01 Sep A Beginner’s Guide to SEO: Why It Matters and How to Do It Right
You probably hear about SEO all the time, but do you actually know what it means and how great of an impact it can really have on your website? When I first heard about it, it sounded like something that only a few digital marketing gurus could understand and something that would probably take me a long time to learn how to do.
The truth of the matter is that SEO is quite easy to understand and you can learn the basics pretty quickly. It’s not rocket science and literally anyone could learn what it takes to optimize a website for search engines and drive more traffic to it. Of course, learning everything about SEO certainly takes more time but, for a complete beginner in the field, this guide is more than enough to help you get the hang of the most important fundamentals, so that you can know exactly what to do to boost your website traffic and attract quality leads that you can convert.
What Exactly Is SEO?
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a process of optimizing your website in order to increase its visibility in search engines, so that you can attract more organic traffic and increase your conversions. If done right, it helps you place your website as high in SERPs (search engine result pages) as possible.
What does it mean to optimize your website for search engines? It means that you try and improve all the technical and creative elements included on your site, so that they form a structure that not only search engines will understand, but that your website visitors will also find appealing and relevant.
Therefore, SEO is not all about making your website search-engine friendly. It is also about making it attractive to your target audience, especially because user experience is one of the numerous factors in Google’s ranking algorithm that can significantly affect your SEO ranking.
Why Do You Really Need SEO?
Perhaps you’re thinking that you don’t really need to bother with all this SEO mumbo-jumbo when your social media accounts count lots of followers who are constantly visiting your site in search for the products or services that you offer. If that is the case, then your social media marketing strategy must be effective, but how would you like to go even further than that and pull in even more people looking to buy what you are trying to sell?
While social media and other sources of traffic are certainly great at helping you generate leads and conversions, the majority of traffic comes from search engines. There are certainly a lot of people who are looking for what you have to offer and they have no idea that your business even exists. Search engine optimization will enable you to spread the word about your business and reach all those people who will be genuinely interested in what you do.
In a way, search engines are like yellow pages. Therefore, by placing your website in those yellow pages, you will help your target audience find you easily. All they need to do is type in their search queries in the search box and your website will pop up.
Therefore, if you don’t optimize your website for search engines, you miss out on a great deal of opportunities to expand your customer base and grow your business. Without SEO, your website would be buried deep in SERPs where no one would be able to actually see it and where not even web crawlers could find it and evaluate whether or not it is relevant to the searchers’ queries.
Keyword research is the first and most important step that you need to take when starting to optimize your website for search engines. It can really make or break your website, so it is of utmost importance that you do it right. Not only can this activity give you a clear insight into which terms and phrases people are typing in their search boxes in order to find something that you provide, so that you can implement them into your content and help them find you easily, but it can also help you learn more about your target audience and get to know them better.
Why is it important to get to know your audience? It’s because it’s not all about getting more traffic to your site – it’s about getting the right kind of traffic. That is why you need to learn everything about your target market, so that you can get an insight into its keyword demand.
The key is to figure out which keywords have a high search volume (the number of people who are searching for particular keywords), but you also need to make sure that they have low competition, because your chances of getting higher rankings will be much better when particular keywords produce fewer results.
One of the best tools that you can use to find the right keywords for your website is Google’s Keyword Planner. You can search for various keyword ideas and see how well they would perform and, by creating an AdWords account and logging into it, this tool can even provide you with ideas for keywords based on the content on your site.
Another important thing about keywords is the fact that search engine bots that read your site cannot exactly look at your images and videos and see whether or not they are relevant. You need to describe them using proper keywords, so that bots can actually understand them and determine your SEO ranking accordingly.
Long-tail keywords are phrases consisting of three or four words that very specifically describe what you offer. They can be incredibly valuable, but you need to know how to use them.
When someone searches for a very specific phrase, they usually already know exactly what they are looking for so, by implementing long-tail keywords into your content, you will help those people find you almost instantly. This is because those keywords have low competition and, more importantly, they are much more relevant. When search engines see that relevance, they will direct people to your site, as they will evaluate that you are the right source for the kind of information that people need.
For instance, if you are selling furniture, the keyword “furniture” would certainly get you loads of traffic, but most of it would not be the right kind of traffic that you need. The people who need specific pieces of furniture may not need the pieces that you are selling, so you will not be able to generate quality leads with this keyword.
