Step by Step Guide to SEO

Search engine optimization for a new website can often be intimidating and sometimes costly if you choose to have the help of a consultant. For starters, it doesn't have to be that way. To get you started off on the right foot, let’s take a look at some steps to basic SEO optimization.

On-Site SEO Basics

Search engine optimization isn’t going to happen overnight, but with a little knowledge and elbow grease, you can make it happen. Before we go any further, it is important to make a note of the golden rule - don’t overdo. For example, you might be tempted to stuff your pages with keywords, but that isn’t the goal. In fact, you would be doing more harm than good as Google has penalties in place for such mistakes as this. Instead, you would want to think up no more than five keywords for each page and optimize for those.

Now, let’s move on to the bare minimum on-site optimization elements you should put on each page of your website’s main pages.

Title Tag

The title tag on pages of your website tells search engines what the page is about. It should be about 70 characters or less and include your business or brand name and keywords that relate to that specific page only. This tag is placed between the <HEAD> </HEAD> tags near the top of the HTML code for the page.

Meta Description

The meta description goes further and tells search engines a bit more about your page. Keep in mind that you are still writing for a human audience and include the page’s main keywords, as the meta description does show up in search results.

How the Title Tag and Meta Description Looks in Search Results:

The above image shows how a Matthew Fleming Inc. title tag and meta description show up in Google search results. You can see that the keywords searched by a user (custom web design) are bolded by Google in both title tag and the meta description. This is why you use your business or brand in the keywords in both title and meta description - it helps your search results stand out to the searcher when they are looking for those terms.

Additional On-Site SEO Elements

Title tags and meta descriptions may be the most important SEO elements, but they aren’t the only ones. Make sure you also use the following into your website’s page content.

Internal Links - You can help search engines learn more about your website by internally linking to other pages on your website for content.

Header Tags - Header tags help break the content into sections as well as let search engines know a little more about what each section of content is about. There are different levels of header tags that you can utilize. The <H1></H1> tags surround the post title – there should only be one set of <H1></H1> tags per page. The <H2></H2> and <H3></H3> tags surround subheadings on the page – there can be multiple instances of both. Using header tags helps both readers and search engines break up your content into digestible sections.

Image Name & ALT Tags - If you use images on your website, think of good keywords for both the image and the alt tag. This helps search engines find good images for their image search based on the keywords specified.

Bolded Text - Don’t go bananas with this one. Simply bolding the occasional section of text can help search engines distinguish other important information and keywords in the page’s content.

Why You Need Content

Content does two things at once - it is great for your website visitors and search engines. The more content you have, the more likely visitors will stick around and the more likely search engines will be able to put more of your website’s pages in the search index. A word of warning to the wise - not any content will do. We are talking about quality content with relevant keywords. Content can include a variety of things such as blog posts, tutorials, videos, podcasts, articles, etc.

Off-Site Optimization (Link Building)

The basic goal of link building is to get other websites to link to yours. How do you get links? There are many ways to do it, but ultimately you will hear about three kinds of links and link building techniques.

Organic Links - These are links you don’t have to ask for and they are the best kind. Especially if you can get them on sites with high authority such as well recognized name websites.

Whitehat - This basically means good, quality link building (the kind you want).

Blackhat - This stands for spammy, low-quality link building (the kind you should avoid at all costs).

Link building isn’t always easy, but you can get started on building quality links by doing some of the following activities.

  • Submit guest blog posts to popular blogs in your industry. Generally, you will get a link back to your website in an author box at the top or bottom of your post’s content.
  • Reach out to related (but not the competition) businesses to see if they will link to you.
  • Create social media profiles. The links may not count toward search rankings, but they will attract clicks which will generate more incoming traffic to your website.
  • Create link worthy content. Infographics are a great example - you can create an image representing important information and allow others to use the infographic on their own website in exchange for linking back to yours as credit.

How Google+ Can Help with Rankings

Google’s own social network can help you rank better in search results for people you are connected with. If you want to get personalized and trump local search results, here’s what you need to do:

  • Create a Google+ personal profile and business page.
  • Recommend the website you want to rank well in search results by giving it a +1, sharing the website on your profile and/or page as a status update, and linking to it in your profile information under recommended websites.
  • Fill out your profile information completely to make others want to connect with you.
  • Check your settings and make sure that your profile information is public along with your status updates.
  • Share other interesting updates on your profile so that you don’t come across as self-promotional.
  • Start connecting with people who you want to see your website in search results.

Monitoring Your Results

Once you have gone through the efforts of SEO, you’ll want to make sure to keep track of your SEO progress and monitor your results. Google Analytics is a popular tool to keep track of your results and learn more about your visitors. In particular, you can see which keywords people are using to find your website in search results. You can see which keywords lead to visits where visitors do what you want them to do such as sign up for a mailing list. This will help you learn what keywords you should be targeting in your SEO campaign.

SEO requires diligent effort on your part, but if you follow these steps and keep with it, you are on the path to reaping the benefits of getting more visitors and ranking well with search engines.