SEO. It’s a term that makes most first-time website owners cringe, but it really isn’t that scary and doesn’t take degree in advanced rocket science to understand it, we promise!
Let’s start out with a few quick facts. SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization” and essentially its main purpose is to help people on the web looking for you, find you. SEO is a way to make your site more visible to search engines and more likely to pop up when someone searches for something related to your site. This, in turn, generates more traffic to your site so you can make more sales and gain more customers. So, to help you get started we’ve come up with the Top 10 Beginner SEO tips so increase your traffic quickly and easily, no PhD required!
While we already touched on what SEO is for, there’s a few more key details on how it works that are crucial for a successful SEO strategy. SEO begins when someone searches for something, anything. For example, let’s say you sell Ping Pong Tables and you want to increase your website’s traffic and ultimately sales. When someone does a search for “Ping Pong Tables” you want your site to be the first one that pops up on Google, but how does Google decide whose site comes first? It can be a bit complicated, but in a nutshell Google looks for two things in order to rank your page, A) your pages relevancy to the search term and B) your website’s authority. While A) is pretty explanatory (you’re not going to pop up first if someone searches “bicycles” and you’re a Ping Pong store!), B) has a bit more to it. Authority is measured by how relevant your site’s information is, your content’s quality and how often your site (or page) is shared. The more it pops up around the internet, the higher authority Google thinks you have on the topic, and thus sees it as an extremely relevant result for said search term. So keeping with our Ping Pong Table example, if you write a kick-ass post on the difference between the top two selling Ping Pong Tables and it gets shared all over the internet, your page will rank higher on Google and will be seen by more ping-pong enthusiasts. And more Ping Pong enthusiasts to your site = more traffic and more sales.
The easiest and simplest way to start utilizing SEO on your website is to download one of the awesome plug-ins available on WordPress. Our favourite (and the most comprehensive choice) is WordPress SEO by Yoast. Yoast helps you by installing a plug-in below each post you are writing that analyzes and tells you what you’ve done right and what you’ve done wrong when it comes to Search Engine Optimization. It guides you through adding keywords (with suggestions), writing a good Meta Description so people know what your post is about and how many times your keyword appears in your post. It combines all these together (and more) and gives you a Red, Yellow, or Green light (we’re obviously shooting for green as in “good to go!”). This is the simplest way to increase your traffic quickly and easily but there are 9 more things you need to know about in order to make your page rank higher, every time.
Keywords are probably the most important part of SEO. As we know, people search in single word terms or short sentences to find what they are looking for and we want our keywords to match these searches. For example, if someone is to search for “Ping Pong Tables” again, you will want the words “Ping”, “Pong” and “Table” to appear in your keywords and other areas of your site like Headers, Titles, URL’s and Image names. The more it appears, the more likely the search engine will be to match your site to the search.
If you want to go into even more depth with keywords, it’s a good idea to do some Keyword Research before deciding on which ones to use. Keyword Research includes using sites such as Google’s Keyword Tool to see which words are popular and are driving more traffic, then you use those words to get that traffic to come to your site.
NOTE: Be sure not to use your keywords too much. There is such a thing as “too much of a good thing” and it can result in what search engines see as “keyword stuffing” which comes across as spammy and Google hates spammers.
Now, don’t think that more keywords automatically equals better SEO. Google has bots that “crawl” your site and read every post to determine if it is quality content that actually relates to the keywords, or junky quantity content that’s only created to trick these bots into sending you more traffic. The thing is, people don’t like posts written to impress robots, it’s boring, wordy and often times strange. Write your post so people will enjoy reading it. Make it easy to read, make sure you have the keywords scattered throughout and give your readers what they want, then optimize your SEO around that great content. Remember, you’re writing for people, not for robots!
Linking with other relevant and reputable sites is a great way to increase your traffic. One way to do this is to create content others will want to share, this way your link gets to more people and builds authority. Another way to get your links out there is to create solid relationships with other “Ping Pong Table” sites that will reference your content or refer traffic to your site. You can do this by either personally reaching out to them or maybe communicating with them through social media and building a bond. Yet another option is to link back to your previous posts, that way not only will people read more and stay on your site longer, it will add to the list of trusted sites that link to your site, and that equals the more authority.
Optimizing images is something a lot of people forget about but it is equally as important as all the other things on this list. One thing about the bots that “crawl” your site to see what it’s about is they can’t “see” images. So if you have a whole post with an amazing infographic that took you weeks to make, google won’t know about it unless you optimize the image. The same thing happens with videos and flash. Optimizing the image is as easy as adding ALT tags as well as detailed descriptions so the bots know what they are “looking” at. Every time you upload an image, there is a spot to add “Alternative Text”, “Long Description” and a photo “Caption”. Using your keyword in each of these sites will ensure bots understand what your photos are about and will use those to direct traffic to your site as well.
7. Create a Sitemap
A sitemap is exactly what it sounds like, a map of your site. It creates a list of all the major pages on your website and makes it easier for search engines to find each page and figure out just what it’s all about. There are two types of sitemaps, HTML and XML. XML is made specifically for search engines while HTML is made for people. There are lots of plug-ins available to make sitemaps for you like XML Sitemap Creator and Better WordPress Google XLM Sitemaps. But wait, you’re not quite done! Once you create a sitemap you have to submit it to Google Webmaster Central and Bing so these engines have a copy of it and can read it.
Webmaster tools are essential on both Google and Bing because it tells those search engines that you are there. In order to gain access to them, you have to create an account and link it to your webpage. A couple ways that Webmaster Tools will help you are that they can evaluate your internal links, see all the backlinks to your site, tell you if there’s a problem with your site, tell you which keywords are driving traffic and also tell you if search engines are “crawling” your site effectively. It’s worth signing up with both sites to ensure your site is visible and error free.
Probably the easiest way to get your links out to the world and gain more traffic is through social media. Sharing your latests posts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like will increase the places your link appears, leading to more clicks and more traffic. Google will also take this into consideration when ranking your authority, so get those links out there and get them shared!
Most of the time when people think of search engines, the first and only thing that comes to mind is Google, but the truth is a lot of people are using Bing as well! So when you’re setting up your site and optimizing everything, don’t forget to do everything you did on Google, again on Bing. This will double your reach and open your site up to a lot more traffic than if you were to just optimize for Google.
Overall, if there’s one thing to remember it’s to match your content with what people are searching for so they can find you! That’s what SEO is all about, after all. Don’t be afraid of it, start with the basics and work your way into more advanced techniques to fine tune your visibility. There’s lots of great blog articles out there in much more detail like Quicksprout’s Get Found with SEO and Moz’s Beginners Guide to SEO for you to continue your optimization.