SEO 101 - Getting started in Search Engine Optimization

Session 17: SEO 101 – Getting started in Search Engine Optimization

In session 17 of A Marketing Podcast I discuss how to get started in Search Engine Optimization. This is your SEO 101 course as I walk you through the three basic progressions to optimizing your website in relation to your search engine rankings.

Session 17: Show Notes

Search Engine Optimization is not part of your marketing strategy

SEO is the act of providing search engines the information they need to rank your website as high as possible for the keywords that you deem to be important to you.

First off, SEO is as much an art as it is a science. Many will claim they understand the science of search engines and how to optimize and rank your website at the top of Google, but it’s a fact, that the number of factors that determine your website’s ranking for a specific term are not 100% known. Therefore, it’s impossible for someone to know all the ways in which to achieve perfect rankings.

That’s where art comes into play.

The art is marketing, making assumptions and understanding your audience to deliver content that they will read and share and get value out of.

If you want to improve your rankings and stay there, develop great content, ensure your website is setup correctly, and generate links from credible websites back to yours. SEO is essentially that easy.

Ensure your website is setup correctly, develop great content, and generate links from credible websites back to yours tweet

But why is SEO not part of your marketing strategy?

That’s because SEO is the act of optimizing content and your sites appearance to search engines. It’s not a strategic approach to marketing, or even a marketing tactic.

SEO is applied to the various tactics that you use to market.

For example, you should have a content marketing strategy, or even campaigns, and you should apply SEO to the content you develop in that campaign.

Much like you should have a Social Media strategy that includes driving traffic to your website. Which will have an effect on your SEO rankings if other begin to share your content or visits your website.

The exception to this rule is potentially having a back linking campaign or strategy. But even then, the way in which you build back links should be through partnerships and content development.

White Hats and Black Hats

In SEO the terms white hat and black hat are used to refer to the idea of there being some SEO tactics that are professional and sound, whilst others are little more fishy and potentially “scammy”.

I’m not going to push you in either direction, but I am going to explain the difference in relation to some tactics. And depending on your way of operating you can apply the approach you wish.

White Hat tactics

• Developing great content
• Working with others in your industry to share that content and link back to your website (guest blogging)
• Providing genuine data in your META output
• The long game of SEO, and built on honesty and a genuine approach to providing value through content.

Black Hat tactics

• Spamming forums and directories for back links
• Creating your own network of websites to deliver back links with ease
• Delivering metadata that is not related to your content and typically jammed with keyword heavy content
• Can get as bad as hacking other websites to paste links and place content referring to your website
• Hidden text or links
• And more but you get the point

Google being the leader in search is always working to prevent the black hat tactics from actually working, but as you can see, from the tactics I just mentioned, some of these still work today.

For what it’s worth the tactics I use on A Marketing Podcast are white hat tactics, not only because I want to appear genuine and stay out of trouble with Google, but it’s easier to perform (because you’re just writing good content and optimizing it for SEO crawlers) and it’s a long sustainable approach to your website’s SEO rankings.

SEO tools

Plenty of tools available most of which serve different areas of SEO better than others. For example:

I use Ahrefs.com for most of my SEO work.

Ahrefs.com, like MOZ, provides several tools to help your perform SEO. Such as

  • website explorers / checks
  • content research
  • keyword research

Then there’s tools that specialize in each of these sections, such as:

BuzzSumo – Awesome for content research – Find out what content is most popular for certain keyword terms.

WooRank – For checking the status of your website from a technical setup point of view.

The SEO Pyramid: SEO 101

You’ll find hundreds of SEO pyramids online if you search for it, but I’ve developed one that’s a high level approach to getting started in SEO and understanding the progression from nothing to totally optimized.

SEO 101: SEO Pyramid

Let’s walk through the three main chunks of the SEO pyramid.

Technical Setup

The SEO elements within the technical setup are 100% in your control. And form the base of the pyramid.

Sometimes referred to as “Onsite” SEO.

It refers to the META data, the data within your pages (if you right click on any page in a web browser and select “View page” or “view source” you can see the data that search engines see).

This is the data that search engine crawlers, or robots, gather and add to their indexes.

Another part of technical setup also includes creating a sitemap.xml file so that search engines know the structure of your website and can visit all pages easily.

The list goes on and on – instead of bore you with that list today run your site through the Woorank tool and it will provide you with a list (mostly) technical items related to your technical setup.

Content Development

Keyword research is the process of identifying keywords and keyword terms, or long tail keywords, that your desired audience will search for to find the solution that you provide.

A couple terms related to keyword research:

  • Volume: how many times a keyword is searched for (typically monthly)
  • Competition: how many other sites are ranking for that term

Do a quick Google search for “A Marketing podcast” for example, at the top you’ll see how many results there were for that term.

There’s a few ways to go about finding these right keywords, but here’s a couple to get your started. This is where a tool like Ahrefs and MOZ provides the heavy lifting.

  1. Research known terms for volume and competition (terms you know people would search for – if you’re a flower store that would be terms like “anniversary flowers” or “12 roses”)
  2. Competitors – if you’re suing one the tools i mentioned plug in your competitors urls and see what terms they are ranking for. If you’re not just browse their website and you’ll be able to identify terms they use in their content as you read through.
  3. Your own website currently ranked terms (if you’ve set up Google’s Search Console (check out the setup checklist I created if you haven’t it’s got setup for the search console and virtually all the items you need for your website to be ready for all things digital marketing) – you can find the list of terms you already rank for – it might be worth building content for some of those terms)

SEO of your actual content

If you’re using WordPress, go ahead and install the Yoast plug-in. It helps you setup your META Data for your whole site and it also helps you on a page by page basis. And that’s what I want to review now.

Here’s a list of elements you should consider when creating content on your website. More about content creation in the next phase of the pyramid, but let’s look at the elements now!

  • Meta description
  • Focus keyword (pick a specific keyword to focus your page on – you will inherently get other related keywords in search)
  • Image Alt attributes – help search engines understand what your image is about with a good alt description (again use your keyword)
  • Keyword density – make sure to your use focus keyword more than 5% in your page content.
  • Use your keyword in a sub heading or a H2
  • Your page title should use the keyword as well – but be readable as well (try and start with the keyword)
  • The URL of the page should use the keyword as well (separated by hyphens)
  • Include some outbound links (it shows you’re trying to be helpful beyond your own website)
  • Don’t use the same keyword twice

Yoast details page.

These are some general guidelines for optimizing a post on your website. Of the 300 odd factors used by Google – which changes literally every day – these are the known elements that have an effect on your SEO, and your SERP position (Search engine results page).

Offsite SEO Considerations

Now for the elements that are not 100% in your control which could actually have more effect on where you rank that you think.

These include:

  • Back links – people linking from their website back to yours (more on that ina sec)
  • Social media accounts – accounts created for your business that provide links back to your website
  • Community/Service accounts – things like forum accounts, and yelp.

Back linking

Do it. Simply put, do it.

You need people to link to your website for search engines to show that you are a credible source of information according to others websites on the net (not just your own).

Notice I said Credible – in the past back linking was a volume game, the site who had the most rank the highest – well not anymore. You need to build links from other credible industry related websites to gain the highest value from the back link.

How do you do that?

  • Guest posting (blog posts)
  • Asking to be linked to (on industry related association sites, or trade show site you attend in real life, etc)
  • Forums and communities (not as value as the previous types, but if you’re active and providing value in those communities and you link back to your site it can help)

Social media Accounts

I’ve discussed setting up social media in session 16. Creating accounts and filling out your profiles will develop links back to your site and generate traffic as well which has the ability to affect your SEO rankings.

Links & Resources

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