How to Get Started with SEO

May 13, 2013 Emily Bauer

Most people recognize that search engine optimization (SEO) is an important component of online marketing, but many startups and businesses fail to grasp the most basic principles of SEO. In rudimentary terms, SEO involves working to improve your website’s rank in the results returned by major search engines, such as Google, and can increase traffic to your site.

When a potential customer searches online for a specific product or service, SEO ensures that relevant websites are returned in the search results; and good SEO ensures your website is listed as one of the top options in the results. The Internet is saturated with sites competing for attention from search engines and users, so it takes a smart combination of several SEO methods, along with patience and time, to earn a higher page rank in search engine results.

Are There Any Shortcuts?

Although there aren’t any guaranteed ways to quickly earn a top spot in Google’s search results, there are some basic principles you can learn to increase your page ranking. But keep in mind that SEO is not a step-by-step program for success; rather, it is a long-term process aimed at increasing site traffic through on-page optimization and link building, among other techniques.

To make matters more complex, there are often disagreements between SEO experts over which methods are most effective and which ought to be avoided. Additionally, there is discussion among the online marketing community about whether SEO is truly a noble process for attaining a higher page ranking.

The Controversy

If you do any research into the basics of SEO, you will likely encounter arguments from people who support one of two main schools of thought: the first is the belief that SEO is a legitimate way to increase page rank through hard work and analytics; the second is the belief that SEO burdens and cheapens your page content. Depending on how you implement SEO for your website, either of these might be true. For instance, if you load up your content with an unnatural amount of obvious keywords, search engines might label your site as spam and punish your ranking accordingly.

While SEO practices can certainly seem convoluted to someone who does not understand them, the fact is that SEO is one of the best ways to help potential customers find your website. Search engines are constantly evolving and changing the way consumers discover new web pages and access information online. We are at a point where SEO is somewhat necessary to increase online exposure and compete for a higher placement in search engine results. Rather than perceive SEO as a set of tricks to help beat out other websites for attention, you should think of SEO as smart practices that help increase your website’s visibility.

When Does SEO Come In Useful?

If you aren’t yet convinced of the benefits of SEO, let’s look at some of the more common scenarios in which SEO is genuinely useful.

  • You want to increase online traffic & brand awareness to grow your business.
  • You want a long-term placement at the top of search engine results pages.
  • You want to become the go-to website any time your industry or speciality services are searched online.
  • You want results but aren’t interested in pay-per-click models.
  • Your website is not primarily driven by e-commerce; your site is more focused on industry knowledge and information about your brand or product.

Keep in mind that SEO is not the same thing as social media marketing or web design, but it can function in tandem with them to improve the effectiveness of both.

Simple SEO Tips for Beginners

So what are your options when it comes to applying SEO practices to your company website? Aside from outsourcing the entire process to an SEO specialist or agency, which many companies choose to do, there are several easy ways to get started on your own.

The most common SEO techniques are link building and on-page optimization, as these factors are completely under your control to change and influence. On-page optimization is connected to items that are embedded in the coding of your website and can boost your listing in search results without outside promotion or links. On-page optimization can be enacted through use of meta tags, keyword density and keyword placement within the HTML code of your site.

Here are some other simple tips:

  • Master the art of keywords. You don’t need to bog down your content with repetitive phrases, but including keywords in different aspects of your site, from image names and URLs to page headers and title tags, can improve your search ranking.
  • Avoid “keyword stuffing”, which involves cramming your content with excessive keywords. Otherwise, search engines will label your site as spam and decrease your rank.
  • Track your progress so you can tell what is working and what isn’t. There are various tools to help you monitor your page rank, including Alexa.
  • Practice link building, both to other sites and back to yourself. Internal links can increase traffic, but should be kept relevant. For instance, you can build links by linking back to your homepage or sitemap.
  • Employ social media for SEO purposes. Distribute links to your new content across each of your social media platforms to optimize visibility.
  • Focus on details. Even if you aren’t interested in improving on-page optimization through HTML code, use details such as your image descriptions and captions to improve relevancy of search items.
  • Check out this awesome list of free SEO tools.

Remember that SEO is not a quick fix; it is a process that involves an ongoing commitment and requires some extra effort during the initial learning curve. SEO can greatly benefit your company as it helps search engines better understand your website’s purpose and its relevancy to users searching by keyword, thus bringing you more relevant traffic and generating more leads.

About the Author

Emily is a freelance writer based in Toronto, Ontario who covers a range of topics from technology to travel. She holds a Bachelor in English Literature and Business from the University of Waterloo. No matter how many projects she is working on, Emily always finds time for baking, reading, and yoga.

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