The world of SEO has always been complex, and it’s only growing more complicated by the day. However, you don’t need any special training to start doing SEO — you can quickly get up to speed with a Google search for an SEO tutorial or SEO tips.
In fact, that might very well be how you wound up here in the first place.
And if that’s the case, it’s no accident. After all, we deliberately created this very page to appear for individuals just like you who are hitting the web to learn about SEO.
The guide you’re reading right now is a prime example of how SEO works. We created a helpful piece of content, we carefully crafted it to target people using Google search to learn about the subject at hand, and we promoted it using tried-and-true digital marketing principles to give our guide the visibility and trustworthiness to grab your attention.
You clicked on our search result, and now we can help you learn everything a beginner needs to know about SEO and how to add search engine marketing to their digital strategy. Let’s define SEO and go over some actionable SEO tips you can start using today.
What is Search Engine Optimization?
SEO– search engine optimization— is the digital marketing practice of planning and creating online content like blog posts that attract attention from search engines like Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, and many more.
While we could talk for hours about what makes each search engine unique, for our purposes, we’re going to be talking exclusively about SEO for Google search in this guide.
Google is the undisputed king of search engines with an overwhelming 90% market share of all search engine traffic around the world. While there’s something to be said for other search engines, particularly Bing, your time and efforts as a marketer are best spent focused on SEO for Google search.
If your website performs successfully on Google, results from other search engines will follow naturally.
So, what does it mean to attract attention from search engines?
There are over 5 billion Google searches performed every single day around the world, and the hundreds of millions of people performing these searches are looking for everything including definitions of words, help with their homework, product reviews before making a big purchase, how-to guides (like this one!) and weeknight dinner recipe blog posts.
In other words, no matter what industry you’re in, there are people using search engines to find information about your products, services, or niches.
Now consider that a search engine doesn’t cost anything, but the people searching for topics about your industry are ready and willing to spend money. How much would it help your bottom line to have these red-hot buyers referred to your website without having to spend a dime on advertising?
Successful SEO is a competitive game of trying to get your website to show up for as many users as possible under as many different search queries as possible. While the concept itself is simple, the practice and execution takes careful planning and attention to detail.
Plus, the bigger your niche, the more competition there is from other marketers who want their sites to show up first for all of the same search queries that you do.
Intro to SEO for Absolute beginners
This guide can’t possibly teach you every single thing there is to know about SEO in one day. However, with the knowledge here, you’ll have a great baseline to understand how successful SEOs (digital marketers who make a career specializing in search engine optimization) design their websites to attract more free organic search traffic.
To get started, let’s make sure you understand how a search engine works and how people interact with them to find the content or the products they’re looking for.
What Does a Search Engine Do?
Search engines exist as a portal for people who know why they want to use the internet, but they don’t know where to go to get what they want. Connecting those people with the right digital destinations is the entire purpose behind a search engine, and the brilliant folks who build search engines like Google are constantly updating and optimizing their tool to achieve that goal as best they can.
In other words, this means that search engines don’t exist to help you make money. They exist to help connect people with relevant results depending on what they’re searching for.
There are endless ways to make money taking advantage of this cool service, but we’re going to remind you again and again: Google doesn’t care about your marketing efforts, and they aren’t in the business of helping you make money. The best way to be successful at SEO is to embrace Google’s goal of delivering relevant results to searchers. More on this later.
How Does a Search Engine Work?
Each day, Google uses incredible computing power to “crawl” the internet to read websites and index them according to the services they offer. When a user inputs a search query, a sophisticated algorithm scans this enormous index to try and match the query to similar content from websites that have been crawled. The search engine will compare numerous results that match the query in an attempt to determine which result is most likely to satisfy the user’s needs.
After it picks out the results it likes best, it will attempt to rank each result from most-to-least relevant for the given search query.
Then, when the user clicks on any given result, the algorithm tracks the user’s behavior including which ranking position they clicked first, how much time they spent on the site, whether they ran additional search queries, and much, much, more.
Google uses all of this tracked data from each and every search to continue to understand how users interact with their search engine. The more data they collect, the further they can refine the algorithm to deliver more relevant & engaging search results.
Got all that?
