SEO for Beginners: 10 Things You Need to Know Now
SEO is one of the most important marketing methods for businesses. Its value continues to increase as more users rely on the internet to find information or shop for goods and services.
For beginners, however, optimization work tends to get confusing because many practices and methods have evolved and changed. For example, in the early 2000s, search engines were more focused on keywords and links, but content quality and a user’s search intent now play a bigger role when optimizing a page.
Deeper knowledge of SEO fundamentals is key to optimization efforts that deliver results.
Start with these 10 basic areas with valuable SEO tips to improve website rankings.
1. Content and SEO work together
Since Google’s 2019 Bert update, SEO professionals have shifted their focus on optimizing content based on a user’s search intent rather than just relying on keyword volume.
Content marketing and SEO work hand-in-hand. Content could be in the form of texts, visual, or audio, or a mix of any of them. Search engines want websites to deliver valuable and high-quality content to users if you want your pages to show up in search results.
In line with this, Google released the E-A-T principle, which refers to a content’s expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Although not a direct ranking factor, it provides Google with the data needed to rank your content. With E-A-T, content creators can make sure that users and readers only see content that is high quality and relevant.
2. Keyword research is key
Keyword research provides you with accurate search data that can aid you in determining what your target audience is searching for, the volume of people searching for it, and in what form they want the information to be in.
The right keyword doesn’t only mean targeting popular phrases that align with your business. Knowing the right keywords, as well as when and where to use them, can do more than bag top rankings on search engines for your business. Some benefits include targeting buyers who are ready to buy or attracting those who are just deciding on what products to buy.
Choosing the right keywords can also build authority in a particular niche allowing you to gain the trust of potential consumers.
When it comes to keyword research, categorize them according to what your target audiences are looking for. For this, you need to determine the intent behind a keyword.
User intent is classified into four, namely:
- Navigational – These are keywords or queries that pertain to locations. For example: “pizza delivery in Los Angeles” or “hotels in Pasadena”
- Informational – Informational keywords pertain to queries that are looking for data or educational information. For example: “how to relieve back pain,” or “how to publish a blog.”
- Commercial – Commercial keywords are informational queries that point more to conducting business. For example: “prices for universal studios tickets,” or “how much for a root canal?”
- Transactional – Transactional keywords are keywords that are more centered on making a purchase or transaction. For example: “hotel booking,” or “book a flight to LA”
Knowing the right kind of keywords to use will not only help you come up with an engaging topic, but it will also help enhance the effectiveness of your SEO efforts and will help increase brand awareness, clicks, engagement, and help you better connect with the right audience.
Use keyword research tools, such as Spyfu or Ahrefs to make the job easier. Once you pinpoint the right keywords and find the right topic, create a headline or title that’s catchy. The headline should immediately inform the reader of the value they’re getting from reading your page and content.
SEO Pro Tip:
Capitalize on long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are keywords that contain 3 to 5 words. These phrases may be less in volume compared to short-tail keywords but long-tail keywords are more targeted. For example, you have better chances in ranking for “SEO marketing tips in 2022,” which is more precise and targeted compared to the much broader “SEO tips.”
3. Write unique titles, headers, and descriptions
When it comes to ranking on search engines, you have to make sure that you’re creating unique titles, headers, and descriptions on top of incorporating keywords or root keywords in them. This will let you avoid having duplicate content.
Duplicate content is content that appears multiple times on the internet. Search engines have a problem with similar content for many reasons, one of which is that they can’t properly determine which URL address should appear in the search results. If you have duplicate content on your website, Google won’t be able to pinpoint which one you would want to rank for a particular query.
This applies to all the pieces of content on your websites such as title tags, meta descriptions, product pages, landing pages, blogs, and image alt texts.
4. Provide relevant meta title and description for each page
Google puts importance on words and phrases that show up in your title tags and meta descriptions. It’s better if it appears early on. This will boost the chances of search engines indexing your content for that query and prioritizing it because it’s an added validation that the content of the page is directly related to your keyword. Also, it’s easier for a user to spot your page if the keyword or key phrase matches their search query.
SEO Pro Tips:
- Put your root keyword at the beginning part of your title or description.
- Avoid keyword stuffing and only use one keyword at a time.
5. Leverage internal linking
Internal links are links found on pages of the same website or domain. Backlinking is an effective SEO strategy since a post that gets multiple links from third-party sites is seen by search engines as a relevant and high-value page. But it’s not the only way to use links to boost your SEO strategy.
Building links using your own pages, or connecting your pages to each other, is also a good way to boost SEO.
Google finds it easier to locate a page or a piece of content when it’s linked from anywhere on the internet. So innerlinking is a great way to connect your own pages to give Google an idea of the structure of your whole website and its content.
Innerlinking also helps make an important page rank higher on search engines, while giving newer pages or low ranking pages a boost if they’re connected to a high ranking page on your site.
