How many times have you heard someone say, “SEO?” Probably more times than you can count, right?
No matter your career level or job title, at some point you’ve probably heard someone using this strange acronym. In addition, any attempt to discover what SEO means will quickly yield millions of articles published on the topic.
The problem, however, is there’s a lot of bad advice out there. In fact, a lot of the advice produced online can actually hurt your business rather than help it grow. So what is SEO and why does the world seem to be buzzing about it when it comes to online marketing?
Here are 7 things about SEO that every beginner should know:
1. SEO defined
SEO is an acronym standing for Search Engine Optimization. It is a division of online marketing with the sole emphasis to connect great company’s to great consumers via search engine results.
The overarching purpose of this marketing discipline is to help people have a strong user experience. In return, a better user experience means higher retention rates for companies, which can increase profits by 95%.
2. It’s important. Here’s how it works
The majority of customers use search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. In fact, 96% of consumers start the purchasing process online. Ultimately, this illustrates that a well positioned website targeting the right keywords can help you dramatically grow your business.
So here’s how SEO works. Search engines use a formula to determine which sites to show when a consumer searches for a particular item. Every website is then ranked based on several different criteria including relevance, authority, content, keywords and a variety of other qualities.
Overall, this means focusing on high-quality content. The higher the content quality and relevance you provide on your website, the more chances for you to generate links from other websites, which will ultimately allow you to rank higher for a particular subject matter or keyword.
On the opposite end, websites that produce low-quality content will be seen as spammy by search engines. This would result in low rankings on search engine results.
3. The goal of SEO
The goal for any company website is to rank at the top of search engines for specific keywords or phrases that will deliver some sort of ROI. Studies show companies who rank number one in search engines receive 53% of organic search clicks. This can easily result in large sums of profit lost for any business ranking below their competition–all the more reason why your company should be focused on search engine optimization.
Now, if you’re a smaller company worried about competing with a larger sized company online (for example, if you own a soda drink company competing with the likes of Coca-Cola and Pepsi) don’t worry. One of Google’s leaders in SEO, Matt Cutts stated, the size of your company does not matter. A small company that provides quality to online consumers will outrank bigger companies who provide less rich content.
4. Best Practices
Google and other search engines are becoming much more sophisticated in terms of how they rank. No longer does using the same keywords over again drive traffic. In fact, irrelevant links and keyword stuffing will lead to lower rankings.
Since Google places authority pages to the top of its rankings, it’s important to create content that establishes you as an authority. This means writing content that is relevant to your business, and is something people would enjoy reading and sharing.
Engaging content is the single most important factor for SEO rankings. Not only will strong relevant content drive traffic, but also, it keeps consumers coming back to your site for more.
5. Getting Started
Before starting any type of SEO marketing, make sure to track how much traffic your website already receives. In addition, be aware of which keywords bring in the most traffic to your site. If you use Google Analytics and Google’s WebmasterTools, you’ll find a lot of information relating to the keywords people are using to find your website as well as other information. Doing this will help you determine the next steps to your search engine marketing tactics.
Here are four tips to help you get started and begin to receive higher search rankings:
Blogging – Creating a blog is a quick way to begin ranking in search engines. One criteria that sites like Google use to rank companies is how up-to-date the website is.
Not only will a blog keep your site fresh, but it will also help you establish credibility in your field, keep your consumers engaged, and will assist you in provide relevant content. If unsure how to write a post, feel free to check out our blog to get ideas on formatting.
Overall, the basic rule to follow when blogging is this: provide content that others would enjoy reading, talking about, and linking back to. Many SEO experts believe that having external links is the most important factor to obtaining high search engine results.
Internal Links – These are links you use to link back to another part of your website. This is an easy way to boost traffic to individual pages.
Directing consumers back to individual pages is a way to guide your consumer through the purchasing process by providing them with content to make an informed decision.
Keywords – I mentioned earlier that keyword stuffing is harmful rather than helpful to your website. Although this is true, it doesn’t mean to avoid using keywords all together.
Using too many keywords will cause search engines to label you as a spammer. To avoid falling into this category, most experts suggest keeping your use of keywords to around 2 to 12-percent.
6. Finding the right keywords
Keywords are designed to help you rank higher in search engines. The better use of the keyword(s) will ultimately increase the amount of customers who find your store.
Before researching keywords, brainstorm and write down a variety of words that you feel capture the essence of what you want your consumer to know. When compiling your list, be aware of two types of keywords: long tail and short tail.
Short-tail keywords are words that utilize a specific word. This is opposed to long-tail keywords that are somewhat longer in length, but much more detailed.
For example, lets say you own a t-shirt company. You would love to rank the highest for the word ‘t-shirt,’ but this will likely never happen. Instead of using the short-tail word ‘t-shirt’, you can instead use a long-tail keyword such as, ‘t-shirt with polka dots’.
With this example, you can see that long-tail keywords will not only help you receive better rankings, but will allow you to hit a niche market. This is opposed to short-tail keywords that are not only more competitive, but may bring in traffic that is not your target audience.
Now, after you have your list of keywords (preferably more long-tail variations), you’ll want to move into finding which words will help you rank the highest. To do this, you’ll want to utilize free online sites like Google AdWords.
Google AdWords is a free website that allows you to not only find the competitiveness in certain words, but also helps you see the amount of times certain words have been clicked on by consumers.
7. Additional Resources for beginners
Although SEO sounds challenging, it’s actually quite easy to learn. Like anything, the more you practice, the better you become.
To insure you’re learning SEO from the best possible websites, I have listed below two online files. Both files are great resources for anyone who is looking to further his or her knowledge on the best SEO practices.
- Moz.com – Moz.com used to be completely free, but in recent years has started charging money. Fortunately, they still offer a free SEO beginners guide. (Click on Moz.com above to view the free file on their site.)
- Google SEO Starter Guide – Much like Moz.com above, Google offers a free PDF file for beginners. This is a great resource to understand Title and Meta tags.