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SEO basics: Beginner’s guide

Do you occasionally wake up in a cold sweat over SEO? Does the acronym SERP instill more fear in you than a two-headed serpent? Do you even know what SEO or SERP mean or, more specifically, what they mean for your business? Well, we’re going to set the alphabet soup straight for you here. And we’re also going to provide you with a few quick, easy tips to help fast-track your ascent toward search ranking greatness.

So, what is SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of improving the ranking of your website in search engine results. Oh, and SEO’s ugly stepsister SERP (search engine results page) is simply the listing of results returned by a search engine in response to a search query.

Why should I care?

You should care because a high ranking in search results allows potential customers to find you. According to Google, 4/5 consumers use search engines to find products and services nearby. If you’re not showing up in the top results, well, you’re missing out. Especially considering 75% of users never look past the first page of search results.

Where do I begin?

SEO is not as daunting as many pundits would like you to believe. In competitive industries, first-page ranking certainly won’t happen overnight, but with a focused, disciplined approach and a few SEO best practices, you’ll start to hit more ladders than snakes in the perpetual game of search ranking.

1. Identify keywords.

When people try to find your company or products and services you have to offer, what do they actually search? Incorporating and ranking the right keywords (and phrases) that people type into search boxes can make or break your website. But how do you determine what the right keywords are? Read here for keyword research tips.

2. Get the basics right.

Stuff like page titles, meta tags, page descriptions, URL structure, etc. Any good CMS (content management system) should allow you to easily customize these. If this is all Greek to you, talk to your web developer or take a look at this Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.

3. Get on Google.

Have you noticed how some businesses show up at the top of Google with their map, address and business info when you search them? Your business needs to be there, too. If you haven’t already signed up for Google My Business, you should now. Seriously, stop reading and do it now, right here. It’s free and it’s the easiest way for customers to find your business through Google.

 4. Create great content.

Creating relevant and useful content will likely influence your search ranking more than any other factor discussed here. It’s the essence of SEO. Consistently give people good content and good things will start to happen to your search ranking.

 5. Start a blog.

How does one continually provide good content? Well, a blog is a great place to start. Search engines love new content. More importantly, real-life human beings love new content. Fresh content keeps people coming back to your site – building trust, authority and links along the way.

6. Attract links.

Google will always show love to websites that are linked to by other sites. These are called backlinks (or inbound links). For example, if you publish a blog post on your site that is later linked to by another genuine site, you’ll score serious search ranking points. For a deeper dive on link building, check out the 10 golden rules here.

7. Keep the content coming.

Once you start a blog, you need to maintain it. Don’t be one of the 95% of blogs that are essentially abandoned. Our advice? Set a goal to write at least one new post each week. Create and keep a blogging schedule. Divvy up the workload and get different employees contributing. Whatever you do, just don’t let your blog start to collect dust.

8. Get social.

Sharing content on social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) can give your SEO efforts a big boost. So after you publish a blog post, share it on social media (through share buttons on your site). As your content gets read and spread, you’ll gain more traffic and visibility. In turn, this leads to more links from genuine websites and sources.

 9. Be mobile-friendly.

Seeing how mobile search has now overtaken desktop search, it’s more important than ever to have a responsive design (or a website that’s mobile-friendly). Plus, Google boosts the ranking of mobile-friendly pages on mobile search results. On the flipside, it penalizes sites that aren’t mobile-friendly.

10. Stay up to date.

SEO is constantly changing. While this can cause headaches, it’s ultimately to the benefit of us all. So try to stay up to date with SEO news and evolving best practices. A few sites we find especially awesome are The Google Blog, Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch and Moz.

So, are you ready to start optimizing away? Or would you rather forget everything you just read and leave SEO to the experts? Don’t hesitate to contact us for SEO help.