If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been lately and why there haven’t been new posts, don’t worry, nothing is wrong. 🙂 I have just been very busy and blogging has taken a hit, but I’m planning to get back on track. (We launched 4 new websites in one week!)
Anyway, on March 31st I gave a webinar for GoDaddy on SEO Basics. This webinar was intended for the newbie, someone just getting started who doesn’t have any background or knowledge on SEO and wants to know where to begin. It covers basic terminology, basic keyword research, and basic on-page optimization with some additional tips.
Because I think many of my clients could benefit from this, I’m going to share that webinar here. The entire video is an hour, but my actual presentation is only about 30 minutes and starts at approximately 11:30. The rest is introductions and questions after.
I’m also going to include a transcript below. It’s not so much a transcript but actually more of a script that I used when presenting. (I’m not good without notes, my mind wanders.)
SEO Basics Webinar Script
Welcome to SEO Basics, or how to get found in Internet searches. SEO can be extremely intimidating when you get started, so today we’re going to go over some basic terms you should know, how to find keywords, and what basic optimization look like. When we talk about SEO, what we are talking about is getting that free traffic to your website, meaning people are going to a search engine, typing in a search, and winding up at your website. That’s the goal.
Here’s an overview of what we’re going to cover in this webinar.
First, you’ll need to understand how to set realistic expectations for your SEO journey. What often happens is that people expect to see big changes immediately and then quit when that doesn’t happen. You need to know what results really look like.
Next, you also need to understand searcher intent which is what people are actually looking for when they search. Sometimes what people are looking for is different than what you think.
Third, we’ll discuss how to find and evaluate keywords because guessing at keywords is a failing strategy. Trust me when I say that your own expertise can lead you astray when it comes to choosing keywords!
Fourth is the most important aspect of SEO – Writing great content. You just won’t rank without it.
Once you have those things, you can optimize your site and start evaluating results. That’s the basic overview of how SEO is done.
The biggest mistake website owners make is thinking that they will have hordes of visitors on their site as soon as it’s launched. You will not get visitors just by virtue of having a website. You need a plan to draw traffic to your website.
Setting Realistic Expectations
I want to start today with setting realistic expectations. One of the most common things I hear in SEO is that people have done all the things, optimized all the pages, and nothing happened. I had one person call me crying because they were getting in trouble with their boss because they hadn’t gotten SEO results. I asked when they did their SEO, and the tearful response was, “a month ago.”
SEO is not an overnight fix, it is a long-haul solution for getting found by people who are searching for what you offer. If you go into your SEO plan thinking that you’ll spend a few days optimizing and then start seeing a surge in traffic immediately, you are mistaken. SEO is never “finished” and you will rarely see results overnight.
So it’s important to go into this journey knowing that not only will you probably not see results the first day or first week, but you probably won’t see results the first few months. Sometimes it can take many months to start seeing results, and even then when you see the results, it will more than likely be small, incremental changes.
This is a real example from SEO we performed for one of our clients. You can see where they were before we started, with the same amount of traffic pretty much every month. We performed the initial optimization in February 2020. We didn’t really start to see an increase in traffic for three months, and even then it was very incremental. We can tell it wasn’t an anomaly because it continued over the next two months but it wasn’t until a solid eight months after we did the initial SEO that we started to see more significant increases in organic search traffic.
If you are looking to get more traffic TODAY, the only surefire way to do that is through paid advertising and that is a different webinar. SEO is great, because it’s free traffic, but only in the sense that you aren’t paying for clicks. It takes time and effort to make SEO work, and in my opinion, those commodities are not free. So understand it’s going to take some time, and you’ll have to keep working at it and when you do see results.
Understanding Searcher Intent
To understand SEO, you really have to understand what Google wants, and what your customer wants, and then put those two things together. First, let’s talk about what Google wants. I started using the Internet way back in 1995, and I remember a time when you would search for something and have to sift through pages and pages of garbage to find anything worthwhile. And that’s because people were gaming the system to get their worthless pages ranked. That’s what SEO was back then.
Google has gotten smarter since then, and their searches are a lot better. You are much more likely to get an answer for what you are looking for on page one. Google’s goal for searches is to provide users with the answers to their questions. Therefore, the sites that provide the best answers for the searches, get pushed to the top. The algorithm is complicated and changes a lot, but there are certain factors that will always be true.
- There is no SEO magic bullet. SEO success looks a lot like hard work. It will always take time and effort to see improvement. There really is no quick fix or one time SEO solution.
