It is so easy to shy away from learning about SEO (search engine optimization) because it seems extremely technical and is constantly changing. But, all online business owners and bloggers should have a baseline understanding about how SEO works and why it is important. Once you have a baseline understanding, you will be able to leverage SEO to help grow your business. This post is the perfect SEO guide for beginners. I’ve also included a list of resources to help you optimize your website and blog posts.
Why should you care about SEO?
The simplest way to explain SEO is free traffic coming to your blog from search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo. Even better, when you start thinking about your SEO, it will enable your ideal clients to find your content. But, your ideal client won’t just stumble upon your website until you do the work.
How it works
Search engine bots “crawl” a website’s code looking for content to share. They are looking at the code of your website, not the well designed homepage and eye-catching graphics. These bots navigate between pages with links and reviews all of the written content, multimedia, tags and links. While crawling, they evaluate a long list of items to determine where you site might fall in the search rankings.
Where to begin
When you start thinking about SEO, the first place to start is your website. Take a look at the design of your website with your ideal client in mind and ask yourself the following questions:
- When someone lands on your website, do they know what it’s all about? What is your blog about? What services do you offer? Make it obvious. If people don’t know what you have to offer, they will quickly exit.
- Is your website easy to navigate? Are people easily able to navigate from your home page to where you want them to end up?
- Does your website load quickly? Have you optimized your images?
- Is your website easy for your ideal audience to see? Have you considered the font size, color and readability of your fonts?
- Does your website have 404 errors? Do you have broken links coming to your website or leaving your site? To find out quickly, use a tool like Broken Link Check.
- Is your website mobile friendly? According to Pew Research, 85% of Americans ages 20-49 have smartphones. That’s a lot of people who might be viewing your site on their phone.
These things are important because you want your client to have a great experience on your website, but you also want the Google bots to easily navigate around your website. If a client is confused navigating around your website, imagine how confused a bot will be.
Having a good content strategy is just as important as having a well designed website:
- Bots are looking for fresh content, so blog consistently and produce original, high quality content will help your search engine rank. If you post once a week for a year and then you post once or twice a month the next year, that will hurt your search engine rankings.
- Bots find value in multimedia content, so be sure to use images and video. Plus, no one like a blog post without photo or video.
- Use your categories and tags. They work together to make your site more search able and help your ideal audience find your content.
- Share your content on social media. This will increase your visibility and links going to your website.
Once you have your site design and content strategy down, you want to begin to select keywords for your pages and posts. You should select one keyword for each page or post. When determining the best keyword, start by thinking about how your ideal client might be searching for something. For example, if you wanted to share a blog post about your favorite drinks to enjoy by the pool, you might consider keywords “pool party drinks” or “splash-tastic drinks”. As cute as “splash-tastic drinks” is, it is not a term people will search for. A tool like Google’s Keyword Planner or Google Trends can be used to help you select the best keyword for your content. (Note: You must have an AdWords account to use Keyword Planner, which is free to set up.)
Once you have decided on your keyword for a page or post, there are a few different places you will want to incorporate your keyword into.
- Create a unique page or post title with the keyword included, for example “Pool Party Drinks.” I would also recommend using the keyword in the post URL
- If you are using WordPress and the Yoast SEO plugin, you are able to update the post’s meta description to include the keyword. The meta description is the 150-160 character description of a web page that appears directly after the site name on search engines
- Work the keyword into your post once or twice. The rest of time you can use variables of the word. Keyword Planner will give you suggestions.
- Optimize your images.
- Save your images at the lowest size you can, but be sure to check and make sure they still look okay.It is recommended that you keep all of your images 100K or less. Smaller file sizes will help your website load faster. You can use different compression tools to help your page load faster.
- Be sure to always fill in your images title and alt text. You can use your blog post title to fill in the image title and alt text. This will help the bots navigate your website.
Make the Most Out of Your Search Traffic
Once you have optimized your website for search engines, you want to make sure you know how to keep readers on your site so they get to know you and what you can offer to them.
- Within a post or page, link to other relevant content within your site
- At the end of a blog post, share related posts to spark a visitor’s interest
- Make sure your social media information is easy to find so visitors can follow you and share your content
- Add a newsletter opt-in at the end of a blog post or toward the top of your website
While SEO is complicated, if you focus on your website design and your content strategy, your organize search traffic begin to grow. What questions do you have about SEO?
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9 thoughts on “Beginner SEO Guide”
Love this post! SO many great tips that anyone can learn from!
Rachel / http://www.seashellsandsparkles.com
Hi Rachel! So glad you liked the post! Let me know if you have any questions.
Great intro to SEO, Katie! SEO for mobile devices is definitely the priority these days. We see almost all of our SEO clients with 80-90% of traffic on non-desktop devices.
The only thing I’ll add is that keywords are far less important these days than links into a site from other reliable websites. Bloggers & digital entrepreneurs should focus efforts on getting as many social media shares and link backs as possible! (Social media counts in that link calculation!)
Nice to be here on your blog. You explained everything from the very beginning of the SEO thing and kept everything very clear for a person to understand and educate self about search engine optimization.
Thanks for sharing
great post! Thanks for sharing. I started in May with some of the tips here, but I certainly have many more to implement.
Thanks, Debbie! That can be one of the hardest things about blogging…there is always something else to implement! Let me know if you have any questions!
Thank you so much for the tips!! I’m still trying to get my head around SEO and you sure have sent me in the right direction! Thank you so much 🙂
A helpful article to be sure! Just wondering if you had any advice for Squarespace users?