Updated: June 2018
In working with small businesses over the last few years, I’ve found there’s a huge range in knowledge when it comes to online marketing.
This post will give you the 30,000 foot overview so you can be better informed when you next speak with an SEO specialist. Here’s a short video about SEO for blogging.
Let’s start with those basics.
What Exactly is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It helps search engines present your website to prospects. At its essence, it means using the words your prospects use so they can find you easily online.
As you know, people don’t wake up in the morning and go to your website. However, if they need a petsitter in Baltimore, they may type “petsitter in Baltimore” into Google. If you’ve used that phrase in your website you have a higher chance of coming up in search.
Why Does SEO Matter?
There are 11 billion searches a day on Google. There are 644 + million websites. You need an edge to help you get found by your prospects. SEO can give you that edge.
Let’s look at the petsitter in Baltimore example, a quick Google search shows 511,000 petsitting websites. If I’m looking for a petsitter in Baltimore, I’ll do a quick scan and probably check out the first two or three websites. I may even call all three.
What I’m not doing is clicking through page after page of petsitting sites and calling the ones on page 5 or 6.
So, yes, if you want to increase your customer base without having to work harder for it, SEO matters.
In this post, we’ll focus on meta data.
Take a deep breath, it plain English meta data is simply the way you tell Google (and your visitors) what your web page or blog post is about.
Google is smart but it can use your help in determining what your site or post is about.
Think of it as taking Google by the hand and leading it down a rose-strewn path to a beautiful garden at the end.
The garden is your website, the rose petals are clues as to what your site is about. It’s Google’s goal to serve up the beautiful garden to people who are searching for “beautiful garden” and you’re helping them find you.
Here’s How to Give it a Helping Hand:
If you’re using WordPress, there’s a plugin called “SEO by Yoast”. (There are others but this one is widely used and the one I’m most familiar using.)
1- You need to know the know the keyword term you want to use for this page or post. Just like people, every page and post are individuals and should have their own name. You can read up on keywords here.
2- Fill in the meta title with your title. For example, in this post called “SEO 101 for Beginners” , you’ll use that term in your meta title (called SEO title) in the Yoast program. Use your keyword term in this. You get roughly 6-7 words or 70-85 characters/spaces. Think of it as a headline so it needs to be interesting and benefit focused.
3- Fill in the meta description with a benefit focused description that also includes your keyword terms. Here you get between 156-165 characters–about two sentences.
Here’s an example from the Yoast plugin:
Then, you’ll use this term in your headline, weave it into your content and include it at the end of your page. If you upload a picture, you’ll want to name that picture the same term.
4–Alt Tags —Search engines are smart but they still can’t read images.
All they know is there is a picture there. They don’t know if it’s a dog or spaceship. Alt tags tell them what your picture is about. This means it can show up in Google image searches and give “points” to your web page.
So, how do you get an alt tag?
You know how when you take a picture your camera assigns it a number like 1234567.jpg? Guess what, no one is searching for 12345678.jpg. If your picture and (your page) is about audiovisual installations then rename it to something that matches your topic. Preferably, it’s a keyword term used on that page.
Each web page (and blog post) will have it’s own keyword term. If you think of your website like a book, instead of page numbers, each page has a relevant keyword term and there’s a specific structure you use to weave it into your copy. We call this on-page SEO.
Your on-page SEO efforts should include also headlines and copy that focuses on your visitor and answers their questions.
Your off-page SEO efforts include building relationships with other professionals in and around your industry and sharing one another’s content.
That is the briefest of SEO explanations from a long-time SEO web writer.
In the best case scenario, your website is planned with SEO in mind from the beginning and its part of your overall marketing strategy.
This post hits a few highlights of SEO 101 for beginners. If you want to know more about to incorporate SEO into your web writing, you can check out this post.