I. SEO: What It Is and How It Works
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and is the concept of optimizing, or developing and presenting, your content in a way that will bring the highest quantity of traffic to your website and improve the quality of these searches by making your site rank higher on the list of results on Google and connect you to the right searchers. Maybe you’ve never heard of SEO before, but adding a few updates or edits to your marketing plan in order to optimize your rankings on search engines could make all of the difference to your website’s success. Let us break it down for you in this complete beginner’s guide to SEO strategies!
Imagine that you sell school supplies. After a quick Google search for “best highlighters for teachers,” you can see how easily content can get lost among the millions of other search results. Essentially, through SEO, you’re trying to convince Google and other search engines that your content should be at the top of the SERP, or search engine result page.
SEO strategies can also direct your information to the right audience. Through this, SEO helps to give your content a wider reach while also ensuring it gets to your ideal audience (make sure you decide who this is ahead of time!), increasing your engagement. These strategies can be implemented through the on-page content you present, including formatting, keywords used, and page organization and display, and also through the backend of your website, including technical SEO and backlinks on your pages. We’ll also walk you through how to begin analyzing the data that comes with these strategies and how to adjust these tactics to be most effective for your goals.
II. Keyword Research
Keyword research is exactly what you would expect it to be. As your SEO specialists, we research which keywords and keyword phrases are being searched the most often in Google for your specific business, industry, product, or topic. This helps us learn about and identify your target audience and then pull in these searchers specifically to provide more potential customers.
Finding the right keywords for a site or page means identifying the central topic of the page and then the most commonly searched keywords related to this topic. By identifying the “search intent” or main goal of those searching Google, we can choose the most accurate keywords for your content, which will bridge your content and your ideal audience!
How To Choose Keywords
- If you’re just starting with keyword research and want to drum up some keywords that will bridge this gap, start by answering questions like “What problem is the searcher trying to solve?” and “How is my content providing a solution?” Then you can identify the best keywords based on some follow-up questions. What do you think your ideal customer is currently searching for? Do they know they have a problem that your product or service solves? Do they already have the solution, or do you need to give them one? Where are they located and how are you planning to reach them?
- For more keyword inspiration, you can also use the website AnswerThePublic.com to research your niche subject. Or, try out software like SEMrush that provides other related keywords and terms to take the heavy lifting out of keyword research for you. We recommend using the highest volume and lower-difficulty keywords to get the sweet spot of keyword specificity!
- Speaking of specificity, long-tail keywords are the more specific cousins of their general keyword relatives. These narrow down the search results by providing more information about the details of whatever your general topic may be. Though this brings in less traffic overall, it narrows down the search results, getting your website to the best audience and giving you less search-result competition to worry about.
- If you are a small business owner who sells handcrafted rugs, a general keyword for your rug sales website would most likely be “rug sales,” but narrowing this search down to the more specific long-tail keyword of “hand-crafted tufted area rugs” will help your content to be shown to exactly the right searcher, rather than getting lost among millions of other “rug sales” searchers.
III. On-Page Optimization
In addition to the behind-the-scenes work that keyword research does to help optimize your search engine hits, on-page optimization is a vital piece of the puzzle that shouldn’t be overlooked. Optimizing your content on the page itself may seem obvious, but there are a few key ways to make sure that you are providing all of the information needed to increase your ranking.
- Don’t include more than one H1 header. Header tags are like chapters in a novel. They break up the larger piece of text and provide an outline and preview of the coming content. Including headers in your text or even multiple tiers of headers helps to break up the text and make it more user-friendly and easy to understand. Once the text includes on-page optimization like headers, it becomes more readable, so it will rank higher among search engines looking to provide content that is easy to digest, but having multiple H1 level headers will confuse both your readers and the search engine about the main idea of your site and will lead to a lower ranking.
- Do include title tags or labels that display the name of each webpage when searched for on Google. These title tags, along with their corresponding meta descriptions or the explanation of the page that is seen underneath that title, are used when displaying your pages to give searchers a better understanding of the content that your website provides and reel in your niche audience. The title tags are the clickable links that lead to your website or a specific page, so these are the first pieces of information about your site that searchers will see and need to be attention-grabbing and an accurate depiction of your content.
- Do include a keyword anywhere that you can fit it organically. Most people know that the basics of SEO suggest including related keywords in the copy on your website, but don’t forget to include these keywords in other, often overlooked areas as well. Having keywords included in the slug, or anything that comes after the .com on your website address, as well as on your page titles and descriptions, is a great way to keep directing the right traffic to your site. Just make sure that these keywords are accurate and fit in these spaces and that you don’t add keywords that don’t make sense just to boost your ranking.
