SEO The Basics
What is SEO and why should you bother learning the basics of SEO? In short, SEO is an organic marketing strategy. “Search Engine Optimization” refers to the process of optimizing your website to rank higher in search engines. If we’re being honest, we’re mainly talking about Google. This probably comes as no surprise to you. Google owns almost 93% of the search engine market share. There are still people who prefer Microsoft’s Bing or still use Yahoo (practically from the Stone Age). However, if you want to be successful in SEO, you’ll have to focus on Google.
Pros And Cons
SEO has some advantages and disadvantages. Its main advantages are:
- Consistency: Once you’ve broken through to the top of Google for at least a few keywords, you’ll enjoy consistent traffic on an ongoing basis. This of course translates to money.
- SEO is completely free: You might end up investing some money to get tools to improve your SEO, but you don’t have to spend a dime to get the traffic.
- Get targeted traffic: You can determine what kind of traffic you’ll attract to your site. If you write about Facebook Ads, you’ll likely get people who are running Facebook Ads to click through to your site. That’s why SEO traffic is generally high-quality traffic.
- Increase your brand recognition: People who see your site’s Google search results, or those who click through to your website, will likely remember and recognize your brand in the future.
- Establishes you as the expert: If you provide people with great content that helps them out, you will become a trusted expert figure in their eyes. And if that’s the case, they’re one step away from hiring you or buying from you.
The main disadvantages of SEO are:
- It takes some time to start seeing results: In some rare cases, you might see some results within 3-4 months. However, most of the time you won’t see great results until you’re about 6-12 months in.
- You’ll have to put in some work: That’s just the way of digital marketing – you can pay for easy traffic or you can work to get traffic. Anything organic, like SEO, will usually require some work on your part. That’s not to scare you out of SEO, it’s not rocket science!
- There are no guarantees: If you do a great job with it and take the right steps, it is likely that you will see great results in due time. However, there are no guarantees when it comes to SEO.
Google Search Console Account
Google Search Console is a free service that helps users measure the performance and view the status of their website. This includes traffic, keyword rankings, troubleshooting issues, and Google notifications about the website. It provides insights into how an organic search website performs and how it may affect the site’s ranking in the Google index.
Search Console, in particular, is a useful tool for monitoring & optimizing your SEO strategy. The data provided by Search Console may assist organizations in discovering new ranking possibilities, improving existing performance, and learning how visitors are arriving at their website. You’ll definitely want to implement GSC as part of SEO basics.
Create & Configure Your Google Search Console
This process is very simple. Just type“Google Search Console” in Google and click on the first result. Then you’ll have to choose which Google account you want to use. Enter your domain and click on continue. You will also have to do a DNS verification with your domain provider (Godaddy, Namecheap, Hostinger, etc). Each one of those has a slightly different process, but regardless this should only take a few minutes to complete.
SEO The Basics: What’s A Sitemap?
A sitemap is an XML file that contains information about your site’s pages, videos, & other files, as well as their relationships. This file is read by search engines like Google and Bing in order to crawl your site with more efficiency. A sitemap shows search engines which pages and files on your website you believe are significant. Additionally, it supplies useful information about them. For instance, when the page was last updated and whether there are any other language versions of the page.
Submit Your Sitemap To Google Search Console
You can submit your sitemap in Google Search Console for improved SEO performance. Although it technically isn’t a MUST for small sites (under 500 pages), I recommend you go ahead and just submit your sitemap to Google. It will take you all but 10 minutes and is worth doing because you want to make your website readily available to Google. This way, it’s more optimized for Google and ready for searchers.
First, you will have to create your sitemap. The good news is that many website publishing platforms like Shopify, Wix, and Squarespace will automatically create your sitemap. All you’ll have to do is find it and submit it to Google Search Console (GSC). Although WordPress doesn’t auto-create a sitemap for you, many of the basic plugins that you’ll want to get for SEO will provide that to you for no charge. For example, AIOSEO or Yoast SEO will generate a sitemap for you.
Before submitting your sitemap to Google, you should double-check that it looks right. Just paste your generated sitemap link (.xml) into your internet search bar, and check it out.
Next, you have to submit your sitemap to GSC. Make sure that you are on the right property inside your account. Then click on “Sitemaps” in the left panel. Paste your sitemap into the “Add a new sitemap” section and click the “Submit” button. A popup will appear informing you that your sitemap has been submitted to Google Search Console.
Make sure that the status of your submitted sitemap says “Success.”
