You’ve heard it from everyone – SEO is where it’s at. But what is this mysterious term everyone is talking about? Why is it so important for your website? When you first hear the term, you wonder: is this some secret society that only a few people are allowed into?
The good news is, there is no secret society. SEO is nothing to be afraid of and the fundamentals are easy to learn.
Let’s get you on your way to ranking higher in the search engines and bringing in those leads.
Enter The Beginner’s Guide to SEO.
What is SEO?
What exactly is this acronym that everyone’s raving about? Well, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and it’s a marketing strategy that focuses on growing visibility for your website in organic (non-paid/non-ad) search engine results. SEO also has a human side because not only is it about building a search engine friendly website, it’s about making your website people friendly.
SEO encompasses many things on your website: the words you use, images you include, and the way you link to other sites or even back to other content on your own site.
Why do you need it?
Web traffic comes to your site mostly through the major search engines, such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. If a client searches for “how to find a financial advisor” and your content is optimized for that search, it will show up in the search engine results. And just like that, you have traffic to your site and potential leads.
Although clients can still reach your site through social media, such as your Facebook page or Twitter account, search engines are the primary way for clients to reach your website.
Search engines are the information highways for clients to find your products, services and other related content. If they can’t find your site, traffic will be low, and in turn, no client leads.
The words your clients enter into search queries are extremely valuable, they are the words to use to optimize your site. Doing so will provide you with targeted traffic and exposure. Investing in SEO as part of your marketing strategy will provide an excellent return on investment.
Can you do it yourself?
Absolutely. Although there are some nuances, the basics are easy to understand and will provide the results you’re looking for. Even a small amount of knowledge will put you miles ahead.
If you have the time, willingness to learn, and a website that isn’t too complex, you should be able to master the basics quickly and handle SEO on your own. If you’re short on time or have a more complex site, there are experts that specialize in SEO that can handle things for you.
Regardless of whether you hire out or not, it’s a good idea to have a good understanding of the main concepts of SEO.
Quick guide to implementing
Are you ready to get into SEO? Let’s explore the fundamentals necessary to get your website optimized for search engines and improve your rankings.
Let’s think of the basics of SEO as a pyramid, like this one:
With any house or pyramid, you need to start with a good foundation to build upon. A good SEO foundation is content that is meaningful to your clients and readable by the bots that crawl your website. These bots read your website to determine what it’s about and what keywords you should rank for. You can influence these decisions by optimizing your content for certain keywords.
This is especially important if you’re creating content that bots can’t read such as videos, images or audio. You need to describe these so that the bot can understand what it is and rank your website accordingly.
Creating your Content
When creating your content, there are some important factors to consider. If we head back to our SEO pyramid, you’ll see that creating quality content has several things you need.
You need to pay attention to the following attributes when creating your content:
Titles – Create attention-grabbing titles that raise your reader’s interest. You only have one chance to make a great first impression. You also want to ensure that your keyword is in your title.
Images – You’ll rank much better if you include at least one image with your content. You need to describe it for the bots in the “Alt Text” field. This is where you include your keyword that you’ve chosen to rank for.
Links – Link to quality sites that compliment what your website is about. It’ll encourage sites in your niche to link to you as well.
Unique content – Try to publish unique and quality content. This prompts users to come to your site because they cannot easily find the content elsewhere. Don’t worry if what you’re writing about has already been done; simply find a way to put your own unique spin on it.
URL structure – This is the web address for your content. Just like houses have street addresses, your posts and website have addresses on the web. You want to ensure that these are short and include your keyword.
Keywords – Pick keywords that will help bring people to your site and are relevant to the content you’re creating. We’ll talk more about selecting keywords in the next section.
Sitemaps, server response codes and bot accessibility are a bit more advanced, and are attributes that build on the foundation of your SEO. A sitemap is, yes you guessed it, a map of your entire site. Bot accessibility refers to your site being optimized for bots to read or “crawl” your site. Lastly, server response codes. This sounds more heinous than it actually is – it’s the response that a user or bot would get if they reached a not found 404 page. They’re special codes (and pages) to let both your users and bots know where a page is linking.
A word of warning! When creating your content, it needs to be useful to your readers. Don’t simply create content so you can rank for search engines, this will harm your site instead of help it.
Keyword Planning and research
Now for the fun stuff! What keyword(s) do you select and how do you choose the right ones for your content?
Keyword research is one of the most important activities for your site and content. Ranking for the right keywords can make or break your site. You don’t want just any reader to your site; you want the right kind of visitor that’s targeted for your content.
When researching and selecting keywords, ask yourself a few questions:
Is this keyword relevant to my websites content? For example, as a financial advisor you wouldn’t want to use a keyword such as “automotive products” when “investing strategies” would be much more relevant and appealing to your readers.
You need to think like your client and ask, what would they be searching for on the web and how would they say it? Would they like what they found? Will this traffic result in a financial gain or meet your other business goals? If the answer is yes, you’re on the right track.
Searching for your chosen keyword in the major search engines will also give you an idea of whether you’ve chosen a great keyword. It will help you understand what your competition is up to, how competitive that keyword is, and how hard it will be to rank for it. More competition makes it harder to rank and get to the top of the search results. Google’s Keyword Planner is a great way to find out how competitive a keyword is. It’s a fantastic tool for basic research.
Now that you’ve chosen your keywords and have a strong foundation in place, we can move up the pyramid to Link Building.
If you’ve ever been to a networking event, you already have a basic understanding of link building. The more quality links you have, the higher your website will rank. Similar to networking, where you don’t want to connect with anyone and everyone, links operate the same way. When trustworthy sites are linking to you, search engines see that you have more authority on the topic and rank your website higher.
When building links:
- Place links within content.
- Use anchor text that you want to rank for.
- Create great content to attract links naturally.
- Place all of your links in anchor text; be sure to change it up.
- Buy links, this can get your site banned and is expensive.
- Have too many reciprocal links, this is a red flag for Google.
A few ways to increase your links:
Social media – not only is Twitter and Facebook a great idea, also consider sites like Reddit or Digg. These social sharing sites increase your visibility and chances of being linked to.
Directories – there are many blog directories on the web, take the time to submit to some of the ones in the financial industry.
Forums – do you contribute regularly to a finance column or forum? Most forums allow you to link back to your site in your signature; this is a great way to get additional traffic.
Implementing these strategies will put you on the road to higher rankings and more traffic. It does take time, so be patient.
It will also take some trial and error to understand what works best for your site. Take your time, and don’t take shortcuts. If you try to speed up the process by doing something shady, you’ll get caught and possibly banned.
Instead, take the time to figure out what your clients are looking for, create your site around what they want and optimize for search engines so your clients can find you.
The goal is to work hard, create the best website, and promote it. Eventually, the traffic will come your way.