Where to Start with SEO Basics?
Just a quick disclaimer as we get started. This is just the SEO Basics, therefore, this guide and its writer, are assuming that you are looking to SEO your own website, and not planning on starting an SEO agency. Nothing against that of course, however, I recommend that you look into a more structured SEO Basics course, should that be the case, as this won’t really give you what you need. So with that in mind, please understand that this guide is just covering the SEO basics for the website owners, and isn’t a comprehensive SEO Basics blog.
What is Organic Search?
Organic Search, why do they do it?
I always find the best place to start with SEO Basics, is an understanding of fundamentally why search engines are here. And what their aim is with search overall. So here goes, are you ready?
It’s pretty much summed up in one word ‘Money’. Search Engines offer organic search so that they can ultimately charge money for ads. There, I said it… out loud.
Think of it like this; when anyone goes into the front page of a search engine and sees that white bar, they are looking for some sort of answer. So the words (keywords) they put into that white bar are questions. That could be a question about “Pug Dogs” or “How to write a blog” or even “How to make a cake”. It doesn’t matter what it is, it’s a question and it’s the search engine’s job is to come up with the best resources it can find, so it can answer that question.
Ultimately, it then becomes your job as a webmaster, to make your website the best resource on the web, so that the search engines will pick your website and put it to the top, as the best answer to that question. This, of course, is a free service provided by search engines to both webmasters and searchers alike.
The better the organic search, the more people use it. The more searchers, the more advertising space they can sell. Or, put another way, the more popular that keyword, the more ads you will see under it. Therefore, search engines will go out of their way to provide the best organic search results service they can. That way, if you get a great service using the organic searches you will keep coming back. However, next time you might click on the ads, as after all, they are the same, just someones paid to get there.
Right then, so how do we become the best answer?
As this is the SEO Basics, I will start with this; There are 3 fundamentals in getting your site to the top of search engines. 1. On-site SEO, 2. Link-Building and 3. a Content Strategy. All 3 work off each other. People won’t link to you if you don’t have good content, you won’t get ranked if your site is messed up technically, and search engines won’t rank you without good-quality links.
However before you rush off and start doing SEO Basics Tech audits and hiring a blogger, you should start the most important part of them all, the one bit that binds them all together… you have to know what you want your website to actually rank for. Therefore the first thing you should be doing is keyword research.
I have a guide on how to perform comprehensive keyword research here, so read that when you get a chance. Once the KW research is complete, it’s time to get the Tech side of the site ready.
Technical Audits For SEO Basics
For the Technical Audits, you will need some sort of SEO Basics tool. There are 1000’s out there to choose from. The big ones like Moz, Ahrefs, and SEMrush all offer free trials. They all include loads of other tools too like KW research tools, backlink tools, and even a content gap tools thingy. However, once the free trial is over… they can get costly, so you will need to decide if a subscription would be worth it. But, as I said there are plenty out there, just go through and check out the pricing.
Run your website through the auditing tool and they should tell you what is wrong on the site. Which can range from anything minor, like Alt tags on pictures, to some major problems such as website speed or your site not being able to be indexed. You need to go through them and fix the issues one by one. Should you come across something you don’t know how to fix. I find the best way is to… cough cough… Google it, and some smart fellow will have made a great tutorial video on how to sort it.
Of course, this will depend on what platform you are on. If you are on WordPress then you are gonna be fine, but if it is a custom-built obscure CMS, then that could be more difficult. It’s one of the reasons we build our sites on WordPress. They are just so easy to fix when they have issues. Anyway, I digress.
Go through the issues one by one, starting with the major issues and working your way through. Depending on the size of the site, and the problems that you have encountered, this could take just hours or a few/loads of days.
Building a Content Strategy
There are two aims that you need to address with content as a whole. Getting that page ranked for the KW you want and attracting quality relevant backlinks.
I could sit here and type out all about the content marketing funnel (it’s marketing 101 at University) and tell you about where to place top, middle, and bottom content. But my motto these days is K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) so I shall refrain. Use your KW research and look at priority KW’s, Secondary KWs, and other important keywords. Create content with these sets in mind, using high priority for your main static pages (Like home page, about us, and so on). Other secondary/other longer tail keywords you can look to use in your blogging.
Long-tail KWs tend to work best for blogging overall and you can research questions with the keywords that people are asking. Then go about trying to fully answer them in your blogs.
Plan out what you are going to be writing. I like to plan for the next quarter, for my own blogs. That way if anything changes in the industry I can blog about it quickly, without disrupting my strategy too much. Remember though, your web content isn’t just what is on the website. You really need to be looking at the content of all forms, video and social media are just two areas you need to push content out to. I find the best way is to share the blog at the start of the month. Then break the blog into 20 small pieces and use those ‘chunks’ for my Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn too.
Each will have a pic for each day, also a link back to the original blog on the website. Then get folks you know to share your content on social media. Social signals have a big impact on google and your rankings, don’t ignore it. Share your full blogs a total of 7 times throughout the month. As for the video… I have a face for radio and a voice for blogging, so I let others do that.
Backlinking For SEO Basics
What are backlinks?
Think of it as your peers recommending you. The people in your industry saying “take a look at this article, it’s good”. The search engines then see this “Link” and follow it back to your website. You, then get given “Kudos” or Rank Juice by the search engine for that recommendation. The better that person’s website is and the more relevant he is to your industry, the more “Kudos” you get.
Research Your Competition! This is an important step in the backlinking process that people try and skip over. You need to know what it takes to rank on the first page of your most important keywords. You need to know what others are doing to get there and maintain their position. So that you can look at doing not just the same, but better.
This is why as part of SEO Basics, you need to first get the house in order. Nobody wants to recommend you if your site isn’t good, or if your content isn’t good. And nobody wants you to recommend them for the same reasons. Ultimately, it means you will never rank.
In the old days of SEO (showing my age), this was the easy part. You would just get any old link from any old website, directories, or web list and you would rank. Now, I am happy to say, it isn’t like that. The best form of link is a natural one. You write great content, they find it and build a link to your website.
But, as a lot of people have pointed out… how do you get links if you have only just started, vis-a-vie you are not ranking? Well, this is where a little thing we SEO’s like to call ‘Outreach’! And I feel this is where SEO folks really make their money. A good SEO will have built up a great series of relationships with bloggers, journalists, and other webmasters in the industries that they specialize in. When a link is required, it’s about knowing where to place it. Where you can get a niche edit in.
You just have to do the same. No quick fix, if you try and do it quickly by buying links… they will know. It won’t go well and you will get found out at the next algorithm update. Do not buy links from link farms offering 300+ links for a tenner (£10 to you non-English folks).
For Local SEO, you should still build a foundation of good quality directory links. And as your website builds and gets better, you will attract natural links. Make the content shine and people will link to it.
So to sum all this up… Time. SEO takes time. There are lots of details I have missed out here (on purpose) and could have gone on even longer, especially about links. But, if I have learned one thing whilst doing SEO these past 10yrs, is don’t try and rush it. It’s a minimum of a six-month commitment that you need to do, to make it work. Build it solidly. If your SEO Basics are built on a wet sand foundation, come the next Search Engine Update, it may come tumbling down.
Would I say go out and hire an SEO person to do the SEO Basics for you? Of course, I would, it’s how I earn money. But, it’s up to you. If you think it’s cheaper to get an expert to do it, compared to how much your time is worth doing this, go for it.