Are you new to search engine optimization and don’t really know where to start? Here are top 14 basic SEO tips for beginners.
There are numerous ways how you can increase website traffic: referrals, monthly email campaigns, social shares on Facebook and so on. SEO is a completely different story with its own specific strengths and weaknesses. The main idea of the marketing approach in today’s digital age is putting the user first. You can argue, that throughout the years it has always been customer-centric, but you would agree that mostly now with a shift in millennials behavior online, your customer is indeed a number one priority. Then how SEO, an optimization for search engines, can have a human voice behind its technical algorithms, crawlers and rankings? Dive into the following techniques that put customers first and increase your website rankings.
1. Write Longer Posts
According to SEO ranking factors for 2017, content still hold its strong position among links and RankBrain in search marketing. It ultimately attracts the customer as the first step of the acquisition tunnel. With numerous articles available out there, user hunts for both unique and worth-sharing content. Online studies already proved the power of longer content, as it has broader approach in terms of information, keywords and benefits to user. Thus the behavior follows the pattern: reading engaging post, extracting valuable insights and sharing it on social media.
From search engines perspective, the more specific your answer is to the user intent, the higher your chances to rank high. With longer content you give Google bots more relevant keywords to crawl and determine the page rank. According to NeilPatel’s blog, the verdict is 2000+ words in high-quality blog post.
It also helps with dwell time which is the amount of time before a consumer hits the back button after landing on a page of the website. Longer content that are high in quality and engaging will make people want to stay longer on the webpage and read more.
2. Use Keywords
Keywords are topics that define what your content is about. Using relevant keywords in your posts and sites can help you rank higher on search engines. This is because if your keywords are relevant to what people are searching for, search engines will do their best to make sure those people see your web page.
Using long-tail keywords and LSI keywords can help improve your site’s ranking and give more information to search engines to figure out what your content is about. Long-tail keywords are terms that are more specific. The more specific keywords you add to your product or website, you are likely to get more qualified customers visiting your site. LSI keywords (latent semantic indexing) are keywords that are related to your primary keyword. They are not synonyms but homonyms (similar in meaning).
Long-tail keywords are terms that are more specific. They are keyword like “how do I get my business listed in google local search”. They usually contain four or more words which more clearly specifies what the consumer is looking for and/or their intent. The more specific keywords you add to your product or website, you are likely to get more qualified customers visiting your site. This is because consumers who are looking for something specific to your product are more likely to purchase your products than someone who is only doing a generic search.
Including LSI keywords in your content will help Google and other search engines better understand your relevance to a topic. To refresh your memory, LSI keywords or latent semantic indexing keywords are simply keywords related to the topic your page is about.
More and more, search engines are looking for more of a topic match instead of a keyword match when returning search results. How they do this is by looking for LSI keywords. The idea is that you would just naturally include these related words as you write about a specific topic. Say for example you have a seo consulting site. You would naturally include the following related words.
consultant internet marketing seo
seo marketing consultant
seo consultant company
top seo consultants
seo internet marketing expert
seo internet marketing services
These keywords are relevant and helpful for Google to extract information. With that in mind, it also never hurts to use keyword tools that can show you LSI keywords in case you miss anything. However, always keep in mind the user and use them in a natural way.
A good keyword reseach tool should be able to help you find both long-tail keywords and LSI keywords.
3. Optimize the Title, Meta, Heading and Sub-Heading Tags
Title tag is the strongest on-page tag indicator and carries significant weight for your SEO ranking. In case it is your first encounter with title tag, this is an example of how user sees it:
Look at brief check list to monitor the health of website title tags:
All titles are unique per page
The length is no more than 70 characters (space included)
The title tag contains target keywords
If you create a title without considering keywords, you are missing out on ranking opportunities. The title tag should contain keywords that are relevant to the webpage. This tells search engines what the website or page is about and helps it index your site according to keywords. Google determines the content of page from the title tag, so make sure to accurately describe your content. From the user perspective, recall your search behavior on Google. As soon as you hit “enter” or search you are skimming through the first three results taking a closer look at titles. The more targeted and thrilling the title is, the higher the chances of click.
