SEO Basics – Introduction

Seo BasicsIn my previous post about improving your local SEO, I laid out a few specific things you could do to help promote your website (and business) in your local area.  Now I’m going back to SEO basics and why you might want to consider SEO in general plus some more common techniques.

What is SEO?

SEO, or “Search Engine Optimization”, is a set of tactics or techniques used to increase the chances that a website and it’s pages will display near the top of the search engine results page (or SERPs). There are a couple of approaches to ranking your website higher in the SERPs.

Organic vs. Paid Search Results

Paid search results (i.e. ads)
Paid search results (i.e. ads)

Paid search results involves, well… paying money to get a top spot in the SERPs. You’ve probably seen the “Sponsored Links” or “Ads” section that shows up on the search results page (if your browser has an ad blocker, you may have to disable it to see them). Website owners pay an advertising fee to receive top ranking in search results for specified keywords.

Conversely, organic search results require no such payment, but they:

  • display underneath the paid search results
  • require some effort to earn a top spot in the SERPs
Organic search results
Organic search results

This is where optimization of your website comes in. Two sets of factors go into calculating organic search result rankings. Those are on page factors and off page factors.

On Page vs. Off Page SEO

On page SEO factors are elements that exist on your web pages that you have control over and can modify. This includes all of the page content (written and graphic) as well as recommended usage of certain HTML tags (which will be covered later).

Off page factors include influences from external sources such as other websites linking to your website, influences from social networking sites (“likes”, “retweets”), press releases, email marketing, business directory listings, etc. Essentially, any external (not on your site) promotion of your website is considered an off page factor.

Google (and other search engines) use complex algorithms to consider both on page and off page factors to evaluate and rank your website pages. This ultimately determines where you show up in the (organic) SERPs – ideally near the top of the first page!

Why Worry About SEO?

Let’s face it, if you went to the trouble of creating a website, you certainly want potential customers to be able to easily find you, right? Remember, chances are good that many potential customers don’t know about you/your business, yet they are looking for the goods and services you provide. If you don’t worry about SEO, and your competitors do, then they will have an advantage and will likely rank above you in organic search results and receive more traffic, and potential sales, as a result.

Getting Started With On Page SEO

First, a word of warning. Some “on page” SEO techniques may require assistance from a web designer/developer. That being said, many content management systems, such as WordPress or Joomla, give you a lot of flexibility in the area of SEO and allow you to make some changes without touching website code. In some cases however, there may be no other option except modifying website code to implement certain SEO tactics properly.

Develop Your Keyword List

You need to start with a list of the words and phrases that potential customers and visitors would use to search online for your business, products or services. This would include your business name, brand names, product names, services, industry terms, etc. It should also include synonyms and any descriptive phrases that might be used in search queries for your business, goods and services. A brainstorming session with a group of employees is a good way to develop an initial keyword list.

Fine Tuning Your List

Next, to optimize this list, keyword research is necessary. Ideally, you want to pinpoint the words and phrases that are somewhat less popular but still used regularly in queries. Why? Because the most popular keywords are very difficult to rank highly for in search engine results. You are competing with many many people also trying to rank highly for popular phrases. It’s much easier to rank highly for less competitive keywords. So look for keywords with lower competition and higher search volumes. Through this research, you can find the optimal keywords & phrases.

Generally speaking, you should target just 1 or 2 keywords/phrases per page. If you try to target more, you are simply diluting them and decreasing chances of ranking highly for them.

Keyword Tools

There are many tools available for keyword research. Here are a few examples:

Content is Still King

In order for Google or other search engines to understand what your page is about, you have to use your keyword(s) and phrases on the page with some frequency. Now, since your keyword or phrase is most likely the topic of the page, it should not be difficult to incorporate it naturally. You should not have to “try” to use your keyword(s). As a test, give your writing to somebody else to read. It should sound natural to them without any obvious repetition on certain words or phrases.

In addition, the content you write should be high quality and authoritative. It’s much easier to write quality content when you are knowledgeable about and have a passion for the topic. Natural and authoritative writing should produce the quality content that Google (and other search engines) likes to see. See Google’s guidelines for quality content.

Google’s goal is to improve the user experience. To insure this, they make constant adjustments to their ranking “algorithms” to reward quality and penalize content that is obviously written to deceive search engines for the purpose of increasing search rankings.

Stay Tuned For Part 2 – More Basic On Page SEO Factors

Today, I’ve introduced and defined SEO.  I’ve discussed developing and optimizing your keyword list, then featuring them in high quality, authoritative content on your site.  However, there is much more that can be done to help your site’s SEO.

Next time, I’ll continue with some additional on page SEO factors that can help your website rank highly in organic search results.

Feel free to leave a comment.

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