SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the practice of creating and maintaining an online presence that will be prioritized by search engines to indirectly promote your product or services. SEO implementation ranges from simple and straightforward to intricate and complicated, and an entire industry has developed around analyzing the efficacy of different keywords, metadata, and even text formatting. This guide is intended to be a basic introduction to the practice and a launching-off point to furthering your own use of or research into SEO.
SEO for Beginners
Optimizing your website’s listing in search engine results is done by using a variety of techniques, but the following basic practices are easily accessible and integral to any SEO strategy. They can be tailored and expanded to best suit your specific needs.
Using keywords and phrases in your website’s content and metadata to improve your listing in search engine results relevant to your product or services, and
Cultivating an audience that regularly visits your website and refers others to it as a valuable, reliable, and entertaining source of information and advice.
These two techniques feed back into each other with use, and you will need to remain up-to-date on current or trending keywords and search topics. You should regularly produce content such as how-tos, buying guides, and reviews to use the most current keywords and phrases. As your readership grows, you can expand the subject matter you cover to garner a wider audience and adjust the keywords to suit the new direction in a continuous cycle.
Essentially, you are offering information for free to build trust with your customer base and demonstrate your expertise in your field, but if no one knows this information is available, they won’t read it. In order to show up as early as possible in SERPs, or Search Engine Result Pages, you will need to understand what potential customers are looking for, related subjects, and the different phrases and words used to achieve the same search results. By including not only the primary keywords but also these different phrasings, you will capture a larger portion of your target audience.
What Are Customers Searching For?
A lot of SEO comes down to identifying the best keywords, so consider your primary focus, whether it’s a product or a service, and look for keywords associated with this focus. While this sounds straightforward, it can be overwhelming without a specific direction and goal.
One way to narrow the scope of potential keywords is to look at search intent - Wordstream identifies that search engine queries can be grouped into a short list of categories.
Informational intent: queries that seek to answer questions and provide knowledge.
Navigational intent: queries with a goal of gaining access to a specific site through searching for part of its name or content.
Commercial intent: queries looking for information about products before buying them.
Transactional intent: queries intent on finding products to purchase.
By identifying your target audience’s search intent, you can better identify what keywords and phrases they might use. Including the phrase “this is how you know when to stop pumping the gas with a flooded engine” will catch a large number of combinations of the words inside that phrase.
While you don’t need to have the full and exact key phrase to show up in the relevant search results, the more component words that are on your site, and the closer they are to the full phrase, the higher you will be positioned in the SERPs.
How to Optimize Websites for Keywords
The best way to include the optimum number of keywords for SEO on your website is by writing medium- to long-length prose. A how-to guide can rephrase the same question or problem in several different ways throughout its length without sounding forced. A review can mention the product in a variety of settings, with different lead-ins and follow-ups. Consider which of these purposes best aligns with your content, and then adjust as needed.
The consumer's own level of knowledge and specificity matters. If your product or service has a lot of competition, SERPs will be crowded, and increasing your priority in them will be more challenging. A way to get around this is to cultivate an audience in a less-crowded arena and edge into the more popular fields as your audience grows from its niche beginning.
Making Websites Accessible to Search Engines and Humans
Researching keywords, building a structured plan for implementing SEO, and analyzing your website’s traffic will only work if people visit your site. You can increase your accessibility for search engine “crawlers” by using specific formatting, providing transcripts of video or audio content, and making sure that any PDFs are OCR-accessible (Optical Character Recognition), which converts the “flat” image in a PDF into crawl-able text. Bop Design has more detailed information and resources for search engine accessibility.
By putting keywords and phrases into headers or sub-headers, you highlight their importance to the search engine crawlers. Video and audio content can’t be scanned by crawlers for keywords, nor can most PDF files, which is why it’s important to provide transcriptions and accessibility.
Human accessibility relies on your writing style and the content itself. If you can’t avoid using jargon or technical terms, explain them for the uninitiated. Try to make the content engaging and informative to give the reader more reason to continue to the end and come back to review what you have to say. Even better, they might link back to your website from their own.
How to Get Backlinks
Search Engine Optimization incorporates the core concept that you must provide value to gain value. If you offer free content that helps readers, you will cultivate a loyal audience. Over time, this audience will help to bring more readers to your website by sharing your links and social media posts.
This practice of increasing links to your site from outside sources is called “building backlinks.” The more backlinks your site has, the more reputable it is rated by the search engines, resulting in higher priority placement in the SERPs.
How to Measure Your SEO success
Having a handle on your results is an essential aspect of any SEO campaign. How you measure your success or failure, however, will vary wildly depending on the purpose of your website and SEO efforts.
While increased overall traffic is an indication of high visibility, there are other indicators that can tell you what those visitors are doing on your website and how long they stay there. These are called Key Performance Indicators. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) act as a control system and allow you to identify what is working, and if your SEO is working as desired or if you need to make changes.
A popular and powerful tool for analyzing many aspects of your website’s traffic is Google Analytics, which operates by the website owner inserting a block of code onto the web page. This lets Google monitor various activities of people who visit your website, though this service provides a wealth of data that can be overwhelming. Once you sift through that data, you can use your KPIs to adjust your SEO practice.
An example of analyzing your website data is seeing how long visitors stay on your site. While a high volume of traffic is generally good, if visitors leave your website within seconds of opening it, they may not be reading much of it. If 90 percent of your visitors stop scrolling down roughly halfway through an article, they aren’t seeing the information, keywords, or ads that come later. It’s important to set concrete goals for how to adjust your SEO to achieve measurable improvement.