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SEO Tips for Total Beginners

Actionable SEO tips to improve your visibility in organic search and rank higher in Google.

Search Engine Optimization has a bit of a reputation. If you need special “tricks” to get your site to climb to the top of Google’s search results page, doesn’t that mean you’re cheating the system?

Not at all.

Think of SEO as signage. Without it, people get lost. In this case, Google needs these “signs” to help internet users locate the websites most relevant to their search queries. When you’re typing into Google, “how do I use SEO?,” articles that answer your exact question are what you’re hoping to find.

For the beginner, SEO can seem complex and convoluted. And while it’s true that techniques are ever-changing, here are some basic tips to drive more traffic to your site, even for the SEO novice.

Research & Use Relevant Keywords

People tend to search for the same things in the same ways, like “how to clean your oven” or “best pediatricians near me.” Google uses clues from a website’s page copy and HTML “code” language to show answers to these queries. Assuming Google’s working as it should, the search engine would typically respond with something like a step-by-step cleaning tutorial or a list of local doctors and their contact information.

There are a number of methods to find these common keyword phrases. You could have experts like our SEO specialists at RLC Media help you, or you can use free internet tools like Google Keyword Planner. Every search prompt is assigned a value, so you can determine if the keyword is worth space on your site.

It’s even simple to access. With your Google account, simply log in and select “Enter words, phrases or a URL related to your business.” If you’re in the plumbing industry, type something in — say, “plumbing” — and you’ll find over 700 keywords from “toilet repair” to “water heater installation.”

Make these the core of your website, landing page or blog, and you’ll be more likely to attract people searching for this very topic in Google.

Optimize H1 Page Titles

Once you have your keyword list, you’ll want to do some behind-the-scenes work. Since this is the HTML <title> element and not what’s shown on the page, you’ll have to edit in your website control panel (CMS) or in your SEO plugin.

In HTML, H1 stands for Heading One, the largest heading on a page. When you limit yourself to just one page title per page, search engines will treat it as the powerful page element that it is.

Based on SEO software company Moz’s survey on search engine ranking factors in 2018, page titles are one of the most significant factors for getting found by a search engine.

What should you write? Keywords, of course. But in the most natural way possible. You have to remember that page titles surface in search results in order to accurately represent what the page is about. It’s all about enticing a person to click when it’s relevant to their need.

Follow a simple pattern to write page titles: First the what, then the where, finally the who. For example, you might write “Plumber in McHenry – Best Plumbing Service” for a home page. Keep it simple and clear without over-optimizing with too many keywords, which can confuse search engines as to what’s most important.

Write Optimized Page Content

Once page titles are written for search engines, weaving keywords into your copy is the next step. As a rule, if you’re writing in-depth content that will be valuable to users, you’re probably incorporating keywords naturally as you write without even knowing it.

However, there are more than just paragraphs on a page. Different elements should contain keywords and tags that indicate their importance:

  • Header Tags – A main H1 title and subheadings as H2, H3, etc.
  • Body Content – Text on the page
  • Images – Photos used to support your body copy

Try not to worry about the frequency of using your keyword. If you’ve found a primary keyword phrase, run your page copy through Yoast Real-Time Content Analysis or through their site plug-in to determine if it’s been integrated too little or too much.

Google also doesn’t read images, so it’s important to follow simple optimization rules. Label them with the name of the image, the image alt text and the image description. Sitting the image close to supportive and relevant text can also help search engines make the connection.

Get Relevant Links

SEO’s “dirty” reputation often comes from sleazy backlink SEO companies who pay to link to your site on their networks of cheaply written articles. But really, a backlink is just an incoming hyperlink from one web page to another website.

How do you acquire organic backlinks to stay on Google’s good side?

Don’t pay for them. Encourage customer reviews, write guest posts that link back to your site, or work with influencers. By and large, Google determines rank and site authority through backlinks, which means that building your backlink reputation with quality content and networking will help you rank in the long term.

Create Sitemaps

Search engine crawlers are the programs that search the web to find information the user wants. You can create a sitemap to make this process easier. A sitemap is a simple list of pages written in XML, a metalanguage that these robotic searchers use to communicate.

Fortunately, you don’t need to take a course in XML. Just copy Google’s example or try these free tools to develop one.

Just because you’ve created a sitemap also doesn’t mean that Google knows about it. While some tools take care of this step, it’s best to take a manual approach. The Google Search Console Sitemaps tool offers a step-by-step process to help your site get found.

With SEO, it’s easy to start writing for robots. They’re the ones that matter anyway, right? But above all, writing content that’s valuable to humans—while incorporating the techniques that point crawlers in the right direction—will make your site a place where both prefer to land.

If you want to continue the SEO conversation or need expert help getting your website found by the people who matter, reach out to our SEO specialists at RLC Media.