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SEO 101: The Beginner's Guide

Updated: Mar 7

Have you ever wondered how some of your competitors have websites that rank at the top of Google search results? Well, chances are it's due to search engine optimization, commonly known as SEO.

SEO may sound technical and confusing, but it's actually essential for driving relevant traffic to your website when people search for products or services you offer. With the right SEO strategy, you can build web visibility, reach more potential customers, and significantly grow your small business!

This beginner's guide will explain the key SEO concepts you need to understand in simple, actionable terms. We'll also look at some best practices you can implement right away to improve your website's search performance. So, let's delve into the alphabet soup of SEO terms, demystifying jargon and empowering you to navigate the digital waters with confidence.

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SEO 101: Beginners Guide

What is Search Engine Optimization and Why Does it Matter?

SEO is the process of optimizing a website to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) for relevant keyword searches. The higher your pages rank for keywords people are searching for, the more visibility your content will receive in results.

For example, if your bakery website ranks number one for "bakery Rochester Hills," you'll get tons more clicks and visitors than ranking on page 3 or below. Top search rankings equal more traffic and leads!

Here are some powerful SEO statistics:

  • Websites on page 1 of Google receive 32.5% of organic clicks.

  • Page 2 gets less than half that at 17.6%.

  • SEO can generate 5-10x more web traffic than paid search ads.

  • Higher organic search rankings can increase revenue by an average of 37%.

SEO is extremely valuable for gaining qualified website visitors who are actively looking for your products or services. Implementing some key SEO strategies can significantly boost your small business!

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An SEO Checklist for Small Business

Optimizing your website for search engines may sound daunting. But getting started only takes incorporating some best practices on your site. Here is a handy SEO checklist for beginners:

Choose a set of primary keywords - These should be one to three word phrases that describe your core products, services, or topics. Researching keyword search volume and competition is key.

Optimize page titles - Titles appear as the clickable headline in searches. Include your primary keywords but keep under 60 characters.

Write meta descriptions - These 150-160 character summaries appear under titles. Compelling descriptions entice clicks.

Add alt text to images - Describe images with relevant keywords for better SEO and accessibility.

Use keyword-optimized headers - Break up content with H2 and H3 headers incorporating keywords.

Create content around keywords - Optimize your website pages and blogs to focus on primary and secondary keywords.

Get backlinks from other sites - Earn high-value backlinks to help search ranking. But focus on quality over quantity!

Leverage tools - Use free tools like Google Search Console, Google Analytics, and Google Keyword Planner.

Check mobile optimization - Ensure your site is mobile-friendly and fast loading on all devices.

Following even these basic steps will kickstart your SEO success and get your site on the radar for your ideal customers! Now let's unpack some key terminology to truly understand how SEO works.

Here is a list of common SEO terms and their definitions:

  • Keyword - A word or phrase that users enter into search engines to find relevant content. Keywords are used to optimize website content for better search engine ranking.

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - The process of improving a website to increase its visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) for relevant keywords and phrases.

  • Organic search - The non-paid search results on a search engine results page. Websites appear here based on their relevance to the search query and their SEO efforts.

  • Backlink - An incoming link from one website to another. Backlinks are crucial for SEO as search engines view them as a vote of confidence, indicating the linked content's quality.

  • Anchor text - The visible, clickable text of a hyperlink. It's important for SEO as it gives search engines context about the linked page's content. Alt text - A written description of an image that can't be seen on a webpage. Alt text helps search engines understand image content.

  • Title tag - HTML element that specifies the title of a web page. Title tags are displayed in SERPs so should contain key keywords.

  • Meta description - A concise summary of a webpage's content displayed in search results. It plays a role in attracting users to click through to the website.

  • Crawling - The process of search engine bots indexing webpages by following links and analyzing page content.

  • On-page SEO - Optimization techniques applied directly on a web page, including page title, meta description, headings, content, image alt text, etc.

  • Off-page SEO - Activities performed outside of the website to improve its search engine ranking. This includes link-building, social media promotion, and influencer outreach.

  • Ranking - The position a website holds in search results for a keyword relative to other sites. Higher positions mean more visibility.

  • Indexing - The process of search engines scanning, crawling, and storing web pages to be retrievable for searches.

  • Crawl Rate - How quickly search engine bots access web pages to refresh search indexes. Higher is better.

  • Authority - A ranking signal based on the credibility and trustworthiness of a website, earned through high-quality content and backlinks.

  • Link Building - An off-page SEO tactic focused on generating backlinks from other sites to earn credibility and ranking boosts.

  • Local SEO - Optimizing websites to rank higher in local searches for nearby products/services. Involves local keywords, address info, and reviews.

  • Crawl budget - The amount of pages search engines can crawl for a site during a period of time.

  • TF-IDF - Term Frequency-Inverse Document Frequency, a metric for determining key words in a document.

  • Click-Through-Rate (CTR) - The percentage of searchers who click on a specific link after a query.