IV. Technical SEO
Technical SEO can be broken into three categories: crawlability, indexation, and performance.
- Crawlability is how accessible and scannable your webpage is to search engines
- Indexation is how easily the search engine can index and file the information listed on your page
- Performance may sound self-explanatory, but this guarantees that your site loads quickly and correctly, provides what it promises, and responds as expected when links are clicked.
These factors all affect how easily discoverable your website is to search engines and, thus, to searchers. Start with guaranteeing that your pages are all loading quickly, your pages each have a set organizational structure, and that all of the links displayed on your page work correctly so that the site can be properly indexed and displayed later.
- Tips for Technical SEO
- To improve your rankings faster, submit an XML sitemap to Google rather than waiting for Google or another search engine to crawl and index your site manually. This sitemap is essentially a roadmap of your website's links and pages, organized and laid out for Google.
- Run a full site audit or have 13 Emeralds look at your site to check for anything slowing down your SEO and ranking progress. Software like SEMrush or Ubersuggest can help you track down these errors to work out your website’s technical SEO issues.
- Make sure that your site is mobile-friendly and can be viewed and used on a phone. These days, more and more online searches are done on phones instead of a laptop or desktop computer, so ensuring that your site is formatted to accommodate this will improve your ranking as well the number of searchers that stay on your site once they’ve arrived. If your website is confusing and pieces are cut off or missing, most searchers will give up and find a more user-friendly alternative rather than fighting through the trouble of a frustrating mobile experience.
- Double-check that your pages load in less than three seconds. Long loading times will also detract from the number of searches that stay on your page, and you never want to give potential customers a reason to leave if you can help it. Check your website’s speed at Google's PageSpeed Insights to see if it’s up to snuff!
Evaluating Your Technical SEO
To view your website’s technical SEO and decide where you may need to adjust, check your stats on Google’s PageSpeed Insights . You can run a free assessment of your website’s page speed, SEO, and accessibility and make sure that there are no issues that could cause searchers to navigate away from your site too quickly and not engage with your content.
V. Link Building
Link building is the process of getting other websites to link to content on your site and is also referred to as building backlinks. Often this can be achieved through marketing and outreach by asking other sites to link to yours, adding your links manually to sites with open formats, such as social media profiles, forums, directories, and individual comments, and earning backlinks naturally as you provide quality content that others want to link back to.
Good links are key to a thriving website because search engines discover new content and judge the quality of your content through links. By providing links that are helpful to your users, fill a need, and are inserted organically into your content in a place that feels natural and not forced, your linking patterns will prove to search engines over time that your content is useful and should be ranked higher.
Tips for Link Building
- Try providing content that is visually stimulating as well as thoughtful and authentic in content to begin filling a need. Providing accurate information on your site will be the best starting point. Though you can always ask other companies to partner with you and incorporate your links, with time and quality content, this will begin to happen on its own, too.
- Reach out to those that you want to display your links by using SEMrush’s Link Building Tool. This will help you build a list of websites and users with similar content to yours, create a list of contacts for you, and walk you through creating a template email to send to these contacts, requesting they display your link.
- Your website will begin to build trust or “authority” as you begin to grow it and prove that it does follow through on what it claims to provide. Try the SEMrush Backlink Analytics Tool to see how much authority your site has and get ideas on how to start building from there. Inserting backlinks on your website to other sources with authority will usually begin to help your authority and may even encourage others to begin linking to you.
- With visuals such as charts, diagrams, and images, or interactive elements such as calculators or surveys, you’ll also build interest in your site.
Don’t forget to link internally to your own content as well! For starters, these internal links make it easier for users to navigate your site. Instead of using the search feature to find a particular page that you reference in an article or post, an internal provide that link for you in the place you’re referencing it, making your content easy to find and flow seamlessly.
VI. Local SEO
Local SEO is pretty self-explanatory; contrary to traditional or “organic” SEO, this style of SEO focuses on the search results of searchers in your local area and how you can provide your business or content to those around you. While it’s amazing that many companies these days can reach an audience across the world, many types of businesses are best suited or not formatted to provide a service outside of their local area. This is where local SEO comes in.
