In this article, we’ll delve into the fundamentals of SEO and explain why each element is important. After you read it, we promise that you will be equipped with actionable tips and best practices to help your website rank higher and boost your organic traffic which ultimately we hope will lead to more business for you. So, grab your favorite drink, get comfortable, and let’s get started!
Understanding SEO Fundamentals
Let’s start with the basics. SEO is all about optimizing your website and its content to appear higher in search engine results. It’s like giving your website a megaphone so that search engines can hear its voice loud and clear and spread its message to others. But how do search engines actually work?
Think of search engines as matchmakers trying to find the perfect fit for search queries. They scan through billions of web pages to provide you with the most relevant results. These results can be divided into two categories: organic (unpaid) and paid (such as Google Ads).
Organic search results are like gems discovered by search engine matchmakers. They appear naturally based on the search engine’s evaluation of their relevance to your query. In other words, a search engine like Google is always asking itself, “Which webpages are the best answers for this person’s search?”.
On the other hand, paid search results are like flashy billboards that businesses pay for to grab your attention. For each click and visit to a website, there’s a cost, and the cost is based on how many others are bidding for the same clicks and traffic.
To become more visible in organic search results, you need to understand the role of keywords and user search intent. Keywords are the words or phrases that people enter into Google and other search engines when looking for information. By strategically incorporating relevant keywords into your website’s content, you increase the chances of appearing in search engine results.
SEO is like giving your website a megaphone so that search engines can hear its voice loud and clear and spread its message to others.
Now that you understand the basics, let’s dive into the world of on-page optimization. This involves fine-tuning various elements on your website to improve its search engine rankings.
As we just mentioned, one of the most important aspects of SEO best practices is keyword research and selection. This involves identifying the words and phrases that your target audience is using when searching for products or services related to your business.
Before you even begin thinking about keywords, you need to understand your target audience. Who are they? What are their pain points and needs? What sort of language and terms do they use when talking about your industry? Questions like these will help you choose the best keywords to target.
One way to find out more about your target audience is to conduct surveys or use tools like Google Analytics. This will give you insights into the demographics of your website visitors as well as their interests and behavior patterns.
Once you have a better understanding of your target audience, it’s time to start researching keywords. Google Keyword Planner is a popular free tool that can help you find relevant and popular keywords. Simply enter a few relevant terms related to your business and the tool will give you a list of suggested keywords along with their search volume and level of competition.
Other keyword research tools include Ahrefs, SEMrush, and MOZ. These paid tools offer more advanced features and metrics, such as competitor analysis and keyword difficulty. While these are paid tools, they also offer free plans that come with limited use.
When conducting keyword research, it’s important to consider both broad and specific keywords. Broad keywords are more general and have higher competition, while specific, long-tail keywords are more targeted and have lower competition.
For example, if you’re a bakery selling cupcakes, “cupcakes” would be a broad keyword with high competition. However, “gluten-free chocolate cupcakes” would be a long-tail keyword that’s more specific and has lower competition. It’s important to find a balance between broad and specific keywords when optimizing your website.
Another important aspect of keyword research is analyzing your competitors. Look at what keywords they’re targeting and which ones are driving the most traffic to their website. This will help give you some ideas about other keywords to target and where you should focus your SEO efforts.
Tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush offer competitor analysis features that allow you to see which keywords your competitors are ranking for as well as their search volume and difficulty to rank for those terms.
Next, let’s talk about webpage title tags. Title tags are the HTML elements that define the title or name of a web page. They appear in the search engine results pages (SERPs) and the browser tabs. So, it’s important to have keyword-rich and enticing page titles that inform the users what the page is all about.
Here’s what title tags look like when displayed in Google search results:
But when it comes to SEO, title tags are one of the primary elements on your page that search engines consider to determine what your page is about and which keywords it’s focused on.
The ideal length for a title tag is around 60 characters, and when you write title tags you should include your brand name and targeted keywords to increase your relevance and authority. Place important keywords toward the beginning of your tag but don’t stuff your titles with unnecessary keywords, as this can backfire and lower your search rankings further.
Here’s an example: Let’s say you owned a roofing company and you offered standing seam metal roofing for homes. Your title tag for that page could be something like:
Residential Standing Seam Metal Roofing | M & J Roofing Co.