Whenever you have any big updates or structural updates on your website, it’s best to re-submit your new sitemap to GSC, to make sure that Google has the most up-to-date version.
Google Analytics Account
Google Analytics is a collection of great tools that allow you to view and analyze your entire website’s traffic. It’s all in one place. While Google Search console largely focuses on organic traffic (SEO), Google Analytics merges all of your sources of traffic into a single interface.
As an important part of SEO basics, You’ll want to connect your Google Search Console account to your Google Analytics account (as well as to your website). This is to ensure that they’re all communicating with each other.
To connect your Google Analytics and Google Search Console accounts, the first thing to do is log into your GA account. Then, make sure you have the right property selected on the top left-hand side. From the bottom left corner, click on the “Admin” button. Next, in property level, click on “All Products” under the “Product Linking” section. Find the ‘Search Console” section and then link your account.
Install A SEO Plugin
Getting a good SEO plugin to help you optimize your SEO is crucial. There are many things to keep track of, and if you aren’t using an SEO plugin you are bound to forget some important SEO basics. Mainly, such a plugin will help you with on-page SEO. This refers to optimizing keywords on your pages in order to rank better on search engines.
If you are using WordPress, I would highly recommend AIOSEO or Yoast SEO. Both of those are great plugins. They will help you make sure that your pages are easily readable. Also, they help ensure your keywords are appropriately placed in your headings, URLs, paragraphs, image ALT text, SEO Titles, Meta descriptions, and much more.
Do Keyword Research
Learning how to do keyword research is a vital SEO skill that entails finding popular search terms and phrases. Knowing what people are looking for will enable you to create content that caters to their needs. Doing keyword research will give you a much better idea of how popular certain keywords are (volume of searches). In addition, it reveals the level of competition for each keyword. It’s harder to rank if competition is high. This process will guide your on-page SEO optimization.
Keyword research not only determines how many searches a certain keyword receives, but also investigates the different ways that language is used to search for a topic or concept online. In conclusion, researching prominent keywords is a must for successful SEO.
For each page on your website, you should have a primary keyword. It’s best to select a total of between 1 and 4 keywords, depending on how much content you have on the page. Short to medium-sized pages should generally contain just 1 or 2 keywords. 4 keywords are usually too much for a page, but you could naturally fit 4 keywords on some very long blog posts.
As a rule of thumb, using your primary keyword 5 or more times on your page should do the trick. Make sure to not overdo it (called keyword stuffing or over-optimization), since your keywords should be seamlessly integrated into the content. Google’s algorithm is extremely sophisticated – it will be able to tell whether you’re placing your keywords naturally and strategically, or whether you’re just stuffing them into your content.
There are more rules of thumb to be aware of with your keywords, such as having your primary keyword in your Post/Page Title, Headings, URL, image ALT descriptions, SEO title, and more. This is where the SEO plugin will come in extremely handy. There are many great keyword research tools you can use that allow you to compare a variety of keywords and metrics. But if you wanted to start with a strong, free keyword research tool- you could try out Wordstream’s tool or the SpyFu free keyword research tool. If you are willing to pay for a nicer keyword research tool, check out Ubersuggest and Ahrefs. Both of these are amazing tools with tons of valuable features.
SEO The Basics: Other
- Make sure your website loads fast. Search engines like Google will demote your sites rankings if your site is slow to load. Google wants to ensure the best user experience, and does not reward slow loading speeds. You can use Google’s free website speed tool to check your site’s speed.
- Make sure your site is mobile-friendly. This is crucial, and one of the things many people overlook. People are constantly browsing the web on their phones in today’s age, with about 55% of all website traffic coming from mobile devices.
- Make sure your page has interesting and relevant content. One of the things that Google’s algorithm evaluates when either improving or demoting a page’s ranking is how engaged your readers are when they land on your page. If users bounce immediately after coming onto your page, this will show Google that your content is either irrelevant or uninteresting. As a result, your rankings will reflect this assessment. Just remember that you are writing content for real people, not for Google’s algorithm. If real people find your content valuable and spend time on your website, this will positively impact your search engine rankings.
In conclusion, if you are running any kind of long-term business, you should definitely go through this list of SEO basics and optimize your website for search engines. It might seem like a low-return activity in the beginning, but once you optimize and start seeing consistent traffic come in, you’ll be very happy that you spent the time and effort.
Are you doing SEO as part of a larger content marketing strategy? Check out our guides on content marketing and the top 14 newsletter ideas. You could also benefit from our guide on social media strategy and how you can utilize your content to get results.