Here, let’s try a real-world example. We’re going to run a search for a marinara sauce recipe. Sounds tasty, right? But who has a good recipe? We enter “homemade marinara sauce recipe” into a search engine to get the action started.
In less than a second, Google scans millions of websites for the phrase “homemade marinara sauce recipe.”
Naturally, the algorithm will preselect websites featuring recipes and throw out other sites that don’t talk about food at all. Then, it’s going to try and decide which site might give you the best recipe.
Prego and Ragu might be world-famous sauce brands, but a jarred sauce doesn’t exactly say “homemade.” So, even though every jar of Prego comes with a recipe printed on it, Google’s going to decide that you don’t want a premade sauce, and the big brand-name websites get shoved down the ranking list.
Next, it’s gotta decide between more options. What’s a better match, a recipe from Better Housekeeping magazine from a celebrity chef, or a recipe from La Cucina Italiana magazine written by a nameless author? Or, maybe the best choice is a stay-at-home-mom’s blog post with a sauce recipe that claims it’s been passed down through five generations of Italian families. The search engine can decide that all three of these choices are relevant, but which one deserves to come first, and why? Then, why does the second choice outrank the third?
Imagine trying to answer this question among a group of friends. It only inspires more questions, and you could talk through the subjective “better” and “best” ways to rank different results for hours. Google uses the power of big data to answer that question hundreds of millions of times per day in a fraction of a second each time.
How People Use Search Engines
So we know that Google is on a never-ending quest to understand how users engage their search engine. The better the algorithm can understand people’s “search intent,” the better it can determine which results should rank the highest for any given search query.
The example used above is a common search query Google handles every day. Marketers in the business of selling & promoting food products or advertising on food blogs, as a result, use SEO to target individuals searching for recipes and cooking techniques.
Most people aren’t rushing off to Google thinking, “Boy, I can’t wait to fork over my hard-earned money to a search engine marketer!” Rather, they’re on a mission to find some piece of information, oftentimes the answer to a question or instructions to do something they don’t know (like how to make a marinara sauce).
What’s All This Buzz About Keywords?
Keywords are the key—literally—to search engines. A user enters a word or phrase as a search query, and the service looks up search results based on that input. A keyword is just a common industry term to refer to these search queries whether they’re a single word or a short phrase.
In order to connect with what people look for in search engines, you want your website’s blog posts and landing pages to show up for the keywords they’re searching for.
To keep our example going, your hunt for a marinara sauce recipe is a sure fit for that exact keyword: “marinara sauce recipe.”
If we look at the Moz keyword research tool, we can see that this keyword gets quite a lot of buzz:
11,500 monthly searches—and that’s at the bottom end. Your sauce recipe could sure reach a lot of organic search traffic (translation: free viewers) if it reached the top of the search results!
But remember, you’re not the only publisher trying to get clicks for your master-craft marinara sauce. The chart above also shows a difficulty score which grades the amount of marketing effort it’ll take in order to penetrate the top of the search engine results page (SERP).
Most SEO tools offer this kind of guidance to let you know just how hard it’s going to be to attract customers based on a given keyword. A “hard” keyword comes with challenges like:
- More relevant search results to compete with
- Stronger competitors at the top of the SERP
The more sites that target a keyword, the harder it is to get Google to pay attention to yours, let alone getting Google to make it the very first result. And since Google wants to return the best result for each search, it has no qualms showing off webpages from top publishers like Amazon, Forbes Magazine, and NYT Wirecutter instead of your boutique business.
While keyword targeting for SEO seems like a simple enough idea, it’s a concept that takes a day to learn and a lifetime to master. Search engine optimization has the potential to blow the doors off your bottom line, but it takes careful planning, diligent patience, and meticulous execution to make big money in SEO.
You should have a decent understanding of what SEO means and what keywords are, so let’s talk next about how SEO boosts business and what it actually means to “optimize” a website for search engines.
How Organic Search Traffic Boosts Business
SEO is good for your business because it has the potential to attract more customers for incredibly low costs. Organic search traffic is an SEO term that refers to traffic in search engines generated by completely natural and free-acting users searching for some kind of answer on the web.
