SEO is not just about driving traffic to your site, it's about driving the RIGHT traffic to your site, and ultimately, converting leads into customers.
In this guide, our goal is to break down the basics of how to optimize SEO for your website and include tips like:
- What "good" content really means to google
- The technical side of SEO
- How to find the RIGHT keywords
- Tools for success!
What is SEO?
SEO, otherwise known as "search engine optimization" refers to the practice of increasing your overall website traffic through organic search results.
The reason SEO is so important in business today is that 91% of online experiences begin with a search on google AND 75% of people don't scroll past the first page of search engines.
THAT is why it's so important to boost your SEO efforts. Throughout this guide, we'll discuss various strategies to increase your online presence and get you on that first page.
Jeff Phillips, founder of Beardo states that SEO is the very first thing you should think about when setting up your website:
Out of everything we do, social media and SEO are consistently the best returns for us.
When you set up your website, the first thing you should think about is SEO, and making a list of all your top keywords is just a small part of that. There are some really great google SEO guides out there and I recommend that anyone starting out should take night classes or online course for the basics, like: SEO. blogging for business, HTML, photoshop, photography.
A good place to start for SEO are on the guides that Google provides.
SEO is constant and you need to keep on top of it. Not only in terms of your site changes, but also google is constantly changing their own algorithms and with that, suggestions to improve your strategy. One thing I would recommend everyone do is to start following @SEOMOZ and even signing up for a trial. You’ll learn alot about SEO really quickly and it’s a great way to look into what your competitors are doing too.
One of the most important aspects of SEO is understanding what your customers are searching for, otherwise known as "keyword research."
Once you have an understanding of these keywords, you can then place these words strategically on your website, but more on that later.
Fortunately, you don't have to read minds to understand what people are searching for - there are plenty of tools that can help you with this.
Keyword Resarch Tools
The various tools will help you understand what people are searching for and how often they're searching for it
Here are some tools that can help you choose your keywords:
- Google Ads Keyword Planner invaluable for discovering search trends.
- Google Search Console is very helpful once your website is up as it shows you what words/phrases are generating traffic.
- Ahrefs and SEMRush are paid tools that allow you to look at results of your competitor's website
Kyle Bergman, founder of The Great Fantastic decided to look to Google Keyword Planner to validate his business idea:
Once I realized other people might want sweatpant overalls too, I used Google's keyword search planner to see roughly how many people were looking for this term online. In the month of March 2017, this tool showed that between 100-1,000 people were also looking for sweatpant overalls.
Keyword search results in March 2017
A part of me was shocked, but after I thought about it...it made sense - probably a little awareness created from the BuzzFeed article, but more importantly, people just like me were looking for an awesome, comfy combo.
Factors Involved when Identify Keywords
When conducting your research on the various tools we discussed earlier, there are other factors you may want to consider when choosing the right keywords:
- Search Volume: Determine how many people are actually searching for a specific keyword. The more that are searching, the bigger audience you will reach.
- Relevant to your business: Make sure that the keyword you choose is relevant to your business, and not just frequently searched. Google can rank your site based off of this.
- Competition: Frequent keywords can lead to greater competition, so there may be quite a bit of effort required to reach the top (ie. the word water bottle).
When researching, try to think of what your target customer would be searching for. One great question you can ask yourself is:
"What type of problem is my customer looking to solve?"
From there, create a list of potential words that resonate with that question, and start your search on Google Keyword Planner
David Pagotto simplifies how to get started and what to keep in mind when conducting keyword research:
A major part of the SEO process is knowing what keywords to work on getting ranked for. To do that you must first select the right words that describe your business (what it does and where it is located), and research what your competitor's keywords are and what your ideal customers are typing when searching for your product/service. Once you know what keywords to work on, they help focus your site’s content and its technical onsite components.
Today people are literally telling search engines exactly what they want to buy.
For example, the keyword “wedding photographer Melbourne” is searched 4,400 times a month in Australia.
Choosing the right keywords for your SEO strategy is about tapping into this stream, answering their “query” and converting engaged impressions into clicks, leads and sales.
Optimize On-Site SEO
Once you have determined the right keywords, it's time to strategically place these online to optimize your website.