Standing Seam Metal Roofing for Homes | M & J Roofing
Next are meta descriptions. The meta description is the HTML element that gives a brief summary of the web page and appears below the page title tag in the SERPs. Meta descriptions should be 155-160 characters long and should include your primary and secondary keywords.
Think of the meta description as your elevator pitch; it should be informative, enticing, and encourage the user to click through to your website. Avoid repetition and be original with your descriptions. Your goal is not to simply describe what you do or offer; this is your chance to sell yourself! So, use persuasive language that highlights the benefits of your products or services and makes you stand out from the competition.
Here’s an example: Upgrade your home’s style & durability with our expert installation of Standing Seam Metal Roofing. Energy efficiency, lasting beauty, and lifetime performance.
Think of the meta description as your elevator pitch; it should be informative, enticing, and encourage users to click to your website.
Header Tags and Headings
Then there are your header tags also known as heading tags. Header tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.) are the HTML elements that denote the headings and subheadings on a web page. They provide a hierarchical structure to your website content, making it easier for both search engines and users to understand your webpage’s layout and purpose.
The H1 tag will usually be the name or title of your page. You will want to be sure that your page only has one H1 tag, and it should contain your primary keyword.
Use multiple H2 tags to break the text into meaningful sections and include secondary keywords. This is very important since keywords in your header tags hold more SEO weight than keywords placed in the body of the page.
Here’s an example of what the headings of a page for standing seam metal roofing could be:
- H1: Standing Seam Metal Roofing for Homes
- H2: What is Standing Seam Metal Roofing?
- H2: The Benefits of Standing Seam Metal Roofing
- H3: Unmatched Protection for Your Home
- H3: Enhanced Curb Appeal and Aesthetics
- H3: Energy Efficiency and Savings
- H2: Expert Installation by M & J Roofing
- H2: Customer Testimonials
- H2: Get a Quote
But when optimizing your title tags, meta descriptions, and header tags, there are some common mistakes to avoid that could derail your SEO efforts:
- Don’t duplicate your title tags or meta descriptions across multiple pages, as this can be considered spammy and it provides Google mixed signals.
- Avoid stuffing keywords into every sentence and paragraph; instead, use them strategically and in a natural way.
- Be consistent with your header tags and don’t skip numbers; for example, don’t use an H3 tag before an H2 tag.
Search engines prefer URLs that are short and simple, so try to keep your URLs as concise as possible while still including your main keyword(s) in them. Including the targeted keywords of the page in your URL can further signal to search engines what your webpage is about. And separating words with hyphens will help make it easier for people to read.
Internal linking is another highly beneficial yet often overlooked on-page SEO strategy. By linking relevant pages within your website using appropriate anchor text (the words that are used to link to another page), you not only help users navigate through your content but also signal to search engines that your website is well-organized. Just as importantly, internal links help spread SEO “power” throughout your site.
And while we’re talking about links, it’s also important to add external links to authoritative sites and pages especially when you quote any statistics or facts.
Creating high-quality, informative, and relevant content on your website is absolutely the most important thing you can do. After all, search engines like Google base your rankings first and foremost on your content. It’s the backbone of your online presence and a critical factor that determines where your website stands in the search engine rankings.
Google’s algorithms prioritize content that is valuable and informative to users while rewarding sites that consistently create fresh, relevant, and educational content.
Creating high-quality, informative, and relevant content on your website also helps establish you as an authoritative and trustworthy source in your industry, whether that’s in your local area, nationally, or internationally. By providing valuable and relevant content to your users, you can earn their trust and establish yourself as an expert in your field. And when people are ready to do business, who do they usually choose? Yep, the business they trust and perceive as the expert!
High-quality, relevant content is the backbone of your online presence and a critical factor that determines where your website stands in the rankings.
Nice images not only make your website more visually appealing but they are also an essential tool for improving your on-page SEO. When you optimize images by adding appropriate keywords to the alt tag, file name, caption, and description of an image, you make it easier for search engine crawlers to understand the context of the image, which contributes to the overall SEO of your page.
