What is SEO exactly? Why do you need it? Why should you start working on the basics this very instant? If you’ve asked yourself any or all of these questions recently, here are some useful tips to better understand how Google works.
What is SEO?
To the uninitiated, SEO does sound menacing, but let’s be real: whether you’re a writer, website developer, small business owner, or an established e-commerce expert, SEO is the greatest ally you’ll ever find.
Search engine optimization (SEO) ensures that your content and/or website ranks high on the search engine results page (SERP). In other words, you need to optimize your website in such a way that a search engine like Google understands and ranks it high depending on the specific keywords.
The higher you rank, the more people click on your website or read through your content. What you do with that renewed traffic is entirely up to you.
Remember, SEO is a collaborative effort. Not one SEO expert, no matter how well-versed he or she might be, is enough to tip the scale. It is a joint effort and it requires the effective collaboration of every single department of your business.
To an SEO beginner, the learning curve may seem steep. It may feel like you have tons to learn, especially now, when it’s so hard to keep up with Google’s algorithm updates. Have no fear; becoming an SEO expert may be closer than you think. Learning the ropes is MUCH easier with these useful tips:
- Find the right keywords
- Choose an effective domain name
- Write original content
- Write long(er) posts
- Optimize your URLs
- Backlinks, outbound, and internal links
- Optimize page speed
Find the right keywords
This goes without saying, but using the right keywords is essential! They define what your content is about, and they also function as major user intent markers. Once you learn what your prospective customers are looking for, it’s much easier to determine the keywords relevant to your niche or content topic.
Ranking high for a specific keyword is meaningless if nobody searches for it. On the other hand, by catering to a broader audience’s needs, you risk entering a competition where odds are rarely in favor of new websites. Oversaturation brings inflation.
People search for products/services in multiple different ways online and they can be extremely imaginative. On average, 20% of all annual Google search results are brand new. You basically have two roads ahead of you: guesswork or keyword research tools. We recommend the latter.
Whichever keyword research tool you use, you should always keep your eyes peeled for key indicators such as:
- Keyword search volume (average monthly searches)
- Keywords relevant to your industry
Long-tail keywords vs. short-tail keywords
Before researching and determining what keywords to target, it’s imperative to differentiate between long-tail and short-tail keywords.
- A long-tail keyword is three to five words, for example “comfortable walking shoes men.” Long-tail keywords are longer thus more specific.
- Short-tail keywords are often one or two words long, like “walking shoes.”
It is advisable to concentrate your efforts and keyword research on long-tail variants because they have far less competition, which makes ranking your content easier.
LSI keywords (latent semantic indexing) are keywords related to your core, primary keyword. They have similar meanings and they help search engines contextualize and understand your content.
LSI keywords are words and/or phrases that Google sees as semantically similar and related to the topic. So, if your primary keyword is “walking shoes,” LSI keywords would be: “boots,” “comfy shoes,” “high-heels,” “hiking shoes,” “high top sneakers,” etc.
Choose an effective domain name
Search engines consider the domain name as one of the major ranking factors. Basically, it informs them what a website is all about. The domain name should be well aligned with your brand. It should be short, punchy, memorable, and it should provide a general idea of your business/product/service to your target audience.
Ideally, your domain name will include the main keyword you want to rank for, as you want to make it easy for prospective clients to remember it.
Lastly, your domain name needs to be unique. That shouldn’t be too hard. A quick Google search will determine whether a certain domain is taken. If possible, avoid any similarities to competitors’ domains.
Write original content
The aforementioned Google algorithm shuns repeated, plagiarized, or indistinguishable content. Other than being somehow immoral, replicated content IS NOT relevant to users!
Original content is what users subconsciously look for. It’s simple, really:
- It’s good for shares
- It’s good for clicks
- It stands out
Of course, constantly producing new, exciting, high-quality content is a Sisyphean feat. There are two ways to produce fresh content without actually going from the ground up:
- Research your competition to create superior content that meets your prospects unmet needs
- Reusing your existing high-quality content
The first one is difficult to achieve, but it is fairly simple to understand. The most common method is including your audience in the process. For example:
The second one requires some talent, but improving the already exceptional content shouldn’t take long. Simply update it, add relevant information and republish it.
Write long(ers) posts
An average visitor spends less than six seconds reading through the website’s written content. Seizing user attention is the main pain point and many alleviate it by transitioning to video and visual formats.