- Content is king. Your content needs to be written for the people who will be reading it, with the answers they are looking for. The best SEO comes from well-written content that shows your expertise and authority.
- User Experience is also important. If your users can’t navigate your site, on a computer, tablet, and phone, then neither can Google. Creating difficult to navigate websites that aren’t intuitive won’t help you with SEO. Being fancy just to be fancy doesn’t help SEO. Everything you put on a website should be put there with intent and strategy.
- Keywords need to be relevant to your products and/or services on the page. You will never rank a site for keywords that are unrelated to your business offerings.
Finding and Evaluating Keywords
A keyword or keyword phrase is simply a word or group of words that someone might type into a search engine. Your goal is to figure out which keywords are relevant to your website and your business and try to get your website to be shown when people search using them.
A long-tail keyword is just a keyword phrase that is more targeted to the specifics of a page. For example, if you are a contractor, a very generic keyword would be “contractor” but a long-tail keyword might be “kitchen remodeling contractor.”
One of the biggest mistakes I see is when business owners think they already know what their customers are searching for, and try to optimize their websites for those keywords without doing any keyword research to find out if that’s actually the case. Your expertise can lead you astray, because your customers will often be searching using different terms than people who work in your field are using.
I’ll give you a mistake I made when working on my own SEO several years ago. We make websites for all kinds of businesses, but one of our most common clients are writers. Because we do so many writer websites, I wanted to try to corner that market via SEO. So I optimized my website for “websites for writers” and did all the things to get ranked for that keyword phrase.
And nothing happened. And I got frustrated because I wasn’t making any headway. So one day, I went to Google and I typed in “websites for writers” and the websites listed were not companies that design websites for writers, but websites that had writing tools for writers to use in their writing, such as Grammarly.
That was a big blunder I made, thinking I knew what my audience was searching for instead of spending the time to actually research it.
DON’T GUESS at keywords. Not only can you pick a keyword that Google doesn’t think is the right match for your content, you can also pick a keyword that’s too competitive to rank for or a keyword that nobody is actually looking for. I had a very frustrated client who had optimized a website for a keyword, and was ranked #1 for it, but traffic to their site didn’t change. That’s because nobody was searching with that keyword. This is why keyword research is important.
How to find keywords
If you ask 10 different people who do SEO to tell you how to find keywords, you will likely get 10 different answers. There are many different paths to SEO success. Since this is SEO Basics, I want to start with a simple process you can use to get started because understand that keyword research can be overwhelming.
You’re going to start with brainstorming. You and any other people in your business can help. Just make a list of keywords, both broad and long-tail keywords, that you think you’d like to get found for. As many as you can, just make a list. I like to put them into a spreadsheet because I’m a nerd like that. One mistake people make when doing SEO is picking one keyword and focusing in on that keyword throughout their whole site. Your site can and should be found for many different keywords.
Okay, now that you’ve gotten your list, go to Google and one by one, type in each keyword phrase and just look at the results you see. Really look at them. Are the results you see relevant to what you offer? Do you see your competitors? If not, then that keyword may not be a good option. Like my example when I finally Googled the keyword phrase I had picked, I found out it wasn’t the right match for my content. I was targeting the wrong keyword. If Google doesn’t think your website is the right results for that search, you will never show up no matter how much you optimize. Use this search as an early elimination strategy, and remove keywords that don’t show similar results when you Google them.
Next, it’s time to research your keywords. You may feel like you nailed it with steps 1 and 2 and don’t think you need to go further, but that’s a mistake. Let me ask you this – have you ever gone to Google and typed in a phrase and gotten zero results? No, that doesn’t really happen. Google will always serve up a result. But that doesn’t mean anyone is actually searching using that keyword phrase or that you can realistically rank for ones they are. I’ve had people come to me proudly to show me how when they Google their keyword, they come up #1. Wuhoo! But #1 for a search that isn’t being performed by other people isn’t very useful. We need to know if people are actually using that phrase for it to be worthwhile.
Lastly, you’ll pair down your list to come up with your final keyword choices.
Keyword research is a necessary aspect to choosing keywords. Otherwise, you don’t know if your keyword is being being used in searches and you don’t know how competitive it is.
