A Quick Guide to Getting Started in Search Engine Optimization
Do you own a business, or are you’re in charge of marketing at your company? If so, you surely understand that search engine optimization (SEO) can be crucial in boosting lead generation and sales for your company. It’s a pretty big deal these days. Most people will click on one of the top three to five organic (non-paid) search results in Google. So if you want to get more search traffic, your website needs to show up in these top positions.
[September 8, 2021: Online via Livestream] Complimentary 75-minute SEO Class
Do you use Google’s advertising platform? There’s no doubt about it, running Google Ads is an excellent alternative to organic SEO since it allows to show up immediately in Google. However, it can be quite expensive to run these ads. Every time someone clicks on your ads, you’re getting charged. Once your PPC budget is used up, your listings disappear until your able to increase or replenish your budget.
As you can see from this image, Google Ads show up before the organic (aka natural) search results. Not too long ago, Google Ads also got displayed on the right side. The search giant recently made some changes to its advertising platform, and as of right now, you should no longer see ads on the right side.
Approximately 20-30% of all Google users will click on the paid ads instead of the organic search results. By investing in organic SEO and paid advertisements, you’ll increase the chance of getting people to your website. Google’s advertising platform and bidding strategies have become quite complicated. Increase your return-on-investments by attending a Google Ads class before going live with your ads.
Organic SEO: The Gift That Keeps On Giving Back
But let’s talk about organic SEO. If you’re new to the SEO party, organic isn’t just a health food fad. As mentioned above, organic means that interactions through search engines are non-paid. It means cultivating quality interest from real people that are readily seeking to consume the content or services you offer. Getting people to your website through organic search usually means higher conversion rates. But it doesn’t just happen like that. In this article, I’ll discuss some of the efforts required to get top organic listings in Google.
Ranking organically in the top search results in Google is the gift that keeps on giving back. Unlike paid listings, once you achieve those top listings, you have an excellent chance to stay up there for quite some time. And the best thing of all: You won’t get charged every time someone clicks on your listing.
While the idea of SEO as a whole can seem daunting, it can be easily broken down into simple steps. Google’s algorithm currently consists of approximately 250 main ranking signals (and 1000s of sub ranking signals). Pretty much all of these ranking signals fall into one of the following categories:
- The technical health of a website
- The functionally and overall usability of a website
- On-page SEO
- Off-page SEO
- Social media marketing and social signals
- Content marketing
By no means is this an exhaustive and complete SEO guide, but let’s briefly examine each of these categories:
The technical health of a website
If you want to climb Mount Everest, you can have all the gear required to do so. But unless you’re healthy on the inside, it’s not going to happen. The same thing applies to your website. Google recently move to mobile-first indexing, which means that the search giant now predominantly uses the mobile version of the content of your website for indexing and ranking. Many sites are still not optimized for mobile devices. Before speaking with a potential customer, I usually run a basic technical audit. During our initial call, I can then point out potential technical issues such as images that are too large, missing XML sitemaps, or that the site hasn’t been converted to HTTPS yet. All of these technical issues will affect how Google will rank your website in an online search.
To see if you need to address pressing technical issues on your site, I invite you to use our SEO site audit tool. In less than a minute, the tool creates an 8-10 page report. I’ll be happy to review and discuss the findings of the report with you in a screen share/online meeting if you’d like:
What’s Your SEO Score?
Enter the URL of any landing page or blog article and see how optimized it is for one keyword or phrase.
The functionally and overall usability of a website
There are four main ways of how people get to a website:
- Direct Traffic: In this case, someone already knows the website (or maybe someone sent them the URL in an email) and types it into a web browser.
- Referral Traffic: A website gets referral traffic from someone clicking on a link on another website, a social media post, etc. that includes a link to the site.
- Paid Traffic: Generate paid traffic to a website by launching online ads on platforms such as Google Ads, Facebook Ads, etc.
- Organic Search Traffic: Potential customers find a website by performing an online search and then clicking on a non-paid search engine results listing.
Getting people to visit a website usually requires basic SEO knowledge, resources, time, or you need to allocate a budget to drive paid traffic to the site. But there’s no guarantee that website visitors will take action once they land on a website. Converting site visitors to customers requires the website to be user-friendly. Check out this website usability checklist for additional tips and best practices.
On-page SEO refers to the optimization best practices that you can implement on your website. A proper on-page SEO strategy starts with keyword research. Once you’ve identified the keywords that you’d like to rank for, you’ll want to assign three keywords to each page on your website. This process is called keyword mapping. Now you can properly optimize the meta tags, include the keywords in the content of the page, add hyperlinks to other relevant pages on your website, and so on.
Off-page SEO refers to anything that happens outside of your website. Acquiring a high-quality backlink from a relevant website to your site is still one of the most important ranking signals in Google’s algorithm. As you can see from the Google Analytics screenshot below, referral traffic frequently has a high conversion rate, so it’s definitely worth paying attention to off-page SEO.
The three most common ways to create backlinks to your website include:
- Passive: Someone finds an amazing blog post of yours and adds a backlink to it on their website.
- Active: You can reach out to another website to see if they let you write a guest blog post for them. You can then naturally include a link back to your site in the content.
- You can add your site to free industry directories.
- You publish press releases via a free distribution service such as PRLog.
- Create a LinkedIn company page, an About.me page and include a link back to your site.
- Paid for your website to be included in a paid directory such as Angie’s List.
- Use a paid press release service such as Cision.
Social media marketing and social signals
Love it or hate it, but social media marketing needs to be part of your overall SEO and digital marketing strategy. If done right, a properly executed social media marketing strategy will support your brand and allow you to communicate with your customers and prospects. Google and other search engines pay close attention to the social networks, and they also index the content that’s being shared on Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
There’s no SEO without content marketing. Developing and publishing the best possible content that people are searching for will take your SEO strategy to the next level. Make sure to read a blog post entitled What webmasters should know about Google’s core updates. This blog post was published on Google’s Webmaster Central Blog and discusses in detail what kind of content will rank well in their search engine. Creating content takes time and resources, so before you write your next blog post, an article, or a case study, make sure to review these guidelines.
As mentioned earlier in this article, this is by no means a complete guide, but I hope that this article gets you started on the right foot. If you’d like to take your online marketing knowledge to the next level, I invite you to learn more about our digital marketing and SEO training classes. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if I can answer any questions you may have.