As you design your website and create a content marketing plan, your mind is probably racing with ideas of how to build your online presence.
How do you know where to start?
You may start thinking about how important it is to be active on social media. Then you start thinking about creating consistent content for your blog through writing, vlogging, and podcasting, not to mention writing email newsletters for your mailing list.
No matter how long you’ve been in business, streamlining your strategy for creating content your audience loves can feel pretty daunting.
But an SEO strategy? It seems to have one of the highest learning curves of all.
The intimidation factor of SEO is real, but it doesn’t have to be.
We created this Tradecraft issue to break down the most important aspects of SEO optimization so you can easily implement it into your digital marketing and website strategy.
We’ll cover everything from what SEO terms you need to know, to how your website functions in SEO, to finding the best tools to help you measure your SEO efforts. But before we dig into the specifics, let’s talk about why SEO even matters.
What is SEO?
SEO is the practice of optimizing your content for search engines. You do this by incorporating on-page SEO, which refers to tweaks you make to your own website to help your ranking, and off-page SEO, which is affected by outside sources.
The holy grail of good SEO is to get a coveted spot on the first page of Google for a keyword that’s relevant to your industry. Over 75% of users click a link on the first page of Google, so it is your goal to be seen there.
There are hundreds of factors that go into how search engines rank your website, but don’t let that overwhelm you. Instead, we’ll focus on the best ways to get started with SEO as a professional blogger and online entrepreneur.
Why an SEO strategy important
If you’re not on the first page, you might not be found. Think about it- how many times do you jump through the next three to four pages when you’re searching for something?
When you build your website and write content with SEO best practices in mind, you are increasing your brand’s long-term potential to be seen on that first page. Sure, you could advertise on Google for specific keywords and show up at the top, but that’s a more short-term marketing tactic.
With healthy SEO, you can get more website traffic by popping up on the same search engine results page. It takes time and strategy, but it is possible.
Your content will not only be seen by more eyes but also by the right eyes. With over two million blog posts published every day (yes, you read that right), it’s more important than ever to optimize your content for users who will be most likely to take an interest in what you’re teaching and convert.
How do I get started with an SEO strategy?
There are so many factors that all add up to affect your SEO ranking. But in this issue we’ll help you cover some of the more basic and essential factors to get you climbing that search ladder.
The best way to get started with optimizing your content for search engines is by writing content for humans first. If you create a high-quality blog post that fully answers a common question, it tells search engines that your website is a trusted source.
Search engines exist to pair users with the best, most educational content that’s available on the internet. They are built to serve the user, meaning what’s important to the user is a priority to the search engine.
If you only write content with search engines in mind, your brand voice will often come off as robotic. That’s why you want to write with a people-first mentality rather than focusing on what bots will like.
Think about a time when you searched for a tutorial and found an article that was hard to read and formatted poorly. What did you do? You immediately hit the exit button, and you probably weren’t the only one.
Search engines would see the high bounce rate (or the percentage of people who click out of a website after viewing only one page) and interpret the content as low quality, which would negatively impact the tutorial creator’s ranking.
Since the tutorial creator didn’t create an easily digestible piece of content for his intended audience, he or she would end up doing more harm than good. This is just one example, but it illustrates the importance of writing for humans first.
If you click a link while searching Google and the site you’re directed to takes too long to load, what do you do? You probably close that window and move on to another site. Well, that’s what most other people are going to do as well.
The speed at which your website pops up in a window has a major impact on how it will rank in search. But don’t worry– there are many ways you can improve your site speed and make your web pages load fast. These tasks include:
- Optimizing your images
- Using a mobile optimized theme
- Fixing broken links and site errors
- Leveraging browser caching
- Adding expire headers
You can read more on how to implement those tasks in How to Make Web Pages Load Faster in 5 Steps.
Link building is one of the most important strategies you’ll need to understand for SEO. In fact, Google actually said that backlinks are one of their three top ranking signals.
So what is link building? This is the practice of building your domain authority and popularity through other sites and pages linking to your content.
Search engines love to see that your page or website is being linked to from other sites with good authority. They follow a “trusted sites link to other trusted sites” motto, so by the rule of association, more good links to your site means you must be a good site too.
This SEO strategy is very involved. So when you hit this stage, be ready for a ton of research to find those sites with good domain authority and extensive email outreach. You can read more on this topic later on in this issue.
Bad SEO practices
Not all SEO practices you see are good to follow. Remember those search engines? They are constantly scrolling through websites performing spam analyses to find these bad SEO practices, also known as black hat SEO, to make sure only the best sites and pages are ranking the highest.
You might not recognize these spammy practices at first, but once you know what you’re looking for, they’re easy to spot. And if you’re really trying to create good content, you’ll most likely never accidentally put them into practice.
There are many different kinds of bad SEO tactics, but here are some that you might often find.
This is the practice of putting as many keywords as possible at the top of the page. While you might think the more keywords the better, it actually creates content that is completely unreadable.
And since one major aspect of good SEO is readable content, this is a big no-no.
Search engine algorithms are quick to find this keyword spam.
Like we discussed earlier, link building is one of the key factors search engines use to determine quality content. And while it is a big part of their algorithm, it’s also one that is difficult to be monitored because of all the different ways linking can be abused.
Some of this manipulative link practices are:
- Paid links– This is when people buy links from from other sites to boost their ranking. This obviously feels like a scam (kind of like when people buy email lists).
- Low quality directory links– These are “pay-for-placement” web directories.
- Reciprocal link exchange- This happens when sites create link pages that point back and forth from one another to increase their link popularity.
- Link schemes– This happens when low-quality websites are built as link sources for a main webpage. These are also known as “link farms” and “link networks”.
This one is exactly what it sounds like. Duplicate copy happens when a website uses the exact same copy- or copy that is very similar- across multiple domains. Search engines prefer original copy, so stay away from the copy-and-paste mentality.
This is similar to keyword stuffing, only one step trickier. This practice happens when a content creator puts a list of keywords at the top of the page through “white texting” (ie- white text on white background).
So while a reader won’t see that list of words, search engine will still be signaled to their existence.
Taking a risk and implementing any of these black hat SEO practices is just not worth it. Make sure you’re not caught and stay on the good side of search engines.
How to implement SEO strategies
That’s what the rest of this Tradecraft issue is dedicated to. Start your journey to a better SEO strategy today.