Updated: Jul 17, 2020
I get asked this question a lot by my web design clients. And the truth is the answer is complicated. This will serve as your basic guide so you can be informed on how search engines work, what you're getting when someone like me offers SEO services, or take a stab at boosting your site yourself. There are certain passive things you can do at the beginning to set yourself up for success, and if I made your site, you'll be happy to know most of these are already done! We'll go over those, as well as the more longterm, active, options that I offer in my package to really grow your organic following overtime.
If you're just starting out and you feel like a needle in a haystack in the internet barn, you aren't alone. There are a number of ways your site ranking can be improved, but they'll require a little bit more than using the right key words and crossing your fingers. I also offer these services for you in my basic SEO support package, if it's out of your wheelhouse.
What is SEO? This stands for search engine optimization, and basically means improving your site rankings in the unpaid, or organic, search results area. Google is the most widely used search engine, so we'll focus on Google SEO in this guide.
How Are Websites Ranked?
In order to know how to win, we'll need to know the rules. So how does Google's algorithm deal with searches? They consider hundreds of factors about a webpage to decide what order to rank them in your search, but the most important are:
This is where your keywords come in.
How accurate is your content? How many people link to your site or trust it as a good source on a subject?
Is the content structured properly and easy to read and understand?
Imagine yourself at a party and you really want to know more about this Tiger King documentary everyone is talking about. As you make your way around the party, you overhear someone mention tigers, but they were just talking about a recent trip they took. Finally, you hear "Netflix" from across the room, and you make your way over and bring up Tiger King - finally relevant search results. Of the three people in the group, two have seen Tiger King and therefore have the right authority to inform you on the subject. Tom has a background in biology and just starts in on the evolution of the tiger and the effects captivity has on the animal - relevant and authoritative, yes, but meandering with lots of big words you don't care about right now. Finally, Kim chimes in with her personal review of the hysteria and emotional rollercoaster that is the Tiger King story. Boom - usefulness. You leave the party early so you can binge the documentary immediately now that you're hooked on Kim's review.
Pro Tip: Having a great website that people love, and trust to have relevant and meaningful content is your best bet in the long run. So keep that in mind as you build your brand with high quality content, social posts, and blogs.
What Does Basic SEO Look Like?
You'll need to do a few things up front to get yourself off on the right foot. Below would be the "passive" set up to put yourself in the right place to begin with, but unless you have other effective marketing channels, and ongoing SEO support that will lead people to your site and business, these steps won't magically get you found online by themselves.
1. Choose your keywords wisely
There are a lot of ways to do this, and you can even go so far as to do a deep dive in customer and keyword research, but it's entirely up to you and your budget and available time. Basically you want to know what your ideal customer is searching for in order to find your site. Do you want to add your location in your keywords to narrow down the competition, or are you building a global brand? Do you want to focus on a particular goal or product?
For basic SEO, in my opinion, the most effective type of keywords are "medium tail" meaning they fall right in the middle between too specific, they won't reach enough people, to too broad and you're back