As a companion piece to this post, I’ve created the SEO Task Kit – a series of spreadsheets that will help you track, organize, and accomplish all the tasks I identify below! You can print it or download your own copy to Google Drive and edit it to your hearts content!
One of the most common questions I get asked by friends, family, and clients is “What is SEO? How do I DO it?” My answer is always this: SEO is a process. It’s not a thing you do or complete, but a series of tasks that over time help your webpage rank higher and higher on Google’s search result pages. While it can be an arduous or complex process, there are tons of SEO best practices you can easily accomplish. I touched on this in a previous post – How to Improve Your Website SEO In An Afternoon. In this post, I want to provide an SEO guide for beginners. I want to drill down a bit more and give you some more information about how to improve the SEO on your site and within your content.
If you’re a beginner, you may not know that SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It describes activities you can do to improve your website’s chance of appearing in results for search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. There are two forms of SEO: On-page SEO and Off-Page SEO.
What is On-Page SEO?
On-Page SEO is all of the SEO activities you can perform through the website and how the website performs.
Google in particular has bots that crawl every single site on the web that look for key factors to determine if a site is reliable, informative, relevant, and up-to-date. We know that there are certain things the bots like for a site to have:
- A Title and Meta Description
- Between 300-800 words of content
- Links to other websites
- Links to other pages on the same website
- Links from other websites to this page
- Links from the same website to this page
- Bullet points or lists
- Bold and italicized text
- Headings and subheadings
- Menus and Footers
- Proper URL structures (google.com/search instead of google.com/search/ZGVLG_sAd)
- Breadcrumbs and user sitemaps
- Pages that load quickly
- Google verification
- Fresh content
- No broken links
What is a Keyword Strategy?
Optimizing for an SEO keyword means developing a keyword strategy and then utilizing the keywords you choose within some of the factors above. A keyword strategy is where you take the main concept or idea you want to rank for and break it down into manageable goals. (For some great detailed information about keyword strategies, check out this awesome SEO ebook written by a friend of mine who really knows his stuff – he taught me everything I know about keyword strategy! Through this link you can download a free chapter before you buy.)
Say you are a company in Miami that sells baby strollers. You want to eventually rank for “Miami baby strollers” or even just eventually “baby strollers”. But consider how many millions of pages on the web are about baby strollers.
Developing a keyword strategy means taking your large keyword “baby strollers” and developing a list of long-tail keywords, or keywords that have more words but are closer to actual search terms. For example, your long-tail keywords may be:
- “Where can I buy baby strollers in Miami?”
- “What makes a quality baby stroller?”
- “How do I clean a baby stroller”
- “What age should I stop using a baby stroller”
Not all of these are directly related to actually buying a stroller. But if you optimize inner pages for long-tail keywords, all of which contain your main keyword, your ranking for all of them will rise.To optimize for a specific keyword, you simply use the keyword in the on-page SEO for that page.
To optimize for a keyword via On-Page SEO, you would:
- Use the keyword in your title and meta description
- Use the keyword regularly within your 300-800 words of content
- Use the keyword in the ALT tag and filename for your images
- Make sure that if you link to another page, you use the keyword in the anchor text. That means if you say “click here to learn about baby strollers”, you will make the whole sentence or just “baby strollers” clickable instead of just “click here”
- Use the keyword in your headings, subheadings and URLs
This also means continuously adding content to your website that contains the keyword, like blog posts and images.
Action: Create a keyword strategy : Define your main keyword and make a list of related terms to use in your-onpage SEO. Communicate to search engines that the page has the most reliable and reputable information related to that specific search term.
Off-Page SEO: Off-Page SEO involves things you can do off of the website. The most popular and reputable are link building and social media
If your page is being linked to from elsewhere, it tells search engines the site has good information. Lots of links from good, reputable websites means a better ranking. If another site about baby supplies, toys or clothes links to you, that’s favorable. A link from a site about car tires won’t hold the same weight. You can do this by:
- Creating as many profiles as directories as you can, such as Google Places, Yelp, etc.
- Have other people write on their blogs about your website and include a link back
- Create Slideshare or Youtube videos that link back to your site
- Find mentions of your company on the web that don’t link back to you, contact the author and ask them to include a link
- Submit your site to website feedback sites
- If you have a blog, submit to a blog aggregator
Any accounts you create should have exactly the same Business Name, Address, Phone Number and website URL.
There are many more. Depending on your content, some will work and some won’t. Link Building can be intensive and time-consuming, but the rewards are powerful.
Action: Add links to your site on other places on the web
How: Find directories and other sites that you can use to talk about your site and provide links to your content
Result: Communicate to search engines that other reputable pages on the web view you as a reliable source of relevant and topical information
Sites like Facebook and Twitter already rank high on Google. You should be:
- Creating social media profiles for as many platforms as you can. (For the ones you don’t intend to use regularly, add some posts to so they aren’t empty.
- Posting regularly on at least a few and linking back to your content
- Making sure all any profiles you create should have exactly the same Business Name, Address, Phone Number and website URL.
Larger followings and more frequent popular posts will push you ahead of other similar accounts. So if another company in Miami sells baby strollers, if you post on Facebook more frequently and have a larger and more active following, you’ll come up sooner.
Action: Use social media accounts for SEO
How: Build a following and post keyword rich information
Result: Communicate to search engines that your profile is the best one for your given sector