SEO Overview: A Beginner’s Guide To SEO

Think about how many times you “Google” something each day.

  • At breakfast, “Siri, what’s the high temperature for today?”
  • When trying to schedule your car for an oil change you Google, “Oil change near me”
  • To make happy hour plans for the evening on your lunch break. Search for, “restaurants with a good happy hour menu.”
  • You need to search for flights for an upcoming trip. You use the voice search in Google to pull up Expedia.
  • Trying to remember the name of an actor while watching an episode of “Friends.” You Google, “The one that says pivot.”

And you are just one person. 

Now multiply your average daily Google searches by the number of people in your family, your neighborhood, or even your city.

A lot of people are searching for a lot of answers on the internet — all the time.

In fact, according to Internet Live Stats, Google processes:

  • 40,000 searches per second
  • 3.5 billion searches per day
  • 1.2 trillion searches per year

Now think about what you click on after each of those Google searches. Probably one of the first few results? Most people won’t even click to the second page of search results.

That’s because of SEO. 

SEO is probably something you’ve heard of, but you may not be familiar with the ins and outs of SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. However, if you’re a business owner, SEO is something you SHOULD KNOW.  

Since most people searching online click on one of the first search results… what if your business is showing up on the third page of Google? Few people will find your website.

Luckily, there are ways to improve or “optimize” a website to organically move up in Google ranking and get more exposure to those searching for certain types of businesses. 

But – ranking higher in search engines is often something that business owners have to do deliberately. 

If you’re looking to rank higher in Google and benefit from more website traffic, read on to learn:

  • More about SEO
  • Why SEO is so important
  • How SEO benefits:
    • Businesses
    • Consumers
  • How SEO works
  • What SEO looks like
  • How to research and choose keywords to boost your ranking
  • The most important ranking factors to consider

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What Is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) means increasing the traffic to your website through organic search engine results. This is done by creating highly targeted content around certain keywords.

In short, SEO is the process to try and make your website rank higher in Google.

Why Is SEO Important?

Think about this:

You’ve got a great product for sale via your website. It’s innovative. It’s creative. It’s even award-winning. 

However, it’s also not selling… large in part because people aren’t visiting your website. 

That’s because when potential customers search for the type of product you sell, they’d have to click to the fourth page of results to even see your website. Most users don’t visit more than the first few search results.

The higher your rank on a search engine, like Google, the more likely you will drive traffic to your website. 

What Does SEO Do For Me?

It’s pretty simple. By: 

  • Strategically creating SEO content on your website

   AND 

  • Optimizing basic elements like your website’s address 

…you can help your site rank higher on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages,) driving organic traffic to your business.

SEO Benefits For A Business Owner

On the fence about whether SEO is right for your business? 

SEO is an investment. It is not a fad. SEO takes time and strategy. But investing in SEO can mean big benefits for business owners. 

Businesses who commit to SEO see results including:

  • User-friendly websites
  • Increased traffic, more customers
  • Reaching the target audience
  • Improved conversion rates
  • Better brand awareness

SEO Benefits For A Consumer

Not only does SEO benefit businesses, customers reap rewards as well. 

SEO done right enhances the user experience by providing them with:

  • A user-friendly website
  • Valuable content
  • Answers to questions they are searching for
  • Products/services to meet their needs

How Does SEO Work?

SEO increases organic website traffic by:

  • Using keyword research
  • Creating valuable content
  • Optimizing key parts of a website’s design

If you’re looking for more traffic to your site, you won’t want to miss out on the proven SEO strategies featured below.    

The Role of Keyword Research For SEO

Keyword research is an essential part of SEO. 

You might think the keywords to use for your website may be obvious.

Figuring out what keywords to use starts with you. What are you selling? Who is your target customer? What differentiates your business from others?

Let’s say you have a website selling… picnic baskets.

Start by making a list and using Google to see what similar searches come up.

You might come up with something like this:

  • best picnic basket
  • picnic basket set
  • luxury picnic basket
  • backpack picnic basket
  • picnic basket for two
  • picnic basket and blanket

After that, you can lean on keyword experts. 

There are online tools to help you with keyword research. These include Keywords Everywhere, SEMrush, Moz, and more.

These tools will help you identify keywords with high search volume and low competition.

Don’t skip the keyword research step. If you do, you’ll be missing a huge opportunity in using those keywords in title tags, URLs, and content to improve ranking.

However, if the keyword research step sounds too daunting, Portland SEO Growth can do it for you. Get started with our Free SEO Audit.

6 Important Ranking Factors (This Is How Google Operates)

SEO standards are constantly changing, thanks in part to ever-evolving algorithms from search engine providers like Google.

To rank highly in SERP, you’ll need to make sure to focus your SEO optimization efforts in these areas:

  • Title tag
  • Meta description
  • Body content
  • URL structure
  • Off-page SEO
  • Good SEO linking practices

Read on to learn how you can make the most of these ranking factors in a few short steps each.

Ranking Factor #1: Title Tag

A title tag is the HTML element used to identify the title of a webpage. It helps both search engines and users figure out what a web page is all about. 

According to Moz, title tags are the second most important on-page factor for SEO, after content.

Title tags are used in these key locations:

  • Search engine results pages (SERPs)
  • Web browsers
  • Social networks

When creating title tags, make sure you’ve done these four things:

    1. Keep title tags to 60 characters or fewer. If your title tag is too long, search engines may cut it off, leaving out important keywords.
    2. Give each page a unique title. The title should clearly describe the page’s content.
    3. Use important keywords, naturally. Keywords should be used in title tags, but avoid keyword stuffing. Create titles helpful to your user, not to appeal to search engines.
    4. Build your brand. Title tags are an opportunity to build your brand. Add your brand name at the end of a title tag when possible.

