The Beginner’s Guide to SEO

SEO for beginners

There are billions of people online, and one effective way to grow your brand is to gain a strong online presence.

So, you create a website, describe your product, and write a few blogs. In no time, users will start flocking to you and buying what you’re offering.

Right?

It doesn’t often work that way. There are 1.72 billion websites today, and getting noticed in the sea of content can be tough.

how many websites are there
Statista

So, how do you improve your chances of being noticed online?

The answer is through effective SEO.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll cover everything you need to know to get started with SEO. You’ll learn how to do keyword research, how to optimize your site for Google search, how to use links effectively, and more.

But first, let’s get into exactly what SEO is and why it’s important.

SEO Explained

The term SEO (search engine optimization) was coined way back in 1995 when Bob Heyman and Leland Harden discovered a way to boost a website’s rank to number one on Google. Back then, it was as simple as stuffing the site with as many keywords as possible.

Today, it isn’t that simple. Google’s main goal is to deliver relevant content to satisfy searchers’ needs. This means a lot of factors (including quality content and website design) play a pivotal role in boosting SEO ranking.

So, exactly what is SEO? Simply put, it’s optimizing your website so that you get more high-quality traffic. It’s showing Google that you are the best choice for people searching for certain topics online. You are the one who can answer their questions and give them what they need.

Sound easy?

It’s not. But SEO, when done right, will give you results you can’t get from other forms of marketing.

3 Reasons to Invest Time and Talent in SEO

Is SEO worth it? Here are three facts to prove it.

1. Most Organic Traffic is Driven by SEO

There are a ton of ways you can drive traffic to your site. For example, you can pay for ads, use social media platforms, and so on.

However, organic search is still the number one source of traffic. People trust search engines like Google to find them content that’s relevant to their lives and needs. In fact, only 2.8% of online users arrive at a website through paid ads.

2. SEO Provides Residual Value

With PPC ads, what you pay for is what you get. Once a user clicks on your ad, you open your wallet. And when you stop paying for ads, you no longer get clicks and traffic to your site.

SEO is different. Its value builds over time. Of course, you won’t experience the same fast results as you do with PPC ads. You need time to build a good website, create quality content, and learn the ropes of effective SEO practices. But once your site is optimized well for search engines, you’ll continue to gain traffic without spending any more time or money. With evergreen content and a website focused on user experience, your brand will experience growth through constant organic traffic to your site.

3. SEO Establishes a Brand’s Credibility

62% of consumers use a search engine when looking for information. This means you have a huge chance to show what your brand offers through your website.

SEO gives you a chance to establish trust with your prospects. This is because unlike with paid ads, you aren’t after an immediate sale. You can take things slowly. With timely advice, you can help prospects with their needs. You can solve their problems and give them what they want. In time, they’ll come to trust you and potentially buy what you’re offering. This goes a long way to establishing your brand’s credibility.

Step-by-Step Guide on SEO for Beginners

SEO can be confusing because there is so much to learn about search engine algorithms, how to rank for keywords, and so on. In this guide, we show you how to do it step-by-step.

Step 1: Make Sure Your Site is Accessible to Search Engine Crawlers

Here are three things you should do to improve your site’s accessibility.

1. Find Out How Many of Your Site’s Pages are Indexed

When search engine crawlers detect new content online, they take the data and store it in their index. They then crawl their index and find the most relevant content when people search online using certain keywords.

To find out how many of your site’s pages are indexed, type “site:[your site’s URL]” (without the quotation marks) into the Google search bar. For example, when you search site:nytimes.com, you’ll get 6,960,000 results. This number gives you an idea of how many of your site’s pages are indexed.

2. Allow Web Crawlers to Find Your Most Important Pages

You want relevant pages to be indexed on search engines. This is because you want search engines not only to find your site but also to understand it. Here are three things you can do to achieve this:

  • Don’t put relevant pages behind user log-in requirements or forms.
  • Always link your pages to your site’s primary page to give crawlers a bridge to get there.
  • Make sure your mobile navigation has the same results as your desktop navigation.

3. Use a Site Map

Since you want Google to access your most relevant pages, why not feed these pages’ URLs straight to web crawlers? To do this, submit a file to Google’s Search Console with all these URLs. This is your site map.

What a site map can do is give web crawlers an easy way to your site’s relevant pages. This will help your search engine ranking improve.

Step 2: Optimize Your Content with Relevant Keywords

Even if you’re new to SEO, you probably relate SEO mainly with keywords. You know keywords are what help you rank better on search engines.

But how can you tell the difference between effective and bad keywords? And when you’ve chosen your keywords, where do you place them in your content?

