HOW TO GET STARTED WITH SEO.
I used to not care about Search Engine Optimization (SEO). I winged it and just sent a little prayer to the SEO – gods that my content would rank. Did my content rank? Sure. Did it rank on the first page? Goodness, no. Maybe not even on the third or fourth. So here I was, dedicating a lot of my time creating good content, and then nobody gets to see it? Now I’ve learnt that SEO is a must for anyone that wants to generate traffic so keep on reading and I’m happy to present some SEO tips that you can start with right away.
WHY MASTERING SEO IS A MUST
Content is much more than just putting something on the web to share your expertise on certain topics – the content has no function whatsoever unless someone interacts or reads it. But how is anyone supposed to find your content when there are so many of us content creators out there? Competition is indeed fierce and in order to give your content a good head start in the race for viewers and traffic, you must end up on the first page on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
Did you know that 93% of all traffic is generated from a search engine? That’s 300% more traffic to your site than from social media. That’s one reason to care about SEO. In case you create content for business purposes, SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate compared to mere 1.7% for outbound leads such as print. That’s a second and pretty darn good reason to spend some extra time SEO-proofing your content. (All these stats come from Search Engine People, there’s more of it so take a look if you’re curious).
HERE’S THE CATCH
There is no exact science on how the SEO algorithms work, and Google changes those algorithms about 500-600 times per year. On top of that, when Google indexes your website, it generates two different results – one for the desktop version and one for the mobile. The desktop used to be the main indicator on the “SEO-health” of your site. Today, Google has embraced the increased mobile usage and will look first-hand on your mobile website version when indexing. This means that you also must put some extra focus on the mobile experience.
Yup, mastering of SEO seems like mission impossible, but the following steps are a great way to start to boost your rankings.
63% of all online searches take place on Google, so Google will be the example we use throughout this blog post.
WHAT YOU CAN ACTUALLY DO
What we do know is that Google values quality and if you have a lot of links to your content, they work as your references – and Google rewards you for this.
STEP 1. ANALYSIS AND KEYWORD PLANNING
What do you want to be found on? Every campaign starts with a strategy and so does SEO. This is the step where you scout the keywords and phrases you believe your target audience uses. Don’t know where to start? Here are some ways to get you going in order to find your keywords:
- Think of your buyer persona or ultimate visitor. What would someone who is brand new to your industry look for? I.e. avoid business jargon.
- Other than Google Keywords Planner, there are some tools you can use to get your mind going, ubersuggest.io for example. Just type in your keyword and the page lists other words related to yours.
- You’ve probably seen that the Google search bar comes up with other related suggestions when you start typing something – use that as well as it shows other related searches.
- Go for long-tail keywords, be specific. For example, if you sell shoes and choose that as a keyword, there’s a lot of competition in the SERP. However, if you’re more specific and use “shoes for dogs,” you might not get as a much traffic but it is much more qualified.
- Google treats each unique URL as a unique page, so plan on having 1-2 keywords for each one of your web pages.
If you’re a marketer like me, you’ve heard about the funnel, the concept of a buyer’s journey. Have this funnel in mind for your keyword planning as well. Which keyword will generate traffic? And what other keywords will convert?
STEP 2. CREATE OPTIMIZED CONTENT
Search engines become smarter; Google is today pretty good at providing us with search results that are relevant to what you’re looking for – not just showing the results on what we’re searching word for word.
As I mentioned before, Google values quality content. Why? Well, a few years ago, the SERP would be “spammed” with content that wasn’t relevant or useful at all, it was just “keyword stuffing” in order to rank. Enter the update Penguin, built to prevent this from happening. As of 2016, Penguin is an integral part of Google’s core search algorithm, meaning that quality is back.
So how do we create good content? Well, it should be unique and user-friendly. I think the image below describes quite well how to go about it:
As you can see, all content must first start with a research on what your audience is looking for. Write FOR them and not AT them for happy readers and increased rankings.
Once you figured out which keyword and topic you want to go for, Google provides us with some guidelines on their support-page on what we could do to create some SEO-friendly content. Here’s my take on it:
- Be informative and useful. Make sure that the reader actually learns something from you. Whether it’s some cool facts about your industry or your opening hours, just have something to say.
- Beat competition. Hey, there’s billions of articles and pages out there, so find a unique twist to your content. What makes you stand out?
- Be credible. Link to your sources that you use, add quotations or use original research. All this shows that you put down work into your content and you seem more credible.
- High quality. Ok, I feel like I’m repeating myself here, but at least you won’t forget about how important quality is after reading this post. The purpose of the content is to provide a great user experience – not to rank high on search engines (which you still will, if you focus on the user experience 😉 )
- Don’t be irritating. Ok, Google didn’t put it like that, but I do. One of my biggest pet peeves is spelling mistakes and typos – ensure that you are correct with your facts and don’t distract the reader with unnecessary typos. Focus on being engaging, add images and graphics that help the user soak up the content.