These users jump onto Google.com of their own accord and go hunting for answers—and the process is completely free. It doesn’t cost anything to run a Google search, and Google doesn’t charge websites for the privilege of being included in their index. If you use crafty SEO techniques to tip-off Google that it should show users your website, you get more traffic. Marketers have learned how to take advantage of these practices to make entire careers out of optimizing websites to their search engine potential.
Google does, however, make enormous profits selling ad space on their search engine, and digital marketers pay millions of dollars to prioritize their targeted search results over the free ones. This makes ranking high in the SERP even more important since some organic search traffic is being diverted by advertisers with deep pockets.
Search Engines are Used for Marketing? Since When?!
Early search engines were little more than a sort of “digital yellow pages” to help users engage businesses and services online. Early search engines required a lot of manual indexing and had poor (dare I say, primitive) matching algorithms, and savvy marketers quickly learned how to manipulate webpages to seem more important for more searches.
There was a lot of opportunity for businesses, but not much value for consumers.
These days, Google is a robust tool that provides a tremendous user experience between providing highly relevant search results, location-based recommendations, information feeds alongside search results, and clearer delineation between paid advertising and organic search content.
This means consumers have a much easier time navigating the cluttered business landscape online, but it’s a little trickier for businesses to get in front of those customers. Never forget what we said before: Google seeks to provide value for its users, not to make money for your business. To play the game the right way, you’ve got to craft an SEO strategy that lives in harmony with Google’s user-focused mission.
What Does SEO Do For My Business?
We’ve bragged about how SEO can make you more money and get you more customers, but let’s take a closer look at what a successful SEO campaign can do if you stick to the best practices and keep at it.
Capturing More Leads
The bigger the cut of organic search traffic your blog can snag from any given keyword, the more potential customers you’re driving to your website. Getting Google to rank your blog on the first page of the SERPs helps you grab as many searchers as possible who are looking for your target keyword, and then it’s up to you and your website to convert those visitors into bona fide leads.
Fortunately, Google considers factors like whether a webpage provides a good user experience for its visitors.
This means that if your page is both properly-matched to the given keyword and does a good job helping the user engage your business—by contacting you, signing up for your email list, or buying a product, for example—Google may consider the page to be that much stronger and give you even better SERP ranking!
Expanding Your Brand Presence and Reach
Even if users aren’t clicking on your blog posts, each page on your blog that ranks well gets you more completely free visibility.
Google users generally trust organic search results more than paid ads, so the more they see a particular website appear for their searches, the more likely they are to click on that site.
In this way, having strong SEO gives you an enhanced web presence, increasing awareness for your brand.
SEO is a long game. In fact, one of the biggest red flags you can find with any SEO provider is the promise of immediate rankings. Getting your website to consistently appear in the top 3 results for a given search query takes time and effort, but once you’ve established your footing in the SERPs you can continue to capitalize on this position for a long time.
The more of your blog posts and webpages you can get to rank successfully, the more SEO-healthy assets you’ll have under your domain. When your blog has lots of pages that generate traffic, rank well in the SERPs, and provide lots of value to users, it’s called an authority site. Google considers tons of factors to decide how much authority any given site has, and it gives some extra ranking “oomph” to sites with higher authority.
It can take many months or even years to build an authority site in your niche, but the more vigorous your SEO strategy, the faster you can lay the foundation. Authority sites can ride their success to predictable & reliable long-term earnings, and for this reason, high-authority sites also sell for huge sums on website marketplaces.
What Google Search is Looking For
We’ve stated so far that Google’s goal is to return content to users that matches their searches. We know that Google indexes websites and compares sites to that index. But what’s it comparing, and how does it know that a given page will actually be useful at all?
That’s a complicated question, but here are a few of the overarching ideas behind how Google looks for the best search results.
Useful, Relevant Websites
It’s one thing to take a search query and find matching text on a website. If only that were all it took to make a search engine! The problem is, a given keyword can be relevant to lots of different results.
Get out your bibs, folks, because we’re talking sauce again.
Without punching it into Google, consider a keyword like “tomato sauce.”