Ranking Factor #2: Meta Description

Google says meta description is not a direct ranking factor. 

So, why is it important?

First, things first. A meta description is an HTML attribute that provides a summary of a web page. 

While it’s not a specific ranking factor, it’s important not to completely ignore your meta descriptions. That’s because a strong and compelling meta description can affect a web page’s click-through-rate (CTR). Clicks CAN impact page ranking.

For that reason, when constructing meta descriptions you should:

  • Keep copy between 50-160 characters
  • Create a description using target keywords that compel users to click
  • Effectively and relevantly explain the specific page being described

Ranking Factor #3: Body Content

When it comes to SEO, content is king.

The content of your web page is what makes it valuable in the eyes of Google’s search engine.

When creating content, make sure it:

  • Provides Value. The more valuable your webpage is, the higher it will rank in search engine results. The content created for your webpage must add value to your readers. The more value it provides, the more time they’ll spend engaging with it, taking action on your site (submitting forms, etc.), and the more social shares it’ll get. 
  • Is Shareable/Linkable. Speaking of social shares, your content must be shareable. The more backlinks your content has, the more authoritative it is in Google’s eyes.
  • Is designed for PEOPLE first, not search engines. Yes, keywords and SEO are important to rank highly, but your target audience should WANT to consume your content.

So, How can you ensure your content is designed for PEOPLE first?

  1. While using keywords in content can help with SEO, it’s important to write for your audience FIRST.
  2. Use the keywords, but use them naturally. Don’t stuff keywords into your content when it doesn’t make sense. Your audience can see through that.
  3. The tone of the content should align with your brand, but for the most part, consumers are looking for professional but conversational.

Other important things to keep in mind when creating content for SEO:

  • Content-length. Google values substance, examples, and detailed information. Therefore, lengthier content tends to rank better in organic searches. A 2016 study, found the average content length for page one search results is 1900 words. Aim for your content to be longer, more detailed, and more valuable than that of your competitors.
  • Images and Videos. Including images and videos in your content can significantly improve your SEO efforts, driving more people to your website. Additionally, utilizing relevant videos:
        • Keeps users on your website longer
        • Improves click-through rates
        • Makes your content more shareable via social media

Ranking Factor #4: URL Structure

It’s important to think about the URL structure of a webpage when actively trying to rank highly in Google.

But let’s back up for a second. What is a URL?

URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. In short, it’s the address of a page on the internet. 

A URL is kind of like a snowflake, in that each one is unique — no two URLs are the same.

Optimizing your URL structure for SEO is simple, but significant. It can be done in 5 easy steps.

  1. Start with your top-level domain. .com is preferable to .biz, .net, or .co
  2. Make sure your URL is SECURE. Https is preferable over Http. The ‘s’ means the site is encrypted. Users feel more comfortable on a secure site.
  3. Shorter is sweeter. Keep your URL short. Try to keep URLs to 60 characters or less when possible. Shorter URLs are easier to share via social media.
  4. Make it easy to read and understand. Both users and search engines should be able to understand what each web page is about based on the URL.
  5. Use keywords. Keywords remain important and should be used within the URL. However, don’t make URLs too long just to include additional keywords.

Other important things to keep in mind when optimizing your URL structure:

  • Use hyphens instead of underscores
  • Use all lowercase letters
  • Don’t use extra words like “the” or “and”

Ranking Factor #5: Off-page SEO

You’ve tackled on-page SEO with:

  • Great content
  • A strong URL structure
  • Relevant meta descriptions

Now, it’s time to switch gears and focus on what you can do to improve your Google ranking with off-page SEO

Off-page SEO is anything you do OUTSIDE of your website to improve the ranking of your page. These include:

Social Signals

In addition to websites, brands, and businesses MUST have a presence on social media.

Social signals are a website’s shares and likes. When content (or links) are shared frequently, it’s an indication of audience trust and may help your site increase its search engine ranking position. 

There are several ways to increase a site’s social signals. These include:

  • Consistent posting 
  • Relevant, valuable content
  • Images and videos
  • Engagement
  • Partnerships
  • Diverse platforms
Brand Mentions

Brand mentions are just that: MENTIONS of your brand on other websites. Basically, it’s whenever someone talks online about your:

  • Brand
  • Business
  • Or service

While brand mentions are unlinked, Google still recognizes them as valuable.

Still, linked mentions are even MORE VALUABLE when it comes to ranking.

Backlinks

Backlinks are arguably the most important off-page SEO factor. 

Read on for best practices when it comes to both backlinks and internal links.

Ranking Factor #6: Good SEO Linking Practices

Links matter. Using links can improve the ranking and visibility of your website when used effectively. It’s important to know there are two types of SEO links:

  • External Links (backlinks)
  • Internal Links

External links are more valuable than internal links, but we’ll examine both.

External Links

External links are often called backlinks. When another website shares a link to your website on their online content, you have a backlink.

But not all links are created equal. 

The value of linking sites is determined by:

  • Size of website audience
  • Domain authority
  • The relevance of content between the source page and the target page

Example: A backlink from Forbes or Bloomberg is more valuable than a backlink from a local blog with a small following.

Internal Links

An internal link is a hyperlink that connects to another page on the same domain. This helps to keep users on your site for longer, directing them to additional content.

When using internal links, you should:

  • Link users to relevant and useful content
  • Use descriptive keywords and phrases within link text
  • Avoid keyword stuffing

Make an investment in SEO strategy including keyword research, content, website optimization, and effective linking techniques with the help of Portland SEO Growth.

We serve Portland-based businesses as well as businesses all over the United States. Get started today and watch your website climb in SERPs.

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