- Include the keyword in the text, but not too much of it, Google penalizes keyword stuffing. Instead, use synonyms and other relevant words for your keyword.
- Bold or italic fonts, Google shrugs at that – these have nothing to do with your SEO ranking.
- The more text the better – you look more credible.
- Use the H1 font size for headlines and they should also be unique on each page.
- Images – add the alt-attribute to the image; it describes the image for Google and for visually impaired. Add the keyword to the alt-attribut, the file name to the image and the image text. And don’t be sneaky here now, be honest in describing what the image portrays.
Answerthepublic is a fun and great page in case you get writer’s block and looking for content ideas and topics to write about.
Now we’re heading over to what it looks like in the SERP. You can edit these in your editor, for example, in WordPress, you use the YOAST SEO tool to edit SEO specs.
TITLE: This is the most important part to rank the best. This title doesn’t show in your text, but it’s the title of your content in the SERP. The title should contain your keyword, be a maximum of 70 characters long and include the sender, e.g. your company name. The title should, of course, be unique per page (Google doesn’t like copied content, you don’t want to get a plagiarism-stamp). The phrasing should be quite selling, this is your first impression to encourage searchers to click on your piece.
META DESCRIPTION: This is the part that’s displayed under the title and the URL in the SERP. The meta description doesn’t have an impact on your SEO ranking, but it is yet another chance to encourage searchers to click on your link.
So, what’s the key takeaway when you’re about to craft some content? Figure out what the audience wants and then spend some time preparing some high-quality content to look more credible for both readers and Google.
STEP 3. LINK ETIQUETTE
Links are the whole idea behind Google – the more pages that link to your site means that your content must be awesome, right? So the more links you have from renowned and authoritative sites, the better your content looks to Google as they work as your references. There are however a few different types of links;
- Inbound links – links to your site from another site.
These are the ones that are the most beneficial in terms of SEO. What page or site would you like to get a link from? And what can you do to have them link to you? Guest blog posts are a great and easy way, plus it’s hard to say no to free content! You offer a piece of your content and all you ask for in return is a link to your site in the body of the text.
Inbound links that WON’T help your SEO ranking are links from social media. They will, however, give you yet another shot at gaining some extra traffic so there’s still no harm in a social media strategy.
- Outbound links – links to other sites from your site.
For example, you source a page via a hyperlink in a blog post, using a URL with a different domain name than yours. Just a heads up – now I’m gonna get a little “techy.” Obviously, outbound links direct visitors away from your content, and this includes Google too when they crawl your site. To avoid that, you could add a rel=nofollow to the URL. This little piece of code tells Google to NOT look at that link but, you must do this in a natural way. If you overdo this and have rel=nofollow on all your links, it’s gonna look fake to Google and you might instead be punished for it (see? I told you this SEO–thing was hard).
- Internal links – links within your domain.
Internal links are, for example, used when you link to related content of yours or when you use a sitemap. Are these important to SEO-ranking, you may ask. Well, here’s the thing, most of the time, inbound links direct to your start page. Then, the further away one of your pages is from the start page, the harder time Google has to find that page. This is where you could use the internal links; to help Google (and website visitors, of course) to navigate your page and easier find your content.
- Hyperlinks – not a different category of links per se, it’s HOW we direct the links, often a highlighted piece of a sentence or an image. What you need to think about here is that the part you highlight/link should be descriptive for the destination page:“Click here to get some marketing automation tips” VERSUS
“Click here to get some marketing automation tips.”
See the difference? The anchor text (the part that’s linked, underlined in the example here) should reflect where you direct the click; this helps Google as well to see what the content is actually about.
You’re ready to get linked!
SOME LAST WORDS AND IMPORTANT TOOLS
As in any project, remember to follow up on your SEO – performance as well. Head over to Google Analytics and see if you’re reaching your goals and check the status of your most important keywords at least once a day. SEO is, as we’ve noticed throughout this post, ever-changing and you need to be on your toes.
Furthermore, go ahead and install Google Search Console to your browser. This tool sits on tons of important information, for example where you’re getting your traffic from and broken links (there should be 0!)
Page speed also has an effect on SEO, who likes to sit and wait for a page to load? PageSpeed Insight gives you a quick look at how fast your page loads including some tips on what you can do to improve your page speed.
Furthermore, remember what I said in the beginning that Google will put more focus on mobile? Don’t forget about the mobile user.
Puh. And this is, by all means, not everything there is to know about SEO, but I hope this can help you get started and at least think in SEO-friendly manners when you’re creating new content. Best of luck!
What other SEO-tips do you have? Let me know in the comments!