Search engine optimization, also referred to as SEO, is critical for every website, but it’s also achievable, even for beginners.
SEO is all about ensuring that your website content ranks high in relevant search engine results. Of course, the higher you land in search rankings, the more website traffic you’ll see. The more traffic you drive, the more potential sales and revenue you can generate.
On the first page of Google search results, for example, the first five organic results account for about 68 percent of all the resulting clicks.
The effort is worthwhile. About 49 percent of marketers say that organic search has the best return on investment (ROI) of any marketing channel.
But successful SEO is so much more than just using relevant keywords.
The following are 12 SEO marketing tips for beginners that you can start using today.
Claim (or create) your Google My Business profile
Google My Business is a free public profile or listing that appears in related search results on Google.
Claiming (or creating) your listing provides Google (and internet users) with key information about your company.
Create new, fresh content
Search engines love new content, which is seen as more relevant for users but also shows that your website is active.
Focus on topics that address the needs, wants and challenges of your target audience. What problems can you help them solve? To stay organized, see our eight tips to create an effective content calendar.
However, producing new content consistently can be a challenge for any marketer.
See our 13 tips for repurposing content like a rockstar. But if you’re flat-out stuck, check out our seven tips for beating marketing writer’s block.
Writing longer, at its core, is about giving visitors the quality, in-depth content they’re seeking.
On the practical side, longer content gives you more opportunities for including keywords and offering the most beneficial information.
Longer, engaging content also increases your time on side, otherwise known as “dwell time.” The longer a user spends on your page, the greater the signal to Google (and other search engines) that users are engaging with your content. You want as long of a dwell time as possible.
The ideal length based on recent data is between 2,100 and 2,400 words.
But the danger of this tip is lengthening your content without adding value or sacrificing quality. Don’t go long just to go long. Quality over quantity always.
Use relevant keywords
Keywords aren’t everything, but they are a big piece of a successful SEO strategy.
It’s important to use the keywords that are most relevant to your piece of content. If you cast too wide of a net on your keywords, you are overpromising and underdelivering for search engines. Remember, search engines aim to deliver the most relevant search results for every user’s query.
Think about what a consumer might type into a search engine to find your content, and do your research.
Keep long-tail keywords in mind as well, particularly with the considerations surrounding voice search. (Long-tail keywords contain at least four words that more clearly specify the user’s intent in his or her search query.)
In addition, think about LSI keywords, which stands for “latent semantic indexing.” These are keywords that are related to the topic your content is about.
Check out these 11 free SEO keyword research tools that you can consider using.
Optimize on-page elements
You’ll want to always keep your title, meta, heading and sub-heading tags on your website top of mind. These comprise your on-page SEO elements.
- Title tag: The headline that appears on top of a search result. Make sure it’s unique for each page of your website, contains relevant keywords and is no more than 60 characters long.
- Meta tag or meta description: The summary paragraph that appears as a description of your search result. Make sure that you take the opportunity to persuade users to click on your result in no more than 160 characters.
- Headings and sub-headings: Ideally, you’ll have one heading <h1> per webpage, but you can have as many sub-headings (<h2>, <h3> and so on) as makes sense for the organization of your content on the page. These don’t appear in search results, but they are indexed and checked by Google the same as title tags, so include keywords as much as it makes sense to do so.
- Sitemap: Schematics that help search engines find and rank your webpages. Using a sitemap helps your pages get updated faster and that all your pages are getting found.
- Robots.txt: Code that tells search engine web crawlers which pages to include in their index and which not to. This is ideal for test pages and pages not intended for the public.
Learn more about the difference between on-page and off-page SEO.
Keep your URLs as simple as possible
While most internet users won’t notice the specifics of your webpage’s URL, it still matters to your SEO.
As a best practice, keep your URLs as simple and readable as possible, with a logical structure. This means that you’ll want to use text in your URLs rather than random numbers. Just remember to keep your URLs as short as reasonably possible.
You also can use your URLs to include your most relevant keyword, but make sure you’re not overstuffing.
There’s no need to overhaul all your past URLs unless you think they are having a negative impact on your SEO. (If you do, make sure to also do a proper 301 redirect.) Simply move forward with simple, structured URLs.
Build up your backlinks
Backlinks are when another website links back to any of your webpages by linking to it. Ideally, you’ll want backlinks from high-quality websites that are related to your content.
Backlinks help increase your search ranking, but obviously you can’t just snap your fingers and increase your backlinks instantly. It takes work.
See our seven tips to grow quality backlinks to your website and boost your SEO.
On the flip side, you also want to link out to other quality websites, which helps you appear more trustworthy to search engines. It’s a give and take.
Increase your internal links
Internal links go from one webpage to another within your website. Not only do these links help visitors navigate your site, but they also communicate more structure to search engines.
When you’re posting a piece of content, give your reader every opportunity to dive deeper into related topics throughout your post.
Consider your images
You might not realize it, but images play a role in boosting your SEO.
But it’s about more than simply breaking up paragraphs of text for your reader. To help search engines understand what your images are about, use the alt text feature, which is an HTML code that describes what your image shows.
Make sure that every image on your website has an accurate, detailed description in the alt text. Again, avoid any keyword stuffing.
These also help blind or visually impaired users who are using a special computer (or software) that reads text out loud.
Optimize your site speed
While site speed is a bit more of a technical characteristic to consider, it matters for your SEO. Obviously, slow-loading pages turn off internet visitors and therefore are downgraded in search rankings by Google and other search engines.
About 75 percent of users will not revisit websites that took longer than 4 seconds to load.
If you’re using Adobe Flash, you might want to think again. Flash is an app that enables multimedia streaming and user interaction within a webpage, but it can slow down your loading time. In addition, Flash doesn’t work on many mobile devices. For both of those reasons, search engines can downgrade your search ranking if you use a lot of Adobe Flash.
You can check your site’s speed with Google’s PageSpeed Insights and get recommendations on how you can speed up your site if necessary.
Speed is especially important for mobile browsing. Dive deeper into what mobile SEO is, as well as six best practices.
Use social media to your benefit
Social media is a powerful and diverse tool for brand awareness and audience engagement.
Because it’s so diverse, you have a number of different platforms and strategies to explore and consider.
In the end, your use of social media does impact your SEO. See these seven ways how.
Monitor your SEO performance
One of the most important steps in all of digital marketing, SEO and otherwise, is to track your results.
You can easily see how your SEO is impacting your website by using Google Analytics, which is free. You can see where your traffic is coming from, as well as what’s working and what’s not. The tool offers historical, comparison and real-time data at your fingertips.
The most important thing to remember when you’re starting out with best SEO practices is simply to think about your target audience. Think about the user. Put them first.
Dive deeper into how to determine your target audience with our seven tips.
Keep in mind what those users are looking for, what they want and what they need. Your content should serve this above all else. That’s how search engines will continue to see value in your content and serve that in search queries.
For now, you can see how to check your Google search rank right now for free.