We all start somewhere – building your first website is often that DIY project you embrace as an enthusiastic entrepreneur. We know web designers will cringe, but sometimes it’s survival. To get off to the best start possible, you should consider a few basics in SEO.
It’ll will save you time in the long run. Trust me. I’m the girl with a blog that has decades of poorly SEO’d stuff. I’m not an SEO expert; but I have a few simple tactics to get you pointed in the right direction without being overwhelmed. These are things I’ve learned over years of workshops, conferences, and trying to get a blog to rank.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.
The practice of SEO is supporting search engines in connecting your website with your ideal client and improving the experience on your website. SEO is an art of using keywords, web linking, and user experience to rank in search engines index.
SEO is so much more than this blog post. It goes into webdesign and development. But, we’re going to keep it simple with tangible things you can do as an everyday business owner that isn’t going to hire and expert.
5 Easy Ways to Optimize Search Engine
Know Your Keywords & Use Them
Give Images Proper File Names
Build Links Within & On The Web
Don't Forget About the Back End
Continue to Update Content & Create Value
Start to think like a search engine, and human searching the internet.
SEO embraces both what’s on the website, and how the user and the web interact with the website. If I search “Florists in Prince George,” I’m presented with websites that use that term – a mix of listicles and businesses.
The Search Engine was able to find those websites because the website uses the keyword that I was looking for and then ranked it based on importance. It pulled every single reference of Florists in Prince George and then presented me a list based on what would be most relevant to me.
Relevance is determined by several factors, including the time spent on the website (aka was this valuable enough for me to stay, or did I open the page say this isn’t right and then leave) and the websites authority (aka your websites popularity as it pertains to overall usage, backlinks, and other variables).
In order for you to get to the top of this search result you need to have authority and quality content that answers the question. (aka the best possible answer for the question)
Sounds scary. And it can be, especially if your keyword is dominated by big players with advertising spending.
Keywords are index terms. In the simplest terms, I think of Keywords as the word you search to find something.
Long Tail Key Words are longer variations “cut flower florists Prince George” versus short keywords “cut flowers.”
Long tail key words are often easier to rank, but less searched. That’s not a bad thing because you’re looking for the right person to find you.
I bring up long tail key words because for the longest time I thought I needed to have one short identifying word – but I don’t. I need one concise idea “social media management in Prince George” or “Content Strategist for Cloth Diaper Brands.”
Keywords for the internet can be more complex than just one word index answers found in the back of a book.
What does this have to do with anything?
It means when you write you copy for your website you want to use these keywords in an authentic way that helps a search engine connect customer with you. These keywords are important to use on your main page, your little web snippet, and titles for images.
Sometimes we’ll write a blog post about something but we’ll forget to identify what the blog post is. We’ll use generic identifiers. Keyword research reminds me to swap out generic identifiers for more rich terms that people are searching for.
Keywords can also inspire you about the TYPE OF CONTENT you should write about. “Sunflower Farm Near Me” is a trendy topic right now – write a blog post about growing sunflowers in Northern BC. You might not be the attraction that they are looking for, but you can help answer a question.
Start with a Brainstorm Dump
When I’m thinking about Keywords for my website or my blog, I sit down, and I think “the person looking for this answer would search for….”
The person looking for a local florist might search terms like “flower delivery in Prince George” “Local Flower Farm” “Florist Near Me” best florist in prince George” “flower farm near me” “sunflower farm near me” – you can just brainstorm everything.
Brainstorming is a great way to discover other keywords that might be applicable because “Florist Prince George” and “Flower Farm Prince George” serve up two different sets of keyword suggestions.
Verify your Research
Use a Keyword tool to verify or expand on your brainstorm session.
There’s lots of different resources for keyword research – both paid and unpaid.
Moz is very popular and will give you a Free Trial for their Keyword Search.
Keywordtool.io is easier to use because it won’t make you sign up.
Use these tools by typing in the keywords you brainstromed and developing an even richer list of terms people are searching. Most of these tools will require paid versions for the search volume of the term, but you can get by with just the basics for now – because $100 a month is rich for my pocketbook.
Don’t overthink it. Keep it simple.
Now that you have even more ideas than you know what to do with – choose the simplest and most intuitive key words for your business to identify with.
Let all the other ideas guide future content development.
Don't Forget Social Media
Keywords can also be used in social media content. We talk about SEO for the web, but don’t forget about using these words and phrases on your social media post because people are searching Instagram, Facebook and more for specific businesses and ideas.
Images & Graphics
The images and graphics that you upload to your website impact your search engine optimization in two main ways First, they can slow down your website, and that’s no good. People don’t like slow websites and will quickly exit for a website that loads. Here’s another blog post I reference about web photos from time to time. Second, images and graphics are searchable and indicate relevance of your website.
