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Getting Started with SEO

If you’re new to online promotion, you have heard how important SEO is to your website’s visibility on the internet—but you may not know exactly what it is, if you need it, or how it’s done. We’re here to help!

In this guide, we’ll explain what SEO is and why it matters. We’ll give you a tested approach to planning, and show you how to get started from where you are.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization: it’s the art and science of fine-tuning your website to increase your ranking with search engines such as Google and Bing.

When you use a search engine, your results are displayed in a list called a Search Engine Results Page (SERP). The purpose of SEO is put your website closer to the top.

How Does it Work?

Search ranking is determined by a complicated algorithm which evaluates each website for authority and authenticity. Because users are much more likely to click the top SERP links, these not-so-intuitive algorithms have made SEO into an industry.

SEO attempts to give the search engines what they want, in hopes of raising a site’s SERP ranking.

Is SEO is Above Board?

Some “black hat” methods of SEO have a poor reputation for trying to deceive search engines. The darker history of SEO makes some people hesitant about getting involved,

Don’t worry … legitimate “white hat” SEO is not only legal, it’s encouraged by the search engines themselves. They want your webpage’s content to be packaged in a way they can evaluate. Some of the algorithm’s inner workings are black-boxed, but much of it is explained.

Why SEO is Important

Optimizing for search engines is important because it:

• Makes your site easier for users to find and navigate.

• Builds trust. Ranking high on a SERP signals to users that your site is trustworthy, since they typed in the search keywords themselves.

• Increases social media interaction because it’s easy to share your content.

• Encourages better digital formatting of content.

• Increases sales. SEO is excellent for bringing targeted customers to your website.

Getting Started with SEO

SEO is a framework of best practices rather than a single solution. You don’t need every SEO fix. It’s best to start with a few fundamentals—keywords, linking, metadata structure—and add customized options where they matter.

Here’s a simple plan to begin implementing SEO for your site.

Pre-Planning

One effective way to think about your SEO project is to separate your needs into three categories:

Technical SEO: With technical SEO, you ensure that search engines can crawl and index your website without issues. This area also deals with reducing website load-time.

Content-focused SEO: This category includes formatting a website’s internal structure and content to satisfy search engines.

Off-site SEO: This longer-term goal promotes your website’s authority, so that it ranks higher in search results.

First Steps

Technical optimization is the most basic SEO fix, because it deals with how well search engines can index your site. Once it’s done, you don’t often have to mess with these settings—but getting it right is vital to your online presence.

You want to review your settings and configuration files, including a customized robots.txt file as needed. Check for URL errors, and redirect bad links.

A final important step is to optimize the “crawling” of your site by adding a sitemap, and submitting it to Google.

Streamlining your Site

People clicking on search links don’t wait around. You get two seconds with most people; if your site isn’t onscreen within five seconds, most would-be customers bail.

Professionals can update your site to squeeze out the fastest possible load times, but you can eliminate a lot of deadwood by simply resizing images to avoid loading and then compressing oversized files. Installing a caching system and an efficient use of stylesheets are other primary steps to improve load times.

Content-focused SEO

You want to get into the habit of paying attention to SEO when creating your content. Acceptable SEO content is well-researched and accurate, as well as engaging and easy to read.

Content-focused SEO deals with posting your articles in a format that search engines favor. It includes using targeted keywords, setting up your website’s structure for optimal crawler navigation, and marking up your content and metadata to gratify search engines.

There are software applications that help monitor your keywords and the metadata that defines a page. Some programs analyze your copy to determine its SEO score.

Off-Site SEO: The Never-Ending Journey

The Japanese have a word, kaizen, that means continual improvement, which is a good concept for working with SEO. Technology constantly changes and trends shift, so maintaining online visibility takes consistent effort.

After your site is technically sound and quick to load, and you’ve made a habit of optimizing content, you can move to Off-site SEO. This is about optimizing your public standing as an “authoritative” site.

In-bound links, or backlinks, are seen as a sign of trust by search engines, so links from high-authority sites can raise your profile significantly. Professionals can help you hone your message to create great content that people enjoy sharing: the single most important factor of all.

Be careful of shortcuts. The days of scammy “linkfarms” and paid links have waned, and you can be negatively impacted if you’re found using them.

Summing Up

SEO is a necessity if you want to attract real traffic, and you may already be doing at least some of it. Now that you’ve seen an overview of how to implement SEO on your site, you can get started from where you are.

The best way to master basic SEO is to get hands-on. Even if you’re just starting out, get the basics done and concentrate on producing great content: you’ll soon reap the rewards of being more visible to your online customers.

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