Use modifiers in your title. Modifiers are descriptive words that are used with primary keywords. This lets search engines know to return the most relevant webpages that contain related content. Some examples of modifiers are titles that start with “how to”, “solutions”, “best”, “guide to”, “of year” or “review of”. You can use a keyword tool that has a pattern filter to quickly get keyword suggestions by pattern.
A meta description is the short paragraph of text (snippet of information) under the URL which is used as a preview in the search results. You place this meta descripion in the <head> tag of your page’s HTML.
Having a good one that shows up in search results is important because it is what the user sees when deciding whether or not to click the link to your site. Google may or may not decide to use your description and may even alter it. Nonetheless, this is one of the places where you want to pay the most attention to as Google will use it when trying to understand what your page is about.
Include your keywords here and keep them appealing to actual readers who are skimming the search engine result pages (SERP).
Headings and Sub Headings (like this one)
Headings and sub headings are <h1>, <h2>, and <h3> html tags. These are the section titles that user sees on the page.
There should only be one <h1> tag per web page. It should be about the page and contain keywords related to your topic. Google checks these tags the same way it does with title tags, so be ready to optimize this part of your page too. Often times, content management systems (CMS) like WordPress automatically include an <h1> tag for you with the title of the page or article. In this case, there is no need to include another one.
The sub headings <h2> and <h3> can also include your keywords.
Keep in mind to write always for the reader and use these headings to help your visitors navigate your page.
A backlink is when one website mentions another website by linking to it. High quality backlinks are major deciding factors that help your website increase its rank in search engine results. In addition, these backlinks should be on sites with related content. Search engines believe that the more relevant and high quality backlinks you have, the higher usefulness your site must be.
Building backlinks helps with brand recognition/exposure, new leads/relationships, promotion, referral traffic and organic ranking. Some vocabulary you should become familiar with are link juice, no-follow link, anchor text and low-quality links. Learn more about these terminology with my article on backlinks.
This should be one of your main priorities for your site’s SEO because of the importance of search engine ranking. Having some backlink tools can help you get started. You can read more about how backlinks affect your SEO ranking.
5. Link to Others
Outbound links are links on your website that point to other domains. An example of an outbound link is this example website, which you can click. When you link to other domains by blogging, it helps search engines understand what your page is about. Having more related and high quality outbound links on your website can help increase your rank by having your site recognized as trustworthy and of high quality by search engines. Here are some of the things you should consider while doing outbound linking: link to relevant blogs, no link farms (part of a private blog network), and avoid too many outbound links. At the same time, as you are including links to other sites, you can try to contact them and let them know. In doing so, they may find ways to include a link to your site on their page also.
Linking to other websites can be beneficial to both you and your competitor. What do you get in return when you are giving them free link juice? When linking to other webpages you’re sending out a trackable link to your page. When traffic starts going into the page you linked, the person managing those pages will wonder where the traffic is coming from and may end up looking through your website.
In addition, your site becomes more valuable in a sense that you are linking to good quality and relevant information. You never know, someone might include you in their post because you included them!
Last but not least, the internet is called the interNET meaning connected.
6. Link to Yourself
Internal links are links that go from one webpage to another within the same domain. These links are useful because they allow users to navigate through a site. An example of an internal link would be including our own website Twinword. Internal links can also help you promote other products or services.
7. Image Tag Alt Attribute
Images are essential third factor for content optimization. In this fast paced environment, visual materials are quick to process and appeal more to users compared to endless paragraphs of text.
Why should be label our image tag with alt attributes? The alt text describes what the image is or what is in the image. Every image should have a description in their alt attribute. These descriptions are important mainly for the blind or visually challenged because they require a special computer or software that reads text aloud. In addition, if the image is not seen or loaded, the description is still there letting them know what the picture was.
For Google, it is essential to extract the keywords and associate photo with the phrase.
For example, if you right click on the image to the left, you can inspect it to check if there is a description for the alt attribute. The HTML tag looks like this <img src=”photos.png” alt=”polaroids”>.
