Having a basic understanding of SEO is a useful skill for many reasons. Often there is a lot of uncertainty around how SEO works and why it's important, so understanding the basics of SEO can not only help you implement best practices yourself, but can help you better communicate with and support your SEO vendor.
What is SEO?
But first, before diving into the how, it is important to understand the overall purpose of SEO. It often seems more overwhelming than it actually is because the focus is often heavily placed on the technical aspect of SEO. But if you are just getting started, it is more important to understand the basic principles than to really get lost in all of the technical mumbo jumbo.
The main purpose of SEO, and the thing you have to keep coming back to, is user experience. Although SEO stands for "search engine optimization," a more accurate title would be "user experience optimization."
If you deliberately focus on the user and making your website as easy and clear as possible for the people visiting it, everything else will fall into place.
So remember as you begin your SEO journey to focus on the people you want visiting your website. This will influence every decision you make.
Before getting started on the actual implementation of SEO, you want to invest some time into the research aspect of SEO. While this can seem overwhelming as a newcomer, it really is important and will actually make things a lot easier for you in the long run.
The first step is to really dig deep and research your ideal website visitor.
A lot of times, people want awesome SEO to generate tons of free traffic. While having tons of traffic to your website is great and all, it can actually be counterproductive. You want to be sure you are getting the RIGHT traffic. And if you don't know exactly who you want on your site, you will probably fail to attract them.
Once you have a concrete idea of who your ideal website visitor is, you need to research what they're searching for online.
For example, let's say you are trying to sell fashionable clothing pieces. If you choose to optimize around keywords such as "how to choose high quality fabrics" and "best dress patterns," these types of keywords are going to draw an audience who wants to create their own fashion pieces. And while they may have a lot of interests in common with you, they are not necessarily interested in purchasing your pre-made clothing items.
Instead, because you know this about your audience, you can focus on "fashion trends in 2016" or "taking an outfit from day to night." This audience is going to be more interested in purchasing featured items from you that are trendy, transitional pieces.
Once you know what type of keywords and topics are going to interest your desired audience, you want to start creating content for your website that reflects your research findings.
But here's the catch. Don't focus too much on using an EXACT phrase into your content. Google and other search engine's are smart enough to identify similar phrases and wording. So don't over stuff your content with the same phrase over and over again. Remember, keep your content focused on the user.
My advice is to focus foremost on writing a compelling piece of copy. Once you've done that, review it using an SEO checklist to ensure that your piece will be found online for the keyword you've selected.
Here is a sample SEO checklist:
- Page title
- Meta description
- Image alt tags
- Use Headers at least once
- Use at least 1 outbound link
- Interlink with at least 2 relevant blog posts on the website.
If you already have existing pages on your website (which most sites usually do), you want to be sure your existing pages are optimized to their full potential. Use the checklist from above to ensure each page has a focus keyword (or a few variations of a similar keyword phrase) that make it clear what the page is about.
Don't waste any on-site opportunity available to clearly explain to search engines (and more importantly users) what your website is all about.
If you're a beginner at SEO, I strongly recommend focusing on your on-site optimization first and foremost. But there comes a point where you need to ensure your off-site SEO is up to par as well.
Some of the basics of SEO off-site includes creating and optimizing social media accounts and creating online local directory listings. What accounts and listings you create will depend on your industry, but this can greatly boost your visibility online.
While SEO can be a little confusing at first, armed with these basics and the right mindset, you'll be well on your way to getting found online by the right audience.