SEO 101

Where do you start with SEO?

SEO. You’d be surprised how many people put it on their resume. After all, it’s just adding a heap of keywords into a webpage or blog post isn’t it?
In a word. No. It’s not. Search Engine Optimization refers to a cosmos worth of rules and principles. What’s more, that cosmos is changing all the time.
SEO guru Rand Fishkin, who founded MOZ, defines the complexity of his field as follows…
“SEO is any input that search engines use to rank pages. Anything that people or technology does to influence those elements is what the practice of SEO is all about.”
This opens up all kinds of Pandora boxes. However, everyone has to start somewhere. Getting good at SEO begins with baby steps. Here are a few footsteps to follow…
Essential SEO
These tips are pretty much best-practice. These alone won’t get you the number one spot in the search engine rankings, but they will lay the foundations for the future…
Website Submission
The first step towards getting your website noticed by the search engines is to tell them about it. All the big search engines make it easy for you to submit your site to them. It takes less than 30 seconds for both Google and Bing.
Crawl Friendly Web Design
A web crawler is a computer program that search engines use to gather the data they need to rank a website in their listings. To make your website crawler-friendly you can do things like break up your web pages into chunks of copy with easily identifiable headlines for each section. It’s also helpful to upload a sitemap in XML format to your website. This will help crawlers navigate your site, especially if it’s a complex one. If you have pages on your website that you think might be misleading or irrelevant to a customer’s search aims, you can place a text file called robots.txt in the root of the website hierarchy. This will tell crawlers to disregard these pages. You can also use certain Google Webmaster tools to help identify crawl errors that could damage a site’s SEO ranking. Finally, try to avoid hiding important text in graphics, because crawlers can’t read this text.
Keyword Research
Keyword research should help you get the right sort of visitors to your site. Keywords are the words that customers type into the search bar when they are looking for a service or product. Spending time researching these keywords can help your website appear in the search listings in relation to these keywords. Google Adwords is a great tool for figuring out the value of keywords.
It’s also a good idea to do some research into the keywords your competition seem to be using – what keywords do they seem to be trying to use and what keywords do they rank well for? Plenty of tools exist to do this for you – just pop in the competitor’s URL and press go – all their secrets will be revealed. SEO book is popular tool for doing this.
Keyword research isn’t just something you need to do once. It’s a practice you need to keep updating constantly.
Relevant Content
Over the past few years Google has done everything in its power to stop people from cheating at SEO. Therefore, they’ve made it important for websites to feature quality relevant content. More specifically, content that is is expert and informative. Setting up a blog and using it to comment on relevant issues or to offer helpful advice can contribute to your content ticking the right boxes with the search engines. The mantra must alway be ‘make it useful for your visitors and do not focus on search engines and keywords’.
Second Level SEO
Once you’ve got the basics sorted, you can try to make your website more competitive by following these tips…
Engaging Content
You might think you’ve written a masterpiece on your blog, but it doesn’t count for much if it’s not getting engagement. By this we mean social media shares and the encouragement of other websites and blogs to link to your work. Content is more likely to be shared if it solves a problem, raises an emotion, supports a cause, or offers an incentive for sharing. You can use free tools like Google Analytics to work out which pieces of your content are proving most popular with your visitors. In addition, you can use sites like Google Trends and Quora to get a better insight about what people are talking about.
Again check out your competition to find out who is doing content really well in your market. Once you have found them check out what they are writing about and see what is getting the best shares and reader engagement.
SEO links
Organic Link Building
Links are still a huge factor in website rankings. Anything that promotes link growth helps SEO. However, don’t be tempted to cheat at this, because Google has ways of blacklisting sites who do things like pay for links in shady places. You can increase the number of links to your site by forming relationships with bloggers and writing guests posts for them. As with any blogging activity, make sure what you write is bang on topic and useful for the audience. Pushing out the same lightweight piece and content with deep links and keywords will actually do you harm.
Avoid any kind of automated or mass link building practices like blog comment spam, profile links, social bookmarking and article marketing spam.
Social Media
Promoting your content on social media can work wonders for your SEO. For example, studies have shown that content that is tweeted about a lot will be indexed by Google up to 50 percent faster than content that has not been put on social media. Social media is also a great place to get people talking about your brand, Google have said over and over again that branding is very important for ranking. If you build your brand visibility you’ll build your ranking.
In Summary
Building your SEO requires marathon mentality rather than the race approach. It takes considerable time to see results.
In the meantime, you could always consider pay per click and display advertising to garner yourself some attention online. Display advertising is simply online advertising and it refers to things like banner ads and pay per click adverts. You need a bit of a budget to invest in this sort of advertising. To find out more about it, read this Midphase blog.