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- 1 What Is SEO, Exactly?
- 2 On-Site Factors
- 3 Off-Site Factors
- 4 Penalties & Manual Actions
- 5 Tracking Your Progress With Analytics
- 6 Summing It Up: What To Do Now
We can boil digital marketing wins down to one simple mantra: If you’re not doing SEO, you’re not doing what’s best for your website.
In today’s competitive online landscape, neglecting SEO can spell doom for you and your business.
Instead of taking the top spot on the search engine results page (and attracting more potential customers), you’re ultimately left on the bench watching from the sidelines while you’re competitors are raking it in.
In the time it takes to brew a cup of joe, find out how SEO can transform your business and life. You won’t come out an SEO expert, but you will learn the building blocks of an effective digital marketing strategy, and you’ll see how to take it to the next level.
What Is SEO, Exactly?
Search engine optimization (shortened to SEO) is the practice of refining your website so that you rank higher in Google’s (and other search engines’) search results page. SEO covers many different practices, like creating better content, building relationships with industry figures, and doing proper keyword research.
There are two main kinds of SEO factors: on-site factors and off-site factors. On-site factors are elements that are on your website itself; you have the most control over these factors. Off-site factors are optimizations that happen outside of your website (i.e. on other websites).
While you may not have direct control over all of those factors, there are still plenty of ways in which you can positively influence them.
When all else fails, remember that content is king. Your #1 priority in SEO should be creating content that is accurate, relevant, and helpful to your target customer base.
When you do this correctly, and as your starting point, many of the other SEO factors we’ll discuss will take care of themselves.
Content can come in many forms such as blog articles, tutorials, videos, infographics, podcasts, and more.
Metadata is just a fancy term for the title and description found in your code. Your metadata is different from your H1 or page title/headline, it is the one that appears on the search engine results page.
The meta description is the small chunk of text right below it. Catchy metadata is one of the best ways to catch both users’ and search engines’ attention.
The internet is an interconnected web of sites and links. There are two kinds of links: external and internal.
External links are links on your website to other sites.
Internal links are links to other pages on your own site.
Also, ensure that all of your links actually work. Broken links that lead to nowhere severely damage both the users’ experience and search engines’ ability to crawl your website properly.
A lot of sensitive information passes through the internet on a daily basis. Search engines prioritize websites that offer a secure browsing experience for their users and protect their data. Get your SSL certification (HTTPS instead of HTTP), and you’ll have an advantage over your non-secure competitors.
Between a URL that’s a random string of characters (ex. www.example.com/abc123) and one that’s actually descriptive (ex. www.example.com/seo-crash-course), the latter will usually win out. Ensure that your URLs are unique and include one of the keywords you found during your keyword research.
“Always remember that Google is and will always be user-centric, and that’s why when society shifted to a more mobile-focused web browsing journey, Google immediately adapted,” said Sean Si, the editor-in-chief of SEO Hacker.
What this means is that your website needs to be responsive or mobile-user-friendly. When designing your website, make sure that it works well on any device, and Google will reward you with higher rankings.
If your website takes too long to load, your users will not stick around. Clean up your code and only include the necessary elements to reduce page load time.
Navigating through your website should also be easy, so stick to intuitive designs that are easy to understand.
When someone links to your site, it acts as a vote of confidence. It tells Google, “Hey, this content is interesting and helpful to me!” And as we’ve emphasized before, Google likes websites that provide positive experiences for their users.
But don’t build backlinks willy-nilly, and with just anyone. Link authority (or how powerful the linking website is) and relevance (how relevant the linked post is to the original post) determine the value of the backlink.
As a general rule of thumb, remember: more high-quality backlinks = higher rankings in Google.
Social Media & Other Online Mentions
Do you want people to talk about you online? Of course, you do, given its positive. Whenever someone mentions you on social media or on their website, search engines can pick up on it.
This point might not be relevant to all websites, but reviews are a huge factor for businesses that have them.
Penalties & Manual Actions
Now that you know which factors are the most important to your SEO strategy, it’s time to build an action plan! But be careful with how you go about it.
Don’t go buying sketchy backlinks, spamming your content with keywords, or manipulating reviews! These are black hat SEO practices which Google and other search engines can penalize you for. Don’t upset big G.
Penalties for shady practices are called manual actions. You’ll always be notified of a manual action, so if you get one you’ll know via email. However, oftentimes Google will give you a suggested way to fix it, so it’s not always the final nail in the coffin.
There are also algorithmic penalties that can lower your results page ranking. This occurs when Google deems your site less than satisfactory, hence pushing you down the results. This is why it’s important to always keep up-to-date on SEO best practices, to stay ahead of the algorithm.
Tracking Your Progress With Analytics
Along with keeping up-to-date with SEO best practices, you also need a way to track your successes and failures. There are a variety of tools available to you (like Google Analytics) so that you can see if your efforts are working or not.
Keeping track of your data is the only way to learn from your SEO mistakes. With that data, you can further optimize your future SEO campaigns. Remember: SEO is an ongoing process—you have to keep at it to stay on top of the competition.
Summing It Up: What To Do Now
That sums up our basic SEO crash course! If you’d like to take your education to the next level, check out my course, The Lab. The Lab is our resource hub for anyone who wants to learn SEO on their own and become a digital marketing expert.
But if you don’t have the time to build up your SEO skills from scratch, you don’t have to miss out on the transformative power of great SEO. Reach out to The Search Initiative, my professional SEO agency that I overlook, and see how you can take your site to the next level.