On the other hand, if you implement keywords such as “home office wood furniture”, “wicker patio chairs” or “contemporary Art Deco lounge”, you would drive quality leads that you can easily convert. You would pull in less traffic, but it would be the right kind of traffic that will lead to increased sales and a higher ROI.
Crafting Relevant Content
Content is what sells, so they don’t say that content is king for nothing. The content that you present on your website is precisely what will help people learn more about the products or services that you offer, so you need to make sure that your content is informative and relevant.
What’s more, your content, together with your targeted keywords, is what will help search engines learn more about you and evaluate whether or not your website is a relevant source of information.
When you know which keywords you should use in order to help your target audience find you quickly, creating your content should be easy. However, you shouldn’t focus solely on the keywords, because your content may turn out to be plain and downright boring. Instead, try and create high-quality content that is unique and interesting, so that your target audience will be compelled to stay longer on your website and learn more about you, as well as come back again to see what else you have to say.
You need to update your content on a regular basis, so that you keep your audience engaged with new and fresh information about your business. Moreover, search engines love fresh content and, when they see that you frequently update your website with relevant content, they will rank you higher in SERPs. Also, make sure that your titles are eye-catchy and inviting, so that people will be enticed to actually read the pieces you publish.
Link building may just be the most important SEO tactic that can bring you a lot of targeted traffic and increase your website’s ranking value. It is the process of implementing links from other websites into your content, that is, the process of adding hyperlinks from other websites to your own site.
Proper link building and, of course, relevant content will lead to other websites linking to yours. As a result, search engines will see you as a credible and trustworthy source of information, so they will increase your SEO ranking. The higher number of websites that link to your site, the higher your SEO ranking will be.
You need to make sure that you add links that are truly relevant and that can provide your readers with high-quality sources for further reading. The most essential thing to pay close attention to when including hyperlinks is the anchor text. The anchor text is that underlined clickable piece of text that you see in a hyperlink, so it must be relevant to the web page that the link leads to, because generic text will not help you improve your SEO ranking.
The best practice with adding links to your content is to add those that have the highest DA (Domain Authority). It is a search engine ranking score that shows how well a particular website will rank in SERPs. One of the best tools to help you find links with high DA is MozBar, so make sure you use it.
Optimizing Your Website’s Code
Apart from crawling your website to evaluate text, search engine bots also read your website’s code. Therefore, it is crucial that you optimize your code as well.
You need to optimize your title tags, as they show what each page on your website is really about. Make sure you have a unique title tag for every single page, and don’t forget to include your keywords. Heading tags are also vital, so they need to contain your keywords and be relevant, and you need to make sure that the main heading has an H1 tag, while the following ones descend to H2, H3, H4, and so on.
Optimizing your meta descriptions is also very important, not as much for your SEO ranking as for actually prompting your target audience to click through and see what your website is about. Again, your keywords should be included and you need to use full sentences, but be careful as not to make the descriptions too long, because search engines don’t display snippets longer than 160 characters. Also, your every website page should have a unique meta description.
Alt tags are essential for images, as they enable search engine bots to index your images properly. Therefore, along with relevant names and short descriptions of every image that you add on your website, you need to add alt tags. For instance, if a particular image is a shot of a red flower, the alt tag for that image would look something like this:
<img src=”http://mycity-web.com/images/redflower.jpg” alt=“redflower” />
Your URLs are extremely important for SEO as well because, if they are not structured well, search engines will not be able to index your website properly. In order to optimize your URLs for search engines, you should make them short and use only letters and numbers (without other characters, such as “?”, “!” “=”, “%”, “@”), as well as use dashes to separate words.
These SEO basics will help you significantly increase your organic traffic, that is, traffic coming from search engines, so make sure you start implementing every piece of advice from this guide as soon as you can. It’s important to note that you won’t see a high peak in traffic immediately, because it takes time for search engines crawl your site, just as it takes time for you to see exactly what works for your website.
Therefore, start by figuring out what your target audience is looking for, so that you can make sure that your website can effectively meet their needs, and then proceed by optimizing your website for search engines, so that your target audience can actually find you quickly and easily. This is ultimately what search engines expect from you, so let the tips above guide you on your way to turning your website into a lead-generation machine.