What is SEO? A Basic Guide

September 20, 2017


“If you’re not first, you’re last.” - Ricky Bobby


SEO (search engine optimization) is a powerful tool to drive more traffic to your website and increase your brand exposure. When you publish content on the web, search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing will index it based on its relevance and reliability to users.


This ranking presents itself in the form of search engine results pages (SERPS). Your goal is to have your content rank on the first page because less than 10% of people proceed beyond that. Basically, it’s first page or nothing at all.


SEO is ruthless. Fortunately, however, there are ways to work the system to get on that first page. These simple tips will help you climb the search engine ladder, so you don’t get lost in the digital void.


Think Like a User


The foundation of every good SEO strategy needs to uphold the user experience because that’s what matters most to search engines. The search engine’s purpose is to find the best, most helpful content to guide users in their queries. Before pushing content out to the web, assess how useful others will find it. If it doesn’t inform, entertain or engage, scrap it. Only put things out on the web that will be relevant to your audience—and that starts with identifying the right keywords.


Choose and Use Keywords Wisely


Keywords are words and phrases that help people find you through search engines. You want to incorporate these keywords into all your digital content, like your website pages, social media posts, videos, blogs, everything you put out on the web. Say a recruiting company chooses “recruiting” as its keyword. This is considered a short-tail keyword that consists of no more than two words and has a broad meaning.


Here’s where it gets tricky. When you type “recruiting” into the Google search bar, it pulls up 314 million results. Yikes, that’s a lot of competition for the first page ranking. What if this recruiting firm works in the engineering industry and is based out of Detroit, MI? They could use a long-tail keyword, a specific phrase that contains more than two words, instead—something like “engineering recruiters Detroit.” Now, when a potential client types in that keyword, Google presents 425,000 results, improving this firm’s chances of being found by over 86 percent.


The main takeaway is that you want a nice balance between popular keywords that people will use in their search and ones that won’t force you to compete with millions of other search results. Opt for the more specific, long-tail keywords to improve your chances of landing on that first page.


If that alone doesn’t work, you could run a comprehensive keyword research analysis to see where your SEO stands against that of your competitors. If they rank better than you, you’ll know exactly why. That way you can use their keyword strategies to beat them at their own game.


Choosing your keywords is only the first step. How you use them is just as important. When crafting content, don’t stuff those words in every chance you get to where it sounds unnatural. Keyword stuffing is a big search engine no-no and will damage your SEO.


Incorporate Reliable Sources


For blogs and articles, using various sources is great not only for evidentiary support but also SEO. Referring to reputable sites in your content aligns you with those sources. Search engines take your use of sources into account for their index algorithms, so the better your sources, the higher you’ll climb in the SERPs.


As with most things, it’s a matter of quality over quantity. Some SEO experts advise against excessive linking (over a hundred links) on a page. Even if you exceed the number, however, it won’t hurt your SEO as long as you use good sources only.


Stay Fresh to Be the Best


Getting everything right the first time isn’t enough to stay on that first page. You need to regularly update and add to your content. Search engines often perceive “freshness” as more relevant to users, so updated content tends to rank better.


That’s one reason why blogging at least a couple times a month is important for your website’s SEO. Creating those new pages is an easy way to keep your website fresh.


Practice Patience


Patience is a virtue even in the age of instant gratification. SEO takes time to develop, but if you do it right and push out quality content, search engines will find and promote you. There are many tempting tricks and cheats, like scraping content from other sources, buying spammy links and more. Don’t waste your time and money on these shortcuts. Search engines have a keen eye for them and may punish you for their use. SEO is all about the long game, and, if you cheat, it’s game over.


A good rule of thumb when putting content on the web is this: If you wouldn’t click on it, neither will any stranger on the internet. Publish only the things that you would like to see because what matters most when it comes to SEO is your content’s value to users.


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ASA Genius Award 2017
ASA Genius Award 2017
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