The beginner’s guide to SEO for small business owners
This is a guest post by SEO expert, Josh Hamit from Improve My Search Rankings.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a vast field. There is so much to learn and so much to implement that it can easily be overwhelming.
However, at the core of all SEO is just one basic concept: providing value to your website visitors.
In years gone past, for some SEO experts, search engine optimisation used to be a “technical game” to “trick” search engines. That’s not the case anymore. There are clear concepts and guidelines that one can follow to achieve significant success in the search engine optimisation world.
Although the competition is tougher than ever, and there are more than 200 search engine ranking factors to take care of, SEO is still simple enough that any beginner can learn the fundamental concepts and achieve success.
In this guide, I’ll highlight some essential SEO aspects for beginners without complicating things. Let’s begin.
On-page SEO vs. Off-page SEO
SEO can be divided into two major categories:
- On-page SEO
- Off-page SEO
On-page SEO refers to search engine optimisation techniques that you make directly to a website or individual page. On-page SEO is completely under your control.
On-page SEO includes elements, such as:
- optimising the HTML code
- URL structure
- heading tags
- title tags
- keyword optimisation
- content quality
- content structure and formatting
- use of images and videos
- website loading speed optimisation
- meta description
On the other hand, off-page SEO refers to SEO techniques and practices that happen outside of your webpage. Unlike on-page SEO, off-page SEO is not completely under control. It involves elements that you can’t always control or influence, such as backlinks, authority, link relevancy, anchor text diversification, social signals and more.
In order to be successful, you need to be good at on-page SEO as well as off-page SEO. If a certain web page isn’t well-optimised for either, it will not achieve its full potential in Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs).
In the following section, I’m going to discuss some important elements that belong to both on-page SEO and off-page SEO and share some tips that beginners can use to get better SEO results instantly.
On-page SEO elements
A few years ago, keywords used to be extremely important. In fact, in the early days of search engine optimisation, website owners could rank web pages solely on the basis of keywords and keyword optimisation. Although that is not the case anymore, keywords are still extremely relevant and important in SEO.
There are a few things that beginners must understand and learn about keyword research and keyword optimisation:
- You need to find relevant keywords that your target audience is searching for. For example, for a divorce lawyer, “best divorce lawyer in London” could be a primary keyword.
- Ideally, the best keywords have low competition, high search volume and display the searcher’s buying intent.
- Long-tail keywords are much better than head keywords. Long-tail keywords are those that have 3 or more words in them. On the other hand, head keywords have only 1 or 2 words. Head keywords have a high level of competition and low conversion rates. For example, “shoes” is a head keyword that isn’t likely to lead to a sale. In comparison, “black running Nike shoes for men” are more likely to convert into a sale. As you can see, long-tail keywords are more specific and less competitive and, therefore, allow more opportunities to rank in the search engine results pages (SERPS).
- Once you have selected the primary keywords you want to include in your web page, don’t overdo it. It doesn’t work anymore. Use it in the title tag, URL, and the body content as naturally as possible.
There are many excellent keyword research tools that you can use. Some are paid, while some are free. For beginners, I recommend the free Google Keyword Planner tool for keyword research.
2. URL structure
The URL structure of each page is an important on-page SEO element. There are three qualities that a URL should have:
- It should be clear, concise, and free of any special characters.
- The URL should have the primary keyword that you are trying to rank for.
- An average user should be able to guess the content of the web page by looking at the URL. It should be descriptive. For example, look at the following URL image.
3. Content quality
On-page SEO mostly boils down to this important factor: content quality.
Your content must be extremely useful, engaging, and helpful to the readers. Ideally, it should have unique and exclusive information for them that they can’t find elsewhere.
In short, each webpage should provide immense value to readers.
4. Content structure
User engagement is an on-page SEO factor that is growing in importance.
The structure of your content and web page is a useful way to ensure user engagement remains high on your website.
The content must be structured and divided neatly into different headings (H2, H3, H4 tags). The content should also be well-supported by images, videos, or infographics when needed to increase user engagement.
Lastly, website navigation and design also play crucial roles. Without them, users would find it difficult to navigate or stay at your website for long — which would eventually hurt your SEO rankings.
5. Website loading speed
Ideally, your webpage should take less than 1 to 2 seconds to load. If it takes longer than that, your search engine rankings will suffer.
For more information on increasing website loading speed, read 6 ways to increase your website’s loading speed.
You can also use Google’s Page Insight Tool to test your load speed.
6. Internal links
On-page optimisation also includes creating links on your web page — to other websites as well as to other pages on your own website.
The idea is to provide the best user experience by linking to other content. Internal links also help search engine crawlers understand more about your website and help them crawl the structure and other contents on your site — which is good for SEO. The more authoritative the external link, the better.
The most important element in regards to off-page SEO is backlinks.
Backlinks are hyperlinks that other websites create to your website or a specific webpage.
On your own website, make sure to create extremely useful and unique content that other bloggers and website owners feel compelled to link to your web pages in order to provide their own users with the best possible experience and the most comprehensive set of information that they need.
This can be most easily achieved by developing a highly resourceful blog.
You can also influence the link-building process by creating amazing content and contacting influencers and other bloggers/website owners. By manually getting in touch, you increase the chances of your content getting noticed by other people and earning more backlinks.
When it comes to backlinks, however, it is important to remember that the quality of backlinks is much more important than the number of backlinks.
For example, if a small website or blog can get a backlink from, say, Forbes, that’s huge! Backlinks serve as a vote of confidence that other people and well-established websites have found your content worthy and useful.
Another important thing to remember is that most of your backlinks should come from relevant websites – or contextually relevant articles. Too many backlinks from irrelevant websites may lead to a search engine penalty as it may imply that your backlinks are fake, useless, or generated in exchange for money (which is prohibited).
Google Penguin is a Google algorithm that specifically penalizes websites that generate backlinks from unfair means. It also targets websites that have too many irrelevant backlinks.
The following chart refers to a study that analyzes how irrelevant backlinks may get your website penalized by Google Penguin.
Search engine optimisation is exciting, dynamic, and vast. There is much more to learn than this short article details, but this is a solid start for any beginner looking to start in the world of SEO.
For further resources on learning, SEO do get in touch with Josh.