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What is SEO? I know it has something to do with search engines, but I'm not sure if I need to worry about it for my website… and if so, where to start!
SEO is the abbreviation for Search Engine Optimization. It's all the things you can do on your website to help it show up when people search for businesses or blogs like yours on Google, Bing, or Yahoo. (Yes, people still do searches from Yahoo!)
SEO includes simple things like your page titles, how often you use keywords, and using alt-tags on your images. It also includes some pretty complicated stuff like page load times, engagement metrics, and 302 errors.
So, do you need to worry about SEO? I wouldn't say that you need to worry about it, but it is something you should think about when building your site. If you've already built a website and didn't give any thought to SEO, then you may want to go back through your site and make a few updates based on these tips.
PS. I'm only going to be covering the basics of SEO here – for a complete guide, I highly recommend the MOZ Beginner's Guide to SEO (it's free.)
Tips for Beginning SEO
Spend a little time on research
Build a list of terms that you want your website to rank for. Ideally, these will be long-tail keywords, where they may not get as much traffic, but the collection generates quite a bit. Plus, long-term keywords are easier to rank for. It's going to be hard to bump Wikipedia or Bitcoin out of the top positions for the search term “bitcoin”, but with a bit of diligence, you may be able to rank for “how to invest in bitcoin.”
Optimize each page for unique keywords (or key phrases)
If you've done keyword research, then you should have a list of keywords that you can use on your website. Each page and post should be optimized for unique keywords or keyphrases. For example, I may want to optimize my entire site for “marketing for solopreneurs.” In order to do that, I'd be using that phrase on every page, as alt tags on all my images… and it would reduce the value of my site. And there are so many important concepts that go into “marketing for soloprenurs”, that there's a treasure trove of additional keywords that I can use.
Avoid keyword stuffing
When you first start learning about SEO and keywords, you may be tempted to just put your keyword as many places as you can. Once upon a time, this worked. (The practice was called keyword stuffing.) But search engines have gotten smarter. Now you want to create pages and posts for readers, not for search engines. That means using your keyword as often as makes sense, but not to the point where it becomes overwhelming for the readers. According to Yoast, the ideal keyword density is 0.5-2.5%.
Use keywords in your title
Another key way to help yourself rank is to use keywords in your titles, including page titles, blog titles, and those subheadings that appear throughout your page. It's great to use them when it's appropriate, without slipping into over-use. (Remember, save the stuffing for Thanksgiving, not your SEO strategy!)
Use keywords in your image alt-tags
You are putting alt-tags on your images, right? Well, make sure you throw your keyword in one of those alt-tags for an extra SEO boost.
Link to other relevant content
Both internal links (i.e., links to other pages on your site) and external links (links to other people's websites) are important for your SEO. Internal links help tell search engines which are the most important pages on your website, while external links show that other people's content is important. It's playing nice in the SEO world.
Remember, I said this was just a basics of what to do for SEO. There's a ton more that can go into it. Just like with virtually all components of marketing, people have built professions out of mastering this one skill. Don't get overwhelmed – you don't have to do #allthethings. Just a few basics will help you start to position yourself to get found in search results.