Essential Steps to SEO
SEO is a vital part of any business, especially those with any kind of online presence. The acronym, which stands for Search Engine Optimization, is ubiquitous. There have been thousands, if not millions, of articles and books published on the topic during the past decade alone. But how do you implement SEO techniques exactly? If you’re unfamiliar with this complex idea, we’ll help you get started in 7 essential but simple steps.
1. SEO Strategy
Before kick-off, you need to conduct both market research and competitor research. You will then use the data you’ve gathered from your research to craft an SEO strategy.
First, take a look at what’s trending in your market, both from the consumer’s perspective and in terms of what your competitors are currently offering. For example, if you sell locally-sourced coffee beans, you might want to look at who’s buying these products, such as coffee shops, groceries, or individuals who simply love coffee.
Think of how you can capture the attention of these audiences, who are potential customers, based on what’s trending in the market. If, say, flavored coffee is in demand at the moment, then you would want to emphasize that niche in your SEO strategy. For instance, make sure you’re featuring keywords, phrases, and topics pertaining to flavored coffee in your website and social media content.
Likewise, collect publicly available data regarding your competitors who are already offering flavored coffee. Observe how your competitors are taking advantage of these trends. Visit their websites and social media pages to see how they’re presenting their content. You might see that there are some elements in their content that are missing. This will be your opportunity to implement what your competitors aren’t doing or are missing out on. Let’s say “strawberry cheesecake” is trending (yes, that’s an actual flavor), whether as a keyphrase or as a hashtag, but your competitors’ content are focused on simply “#coffee” or another flavor that’s not as popular. Use that insight to optimize your own SEO strategy.
All of these pieces of data are valuable to your SEO plan.
2. Technical / On-page SEO
It sounds daunting, I know. The word “technical” alone makes it seem like rocket science, but I guarantee you it’s not that complicated. Technical SEO is my personal favorite part of SEO, and I’ll show you why.
First things first, start with a site audit using a tool like Ahrefs or SEM Rush (or Uber Suggest as it’s free). These tools help give you a simplified but comprehensive report of keyword density, popular web pages on your site, among other important metrics.
It’s also important that you have Google Analytics and Google Search Console set up for your websites. If anything, those tools are the most important dashboards you should always have open once you launch your website and social media pages. The metrics on GA and GSC are more accurate. Having said that, Ahrefs and SEM Rush will give you an amazing amount of insights on how your website content, in terms of SEO, is doing at the moment.
What is on-page SEO and its importance?
On-page SEO is exactly how it sounds. It’s the SEO techniques you would employ on your website, which is the opposite of off-page SEO like social media campaigns and getting backlinks from outside sources, which we’ll go over later.
This is the meat of your SEO operations. This is the phase in which you implement your content strategy based on keyword research. Another component of on-page/technical SEO is how your URL is edited. When you use particular web hosts, like SquareSpace, you might unknowingly use an example page for your template. Since they’re already made, they already have a URL, usually pertaining to the example on the page before you edited the content. So, make sure you delete the default URL and input your own.
Speaking of input, you have to make sure that the keywords you use in your customized URL match with the title of your web page or article. For example, for the homepage, you should have something like ”/home” whereas for a blog article titled “Best Coffee in Oakland” should have a URL that ends with “/best-coffee-in-oakland”. Usually, your CMS would automatically create these URL structures if you create a new page or article, but it doesn’t hurt to double-check before you publish.
Another component are title hierarchies. Take a look at this article you’re reading right now. See how there’s a large heading, then a heading underneath that’s slightly smaller? That’s how you should structure your titles, whether it’s a web page or a blog article. Start with H1 (Heading 1), then a subtopic underneath it would be a Heading 2, then a subtopic underneath that, if any, would be Heading 3.
Technical SEO also involves editing meta tags on photos and other image contents on your website. Titles and descriptions are important elements in ranking on SERPs (search engine results page), because Google’s bots periodically crawl through images and other visuals on your website. If you have a photo of a particular type of coffee bean, make sure you include descriptive text in the meta tags.
3. Keyword research
Focus on keywords with low keyword difficulty. For instance, a keyword difficulty rating is used to help you choose the right SEO keywords, which are based on the ones that are easy enough for your site to compete for. Finding low competition keywords requires knowing your site’s competitive power. This is why competitor analysis (see Step 1) is important. Remember: all websites do not have an equal chance of ranking on the first page of Google.
Here is a simplified checklist to go through during your keyword research:
- Analyze your niche market.
- Define your goals.
- Make a list of relevant topics.
- Create a list of seed keywords, which are short keywords like “coffee”.
- Use good keyword research tools like SEM Rush and Moz.
- Study the search intent, which is simply intent of the person using a search engine.
- Identify long tail keywords, which are longer keywords or keyphrases like “best locally made coffee beans in California.”
Create a content plan based on the keyword research you’ve just conducted. Now that you know which keywords and key phrases to target, you need to implement your strategy through high-quality content on your website, whether it’s copywriting on a webpage or a 500 to 1,000-word article on your blog.
Remember, the reason why most businesses have blogs isn’t because the CEO has a passion for writing but because it’s one of the largest factors in bringing in traffic via search result rankings, social media linkbacks, and backlinks from other websites. That’s why we can’t stress enough the importance of regularly posting content with target keywords.
5. Growing Domain Authority
Domain Authority was developed by Moz. Having a high domain authority is essential to SEO. As the name implies, the domain authority rating shows how relevant your website is within your industry, field, or market. If you’re a coffee supplier, the company with a high domain authority in your industry would be Starbucks. This is not to say that your company has to be that big, but shows the amount of relevant content you should have on your website.
Why is it important?
It’s important to your SEO strategy because a high domain rating means your website is relevant to your market or industry, therefore it has a direct impact on your website’s ranking by search engines.
What you can use to measure Domain Authority
Since Moz invented Domain Authority, you can check your website’s Domain Authority using Moz’s Link Explorer, the MozBar (Moz’s free SEO toolbar), or in the SERP Analysis section of Keyword Explorer. Domain Authority metrics are also incorporated into all Moz Pro campaigns, as well as the Moz API.
Backlinks are probably the most important elements in off-page SEO strategies. Backlinks direct traffic to your website from sources outside of your own website. These sources include directory listings, citations in other websites, or through social sharing.
Another way to get good backlinks to your website is by writing guest posts on a popular blog or website. For instance, if you’re a coffee supplier or retailer, you should research the top websites and blogs pertaining to your industry or market. Contact the editor or owner of the blog and ask if you can write a guest post, which should include backlinks to your website. If the blog owner prohibits blatant marketing and self-promotion, you can simply put the backlink in your bio, which is typically included with every blog post.
7. Website structure
It is important for you to have a well organized and structured site. This is part of your technical/on-page SEO strategy. Use site maps to help search engine bots crawl through your website much easily.
The way you structure your website will give Google crawlers important clues about where they can discover the most valuable content on your website. A well organized site also helps search engines understand what your site is about or what services or products you offer. A good site structure also enables search engines to find and index content quickly, which is vital in searching higher in SERPs.