For small business owners, writers, and marketing professionals, SEO knowledge is becoming increasingly important, if not essential. Organic search is the best way for readers and potential customers to discover your content, and with a solid knowledge of SEO, you can reach an audience of hundreds, potentially even thousands, every month–for free!.
Here are six steps to learning SEO:
- Learn Keyword research
- Learn how to create great content that targets your determined keyword
- Learn how to optimize that content
- Learn how to build links and promote your content
- Learn site architecture and internal linking best practices
- Learn how to discover and remedy any technical issues on your site
The following is a brief overview of the essentials:
The first, and perhaps most important, weapon in your SEO arsenal is excellent knowledge of keyword research, as well as a reliable keyword research tool. A third-party tool such as Moz will help you determine which key terms to target by answering these questions:
- What are your potential customers seeking?
- How competitive are those keywords?
- How much search volume do these keywords have each month?
Often, the idea is to find a key term that is both realistic for ranking ability and is receiving a reasonable amount of search queries every month. But you’ll also want to pay attention to a keyword’s relevancy and whether the term is “top of funnel” or “bottom of funnel,” meaning just how close it is to conversion.
For example, if you are a car dealership, you might want to rank for the term “car.” It certainly has a massive search volume (450,000 searches per month), but even more valuable might be a top ranking for “blue 2013 Honda Accord.” Now that is a bottom-of-funnel term, which is much more likely to result in a sale than the top-of-funnel term “car.”
So you’ve determined your targeted keyword and have written an excellent piece of content. Now it’s time to optimize. Optimization is often the most intimidating step for newSEOs, but don’t be worried. It’s not too tricky.
Primarily, you’re looking to tell search engines (read: Google) just what your article is about. Including your primary keyword in your H1 title, your URL and your meta description is best practice, but you’ll also want to include your term in the body of your work and perhaps even in your image alt tags. Equally important, you’ll want to add related words, as Google is all about semantically thematic content.
Sound scary? Try using a tool like CanIRank’s SEO software. It will give you recommendations for which related terms to use precisely, how many times to include your keyword, and much more. Even the pros (especially the pros) use tools like this when it comes to optimizations.
Perhaps the most straightforward SEO component for understanding, and inarguably the most difficult to achieve, link building is what signals to Google that your content is the real deal. If other sites, especially relevant high-quality sites, are linking to your page, then the page must be top notch. And top-notch content ranks well.
There is a slew of excellent articles online about link building that you should dig into. Learn everything you can about it, and then get to work.
On the road to learning SEO, you will inevitably have to acquire at least a general understanding of the technical components that affect rankings. Site speed, redirects, 404s, the list goes on.
For those who might repel anything technical, and even for the technically inclined, a great place to start is with a technical audit tool like Screaming Frog.
Site Architecture and Internal Linking
A high-level component of SEO is site architecture. Having a well-organized site helps Google understand which pages are most important, prevents internal ranking competition and help users navigate seamlessly and purposively.
With a brand-new website or one that doesn’t yet have much content, a solid architecture is easy to achieve. It can be a bit more involved with an older site, but still possible and worth the effort.
Start with a three-tiered structure and see if that works for your site.
Why SEO Is a Great Investment of Your Time
As long as search engines are around, SEO will endure. It is a marketing strategy that is continually evolving, but once you’ve established a foundation, a firm understanding of the basics, you’ll be able to easily keep up with best practices and keep that organic traffic pouring into your site.
SEO is among the most sustainable digital marketing practices from which you reap long-term and exponential benefits. Unlike paid search, whose benefits cease once the budget is used up, organic rankings soldier on. Amazing to think that one piece of content (perhaps a twenty-hour time investment, after creation, optimization, and promotion) can continue to draw traffic to your site years later. But it’s true. SEO is beyond a doubt one of the best, if not the best, investment of your time when it comes to digital marketing.
How Does SEO Fit into the Digital Marketing Ecosystem?
A while back, when SEO was being born, search engines were not too sophisticated and unethical “black hat” techniques, such as keyword stuffing, were widely used. As a result, SEO got a bad reputation. Today, even though SEO has changed and is now an essential part of digital marketing, the mention of it can still cause some people, especially old-fashioned marketers, to cringe. Some will say that they’d prefer to invest in content marketing or social media, but it’s important to understand that SEO is an essential player in the digital marketing ecology and that to be successful both content and social must work with SEO.
SEO and Content Marketing
SEO and content are inextricable. Without content, there would be no need for SEO, and without SEO, content would go unseen. Some people believe that creating good content is a good enough marketing approach in and of itself, but without keyword research and optimizations, it’s likely even the best content will disappear into the belly of the internet.
To ensure your best content remains visible and continues to expose your brand to new customers, you’ll need to couple it with SEO.
SEO and Social Media
Social media is not quite as inextricably connected to SEO as content is, but they are complimentary marketing techniques, teammates of sorts, and much more powerful when used together vs. on their own. Organic traffic acquired via SEO efforts will expose your brand and grow your social following, while social media will be one of the best outlets for content promotion and even link building. Learn both and use them together. Hashtag teamwork.
Why and How to Learn SEO: A Conclusion
The why is simple: SEO, along with its pal, Social Media Marketing, is a cost-free and highly effective marketing technique. For business owners who don’t yet have the budgets for advertising or other high-price-tag outlets such as influencer marketing, SEO is unbeatable. . The knowledge you gain during your SEO education will be invaluable throughout your career, whether you’re a marketer, writer or entrepreneur.
The how is simple, too. Read up on these SEO essentials:
- Keyword research
- Link building
- Site architecture
There are plenty of incredibly informative articles online, free for the reading and learning. Create for yourself a library of resources and put in the time. Your SEO knowledge will serve you for the entirety of your career!