With the impact that COVID-19 has had on our economy, and the new norm being to practice social distancing, it’s more important than ever before that businesses stay connected and relevant to their customers and employees by having a good a grasp on how to effectively promote their businesses online.
If you’re a business owner or a digital marketing manager who’s still in business or employed during these troubled times, then it’s probably a good idea to learn SEO in 2020, if you’re not already familiar with at least some of the basics.
If you want your business to succeed online in 2020 and beyond, you need to have a website that’s ranked in Google and generating a decent amount of targeted traffic. While there are many paid for ways to generate traffic and direct it to your website, the most effective way to get traffic is free if you’re willing to put in the time and the work to perform a little do-it-yourself search engine optimization.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to imply that because ”it’s free,” performing SEO to rank your website won’t require some type of investment on your part, because it will; and, while it’s possible to generate lots of free traffic using SEO, you’re still going to have to invest a large amount of your time and put your energy into it if you want your SEO to be effective. This is why a lot of business owners and marketing managers end up outsourcing their SEO to an experienced agency like ZenboundSEO. They don’t have the time, experience, or the resources needed to be effective in putting together and implementing an SEO strategy.
If done right, though, SEO can produce a bigger return on investment for your business than all of your other digital marketing channels combined. Optimizing a website for search, so that it gets ranked at the top in Google, is by far the most cost-effective way for a business to boost its website’s traffic and generate leads and sales. This makes SEO a very worthwhile skill to learn and understand in today’s digitally connected, but socially distanced economy.
So, would you like to learn the basics on how to perform SEO on your website so that you can rank its pages and bring more traffic into your sales funnel? If so, then read on…
How Search Engines Work
To Learn SEO and understand how to perform it effectively, it helps to understand search engines and how they work. With more than 3.5 billion searches performed each day, Google reigns supreme in the world of search. Studies have shown that the majority of clicks go to the first few results in the SERPs, with around 30 percent going to the first result, around 15 percent going to the second result and around 10 percent going to the third result.
Briefly, here’s how search engines do what they do:
- They crawl the internet with spiders or crawlers to identify new pages and documents
- They store and analyze the information that they find in indexes, fetching it when relevant search queries are made
- They rank the indexed content according to various ranking factors; Google is believed to use approximately 200 such factors
Learn SEO Ranking Factors
Although there are hundreds of ranking factors, a few are of more immediate importance – and they are factors that you actually have some control over if you always follow SEO best-practices. Those SEO factors include:
- Content – It should answer the search query
- On-page optimization – HTML and on-page content should be optimized according to Google Best Practices
- Content length – According to a Backlinko study, long-form content with 1,800 words or more tends to rank higher
- Search intent – Content on your site should keep searchers’ intent in mind, providing the information that they need for their specific requests
- Content freshness – Sites that are updated regularly are crawled more regularly, providing more opportunities for better rankings
- Backlink quality – Inbound links, or backlinks, play a pivotal role in rankings – but only if they are of optimal quality – not every back is created equal.
- Usability – The overall navigation architecture and user experience, or UX, of a site affects its ranking in many ways
- Security – Secure sites tend to be favored by Google versus ones that don’t include protocols like HTTPS
- Code quality – Clean code results in better rankings
- Schema.org markup – Rich snippets help to tell Google specifics about your site and business, and you can use their Structured Data Testing Tool to see how well yours is optimized
- Unlinked brand mentions – On social media, in particular, mere mentions of your brand can boost your site’s ranking
While You Begin to Learn SEO, There are A Few Things That You Need to Learn About Search Engines
Major search engines like Google update their algorithms regularly. Sometimes, major updates can wreak havoc on website rankings, which is why it’s important to stay on top of them and to make learning SEO an ongoing effort. Although some SEO techniques can produce fairly quick results, many only works over the long term – another reason to be patient and persistent. Finally, it is essential to stick with white-hat SEO techniques, or ones that are above-board and follow Google Best Practices, versus black-hat techniques. The latter involves underhanded or deceptive practices that can get you seriously penalized by Google.
Businesses Need to Learn SEO to Stay Competitive
If you think that you can disregard this SEO tutorial because SEO doesn’t apply to your business, think again. Some of the top benefits that SEO can provide for your business include:
- Provides a cost-effective form of marketing;
- Generates targeted traffic that produces targeted, sales-ready leads;
- Improves conversion rates, which results in increased revenue and growth;
- Provides ongoing benefits unlike paid options like PPC;
- Offers great opportunities for attracting local business through local SEO;
- Enhances brand awareness and credibility.
There Are 6 Key Areas that You Need to Remember as You Learn SEO
As you learn SEO, it helps to have a firm grasp of the six basic steps, or stages, that are involved in the process. Read on for a brief breakdown of each of these steps.
1. Keyword Research
Keyword research forms the foundation for any SEO strategy. A lot goes into it, but here’s a basic rundown of what is involved:
- Brainstorming – Ask yourself what people who could benefit from your products and services would search for on Google, and then brainstorm keywords and phrases that exemplify such queries.