To perform keyword research, you will need some data tools. Most of these are not free. Most people who do SEO for their job pay for SEO tools that let them research keywords and get all this data. However, for most business owners who are trying to DIY their own SEO, paying $200 a month for these tools is a bit much to expect. Unfortunately, the free tools are often hard to understand, unreliable, and don’t provide all the data you need. So today I want to recommend what I think is the most useful tool for beginner SEO. It’s called KW Finder, and it starts at $30 a month. However, there’s a free ten day trial as well.
What I like about KW Finder is it’s easy to use and understand, and it also lets you vary your research geographically, meaning if you are in Chicago and all your clients are in Chicago, then you don’t need to know what people in Los Angeles are looking for.
I will include some resources at the end of this presentation to other KW research tools, but today I’m only going to show you KW Finder.
Here’s how it works. You type in the keyword phrase you are looking for and then the geographic area you want data for if you want to target your SEO to one area, then you’ll get results that look like this. As you can see, I typed in kitchen remodeling as my keyword and Chicago as my location.
The two things you really want to pay attention to are search volume and keyword difficulty. The search volume is the average number of searches that are being performed for that keyword phrase each month. By default, KW Finder shows you an average of 12 months of searches, and this is important because many searches are seasonal so if you are doing your research in the off season, you could get tricked into thinking that the keyword isn’t good.
The other number you want to pay attention to is the keyword difficulty, which is just how hard it would be to actually get ranked for that keyword. If your keywords are too competitive, you probably aren’t going to be able to rank for them. Imagine going head to head with Amazon for the #1 spot. You likely are not going to win that battle.
From this example, you can see that I chose kitchen remodeling as my keyword, and the search volume is 830, meaning an average of 830 searches are performed in Chicago each month for that keyword. And the keyword difficulty is 20, which is a nice, low score. I like how KW Finder gives you different colors for your difficulty level so you can quickly tell if it’s a good keyword. The higher the number, the more difficult it’s going to be to rank for that keyword.
You will want to put in all your chosen keywords into KW Finder or whatever research tool you choose and see what the search volume is and what the keyword difficulty is. If you’re a nerd like me, you can go ahead and add that data to your spreadsheet.
While you are looking at your choices, you can see alternatives that actually may work better than your original choices, so make sure you look at the related keywords being offered up. Feel free to add those to your spreadsheet too.
Now comes the part where you need to pick which keywords you want to optimize your site for, and here is a tidbit that you may not realize. You should really only optimize each page of your site for one keyword or keyword phrase. That means if you have 10 pages on your site, then you only really have 10 keyword opportunities.
That doesn’t mean that you won’t get found for other keywords. You most likely will. It just means you will not be able to optimize your website for more than ten keywords if you only have 10 pages. There are more advanced techniques that allow you to optimize for a variety of keywords on a page, but that’s not SEO basics. Stick to one keyword phrase per page.
Another common myth is you can jam a bunch of your keywords onto each page to make your site be found for all of those keywords, and that doesn’t work either. One keyword per page. The keyword should be relevant to the content on that page.
Here’s where that spreadsheet I recommended comes in handy. You can see all your data about your keywords and you can coordinate each keyword with a relevant page on your site.
Writing Good Content
The part that most business owners struggle with is writing great content. Without really good content, your website is probably not going to rank very well. What this means is that you need to have content on every page of your website, and it needs to be relevant to your products and services. It needs to showcase you as an authority in your industry. It should answer your user’s questions.
There are some things you need to know about your content in order for it to be well optimized. Let’s start with keyphrase density. Keyphrase density is the number of times your focus keyphrase occurs in your copy, compared to the total text of that page. So if you have a text that is 100 words and 5 of those are your focus keyphrase, then your keyphrase density is 5%.
Ideally, your keyphrase density should land somewhere between 0.5 and 3%. Less than half a percent is not enough for the search engines to recognize what your page is about, and more than 3% looks spammy and like you are trying to game the system. You definitely need to pay attention to how frequently you use your keyword on the page.
So let’s say you have a contracting business and are optimizing content for a page on your site about kitchen remodeling and your keyphrase is kitchen remodeling. If you have 500 words on that page, you would want to use your keyword phrase between 2 and 15 times in the content, with one of those times being early within the first sentence and once in the page title. And I would venture to say that 15 is probably too many times. The text should still be readable and make sense, so jamming your keyword into places it doesn’t belong isn’t useful for your reader.
Additionally, it’s hard to convince Google that your content is a useful answer if it’s too thin. My recommendations for the best amount of content to have on a page that you are optimizing. At a minimum, you need 300 words. That’s entry level, minimum. 500 is better. But over 1000 is the best. Have you ever been on a recipe website and had to scroll through the blogger’s life story to get to the content? That’s because they understand that being ranked for their content is going to take more than a recipe and an introduction.
