The Basics of SEO

When you’re exploring how to up your digital marketing game, you might notice that one phrase tends to appear on nearly every website, post or resource: SEO. Short for search engine optimization, this tool is considered to be one of the best ways to get new eyes on your content. But SEO is more than just a buzzword; it’s a truly valuable strategy to allow your work to reach your target audience. However, seeing this phrase thrown around all the time can be intimidating, so let’s break it down a little bit. What is SEO, anyway? And how do you use it effectively to benefit you and your brand?

What is SEO?

SEO stands for ‘Search Engine Optimization’ and it is  “the process of improving your site to increase its visibility for relevant searches.” In other words, it’s how you make sure your website is being found for a specific topic online. Google, Bing, and Yahoo are some of the most popular search engines right now. Google alone sees about 3.5 billion searches per day. The amount of search results it yields for any given keyword is equally mind boggling. For example, if you Google the phrase “SEO,” you get about 558 million results. Using best SEO practices can make this blog post rank higher up in the millions of results. That means that when people Google the phrase, they are more likely to see it and therefore more likely to click on this blog because Google has deemed it one of the most relevant results. Search engines can determine which pages are more or less relevant by collecting information based on hundreds of different factors, such as the quality of your content and the use of keywords. Algorithms will analyze these pages to decide which ones should show up closer to the top for any particular search.

Why is SEO so important?

Torque Magazine reported that, as of 2016, WordPress users alone published about 2.13 million blog posts per day, and it’s safe to say that number has grown in the past five years. Simply put, that’s a lot of content to compete with on the internet. And it might be overwhelming to think about your website making it to the top of people’s search results. So how exactly do you make your blog — or website, or other online content — stand out among the sea of similar subject matter in the cybersphere? That’s where SEO comes in. Optimizing your post to reach the audience you want it to can make all of the difference in where it appears in search engine results when users Google the topic. With about 58% of all web traffic coming from Google, this means that using the best practices to appear in search engines can really make the difference for how much traffic you’re getting. Considering that most users don’t tend to click farther than the first page or two of search engine results — in fact, the first five results get 67% of all clicks — appearing higher in the search results means more people will click on your website. This can lead to a number of things — a higher conversion rate, more products/services sold, or more people who follow your work.  

Getting Started With Keyword Research

Now that you know what exactly SEO is, it can still be a little confusing to know how you should actually get started implementing it. The first thing that you should do is conduct keyword research. This is the process of figuring out which phrases or words are most important in your content to the audience you’re trying to reach. You want to first make sure you have a good understanding of who your target audience is. This will help you understand what is important to them when it comes to your subject matter. In conducting your research, you want to ask the “5 Ws and one H” questions. 

  • Who is searching for this kind of content? What are their demographics?
  • What specifically are they searching for? What words or phrases are they using?  
  • When are they searching for this? Is certain content more or less popular during different times of the year?
  • Where is your audience searching for it? This can mean thinking about what search engines they are using, or where in the world your audience is located.
  • Why is your audience searching these keywords? What do they hope to get from the results, whether that be a product, a service or information?
  • How are they searching for it? How do they word their searches? Are most of the searches coming from a mobile device or a computer?

Next, research the keywords that your audience is looking for. Tools such as Semrush, Moz Keyword Explorer, or Google Trends can assist you in this process. Start by  looking for the search volume of a particular keyword. This means how many results a search engine shows for a particular query. You might think that more results is a good thing, but this means your content is competing with thousands or even millions of other sites. Aim for more specific keywords or even phrases that don’t have as much competition but still have enough activity that users are often searching for it. This is called the long tail and can result in more high quality page views by users who are truly interested in your content. When you are doing your research, it’s a good idea to try and narrow down your keyword focus as much as you can while still leaving it just broad enough that plenty of people are searching for it.

It’s also important to keep an open mind and be flexible when conducting your research. Notice if there are other popular keywords that are popping up when you’re searching for the phrases you originally wanted to optimize for. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to expand to include those phrases too and get even more eyes on your work. 

Once you know the best keywords to target, you can make sure to incorporate those words on your website pages. When you’re doing your keyword research, take note of how the pages that rank higher in the results offer their information. Notice the length of page and content and if they include a lot of pictures and videos. And once you have those basics down, you can get creative and think about how to present your own work in a more appealing way.

On-page vs. Off-page SEO factors

Although keywords are important, it isn’t the only way to optimize your site to rank higher in search engines. There are lots of other factors that you should consider when optimizing your site to get the search engine results you want. These can be simply broken down into two groups: on-page SEO and off-page SEO. You can think of on-page SEO as everything on your website that you can control or edit. That can include things like putting your target keywords in the title tag or headings of your pages. It can also include putting your keywords into the URLs of the pages you are trying to optimize.   

Off-page SEO is a little trickier, but there are still things you can do to control this aspect of optimizing your site. One off-page factor is backlinks, or other places on the internet that link back to your work. One way to encourage this is by creating shareable content that people would naturally want to include as links. Sharing your posts on social media are another way to link back to your site, as well as sending out newsletters with your latest blog posts or other content. On the other hand, another off-page SEO factor is including a lot of links in your own work. This contributes toward your site’s domain authority, which increases your chances of popping up higher in search results.

Both on- and off-page SEO factors are important to consider when optimizing your site. If you start by focusing on on-page factors, prioritizing your user’s experience and delivering quality content that is meaningful to your audience, the off-page factors are sure to follow.

Beyond the Basics

SEO can be a complicated subject. And it can be tricky: best SEO practices change all the time, just like search engine algorithms do. According to entrepreneur and marketer Neil Patel, Google updates its own algorithm more than 500 times a year. Because of this, it’s important to continually adapt your content and practices. Conducting new keyword research monthly or even quarterly can help you stay on top of the competition. Certain web hosting platforms like WordPress allow you to install a SEO plugin such as Yoast SEO to stay on top of these changes and better optimize your site. But once you have a grasp on these basics, you’ll be on your way to SEO success.

If you want to tackle SEO yourself, various resources exist to help, such as this guide to SEO. If you want help with your SEO, leave it to the experts! — Creative Juice can help you refresh your website and user experience to make your brand more accessible and rank higher in search results. Contact us today for more information about how we can help you optimize your SEO. 🍑