Search Engine Optimization Tutorial
Do-It-Yourself SEO Tips
Search engines are a fantastic resource to get visitors to your website. Unfortunately, helping search engines find and rank your website for inclusion in its listings is challenging. Like many online strategies, there are tricks and tasks that you can use to improve your results. However, similar to social media marketing, you can spend an inordinate amount of time on search engine optimization. Here are tips on how to get your website noticed in search engines legitimately, without spending to much time.
What Is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the method website owners use to help search engines find, index, and rank their web pages, hopefully above competitors' websites. While there are several search engines you can rank on, including Bing and Yahoo, the majority of Internet search (80%) is done through Google. As a result, most SEO tips you'll come across are geared toward getting noticed and ranked by Google.
Further, the tasks done to increase search engine ranking are geared toward organic or natural results. It is possible to pay for the opportunity to appear higher in search engine results through Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising campaigns, such as Google AdWords, however, this doesn't require SEO tactics as outlined in this tutorial.
Instead, this article is focused on organic search results with a goal of getting your website placed in the top 10 search results for your targeted keywords. There are several benefits to organic ranking over paid options, including:
- Consumers prefer organic search results over paid ads.
- Organic ranking is free.
The Science of SEO
Sometimes getting ranked on Google feels like rocket science, especially since how Google decides to list your site is based on algorithms that frequently change. This requires you keeping up on current rules and trends. For example, in 2015 Google decided it would give preferential ranking to sites that were mobile-friendly since so many people are now using mobile devices. Even more recently, Google added a notice in the Chrome browser to indicate if a site was secure with SSL or not (FireFox has this feature as well) and includes it as part of it's ranking formula. These changes forced website owners who want to stay well-ranked on Google to update their sites to be responsive and add SSL certificates (this is most important for sites that accept money).
With that said, SEO doesn't have to be overwhelming. Understanding the basics of how Google and other search engines work can make it easy to help Google help you.
What Search Engines Look for When Ranking Your Site
Over the years, SEO has become more involved as search engines developed more aspects to how it ranked sites. For example, in the early 2000's, simply having the page's name as part of the URL increased the odds of getting ranked (instead of www.yoursite.com/page1 the site had www.yoursite.com/titleofpage). As the Internet grew, bringing order and reliable results became more difficult. There are many website owners who use blackhat tactics to game the system. The problem with this is that it meant search engines weren't delivering the content web searchers were looking for. Google in particular has been fighting this which is good for web searchers, but more difficult for website owners.
Today, by understanding what Google does and wants, can go a long way to improve your SEO. Here is basic list of what Google looks at to rank your site.
- Length of time online. Newer sites have a harder time with SEO because there is so much competition and because Google favors sites with a good history over brand new sites.
- Keywords. When search engines visit your site they scour the page content and meta information to learn what it's about. When people use these keywords in their engine, they know to deliver your page as a result. That means it's important for you to know what words and phrases your market uses on search engines. You can do this through keyword research. Include keywords in your site and page title, in your meta tags (keywords, description), and in the content help search engines understand what the page is about. However, it's important to not over use keywords, or it might think you're trying to cheat the system. If a keyword comes up a lot, consider using variations of the word.
- Outgoing links. Search engines like to see links to other sites as well as within your site (i.e. linking to other content on your own site).
- Incoming links. These are links to your website from other sites. Social media can be very helpful in this, but also, having other quality sites linking to your content goes a long way to improving your ranking. Search engines will judge you by the company you keep, so your goal is to have quality outgoing and incoming links.
- Responsive web design. Because so many people use phones or tablets to go online, Google has now included mobile-friendly as one of the aspects it looks for when ranking a site.
- Security. With all the malware and viruses online, Google has decided to include security as one of the factors in web site ranking. This covers two important issues: One is the SSL certificate mentioned earlier. Another is insuring your website and servers are up-to-date and free of infection. You'd be surprised at how many bots are poking at websites looking for vulnerabilities. Google will pull you out of search results if your website is compromised (although you can ask for re-ranking once you clean up your site).
10 DIY Tasks for SEO
Now that you know some of what search engines consider when deciding how to index and rank your site, here are 10 tasks you do to improve your search engine ranking to boost traffic and profits.
- Select the right keywords
- Select the right domain name
- Use keywords in file names and folders
- Use your keywords in your page titles
- Use keyword text in your navigation
- Create useful keyword content — repeat often
- Make keywords part of your META Description
- Secure high-quality incoming links
- Use keyword text (not "click here") in your links
- Create a site map
While there are other techniques an ethical SEO professional will use to boost your rankings, these 10 DIY SEO tips form the basis for the search engine optimization tutorial to get you on the right track. Even eCommerce and other sites that are controlled by a content management system, which can create its own SEO challenges, can benefit by following these suggestions. And, if your keywords are highly competitive, you may not ever be able to rank in the top 10 search results, but you will move up in the rankings and you should find traffic to your site on the rise.
Should You Hire an SEO Pro?
There's no question that an ethical, or "white hat" search engine optimization firm can work wonders for your website traffic. However, search engine ranking isn't something you achieve indefinitely. Search engines are constantly searching and ranking websites, which means you can be ranked top 10 today, and on page 3 of results tomorrow. As a home business owner on a budget, maintaining the expense of an SEO firm may not be feasible, unless you're relying solely on search engines for traffic (which you shouldn't do). However, hiring a professional to get your site search engine-friendly, while you do the long-term maintenance, might be worth it.
Patience and Persistence Are SEO Virtues
Keep in mind that SEO takes time. You won't see improvements by following the tips in this tutorial overnight, so don't be discouraged if your traffic doesn't jump through the roof right away. And, don't expect to use this search engine optimization tutorial tips once and then forget about them. Make it a practice to keep these SEO tips in mind whenever you update your website, go through a redesign, or plan a new site. Also, keyword popularity and competitiveness changes over time, so revisit your targeted keywords periodically to see if they still draw traffic.
Finally, check your analytics to learn how people are finding your site, what pages they like best, and what keywords they're using, so you can tailor your SEO to what works.
Search Engine Optimization Tutorial and the Bigger Picture
Search engine optimization is just one piece of a large set of tools you can use to promote your business online. Develop a marketing plan the includes a variety of strategies to reach your target market. If you're on a budget, there are other free marketing options along with SEO that you can do.