In 2016, we shared some advice for you on SEO for dummies. But things have changed since then! SEO is even more important, and it’s tougher than ever to get a foot in the door when you’re just starting out. Here is your updated guide: Search Engine Optimization For Dummies 2018.
Step 1: What’s wrong with your site?
It’s not you, it’s your website. The first step in determining what search engine optimization fixes to make is to run a technical SEO audit.
SEO isn’t all keyword research and landing page creation. It also encompasses showing search engines that you take website maintenance seriously and are providing a good user experience. If your site has a ton of 404 errors, duplicate content, or missing meta descriptions, you’re not doing your due diligence.
Here are a few things to check off your list:
- Install an SSL certificate—Google hates sites that aren’t secure.
- Implement 301 redirects for pages that don’t exist anymore—This isn’t just for Google, your site visitors will thank you, too!
- Remove duplicate content—This is a tricky one, we recommend reading our blog post in full.
- All pages should have a meta description—You’ll likely want to perform step 2 below before embarking on a journey to add meta descriptions to all of your pages.
- Get rid of 404 errors—There is nothing worse than trying to visit a page on a website only to be greeted with “Sorry, this content no longer exists.”
- Fix broken external links—It’s not just about the pages on your site. Make sure if you’re linking to outside pages, those links are still working.
- More text than HTML—Search engines don’t like to crawl your site and find unwieldy amounts of HTML. They want to find educational content that will help searchers.
Step 2: Determine your target keywords
Now that your site is free of errors or on its way, it’s time to build your keyword universe. Your keyword universe will be comprised of branded terms and generic terms. Branded terms refer to any terms that include specific mentions of your company, product, or service. Generic terms will include your industry, the solution your service provides, the problem your service solves, and trending terms related to your marketspace.
Research your own site
First and foremost, take a look at your current content. What terms are ranking? What terms are your surprised to see aren’t on the list? Pulling a list like this is a valuable use of your time as it provides insight into what terms you should defend because you already have a high ranking, what terms you are on the cusp of ranking for, and what terms aren’t present but should be.
Research your competitors’ sites
If you have a competitor who has made SEO focus long before you, it will benefit your organization to take a look at what terms they’re ranking for. This isn’t just to see how well you’re doing in comparison. This also gives you valuable insight into terms you weren’t aware you should go after.
For instance, if you have a big data company you’re probably trying to rank for the term “big data.” But if you do research on a competitor, you might find they’re ranking for the term “what is big data technology.” This is a longtail keyword, and an easy concept to build content around. All of a sudden, you can work toward directly competing against your rival on a keyword you didn’t even realize existed.
Don’t take keywords at face value
Both you and your competitors are going to rank for keywords that aren’t relevant. So, when you’re evaluating current rankings of both you and your competitors, be mindful that you need to sort good keywords from bad.
This isn’t some error that you need worry about and fix. This is just how search engines work. When you write content (especially if you were previously writing without specific keywords in mind), you’ll inevitably rank for keywords that are not necessarily your target. For instance, my target keyword for this blog post is “search engine optimization.” But, if I routinely draw a parallel between search engine optimization and “building a house,” I might accidentally rank for “building a house.”
Your organic keyword rankings are free. Don’t sweat those accidental rankings. Focus on the big keywords. Build a keyword library and consistently report on the keywords you own, want to own, and need to own.
Step 3: Optimize key pages
High-volume website pages should be the first items you optimize on your website. That means your homepage gets the most attention. This is the first place the majority of site visitors land. It’s not just about creating a great visual experience. You need to place the most relevant keywords on your homepage so your audience knows they’re in the right place.
Use Google Analytics to determine your top landing pages as well as pages that should have higher landing page views than they do. Likely, the pages that aren’t getting site entrances haven’t been optimized with keywords in mind.
One of the most important things to be mindful of when optimizing pages is that you don’t want to optimize the same keyword for multiple pages. Choose a keyword that fits in the sweet spot between most-relevant-to-the-page and high search volume. This will allow you to target more valuable keywords.
Step 4: Start generating content
The best way to rank for all of those keywords you determined matter for your business? Write content. Let’s take that longtail keyword we mentioned earlier: “What is big data technology?” It sounds like a good blog post topic. And, we can use related keywords like “big data” and “business intelligence” throughout the post in a way that won’t sound ham-fisted.
While blogging is the No. 1 way to increase your organic SEO rankings, you need to produce content that makes sense for your buyer personas, too. This may be white papers, videos, or testimonials. Whatever the case may be, make sure you are developing your content with a key focus (i.e., keyword). Optimize your landing pages around the keyword that best fits your content. Done right, your SEO work can have an impact on lead generation as you’re leading visitors to gated content.
Step 5: Backlinking
Backlinking can be tricky and time-consuming. But what it ultimately boils down to is external sites linking to your organization’s site. As long as those external sites are trustworthy and relevant, you have a good backlink. Bonus points for that backlink having relevant anchor text to the content it’s pointing to on your site.
Your backlinking strategy should involve monitoring external sites for mentions of your brand name as well as guest blogging. Backlinking is about making friends. So be prepared to reach out often to ask for link backs to your site.
Step 6: Paid search
Finally, no search engine optimization strategy would be complete without investing in paid search. Paid search is one of the best ways to ensure that your message gets in front of the right person. It also allows you to defend your brand name, ideally showing up in the No. 1 spot in both paid and organic search.
Create competitor advertising PPC campaigns to utilize that competitor research you did early on in your SEO strategy. Creating a competitor campaign also allows you to benefit from your competitors’ keywords without using them on your site. Though, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Create paid search campaigns around generic terms that point to optimized landing pages. Search engines will pick up on this relevance, and your landing page may gain some traction for those keywords from paid search.
When it comes down to it, SEO is all about getting in front of your audience so they have to do as little as possible to find you. If your prospects need to work hard to find you, your SEO strategy is in need of some major rework.
It’s not easy to get into that top 10 spot on Google, and it’s even harder staying there. We hope our search engine optimization for dummies blog was comprehensive enough for you to make headway on your own SEO strategy. If not, you can always reach out to DemandZEN for a consultation.