We've got you covered. Read on for a primer to search engine marketing. This SEO for dummies guide will introduce you to the topic and point out a few tactics that even the busiest business owner can employ.
SEO stands for search engine optimization. It's the process of making your website as attractive as possible to search engines, like Google, so that they will appear at the top of the SERPs (search engine results pages).
Think of the last time you googled something. Did you find what you were looking for on the first page? Or did you have to click on the second page? Chances are, those first 10 results answered your question.
In fact, only 25% of searchers look past the first page of results.
Say that you own a pizza shop in Wichita. When people are craving a large pepperoni pie in that city, they might use their computers or smartphone to search for "best pizza in Wichita" or "Wichita pizza delivery." You want your website to appear on the first page of those searches, as well as for other terms. Otherwise, you might as well be invisible.
There are three aspects of SEO for dummies that you should understand, even if you don't want to do your own search engine marketing. These fundamental concepts of SEO are keywords, backlinks, and content.
There are also some technical requirements, such as site speed, meta tags, and robot txt files. You'll almost certainly want to outsource the tech side of your SEO to a professional.
These terms that you want to rank on are known as keywords. Keywords that comprise several words (such as "pizza place that delivers" or "who makes deep dish pizza?") are known as long-tail keywords. They are becoming increasingly common, especially since so many people use voice search.
When Google's spiders crawl the web, they're looking to see if you use keywords on your site, but there's a catch. They must be incorporated naturally. You can't just publish a web page that consists only of "best pizza in Wichita" written over and over again. That's called keyword stuffing, and it will earn you penalties.
The keywords should be used on your home and product pages, as well as in content that is regularly updated -- like a blog post.
Broad keywords are harder to rank on, simply because all of your competitors want to rank on them as well. And while you might be able to get to the top of the SERPs with an obscure keyword phrase ("thin crust Hawaiian pizza with anchovies and spinach"), it won't do you any good if your potential customers aren't searching for it.
Choosing keywords is tricky business, and is likely best left to the professionals. They have keyword analysis tools at their fingertips and can advise you which ones you should target.
When another website links to yours, you get a backlink. One way to think of backlinks is as votes. The other site is essentially telling Google (and its readers), "This is a good website. Go check it out."
However, not all of these "votes" are created equally. There was a time when any link to your site counted in Google's eyes, and many people took advantage of this by building multiple sites and selling links from them, at very cheap prices.
Google uses algorithms to determine the Domain Authority and Page Authority for every website and each of its pages, respectively. The higher a site's domain authority, the more valuable a backlink from that site will be. So a backlink from your cousin Alfred's personal blog won't mean nearly as much as one from The New York Times.
It's important to ascertain that all of your backlinks are high-quality. You can ask webmasters to remove spammy or broken links, but sometimes that's not possible. In this instance, you can tell Google not to take them into consideration by "disavowing" them.
It's not enough to simply create a website and call it a day. In today's competitive, search-driven marketplace, you need to continue creating and publishing high-quality content to satisfy Google's demands.
What is that content? Well, it can be blog posts, pictures, videos, infographics, or social media posts. All of those will help signal to Google that you're an expert in your field and as such, deserve a high ranking.
Your content needs to be free of typos and technical errors, and it also needs to be relevant to your audience. Google takes this into account, so when you write a blog post, it should be with your reader in mind.
Experts disagree as to what length of written content works best when it comes to SEO, but what is clear is that updating it regularly will help your site. If you're better at throwing pizza dough and cooking sauce than you are at writing blog posts or making videos, there's no shame in outsourcing content creation.
Naturally, this SEO for dummies guide barely touches on the components of search engine optimization that are necessary to help your site rank higher. In many ways, SEO for dummies isn't accurate -- SEO is constantly changing, subject to Google's algorithm updates, and there are many technical considerations, as well.
If all of the lingo and acronyms of SEO are mind-boggling, and you'd rather simply get good results than learn an entire new industry in your spare time, why not consult with the experts?
They stay on top of developments in search engine marketing, have the necessary tools to analyze your site, and can create a comprehensive approach to your SEO strategy.
Have you attempted to optimize your own website? What attempts have you made to improve your rankings? Tell us all about it in the comments!
Search Engine Marketing Columnist
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