guest blog for another leading expert in your niche, where the byline that they give you will be a link pointing back to your domain. Not only do the search bots see that and follow the link, but human visitors will see it and click on it as well.

You can also use social networking platforms to link back to your website. These might include things like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and others. You may also find some forums that allow a signature file so that when you participate in threads, the hyperlink under your comments will point to your domain.

Apply These SEO-Friendly Content Creation Tips

The importance of writing good content cannot be understated when it comes to search engine optimization. You can have all of the technical and strategic elements in place, but if your content is not satisfying to the reader, Google will not showcase your links to their users.

In addition to using targeted keywords in a natural way within the content, you have to think of other things Google and other search engines are looking for when it comes to your content.

The most important thing is that it provides value to the audience. They want their readers to land on your site and be impressed with what they find – so much so that they don’t feel they have to click out and go elsewhere to get more information.

That means you need to adopt a strategy of writing thorough, compelling content. One way you can do this is by using a strategy known as a pillar blog post. This is when you provide in-depth information about a topic, so the blog post is longer than what your competition is probably writing.

Whenever you are writing a pillar blog post, start with your main topic and create a mind map or outline of all of the subtopics that need to go into that primary one. Whenever possible, you also want to pull in some other media formats into your blog.

These include images to break up the text, videos that they can watch to dive deeper into a subtopic, etc. Before you begin writing, conduct a lot of research so that you can adequately cover the topic, not just with your own knowledge and insight, but by curating any additional information that you can source for your readers to give them a comprehensive approach.

Make sure the information is unfolding in a logical manner. Write your content and go back over it to ensure it is complete and accurate before publishing it to your blog readers.

With pillar blog posts, you can achieve great results by revisiting the content at a later date and updating it if and when necessary. This is perfect for topics where there is trending or evolving information because search engines love fresh content.

Analyze Your Data for Better SEO

Once you have begun publishing on your blog, and you want to see the results of your efforts, you want to use some analytics tools that can help you see what kind of progress you are making in terms of ranking well in the SERPs.

By using some sort of analytics, you’ll be able to see how much traffic you’re getting to your website, where it’s coming from, how long people are staying or where they are navigating to within your site, etc.

Some analytics tools will show you exactly how the consumer found your page, and which keyword they used to get there. If they do bounce away from your site, you’ll be able to see where and maybe figure out why they left.

You might find that your content is too thin, meaning the reader is left needing or wanting more information. Since you’re already getting some initial traffic to the page, all you would have to do is expand on the topic a bit more to keep your audience there. Another thing you may want to look at when it comes to your analytics is the stickiness of your site. This refers to how long your visitor stays on your site, and how many pages they navigate to.

This might give you some insight as to whether or not you need to add additional internal links to other relevant pages they might enjoy. You want them to visit your site, and stay awhile, not click out as soon as they consume the first bit of information.

Not all of the data is going to matter when it comes to your SEO plan. Focus on the things that will generate the best, and highest volume of traffic for you. This is something you should be referring to more than once, so that you can see whether or not your efforts are improving your traffic or not making a difference.

Some of the tools you can use, whether they are free or paid, can also tell you whether or not your content has any broken links that you need to fix. It’s hard to go through every page of your website on a regular basis to find these on your own.

You’ll also be able to see which pages are pointing to your site from other domains. Getting backlinks from other authority sites is an important aspect of SEO, so you want to keep tabs on your efforts in this regard.

The Evolution of SEO and How You Can Stay Up to Date

Search engine optimization is not a one and done task. This is a continually evolving strategy that you have to stay up to date on, so that your site does not slip in the search engine results pages.

It’s very easy to lose your ranking whenever a new algorithm update takes place by Google or another search engine. If your content and website are not adhering to what they now say they require, one of your competitors will be able to easily overtake you with a higher rank.

Search engines don’t alter their algorithm just to be difficult. They are trying to prevent manipulative marketers from gaming the system and outperforming sites that are more deserving of the top spots. Over the years, we have seen many algorithms shake up the results pages, and help users get a better experience in the process. Sometimes, a search engine will have good intentions, and a marketer will come along and do something nefarious to require the changes.

For example, before they began frowning on duplicate content, some marketers would simply copy pages from their website over and over again into the same domain to make it look like a beefed up authority site. We all know that search engines love keywords, but marketers began using a practice known as keyword stuffing (which was horrible for the readers of the content) so that they would rank higher in the search results pages than people who were using the keyword phrases correctly.

Instead of looking for spammy shortcuts that you can use to outperform the competition in the SERPs, take an approach that has you looking out for the best interest of your readers. Because SEO is always changing, you need to stay up to date with the best practices and algorithm updates so that you can quickly change your content or website if needed.

Pay attention to what Google and SEO experts have to say about changes that are coming or that have recently been implemented and then go back to see if your site is in compliance or if you need to make any changes.

Search engine optimization may seem like a daunting task for many new online entrepreneurs. But it’s really just a convenient tool that helps you be your best self as a leader for your target audience.

If you would like to learn more about SEO and how it could significantly boost your website traffic, please get in touch with us!

Dennis Hall

Ausbizlinks  www.ausbizlinks .com.au

Dennis Hall is the Principal of Ausbizlinks with an MBA in Marketing Management & has been involved in the online environment for over 15 years. He helps local businesses develop sustainable online marketing programs by applying a strategic focus to laser target what a business needs to be doing & when. He can be contacted at dennis@dennishall.com.au

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