A DIY Guide to SEO Part One

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Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has become a staple in many businesses’ digital marketing efforts and for good reason. While there may be some initial investment and a willingness to put time and work into crafting the perfect strategy, the effects of good SEO are undoubtedly beneficial. With 3.5 billion Google searches every day, it makes sense for a business to want to get a piece of the action. Furthermore, once the initial cost and work is complete, it serves as a free way to market your company.

What is SEO?

SEO is the method of raising Google rankings for key terms that relate to a specific business or webpage. Two common forms of SEO are local and organic. Local SEO helps to improve search results for localized keyword phrases such as “credit unions near me”; when submitting searches like “near me” or “keyword + city” Google will typically display three business listings with a map and directions to the business (as seen below).

Organic SEO is the process of improving the search results for a keyword that is not localized. For example, “credit union rates” will display results that Google believes to be most relevant and valuable to the user. Organic results typically display third, underneath paid ads and local key phrases, as seen in the example below.

How does Google determine rankings?

Domain Authority (DA)

How authoritative is your website on a scale of 0-100? DA can be determined by several things. Essentially, it’s a way to track how trustworthy your site is. It sounds obvious that Google wants to show its users trustworthy websites, right? Common factors include number of backlinks, number of visitors, good or bad reviews, etc.

Backlinks

Backlinks are instances of other websites linking out to your website. When Google indexes a page on someone’s website, it checks to see if there are links within the content. If, for example, Google finds a link to your website, it’s used as a positive signal that your website is more trustworthy because other sites are linking to you. The higher the Domain Authority of the website linking to your website the better.

Topically Relevant Links

If you are on a mission to get more backlinks to your website to build your website authority, you should be looking to get links from websites that publish content that is relevant to your industry. Google can determine, based on keywords and content, what category a website falls under. If you are getting links from relevant, high DA, trusted websites, it’s going to really help juice up your website.

Type of Content

Google can determine the type of content that you are publishing. Google knows what people are searching for and what people want to see when they make that search. With that being said, run a search for your keyword and see what kind of content pops up. This is the type of content that Google decides people want to see. To rank for that keyword, you’ll likely want to write something on that topic but better and more in depth.

Getting started with SEO basics

Step one: keyword research 

Keyword research is one of the first things that many SEO companies will start before any actual optimizations take place. It sets the pace for the entire campaign and allows them to create a path to follow. It also helps set goals to accomplish along the way. The process can begin by searching for online competitors. By doing this you can see what keywords are already ranking and get an idea of what people would be searching to find your business. You can also see the search volume those keywords bring in every month.

Below you will find a list of free and paid tools that are commonly used to do keyword research. Simply navigate to one or more of the links below — plug in a keyword or a competitor website and see the search volume, number of backlinks, domain authority, relevant keywords, and more. We will dig deeper into backlinks, and domain authority a little later.

Tools to use:

Things to look for when doing keyword research

When you plug a keyword into one of these tools, you want to make sure the keyword has a decent amount of search volume. Ideally, the keywords that you rank for will also have some sort of intent behind them. Let’s take the key phrase “credit unions near me” as an example. Although it’s a great keyword to rank for, we still don’t know what the user’s intent is for that search. Maybe they’re looking for an ATM or maybe they need to cash a check. Better yet, maybe they are looking to open an account? The point is… we don’t really know.

When you target user-intent focused keywords or phrases, you can set up pages that are focused on that user’s intent and help them accomplish what it is they are looking for. Let’s say they search for “best auto loan rates” It’s probably safe to assume that the user is thinking about purchasing a car soon and is looking to get a loan. These are some things to keep in mind when picking the right keywords to target.

Step two: setting up your website for SEO success

If you are using WordPress for your website, that is good news. Why? Because it’s likely that your website is already decently optimized (see: Why SEO Might Not Matter as Much as You Think). However, there is still a lot of room for improvement and steps you can take to ensure you’re in good standing with Google. Before I give you the tools to start optimizing your website, let’s understand a few important key terms.

Crawler

A crawler is a program that automatically visits every public website and gathers data about that page in order to create entries in search engines. Although this happens automatically, you can also request a new or existing page to be indexed within Google search console.

Schema

Schema is a form of microdata or code (semantic vocabulary) that you put on your website to help the search engines return more informative results for users. It tells the search engines what your data means because it’s written in a language that the crawler understands. It essentially gives clues about your data so when your website gets crawled your data is interpreted, and the information displays properly in search results.

Meta Data

Meta data is data that describes other data. In terms of SEO, it is the data that is displayed in the search results and it describes what your page is about. The photo below shows some examples of meta data you’d see in a Google search.

Up next

In the next installment of this series, we will cover some of the best WordPress plugins to use, things to avoid, and how to become a triple threat.

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