Search Engine Optimization 101 - A Simple SEO Guide
Jun 7, 2021
Originally published in
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Organic search drives 53% of all website traffic, a study by BrightEdge found. If your goal is to grow visibility and get your website in front of fresh eyes, you need to get comfortable with search engine optimization (SEO).
SEO is a combination of art and science, but for every marketer with 1,000 other things to do, SEO is a worthwhile priority. It's not just for B2C either. More than 70% of B2B researchers admit they start their buying process with a generic search.
To help you get started, we've laid out below a simple list busy marketers can do today to improve SEO efforts. Prefer to hear straight from the experts? Watch the webinar recap below.
Webinar Recap: SEO - Your Competitive Advantage
Watch our 30 minute webinar recap. We covered search engine optimization (SEO) basics, how COVID-19 changed search behavior, and impactful steps you can take today to improve your search rankings and drive consistent, qualified traffic to your business.
A Simple SEO Recap
Quick recap for all you SEO newcomers - before you sign up for a service or buy a product, what do you do? You Google it, or use another search engine like Yahoo to find a website that sells the product, look at product reviews, compare prices, or check out the firm's reputation.
After inputting keywords into the search engine, you likely click the first, second, or third search result, oftentimes skipping over the paid results at the top. In fact, it's almost guaranteed that you'll click one of the results on the first page, instead of navigating to page two to see more options.
THAT, right there, is why you need SEO. SEO is a collection of best practices to shape your web pages and copy into orderly and descriptive preferences set by popular search engines (namely, Google) to help boost your webpage to the top of search results.
You can perform SEO on web pages, blog posts, or any online content you want people to find. SEO is not one-size fits all. It combines on-page optimization (content, images, titles, and meta descriptions); off-page (back links, local SEO, reviews); and technical SEO (page speed, sitemaps, schema, SSL, 301 redirects, canonicals).
Follow our SEO basics to get started.
SEO Basics 1: Create Unique Page Titles
A webpage title is a brief page description that tells search engines what your page is all about. The descriptive keywords in the page title are visible in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Every page on your website should be unique and the page title indicates what makes content different from one page to another. It also tells search engines the keywords relating to each page, so your webpage is returned when someone searches for those keywords.
Perform keyword research and develop a list of words your target audience is likely to search for, then front load those keywords in the page title.
Though it's tempting to stuff every possible keyword into the title at the off chance a customer may search for it, don't do this! Keep page titles to 50-60 characters of targeted keywords. You don't want to drive the wrong audience to your page or get penalized by the search engines for keyword stuffing.
Your page title is visible to searchers and should be readable and compelling. It should accurately describe the page and entice prospects to click - like the title of an ad striving to grab customers' attention.
SEO Basics 2: Don't Waste the Meta description
The meta description also describes the page's content. Meta descriptions get a bad rep, oftentimes deemed unimportant to SEO. Although it's true that search engines do not use meta description keywords to rank pages, they form the basis of the page snippet visible to searchers beneath each search result.
The meta description tells us what each search result is about. Like the title, it acts as ad copy to entice us to click one result versus another. Google also bolds the search terms, whether they're an exact or close match. Meta descriptions should stay around 155 characters - anything longer risks getting cut off.
Search engine optimization is all about optimizing our web content to resonate with our human audience. After all, that is usually a search engines goal - getting the most useful information upfront for humans. The human aspect is key with meta description tags - your copy should both describe the page and compel your audience to click and read more.
Each page's meta description should be unique and different from one another (since every webpage should be different) and convey the valuable information on that page. Keywords help your audience and the search engines understand the page's intent, but again, keep the description readable to make sense to your audience.
SEO Basics 3: Optimize URL Structures
The URL is another opportunity to provide context to users and search engines. The URL should be simple and concise, shorter than 2,083 characters to render in all browsers.
Each aspect of the search result is an opportunity to motivate users to click, and the URL is no different! The URL copy should be relevant and compelling, but also readable and scannable for busy searchers.
Below, you'll see how Google offers additional context by displaying the breadcrumb trail. This particularly improves navigation for mobile searchers.
SEO Basics 4: Add in Alt-Tags
Adding alt text to every image on your site helps search crawlers "see" the image by describing it to them. During instances when the image doesn't properly load, the alt text is displayed instead, describing the image for your audience.
Incorporate keywords into your images' alt text to provide context about each image and keep it to around 140 characters.
Similarly, the image file name should also include relevant keywords (all lowercase) separated by hyphens to give search crawlers context around elements on your page.
Don't forget to optimize your images by compressing the file size to protect webpage site speed.
SEO Basics 5: Write Great Content
Search engines aim to help searchers by returning the best content for every search query.
Sounds like a no brainer, but one of the most effective ways you can improve search ranking for specific keywords is to write informative, well-written content on your subject.
Google wants your content to E.A.T - demonstrate Expertise, Authority and Trust. Expertise is proven when your content answers your audience's questions and exceeds their needs. Authority is found in links from relevant, high quality websites, branded search, or social shares. Trust is created through easily accessible policies, reviews, simple contact information, and HTTPS.
Excellent content incorporating keywords (remember, no keyword stuffing!) that your audience finds useful will be more highly read and shared, indicating to search engines that it deserves to be higher up in SERPs. Remember, Google is matching a browser's intent, not an exact keyword match, so add keywords throughout your content in a natural and human way.
At a minimum, add your keywords:
1x in the Title
1x in the Headline
2-3x in the Content
1x in the Meta Description
It's not enough to write just one article, but instead, consistently create original, valuable content that keeps your website fresh and your audience happy. Remember, the human element of SEO is as important as pleasing the search engines.
SEO Basics 6: Use Tools to Track Your SEO Progress
There are a ton of helpful tools to track your SEO progress.
Google Analytics is a free tool to track all kinds of important website metrics. Use Google Analytics to track overall traffic and traffic derived from organic search. Dig deeper to see what landing pages drive the most organic traffic. Whether you're looking into traffic, conversions, or demographics, there's a ton of helpful information available in Google Analytics. (Need a crash course? Visit our Google Analytics Guide to get started.)
Try Google Search Console (formally Google Webmaster Tools) for insight into how Google views your site. In Google Search Console, you can gain insight into search appearance, search traffic, Google Index, crawl status, and security issues. This information can help you determine whether your site is performing optimally, and whether your search efforts are paying off. (We go into more detail on Google Search Console here).
Moz offers a ton of resources for link building and analysis, keyword research, webpage performance, local listings, and more. They also have a very informative, helpful blog and other resources. If you have questions about SEO success, start with Moz.
Follow SEO Basics for Search Success
Following these SEO basics every time you add new content to your site will boost search rankings and get your website in front of a larger audience. Just remember, SEO is part pleasing the search engines and part compelling your audience to click for more.
Make your content readable, informative, and valuable and you're halfway there!