Here are the main elements to consider when implementing keywords on your site:
- Title Tags
- Meta Descriptions
- Great Content
A title tag is the HTML element that refers to the title of a web page.
These are the clickable headline displayed on the search engine results page, and ultimately allow search engines to understand what your website is about.
The title tag is also used for the top of your web browser and is how people remember the tab they have open for your site
Here are some items to consider when creating your title tag:
- Make sure the title tag has an accurate description of what your website is about
- Try to keep your title under 60 characters as that is what Google will display
- Consider giving every page of your website a new & unique title
- Try not to stuff your title tag with TOO many of the same keywords
Chris Casseday, founder of 513 Kicks discusses the importance of unique title tags and meta descriptions for his SEO efforts:
In order to have my website to appear near the top of the Google search results, I placed a strong emphasis on SEO.
Each page has unique title tags, meta descriptions, and structured data markups. This allows Google to crawl and index my website and rank it appropriately in the search results.
As a result of this work, I’ve grown my organic traffic from zero to over 2,000 visitors a month. Over 80% of this traffic is from new visitors, and ultimately new potential customers.
Meta descriptions describe the content of the page they're on. Here's an example of Starter Story:
Meta descriptions are mainly important for click rates - the description will essentially tell someone right away if your website will fulfill their search needs.
Here are a few important elements to consider:
- Create a unique and detailed meta description for EACH page of your website
- Try to keep the length between 150-300 characters
- Ensure that the meta description is relevant to the content on your page, without giving away too much information. The goal is to have your customer click, so make sure you don't give the answer away in your description.
Alanna Banks, founder of Fridays Off Fabric Shop discusses the importance of writing meta descriptions for each product in her store:
Learning as much as I could about search engine optimization has been really helpful.
In the early days I read Shopify Empire, The Definitive SEO Guide for Shopify by Josh Highland and followed everything that book discussed. I had a basic knowledge of SEO from blogs but the book really solidified things for me and gave me a step-by-step guide to get things done.
I googled my keywords every day until I got to the number one spot on the first page and I’ve probably edited my meta description 100 times to get that number one spot. I’m constantly tweaking the site to better optimize it and make sure Fridays Off comes out on top for Google searches. What seems to work for me is getting the right keywords in my meta description, keeping the content fresh on my site and writing meta descriptions for each product listed in my store. It’s a pain but it’s pays off in the end.
Publish Great Content
Finding keywords is an important piece of the puzzle, but Google also ranks your site based on the actual content you produce, as this is what your customers are reading and engaging with.
There are various different "forms" of content that you may want to consider diversifying on your sites, such as blog posts, articles, studies, and videos.
So let's discuss what google considers "good content:"
- Length - This will vary depending on the page, however, generally having a sufficient amount of content helps search engines recognize that your site is a good source for a specific topic
- Engagement - The longer people stay on your website to read your content, the higher Google will rank your website. It's important to have informative and "thick" content that keeps people reading
- Avoid Duplicating Content - Google will recognize this and may consider your content to have low value
- Ensure pages load quickly - This will also help with engagement and time spent on your website
- Shareability - Create content that people want to share, and is easy for them to share, especially to their social media accounts (ie. "click to tweet" is a great example of this).
Another element of creating good content is creating consistent content.
If (and hopefully you are) publishing content frequently, it's important to stick to a schedule - this helps build brand trust and easy user experience with your customers.
Planning out your content with a content calendar is key to staying consistent.
Here are a few great content calendar tools that can help you:
Brock McGoff, founder of The Modest Man discusses the importance of creating thorough content, and how "ultimate guides" are a great way to increase traffic:
I also spent a lot of time learning about SEO, from black hat to white hat. I just wanted to know how it worked.
When I started TMM, I found that high-quality content that’s on-page optimized for search will pretty much always get traffic, eventually.
For example, there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of articles about watches. Even subtopics like “watches for small wrists” have been covered extensively, but not very thoroughly.
I try to make content that’s very thorough. Think “ultimate guide” type articles. So when I wrote about watches for small wrists, I included 25 watches instead of 5 or 10. I included a sortable table with links, along with an infographic and explanation about sizing. In my opinion, it’s the best article about small watches on the Internet (at least when I wrote it). And Google will always reward you for creating this kind of content.
