Learn how a few basic SEO strategies can help you improve the search rankings for your blog or business and increase your audience.
What Is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization, but what does that really mean? Basically, SEO allows you to be found by search engines—and therefore by people who might actually buy your product or engage with your content. A good SEO strategy will help you to rank higher in organic search results and get more visitors to your blog or website.
But how do you get started? Really mastering SEO can take some time. This post discusses the fundamentals: why you should be using SEO, and a few basic SEO strategies even beginners can implement to improve their search ranking.
The Benefits of Using SEO
Why is SEO important? Can’t you just write what you want for your blog or website, and search engines will just find it? To a degree, yes! Creating great content is actually the secret to SEO. But there are strategies you can use to maximize your content’s potential.
A good SEO strategy leads to better rankings for specific search terms. Higher search rankings mean that you don’t have to rely on paid ads to get people to visit your site, and that once they find you they’re more likely to become a customer or subscriber.
Your search rankings in Google are the ones you really need to focus on because it’s the search engine used for over 90 percent of all internet searches. The following strategies are specifically based on how Google ranks content.
SEO Strategies to Improve Your Search Rankings
Google rankings are important for increasing the number of visitors to your site. So how can you use SEO to move up in those rankings?
Optimize Your Content
Great content is really the key to SEO. That means creating share-worthy content that people spend some time engaging with and keep coming back to, which boosts your search rankings. But you can also utilize SEO content optimization, also known as on-page SEO.
Here a few ways to optimize your content:
- Use keywords on your content pages. Google scans each webpage, and a term that shows up repeatedly determines what the page is about. You don’t want to go overboard with this, however, as Google now penalizes “keyword stuffing.” If you focus on creating high-quality, useful content for real people, keywords should naturally appear in your writing.
- Create internal links, but don’t be random—link to other pages on your site that are closely related to your main topic.
- Optimize the site for a great user experience, including a fast page-load speed and intuitive site navigation. Google knows when users immediately bounce from a webpage back to the search results. But if people stay on your page, your content gets a rankings boost. Other businesses and blogs are also more likely to link to a user-friendly website, increasing that site’s authority ranking.
- Check your writing for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. Your content will be easier to read and will seem more authoritative if it’s not full of mistakes. You also don’t want to use too much jargon. If writing isn’t your strong suit, or you just want to fully optimize your content for readability, hire an editor like the ones here at Flatpage. An editor can not only make sure your copy is error-free, but also ensure that it flows naturally and communicates exactly what you want it to.
Choose the Right SEO Keywords
Let’s talk a bit more about using keywords. How you use keywords impacts every other aspect of SEO, and most people don’t spend enough time on it.
Keyword research is the first step to finding great keywords. You want to figure out what terms your target audience searches for, and their search intent: Are they looking for information or to buy something? Very short and basic keywords will generate a lot of search results, but that means it’s easy for your content to get overlooked.
You want to use more interesting and distinctive keywords, known as long-tail keywords. These generate results that are more useful for people searching for your unique content. For example, “budget travel” will turn up a high volume of search results, but “budget backpacking travel in Italy” is a long-tail keyword that will direct people to that specific content.
Begin your research by brainstorming some words and phrases that you think your audience might search for. Search for those terms on Google and scroll to the bottom of the page to see the related search results. These are terms related to your keywords that real people are using in their searches. You can also plug your keywords into a keyword research tool, which will generate more keywords that you may not think of on your own.
Now, where do you put your keywords?
- Page titles: A page title describes the main subject of the page and shows up as the first line in search results.
- Meta descriptions: A meta description is the second part of a search result, usually a short paragraph just under the page title.
- Subheadings: Subheadings make it easy for viewers to scan your content and decide if it’s what they’re looking for.
- Content: Don’t forget—no keyword stuffing! Instead, use your main keyword in the beginning of your content, especially in the first paragraph. Then use variations of that keyword throughout the text. This is another area where the related search terms feature in Google can come in handy.
Create an SEO-Friendly URL
Your URL helps search engines know what your content is about, so it’s important to have one that’s SEO friendly. A URL should be short, keyword-rich, and descriptive: it should make sense in plain English and be relevant to the page content. Short, descriptive URLs also help people know what they’re clicking on. This leads to more time spent on the page, which in turn increases your Google rankings and social media shares.
A few best practices for creating URLs for SEO:
- Each piece of content needs a unique URL. This allows search engines to find and index that content and then direct searchers to it. The URL should ideally contain the primary keyword for that page.
- Don’t run words together. Use hyphens to separate words, not spaces or underscores. This enhances readability for both people and search engines.
- It’s not a good idea to use an article title or a date as the URL. These both tend to be long and don’t allow for changes over time.
Acquire Quality Backlinks
Once you’ve got your site up and running, you want to get other people to link to your content. This is known as a backlink. The more high-quality links you have, the better your backlink profile. A good backlink profile means that Google thinks you offer quality content and will rank it higher in search results.
The quality of a link is based on the authority of the page linking to you, the relevance of their content to yours, and whether it is an “editorially placed link”—someone linked to your site because they thought it was great, not just at random.
Acquiring backlinks takes some work, and there are many link-building techniques. If you’re ready, here’s a great beginner’s guide to link building.
Fully mastering SEO takes time. These are just a few of the basic SEO strategies you can use to help more people find you and your business.
About the author
Jennifer is a copyeditor at Flatpage and a college instructor. She also creates and edits content for nonprofits, helping them increase their audiences with engaging and polished copy.