GT Metrix is one of my favourite tools for figuring out your page load speed and recommending image sizes to improve the situation.
Change the Size of the Image
Imaging sizing is a daunting topic that leaves many of us wanting to abandon websites. This is a blog post about images for websites that I typically reference.
Change the Image Title
Don’t upload JPG098 – Relabel the image to “Seasonal Peony Bouquet from Northern BC Farm”
This is a short-written description of an image. This copy will appear for people using web readers or if the photo is unable to load. Don’t fill this with keywords – instead it should be an accurate description of the photo
This blog post from Hubspot showcases amazing examples of good and bad Image Alt Text.
Infographics are Life
Looking to expand your reach and value add? Be sure to consider developing simple infographics to summarize the post, or be a quick and snappy download. These are great for Pinterest.
Notice how the words I hyperlinked in that last sentence described the post it was going to? A recent conference I attended suggested that the words we link help search engines recognize what’s on the other end and if that other end is valuable content.
Human’s build search engines: it makes sense that they might act more human than machine. Humans are looking for answers – they want the right answer quickly. They want to know what’s going and where they are going. They don’t want to be tricked into things.
With that said, we also recognize that things with many references are likely to be better. If many people talk about you, that establishes your important. The same applies to our websites and we want build backlinks and internal linking of our websites to ensure that the search engine says hey “this website is important to other websites, I bet this website might be important to a person too”
There are many ways to build backlinks – my favourite way is to write guest posts or find a way to be featured in round up content by having value add content. Remember to share your links on Facebook, your emails, and to link your articles and blog posts within each other like a beautiful spiderweb.
For more ideas, this article from She Means Blogging has backlinking tips. You really want quality backlinks. Just like in real life, where the referral came from is important. You don’t want dozens of links from sketchy websites
PS: If you earn money for a link… it’s NoFollow. If you pay someone to post your link, it’s NoFollow.
Update the Backend
There is the front end and then the back end. The backend of your webpage is full of important things for you to help search engines, and users find and know your website.
- Categories: these are the chapters of your websites, like a Chapter in a book. You don’t want too many categories, but you do need a few to identify themes on your website.
- Tags: this is the index of your website, and is important metadata that helps identify the content.
- Featured Image: this is most likely the image social media will pull, search engines will pull to put beside your content. Use the Facebook Debugger to scrape and rescrape web posts that may have outdated images.
- Excerpt: the little blurb on the search engine that describes your websites. This should be keyword rich description. Otherwise, search engines pull the first sentence.
- Length: Don’t just go writing for the sake of writing, but long form content is the most valuable content when it adds value and is well-done. More than ever, we’re beginning to see a preference to content people take time to consume – as indicated by the amount of time they spend on a website and where they go afterwards. It’s suggested that your posts should be a minimum of 300 words, and 1,000 + blog posts tend to rank more easily.
- Headings: this provides structure or an outline to your content. It’s also a great way to include some keyword rich questions, terms and phrases and expand your content. This blog post from Strategy Beam really outlines how to use headers in blog posts in simple language.
Update the Backend
When I was doing research for this blog post, I would search things and then look for the most recently published date. I ignored posts that had dates from pre 2020 because it’s 2021 now and so much has changed when it comes web, social, and algorithms.
The relevancy of your content and your page continues to be key. Take time to update your website every few months and create posts about things. Update content annually and change the publication date to reflect these changes. Publish short blog posts about updates you’re making, or repurpose a social media post into web-based content.
That said, newer isn’t always better and authority is built with time. Some websites age well and the best time to launch is yesterday, so do it today.
That’s everything I know about SEO for Beginners.
The list of things I would tell you if we sat down for a coffee because sometimes new business owners need help being pointed in the right direction – they don’t want the expert in SEO, they just wanted a trusted friend. Don’t forget that you can be and you are that trusted friend in your industry.
A few years ago, I sat down for coffee with a local blogger and web person, and that’s the information I retained to this day. If we sat down for coffee, I would tell you that the important SEO that you can do is to use keywords, change the titles of your photos, and fill in all the back-end information.
Link building comes with time and value add content – focus on creating and being recognized in other spaces as a go-to person. Continue to create relevant blog posts and FAQ pages that help your ideal client know they need you in their life.
There’s even more to SEO, and I’m sure by the time I finished writing this some of these facts are now out of date. But you have to start somewhere and you can’t keep chasing the latest algorithm updates. You can just try to authentically show up as yourself creating content that adds value into people’s lives and tells them what you do.