- Validating and Expanding – Use keyword research tools like Google’s Keyword Planner to identify additional keywords and phrases that should attract relevant traffic.
- Selecting Targeted Keywords – Keeping factors like search intent, search volume, keyword value/cost-per-click, and keyword lengths in mind, select the keywords on which you will focus your SEO efforts.
- Optimizing Site for Targeted Keywords – The keywords, or search queries, that you settle upon will then be used to inform your ensuing SEO activities, including everything from the creation of on-page content to the optimization of HTML.
2. On-Site Optimization
The bulk of on-site optimization involves effective content creation, which we will cover in step five. However, it also involves optimizing HTML elements; the title tag and meta description are of particular importance, but header tags – including H1, H2, and H3 tags – matter too. Even the URLs for pages on your site should be optimized according to the best SEO practices. Google’s HTML Improvements tool, available through Google Console, can help you to identify weak areas that need improvement.
Additionally, site architecture plays a big role in on-site optimization. Including lots of internal links – links to other pages within your site – can help a lot in this regard. Another important step is creating an online sitemap that search engine robots can find and use to effectively map out your site. There are many tools available for generating effective sitemaps.
3. Off-Page Optimization and Promotion
After creating content and optimizing your site, you need to promote it so people can find it. Link building is by far the most crucial aspect of effective off-site optimization. It revolves around generating incoming links, or backlinks, to your website from authoritative, relevant websites. A few examples of white-hat link-building techniques include:
- Social media signals – Posting shareable content on social media sites like Facebook.
- Guest blogging – Writing guest blogs on authoritative websites, including links back to your site
- Infographics – Creating and sharing unique infographics with useful data that are likely to be shared by other sites
When linking out to other sites from yours, the anchor text – the hyperlinked text itself – should be optimized with targeted keywords to produce more effective backlinks and to provide useful information to the search engines. If applicable, getting lots of online reviews for your business is also a very effective form of off-page promotion.
4. User Experience Optimization
We’ve talked a lot here about the importance of “playing nice” with the search engines to engage in effective SEO. However, Matt Cutts has noted that your top SEO priority should be to provide real value to human visitors. User experience, or UX, plays a pivotal role in increasing conversion rates, for example, so it directly impacts the success of your business. Your site should be intuitive and easy to navigate, and pages and images should load quickly. Otherwise, your bounce rate – the number of people who immediately click away after landing – will be far too high.
5. Content Creation
As Bill Gates famously said way back in 1996, “Content is king.” Keep that mantra in mind as you engage in SEO. Here are some of the key characteristics of quality content:
- Informative – It fully answers the user’s search query
- In-Depth – It is as long as necessary to completely answer the user’s chief question
- Well-Formatted – The content is broken up into subsections, bulleted lists and so on, which makes it scannable and easier to consume
- Fresh – Up-to-date content always performs better than stale content
- Optimized for Targeted Keywords – Targeted keywords are included naturally in the content
Diversify your content beyond just text by including images, videos and other types in your SEO strategy. Likewise, use various types of content, including how-to lists; long-form guides; infographics; e-books; white papers; and even webinars. Refresh old content by rewriting it or adding to it from time to time, and learn about key HTML tags like canonical tags and no-follow tags to optimize it even more.
6. Measure & Track Everything – SEO Efforts + Results
Finally, you’ll need to measure and track your SEO efforts on an ongoing basis to continually improve and maintain your rankings. Key metrics that you can measure include conversion rates; bounce rates; time on a page; the number of unique visits; pages per visit; scroll depth; domain authority and page authority; keyword rankings; and link profile.
Perform occasional SEO site audits with Google Search Console and Google Analytics to stay abreast of how your site is faring on the search engine results pages (SERPs). Other tools include Bing Webmaster Tools, Lighthouse Audit by Google; and Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool.
Make a point of occasionally going over your site to repurpose and improve the content that is old, thin, rarely visited, or generally low in quality. Keep a running to-do-list of SEO fixes that are needed, prioritizing them in terms of urgency. Map out and schedule SEO tasks using a spreadsheet program like Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel– free templates for this can be found simply by searching in Google for, “SEO tasks schedule.” We recommend you check out HubSpot’s SEO Starter Pack or Moz’s Prioritize SEO Worksheet.
Use the information that you gather to pivot or adjust your SEO efforts whenever you notice that their results are lagging. Most of all, practice makes perfect when it comes to SEO – so make a point of continually educating yourself and practicing new techniques to stay current and effective with SEO best practices.
This SEO tutorial only scratches the surface on a complicated and vast subject that requires a lot of work, effort, patience, and persistence to see results. But, while this tutorial may not be a deep dive into this subject, it should at least give you an idea about what SEO is and a framework to start doing SEO on your own.
It is because of SEO’s complexity and the amount of work involved that so many businesses opt to hire an SEO company rather than do it in-house. If you, like the many other businesses we’ve helped get results, are too busy with actually running your business to learn SEO, then ZenboundSEO can help. Contact us today to learn how we can help you rank your business’ website at the top of the SERP’s, and begin increasing your leads and sales with SEO.