What is SEO?
Website optimization – or SEO – is the practice of structuring your website’s pages to make it easier for search spiders to crawl your site, create an optimal user experience and provide unique information or helpful resources on a topic that searchers are looking for. This is all done in order to drive higher ranks in the SERPs – or search engine results pages. When you create content that is unique, informative, educational and optimized, you will likely find your pages naturally rising in ranks in the SERPs. This will drive both new traffic and more traffic to your site.
Why do I need SEO?
As more businesses, more products and services, more education, etc. move online, there is a growing interest in learning SEO techniques and strategies with the hopes of ranking higher for important pages. We did some research via Instant to learn more about what users are hoping to understand about SEO. Below are some examples of growing search trends for topics surrounding SEO for beginners. We will answer these questions in the content below.
As you can see, there is an increase in interest around the basics of SEO. If you’re reading this blog, you’re likely interested in performing SEO yourself and learning what exactly goes into the initial steps for optimizing pages of a website.
Statistics show that 28.5% of users click on the first organic SERP, 15.7% click on the second, and 11% click on the third. Less than 10% of searchers click on paid advertisements. Why? Because users don't trust them. Because of this, SEO is absolutely vital to the success of your website.
Not only does SEO help the success of your site, though. Optimizing your site provides users with an overall better experience. For example, when you focus on page speed, a search engine ranking factor, Google will reward your site for loading quickly. On the other hand, search engines will also penalize your site for loading slowly. Slow loading pages, pages that don't provide valuable answers but are stuffed with keywords, an unresponsive website and more will get your site penalized and dropped in rankings via search engines.
Focusing on the overall health of your site will give search engines the opportunity to rank your pages well in the SERPs.
So, you might be wondering why SEO is important and if it is, is it important to your industry or business? The answer is yes. The organic channel makes up 53% of all web traffic and is expecting to rise above other search traffic, year after year.
Not only is the organic traffic channel growing, but there is no media cost for SEO. If that weren’t enough to interest you, SEO can provide substantial ROI. By creating unique content that is also well-optimized, you can increase your ranks. As they increase, you will drive traffic. The more traffic, the better your chances of converting a user to a customer.
While the organic channel continues to grow, it’s important for SEOs and digital marketers to grow with it. Learning the basics of SEO is imperative but also understanding the “why?” behind it is as well. Search engines like Google are continuously evolving their algorithm with new updates on a daily basis. Why? Because Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines want to provide searchers with the best possible user experience. Because of this, it is important to create content for the users, not bots.
While it’s tempting to practice keyword stuffing or accept low quality guest blogs just for a backlink, these are poor SEO practices, and you should avoid them at all costs. Going into the beginning stages of SEO, you should understand that SEO is an ongoing process that requires time and patience. While most SEO efforts can be quick to implement, the results will take time.
What is on-page SEO?
On-page SEO includes all of the optimization you can do to the front end of a page found in HTML source code. It includes everything involved in creating the best possible user experience for readers. Understanding on-page tactics is key to understanding SEO in general and how it works.
On-page SEO includes the following elements:
- Title tags
- H1, H2 & H3 tags
- Image alt
- Anchor text
- Keyword density
- Meta descriptions
- Internal linking
Some best practices for on-page SEO include the following:
- Write well-developed content that is fresh, original and provides real value to users
- Use the keyword in the URL, titles, subtitles, and body copy
- Write descriptive and engaging meta descriptions and titles to clarify content and encourage clicks from the search engine results page
- Use a digestible layout that makes it easy for visitors to read your content
- Work on producing fast page speeds
- Optimize alt text and file names on images that includes the topic keyword
What is off-page SEO?
Off-page SEO refers to all of the actions of your site taken off of your domain. It includes all of the SEO elements and techniques used to prove your site's worth and reputation from external digital presences including reputable websites, directories and more.
Off-page SEO elements include the following:
- External backlinking
- Anchor text from external links
- Brand mentions
- Influencer programs
- Guest blogging or writing
- Social media
Use the following off-page SEO practices to gain a leg up on your competition:
- Cultivate high quality backlinks from other websites - learn how in this whitepaper
- Build internal links using the anchor text from other pages within your domain or other sites you manage
- Develop content for publications like guest blogs that you can link back to your site
- List your business in any applicable directories
- Build your social media presence
How do I do SEO for a website step by step?
There is no perfect way to perform SEO step by step as each page and business will require different SEO elements based off of what a site is hoping to gain from page optimization. For example, if you’re optimizing a page for local users in order to drive foot traffic to your store’s location, your SEO efforts will differ. You’ll want to focus more heavily on optimizing locations pages, increasing digital citations and creating an optimized Google My Business page.
Questions to ask yourself while performing SEO
- Is my content out of date? If the date on your post is several years old, the content is likely also old. You may want to consider refreshing the content if there is new data and insights on the topic in order to see ranks improve.
- What are my primary, secondary and tertiary keywords for this page? You’ll want to begin the process of choose keywords with keyword research. You can leverage Data Cube in order to find relevant keywords for your site with high search volumes. You can also leverage Instant to dive into seasonality of search trends. Once you’ve completed some keyword research, you’re ready to choose the keywords to optimize a page for. If you’re looking to optimize a page, you should, at minimum, have a primary keyword. Secondary and tertiary keywords support the primary keyword but typically have smaller search volumes. You can check on keyword search volumes using Data Cube.
- Are the page’s images compressed and optimized? Optimizing an image includes giving it a file name and image alt text based on your chosen keywords. Compressing an image will assist the page in loading more quickly which prompts better UX and ranks.
- Does my keyword appear near the top of the page? Your keyword(s) should be used in title tags, H1s and within the first paragraph of the page’s copy to easily indicate to searchers and bots what topic the page is about.
- Can I share internal links throughout the page? Likely, if you don’t have other information or resources to link to on your page, the topic may not be optimal to include in your content calendar. If you do have opportunities to include internal links, you should do so where they’re relevant. Internal linking is used to link parts of your site together, to improve navigation and to keep users on your site for longer.
If you’re new to SEO and working on the perfect strategy for optimizing pages, we recommend checking out this on-page SEO checklist to better guide you through the initial steps of SEO. Once you’ve checked off all the boxes in the checklist, you’re ready to get SEO efforts implemented into your page. We recommend doing this for every page until you feel comfortable performing SEO without it.