Getting started with SEO - The basics of all basics
SEO is SUCH a hot topic right now. It seems like everywhere you look online or in forums people are talking about SEO.
Where to get started
What does it all mean
HOW to I get on page 1 of google and stay there
Do I even need good SEO? I mean it seems like I do, but do I really?
If you have asked these questions you are not alone. Even though most people in your life who don't run small businesses have no idea about SEO, they encounter the results of SEO every single day.
So if you run a small business and have any sort of web presense at all, you should have a basic understanding of what SEO is, how you can get started making sure you are utilizing good SEO practices for your business and WHY any of this even matters.
Like most things that have to do with running a business, you need to have a clear purpose and goal behind focusing your efforts on SEO.
Even saying "my goal is to get to page one of google" isn't clear or directed enough.
Page one? There technically is no page one. There is only page one for every single search term someone types into Google.
So there are literally HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of page ones.
Which page ones are you trying to be on?
If you don't break it down a little and understand the purpose of SEO for your business or how you want to show in search results, you will be frustrated. It will all feel impossible to you and you will end up avoiding the situation all together or potentially paying LOTS of money to people who either may or may not really help you achieve your goals.
WHAT THE HECK IS SEO?
The technical definition: SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization
In not-quite-as-techy-speak, having "good SEO" means your website is optimized to return quality and trusted information for searches that are being done on the internet.
Back in the olden days (you know, like 5 years ago) SEO was more focused on TERMS on your website matching terms people were searching for.
However, Google has learned how people were gaming the system and has become MUCH, much smarter about getting people QUALITY and TRUSTED information rather than just returning websites that have "how do I start a blog" inserted 5,000 times in all sorts of places that don't make sense.
WHY DO I CARE ABOUT SEO?
I'm gonna be brutally honest here. (And keep in mind that of course, this is my blog and full of my opinions...you may agree or disagree with them and that is quite alright with me.)
You don't need to care about SEO.
Like at all.
If you are running a business and making enough money to meet your goals and getting lots of good word of mouth referrals etc...then maybe SEO doesn't need to be where you place your efforts.
There are LOTS of small businesses running out there that hardly even have a website much less any care about optimizing it.
If you have any sort of online presence...if being found in search results is even a little bit important to you, then SEO should be pretty important to you given how crowded the internet is these days.
You don't have to be an expert at it and you don't always have to hire someone to do it for you (although many many people do.)
But knowing some of the basic strategies and then keeping up with it (SEO is NEVER a one and done kind of thing!!!) will only help you stay ahead of the game when it comes to being found on the internet.
The basics of all basics
Ok, let's break down the basics now that we understand a little bit more about SEO and why we should care about it.
In order to start and maintain good SEO practices on your website, you have to understand the mission of Google: (paraphrased) To connect people with the information they want and need.
Google does NOT want to return a website for a photographer who specializes in modern NYC weddings when someone types in : Barn wedding in upstate New York.
The way Google goes about figuring out what information out there floating around is the best for the search at hand is what SEO is all about. Its constantly changing and fluxing and we have to keep up with all of it!
What do you want?
Essentially, you have to figure out what sorts of search results you want to show up for.
Which page one do you want to be on?
You can't really focus any of your SEO efforts until you have that question answered.
Once you know that, you can fiddle with the various ways to optimize your site. You can learn how to use words and images on your website to get better and better results.
Where do I start?
Again, the subject of SEO is a big one and I am barely scratching the surface here, but here are some good places to get started and then you can expand from there!
Make sure you are indexed
You need to ensure that Google actually knows you exist. Make sure google is crawling your site and pages are indexed. You can get started HERE.
Make sure you have SEO descriptors where they are necessary
You need to make sure that your website has a general description that is not just your business name. What do you do and where do you do it? That's a good place to start.
Ensure all of your pages are named something a little more descriptive other than "Home" etc...and make sure all meta data is update for your page descriptions (if your website platforms allows you to update it.)
Alt-tag your images
If your website is image heavy (important for photographers) then this is a MUST. Google loves words because it can make sense of them. Google doesn't know how to make sense of an image unless it has words attached to it. This is what alt-text or alt-tagging is. You are giving an image a description that would essentially allow a blind person to understand what that image is. DON'T skimp on this part!! It's imperative!!
Again, Google loves words because it understands words. And on most websites there are only so many words you can add before it becomes super unnatural and spammy. But blog posts...blog posts are a natural and informative way to add TONS of words to your website while also providing great information that actually helps people. Google looooves that.
When it comes to SEO, it's important to remember that it is kind of a game, but your end goal is the most important.
You don't always have to be on page one for the most competitive search term out there. You could potentially kill it (be on page one) for LOTS of other not as competitive terms out there and still get a lot of inquiries or traffic to your site.
And remember, even though the subject of SEO feels big and overwhelming at times, just remember that starting from the beginning and taking things one step at a time will 9 times out of 10 get you exactly where you want to go. It's not a race. Take your time and do it right!