A Beginner’s Guide to SEO: What is SEO and How Can You Improve Your Ranking?

"A Beginner's Guide to SEO: What is SEO and How Can You Improve Your Ranking?" Colorful Sheds

One of the biggest buzzwords associated with websites and online marketing or digital marketing strategy is SEO. But what is SEO exactly, and why should you care? 

80% of traffic to a website begins with search query (Formstack) (Source: vivial.net)

What is SEO?

It’s stands for Search Engine Optimization. It helps people find you when they type certain words or phrases into a search engine such as Google. The algorithms that Google uses are a secret, and they are also a moving target. Some estimates suggest that the algorithms changed over 600 times last year, which is almost twice a day. As a human, you can’t keep up with all of the changes or know what to do with them.

A few years ago, the things that people did to improve SEO will get you blacklisted now. .

A few examples of what NOT to do:

  1. Keyword stuffing. This means deliberately using a keyword numerous times in a post to get it seen by the search engines. It used to be popular, but now it’ll just hurt your SEO chances.
  2. Commenting on many blogs with a couple of words here and there, and leaving a link back to your website. This confers no help with SEO because comments by definition are ‘nofollow’. There are actually tools that will crawl the Internet and leave comments here and there with links back to your website.
  3. Creating invisible text. Google does not look favorably upon text that is invisible to the human eye.
  4. Creating fake directories, or not so great directories, and listing your website in all sorts of directories.
  5. Duplicating content. If you have a single article that is duplicated elsewhere, it’s probably not a big deal. But if the majority of your website is duplicated all over the place, then Google may label your website as spam.
  6. Cloaking. Bad cloaking is when you serve up one set of information to the Google bots (computers that scan the Internet looking for information) and another to end users. One example of this could be an adult site which serves up funny cat pictures to the first, and the other kind of cats for end users so that they can be easily found by search engines.
  7. Creating doorway pages. These are landing pages that have nothing to do with the page where they ultimately direct you. They frequently send you off to spam-land and will get you blacklisted.

Instead, focus on building your SEO and helping customers find you organically online.

Why do you care?  Why not just buy ads?

 You can deploy a marketing strategy in which you just buy ads. But over time, running those ads will cost you more than implementing a strong SEO strategy.

But everyone is focusing on SEO; everyone wants to be on the first page of a Google search. You need a plan that will help you stand out among your peers so the right customers can find you.

  1. Update your directory listings. You can use a service such as Yext to do this, or you can manually update Yahoo, Bing, Google, Yellow Pages, and Super Pages. Obviously, the more legitimate websites you have linking to your website, the better your own website will rank in organic searches.
  2. Create a great content strategy. The idea isn’t necessarily to bury them in content, but to create valuable content that your end users can really use and that hits them where they are looking.
  3. Create a great long tail keyword strategy. Long tail keywords are a string of words that when put together mean something interesting. An example of a short tail keyword might be “Realtor”. A long tail keyword might be “Realtor in Cary, NC specializing in large homes”. You can focus on other keywords that relate to “Realtor” but that aren’t necessarily just that one word. The more high quality content you create around that search term, the more highly your page will rank.
  4. Create a strategy for building high quality backlinks. This can be through guest blogging, contributing posts to a website like Huffington Post, or using a service like HARO (Help A Reporter Out) to get mentions in the media.
  5. Get high quality online reviews of your business. Ideally, you want to get reviews for your business through Google, Yahoo, Bing, Facebook, Yelp, and others.  The more reviews that exist online for your business, the better.
  6. Build a social media following on one or two platforms and drive traffic to your website that way. You don’t have to be on every single social media platform, but you should make a point of doing a great job with at least one platform. You can promote your blog there, and drive traffic and more clicks back to your website. Twitter and Pinterest are known to be particularly effective at driving traffic back to a website.
  7. Ask for comments at the end of your posts. I know it sounds silly, but you have to actually train people to leave you comments and answer questions. The more you prompt people to leave you questions and comments, the faster your blog visibility and traffic will grow. Google likes to see high quality comments on a blog and will rank it higher.
  8. Fill out the ‘Alt Tags’ on your images. You should make sure that you always give a good description of an image and make sure that the alt tags are filled out for every image.
  9. Link within your own blog. If you link articles together within your blog, you will significantly improve your SEO. This also has the benefit of helping encourage people to hang out and surf your page, looking for more information. The better you interlink your pages, the better your readers can find more content.
  10. Make sure your blog posts have good titles. The better your titles are, the more clickable they become. They also become more shareable on social media. Google measures the number of times an article has been shared on social media.

Meet the Author: Haley Lynn Gray

Haley Lynn Gray

Haley helps female entrepreneurs create a strategy plan for their businesses – so they can make enough money to spend quality time with their family, pay for their children’s dance lessons, pay bills – and not worry about where the next client is coming from.

Haley is a serial entrepreneur and founder of Leadership Girl. She helps other entrepreneurs build their businesses by sharing the benefits of her business education and experience through Business Coaching.

Whether you want to get a new business off the ground or expand an existing business, Haley can assist you.

Connect with Haley:

Work with Haley

Facebook Page: @Leadershipgirl

LinkedIn: Haley Lynn Gray


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