The Very Basics of SEO: What It Is, Why It’s Important, Where to Start
If you’ve spent any time reading about how to start a small business, you’ve likely encountered articles telling you that you need good SEO. If you’re confused about what SEO is and what makes it good, but you’re sick of “for dummies” articles that don’t end up telling you anything — read on!
What is SEO?
SEO is how you get found.
The goal of SEO, or “search engine optimization,” is to drive traffic to a website based on its relatability to what users are searching. This is called “organic traffic” — not to be confused with paid results. When a user searches for a thing you have information about, or a service you provide, you want them to find your website.
There are, in general, two kinds of SEO:
• White-hat SEO: Understanding what it is about a website and the content within that makes it user-friendly, creating content that people want to see and distributing it in an ethical way.
• Black-hat SEO: Shady tactics that attempt to manipulate Google’s algorithm and trick it into ranking a website for certain keywords.
That Was Long-Winded, What’s the Takeaway?
SEO helps websites get discovered by users who type queries into Google (and other search engines). Google’s algorithms produce the results pages based on what they determined to be the “best” results.
How Does a Small Business Owner Get Started With SEO?
First — don’t panic. You don’t need to be a technical genius to get the basics of SEO right.
The best advice to new webmasters is actually not to worry about whether they’re building their site “for Google.” Google’s webmaster guidelines say as much.
The first and foremost concern should be: is your content useful, readable, and designed for the user? Is your website the best resource that a user could find when asking a certain question?
Keywords are the basis on which search operates. The only way a search engine knows what a user wants is by analyzing what they typed.
Who are the kinds of people who will enjoy your site and use your services? What are their needs and pain points? Do they have questions? What kinds of things are they likely to put into a search engine?
Think you’ve got answers to those questions? Great! Load up a keyword tool from Moz or SEMrush and test some keywords. There are tons of other SEO tools out there, as well. You can get deep and technical here, but for now just pay attention to the “organic search volume” (how many people search for those words) and the “organic search results” which will show you your competition’s pages.
Generate new content around these keywords that is as helpful to the user as possible.
Offer a service!
If your website only has sales pages, you’ll have a tough time with organic SEO. Sales pages only target motivated buyers, they don’t target people who are on the fence or shopping around. Informational content does that. That’s why it’s so important to think about the kinds of questions potential customers might be asking. What informs them, entertains them, and keeps them up at night? Give them that content.
Provide a service to your users before selling your company. Users who stay on your site to read are not only more likely to convert into a customer, but they send good signals to Google about how useful your content is to them.
Along with keywords, links are another big metric in SEO. Links are the community your site exists in. Who, and how many other people like your site enough to link back to it in their blog, resource page, or social media post?
Once you’ve developed a super informative page that answers a question or entertains, it’s time to put it out there. Get in contact with people to see if they will link to your content; other business owners, industry commentators and leaders, bloggers. As a best practice, don’t exchange money with someone for a link on their site (that is not “organic.”) This part is difficult, critical, and time consuming. That’s why so many people outsource SEO.
The Relationship Between Paid and Organic Traffic
When Google logs information about who visits your website, it also records where they come from. Traffic from paid ads and social media are considered separate from organic search traffic.
In general, traffic that you pay for does not affect SEO ranking. Paid advertisements are, however, a much better opportunity to put your sales pages in front of users.
Is there a direct relationship? Well, sort of.
Paid advertising can lead to positive SEO results. If someone finds you via a paid ad, and then independently decides to put your link on their blog, that’s an organic SEO win. There is, however, no direct correlation.
A comprehensive internet marketing strategy will include both paid and organic efforts, as well as social media lead generation strategies. The paid options and in-app social media ads won’t directly improve your SEO, but they’re all vital for a healthy audience.
Don’t panic about how technical people make SEO sound. At its core, SEO is about usability and how people interact with you online. So, for now, make your website user friendly, generate authoritative, creative content, and actively share it with people who have an interest in it.
Combine those efforts with your paid search engine and social media ads, and you’re on your way to high internet visibility.
Photo courtesy of Pexels user Pixabay