6. Have other websites link back to your pages
The more high-quality websites link to a page on your site, the better. Google sees these backlinks as proof that you offer quality content that’s relevant enough for trustworthy sites to cite. Emphasis on “trustworthy sites” because the quality of the site that’s linking back to yours is crucial.
It should be a website that users and search engines trust. Any website that has anything to do with adult content, firearms, gambling, and firearms should be avoided.
How to build backlinks:
- Create shareable content. These can be infographics, videos, images, or research findings. More people will link to you if they find that you have unique and valuable content, and one they can send to their network without effort.
- Reach out to the right people. If you’ve published content that’s well-researched and well-written, find link-worthy pages or pages that have content related to the one you have. Then, reach out to the webmaster or content editor via email and tell them how your content could further enrich their existing one. Politely pitch your idea and state how they can benefit from your content.
7. Check page speed
Page load time is now a crucial factor in search rankings. Studies show that users now put an emphasis on speed and how fast they can use or interact with a website once they click a link. Google puts importance on this behavior and has included load time as one of the signals for page experience.
Page experience is a set of signals that tackles the overall experience a user has on a page and how that user perceives that page. These signals include the Core Web Vitals, which contain metrics that measure a website’s speed, interactivity, and visual stability.
Although visual stability is essential, ensuring that your site’s loading speed is optimized must be prioritized. Speed is the first thing that could keep or turn away your visitors.
People want to find the information they’re looking for as fast as possible. If a website becomes the reason they can’t get the information at once, they won’t hesitate to exit the page and look for another site that’s quicker and more responsive.
Page speed has now become a ranking signal for both desktop and mobile. Once Google gets data that more users are exiting a page without interacting with it, that’s a signal that the page is not relevant or useful. In turn, it will be shown less on search results or won’t be shown at all.
To learn about how well a page in your site is performing, you can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to get a full report and some performance optimization tips.
Tips to improve your page load speed:
- Compress images. Images are often uploaded in their original file sizes which means they can get heavy if the original file is huge. Shrink your image sizes using tools like Photoshop or TinyPNG.
- Lazy load content. Lazy loading can double the speed of your site. Through this method, images and other content of your website will show up as the user scrolls down the page.
- Use a CDN. A CDN makes it possible for images and other elements on your site to load faster by pulling them from servers that are closest to the user. This means less bandwidth and quicker load time.
8. Make sure your site is mobile-friendly
More than half of the world’s internet users use mobile devices to access the web. Mobile devices are more convenient and easy to use especially when it comes to online shopping or food deliveries.
In 2020, Google rolled out its mobile-first indexing which means that it will use the mobile version of a page when crawling and indexing a site. Your website’s mobile version will be evaluated by Google in terms of speed, responsiveness, design, and stability (or how stable the elements of the site are when viewed on mobile devices)
To learn how mobile-friendly your site is, you can use Google’s own mobile-friendly tool. You just need to type in your URL and it will automatically check your site’s mobile performance.
One of the many ways you can make your website mobile-friendly is to choose a theme that’s designed for mobile and also fits your brand as well. Make sure to test it using online tools, like the one mentioned above, as well as manually viewing the page on different devices.
9. Images can boost your rankings
Aside from compressing image files and allowing your images to load faster, images can also boost your rankings through alternative texts or alt texts.
Alt-texts are words that appear in place of an image that fails to load. One of its main uses is to make search engines understand what an image is all about. Search engines are not as well-versed in understanding photos or images differently from humans. To help search engines crawl and index your webpage accurately, these added information and descriptions are necessary.
Alt-texts are also used for screen-to-speech translation to help visually impaired users understand the content of an image.
Optimize images for SEO by providing an alt-text that’s descriptive and includes a target keyword. Don’t stuff it with keywords and keep it short at 125 characters.
10. Track your results
Analytics tells you if you’ve invested your time and money in the right strategies. Without collecting data about how or where your website traffic is coming from and if the site is performing optimally on search, you won’t know if you’re moving in the right direction.
So you need to set up your web analytics, like Google Search Console or Google Analytics, right from the start. Monitor the results of your SEO efforts to track what works and what doesn’t.
Tools like Google Search Console give you a performance report on how many people have visited your website and which pages are performing. It also gives you insight into what queries people are using to find your page.
Make sure that you at least have Google Search Console or Google Analytics activated before visitors even find your site or pages.
Dominate Search Rankings with SEO
As more people use search engines to find information, SEO will always be a vital part of any marketing strategy. Although it changes because of new technologies and shifts in consumer behavior, some practices remain sound.
Start with the basics.
Optimize your page titles, meta descriptions, and keywords. Use only the best practices and follow Google’s webmaster guidelines, preventing penalties that may affect your ranking and visibility. Focus on the user, from your design down to your content. And keep updated with trends that could affect your current strategies.
Master the fundamentals of SEO, and your business will have the opportunity to dominate search rankings and your market.