SEO: The Step-by-Step Guide
SEO, which stands for search engine optimization, is key to driving organic traffic to your website. When your site’s SEO is on point, prospective users come your way easily.
But getting started on improving your site’s SEO can be intimidating. Maybe you don’t understand all the jargon. You might understand the concept of SEO, and you agree that it’s great in theory — but you’re just unsure how to get started at the actual optimization.
That’s where this guide comes in. We’ll walk you through implementing SEO on your site step by step. By following these steps, you should start to see improvement in your website’s ranking. And you’ll know what steps to keep taking for continued improvement as you add new content to your site. Let’s get started.
What Is SEO? And How Can It Help Drive Traffic to Your Website?
SEO refers to the steps you can take to increase your ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs) and to increase the organic traffic that come to you from SERPs. The primary way to boost your organic traffic through SEO is using keywords. You want to optimize your use of keywords, not just stuff them across your web pages randomly. And that use has to be judicious because Google penalizes websites that overuse keywords.
If you’re not getting the organic traffic, you think you should be getting, or if your website ranks poorly in organic search results, it could be for a few reasons. Some of them may have to do with your product or the user experience that your website delivers — but in many cases, your weak search results result from weak SEO. You’re using weak keywords (certainly weaker than your competitors). As a result, your website isn’t ranking highly — as a result of those weak rankings; your prospective customers are never discovering your business.
Through creating smart SEO that aligns with the practices of Google and other search engines, you can improve your search engines and attract more customers to your site.
Step 1: Create a List of Keywords
The first step of any SEO strategy is keyword research. That means you want to use the keywords that users are searching for. The keywords you use on every page of your site will drive traffic to those pages when users search for them.
You can create a list of potential keywords in several ways. Think about what you want users to do when they visit your site or why they might want to visit your site. Say you’re an electrician in Long Beach, California, who wants to boost your business by installing electric vehicle chargers. Make a list of phrases prospective customers might use to find this service. You might try “EV chargers,” “EV chargers Long Beach” or “electric vehicle charger installation in Long Beach.”
Don’t be afraid to go for longer, “long-tail keywords.” It’s easier to rank highly with long-tail keywords than with shorter keyword phrases — and many users know what they want to use in their searches.
A growing reason to lean into long-tail keywords is the increasing use of voice search via smart home devices and mobile devices. Most people using voice search utilize long-tail keywords, often in a question form (“Alexa, where is an electrician who does EV charger installation?”).
Start typing potential keywords into Google’s search field and see what populates to get ideas. You may see many of your direct competitors on Google’s first page. You can also use keyword tools such as Ubersuggest to give you keyword ideas.
As you start narrowing down your choices to just a handful of keywords, look at the keywords that seem to be working for your competitors. You should also seek out keywords with low competition but high search volume.
You can get some of the data you need from Google’s keyword research tools. Suppose you want to opt for a paid tool. In that case, Google Keyword Planner shows you what keywords your competitors are using to rank highly and lets you know the monthly search volume for various keywords while helping you find new keywords that are competitive and relevant. Google Trends will show you keyword volume over time and in various geographic regions — and it’s free.
Step 2: Put Keywords in the Page Title
Once you’ve chosen your keywords, it’s time to slot them into the right places on your website. One of them is in the page title. Your title tag lets Google know the topic of your page. It’ll appear on the top of your SERP results, and it’s highly influential on your page’s click-through rates. Keep your title tag keyword to 50–60 characters for best results. If your site was built using a content management system such as WordPress, you might be able to use simple plugins to add your title tags to every page of your site.
Step 3: Put Keywords in Your Meta Description
The meta description is the brief description of your website that searchers see on SERPs. It provides more information about your page to the search engine and your users. That means you want to write your meta description to be read by a human — but you also want to include the keywords that the search engines need to help rank your page highly.
Ensure you include your brand or business name in your meta description and your keywords. Here, you’ll typically want to use a shorter keyword since a meta description typically runs about 155 characters.
Step 4: Put Keywords in Your Headers
You undoubtedly use headers in your website’s blog posts and other pages to help break up the content on the page. Search engines also pay attention to those headers when crawling your website’s content. They spend most attention on H1 headings (which you’re probably using for your page title), H2, and so on down the hierarchy to H6 headers. Include keywords in these headers to help your website rank highly.
Step 5: Use Keywords in the Page’s Content
While you don’t want to stuff keywords into your page’s content (that’s a no-no for Google), you want to include your keywords to boost your SEO. When your keyword appears naturally in the content of your pages, search engines realize that your page is actually about the keyword and rank your page more highly—plan on using keywords anywhere from four to 12 times per page — but no more.
SEO Is Just the Beginning
What people search for is always changing. That means SEO is a constantly moving target that needs continued attention and a flexible approach that’s always ready to pivot and grow. By starting with these simple SEO tips, you can start ramping up your SEO and boosting your rankings, which will open the doors to the next steps in your company’s growth.