  • Heading tags - HTML tags like <H1> through <H6> to emphasize headings and increase on-page SEO. Keyword-optimized headings help search bots understand topic relevance.

  • Alt text - A description added to images in HTML code. Alt text is used by search engines to understand the content of an image and improve accessibility.

  • SERP (Search Engine Results Page): The page that displays the results of a search query. It includes a list of websites ranked by their relevance to the query.

  • Algorithm: A complex set of rules used by search engines to determine the relevance and ranking of web pages in search results.

  • Long-Tail Keywords: Longer and more specific keyword phrases that users are more likely to search for. They often have lower search volume but higher conversion rates.

  • Duplicate Content: Content that appears in more than one location on the internet. Search engines penalize duplicate content as it can affect user experience and search results.

  • Canonical URL: The preferred version of a webpage that search engines should index when there are multiple versions of the same content.

  • 301 Redirect: A permanent redirect from one URL to another. It's used when a webpage is moved or deleted to ensure users and search engines are directed to the correct page.

  • Schema Markup: Structured data added to HTML code to help search engines understand the content of a webpage. It can enhance search results with rich snippets.

  • SERP Features: Additional elements on a search engine results page beyond the traditional list of websites, such as featured snippets, knowledge panels, and local packs.

  • Sitemap: A file that lists all the pages of a website, helping search engine crawlers understand the site's structure and index its pages more efficiently.

  • E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness): The factors that search engines consider when determining the quality of a website.

  • Google Panda: An algorithm update that was designed to penalize websites with low-quality content.

  • Google Penguin: An algorithm update that was designed to penalize websites with manipulative or spammy backlinks.

  • Search Intent: The reason why a user is conducting a search. Is it to find information, to buy something, or to complete a task?

Now you have a grasp of the key lingo! Let's look at some tips to optimize these elements for better search performance.

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Actionable SEO Tips for Small Business Owners

Here are some simple, impactful SEO best practices you can implement right away:

Optimize Title Tags

  • Place your most important keywords closest to the beginning of the title.

  • Make sure titles are unique for each page. Don't just repeat your brand name.

  • Write compelling, clickable titles that create curiosity.

Write Keyword-Focused Content

  • Include your primary keywords naturally throughout your content at a 1-2% density.

  • Create long-form content over 1,000 words targeting specific keywords.

  • Format content with bullet points, numbered steps, and bold headings.

Add Alt Text to Images

  • Describe what's in the image and include relevant keywords in the alt text.

  • Keep alt text under 125 characters.

  • Use tools to auto generate alt text to save time.

Earn Backlinks

  • Build links from industry websites by contributing guest posts.

  • Focus on quality sites with high domain authority and traffic.

  • Request backlinks from vendors, partners, or influencers by providing great resources.

Optimize for Mobile

  • Use Google's Mobile-Friendly Test to check your site's mobile optimization.

  • Ensure fast page load speeds under 3 seconds.

  • Adjust text size, buttons, and navigation to be thumb-friendly.

Promote Your Content

  • Link internally between related content to develop topical clusters.

  • Promote new content on social media and email newsletters.

  • Update old content that ranks well by refreshing it for readers.

By consistently applying these SEO fundamentals, you'll notice your website pages start to gain traction and rankings for your target keywords.

And there you have it - a handy glossary of must-know SEO terminology! With an understanding of these key terms, you can take steps to optimize your website content to attract search engines and drive more organic traffic from top search engines like Google. Be sure to focus on building high-quality backlinks, optimizing your title tags and meta descriptions, using alt text for images, and staying on top of your site's crawl budget. By leveraging these best SEO practices, you'll boost findability for your brand's keywords and gain website visitors who are actively looking for your products or services. Your newfound grasp of SEO will empower you to make smart optimizations to take your small business website to the next level!

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Frequently Asked SEO Questions

You probably still have some questions about effectively implementing SEO for your website. Here are answers to some of the most common beginner SEO questions:

How long does it take to see SEO results?

It can take 2-3 months to begin seeing gradual SEO results. Consistency and patience are key - there are no instant rankings hacks.

Should I focus on local or national SEO?

Initially focus your SEO efforts locally if you provide in-person services to customers in your geographic region.

How often should I publish new content?

Aim to publish one new long-form blog or page of over 1,000 words optimized with keywords each week.

Should I pay for backlinks?

No, buying backlinks or ads to generate guaranteed links is seen as link manipulation and can get your site penalized by search engines. Focus on earning backlinks naturally.

How can I track my keyword rankings?

Tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Google Search Console allow you to check your current keyword rankings and monitor their progress.

SEO Success is Within Reach!

You made it to the end of SEO 101! You now have a solid grasp of what SEO is, key terminology, and actionable tips to implement on your small business website.

With this SEO knowledge, you're primed for getting your website pages found by interested searchers on Google and other search engines. Be consistent and diligent with on-page optimization and backlink-building to climb those search rankings!

Ready for more website traffic? Reach out for help optimizing your site. We'd love to help you turn SEO into customers!

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