SEO Basics – What Should I do?

July 22 2016

James Hipkin

SEO basics aren’t terribly difficult, have a plan and then follow the plan, but it’s not automagic, you need to do the work.

We know that Marketers think SEO is important. Search engine optimization comes up frequently in conversations with our design agency customers. Their clients ask them about it, so they ask us.

We tell them that WordPress is well suited for SEO and that we install the Yoast SEO plugin. We also tell them that search engine optimization isn’t hard but it will be up to the design agency and their client to do the work. Then we suggest that an SEO expert be involved early in the process, ideally before design and copy writing have begun. We talk about permalink structure, how it’s much easier to manage before the build starts, and how it will be important to map the 301 redirects to pages that emphasize ranked keywords.

Usually, about half we through this, we lose them. Once they have the check box marked, I asked about SEO, they are gone. This is unfortunate, but it’s also an opportunity. The majority of the sites we build, we’re launching two a month on average, have no effort put into SEO after being launched. This means that, with evan a modicum of effort, a site owner who takes the time has a very good chance of ranking for their keywords. SEO basics aren’t difficult, and a small amount of effort will garner significant results, but you need to do the work.

But how should I go about it, I’m not an SEO expert? Even SEO basics are beyond me.

Just like gardening, getting SEO results takes work and time and website owners have to determine if the effort is worth the results or if they should just go to the store and buy vegetables (buy PPC traffic).  Bottom line, website owners either need to learn how to garden or hire a gardner. – Sean Fields, Founder and CEO – ACE Rankings

It’s not hard. Have a plan. Follow the plan.

SEO Basics

Have a Plan

If you are serious about this, a basic SEO plan can be an important, low cost element in your marketing plan. We recommend that you hire an SEO expert and have them audit your site. You should also have them take a look at your competitive set. You can do this yourself, but it’s unlikely that you will have the knowledge and experience that an expert will bring to the task. It’s money well spent. The goal is to not just have a plan, you want a great plan, a strategy that’s achievable and that will impact your business. With a plan you will have a road map you can use to develop content that’s unique to you, valuable to your target audience, and that will lift your rank so that you are found.

A plan helps you use SEO basics to:

  • Keep and reinforce the keywords that already rank, and that are important to your business
  • Deemphasize the keywords that are not important to your business
  • Develop new keywords that can help your business

It not super complicate, at least it’s not at this level, the complexity is in the details, the work you need to do.

If you’re maintaining your SEO on your website, it’s going to take some effort. There’s no magic wand with SEO. It’s work, and always based on your content. With so many websites out there, your niche is probably covered, and that means you need to make sure your own content is unique, full of quality, and just better than the next. It will take some research. You need to know your keywords. You need to know your niche. You need to be aware of basic SEO, so if your website has an SEO tool built in, like Yoast SEO for WordPress, then it can help you shape and optimize your article to be seen more favorably by Google. – Niles Flores, WordPress SEO Consultant and Speaker –Blondish.net

Follow the Plan

As mentioned above, step one is audit of your current site. You want to know what pages are already ranked in the search engines and what keyword is generating the ranking. This is gold.You don’t want to lose what you already have, these pages and their content need to be protected. Use this knowledge to build your rank further. It’s much easier to build your overall rank using what’s already there.

Next, look at your competition. The sites that rank above you on the search engine results page. Understand what they are targeting. Look for weaknesses. Look for related niches that you can target and own. Then build from there. Chances are they are not making much effort.

Once you know what you are trying to achieve, update the live content, and add pages and posts that support the strategy. Easy to say, much harder to do, but it’s just work. And it’s worth the effort. Most sites don’t do anything so it’s likely that you can achieve greatness… well perhaps some success.

Use the Yoast SEO plugin to optimize each page and post. But don’t get carried away. Write for users first and foremost, for search bots second. Don’t force every page to get the green light. This is a guide. Keep the big picture in mind. Remember, follow the plan. Pay attention to the simple things. The plugin will give you a list of things you can do.

For your targeted keywords select an anchor page, the page you want visitors to land on. Then write lots of content in posts and pages to give you authority over your targeted keyword. Use the Canonical function in the Yoast plugin to shift attention/Google juice to the anchor page.  The canonical technique mitigates the risk of duplicate content, it tells the search engines which page is key. If you do everything correctly, this is the URL they will show in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page).

SEO basics - related keywordsSpeaking of keywords, don’t try and rank for generic industry terms. It’s not going to happen. The term Marketing generates 1.6 billion results. That’s a whole lot of results. But all is not lost. Look at the bottom of the first page and the pointed headed ones at Google provide a list of related keywords. You will notice that these are not as generic as “marketing.”

So what happens if we search for ‘marketing mix?” This is still a pretty generic keyword but this search generates 20.5 million hits. Too many but a lot less than 1.6 billion. Looking at the related keyword list shown on this page, we see “marketing mix 4ps?” This generates 245K hits. Now we’re getting somewhere.

Do the same thing for the keywords that already rank on your site. Find the related keywords. Write content using these ideas. Do the same for the keywords identified in your competitive analysis. Develop content targeting these keywords. This is how you can build authority.

At risk of being pedantic, SEO basics aren’t hard, but it’s not going to happen automagically, it requires some effort. Back in the day, I was very involved in relationship marketing. I wrote lots of articles about it on my now defunct blog. Relationship Marketing generates 34.1 million hits. Relationship marketing principles however is not nearly so generic. I was able to have my tiny blog on page one for this term.

Chose realistic key word phrases, do the work and you will be surprised how quickly you can move up in the ranking.

Resources

There is so much more that can be, and has been written about SEO basics. While I know some things about search engine optimization, I’m not an expert. Here are some expert resources that you can use to help get you started (not affiliate links, probably should be, but they aren’t):

  • If you plan to use the Yoast SEO plugin, you can’t do better than learn the basics from them: Basic SEO training
  • Moz has many excellent products that you can use. They are also very generous with their knowledge
  • Search Engine Land is another go to resource. Lots and lots of great information
  • For more on Canonical function, this article from Yoast is useful: Canonical URLs in Yoast SEO
  • Of course there are the folks at Google. They really do want you to do a good job with your SEO, it makes their job easier, so they are more than happy to reward good behavior. Google has lots of solid information readily available. Start with their Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide
  • Use this link to find and download the Yoast SEO plugin
  • Or for a more sophisticated tool consider SmartCrawl a premium plugin from wpmudev. Among other benefits, it integrates with the Moz tools
  • All in One SEO Pack is the grandfather of SEO plugins, it was the first one I ever used, but it’s still a solid choice

Use the resources listed above to get started. Add more in the comments if you have a go to resource. But here’s the thing, it won’t happen unless you do the work.

SEO basics aren’t hard. Have a plan. Follow the plan.

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