SEO is not always very easy to understand. In fact, when you’re just starting out on your entrepreneurial journey, learning SEO can be pretty daunting...
I get that!
The topic of SEO is so vast, I don’t think there’s actually a limit of how much you can learn about it. But guess what? You don’t need to know it all. There. I said it.
You don’t need to know all there is to know about SEO, but I do believe that every business owner needs to learn the fundamentals of it in order to be able to push our high-quality content and attract more traffic to your website. I mean, if you’re gonna spend hours crafting the perfect blog post, it would kinda suck if nobody sees it, right?
So that’s why, I wanna share with you some of the basic, yet very important SEO stuff that you should know and implement in your business so that you can score higher on search engine results pages. I ain’t gonna confuse you with any gibberish and complicated terms – Imma deliver it to you simply with a cherry and a free checklist on top to keep you accountable.
When I ask my clients what they know about SEO, their answer is usually: “It stands for Search Engine Optimisation (correct) and if I do it right, I’ll be #1 on Google“. While the latter is teeeechnically correct, it’s more like the perfect outcome, rather than the definition of SEO.
The most important starting point is to understand how SEO works and how do search engines determine whether your website is optimised or not?
In the world of search engines, Google is the Big Papa – it accounts for a whopping 76% of the global searches on search engines. That’s a biiiig piece of pie right there! So hence you’ll see me mostly refer to Google in this article.
For the sake of my favourite metaphor, think of Google as your personal concierge. It knows everything about everyone, all the best places, the best parties, the most interesting events and has an answer to any of your questions. But Mr. Google. how do you do that?
When you type in a question into the search bar, Google will analyse it for keywords and use a set of rules and algorithms to analyse hundreds of thousands of websites in less than a second to find the most relevant results for your enquiry.
The rules that Google (and pretty much any search engine uses) are called ranking factors and Google has over 200 ranking factors it considers when analysing the websites. Think of it like a checklist – the more points your website ticks off the list, the higher you score. Pretty easy, right?
For the purpose of keeping things simple (and for your own sanity), we’re not gonna go through all these 200+ ranking factors. You have enough things to worry about. However, you should know about the two main categories for these ranking factors: on-site SEO and off-site SEO.
On-site SEO refers to all the information that search engines can collect directly from your website. Things like:
If you don’t know what any of these mean, don’t worry. I cover them later in this post. Don’t forget to download my SEO Fundamentals Checklist to go
through these one-by-one:
You may have guessed it already that if on-site SEO refers to stuff on your website, then off-site SEO refers to….
… stuff off your website! Good job!
Not only will search engines analyse your own website but they will also check on how good is your authority outside of your online home (kinda like doing a little background check to make sure you’re legit).
The most important factor for off-site SEO are your backlinks: these refer to the number of links that refer back (hence, back-links) to your website from other places on the web. The more links, the higher your authority, the happier is Mr. Google.
There are other factors that may play a role too, like for example your social media exposure (e.g. the amount of shares your promotion on Facebook) but it’s not as influential as backlinks, so no need to worry about that too much. Or at all.
Ok, now that you know the basic of what SEO is and how it works, let’s ensure that your website is actually set up in an SEO-friendly way.
I like calling these Troubleshooting Factors because without having these in place, you’re pretty much standing waaaaaaaaay in the back of the line when it comes to search engine results.
Have you ever stumbled on a website just to be greeted with a “Website not secure! Proceed at your own caution!” message? Yeah… let’s not do that to your visitors, k?
Your website should… no, must… have an HTTPS encryption with an SSL certificate to ensure a secure connection between your website and your visitor. If you’re unsure whether your website is secure or not, simply check your website URL. if it has http:// at the front, then your website is not secure. If it has https:// then you’re in the clear!
Many website platforms will help you install the SSL certificate for free (and maybe they have already automatically done that!). If you don’t have it yet, simply Google for “your web platform + SSL certification” and you shall find your answer.
Your sitemap allows search engines to read your website and all its different pages. Just like with the SSL certificate, many web platforms do this automatically for you. If you’re on WordPress, then you should download Yoast SEO if you haven’t already and Google “Yoast SEO how to submit sitemap“.
