SEO: Where to Start

SEO: Where to Start

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the most important aspects of digital marketing. SEO is the process of improving your site to increase its visibility when people use a search engine like Google, and it’s getting more important every day in this digital age.

SEO may seem like an intimidating job, but overall, it’s a series of simple tasks… there’s just A LOT of them. Once you understand the terminology and what these tasks are, it’s only a matter of applying them to your web pages.

In this article, I’ll tell you how SEO works, and show you where to start with SEO for your website.

On-Page SEO

On-page SEO is what people typically think of when they hear the term “SEO.” On-page SEO deals with the outward-facing aspects of a webpage. It includes things, such as keywords, media, meta descriptions, and links.

Keywords: Keywords have been the king of SEO for a long time, and they are the best place to start your SEO implementation. Keywords or keyphrases are the terms people search in Google or another search engine to find content. It stands to reason that a search engine will show pages that have the words people are searching for, right?

It’s best to have 2-3 focus keywords per page to increase your chances of having the words or terms people are searching for. To find out which keywords are the most popular, you will need to do research. Google provides some great tools for keyword research like Google Keyword Planner (be sure to check out the upcoming AAM Minute for a deep dive into Google Tools). You should also research your competitors’ websites to see what keywords they are using (and if they’re working).

Try to make sure your keywords appear in the title of your page as well as your headings in order of importance. This means your main keyword or phrase should be in your page title and h1, the next most important is your h2s, and your h3s. The title and headings are what Google looks at first when looking for results to display. Keywords and keyphrases should also appear in the paragraph text on-page. Be sure you integrate the keywords naturally into the sentences.

Finally, don’t overdo it! If you try to add too many keywords or repetitions of your keywords, Google will consider that “keyword stuffing” and it will hurt your SEO. It’s a balancing act.

Media: Media are the images, infographics, videos, and recordings that are on your page. Just having these will improve your SEO. At the bare minimum, you should have one image per page that is representative of the subject matter.

For most media, you have the option of adding “alt text” or alternative text. Alt text will appear if the media doesn’t load and it will be read out loud to those with visual impairments using a text-to-speech tool. Google considers this to be more useful than media without alt text, and that means it gets priority. It also gives you the opportunity to include a keyword so it does double duty when it comes to SEO! Including media relevant to a web page’s subject matter is another fairly easy and very effective on-page SEO tool.

Meta Descriptions: Meta descriptions are very important to SEO. A meta description is the text that will appear on your Google result when your page shows up in a search. It should be a short description of your page and detail the value the reader would receive by clicking the link.

If you don’t already have one, install an application or plugin in your site builder that lets you customize this text (Yoast has a great free option). Make sure to stay within the character limit of a Google search result (160 characters) and include your focus keyword and a call to action to encourage people to click through.

Links: Links are a relatively recent addition to on-page SEO. Google values a reliable page that links to other relevant, reliable pages. A page with links is more useful because a person won’t have to keep Googling related topics if they can easily click links to relevant information from a single page.

There are two types of on-page links: internal and external. Internal links are links that send people to other pages on the same website, whereas external links send people to other websites. You will need both to fully optimize a page.

Internal links are handy because you don’t have to worry about reliability or domain authority because it’s your own site. Your internal links should all go to other relevant content. Remember to not over-link internally.

External linking is a little more involved. To get the SEO benefits, your external links need to be relevant, and the sites you’re linking to have to be considered reliable. Reliability is a little nebulous, but your safest bets are domains such as .gov and .edu, or a domain owned by an established, prominent company/organization. Google doesn’t want to recommend a page that could link to shady sites. Here’s a handy guide to gauge a site’s reliability!

Another important type of link for SEO is the backlink. Backlinks are links on OTHER websites that point back to yours. These are by far the hardest links to get, but they greatly improve your SEO and domain authority. Since you have no control over what others put on their websites, you must campaign to get other sites to link to yours. The best way to get backlinks is by collaborating or sharing content. When working with another site or contributing content, you can request to be credited for your contribution and have them include a backlink to your website.

Technical SEO

Technical SEO, or “backend SEO,” refers to the things you can do to optimize your site that people don’t necessarily see. It works on the backend of your website. This includes site speed, mobile-friendliness, duplicate content, and sitemaps.

Site Speed: Site speed is fairly self-explanatory: it’s how fast your web pages load when clicked on. People’s patience is growing ever thinner, and Google takes that into consideration. If Google sees that your page takes even a few milliseconds too long, it’ll prioritize one that loads faster.

So, what can increase your site speed?  You can give your site a boost by using smaller image and video files, deleting unnecessary pages or media to free up storage space, improving your server, deleting unnecessary code, and more. A great free tool that will grade your site speed and give you recommendations for improvement is PageSpeed Insights.

Mobile Friendliness: The majority of people visiting websites are now on mobile devices. It makes sense that Google would prioritize mobile-friendly sites if most people surfing the web are on their phones.

Fortunately, most website builders include a mobile mode where you can preview and edit how your site appears on mobile devices. Be sure to review and optimize the mobile version of your webpage when creating or editing a webpage on your site editor. This is one of the things you can do to improve SEO fast.

Duplicate Content: Working on a website involves creating and editing TONS of webpages, images, videos, articles, and blog content. You must stay diligent and make sure you are not repeating yourself! Having duplicate content lowers your overall SEO.

Sometimes you’ll make new, updated pages of content already on your site. Be sure to delete or take old pages off your website. Having two or more pages with the same content will harm your SEO, even if they aren’t linked anymore.

The same is true when it comes to media. Make sure you’re using unique images, videos, and/or infographics for every page, article, or blog. This can get difficult depending on how many pages you have and how much content you’re producing but staying on top of duplicate content will help.

Sitemaps: A sitemap is basically a document that lists out the URLs and how they’re organized on a website. It gives search engines a “map” of your website they can scan quickly to determine its content.

This doesn’t necessarily do anything for your site, but it helps the search engine analyze results faster when bringing up suggestions. Because you enable the search engine to read your site faster, it increases your SEO. It’s like a “thank you” from the search engine for making its job easier! Google has an excellent guide on building and submitting a sitemap.

The Time is Now

The best time to start SEO is now. However, SEO takes time to produce noticeable results. You will not get to page one of Google overnight. It takes an average of six months to see significant results.

SEO is a competition, and a lot of sites have been optimized longer than others. If you continue to optimize your site and produce new content, you’ll rise through the ranks. Keep track of your website analytics and monitor your organic traffic to see how you’re doing.

If you feel that you’re not seeing the results you should go back through and optimize again. Search engines are constantly changing, and evolving meaning SEO is an ongoing job. It’s a lot of work for delayed results, but it is well worth it. Hopefully, I have provided the basics of SEO and a good place for you to start. Good luck!

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