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Kickstart Your SEO Journey – The Basics

Congratulations – you have a website. This is a major achievement in itself and we should know…

You have invested not only a lot of time but also your hard earned money on creating a fab website for your business.

The next step is to get people to your site.

Your website is the digital storefront to your business and unless you point your potential customers to where you’re based, how will they ever know where you are? Or what you sell? Or how you can help?

This is where SEO comes in.

This is the first post in a series of posts to help you get started with SEO and how you can do it yourself.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. Which is a fancy way of saying “how to get your website to the top of Google”.

Or more accurately “how to get your customers to actually see and visit your website.”

Whilst I realise that these are broad simplifications,they will work for the purposes of this blog.

Google as a search engine is fantastic, that’s why it has the largest market share. 

Google wants your business to be found.

But you have to do the legwork to get Google to notice you.

You have to let Google know you’re open for business, what you do, how well you do it, what makes you unique, and so much more.

That way Google can recommend you to potential customers.

How to do this?

Focus on making your customers happy and answering their questions.

Making Customers Happy

While Google keeps a lot of secrets about how it organises the internet, the one thing they have always been open about is this:

Answer your customer’s questions and needs thoroughly, clearly, and honestly. Most importantly make them happy. Then you will appear at the top of the search results.

Whilst this seems simple, there’s actually a lot involved behind the scenes.

How do you make customers happy? How do you answer their questions?

SEO – as a practice – is all about making your website better to achieve these goals.

Have you answered the questions that your ideal customer would ask? If not, then write the answer on a web page.

Those blog posts you’ve written, do they answer your customers’ questions properly and clearly? If not, then update them, merge them, or delete them and start again.

Are your customers happy about how easy it is to find what they are looking for? If not, look at your website navigation, or your internal linking structure, or your website design, or a mix of all of the above.

So let’s look at how you can kickstart and apply SEO to your website.

The Most Important Thing To Remember

The most important thing to remember is that SEO is a consistent, long term process. 

It’s a lot like investing money. If you keep investing decent chunks of money regularly for a long time you will get exponential results.

The same is true for SEO. Keep investing good chunks of time and effort regularly and you will see exponential growth.

The results at first may seem small, but over time you will see better results.

Also like investing it only works if you invest in good quality practices, content, and techniques. 

If you keep trying shortcuts or just quick easy wins then you won’t see the results you’re truly after.

The Main Parts of SEO

There are three main categories of SEO:

Technical SEO

On-Page SEO

Off-Page SEO

These three categories cover the essential elements, the foundations on which you will build your website’s success.

Technical SEO is basically making tweaks and optimising your website’s engine. The stuff under the hood. The technical mechanics that make everything run smoothly.

On-Page SEO is everything on your website. This includes things like creating content, optimising content, keyword research & strategy, and so much more. If it’s on your website then it’s likely to be On Page SEO.

Off Page SEO is everything outside of your website. It’s getting links to your website from other websites, it’s building up reviews to get people to trust your website, it’s your PR work to get your name out there, and so much more.

As I have said these are the “big three” categories but there are lots of subdivisions and offshoots that can easily overwhelm and confuse you.

So for the moment, I will stick with these three.

Technical SEO

You don’t need to be a computer expert or next level hacker, bashing away at a keyboard to be good at technical SEO.

You will need to learn a few technical terms and might need to get comfortable playing around with website code to get the most out of this, but it’s not as essential as you might think.

Technical SEO often focuses on making your website easier for Google to read and understand as well as making your website faster.

Google at the end of the day is a machine, a very smart machine, but a machine nonetheless.

It needs to be told what your website is about. What each page on your website is about.

It also needs to be able to access your website. This action is called “crawling” and it is done by Google’s “spiders”.

The spiders are sent out regularly to crawl over all of the internet. The more pages you give access to these spiders the more likely they are to save your website and it’s many many pages to a database.

Saving these snapshots of your website to their database is called “indexing”. This allows Google to save your site and then when a customer searches for something it can look at its index and then “rank” the indexed websites in order of relevance.

Making this process easier for Google (as well as Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo etc) will help your website massively. The more Google understands and can access your site, the better (there are exceptions).

On-Page SEO

When people think of SEO they usually think of this category.

First up – create content. REALLY GOOD CONTENT!

That’s the key. The content you create has to answer the customers’ questions, it has to keep them engaged and enthralled, whatever purpose you want to achieve with your website your content has to achieve it.

When you do that then Google will take notice and start ranking you higher as you become more relevant.

But how does Google know what’s relevant or not? Keywords!

Keywords are the words and phrases that match what people are searching for.

If I own a music shop I want to rank for keywords such as guitar, drums, keyboards, and more.

But I would also want to answer customer questions such as “how do I play guitar” or “what drum set should I choose”. 

So I should create content that addresses these essential keywords.

These keywords would not only answer customers’ questions but should also make them happy to use me and my shop.

What I mean by content is not just words. It all types of content such as images, videos, graphs, presentations, downloadable PDFs, interactive tools, and everything that your audience can read, see, listen to, or touch.

Optimising all of this from your website design, to how interactive it is, to what blogs you have written and where they are kept helps create a better website for your customers to use.

Off-Page SEO

How do you pick which new restaurant to go to?

A lot of the time you are likely to go to the one that’s been recommended.

Links from one website to another website are called backlinks and they are the internet’s “recommendations”.

Google sees all of the backlinks you receive as “recommendations” or endorsements for your website.

Now one or two links won’t do (unless they are from very trusted websites). So you’re going to want to build up a backlink profile.

This profile of links shows that you and your content are consistently referred to and therefore can be “trusted” in that area/answer.

But this works a lot like recommendations in real life. If you get 5 really good links from trusted sources and even maybe experts in the area then that is going to have so much more value than 50 links from people who can’t be trusted or worse, who are paid to say this without believing it.

This is a generalisation but you get the point.

The more quality links you earn (I repeat, EARN) from other trusted quality websites the more likely you are to have people come to your website and trust in what you have to say and sell.

Quickly Wrapping Up

This is just a brief introduction to what SEO is all about. 

However, understanding these three pillars will help you begin to understand the variety of work needed to be undertaken consistently to achieve what you need.

Remember, this is you investing in your website. Making SEO a consistent habit for your marketing will pay off with more traffic, more leads, more growth, and more sales.