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SEO 101: What You Need to Know to Get Started

Any good inbound marketing strategy has several aspects that can never be ignored: content creation, email campaigns, case studies. Another must-have is search engine optimization (SEO). 

While campaigns and content creation stay relatively the same, SEO is an ever-evolving beast that requires more maintenance to be effective. Here’s what you need to know to start and a few things to avoid as you create your digital marketing strategy.

What Is Search Engine Optimization?

SEO is a method to ensure your website and its content appear on search engine results pages (SERPs). It involves adding words and phrases people are searching for to find your content, and it helps boost organic traffic.

Google is by far the most popular search engine, which makes it the typical focus when most marketers are in the process of optimizing. While the concept of SEO is fairly straightforward, its implementation can get rather complicated.

Why Do You Need an SEO Strategy?

Complicated or not, SEO is something even the smallest companies need to make a blip on Google’s radar. Search engines are the greatest generator of website traffic, with Search Engine Land reporting that 53% of all web traffic comes from organic search results.

The percentage is significant, especially compared to the 5% of traffic from social media and the 15% from paid searches. Organic traffic is even higher for B2B companies, topping off at 64%.

If your company is missing the mark with SEO, you’re also missing out on a massive amount of pageviews and potential customers.

How to Make It Work

Keywords are an important part of SEO, but they aren’t necessarily king. The rest of your SEO practices need to back up your keywords to prove your content is relevant and useful — not just stuffed with keywords for the sake of being found.

Keywords

Start with keyword research related to your products and services, as well as those used by your competitors. Use keywords in the most important parts of every webpages: page title, meta description, header tags, URL, and text that links to other pages throughout your site.

Read more: Inbound Marketing 101: Do’s and Don’ts for Keywords and Meta Tags

Content

The type of content you produce plays a major role in your SEO. Content on your website, social media channels, and elsewhere needs to be relevant and provide value to the consumer. Valuable content is well-produced, helpful, and something people actually want to read or view.

Creating content with a human audience in mind, rather than writing for a search engine, will win out every time. Consider publishing a regular lineup of evergreen content or more thoughtful, insightful content that remains relevant and useful for the long haul. 

Long-form content tends to rank better on search engines, but be careful: Writing longer for the sake of SEO could work against you if you start to keyword-stuff.

Another way to think about it: If YOU were your target audience, what content would be most helpful for you?

Other pieces of content to pay attention to include:

  • Meta description: This short piece of content appears under your page title in search queries. Write one that accurately describes the webpage, and be sure to include a search term. These are typically 155 characters or less. Add more and you risk getting clipped.
  • Title tags: In the above image, the tag is the blue text. This tells search engines and visitors about your site or page. Depending on the page, this is also a good place to describe your brand. Again, include a keyword.
  • Image tags: Since Google and other search engines can’t “see” your images, they rely on the alternative text area of your image for its description. Leave the ALT attribute blank and miss out on many potential search hits. This is especially important for achieving ADA compliance. Describe the picture to the best of your ability and include keywords.
  • Headlines: Keep article headlines under 55 characters to ensure the entire headline shows up on SERPs. The ideal headline recipe is descriptive, not coy or cutesy. While those tactics certainly draw people in, they may bounce if it’s a bait-and-switch.
  • Permalinks: Also known as the article’s URL, edit the permalink of your articles to remove filler words and focus solely on keywords. It doesn’t need to exactly match your headline and can contain up to four keywords, with the most important keyword first.
    For example: If your headline is Dog Grooming 101: What You Need to Know to Get Started, your URL could be /dog-grooming-get-started.Read more: What Are Blog Tags and Why Do You Need Them?
  • Blog tags: Blog tags are used, more than anything, to organize your CMS. But they can also be helpful for users searching for blogs on specific topics. Think of blog tags as a label, giving each blog one or two. For example, this blog has a blog tag of SEO, but it could also include a tag for inbound marketing.

Read more: What Are Blog Tags and Why Do You Need Them?

User Experience

Providing a streamlined, enjoyable user experience is another way to boost SEO. The best user experience comes from websites that are easy to navigate and search, offer related content as well as relevant internal and external links. Quick load times enhance the user experience, as does having a responsive site design that can be viewed on any screen size or device.

Read more: How to Ensure Your SEO Strategy Magically Falls into Place (for Real!)

What Else to Know about SEO

Even if you can’t address every single thing both human viewers and search engines love, you want to make sure you steer clear of practices both of them tend to hate. Search engines, especially, are not fans of:

  • Keyword stuffing — this will earn you lower rankings on Google
  • Buying links, instead of acquiring them through quality content and meaningful relationships (backlinks)
  • Poor user experience, which can be caused by poor navigation and multiple other factors
  • Annoying ads, too many ads, or too many annoying ads

When in doubt, tools like SEMrush, Moz, and Ahrefs can help you perform keyword research on your site and your competitor’s sites. HubSpot also features the SEO Marketing Software tool that will help you optimize your SEO within your CRM.

Add SEO to Your Content Strategy

While there are many strategic tips and hints for effective SEO, one of them is to use common sense. If you create awesome content that provides value, contains relevant words your audience is looking for, and appears on a fast-loading, easy-to-navigate site, you’ve already covered several bases of SEO.

If you don’t have the capacity to start optimizing your site’s SEO, reach out to Lynton for an SEO audit today. We’ll provide recommendations for improvement and content ideas.

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