Start with creating a Google Business Profile and updating all of your information in this listing. Proximity, prevalence, and relevance all matter when it comes to local SEO, especially! Google wants to provide accurate search results, so searchers that are closest to you should be able to find your listings easily.
Building a brand that has authority in the community is also key. Website reputation through technical SEO, reviews, and testimonials will all help to develop this authority and move you up the rankings on Google. And finally, don’t underestimate the power of relevant and specific keywords! For more tips on optimizing your Google Business Profile to your advantage, check out our comprehensive guide.
Though almost everyone can take advantage of local SEO, small businesses that require a brick and mortar stores selling products or providing a physical service, in particular, should not overlook the benefits of it. Check out our beginner’s guide to planning a local SEO strategy!
VII. Content Marketing
Content marketing is exactly what it sounds like: instead of marketing by using a gimmick or trying to persuade your searchers. You are providing content to your potential customer that fills a need they already have and presenting this content as the solution to their problem. A large part of content marketing is adjusting this content to fit multiple presentations.
Tips to Optimize Content Marketing
- Blog content is one of our favorite types of content to recommend starting with because blogs allow for a lot of content in one piece. They can also be repurposed and turned into other types of content like videos, podcasts, or smaller pieces like social media posts.
One good blog piece may contain around one or two thousand words. This can be split into lots of smaller Instagram or Facebook posts, multiple TikTok videos or Instagram reels, or can be translated into longer podcasts or Youtube videos in a different format.
- Producing content that is considered “evergreen” or content that is valuable, accurate, and interesting no matter when a searcher reads it is a great way to make sure that your content stays relevant.
Evergreen content will age with your website and can be a tool to keep searchers coming back that you don’t have to edit or refresh as it changes. It also helps keep your backlinks relevant and in use as references because if you have to update your content every few years, it may hinder those backlinks from being used.
While including some trend-following content may benefit your site’s ranking and views, evergreen content ensures your site stays relevant long-term!
VIII. Analytics and Reporting
SEO metrics are the data points of your website’s SEO that provide insight into how effective your current organic strategy is. These metrics show you the data for your site and allow you to break it down to see which strategies are and are not working for your specific content and goals and help you identify where to tweak your strategy to continue to grow your reach.
How to Evaluate Analytics
- Google Analytics allows users to view a few key types of metrics or data points. Don’t overlook these when setting up and analyzing your reports! Start with viewing data about your website’s users through acquisition, or where these users are coming from to get to your site. This will help you to identify which search engine or location and this which SEO or marketing tactic your traffic is coming from so you know whether to continue that strategy or not!
- You can also view reports that display your searchers' average time on your page, bounce rate, how often searches enter your website and then leave without taking any action, and conversation rate, or how often searchers complete an action on your page. For a step-by-step guide on how to set up these reports, check out our guide to setting up Google Analytics.
- Google Search Console is another useful tool that can be implemented to help you adjust and update your website’s technical SEO. This software includes reports sitemap and URL crawling and which of your sites are being indexed by Google. You’ll want to begin setting up your Google Search Console account by adding a domain or URL prefix property and then adding your sitemap to your account. This will allow you to run performance, sitemap, page experience and indexing reports, and a whole slew of others as well as to use the URL inspection tool.
With all of these variations of SEO analysis, you can see what is currently working effectively in your technical SEO strategy and learn where links and strategies are falling flat so that these can be adjusted and updated to serve your site best. By consistently analyzing your metrics, you are ensuring that your SEO strategies, both organic and technical, are effective for your goals. Make this analysis a priority and look at metrics to see how well your strategy works, what to keep doing, and where to improve.
SEO tactics should not be ignored, especially for your small business! These can help you rank higher on search engines and establish your site and company as an expert in your field, increasing traffic, business, and, ultimately, income.
All types of SEO can benefit your small business, so don’t overlook the importance of a few tweaks in your strategies, both on and off the page. On the front end, you should adjust your content to ensure that you reach your ideal audience by using the right keywords and make your content longer-lasting and evergreen by providing longer and wider-ranging pieces.
Your content and its on-page presentation may be the most obvious place to start implementing SEO strategies, but there’s a reason for this! Then, confirm that your backend is holding up on the side of technical SEO by running and evaluating analytics reports and using and updating backlinks consistently. Get comfortable with Google Analytics to examine your stats and adjust what isn’t working for your specific situation. Don’t wait to utilize SEO tactics for yourself, or contact us to start creating your ideal SEO strategy today; these could be just what your business needs to take off!