A Beginner’s Guide To SEO – 2015 Update
SEO Tips for Beginners
In one of my older blog post series I did a beginner’s guide to understanding search engine optimization (aka SEO). A lot has changed in the SEO world, and it’s important to update my guide with more current information. There’s been a shift from using meta keywords towards implementing content/key words more organically. When meta keywords were the big focus in SEO people would often bloat their pages with the keywords in an attempt to go straight to the top of the search engine results for that topic. Let’s talk about the best current practices in understanding and implementing SEO.
What is Search Engine Optimization?
Search Engine Optimization refers to the practice of boosting your website’s online presence in order to achieve those coveted first spots on search engine results. There are many factors that go into optimizing your online presence, which generally falls into two categories: on-site optimization and off-site optimization.
On-Site Optimization – What is it?:
On-site optimization refers to all the things you do internally (or on the back-end) of your website that tells search engines what your site is all about. On-site optimization includes: headings tags, content, focus keyword, image optimization, etc. Once you’ve completed your initial on-site optimization there’s not much you have to do with it unless you want to tweak if you’re not getting the results you want within a reasonable time period. Or if you upload a lot of new content all the time. We’ll talk some more about on-site optimization and how to do it a little further down the post.
Off-site Optimization – What is it?:
Off-site Optimization refers to your efforts to boost your online presence outside your website. This includes generating healthy back-links to your site, making sure you’re listed on local directories, etc. This is generally an ongoing effort by you or your marketing team.
On-Site Optimization – Focus Keywords:
Now, search engines aren’t looking for meta keywords anymore (specifically those keywords that were in the meta tag of your coding (they probably looked something like this – <meta name=“keywords” content=“keyword 1, keyword 2, keyword 3”>. Yeah, Google and other search engines don’t pay attention to those anymore. What you do need to have though are overall “focus keywords.” These are keywords (one per page) that you will use organically through out a page that helps tell Google what your page is about. For example, say you have a blog or website about health and wellness. One of your pages focuses on fitness. “Fitness” would be your focus keyword. You would want to include that keyword throughout the content of the page naturally (meaning that you haven’t just plopped it in everywhere). You’ll want to use it in the page URL, heading tags and through the text content. Example URL: http://www.example.com/fitness <–that’s a good optimized URL for the fitness keyword.
On-site Optimization – Heading Tags:
Now that you’ve figured out your focus keyword for a page you want to start using it. A good place to start is the headings tags. If you’re not sure what that means, check out this article. Basically heading tags are used to differentiate headings from the rest of the content of the page. Sounds pretty simple, but they are really useful at telling search engines what your page is about as search engines often use them to gauge what the page is about and compare it to the content of the page. It also enhances user experience because it will tell the readers very quickly what your page is about. The most important heading to use is the H1 Tag. It’s the primary heading on the page. Taking our fitness example from before; you would want to use a H1 heading like this:
Fitness: Tips and Advice
. The next important heading is the secondary heading, the H2 tag. This generally goes right beneath the H1 tag on a page. An example H2 tag would be:
Fitness is important to build a strong body and mind
. The Heading Tags go from H1-H6. You could use all 6 headings tags, however the first two are the most important for SEO.
On-Site Optimization – Page Content:
Besides the headings tags you also have your paragraph content on each page. You want to provide fresh, original content on your topic. Even if it’s information that can be found somewhere else you want to present it in a way that’s unique.
On-Site Optimization – Images:
If you have images on your it’s important to optimize the image information. Google can’t “see” images on your website. The only way it knows what the images contain are based on what’s included in the images’ alt-attributes (alt-tags). Alt-tags of a picture should be a simple description of the picture. Say, for example, on your fitness website you have this image of a person swimming:
This picture is an image of a group fitness class where the participants are using bar bells. So the image alt-tag should contain that exact information. Example: <img src=“examplesource.com” alt=“Bar bell Group Fitness Class”>. The image title alt-attribute should be used when the image is a hyperlink to a specific page. For example say that bar bell group fitness class links to a page about group fitness, you want people to know it links to that particular page.
On-Site Optimization – Linking:
Within your own website it’s important that no matter what page the user is on they can always find ways to get to other pages. Linking within your own website, including links to other pages, similar content (for bloggers), anchor text, etc. is important not only for SEO but for general usability of a website.
On-Site Optimization – Site Map:
Every website should have a site map, which shows every page on your site in a nice neat little package that’s accessible to website crawlers. To speed up the crawling process you should submit to your site map to Google via Webmaster Tools (same with other search engines). If you’re not sure how to generate your XML site map, visit this website.
Off-Site Optimization – Reputation Management:
Online reputation management in regards to SEO includes things like how long your domain has been active (a domain that has been around for years will have more credibility than one that just came about); domain authority (a metric developed by Moz that predicts how well your site will rank on a search engine based on a number of factors); user trust (your viewers rank your content, you don’t have malicious software/links, etc); page authority (again another Moz Metric that predicts rankings of single pages).
Off-Site Optimization – Social Aspect:
Aside from the fact that having a social media presence can help amp up client/customer engagement online, social media also has a big impact on off-site search engine optimization. Social media pages that are updated regularly with unique, engaging content generate high quality back links to your website. Pinterest is a great tool for SEO. Having good reviews on your social media sites gives a huge boost to your SEO. It’s great to have at least 15-20 more reviews on your pages than your competitors to put you at an edge. It’s an ongoing effort to get great reviews about your business. Remember, it’s important for the reviews to be authentic. Don’t ever buy reviews. It’s also important that you are listed on local directories so people can find you easily online. This is extremely important for local businesses. Doing this also creates a lot of good backlinks to your site.
Off-Site Optimization – BackLinks:
Backlinks are links on other websites that go to your website. Backlinks are incredibly important for search engine optimization. Generating healthy backlinks is an ongoing effort. I already mentioned that updating regularly on social media and having up to date listings on online local directories is a good way to generate healthy backlinks. You want to get backlinks from strong, authoritative sites. Those are the links that will really give a boost to your rankings. Send out requests to guest blog on popular sites, help a reporter, etc. Check out some more ways to get backlinks in this article.
Off-Site Optimization – User Preference:
User preference is probably one of the trickier ones to deal with when it comes to SEO, because you have no control over it. User preference tends to deal with how people are searching for you, what terms they are using, etc. Though you can’t control people’s actions the information gained from user preference is very valuable. You should have your analytics set up on your website to find out how people are searching for you, what devices they are using, etc. If more people are searching for your site on mobile devices you have to make sure that every bit of your site is mobile friendly (though you should really be doing that regardless), etc. If you find that more people are using a keyword or search phrase to find you and you don’t have that as a focus keyword on your site already, you might want to consider using that instead. It’s also important to know how long people are staying on your site. Are they just going to the homepage and then leaving? That information is important to know to engage your viewers.
So there you have it! There’s my Beginner’s Guide to SEO – 2015 Update. I hope you will like it, share it and make good use of it. I plan on making a downloadable PDF version in the future, and when I do I will update this post with a link. Below I’m going to list some good free SEO tools for those getting started. Enjoy!