When it comes to digital marketing, search engine optimization or SEO sounds like a magic word. Content is indeed key and SEO is the process of making sure your content, including copy and images, are search engine friendly. However, upon starting your own business or blog, it may be confusing to get on with SEO. This is why we came up with this beginner’s guide to SEO so that you can get the basics and get started.
As a small business owner trying to switch to an online business model, you have a unique opportunity to make use of SEO and boost your website from day one. The particularity of SEO is that it is free. Furthermore, it helps increase organic traffic to your website, improve Google ranking and unpaid search results. Considering most of your website traffic will come from Google search, it is better to put some effort into improving your site’s SEO.
A short beginner’s guide to SEO
If you are mostly working with a Youtube channel and looking to increase your subscriber number, know that Youtube is also a search engine and that SEO can play a great role in your success. Optimizing your Youtube channel for SEO can indeed help you rank higher in search results and improve discover-ability.
1. Install a SEO plugin
Step one of our beginner’s guide to SEO is to install a SEO plugin on your website. Several are available on the market. Some completely free, some others have a paid version. Some plugins will offer generic SEO guidance while others will help you focus on local SEO or video SEO.
Yoast SEO is a plugin with a free basic version and paid for premium version. Yoast gives you a checklist on each blog posts of things to include, to improve or to remove. The plugin serves as a guideline and is very helpful for beginners.
The premium plugins allows you to add your keyword as well as synonyms and related key-phrases. Thus, it helps you better spread key-phrases across your piece of content to target many variations of your keyword. The “insight” tab is also really helpful as it highlights the focus of your content and what combinations of words occur the most in your text.
Yoast SEO, or any other SEO plugin, will help you analyse your content and improve it where needed. The plugin will also make sure you abide to SEO best practices. However, ticking all the boxes and getting the green dots from the plugin is not enough to confirm that your website is on point SEO-wise.
2. Pick a niche
Step two of this beginner’s guide to SEO: finding your niche. If you are a small business, your “niche” is the product you are selling within your industry. If you are a blogger, your niche is the topic or field you will focus on, i.e. mental health or book reviews.
Although picking a niche is not compulsory and some niches are rather big (i.e. lifestyle), it will help you to narrow down what your content to be about and give you direction. Focusing on one particular topic will help you create comprehensive, informative and useful content that people are specifically looking for.
While you will have one main topic, you will also be able to diverge a bit towards more specific topics still within your niche. For example, if your niche is gluten-free recipes, you may at first offer generic recipes. Then, you may add a vegan gluten-free recipe category to your blog. Underneath that umbrella, you can have vegan gluten-free desserts, vegan gluten-free biscuits, and so on.
Not only does picking a niche gives you direction and something to focus on, but it will also help you become a reference in your field, an expert and authority in that particular niche.
3. Find related keywords
Once you have picked your niche, or know what your content will be about, you can start making a list of related keywords. You need to find a combination of short-tail keywords and long-tail keywords.
The former are search phrases with only one or two words. Their length makes them less specific than searches with more words. Because they are so generic they are also very competitive and your content will probably not rank for those easily.
The latter are three and four keyword phrases which are very, very specific to whatever you are selling. Whenever a customer uses a highly specific search phrase, they tend to be looking for exactly what they are going to buy. They are less competitive and easier to rank for.
Once you have your main keywords, you can also find variations as well as synonyms and related key-phrases. This will allow you to appear for more terms in search results and target multiple variations of your original keyword.
4. Use keywords across your content
To ensure Google understands what your content is about, you need to spread your keywords, synonyms and related key-phrases evenly across your copy. Repeating keywords and synonyms will send a signal to Google on what your content is about. Then only can it suggest it in a related search query.
However, it is also important that you do not stuff your content with keywords as Google can detect that and penalize your for it. Hence why using synonyms and related key-phrases is so important.
If you use a SEO plugin, the dashboard at the bottom of your blog post or page in the editor will tell you how many times your keyword appears in your text. If you added a synonyms or key-phrase, you will get the information for that too.