This brings me to my next piece of advice: Write content for people, not search engines. You can optimize your content so that it meets what the search engines are looking for, but if it’s not useful for people, then it’s not useful for search engines. Focus on the acronym of EAT – you want your content to show your Expertise, Authority, and Trust to your readers.
Writing content is going to be harder than you think, and take longer than you think. Most business owners get stuck when it comes to writing about their business, so here are some tips. When writing your content, on each page, be sure to answer these questions:
- What do you sell or offer?
- What is special about it?
- Why should someone buy from/hire you instead of your competitors?
- What is your unique selling proposition?
- Why are you the best?
Give them the answers to all their questions. Additionally, show your personality in your writing. Nobody wants to read your PhD dissertation. They want to learn about who you are and why they should hire/buy from you, and that comes out in your content.
I said earlier that you can really only optimize one page for one keyword, so if you have 10 pages then you probably have 10 keyword choices. But here is my advice to everyone who has a website and wants to get more traffic. Start a blog. Every blog post you write holds another keyword opportunity for you.
I want to talk about backlinks, because backlinks are important for getting ranked. A backlink is just when another website links to your site. This is a ranking factor because Google knows that if a lot of people are linking to your website, then that probably indicates that your website is a reputable source of information. It’s a trust factor. But getting backlinks is hard, and the best way to get them is to write content that people want to link to.
By writing more quality content on your site via a blog, you are giving people more content to link to. If more people are linking to your site, then you’re going to get more traffic. If more people are visiting your site, then Google is going to see that and it will affect your rank.
Companies who blog get 97% more links to their websites than companies who don’t.*
This is a real screenshot of ten years of analytics data for a company. After seeing a presentation about blogging for business, the company owners decided they should start blogging regularly. Can you tell which date started blogging?
Is blogging going to be the magic bullet? No. But adding fresh new quality content for your website on a consistent basis is one of the best things you can do for SEO. However, adding a blog and then not writing blog posts will not add any value at all.
Optimizing your website
We are to the point that you’ve chosen your keywords and written your content, how do you put that together to make it work for you? This is where it can start to get technical but I’m going to try to keep it as simple as possible.
On Page Optimization is the process of optimizing what’s on the page for search engines. Start the process by using your keyword in your title (your heading 1 or h1), and within the first paragraph, preferably the first sentence if you can. Keep in mind your keyword density and use the keyword the appropriate amount of times. If you have a longer amount of content, you can also add the keyword into subheadings.
However, it’s important that your keyword use make sense. You don’t just want to stick it in there willy nilly.
Optimize your images
Another component that helps your SEO is optimizing your images for your keyword. Photos and graphics visually support the content on the page. When you upload a photo right from your phone or camera, it’ll have an ugly name like IMG100.jpg. When Google reads that in the code, it doesn’t add any value to the page or give any indication of what your page is about. However, you can rename your image using your keywords before you upload them and then Google will see the code and see that the code for that image uses your keyword. And then once you upload them, you can add alt text to your image using your keyword. Alt text is short for alternative text, which is what a screen reader would read to a user who can’t see your images. Google uses this data to help it understand what’s on your page, because photos and images visually support the content on the page. If you have a photo of a remodeled kitchen on your kitchen remodeling page, then it would be good to give it alt text that describes the photo but also uses your keyword. Otherwise, you end up with the photo being something like IMG_9022.JPG which doesn’t give any additional information about what the page is about.
Optimize your URL
Another thing you can optimize is your permalink, or your page URL or page slug. If you use the keyword in your URL, it adds more data to signal to Google what that page is about. So for my kitchen remodeling example, instead of having the url be businessname.com/kitchens, I can change it to businessname.com/kitchen-remodeling, which actually uses the keyword I’m trying to target.
This is just another little supportive technique to help Google understand what your page is about.
Optimize your internal links
I mentioned backlinks previously, but internal links, or links to other pages on your site, are good too. If you are writing content, and see a good place to add a link to another page, definitely add a text link. Just be sure that you use your keyword as your anchor text instead of the words “click here” or something similar. People understand how links work and don’t need you to tell them to click it. If your link is using your keyword, that’s another indicator to Google telling them what that page is about.
Optimize your meta data
The last thing I want to talk about when it comes to on-page optimization is your meta data. A meta title and a meta description are what people see in the search results for a website after performing a search. The meta data doesn’t show up on the page of the website, it’s specifically to be displayed in the search results.
