This guide is designed to describe all major aspects of SEO, from finding the terms and phrases (keywords) that can generate qualified traffic to your website, to making your site friendly to search engines, to building links and marketing the unique value of your site.
The world of search engine optimization is complex and ever-changing, but you can easily understand the basics, and even a small amount of SEO knowledge can make a big difference. Free SEO education is also widely available on the web, including in guides like this! (Woohoo!)
Combine this information with some practice and you are well on your way to becoming a savvy SEO.
Search Engine Optimization: Getting to Know the Growing Industry
Search engine optimization is the process of improving your website's ranking in search results for specific SEO keywords. Its main goal is to acquire more organic traffic for lead generation and conversion. So every time a searcher uses your keyword, your optimized content makes it to the top results.
Unpaid website traffic comes from numerous searches, such as the following:
- News Search
- Academic Search
- Image Search
- Video and Other Multimedia Search
- Other Industry-Related Content Search
The history of the usage of “SEO” dates back to 1997. But after more than two decades, it has become an essential part of any digital marketing strategy.
Search engine optimization is part of search engine marketing strategy. The latter includes direct or paid traffic from PPC optimization. Unlike SEO, pay-per-click optimization is a digital marketing strategy where businesses pay a fee every time a user clicks a specific ad.
Search Algorithm Is A Major Influencer
There is a formula that search engines use to determine your rank in search results. It's generally called the search algorithm. The term refers to specialized formulas, machine learning systems, and other technologies used by Google, Microsoft Bing, and others.
Here's an example of how a search algorithm works. Let's say you're looking for a software development company. You type the keywords “software development company” into the search box. After a few seconds, numerous suggested sites come out in the search results. How does that happen?
- Bots of the search engine understand the query to provide an exact answer
- It crawls thousands of websites indexed in their database to find relevant pages
- Then it chooses the best results in terms of content quality, readability, accessibility, security, and timeliness
- After that, the bot also takes into account the user's location, settings, search history, and other contextual elements
- Lastly, a list of suggested websites according to their rank come out
The search algorithm is a complex system that needs regular updates and maintenance. That is why Google and other major search engines may roll out minor updates daily. But they also implement core algorithm updates annually. When it happens, they usually announce it ahead to the community.
SEO Should Be Your Best Buddy, Here's Why
Modern consumers take their shopping online. Their journey begins with a search query that typically starts with Google, as mentioned. Statistics also show that the top three results in Google garner 75% of all the clicks.
Therefore, if you want to be visible, you need a good SEO strategy on your side. It helps you connect with your target audience by providing answers to their queries. Who knows, your content can even solve their most pressing problems.
In turn, you become a trusted resource site for different things related to your business. Thus, without a good SEO marketing tactic, opportunities for being discovered by your target audience lessen.
Optimize with Keywords
Perform thorough research to determine the words and phrases that your target customers use when searching for what you offer. Focus on a few important (even niche) keywords that best describe your offering(s). Utilizing relevant keywords correctly throughout your website — on the pages on which they make the most sense — helps make your website visible and boosts your search engine rankings. Keywords should be carefully selected and utilized in your URLs, title tags, meta descriptions, page titles, heading tags, body content, internal link anchor text as well as certain image filenames and image alt tags.
Produce High-Quality Content
Because search engines rank web pages and blog posts with useful information more highly than others, your content must reflect what the user seeks when searching for your product or service. Quality content — text, images, infographics, blog posts and videos — is topic-relevant, engaging, unique, well-researched and well-written. When driving traffic to your site is the goal, less is more — less high-quality content is better than more low-quality content.
Good content not only describes your product or service in simple terms, but it also lets users know how it solves their problems, educates them about its use, and answers what you know or sense they are asking. Be sure to provide downloadable resources that may be helpful to current and potential customers.
Quality content is also easy for users to read. Use images to break up large sections of text, create relevant headers that separate content into reader-friendly chunks, include internal links to other pages of your website, and use bullet points for quick scanning and to highlight important information. Make website pages actionable with good calls-to-action (CTAs) that help turn visitors into customers.
Maintaining interest in your website and attracting repeat traffic require constant refreshing of your content. Product description pages don't generally change much, but new blog posts and podcasts should be added regularly. For inspiration regarding new topics, check out Google Trends, Twitter Trends, Google Analytics, customers' social media posts and customers' emails to your sales team. Attend an industry conference, solicit guest blogs and more.
Build Authority with Backlinks
A backlink or inbound link is a hyperlink to your website from a website other than your own. Association with relevant, higher-authority websites via backlinks results in higher rankings. A number of good backlinks signifies that your site is a popular or authoritative destination, which leads to improved website rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs).
How do startups earn backlinks? Guest blog posts on large industry publications, listings in industry directories, new product announcements and adding your website URL to your social media may help you rank quickly and attract quality links back to your website. Be aware that your content must be high-quality and engaging to earn links.
In addition to attracting traffic from SERP rankings, popular bloggers, trusted journalists and social media influencers can be a good source of links. Their audiences may be small, but they tend to be loyal. You may develop ongoing relationships with influencers, generate content with specific influencers in mind or offer their audiences free products. Any mention of your company (along with your URL) provides an opportunity to increase website traffic and, ultimately, sales.
Track and Measure Results
Is your SEO strategy leading you in the right direction? That depends on where you want to go! Research keywords (popularity, competition, relevance, and intent) using Google AdWords and other free and paid tools. Track your organic traffic (number of visitors from search engines) by page URL via Google Analytics. Monitor keyword performance (rankings, impressions, clicks and clickthrough rate) in Google Search Console. View your backlinks with backlink analysis tools that are also widely available. Be sure to utilize these helpful SEO tracking tools to optimize your existing content.
Tracking your SEO results over time is vital. If your tracking metrics aren't looking good after 3 – 6 months, then change your strategy. But before you do, be sure to set up a reliable analytics tool in advance so you can compare “before” and “after” results. You may want to select more relevant keywords or keywords that are easier to rank. You may find that your audience is not who you originally expected, and you should use this opportunity to optimize for the users who visit your site, not those that you thought would come.
Conduct Ongoing SEO
SEO is not a process to undertake only once. Optimizing for SEO requires a significant amount of effort, and you may find concentrating on just one or two aspects at a time easier. As discussed above, frequent reevaluation of your SEO may indicate the need for website and/or content adjustments to boost or maintain rankings and meet your users' needs.
Additional reasons to continually revisit your SEO strategy include changes in the online marketplace, SEO trends and changes in your business. As your startup grows, you want to add pages for your new products and services. Your audience may grow and shift as your business evolves. And we all know how often Google's ranking algorithms change over time!
Reap the Benefits of SEO
Most people think of SEO as a way to increase traffic to a website for the purpose of growing sales and increasing revenue. When done well, SEO does that — but it does so much more! The fringe benefits of SEO not only lead to a better written and designed website, but they also make your business more credible and your brand more valuable. Are you ready to achieve your business goals?