On the laundry list of marketing jargon, SEO is an under-utilized but over-used term. How many times do you see “SEO” on a site that doesn’t seem to be performing at its best? Probably a lot. While it’s always a good idea to bring an expert into the matters, there’s an aspect of SEO that you can do on your own.
So when you’re not talking to an expert agency or SEO guru who can do the whole nine yards for you, we’ve got a step-by-step tutorial that will give you the freedom to check your SEO on your own and work towards a better strategy for your site. Use this for your blog, your individual pages, and your homepage to make sure your on-site SEO is in a good spot!
What is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization. A lot of times you’ll hear people say things like, “I optimize SEO,” or “We’ll handle your SEO optimization.” That’s a key indicator that those people actually won’t help out with your SEO, because those statements don’t make sense. SEO, by default, means your site is being optimized, so there’s no need for the extra “optimization” tacked onto the title.
In a nutshell, SEO means optimizing your content to best reach your target audience by using on-site and off-site tactics to get that great content in front of search engines. Search engines are the creepy crawlers of the web. They’re crawling through countless pages every second to index and record all of the information that is out there. There are billions of pieces of content on the web, so these crawlers (aka bots) play a huge role in helping Google answer your searches.
Think about it this way. When you search for a question like, “What is SEO?”, Google will pull up a results page. That’s called the Search Engine Results Page, otherwise known as SERP. That page isn’t based off a random collection of sites and information. It’s carefully curated from all of the crawling that the bots do. These bots are here to help. The way in which they crawl allows Google to answer your questions with more precision and accuracy, in the fastest way possible.
Instead of “SEO optimization,” what you should be looking for is SEO performance or SEO strategy. There’s a strategy behind the SEO, and that’s what you need in order to make sure that search engines are ranking your content.
Don’t get caught up in the nitty gritty details of SEO. It’s not a competition, and you shouldn’t be trying to trick the search engines. Remember, they’re on your team! Instead, you need to come up with a game plan that includes your target audience, what types of messages you want to get across, and what you want to be known for.
Once you figure that out, look at your site through a new lens. Think about who you’re trying to reach. Are you reaching them? Consider what you’re trying to say. Are you saying it?
This may seem like a simple step, but it’s often overlooked. A lot of people are reaching the wrong target audience or throwing too many messages into the picture. You have an area of expertise, and that’s what sets the stage for the foundation of your SEO. Everything SEO-related should be connected to that niche.
Decide who your target audience is. Write it down and make a commitment to it. Having a ton of followers doesn’t matter if you have the wrong followers. In the long run, the reason why you go after an audience is to convert them into your customers—whether that be clients, buyers, subscribers, etc.
Knowing your target audience means you must know what you want them to be looking for. You set up a target audience based on the services you could provide to them. For example, if you run a digital marketing agency that works predominantly with B2C clients, you’re looking for clients who want to market their business, grow their business, and advertise to potential customers. These are the types of things they’ll be typing into the search bar when they’re looking for a marketing agency. It’s your job to tap into those potential search queries by putting yourself in the mind of your client. Think about what words or phrases they might search for, and Voila! Those are your keywords.
Let’s do a quick exercise. Say you own a restaurant that serves customizable bowls and build-your-own tacos. Your client is likely someone who likes to customize their food options. What kinds of words might they be searching in order to find their ideal restaurant?
Answer: Customizable restaurants, build-your-own meals, customizable meals, restaurants with build-your-own options.
Those are just a few suggestions. Using keywords allows you to piece together your own puzzle to paint a picture of what your company offers.
Now that you know what your main message is and who it’s intended for, the next step is to audit each of your pages for SEO purposes. Write down the keywords you’re using for URL names, page titles, and headlines. It helps to have a birds-eye view. When bots crawl your site, these are some of the main things they’re looking for.
For example, if you have a page all about what your company does but the title just says “Our company,” bots won’t rank you for your services. Instead, you may want the page to be titled “Our services” or “What we do.”
As you look through each of your pages, keep your game plan and overall strategy in mind. Remember: SEO isn’t about vanity metrics. It’s about driving the right people to your page so that you can accomplish your business goals while helping the right kind of consumer.
There are some golden rules to on-site SEO that you should know. There’s a difference between tricking the bots and knowing what they’re looking for. At the end of the day, Google wants every searcher to have the best experience possible, so the bots take user experience into consideration when evaluating pages. Here are a few rules that will keep your page in good condition:
Congratulations! You made it through 4 big rules of on-site SEO. It will take some time to fully integrate this practice into your day-to-day website upkeep, so don’t be too hard on yourself if it feels endless. SEO is an ever-evolving practice—it’s never a one-and-done deal. Google is constantly changing the metrics for search results pages. So if you’re really committed to your SEO performance, you’ll want to stay in the loop with all things related to Google, search engines, and the great big Internet out there.