What is SEO: A Beginner’s Perspective
Have you ever wondered what makes you click on a certain website or why one site appears on the first page of Google’s search results while others don’t? About a year ago, I did too. Since then, I have had the opportunity to intern at Today’s Business as part of their Search Engine Optimization (SEO) team, where I have begun learning the ins and outs of SEO. Simply put, SEO is the practice of optimizing a website so that it appears as high as possible in Google search results. Although it sounds simple in principle, as I have learned, it is anything but. There is a lot to learn in the SEO world, and since it can feel intimidating to tackle it all, I have highlighted some key points that helped me move forward when I first began learning SEO.
Learning the SEO Vocabulary
The first part of learning SEO actually has nothing to do with website optimization. Before you can do that, you need to understand the terms that those in the industry use when talking about SEO and all of its elements. Understanding these terms is key to working with your team or industry experts when discussing strategies for optimizing your website and gaining more traffic.
Content is king in SEO – it is one of the primary tools that website owners use to get their site to rank higher organically. Content is the information contained within a page on a website. The premise is that if a website has valuable and relevant content, Google and other search engines will rank it higher since it is more likely to answer the questions that people are searching for. Content can be optimized in a variety of ways, and there are a wide range of content types that are beneficial for SEO. For example, if you wanted your site to rank for social media marketing, you would focus on creating a dedicated social media marketing service page along with blog content related to the topic to help improve rankings.
One of the most common phrases used in SEO is Google SERP, which stands for “search engine results page.” This is not a specific SEO tactic, but one of the most important end goals of SEO is to rank highly in Google search results. It is also important to note that although there are other search engines, I will be focusing on Google for this article as it is the most widely used.
The next SEO term you should know is keywords. SEO keywords are the words and phrases used when someone is searching for a query. Keywords are important for SEO because by inserting them into content, Google’s algorithm will recognize that the page is likely to contain answers or relevant information related to the search query you are targeting. There are two types of keywords: short-tail keywords (which consist of one or two words used to search for a topic) and long-tail keywords (which are longer and more specific phrases that users search for). Overuse of keywords can be a problem, as Google will notice this tactic and assume that you may be trying to rank for a topic rather than actually answer a user’s question. With this in mind, keywords should be used strategically and in places where they naturally fit into the content.
Next up is the meta description, or the description seen below a URL on a Google search engine results page. Meta descriptions serve as the first source of information that a user will see before they click on your website, making this feature very important for drawing users in. This SEO element should also be keyword optimized in order to aid with rankings. As meta descriptions are meant to give your users a quick idea of what your website or page is about, keeping them around 150 characters will offer the best results.
Alt text is another important aspect of SEO. Alt text is a short description of a photo that is used to make websites more accessible, and helps Google to understand what is shown in the image. Having optimized alt text attached to the images throughout your site helps with SEO because Google’s algorithm will analyze the alt text and determine the image’s relevance to the page. This can also help your images to rank in image searches, bringing more traffic to your site. Alt text is another area of SEO where keyword optimization comes into play.
Learning the Programs
If understanding the vocabulary is like learning key terms of a new language, understanding the programs is like learning the sentence structure. Although the programs commonly used by SEO experts can take some time to learn, they will advance your understanding of SEO and its impact on your site. Ranging from the ability to track the actions people take on your website all the way to analyzing your competitors, you will be able to make the most informed digital marketing decisions for your business using the following tools.
The most powerful tool for SEO is Google Analytics. A free tool offered by Google themselves, Google Analytics gives website owners the power to take stock of everything happening on their website, including impressions, clicks, the amount of time users spend on a page, and much more. All of this information is vital when looking for issues with a website or areas that could use improvement. For example, if we see that a blog has a very low average session duration, we can assume that it may not be answering the search query it is ranking for. However, Google Analytics data needs to be analyzed carefully, because outside forces and seasonal changes can easily play a role in a site or page’s performance over time.
Have you ever wondered how your competitors are doing? Doing competitor research for brick and mortar stores can be very difficult. Online, it is a different story – SEMRush allows you to see what keywords you and your competitors are ranking for so you can better exploit those areas and gain a leg up. For your own site, you can use SEMRush to research keywords, track keywords, or run a crawl in order to identify problems that could be hindering your rankings. It is important to remember to run crawls regularly, as any changes to your website or Google’s algorithm could affect your SEO.
Finally, we have BrightLocal and Localeze – two programs to help you track and keep your local listings up to date and stay on top of local keywords. Both BrightLocal and Localeze make this task simple by not only tracking your listings, but distributing your information to listing sites and relevant directories, so you don’t have to worry about editing multiple listings for your business. With nearly 46% of all Google searches focusing on local information, keeping your local listings up to date is essential to getting your website in front of a high converting audience.
Why Should You Care?
So, why should you care about SEO? Although it may seem intimidating, SEO is worth the effort, as it works to deliver your site directly to your target audience. By creating relevant content, optimizing your site with relevant keywords, and catering to your local audience, you are working towards reaching an audience that is looking for your specific services or products. SEO work delivers results over time, and is an excellent way to gain Google’s trust in your site and bring in users organically. With all the factors that contribute to SEO, you are sure to be able to come up with strategies that cover the basics and beyond and fit perfectly with your business needs and goals. Up to 64% of all clicks on the web are on organically-based URLs, meaning that with SEO, you’ll reach stable, relevant traffic that is targeted towards an audience that is most likely to convert. Understanding SEO or finding experts in the industry to help grow your business is the best way to move your company to the modern era – with SEO you can organically grow your brand and gain an audience that will stick with you.
Need Help With SEO?
Looking to improve your organic search presence but not sure how? Today’s Business is a multichannel digital marketing agency with a team of experts ready to help you with all of your online marketing needs. With 19 years of experience we have worked with companies in all industries and of all sizes. Whether you’re just starting or are already an established brand. You tell us your budget and we will work with you to develop an in-depth strategy to help you grow your company. Contact us today to begin growing your online brand.