If you don’t tell the search engines what to show, they will pick their own data to display, usually just the title of your page and your site for the meta title, and the first 155 characters of your content for for your description. This could work, but you can do usually better by writing your own.
Here are the key components of good meta data.
- Use your keyword in the title and description. Earlier in the description than later, if possible.
- Stay within the character limits. (60 characters for the meta title and 155 for the description) – anything longer will get cut off.
- Make it say something that inspires users to click on it. If Google sees that your listing is getting a lot of clicks, it will think that your website is a good answer for that query and that can affect your rank.
Technical SEO is simply the process of making sure your website is doing all the stuff that Google wants it to do to be a quality website. I won’t go into a lot of details today about how to achieve all of these things, but the main things you want to ask yourself are these four questions.
- Is it fast? Your website should load quickly, preferably in under 2 seconds. If it’s taking longer than that, or even up to 8 seconds or more, then you need to do some quick evaluations and figure out what’s going on. Google does use page speed as a ranking factor.
- Is it secure? Are you using an SSL certificate to get the browser lock on your website? It should be. Google uses encryption technology as a ranking factor.
- Is it mobile friendly? Does it adjust size depending on the device someone is using. If all you see on a phone is a tiny version of your desktop website, then it needs a fix. Google indexes mobile-first, and if you don’t have a mobile-friendly website, you’re in trouble.
- Does it have an XML sitemap? This is a special roadmap of all the pages and posts for Google. Having one that Google can find will make your site’s content easier to find and index.
Google My Business
One more thing I want to recommend that you set up today if you haven’t done this already is to claim your Google My Business listing and enter everything you possibly can into that listing. Start by Googling your business name to see if you have a listing already. If you do, you can claim it by verifying your business information. Once you’ve verified, you can add your business info, photos, logos, website links, etc.
Have you ever done a search for a business and noticed the longer info to the right of the search results? That’s called the Google Knowledge Panel, and it shows an expanded information with links and other information, like reviews. Having a more robust knowledge graph is going to result in more clicks to your website because it shows you are an active, reliable business. Having great reviews helps too.
The last step in this process is to figure out if what you’re doing is working, so you will need to choose some metrics for measuring success. Do not Google your own keywords and see where you land in the results, that is not a good measure because Google customizes search results for each user based on their search history, location, etc. You might see your website more because you visit it a lot more often than other people, and that could lead you think you are doing better than you are.
Instead, you’ll want to use some tools to measure traffic and clicks to your website. The two main tools I recommend for your data is Google analytics and Google search console. These are free tools from google that you can connect to your website. Analytics will give you data about how many people are coming to your site and how they are interacting with it, and Search Console will give you data about what searches your site is showing up for.
While I would love to go into more detail on how to use both of these tools, that would be another webinar altogether. They can get very technical because there is so much data. But data is important if you want to know if your SEO is working.
- SEO: Search Engine Optimization
- Keyword: single word used in a search query
- Keyword Phrase: multiple words in a search query
- Long-tail Keyword: longer and more specific keyword phrase
- Search Volume: Number of searches using that keyword
- Keyword Difficulty: How competitive a keyword is
- Keyphrase Density: Number of times a keyword is used relative to the number of words on a page
- Meta Data: HTML tags used to describe the content of the page, usually shown in the search results
- Meta Title: An element in your website that defines the title of your page
- Meta Description: An element that summarizes the content of your page.
- On-Page Optimization: measures that can be taken directly within the website in order to improve its position in the search rankings
- Alt Text (aka alternative text): alt text is the description of the photo that appears in place of an image on a webpage if the image fails to load on a user’s screen (also what gets read by screen readers for visually impaired users)
- Backlinks: a link back to your website
- Internal Links: a link to another page of your website
- Anchor text: clickable text in a link
- Google My Business: free Google directory for businesses
- Knowledge Panel: information boxes that appear on Google when you search for entities
- Technical SEO: website and server optimizations that help search engine spiders crawl and index your site more effectively
- SSL Certificate: a digital certificate that authenticates the identity of a website and encrypts information
- XML Sitemap: roadmap of your website’s content
Keyword Research Tools
WordPress SEO Tools
If you made it this far, thanks for reading my entire presentation on SEO basics!
Ouellette, Coral. (2020, January 6). Ultimate List of Blogging Statistics and Facts (Updated for 2021). OptinMonster.
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