1. The Secret of Keywords: How to Choose the Best Keywords for Your Content

Start by choosing a reliable keyword research tool to help you determine whether a keyword idea is a good one to use. For instance, SEMrush is a powerful tool used by competent digital marketers today.

The next step is to come up with your keyword seed. This is a keyword idea based on your product or service. Start by getting into your prospects’ minds. What questions would they ask around your product? For instance, if you sell shoes online, you might go with “best online shoe stores,” as your keyword.

When you’ve come up with your keyword idea, type it into your keyword tool. What you’ll be able to see on the tool is your keyword’s score and the competition for this keyword. It’s best to choose a keyword with high search volume but low competition.

Remember these tips as you search for the best keyword to use in your content:

  • If your site is new, choose a keyword with a score of 50 or below.
  • It’s okay to choose a keyword with low search volume, as long as it’s also a low competition keyword.
  • Keep trying different keyword variations until you find one that matches all your criteria.

2. How Long-tail Keywords Direct Quality Traffic to Your Site

In SEO, long-tail keywords are more effective than short keywords.

Short keyword example: shoes.

Long-tail keyword example: formal black leather wedding shoes.

Naturally, the search volume for “shoes” is much higher than “formal black leather wedding shoes.” However, competing for the short keyword will be much tougher. On the Google search results, you’d have to go against brands like Nike, Clark, and Vans.

On the other hand, “formal black leather wedding shoes” has a much lower search volume. Fewer people look for wedding shoes than shoes in general. However, you’d be going up against less well-known brands and have a better chance of competing on Google’s SERPs.

Also, long-tail keywords are better because they direct the right kind of traffic to your site. If you’re selling formal black leather wedding shoes, you don’t want site visitors who are looking for sports shoes. These visitors don’t provide value, as they’re nowhere near buying the leather shoes you’re selling.

3. Synonymous Keywords: The Sprinkles on Your Content

Once you’ve chosen your focus keyword, it’s time to look for synonymous keywords to add throughout your blog. These keywords will help web crawlers further be able to determine the value of your content to users.

To find these keywords, type in your focus keyword on Google. Then, scroll to the very end of the page. There, you’ll find “searches related” to your keyword. For instance, the searches related to “formal black leather wedding shoes” are “formal shoes for men brands,” “waterproof formal shoes,” and “naval shoes price.”

These are your secondary keywords to use throughout your content.

4. Basic Guidelines on Using Keywords in Your Content

In the late ‘90s, ranking for keywords meant stuffing a piece of content with as many keywords as possible. Today, it’s more complex than that.

Follow these tips for placing keywords effectively in your content:

  • Where you place keywords is just as important as which keywords you use. A good practice is to always use your focus keyword in your heading and sub-headings. Also, use your focus keyword in the first and last paragraph of your content.
  • Use as many synonymous keywords as you naturally can in the body of your text.
  • Don’t overstuff keywords. Generally, a keyword density of below 3% is good. To find your content’s keyword density, you can use a tool like Yoast.
  • Write your content naturally. Remember, you’re writing for readers first and robots next.

5. Using Keywords to Beat Your Competition

Keeping an eye on your competitors will help you rank better online. It’s important to remember that Google will pay attention to metrics like how long users spend on your site, how many links they click, and whether they scroll down to the very bottom of your pages.

This means having content that’s better than your competitors’ will help you rank well in the long run.

To spy on your competitors, type your focus keyword into Google. Then, check out the first five sites that appear. These are the five sites that rank highest for your keyword.

Go over the content of each one of these sites. Is it good? Comprehensive? Is there anything missing that readers would like to know? How can you improve on it?

Your goal is to write something better than the content ranked top five for a keyword on Google.

Step 3: Optimize Content to Rank Well on Search Engines

To continually provide users with value, Google constantly updates its algorithms. In fact, it makes several major changes per year.

For example, Google released the Panda update in 2011. This update penalized sites that used black hat SEO tactics like keyword stuffing, duplicating content, and using auto-generated content.

To keep ranking well on Google, it’s important to know the guidelines for creating the kind of content that’ll make it to the top spots of the SERPs. Here’s Google’s own words on how to do it.

focus on content for seo

Based on this blog, user value is the most important factor in search engine rankings. Here are five things that’ll ensure your content survives, no matter what updates Google makes.

1. Content that Answers Users’ Needs

Your content must be valuable enough to make people’s lives a little better once they finish reading it. You need to be able to solve their problems, fill their needs, and inspire them.

To do this, it’s a good idea to research your audience. Find out their deepest fears, needs, and desires. Learn what questions they’re asking. Then, address all this in your content.