If you’re searching for this keyword, you might be:
- Searching for nutritional information
- Looking up recipes
- Shopping for canned tomato sauce
There are some other possibilities, too, though they’re probably less common, like:
- Researching the pH of tomato sauces
- Conducting market research on tomato sauce companies
- Trying to learn the history of tomato sauces in Italian food
In order to find the most useful and relevant website for a given search, Google tries to understand a keyword’s search intent. This refers to the type of result most users intend to find when they search for that keyword.
After nearly 25 years of amassing data, Google has determined that the intent behind a simple search for “tomato sauce” is probably the goal of finding a sauce recipe. Go ahead, Google it yourself.
But notice that we said probably—the screenshot also shows a detailed breakdown of nutritional information as well as other questions about tomato sauce that have nothing to do with recipes.
If we modify the search intent to tell Google exactly what we want, we get entirely different results.
In this SERP, Google has extracted a list of names right from the first search result so you don’t even have to click on it to get a quick answer to your question.
As you can see, Google doesn’t just look at the specific keywords on a page, but it tries to look at them in context to be sure that the page matches the search intent. And, the more specific your keyword, the more likely it is that Google can return the result you’re seeking.
Finding more specific keywords that identify a clearer search intent helps Google return better results. But for marketers, finding these more specific keywords is an opportunity to position yourself in front of even more relevant prospects! More about these long-tail keywords and keyword research best practices in just a sec.
Interesting, High-Quality Content
So you’ve written a page that’s properly targeted for your keyword. Google can clearly read what your page means and match it to relevant searches. Congratulations!
Now ask yourself—will anyone care to read the page in the first place?
You know that you have to target high-volume searches in order to reach people using search engines. And you have to get the search engine to put the page in front of those people. But even if you get those people to click on your website, are they going to read your content?
Blank, boring pages with long, boring blocks of text don’t perform well even if they happen to rank in the SERPs. Google can detect whether your website features interesting and interactive elements like photos and videos, but an even better signal than the makeup of your webpage is your bounce rate.
Your bounce rate refers to how many individuals continue clicking through your website rather than immediately leaving after viewing one page. If Google detects that lots of users are quickly leaving your blog after visiting a certain page, it’ll decide that your page isn’t very interesting even though it might’ve been relevant for the keyword. As a result, your page rank drops.
A compelling, high-quality piece of content on each page of your blog gives you a far better chance at keeping that bounce rate down and keeping visitors engaged with your content for longer.
Note: Google watches like a hawk for duplicate content and plagiarism. Never, ever copy and paste content directly from another website, or Google may impose strict penalties on your site that prevent it from ranking at all.
Trustworthy & Authoritative Information
We’ve touched on authority a little bit so far—an authoritative website features lots of the high-quality content we discussed in order to provide loads of value to its users. But there are all sorts of reasons that customers might stick around on a website, and metrics like bounce rate and time-on-page just don’t tell the whole story.
Elements like social shares and links from other sources are a better indicator of just how much trust people have in a given brand. While social media is a discussion for another guide, links from other sources are a quintessential component of off-page SEO that signal authority to search engines.
Off-page SEO refers to best-practices you can employ outside of your webpage itself to improve your search engine performance. Link building is one such off-page SEO activity where a marketer attempts to plant links to the webpage to try to bolster that trust signal to Google.
Links from highly-authoritative sources can have a powerful impact on page rank. Imagine if your article about the best marinara sauce recipes got a mention from Good Housekeeping Magazine or the Food Network blog—surely this would mean your recipe is far more trustworthy than a recipe from your aunt’s neighbor’s cooking blog on Livejournal, right?
Because links from big players feed lots of “link juice” to a webpage (SEO slang for the authority-value of a link), link building has evolved into a big business with some major publications charging hundreds of dollars apiece just for the right to place a single link in a single blog post. However, the authority that these links can give a webpage creates immense SEO value with measurable long-term benefits.
A Seamless User Experience
Phew, we’ve covered a lot so far! And not a single bit of what you’ve learned up to this point matters if your webpage is clunky, awkward, difficult to use, or hard to load.
Just as important as the quality of your content itself is your visitor’s ability to read the content in the first place. Your on-page SEO practices refer to the steps you take to ensure your page is as convenient as possible and provides a seamless user experience.