Coming up with ideas for content isn’t hard. I would just field questions or look at what other more popular sites were doing and add my own spin to it.
For example, if Esquire was ranking for “best jeans” I would write an article about “best jeans for short men” and make it even better than theirs. Add media like original photos and videos. Add infographics. Make an audio version for people who don’t like to read. Make it longer, more entertaining, more concise, easier to scan. Make it better.
It’s a rinse and repeat process that takes a bit of patience, but it pays off in the long run.
Backlinks are an important piece to SEO, as they allow for other websites to link to your content.
Search engines recognize that other sites are essentially "verifying" your content and essentially rank you higher because of this.
Of course, some links are more valuable than others and can affect your site in different ways.
For example, if a highly valuable and credible site like the New York Times links to a page on your website, this could be remarkable from an SEO perspective.
Aside from organically getting mentioned from other sites, there are other ways that you can increase and earn backlinks:
- Create infographics with relevant data that people want to share
- Promote your content on different sites/look into "guest blogging"
- Contact influencers/journalists/bloggers and ask them to mention you!
- Write testimonials for other sites in exchange for a backlink
- Leverage existing business relationships
There are a few other turn-key SEO practices that you'll want to consider implementing
- URL structure
It's important that your URL is short, descriptive and includes keywords - both from a sharability and a tracking perspective.
Additionally, make sure the URL states exactly what's on the page - people want to know where they're clicking which will ultimately lead to more click rates!
- Heading Tags
Consider keeping H1 (your main heading tag) short and descriptive. This ultimately tells the reader what the below content will be about, and should contain the most important keywords.
The same goes for H2, make sure your site is organized properly based on the content as search engines will recognize this.
- Site Speed/Mobile Friendly
We talked briefly about this earlier, however, the time your site takes to load can impact your overall performance.
This will also help with conversions and sales, so make sure nothing is holding your site back!
Build a Blog (on top of your website):
Among all of the other benefits that come with blogging, it's also essential to boosting SEO.
We discussed the importance of backlinking, and the most common way to get a site to link to yours is by having a blog with relevant content.
Additionally, publishing new & relevant content is what search engines are looking for, and will ultimately drive more traffic to your site.
Blogging is also a great way to strategically use keywords and answer specific problems/questions that your customers may be looking for (that you may not be able to effectively answer directly on your website).
Brett Lindenburg, founder of Food Truck Empire discusses how to drive traffic to your site through blogging:
The majority (about 75%) of the traffic comes from Google Organic Search. Below is a screen shot from SEMRush.com that highlighting organic growth over the years. The number two traffic source is Direct Traffic, meaning people come directly to the website.
Steady organic traffic growth over the years per SEMRush.com.
<The main piece of advice I can say is to be consistent and view this as a long-term game.
Create a Content Goal to Publish 2 - 3 High Quality Pieces Per Week on Blog
Focus on quality of the posts. Focus on finding topics with 100 or more monthly searches in SEMRush.com. Add images, spreadsheets, videos, calculators or something else in your content to make it truly unique from everything else published online. Each post should be over 1,500 words in length or more to ensure you’re going in-depth on the topic.
Find Ways to Get Other People or Organizations Involved in Each Piece of Content
When you get other people involved in the content of your website it’s more likely to be shared. Don’t just write about your own thoughts on a topic. Gather the opinions and get quotes from other experts on the topic you cover. This is a great way to meet people and help promote your own content. The more you do this the more you’ll get referenced by other bloggers or experts which will generate more inbound links (important for search) and social traffic to your website. This is critical in the beginning to get noticed.
Find a Foundational Subject Matter Expert on a Specific Topic
If you’re going to be deep diving on a certain topic it can help to conduct a deep-dive interview series with one featured expert. If you run a podcast or blog that includes interviews, you already know that conducting outreach, scheduling a time to talk, and all of the administrative back and forth associated with booking guests takes a lot of time.
So - maybe SEO doesn't have to be so complicated after all?
There are always new ways to boost your SEO game, but sticking to the basics is always a great start.
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