SEO Basics for Beginners
Today’s blog post was originally intended to be a Live Story on Instagram, but life got the better of me, and that’s alright. I’m not perfect at running this business, and I don’t aim to be. That means I let myself off the hook when things don’t pan out, I apologize to those whose plans were impacted, and I move on. I was really excited to talk about this topic anyway, which is why I’m choosing to still blog about it instead of scrapping it altogether to save for another day!
To start, I wanted to give you a little background into how I came into the world of online marketing and understanding the nuances of search engine optimization. I graduated with a degree in Marketing, but my college (at that time) didn’t have any classes in online marketing specifically. The concept of social media marketing and using websites to advertise were still fairly new ideas, and at the time of my graduation, I didn’t even know what SEO stood for let alone how to use it as a marketing tool.
Fast forward several years, one majorly solid job learning under the best of the best, and almost a year out on my own performing these services for clients, and my understanding has grown by leaps and bounds, to say the least. I have a passion for helping other women grow their businesses, and a sure-fire way to do that is through the implementation of good optimization practices on the internet and on social media.
Are you ready to dive in? Let’s start with the basics.
seo = search engine optimization, or the practice of optimizing your website to rank higher in search engine results
But what does that really mean? I’m going to explain it using an analogy, and if you get lost, I don’t blame you - I’m not really a pro at analogies.
Pretend that you’re planning the biggest party of your life (aka your business) and after you have spent all this time preparing for it, you just start handing out invites to everyone you come in contact with, without any real plan for distribution. A few people may trickle in and out of your party, but no one is sticking around, and you’re honestly surprised it isn’t better-attended considering the level of awesomeness it has achieved.
On the flip side of that, there are TONS of people out there looking for a party exactly like yours, but they’re asking around and haven’t really heard anything, and they can’t see anyone handing out invitations, so they go ahead and make other plans for their evening, or worse, they stop by someone else’s party!
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is all about making sure that the people looking for your party aren’t missing out, and that you aren’t wasting your efforts spreading the word to the people who aren’t interested in your party. You are making sure that your invitations are addressed, and correctly. Addressing those envelopes means you’re taking action to optimize your website for better rankings.
But, How do you control your rank?
Well now, I’m glad you asked that. You really can’t, at least not completely. Google (or whatever search engine you prefer) is the one that ultimately determines which websites it brings back in the results for any given search query, and it has an algorithm to establish the ranking order. However, you can definitely give yourself an advantage in that ranking order by clarifying a few things and eliminating the junk from your site, giving Google the optimal opportunities to understand exactly what you’re all about and what you offer that could potentially be helpful in answering a user’s query.
Google’s algorithm is made up of approximately 50 bajillion-gazillion (roughly) different ranking factors, and it’s important that you understand that SEO is not a puzzle you will ever solve. The best you can do is put as many pieces in place as you can and hope that Google gets a good read on the solution you’re providing for a search specific to your offerings.
Since there are simply too many ranking factors to cover all at once, I’m focusing my efforts today on explaining three simple ways you can improve your website optimization practices STARTING NOW to get you a better footing in the rankings for searches. Before I explain those three things, I wanted to let you know that I have two really great opportunities for you to learn even more in-depth information about SEO coming your way really soon:
SEO for Wedding Photographers | mini meet-up
This mini workshop will be held on November 10th, 2018 in Logan, Utah. If you want to come learn from me in person, where I can give you solutions and answers specific to YOUR photography business, then click here to get all the details and sign up for this 1-hour class.
Establishing an Online Local Presence | digital download e-book
If you’re not interested in the above workshop either because you’re not a photographer or because you’re not in Logan, Utah, then this e-book is perfect for you. It will cover even MORE groundwork than our in-person meet-up, but the information is more generalized to apply to all creative industries, not just photographers. Click here to read more about this digital download and purchase your copy today!
Continue reading below for my three actionable optimization tips that will help your business stay right on track to major success online.
tip #1: Update your page titles and descriptions.
A surprising number of small businesses who manage their own websites have no idea that they can control the title and description that shows up in the rankings when their website is returned for a search on Google. Since this is potentially the first time the searcher is hearing about your business, you want to be clear and grab their attention so they’ll want to click over to your site.
For example, your About page on your website might be auto-populating both your title and description with the name of your page (About) and the first few sentences of the page. While it’s good that SOMETHING is there, it’s more beneficial to actually control the text that displays so that you can present a good summary of your site or that specific page to whoever is scrolling through the list of search results.
My suggestion (which you should obviously modify to fit your business and offerings) would be to present the page name (so the user knows what page they’ll be ending up on) along with your business name and some keywords related to your business so that both the searcher and Google can pick up on the content of the page and what you offer. If I were building a website for my fictional bakery, my page title might look something like this: About Us | Meet the Team at Rachel’s Bakery | Logan, Utah Bakery and Sweets and my description might look something like this: Meet the team at Rachel’s Bakery to learn why we love what we do. Call us today to get a quote on catered baked goods anywhere in Cache Valley. We’d love to participate in your next big event!
To clarify, this is your page title which is the title shown in search results and in your browser tab, not the title that shows on the page. I’m sure that wouldn’t necessarily hurt your SEO to format your page’s top header like that, but it might look pretty junky. Your actual internal page title is one of the first places that Google will look to figure out exactly what the content of your page is to determine how it should rank you.
If you’re not sure where these customizations are accessed on your specific platform, simply Google it. On Squarespace, you’ll be able to access the page title and description by clicking the settings gear next to page’s name in your internal dashboard.
tip #2: Create clear landing pages for each product or service.
As a general rule of thumb, the more text on a page, the more likely it is that Google can get a clear read on what the content of that page is, and whether or not it would be a good option to rank in the results for any given search. One way you can accomplish this is through targeted “landing pages” that represent information geared towards a specific keywords or search phrase, like “vintage bookstore near me”.
When you’re building these landing pages, pick your keyword first, and base it around the product or service you offer that’s applicable to that search term. Think about your primary keyword, and then write to incorporate some additional uses of that, your secondary keywords, and other keywords related to your on-page topic targeting.
Struggling to come up with the secondary and related keywords to accompany your primary target keyword? Think about how you’d be discussing this topic in conversation. The words that come up in conversation as a result of discussion of the primary keyword are good examples of related keywords. Using a varied combination of these primary, secondary, and related keywords just helps to further establish the page topic for Google, giving its algorithm a clear picture when it comes time to rank for those keywords.
tip #3: Claim and optimize your Google My Business listing.
When you search for a local service or business on Google, you’ll almost always be presented with some Maps listings or even a complete preview of a specific business at the top of your search results. These listings are placed above the organic search results for a reason - these are businesses that are participating in Google’s business listing index.
If you aren’t already, you can add a listing for your business to this index for the opportunity for prime placement at the top of search results. Google likes to see their systems being used, so they’ll reward fully-optimized listings by giving those businesses a little more exposure in search results.
I’m actually going to be helping the workshop attendees walk through this process in November, so if you’re more of a visual learner, you might want to consider signing up for the workshop to make sure you understand how to fully optimize your business listing. Or, if you’re ready to get started on your own right now, click here to be taken to Google’s login screen for Google My Business and start creating your listing.
Search engine optimization is really just a big game. You’re catering your website content and set-up to the search engines so that they’ll give you favor and include your website in the list of results for searches related to your offerings. It seems a little silly, but it’s a simple, free way to stay top-of-mind with your potential customers. View this time spent implementing good SEO practices into your online marketing strategy as an investment, and you’re sure to see success from that investment soon!
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