For one thing, your site and blog need to have all of the technical SEO basics in place that help search engines read it. This means getting your title tag in order, write alt text for your photo content, give every page a meta description, and make sure these elements are consistent from page to page.
Some of the trickier elements involve things like your page speed and your internal linking structure. Strong internal linking means that your pages have a logical, sensible flow from one to the next and that there aren’t broken links or lots of redirects passing traffic around.
Getting your technical SEO in order means optimizing your hosting and your site structure to ensure the best delivery of your services possible from a software perspective. Keep in mind, this also means considering important ranking factors like making your content mobile-friendly and responsive regardless of what type of mobile devices your visitors might be using.
Responsive web pages which a consistent, sensible flow offer your users are better, more desktop and mobile-friendly experience that keeps them around longer.
Taking Advantage of Search Engines to Improve Your Digital Marketing
You know what Google is looking for, and you know that SEO can put your business on a path to long-term growth and success. Time to dig a little deeper into some of the most important components of SEO so you can start grabbing your share of all that juicy organic search traffic.
Keyword Research & Targeting
Now that you know a little bit about what keywords are and how search intent informs keyword use, let’s put it into practice. Keyword research is the SEO practice of looking up keywords related to your niche that present opportunities to attract visitors to your blog pages.
SEO services like Moz and Ahrefs offer powerful keyword research tools featuring troves of valuable data about different keywords, the site pages that rank for them, how competitive they are, and other related keywords. Trying to interpret all of this information can be overwhelming, but the practice of keyword targeting—creating content that will rank for a particular keyword— boils down to finding high-volume keywords with low competition.
It’s the same as any marketing tactic—find as many people as possible in a group that’s being marketed to by your niche as little possible. The better that ratio, the better your marketing opportunity, right?
Look at the example above. Our “marinara sauce” keyword sees over 30,000 searches per month, but it’s a pretty difficult keyword. What if we target a slightly different keyword and go for “spicy marinara sauce” instead?
As you can see, the spicy sauce gets only a fraction of the search volume, but it’s also got a far lower difficulty rating. There are fewer articles about spicy marinara sauces, but there are also fewer people searching for the spicy sauce.
Now, if you’re a chef, I understand the difference between these keywords is enormous, and it’s offensive to suggest substituting spicy tomato sauce with classic marinara sauce.
But as an SEO, you’re looking for webpages that have the best chance of ranking on your recipe site. If your site doesn’t have very much authority built up, then you’re going to have a hard time ranking for “marinara sauce,” but “spicy marinara sauce” is well within your grasp.
Conducting deep keyword research to uncover these more unique keywords is the secret to acquiring strong page rank in the early phases of your website.
Look for long-tail keywords (typically with 5 or more words in the phrase) that have ultra-low competition but at least a handful of searches per month.
Also, consider questions associated with your keyword. If people are searching for “spicy marinara sauce” then they might also be searching “how do I make marinara sauce spicy?” or “what dish to cook with spicy marinara sauce?” While these will be very low-volume individual keywords, they present ranking opportunities that, over time, will collectively help boost your overall site authority.
Technical SEO: Fine-Tuning Your Site for the Search Engine
Your technical SEO helps Google read and index your website pages better, and it helps your blog perform better when delivering content to visitors. Make sure your technical SEO elements are in order, or else none of your other SEO efforts will get you any results.
In order for Google to crawl your website properly, make sure each page has a title tag and a meta description.
The title tag should include your target keyword, and your meta description should use a closely-related keyword if the exact-match keyword doesn’t work in context. Empty meta descriptions will fill in automatically from your page if there are more customized results, so don’t leave out your meta description or else you might be left with an illegible mess in your search result.
In addition to the title tag and meta descriptions, make sure your images have alt text. The alt text helps disabled visitors interact with images on your website, and meeting these accessibility standards gives you brownie points in search engines.
Make it easy for your users to interact with your site pages, as a whole. Use a logical flow and design elements that are familiar (you can hire an experienced web designer to help) so your users feel comfortable navigating your site pages. Create content that’s easy to view on both desktop and mobile devices, otherwise mobile viewers may skew your bounce rate.