On top of that, optimized images in Google Images can also drive organic traffic to your website. So, as you’re optimizing your website for SEO, it’s important not to forget to optimize your images, too.
Technical SEO Best Practices
In addition to on-page optimization, technical SEO plays a critical role in your website’s search engine rankings. Technical SEO focuses on the backend aspects of your website that impact its visibility, performance, and your site’s user experience.
Technical SEO can be likened to a road trip. Just as well-maintained roads with clear signage and proper infrastructure enable smooth traffic flow, technical SEO ensures that search engines can easily find and navigate to every page of your website.
Search engines can’t index (include in their search results) what they can’t find or see. So the first step in optimizing your website’s crawlability and indexability is by creating a sitemap and utilizing the robots.txt file.
A sitemap is a file that helps search engines understand your website’s structure and content. It basically informs them of all of the pages that exist on your website. It can also include other important information such as when a page was last modified and how often it changes. If you have a WordPress website, a sitemap is automatically created for you, and likewise, many plugins will automatically create and update your sitemap.
The Robots.txt File
The robots.txt file is used to control how search engine crawlers interact with the pages of your site, including which ones should be indexed or not. Additionally, you can use the robots.txt file to exclude certain files and directories from being crawled and indexed, helping you maintain control over how search engines crawl your website.
Once your website is properly optimized for indexability and crawlability, it’s important to monitor it regularly. By using Google Search Console or other tools like Screaming Frog Spider Tool, you can keep an eye on things like any issues with crawling or indexing that could potentially affect your website’s visibility in search results. This will help ensure that search engine crawlers are always able to find and index all of the important content on your website so that they can point users to it.
Loading speed refers to the time it takes for your website pages to load and become fully functional. In today’s hyper-connected world, users have little patience for slow-loading websites and are likely to abandon them altogether. And search engines like Google use website speed as a ranking factor, meaning that slow-loading sites are actually penalized in search results. A slow-loading website = poor Google rankings.
Therefore, it’s essential to optimize your website’s speed. You can do this by minimizing page size, compressing images, leveraging browser caching, and enabling content delivery networks (CDNs). By doing so, you can ensure that your website loads quickly, regardless of the user’s location or device.
Search engines like Google use website speed as a ranking factor. A slow-loading website = poor Google rankings.
Mobile responsiveness refers to the ability of your website to adjust its layout and content to fit different screen sizes and resolutions. With more than half of all web traffic coming from mobile devices, mobile responsiveness has become a critical factor in website design and user experience. And search engines like Google prioritize mobile-friendly websites in their search results, meaning that they prioritize your website’s mobile version, and non-responsive sites are ranked lower.
To ensure that your website is mobile responsive, you need to use a responsive design, which automatically adjusts the layout and content based on the user’s screen size. You can also test your website’s mobile responsiveness using tools like Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
Schema markup is a special language that helps search engines understand the content on your webpage better. The structured data, often represented in JSON-LD format, tells search engines what the content is about, making it easier to classify and serve up in search results.
Schema markup can also enhance the appearance of your page in search results by providing richer information through eye-catching snippets like star ratings, product price and availability information, and event details. This can make your page stand out in the sea of search results, leading to more clicks and traffic.
Notice how the rich snippets generated through schema markup make one search result stand out and provide much more information compared to the other:
So to summarize, schema markup can help search engines like Google better understand your content and if your page generates rich snippets or rich results, it can lead to a higher click-through rate–two very powerful reasons to use schema markup on your website.
Off-page optimization involves activities outside of your own website that influences your search engine rankings. Two of the key aspects of off-page optimization are link-building and social signals.
To put it simply, link building is the process of getting other websites to link back to your website. These links are called backlinks, and the more high-quality backlinks you have from relevant web pages, the more likely you are to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). Backlinks signal to search engines that other websites consider your content valuable and worth linking to, which is why they’re such an important factor in off-page optimization.
High-quality backlinks can also drive referral traffic to your website, which can lead to more engagement, conversions, and business for you.
So how do you build high-quality backlinks? The best way is to create unique, valuable content that other websites will want to link to. This could be anything from blog posts to infographics to whitepapers to free online tools.
You could also reach out to other websites in your industry and offer to contribute guest posts or collaborate on content. Use social media to connect with influencers in your industry and share your content with them.