8. Avoid Flash
Adobe Flash is an app within a web page that allows multimedia streaming and user interaction. Having Flash on your webpage can be a good and a bad thing. For instance, your page is made up mostly of Flash, the page will run slower than normal and it will take time to load. It also decreases the usability of most websites because some websites run mostly on Flash and cannot be accessible on mobile.
Jakob Nielsen found about 99% of websites that used Flash had lower usability and a major hindrance to good design. There are many websites, tools and plugins that can check if you are using Flash or not.
9. Social Media
Having multiple social media accounts can be a powerful tool for your webpage. Having a Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and an Instagram account is one of the basics of promoting your website.
Customizing you shareable links can help in promoting your product or service. Adding code for a Twitter card could be beneficial to your website in where promotion for products would be more noticeable through social media. Having a Twitter card (or Facebook Open Graph code) included in your web page will allow you to control the text and images that show up when people share a link to your page on social media. There are different types of cards but they all allow you to go over the 140-character limit and attach media screenshots when you share a post. In addition, you can see how your Twitter card looks by searching up your URL on the card validator tool.
A tool that can help you keep track of multiple social media accounts is called Hootsuite. Through this tool you can mange different accounts one one single platform.
10. Site Speed
Optimizing your site’s loading speed is one of the factors search engine look for when ranking websites. Google has said that page loading speed is an SEO ranking signal. MunchWeb found that 75% of users would not re-visit websites that took longer than 4 seconds to load. If you want to know your website’s load speed, you can use GTMetrix to check. You can also use Google’s own mobile speed tester. which leads us to our next point.
11. Mobile Friendly/Responsive
What does it mean to be mobile friendly? It means that the website or webpage is responsive or adaptive to mobile devices. Sometimes if the webpage is not responsive, there will be a separate mobile website (eg. “m.mywebsite.com”). In 2015, Google started penalizing websites that were not mobile friendly. Having your website mobile friendly is important because consumers are always on their devices searching for products or services. If the site is not optimized it could lead to a bad user experience. In 2012, Search Engine Land reported that mobile traffic resulted in 15% of all traffic and 55% of all searches were from mobile devices.
Having a sitemap makes it easier for search engines to find and rank your webpages. Sitemaps let search engines know when changes have been made and pages that they may have missed. It doesn’t hurt to have a sitemap and it also improves your SEO. It helps by having pages updated faster than when there is no sitemap on the website.
Robots.txt files tell search engines web crawlers what pages to include in their index and what not. For example, if you do not want a certain page or image being crawled by a bot, then you can restrict or “disallow” that bot from having access. This keeps test pages and pages not meant for humans from being included in search results.
You can make a robots.txt file from scratch but there are many tools out there that can make it for you if you do not have time.
14. Google Analytics
It is a good idea to have a tool that analyzes and keeps track of your data. Google Analytics not only tracks where consumers come from but also how they are getting there, what they are looking for and what keywords they used to get to your page. This tool also creates custom reports for you when analyzing your data.
Google Analytics allows you to measure the results of your webpages via real-time data. Data is shown from different channels like organic search, paid search, referrals, social media and direct traffic.
Having Google Analytics will help you make business decisions on where you should invest your resources and guide you on your SEO efforts.
More details and tips on how you can check if your site is following these tips, see our post on How to Audit Your Website for Free. I have also listed some tools that might be helpful for some of these tips there. Furthermore, you can also use our own free site audit tool.
Was that a lot of information?
These are just some of the main topics for starting search engine optimization marketing. Start fixing up your webpage and compare your before and after results. See what works best for you as all pages and industries are different.
Always keep this in mind: Google’s top goal is to provide the best experience for their users. That means the most relevant and of the highest quality are the ones that will rank high. The tips I have listed above are signals that search engines rely on to indicate to themselves if a page is worthy and of high quality.
Tell us your experience with your research! If you have any suggestions, questions or recommendations, feel free to leave a comment down below.
Based on text analysis technologies, we developed Twinword Ideas to help marketers filter and select relevant keywords faster. Just by moving some sliders, users can get high-quality keyword lists for successful content marketing and paid search marketing campaigns.