Keep in mind, too, that all of your content needs to be relevant and original—and this applies to the signals your web pages send to Google as well as the content itself.
Duplicate content on your site can confuse the search engine. Keyword cannibalization refers to an issue in which two pieces of content can rank for the same keyword. One page will always be considered more relevant than the other meaning the weaker page gets de-prioritized.
If it’s especially bad, Google and other search engines will just decide they can’t pick the best one and de-rank them both.
To avoid this, don’t over-optimize a page on your site for too many keywords. Pick one focus keyword and optimize the page to rank for that. This is another advantage of picking a long-tail keyword—the longer phrases are more specific and have less chance of causing blog cannibalization issues.
Putting It All Together: An Actionable Step-by-Step Guide to SEO for Any Business
A Note for Startups
Most of this guide is applicable to any venture, but be aware that a startup business will naturally take longer to start achieving consistent SERP rankings early in its existence. While no one ranking factor determines when your side will start performing, things like popular trends and competition in your niche may affect your ability to rank during the first several months that you’re operating your blog.
Taking Your Baseline
Before you can dive into your new SEO and content marketing plan, take a baseline of your website by conducting a basic SEO site audit. This handy Ahrefs guide to SEO audits shows you how to identify some high-level SEO misses that may be preventing your website from performing its best.
While some of these items may be quick and easy fixes—like repairing bad links and excessive redirects—others will take significant planning to overcome such as the content gap between your blog and your competitors. Make sure you have Google Analytics installed before proceeding so you can track your traffic and hits on your pages & blog posts as you grow.
Analyzing Your Current Website
Next up, take a look at the technical side of your website. You’ll want to learn a little bit about how to optimize your pages for loading speed and mobile devices, as each is an important ranking factor that can drag down your pages and blog posts no matter how strong the content is.
You’ll capture a bigger share of the organic traffic for each of your keywords if your pages load fast and your site is easy to crawl.
Even without your web developer’s help, you can still make some technical tweaks to fix up your website right now.
Crawl Your Site
You can use a site crawler tool like Ubersuggest (or Screaming Frog, if you like really granular information) to explore your site for basic on-page SEO best practices.
A crawler examines your website the same way Google does, so it’s useful for detecting problems that search engines might be having trying to completely read and index your site.
You’re looking for broken internal links between pages on your site, old or broken links out to other sites, and internal redirects. Sometimes redirects are useful so that you don’t have to sacrifice the SEO value of an older page when making structural updates to your site.
However, excessive redirects can confuse web crawlers, and they’re a signal to Google that you’re trying to manipulate your site for search rather than optimize it for the best user experience. Keep redirects to a minimum and only use them as needed to ensure a smooth experience on your website.
Your crawler can also find broken images and pages with thin content. Clean these up, too.
Clean Up Your Page Title & Meta Description Fields
Google search engine results will only up to 60 characters of your page header. You’ll convert better if your headers are clean, readable, and left intact, so make sure your title tags are short enough.
Avoid spammy keyword practices in your title tags like repetitious use of the same term or unnecessary use of punctuation and emoji characters. Even if your tags are formatted correctly, these characters are bulky and annoying, and Google will sometimes filter out results that overuse them.
Your meta descriptions must be between 50-160 characters. If you don’t set your meta descriptions manually, Google will attempt to fill them in from the content of your web page, and this sometimes creates ugly results.
The same rules apply here—don’t stuff keywords, but the meta descriptions present another opportunity to use your most important keywords to attract clicks and signal content intent to the Google search console and Google Analytics.
Establish A Clear Web Page Structure
When you launch your site, it’s easy to throw a bunch of content up in quick succession and create page after page, blog post after blog post right in your WordPress editor without giving your sitemap a second thought.
Help Google read your website better by creating a clear and consistent structure between your different pages. You might need your developer to help with this one, but it’s worth the time and effort to make sure your site has the best SEO search visibility possible.
First, your homepage acts as the portal to the rest of your site. It’s an index of everything your site offers.
Next, use subfolders under your primary domain to establish the main sections of your site. At the very least, you’ll have a section for your core services, your company information, and your blog posts.
