What is SEO and Why Do You Need It?
Have you ever Googled yourself? Unless you’ve got a pretty unique name or you have done something that attracted a lot of attention online, you probably didn’t find yourself, right? This realization probably wasn’t thrilling–after all, you’re probably just as successful and popular as the people who show up higher in the results. Why do they have better results than you?
It’s hard to make the first page of Google results for a given search term or keyword, but that’s what must do to establish an online presence for your business, blog, or website. The best way to accomplish this is search engine optimization often referred to simply as SEO.
SEO 101: The Basics
Search engine optimization is not one stand-alone technique–rather, it refers to a group of ever-evolving techniques to improve a website’s ranking on a Search Engine Result Page (SERP).
When we say “ever-changing”, we mean it. SEO techniques can vary wildly from year to year, with old techniques falling out of favor, or even damaging results, depending on what Google decides is most important. However, there are a few tried-and-true methods that are still a great way to get started when it comes to optimizing your site.
Why Your Website Needs SEO Techniques to Succeed
Think back to your recent Google searches (or whichever search engine you rely on). How often have you checked the second page of results? Probably not very often, right? Now, how about the third, fourth, and fifth results pages? Probably almost never.
If your website isn’t on the first few pages of results for a given search term, you’re practically invisible nowadays. Businesses in small communities even have trouble relying on word-of-mouth recommendations these days–nearly everybody needs a viable web presence. SEO is simply the way to “speak a search engine’s language” to ensure that your page is displayed prominently when someone searches for a given keyword.
Although you can pay for advertisements on Google, SEO largely relies instead on free techniques to promote your site’s visibility.
It’s pretty daunting to get started, so the question is: how should you get started in the world of SEO?
Finding a Perfect Keyword
When most people hear the term search engine optimization, they probably think of keywords.
When you’re implementing SEO strategies, your first step should be to find great keywords. This is the phrase around which you will focus your content (i.e. blog posts, “about us” pages, etc.).
How should you come up with your keywords?
First, think about what terms you would use to find your site. For example, if you owned a pizza shop in upstate New York, you might search for the term “Albany Pizza”, or something similar. Now, ask a few of your customers or readers how they would search for your site–take notes. The words they use to describe your site or business are potential fodder for optimized keywords.
Once you’ve brainstormed some possibilities for keywords, you should search for an SEO keyword analyzer (Google provides an excellent one). This will let you analyze your keywords and help you verify whether these keywords are actually useful or not. Just because you think your keyword is good, doesn’t mean it necessarily is.
Location is just as important to your SEO strategy as it is a real estate agent (which is to say, essential).
Search engines can now accurately pinpoint the location of most users, which gives local businesses a better chance than they’ve had of showing up in the first few pages. One way to take advantage of this improvement is to utilize keywords that contain your location.
In large cities like Los Angeles or New York, this might mean incorporating the name of your specific neighborhood. For less-populated areas, you can probably get away with including the name of your city. This will help you help you show up when people search for businesses near them or in the area that they are going to.
Don’t Ignore Mobile Performance
2016 represented a huge change in the world of technology: it was the first year that more internet activity was performed on mobile devices than home computers. Judging from current trends, mobile will continue to be the most important internet access tool.
Have you visited your website on a smartphone, tablet, or other mobile devices? The chances are good that at least 50% of your customers are using a mobile device to view your site. If it doesn’t function well on a smartphone, you need to fix that as quickly as you can. Google has actually started giving preference to websites that can be easily used on both computers and mobile devices, so it can give you a leg up if your websites convert well.
Creating (or Purchasing) Optimized Content
One of the easiest ways to start using your keyboards is to create blog posts and other shareable content. A common strategy for creating new content is researching trending news stories and finding a way in which they connect to your site or business’s niche market. This is easier said than done, however, which is why many sites choose to buy content from “mills”, paying expert freelancers to create SEO-oriented content. Shop around–many sites offer quality content for an amazingly low price.
It’s important not to overdo it with your keyword. If your post is 500 words long, you should only use your optimized keyword once or twice, otherwise, Google will regard your content as “keyword-stuffed” spam. This can seriously harm your place in the results.
Last, but far from least, we’ll take a brief look at a huge factor in search engine rankings: backlinks.
A backlink (otherwise known as an “Inbound Link” or “IBL”) is simply another site that links back to yours. These inbound links essentially “vouch” for your page–if a site that Google trusts, trusts you, Google trusts you more. Obviously, the goal is to get backlinks from the high-trust sites, such as news organizations, popular blogs, or websites with .edu or .org tags.
Link building takes a long time; many people end up paying for it or engaging in some sort of reciprocal exchange. These aren’t bad ideas, but frankly, if you want the best results for your backlink buck, you should enlist the services of a qualified SEO agency. This is because your backlinks need to focus on quality, as opposed to quantity.
Other Important Factors
Even though there are nearly countless SEO strategies, here are a few other important basic things to consider:
Avoiding Spam and Excessive Notifications–If too many users block your site or flag you as spam, it can damage your site’s search engine results, sometimes irreparably. Post only high-quality, relevant content, and shy away from annoying pop-ups and huge banner advertisements.
Bounce Time–Bounce time simply refers to how long the average user spends on your website. If most users quickly navigate away from your site, Google assumes that there must be something wrong–consequently, a high bounce rate equals a low Google rank. You can improve your bounce time with quality content, as well as an intuitive and attractive format and site-flow.
Contact Information–One step that many beginning SEO users overlook is their contact information. You want to make sure your contact information is the accurate and updated.
It might seem tough to get started, but it’s really not–if you follow these first few steps, you’ll start to set yourself up for search engine success. We love to interact with and help our readers–if you have any comments or questions about beginner SEO strategies, let us know below.