Introduction & Basic Guide to SEO for Beginners
What is SEO?
What’s the first thing you do when you need new ideas? What about when you want to see reviews on new equipment? What if you don’t know how to fix something in your home? You probably turn to Google like 5.6 billion other people do every day.
About 81% of online shoppers use Google to find something every day. If your search engine optimization strategy isn’t up to par, then none of these shoppers will find your product pages, content, or blog. That’s just how it goes in today’s digital world.
Google often downplays the significance of optimization by saying that their algorithms are too sophisticated, but for many years, marketers who know better have pointed out several ranking factors that help business websites get found in search engines.
In this guide, we’ll explore those ranking factors and how to get a jump start if you have yet to optimize your website for search.
5 Reasons You Still Need SEO
Essentially, the main question is this: how will your business appear in search if you don’t use the right keywords in your content? If you want to make it in the top results for any keyword, then you have to practice good search engine optimization.
1. Higher Rank and Search Performance
While Google has never published a list of ranking factors, they have indicated in the past certain “signals” that crawlers detect in order to your content. Some of these include:
- Keyword usage (titles, URL structure, body content, anchor text, etc)
- Page speed
- Mobile responsiveness
- Internal links to relevant content
- External links to high authority pages (DA score of 50 or higher, PR3 or higher)
- Number & quality of backlinks from other sites around the web
- Images and image alt attributes
- Structural markup (Schema)
- Social media links, likes and shares
There’s many other ways, but these are the most important to focus on as you start out with a new optimization strategy.
2. Low-Cost Marketing
One way to get a jump ahead with helpful tips customized to your own business strategy is with a free SEO review. This audit helps you see what you’re missing on your site and provides you with step-by-step guidance for content, technical implementation, and other factors affecting your rank and search performance.
3. Increased Brand Visibility
In addition, as you advertise across social media and other websites, users will search your brand and products more. Search optimization goes hand-in-hand with anything else you do with digital marketing. Brand identity has quickly become one of the main factors why your competitors are likely beating you in search, too.
4. Supports Overall Marketing Strategy
For example, the keyword analysis we do after you get a free SEO review can help identify 10-50 keywords that you should be ranking for in the top 5 results. Once you know these keywords, you can use them in other strategies, such as determining blog topics to create blog content, which you can eventually share via social media.
5. More Clicks Than PPC Ads
Why wouldn’t PPC perform better? Aren’t your ads showing at the top of search results? That’s just the point. Anyone who uses Google long enough knows that these ads are typically trying to sell them something, and users only click them when they recognize the company or see a deal that invokes their curiosity.
Has Search Engine Optimization Changed?
Those changes happen periodically with Google’s algorithm, and you don’t always know what the search engine will deem as “gaming the system.” However, if you are using any black hat techniques, or other spam strategies, you won’t be able to rank up in Google. If you do, it won't be for very long.
The truth is that content is still king when it comes to search optimization. For those websites with a technically optimized site architecture, high-quality content and links from relevant high quality sites across the web, ranking in search is much faster and has much better longevity than any spammy black hat trick.
How to Create a Search Engine Optimization Strategy
Here’s how to craft a winning strategy for more search traffic and conversions.
1. Technical Search Engine Optimization: Setup
- Search engines must be able to find your content on the web.
- Search engine crawlers must be able scan and relate your content to keywords that users search.
- Your content must be indexed in search, allowing the search algorithm to display your website for all relevant search queries.
That probably seems pretty simple, but web pages look much different to crawlers than a user clicking on a page from search. Crawlers see your content and the code behind it, which is a big reason technical search optimization has become a higher priority for many businesses in the past few years.
Technical setup includes:
- Website navigation and links:
- Crawlers follow your links and see how it relates to keywords and queries being searched.
- However, they can’t see images, so it’s important to include text-only links on every page.
- Simple URL structure:
- For example, the url redzoneseo.com/what-is-seo is more favorable than redzoneseo.com/?=34112?blog/how-seo-analysis-works-in-2020-and-beyond.