However, written content is still a very important factor in SEO ranking. In fact, writing expansive, information-heavy blogs is still one of the preferred SEO tactics, as long-form content is keyword-rich. It also provides valuable data, beneficial to the user.
Long blog posts help increase the user dwell time and reduce the bounce rate. However, remember not to waste your readers’ time with fluff. High-quality content is a must! Your readers came for solutions, so don’t make them jump through unnecessary vocabulary hoops.
In other words, dwell time is a symptomatic of high-quality content as it shows Google that users enjoy it. Be mindful that you are writing for humans first, and then for search engines.
What do we mean by long-form content exactly? When it comes to writing, bare numbers are rarely all that relevant, but to simplify it, long content is generally considered to be 1200+ words, while short-form content is usually in the range of 500 to 800 words.
Optimize your URLs
URLs are critical for SEO. The URL is one of the ways Google’s algorithms determine what a web page is about.
Since the URL is the main address of your website, it is advisable to follow these four steps:
- Keep it as short as possible (if possible, use five words or less)
- Always include keywords (primary keyword or core keyword unique to the page)
- Use hyphens (-) to separate words (avoid special characters such as hashtags)
- Refer back to the site architecture
The fourth step needs an extrapolation.
What is site architecture exactly?
Simply put, it is the structure that organizes and delivers the content on your website.
Why do we need to have that in mind?
Because it includes the hierarchy of pages where users navigate content.
Why is it important for URLs?
Let’s go back to our previous example. Let’s say your website sells shoes and your core keyword is “walking shoes.” What would be the ideal URL structure considering that you might have a subcategory “men’s walking shoes?”
The predefined categories and subcategories become a part of the URL structure, which gives you more opportunity to incorporate more keywords relevant to the landing pages or to the website in general. Not to mention that you present users with seamless navigation.
Backlinks, outbound, and internal links
Link building is the backbone of SEO. A backlink is when another website mentions your website by linking (back) to it. Backlinks help you rank higher, especially if they come from high-quality websites, as they view you as a relevant and reliable source of information.
It’s simple math – having more relevant, high-quality backlinks to your website means that more users find it useful, and vice versa. Also, as the website ranks higher on search engines, its backlinks hold more “power.”
Although linking away from your site is usually not recommended, you don’t want to avoid outbound linking entirely. Google’s algorithms deem external linking as a sign of a genuine and healthy website.
Outbound links point to other domains, which again helps the search engine understand what your page is about. As with backlinks, having more related, high-quality outbound links can increase your website’s rank as it is recognized as trustworthy and useful.
While backlinks and outbound links are important, don’t forget to link to yourself. Internal links go from one landing page to another within the same domain. They are useful for a couple of reasons:
- They give Google a cue for new information on your page
- They provide simplified website navigation
Optimize page speed
Page speed is not the first thing that comes to mind when talking about SEO, but it’s one of the key ranking factors search engine algorithms take into account.
If your site is slow, it’s less likely that anybody will continue exploring it. In fact, one in four visitors abandon a website that takes more than four seconds to load. Almost 50% of visitors that interact with a poorly performing website never return!
What’s the solution?
Tools such as GTMetrix offer hands-on website page insights and optimization tips, but generally, you can do a lot yourself, starting from web design.
Many websites try to overcompensate by overdesigning individual pages. Although necessary, “eye-pleasing” isn’t always the best course of action.
When designing your website, consider several routes to improve site speed, including:
- Minimizing features that increase your loading time, such as animations or high-resolution images
- Removing unused media
- Upgrading to the latest PHP version
Every additional second of loading time directly feeds the bounce rate. More often than not, it’s more viable to build and optimize a website from scratch than trying to fix years of oversights and miscalculations.
Utilizing these SEO tips is a small step for any marketer but a giant leap to the ultimate goal – becoming an SEO expert. Whichever path you decide to take (and we recommend utilizing every single one), you must make them a priority.
The sooner you start the better.
What is SEO?
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the process of getting your content to rank on the search results pages in such a way that you receive more traffic.
How can I improve my website's SEO?
Start with these tips to improve your website's SEO. Find the right keywords. Choose an effective domain name. Write original content. Write long(er) posts. Optimize your URLs. Backlinks, outbound, and internal links. Optimize page speed.
What types of keywords should I use on my site?
You should mix up the types of keywords you use on your site to improve its ranking. Some of the most popular types of keywords are long-tail keywords, short-tail keywords, and LSI keywords.