Beginners guide to SEO
What is SEO?
First. What the heck does that stand for? Search Engine Optimization. That didn’t really clear up what it is did it?
SEO is a marketing tool that bases it’s results on organic (non-paid) search engine results. It identifies if people naturally find your site and your traffic is generated organically. Your traffic should not come from paying people to slap your link all over their website, cramming it into every sentence you write on a message board, or paying for links and clicks.
You should never build your site with just the idea of making sure it is search engine friendly. New requirements now also measure if your site is people friendly as well. If your user has to dig to find your information or your site doesn’t work on mobile devices these things will also reflect on your SEO standing.
It may seem daunting but these are all things that you can tweak and change to make your site rank higher. If it seems to overwhelming or you are wondering where you are going to squeeze a few more hours out of each day to tackle your growing “website to-do” list, there are services available to help with this.
Why is SEO Important?
Imagine the World Wide Web as a network of stops in a big city subway system.
Each stop is a unique document (usually a web page, but sometimes a PDF, JPG, or other file). The search engines need a way to “crawl” the entire city and find all the stops along the way, so they use the best path available—links. “moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo”
Search engines use algorithms (mathematical equations to decide what is important and what isn’t. Quality is determined to be the most popular and that is what move your site, listing, or product up the ranks.
Figuring out what these algorithms like most or how to implement strategies to create sites that they love seems impossible. Google offers the following information to get better rankings:
Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines. Don’t deceive your users or present different content to search engines than you display to users, a practice commonly referred to as “cloaking.”
Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links. Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link.
Ensure a clean, keyword rich URL structure is in place.
Create keyword-rich content and match keywords to what users are searching for. Produce fresh content regularly.
Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content. Make sure that your <title> elements and ALT attributes are descriptive and accurate.
Use keywords to create descriptive, human-friendly URLs. Provide one version of a URL to reach a document, using 301 redirects or the rel=”canonical” attribute to address duplicate content.
Search technology relies on relevance and importance. They measure those things by tracking what people do: what they discover, react, comment, and link to. You can’t just build a perfect website and write great content. You also have to get that content shared and talked about. You need to have interactions with other people, links to other sites, and some form of consistent traffic.
What the Crawlers See:
One way to make sure that the robots and crawlers that are digging through your site and trying to decide if it is popular or not is to make it “readable” for them. This language is not the same thing that we see on the surface. Computer language and user friendly language usually are not the same thing. Certain files will not even be seen by the crawlers. Photos mean nothing to them, even though they convey a wealth of information to us at first glance.
- Provide alt text for your images. This gives the search engines a description of that photo so they know how to index the image and then help others find it when they search for it.
- Besides providing search boxes you should also provide navigation and crawl-able links to other places on your website.
- If you have Flash or Java installed be sure and have text on the page that describes that information or that can supplement it when it isn’t functioning.
- Provide transcripts for video and audio content. These files are full of useful information and key terms but crawlers are not accessing that information. You need to have it in a typed format.
- Crawlers also like structure. They like main pages and then child pages. Using a CMS (content management system) like WordPress will make the structure of your site function-able and crawl-able. It’s a win win.
The most fundamental part of the search process is keywords. It’s the building blocks of the language we see and the language the search engines see. As those little bots crawl through your site they are keeping track of the number of times they see each word. When you become more specific with your keywords you are narrowing the competition and improving your chances of achieving a higher ranking.
Don’t assume that just because the words are counted that more is better. New algorithms do not give you more points just because you have the same word in your content 1500 times! Just don’t do it!!
Keywords are counted in different areas of your content. Page titles, title tags, headings, your page link, and meta data all count. There is a ton of information to keep track of on top of just trying to produce good content. You can find tools to help with this. It is also possible to hire someone to take care of it for you. At the end of this PDF will be a list of resources you can use to help you with your SEO journey.
Usability, User Experience & Content:
It is a constant job for search engines to improve their performance and determine what is “best”. The engines have a very good idea what types of pages and sites their searchers are wanting. These sites usually have the following traits:
- Easy to use and navigate.
- Direct and actionable information related to what the user searched for.
- Professionally designed and accessible to modern browsers.
- High quality, credible content.
How do you show the crawly robots that your site is user friendly? Create an experience that ensure your visitors interact with your content. They are sharing your information, leaving comments, bookmarking your site, and returning. Search engines LOVE this!
It has been said over and over. It’s worth repeating one more time. “Develop great content”. It is great advice. If you are creating content that fulfills searchers need and they are sharing your content with their peers then your chance to go to the top of the rankings increases.
