SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the art and science of getting a company, product, or service to the top of Google. Yes, there are other search engines such as Bing, DuckDuckGo, and even Yahoo (RIP), as well as other search engines like VRBO, AirBnB, Amazon, or Yelp. But in practice SEO is 99% about Google. It’s about when your customer searches for “such and such,” then your “such and such” ranks at or ner the top.
In this quick tutorial, I will outline the basics of SEO. Let’s get started!
WHAT IS SEO?
As I just explained, SEO is getting to the top of Google. But let’s dig in just a little bit into the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Take a few typical searches and look at them –
Notice which searches have “local results” (e.g., “pizza”) and which do not (e.g., “motorcycle insurance”). Then ask yourself if your business is local, and – if so, then the more specific rules of “local SEO” apply. If not, not. Also remember to browse in “incognito mode” or turn of personalization in Google. You want to see the world the way your customers see it. Also notice the ads on Google (and realize that advertising is a separate way to get to the top of Google vs. the free “organic” way of SEO.
LET’S TALK ABOUT YOU
Let’s talk about you and your business. What do you sell? Who wants it? What are the “situational characteristics” that drive a person to “search” for your business, product, or service? It can be as simple as “he just bought a motorcycle” and so he needs “motorcycle insurance,” or she’s hungry and “she wants pizza.” Or more specific as is, he and she want pizza and they want it delivered. Or they’re getting married and they want a destination wedding that has Italian food catering delivered on motorcycles to Yosemite national park. It’s worthwhile writing a business value proposition and identifying your “buyer personas.” Pay special attention to whether they are local in nature (or not), and whether “search” is the most likely way that new customers might find you.
Keywords drive Google! People search by keywords, and thus you had better get very good at identifying your keywords. Some theory –
- Early Stage or Educational Keywords. “Hair loss” is an example.
- Late Stage or Transactional keywords. “Hair transplant” or “Bay Area Hair Transplant” would be another.
- Micro Keywords such as “FUE transplant” for “Follicular Unit Extraction” (which is a kind of hair transplantation).
Within your business, you want to be sensitive to your early / educational vs. your late stage / transactional vs. your micros (not to mention branded’s or reputationals). You GOTTA know your keywords. Within this task, you also want to pay attention to volume and value.
And some fun tools – Google tricks (such as autocomplete and related searches), Answer the Public, and Twinwords Keyword tool. Runner up is the Google Ads Keyword Planner (for which you need a paid account). The end result? A keyword worksheet so that you absolutely, positively know the target keywords your customers enter (and you want to rank for).
ON PAGE SEO: OPTIMIZE YOUR WEBSITE
With your keywords in hand, your next step is “on page” SEO. The basics here are:
- SEO-Friendly HTML Page Tags. Take all your content, especially your “landing pages” and “homepage” and optimize the Page Tags against your target keywords. Read the Google SEO Guide on these issues and then implement them.
- Write keyword-heavy but well-written content. The obvious tactic is to write content that reflects what your users need and want to read. Take the search for “motorcycle insurance,” and look at some of the high-ranking pages. Read their content outloud. Analyze it against the Page Tags and against the keyword-heavy content. Write like the winners.
- Homepage. Optimize your home page both the HTML tags and the content to match your target keywords.
- Website Organization. This is complicated, but some easy tactics are a keyword heavy footer and links FROM the home page TO the landing page. Take a look at some high-ranking websites and you’ll see these tactics at work.
OFF PAGE SEO: BUILD EXTERNAL AUTHORITY
Google rewards websites that have links to them. This is called “link-building” and it’s critical to success at SEO. The long and short of it is encourage OTHER websites to link to YOUR website. This is a big topic and some of the basic guides are online, as in here and here. After links, the next biggest external validation is reviews (if you are a local business). Thus solicit real reviews from actual happy customers and get them to review you on Google. Take a search like “pizza Tulsa,” and you’ll notice that the high-ranking websites have lots of reviews. Finally, the new link-building is social mentions. Get other folks on social platforms such as Twitter to “mention” your website, your blog, and your products. All of these is easier said than done but external OFF PAGE SEO often separates the winners on page 1 from the losers on page 2.
GOOGLE ANALYTICS AND METRICS
Finally, how do you know you’re making progress? The answer is metrics. One metric: your rank on Google vis-a-vis your keywords. Among the free tools – FatRank’s Chrome Plug in. You can manually check as well, or use a tool such as BrightLocal’s local rank checker to localize your searchers. After rank, you want to measure your traffic and its behavior. Google Analytics is the leading (free) platform for what happens “after the click.” It’s a big task, but fortunately, there is even a free university of free tutorials on GA, called Google Analytics Academy.