With the majority of Internet traffic coming from mobile devices nowadays, it’s understandable why search engines favor mobile-optimised websites. This means that not only should your website look good on mobile, but it should also provide a seamless experience for your visitors on any screen size.
If you’re unsure whether your website is mobile-optimised, check out this free tool from Google to find out.
Our patience and attention span grows shorter every day. And Google knows that! That’s why search engines won’t favour your site if your website takes too long to load.
You can run your URL through Google’s Page Speed Tool to learn how fast your website currently loads.
One of the main reasons why a website is taking too long to load is because of images and other graphic elements of the website. You should ensure that you keep your images under 500kB and strip down any heavy media files from your mobile website (i.e. replace a background video that auto-plays with an image instead). Imagine having to load a 200mB video file on a sucky 3G connection? The horror!
Don’t overcomplicate your permalinks and don’t add any dates or numbers to it. The simpler, the better! For example, your blog post URL should be https://www.thisisyourwebsite.com/seo-optimised-title, and not https://www.thisisyourwebsite.com/2020/01/random-words. You can usually easily change this in your blog’s settings.
Awesome stuff! Now that you have set up your SEO foundations (congrats by the way, you’re already ahead of many!), you can start pushing some quality content to drive more traffic to your website.
For many, when they hear about SEO they jump straight to the word “keywords”. And while keyword research still plays a role when it comes to SEO, it’s not as important as it used to be… or at least not in the same way!
Long gone are the days when you would write a piece of content simply because a particular keyword was trending, and you would try to stuff as many keywords into it as possible to rank higher on search engines…
Now, Google is looking more and more into the quality of your content. It’s interested in your authority, how helpful your content is, how relevant it is for your audience, and how much value you’re providing. Isn’t that great?
It is! This means that you absolutely must listen and learn from your audience more and more. Look at the questions they ask in Facebook groups, run polls in your stories, ask them what their current struggles are – and write about that!
So what are some of the most important basic SEO ranking factors that you should consider when it comes to your web content?
Your blog post titles play a big role in whether or not it spikes a reader’s curiosity. You want to ensure that your title (a) describe what the post is about, (b) showcase the benefit for the reader, and (c) peak their curiosity. Use this free tool from CoSchedule to check on the effectiveness of your blog titles.
Nobody likes long blocks of text. Break down your copy into smaller paragraphs and use headings, subheadings, bullet points and images to break it down into different sections and make it easier for your reader to consume.
Internal links are redirects from your blog post to another piece of content on your website. For example, in order to write better-targeted content for your audience, you should spend some time getting to know your Ideal Client inside out. (<<< This is a link to another blog post).
Not only should your images be less than 500kB to help your page speed load, but you should also change the file name and alt text for each one of them.
File Name: don’t upload a picture names IMG_1234 because this sounds like gibberish to Google. Change it to something more relevant like “Minnesota Sunset Wedding Photography”
Alt Text/Tags: this is a text alternative for when you browser can’t load your images. It’s also very useful for disabled viewers who use assistive technology to browse your website. Keep your alt text descriptive to help them understand what the image is about (i.e. “Happy bride and groom at sunset in the field”)
Your meta descriptions is what shows up in search engines or when you share your URL on social media (i.e. the Facebook preview link). Your want to optimise these for each of your pages and pieces of content to ensure the information that is showed is relevant and SEO optimised.
Each platform has its own way of changing meta descriptions, so simply Google “your web platform + change meta descriptions” for more info.
Aaaaand now I can say proudly: CONGRATULATIONS, you graduated from SEO Fundamentals! Honestly, with all these under your belt, you will be able to drastically improve your SEO rankings and start driving more traffic to your website.
Of course, there are many other things that you could be doing for your SEO and business growth, but I’m all about taking it one step at a time. If you wanna keep on learning and growing together, make sure to subscribe to my Coffee Chat and tune in to the Create Connect Convert podcast for more growth education for small businesses and creative entrepreneurs!