Links that point back to your site are referred to as “global popularity” links. They show search engines that people find your site useful so they are willing to link back to you from their site. The more popular your “partner” link is the better. It starts to show that you are trustworthy and have authority in your topic area.
Keeping your links fresh helps to show that your site has not gone stale. If you last link back was 3 years ago the search engines are going to assume that your site is dead.
Social sharing is the other way to have links back to your site and content. Search engines view these differently, but they still notice them. They aren’t as important as a quality link back from a popular site, but they still have merit.
So how do you improve user experience and get links back to your site:
- Capitalise on customers who are loyal or love your brand and give them icons to add to their sites or blogs that link back to you.
- Build a blog for your business. Make it valuable and entertaining. Encourage conversations.
- Create content that inspires viral sharing and natural linking.
- Be newsworthy. Attracting the attention of the press or popular bloggers is a great way to earn links.
- Give away something for free.
Myths About SEO:
Myth 1: It’s dead. No need to worry about it anymore.
Fact: It’s not dead. It’s changed. Again. It will continue to change and evolve. It will most likely become more complicated and frustrating, but it’s still alive and kicking. Pay attention to your social activities, high quality content and content marketing. These are the main focus now, not keywords.
Myth 2: If you know the tricks you are good.
Fact: You really can’t work the system. Most of the shady ways of trying to increase SEO have been taken into account with the newest algorithms. It is entirely possible to improve your ranking, and those methods have been shared throughout this document. It takes effort and requires quality information.
Myth 3: You only have to do it once.
Fact: Making your website once and then walking away does not work. Things need to stay fresh. You need to continually add quality content, pay attention to your keywords, meta tags, headlines, alt tags, etc. It’s a ton of work!! That’s why people hire it out and why the people who are helping with it make good money!
Myth 4: Tweets and Facebook links don’t matter.
Fact: All of your social links and interactions are taken into account in your SEO ranking.
You are rewarded with higher rankings if you are creating content that users feel is worth sharing.
Myth 5: Don’t bother with guest posting, it doesn’t work.
Fact: If you are just posting a quick snippet of information that isn’t relevant to the site or it’s readers, then it isn’t going to work for you. Guest blogging is the same as blogging on your own site. Make it content rich. Improve your link building campaign by writing content that is above and beyond your usual content that you can share on other sites.
Tools and Services:
Analytics Services: You can choose Google Analytics, Yahoo! Web Analytics, Clicky Web Analytics, and a variety of others. A quick google search will pull up a wealth of information and options. If you are using WordPress there is a built in plugin on the dot com version and you can install a plugin for the self hosted version.
Search Engine Optimization Tools: Yoast or All in One SEO are popular WordPress plugins that help you manage your SEO and view your rating on your posts and pages so you can change them in organic ways to make them better.
There are also tools that help you manage your social media such as Hoot Suite that also have analytics built in. There are a few sites with some options in the resource section below.
Thinks like Chrome Developer Tools and Keywordtool.io are also resources. At this point it’s finding something that you like to use, that works for you. It has to help stream line your process not add to the confusion.
Patience is Key:
It takes time and effort to get your SEO tweaked and working to your advantage. Be patient. Continue to produce great content, add keywords where applicable (without going overboard), add attribute tags to your images and links, and interact with our audience. All your hard work will pay off!
Links and Resources:
SEO Myths that Tick Me Off:
Beginners Guide to SEO:
Free SEO Tools:
Etsy Seller Resources:
Tips and Quotes:
Pages that have relevant links in the content near the beginning of the content will rank higher than similar pages with links further down the page.
Do you have a blog? Don’t be shy about self-promotion — don’t go overboard, but certainly link to your posts, products, and online shop (ie. Etsy, Shopify, etc.)
Robots Do NOT Use:
links to pages that are blocked by meta robots
frames or iframes
flash, java, or video and audio files
pages with hundreds or thousands of links
“On a broad scale, I see SEO becoming a normalized marketing tactic, the same way TV, radio, and print are traditionally thought of as marketing tactics.” ~ Duane Forrester, Senior Product Manager, Bing
“The days of SEO being a game outsmarting algorithms are over. Today content strategy and valuable, sustainable strategies are essential, not just tricks and links.” ~ Adam Audette, Chief Knowledge Officer, RKG
“A company that builds a loyal social following has a built-in army to promote their content, day in and day out. That content will get shared, get links, send social signals…all of which can’t be a bad thing.” ~ Wil Reynolds, Founder, Seer Interactive