- Your permalink structure should always follow a simple structure.
- Page speed:
- Your website should load in under 3 seconds.
- Many users won’t wait if your content takes any longer to display.
- Dead links:
- The main cause of this is broken links on your site.
- These provide a poor user experience and signal that your site isn’t the best to index.
- XML Sitemap and robot.txt:
- These are important files that you should place in your root directory for crawlers to see how your site is structured and relevant to the keywords they’re ranking your site for.
- XML Sitemaps tell crawlers what to crawl, while robots.txt tells crawlers what they can and cannot crawl.
- Duplicate content:
- If any page on your site has identical information on another page or copies from a site already ranking, you will not rank for that content.
- Mobile responsiveness:
- Google has said that they are a mobile-first company, so your site must load and work well on mobile to achieve a higher rank.
If you’re not sure about how these factors are affecting your current site, a simple audit and free SEO review can identify these problem areas quickly.
2. Optimize Your Content for Search Intent
In order to do that, you’ll need to follow this process:
Keyword Research & Analysis
Through your keyword research, you’ll come up with a list of keywords that really matter to your business. These usually include keywords that answer the basic questions of "what do you do" and "where do you do it". The best keywords will be relevant to your business, but they won’t be too competitive for your site to rank.
For example, you’re a shoe designer with a new online store. You want to rank for women’s shoes, but this popular keyword has high search volume with millions of searches. This means while you can include this keyword in your content, it’s not going to help you rank in the short-term.
Instead, you’ll come up with a list of initial keywords and then look for related terms that will help you rank. For example, "women’s shoes Dallas" is a less competitive term that would work better if that’s the specific market you are selling into.
Mainly, we’re referring to on-page keyword optimization with this step.
- Page/post title
- URL structure
- H1-4 tags
- First 100 words or introductory paragraph
- Meta-title and meta description
- Anchor text
- Image file names and alt attributes
In addition, you should use semantic keywords or variations of keywords that use natural language.For example, imagine what happens when a search engine crawler is trying to determine relevancy and finds you mention “Apple” a lot. Do you mean the fruit or the company that makes iPhones? Semantic keywords will help the crawler determine your content.
The other important on-page factors include:
- Internal links: Ideally you include 2 to 3 links in the content to related pages only your website.
- External links: You also link out to relevant pages and authorities, particularly with a higher page rank.
- Content length: Most pages should have at least 500 words, but ultimately, the content should answer the intent of the targeted keyword.
- Media: Images, videos, charts, and tables show that you’re an authority on a topic and provide more diverse content types to readers.
3. Link Building to Rank Better & Faster
Once you’ve built up your content, you can start to guest post on other blogs, link to your content on social media, and earn more shares. Link building takes time to fully understand, but the one great place to start is through finding blogs in your niche that accept guest posts. You can create content and link back to your business on these websites.
Social media outreach is another way to improve your link portfolio. You can include a link in all of your profiles back to your best content. In addition, connecting to influencers on social media is a great way to get more shares and high value backlinks.
Other Helpful SEO Tips
While technical setup, content, and link building are the main critical points of any search optimization strategy, you also want to track and monitor your results.
You should know what pages of your site get the most traffic from search, as well as what pages have never received a click. This tells you how accurate your keyword strategy is, but it also indicates that there could be a problem with the technical setup of that page.
So here are a few quick tips to maintaining and increasing your rank in search engines:
Install Google Analytics
Third-Party SEO Tools
If you can afford SEMrush, it's probably the only tool you'll need to improve your search performance. It includes keyword research, competitor analysis, ranking tracker, and other suggestions to reach the top page of results.
Google My Business & Local Search Optimization
Google My Business is your local business page on Google that includes all of your business information, reviews, and even question and answers about your company or products. Companies should add as much content as they can to their pages and actively ask for reviews from customers to get more ratings.
However, be careful in how you ask for reviews. Google does not want businesses to re-route negative reviews to a database or see that companies are only asking for positive reviews. This is just as bad as asking for fake reviews. So you'll have to keep it neutral when asking for feedback.