Building high-quality backlinks is a slow and steady process that requires patience and persistence but it’s well worth it.
Search engines like Google and Bing use complex algorithms to evaluate and rank websites based on various criteria, including social signals. When your website receives a high number of likes, shares, and comments on social media, search engines consider it a sign of quality and relevance. Moreover, social signals boost your website’s visibility and drive more organic traffic to your site.
The first step to boosting your social signals is creating high-quality and engaging content that people would want to share and engage with. You can also use social media icons and links on your website to encourage visitors to share your content with their followers.
Additionally, make sure to respond to comments on your social media posts, participate in relevant social media groups and forums, and collaborate with other influencers or businesses in your niche.
Remember, social media is not just about promoting your products or services but engaging with your followers and building a community of loyal customers. So, by leveraging social signals you can take your online visibility to the next level.
Local SEO Best Practices
If your business has a physical location or serves a specific area, local SEO is essential for attracting relevant customers. Local SEO focuses on optimizing your website to appear in location-based search results.
Your Google Business Profile
Start by optimizing your Google Business (GMB) listing. Provide accurate and up-to-date information, including your business name, address, phone number, website, products, services, and images.
Encourage happy customers to leave reviews on your Google Business listing and elsewhere online. Positive reviews not only attract more customers but also signal to search engines that your business is trusted and reliable. When any customer leaves a review, positive or negative, respond to them politely, and address any negative feedback to maintain a positive online reputation.
Getting listed on local directories and citation sites can also help. Ensure that your business information is consistent across all listings, as search engines use this information to verify and validate your business.
Measuring Search Engine Optimization Success
To gauge the effectiveness of your SEO efforts, it’s important to measure key performance indicators, often referred to as KPIs. Here are a few KPIs to consider:
Organic traffic: Monitor the amount of traffic coming to your website from organic search results. Analyze the source of this traffic and track its growth over time.
Conversions: Track the number of leads or sales generated through organic traffic. This helps determine the effectiveness of your SEO in terms of real business outcomes.
Keyword rankings: Keep an eye on the rankings of your target keywords in search engine results. Monitor any changes and adjust your optimization strategies accordingly, especially if you see some low-hanging fruit opportunities. For example, if you rank on page 2 for a certain keyword, some on-page keyword optimization might push you up to page 1.
SERP visibility: Analyze how visible your website is in search engine results pages (SERPs). Tools like SEMrush or Moz can give you an overview of your website’s visibility for different keywords.
Use Google Analytics or other website analytics tools to track these metrics and gain insights into the performance of your SEO efforts. Regularly review and analyze the data to identify areas for improvement and refine your SEO strategies.
Keeping Up with SEO Trends
SEO is a dynamic field that is constantly evolving. To stay ahead of the curve, it’s important to stay up to date with the latest trends and changes in search engine algorithms. Here are a few tips:
Stay informed through industry resources: Follow reputable SEO blogs, subscribe to newsletters, and participate in SEO communities to stay informed about the latest news and updates in the industry.
Keep an eye on search engine algorithm updates: Major search engines like Google often roll out updates that can impact your website’s rankings. Stay informed about these updates and make adjustments to your SEO strategies accordingly.
Anticipate future trends: Look for emerging technologies or shifts in user behavior that could impact SEO. For example, right now AI and voice search are trends that you should pay attention to and incorporate as you’re able to.
By keeping up with the latest SEO trends, you can proactively adapt your SEO strategies to help ensure that your website maintains its visibility in search engine results and continuously improves it.
SEO is a dynamic field that is constantly evolving. To stay ahead of the curve, it’s important to stay up to date with the latest trends and changes.
Congratulations, you’ve made it through our crash course on the basics of SEO best practices!
Now it’s time to take action and implement these strategies on your website. If your time is limited, make a list of the most important tasks and dedicate a few hours each week to tackling them.
Remember, SEO is not a one-time miracle fix but an ongoing process. Regularly audit and optimize your website, measure your results, and adapt your strategies as you see necessary. With time and dedication, you’ll see the long-term benefits of SEO in the form of increased online visibility, more traffic, and ultimately, business growth.
So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to unlock the full potential of your website in the vast world of the internet!