2. Well-Established Authority

Before you start practicing as a doctor, you first need to prove your expertise by gaining your degree. Ranking well on Google is the same. Before readers trust you, you need to prove you’re an authority in your industry.

The good news is to build your authority online, you don’t need to take up a special course and gain a certificate or degree. You can do it through writing an informative e-book, consistently creating quality content on your site, and guest posting.

The more established you are as an expert, the more people will trust your blog.

3. Easily Digestible and Trustworthy Presentation

How you structure your content is as important as what your content is saying.

Imagine yourself clicking on a website and being met with a page packed with long sentences. There are no paragraph breaks and the words go on and on to the bottom of the page. What do you do? Click back, of course.

You don’t want your readers to feel this way about your content. To avoid it, break your content up into bite-size pieces. Use sub-headers and bullet format. Diversify your sentence and paragraph length. This works well not only for readers but also for you since Google is able to detect easily digestible content.

Also, make sure your content is free of spelling and grammar errors. One small mistake will send your authority plummeting in no time.

4. Original Content that Stands Out

There’s simply so much noise online. Writing something that’s already been said won’t add anything new to the table. This is why you shouldn’t duplicate information that can already be found on other sites.

Instead, you should strive to add something new to content already online. It’s not hard to do. Simply visit the top-ranking sites and ask yourself what’s missing in their content. What questions naturally arise from the information in the content? Which issues aren’t addressed? In your blog, answer these questions and fill in the missing information readers are looking for.

5. In-Depth Blogs

When writing a blog, don’t be satisfied with content that merely scratches the surface of your topic. Instead, dive deep.

What helps is to write longer blogs. You can’t do a lot with a 500-word blog. On the other hand, a 2,000- to 3,000-word blog allows you the space to include in-depth examples, comprehensive guidelines, graphs, and relevant images.

Also, longer blog posts generally receive more user engagement.

word count for blogging seo
HubSpot

Step 4: Learn the Technical Side of SEO

Although your site’s main goal is good user experience, you also need to know the basics of optimizing it so it’s easy for search engine web crawlers to find. Here are three steps to follow to achieve this:

1. Use Schema Markups to Create Rich Snippets

On your site, there are elements that are far more important than others. Here are some examples:

  • Your company’s operating hours
  • Customer ratings and reviews
  • Your product’s pricing range

What you want is for this information to show up under your site’s main link.

schema markup
Google

This will both entice readers to click on your site and gain you a higher ranking on Google’s SERPs.

So, how do you mark up this data to display under your site’s link?

If you’re using WordPress, it’s simple. All you need to do is install plug-ins like Schema Pro or All in One Schema Rich Snippets. With these easy-to-use plug-ins, you can add essential information like job postings, recipes, ratings, reviews, and more around your site’s link.

2. Polish Your Meta Description

Metadata helps users know what your content is about before they visit your site. In the example above on lemon cake recipes, it’s the line describing the lemon cake as an adaptation of the author’s lemon blueberry cake.

To add metadata to your site, you can use a plug-in like Yoast SEO. Yoast provides a meta box where you can add your meta description. When you type into the box, your description will be added to your rich snippets automatically.

Make sure your meta description is attractive. Compel users to click on your site. It’s a good idea to use as many as 320 characters for the description.

3. Pepper Content with Quality Links

Linking to authority sites within your niche helps Google understand your site and what it’s about.

However, it’s not enough to link to just any site within your niche. You need to be sure it’s a high-quality site with good domain authority.

To find out about a site’s authority, you can use the Alexa Site Info tool. Type the site’s URL into the search box. You’ll then be able to view information on how many keywords the site ranks for, its ranking based on global engagements, and its bounce rate. You want to go for ranking that’s under 100,000 and a bounce rate below 70%.

Attach the Right Metrics to Measure Your SEO Success

Measuring how well you’re doing with your SEO strategy will help you consistently improve over time.

1. Measure How Effective Your Content Is

Two good KPIs (key performance indicators) for content are time on page and scroll depth.

Time on page shows how long a user stays on your page. Scroll depth shows how deeply into your content he goes.

2. Measure the Quantity and Quality of Your Traffic

Google Analytics gives you data on your site’s traffic. You can also get useful information like your visitors’ age, gender, and location. SEMRush also has a tool to help analyze your traffic.

Moving Forward with SEO: How to Rank Well Throughout Time

What good SEO boils down to is two questions: will search engines choose my site to give users? And if they do, will users find value in the site?

If you can answer yes to these two questions, your site will continue ranking well on Google throughout the years.

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