First everyone said, “You have to build a website!” You did. Now they’re saying, “Your website needs SEO!” But what does SEO stand for and where do you start?
We won’t lie: creating and maintaining strong SEO for your site can get complex. If you start small and take it one step at a time, though, you can work toward your goal little by little.
Here are the basics you need to know to get started.
What Does SEO Stand For?
SEO stands for search engine optimization. As a whole, SEO is a collection of strategies you use to make sure search engines show your site in the search results for relevant searches.
For example, let’s say you’re a home remodeling company. You want your site to be on the first page or two of search engine results when someone local searches terms like “kitchen remodel”, “bathroom remodel”, “remodel my living room”, and more.
What Are Keywords?
If there’s one vocabulary term you need to know besides SEO, it’s keyword. Keywords are the heart of SEO.
Keywords are the search terms users type into search engines. In the example above, “kitchen remodel”, “bathroom remodel”, and “remodel my living room” are all keywords.
The word “keyword” can be confusing because today we work more with phrases than individual words. Keywords that are actually phrases, like our examples above, are called long-tail keywords. Short-tail keywords, on the other hand, are one-word keywords like “remodel” or “contractor”.
Why has SEO transitioned from short-tail keywords to long-tail keywords? One word: volume. With the massive number of searches users perform today and the number of sites on the internet (1.8 billion at last count), long-tail keywords offer the added specificity we need.
How to Start Optimizing Your Site
Now that you know the basic concepts of SEO and keywords, how do you start improving your SEO? Begin with these basic necessities.
The first step in any SEO endeavor is keyword research. This involves finding the keywords in your industry that have high search volumes.
Most keyword research tools will also show you a statistic called keyword difficulty. Keywords with high difficulty already have a large number of sites that are optimizing for them. Even if you do everything right, your chances of getting to the first page of search results are slim.
When you have a list of high-volume, low-difficulty keywords, find out where your site currently appears in the search results for them. You need to know that starting point to find out if you’re making progress.
Meta tags are tags you need to add into the back end of your website to help search engines categorize each page.
There are three meta tags every page needs: title, description, and keywords. The title and the description will be visible to users in your search results. In Google results, for example, each search result shows the page title in blue and the description in gray.
Make sure each page has these three meta tags. The tags should describe the content on that particular page, not your site as a whole. Be sure to use some of your target keywords in your title and description, not just the “keywords” tag.
In addition to the meta tags, search engines will look at the content itself on your pages. Go through your existing content and make sure you incorporate some of your target keywords.
An essential way to make your content SEO-friendly is to use headings and subheadings. As an added bonus, it makes the content user-friendly because it looks more manageable for users to read.
If you can, include keywords in some of these headings. However, don’t fall into the trap of stuffing your content full of keywords so it sounds unnatural and awkward.
In addition to your content itself, search engines look at how often you post content. They want to see that you’re maintaining your content well because it tells them the content is more likely to be up-to-date and accurate.
A powerful way to keep your site fresh is to maintain a blog. Post a new blog article every week or so. Make sure the content is original and valuable to your users.
Using our remodeling example, for instance, you could write blogs like “Top 5 Trends in Modern Kitchen Designs” or “4 Things Your Bathroom Remodeling Contractor Wishes You Knew”.
For SEO that leads to revenue, you don’t just want search engines to know what services you offer. You also need them to know where you are. After all, if you only do remodeling jobs in California, it doesn’t help you if people in Vermont see your site.
The key to this is the acronym NAP: name, address, and phone number. Make sure these three pieces of information appear in several places throughout your site. A popular strategy is to have a footer on every page that includes your NAP.
One of the most overlooked SEO strategies is to improve your page URLs. Search engines look at those URLs as clues to each page’s content.
Make sure your URLs are simple and describe each page well. Avoid long strings of nonsense characters. For instance, for a particular blog, make sure the URL is the blog’s title rather than something like “site.com/blog37er82dj7460”.
When search engines are crawling your content, they can’t crawl words that appear in images. In order words, using keywords in an infographic or another image won’t help you.
The solution is to add alt text to each image. Alt text is a back-end description of an image’s content. It’s crawlable for search engines and, if an image doesn’t load for a user, it also tells them what the image shows.
Making Your Site Visible
In today’s tech-heavy world, your customers turn to the internet for information at the drop of a hat. Your competitors know that too. When it comes down to it, SEO is what determines whose site your customers will find first.
Now that you have answers to questions like “What does SEO stand for” and “What is a keyword”, you’re ready to get started with the strategies above.
To take the first step, start with our free SEO site audit to get your personalized SEO checklist.