5. Format posts and pages for SEO
Let’s move onto the fifth part in our beginner’s guide to SEO. SEO goes beyond than using keywords in your text. Readability, titles and paragraph length will also play a role. A SEO plugin will also give indication in whether you need to improve on those three elements:
- Title tags: Titles tags help you break down your content in smaller parts, indicating what each is about. H1 is the blog post title in WordPress. H2 is in the body of text announcing what it is about. H3, H4, H5 and H6 further help you break down your text and give it more structure. They must all be keywords rich.
- Paragraph length: Google does not like long and big paragraph. Visitors do not either. Google likes paragraphs that are shorter because they help break down the content and because they are easier to read. Ideal size is 150 characters.
- Readability: Google wants to display the best most-useful-easiest-to-use results. Thus readability will impact your rankings. If the algorithm deems your content hard to read, it will not rank it high. SEO plugins can help you comply to readability best practices.
6. Curate the snippet preview
Part six of our beginner’s guide to SEO. The snippet allows you to preview what your page or post will look like in Google’s search results. It has a mobile and desktop view and shows elements like the slug, title and meta description.
- The SEO title: It is the first thing people see in the search results for your posts and pages. In many cases, it is the only thing people will see so it needs to attract the eye right away! It is not the title tag nor H1. Make sure your SEO title includes your keywords and that it reflects the topic of the content.
- The meta-data description: The meta-description is a quick concise description of your content. In one sentence, you sum up what the piece of copy is about. Google looks for the particular keyword in the content and highlight it in the meta-description. it should entice people to click on your result.
- The permalink and slug: The URL is the link that you will use to reach the content. The slug is part of the URL that you can optimize for SEO and that reflects the topic of the content. The slug should be kept short but include a focus keyword to tell Google what the link is about.
7. Optimize images for SEO
Images are just as essential to SEO as copy is. They bring articles to life and good imagery makes a big difference. Your blog post can be searchable through Google image via your featured image. Thus, it is important that it is also optimized for SEO.
The images must be relevant to your content and clearly illustrate what your post or page is about. It must be high quality and compressed so that it does not impact your site’s speed. Add a title and alt text containing your keywords so that it is more searchable.
8. Internal linking
Internal links are hyperlinks going to the same domain. It help Google find, index and understand all of the pages on your site. Internal links can also help to send page authority to important pages. In short: internal linking is key for any site that wants higher rankings in Google.
Internal linking is also great to improve blog visit duration, traffic to your website and decrease bounce rate. If you link blog posts between them, you may encourage a visitor to click on another post and spend more time on your blog.
The anchor text you use to link to another page of your website must be relevant to the content of that page. The anchor text is the visible, clickable text in an HTML hyperlink. For example, if you are liking to our five reasons why your small business needs Pinterest for marketing blog post, the anchor text must make reference to Pinterest.
Do not use the same anchor for two different pages and try to vary phrases and word combination when you link multiple times to the same page.
9. Make your content shareable
We are getting to the end of our beginner’s guide to SEO. It is important that your content is shearable. If people share your blog posts a lot on different platforms, Google will see this as a sign that your content is indeed very qualitative, informative and useful.
Shares are basically social proofs in social media. Although social media is not a direct SEO ranking factor, the correlation between social signals and ranking position is extremely high. Social media can amplify the ranking factors that Google does consider, since sharing adds up more visibility to your content.
You want to encourage your readers to share your content and optimize your website as much as possible. Enable social sharing buttons at the top and button of your blog post. The easier it is to share, the more likely people will do it.
10. Promote on social media
The last part in our guide to SEO is social media promotion. As mentioned above, social media are not a direct Google ranking factor. However, Google uses links shared on Facebook and Twitter as a ranking signal. Social media links do not count individually but there is still a correlation with search ranking.
Social media is one of the best ways to promote content and be found online. Which is, ultimately, what SEO is all about. Furthermore, social profiles definitely influence the content of your search results.
People are just as likely to click on a social media as on a website. Social media are search engines too (Youtube, Pinterest, Twitter) and people may find you through a hashtag or a targeted search.
If you are a small business looking to increase organic traffic to your website, paying attention to SEO is a sure and free way to do so. SEO plugins will help you get down with all the basics to optimize your content. However, SEO is also something that you must take care of on an on-going basis. Indeed, as the Google search algorithm, content requirements and the seasons change, so must do your content.
If you are unsure how to get started with SEO, we offer a fully managed SEO service at Happy Shark Media. Get in touch today!