Learn SEO Basics in 5 Minutes
If you’ve been looking into how to make a great blog online, you have probably come across the term SEO. This acronym stands for Search Engine Optimization, and is an incredibly important part of running a website and writing a blog. In this blog, we’ll delve into exactly what search engine optimization is and how you can get started using it.
Why is SEO Important?
Search Engine Optimization helps your webpages and content appear in search results. The better-optimized your page is, the higher it will appear in search results when someone searches for a specific term. So, if you have a well-optimized page, you will probably get more clicks to your site.
It also provides a better user experience to people who visit the website. While SEO is somewhat about pleasing algorithms, it also has to appeal to what people are searching for. People search for specific things, and it’s your job to create the kind of content that people will find.
Search engines deliver answers to people when they make search queries. SEO results are organic, meaning they are not paid. Search engines “crawl” websites every day to analyze and index the content on them. Then when someone enters a search term, the search results deliver an answer based on the best-matching content that has been indexed. Search engines have a vested interest in showing searchers the most relevant results. The proximity to the top of the results page is referred to as the ranking.
Basic SEO Principles
It is imperative that you design pages for your users first, and to satisfy search engines second. Even if your website gets a lot of clicks and traffic, it means nothing if your visitors can’t make sense of your content. In general, every time you add something to your website, you should ask yourself if you would make that decision if search engines didn’t exist and you were just creating your ideal website.
Duplicate content simply does not work. Always write original content, rather than something copied from another website or from elsewhere on your own website. You can get penalized for duplicate content, which is a great reason to not engage in that kind of activity.
Can You Do SEO Yourself?
SEO is something that is mostly straightforward. You can hire an expert, but it doesn’t take much education to get all of the basics down. When it comes to writing, tagging images, getting good links, and more, you can generally achieve a decent SEO ranking with a little bit of work. There are plenty of online resources you can use to get an intro to SEO practices, as well!
With SEO, you rank through keywords. These are words and phrases that people are searching for, and that you use on your website. While this sounds simple enough, it can be quite complex. Picking good keywords is based on several factors. Some of this data is available on tools like the Google Keyword Planner.
- Search Volume: This is the number of searches this keyword receives. You don’t want to try to rank for something that no one is searching for. The more searches a keyword has, the bigger audience you could have.
- Competition: Just because something has a high search volume, that doesn’t mean that all of those searchers will see your website. The more competition, the more websites are vying for a high ranking. Competition essentially determines how difficult it is to rank for that keyword.
- Relevance: Relevance is the most important aspect of picking a keyword. If your keyword of choice has nothing to do with your business or what you’re trying to sell, then it won’t do well, even if the search volume and competition are optimal. Understand your customer, what they’re interested in, what their problems are, and what terms do they use to talk about your products and your niche.
One of the most important parts of ranking highly is the quality of links that direct to your website. Every website has an “authority” ranking, and if a website with a high authority links to your website, you can get a major boost in your ranking. This essentially tells search engines that if a reliable website was willing to link to your site, then your site must be pretty reliable as well.
For example, if a major news outlet includes a link to your site in an article, that will give you a major SEO boost compared to if you got a link from someone else’s blog that only has a few readers.
Internal linking is also important. If a page on your website is linked to frequently, then search engines will realize that the page is important to your site. And consequently, the pages that have the most authoritative links to them will hold the most weight when linking internally.
On-page optimization refers to the tactics that you do on your website pages. Here are some of the strategies you can try.
Heading tags are what searches will often see in search results. They start at H1 (heading one) and get progressively lower in their hierarchy as they go through H2 and H3. H1 is your page title, and the lower headings are sub-topics within a page. In the context of a blog, the title is the H1, and then you can organize major topics with H2 and H3 tags. For example. “On-Page Optimization” in this blog is an H2, and this section, “Heading Tags” is an H3, or subheading. These are an HTML element that search engines can read, but they also help readers browse your content better. It is much easier to read the headlines and find exactly what they’re looking for.
A meta description is a short snippet of text that describes a page, and shows up below the heading in search results. It’s like a preview for your page.
Body content is the actual text and images on your page. Whether this is a blog post, an about page, or a homepage, there are some rules of thumb for this content that appeal to SEO. Generally, posts with word counts of over 300 words perform best because search engines can get a better idea of what the page is about. It is best to avoid “thin” content that doesn’t say much. Search engines also care about user engagement, and this is where load time becomes important. In order to have a good experience on your site, your pages need to load and be easy to navigate.
Alt attributes are tags that apply to images, and replace them in case a user can’t view them. A user may not be able to see an image if the file has been deleted, the file doesn’t load properly, or the user is visually impaired. These tags count for SEO and are a good place to include keywords. However, it’s important that you avoid just stuffing keywords into your images, and describe accurately what is happening in the images.
Tracking the results of SEO changes can be fairly straightforward, but sometimes ambiguous. In your website analytics, you can look at traffic by page, and you may be able to see some of the search terms that brought users to your website. The downside with making many SEO updates is that it can be difficult to pinpoint what actually worked. And the downside of making one change at a time is that it could take a while to see results. Regardless of whether you see instant results, following SEO guidelines will end up making your website show up more often in relevant searches over a long period of time.
Now that you’ve gotten the basics down, what next?
First of all, you’ll want to dive deeper into the topics we covered. This was designed to be a crash-course in SEO so that you understand the different categories that make up a good SEO strategy.
After that, do your research. Identifying ideal keywords through research is the first step in building a strategy, as everything revolves around the keywords. Then focus on what SEO tactics you can, and make a note to save the rest for later. Perhaps you will need to hire an expert to execute some parts of the strategy. Regardless of how you get it done, a few simple tactics over a period of time should greatly increase your website’s traffic and authority online!