Some companies use entire subdomains for different sections of their service, but this can diminish your overall site authority by depriving certain subdomains of all your valuable link juice. Leave subdomain structures to the mega-corps and stick to subfolders.
Under the subfolders for your main site sections, publish pages under the primary keyword associated with the great content you’ve written for each page. Use your h1 keyword in your URL. For example:
Don’t muddle your URL with other unnecessary elements like the date, as this only confuses Google’s search console crawling and makes it harder to index your blog posts.
Examining Your Digital Presence
There’s only so much you can do to improve your SEO on your actual website. Even with compelling blog posts full of rich content, you’re not going to get much organic traffic if users can’t find your site.
Of course, the more organic traffic you get, the more authority you build, and the more often Google delivers your site near the top of the search results.
In SEO, success begets more success.
This means that boosting your presence, marketing your content, and enhancing your authority through external validation is critical to improving your page rank.
These are some of the activities that comprise off-site SEO, the practice of promoting your website for SEO purposes without directly altering or publishing to your site itself.
Once you’ve created great content for a blog post, you need to give that blog post some power. We’ve mentioned that obtaining links from authoritative sources helps boost your own site authority. The practice of intentionally soliciting links to your page to boost for SEO purposes is called link building.
There are all sorts of crafty strategies you can use to gather links to your website. One popular technique is called broken link building, a practice in which you scan publishers for old & broken links to sites like yours and offer to replace them.
As you learned above, broken links are bad for any website. If a webmaster doesn’t know that they have a busted link hanging around, they’re often happy for the help, and they may reward you by replacing the broken link with a valid link to your website instead.
If it sounds simple, that’s because it is. However, link building activities often take a lot of manual research & effort. Some entrepreneurs operate entire businesses solely focused on link building for other marketers. In fact, it’s just one of many SEO services Alchemy Leads can offer your business!
Publications with savvy marketing teams know the value of a link from their high-authority sites. In some cases, publishers may allow you to place a link to your content from their own site in exchange for some “free” content. This is called guest posting and it can be a valuable exchange for both you and the publisher.
Other publishers are more stingy with their links, and won’t link back to sites with low authority, poor SEO practices, or unrelated subject matter.
Many of these publishers will even charge fees for the privilege of guest posting on their site knowing that your ultimate goal is monetizing your own content. Some authority sites may charge as much as $150-300 to place a single link.
Outreach & Local SEO Profiling
More generally speaking, you can pitch topic ideas to different publishers to see if they’ll accept your article (even for pay, sometimes!) to promote your website. Some publishers will let you post an “About the author” feature with your post that links back to your website even if they won’t allow a backlink to links on your blog or products you sell. You can still use this for valuable promotion for your site pages and blog posts.
You should also use social media to promote your blog posts even if it’s only to keep your accounts active and maintain brand awareness with your followers. Every click you get from social media counts and the more organic traffic activity that Google search console detects on your site, the better a chance you have of getting your content to rank and capture more traffic to your blog posts.
Don’t forget about sites like Yelp, Yellowpages, and Google’s very own business profile tools. For many location-based keywords, no amount of promotion and onsite perfection will help you outrank these major directories.
Google can detect when people click on your business’s phone number, your My Business links to your site, and it can even read the strength of your customer reviews. This means it’s in your interest to encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews and to try to drive engagement with your business by building a presence on local directories and other online outlets.
Having a strong local SEO presence with current & keyword-optimized business entries helps further improve your visibility without publishing any additional content on your site itself.
Researching Your Niche & Competition <keywords/content gaps>
Links are important, but what are you going to link to without some interesting blog post content on your site?
As you’re doing your keyword research, don’t just look at the keywords themselves—look at the pages that your competitors are ranking for under these keywords. You can get ideas for your own content just by looking at what others in your niche are writing about!
When you find some content ideas that you like, use a tool like Ahrefs to do a deep-dive into the keywords that page is ranking for. Try to pick out some of the lower-competition keywords (remember our discussion about long-tail keywords?) that you’ll have an easier time ranking for.
Developing a Content Plan
Once you’ve figured out what types of content you want to rank on your blog, create a list and a publication schedule. Unless you’re going to write tens of thousands of words yourself, you’ll likely be hiring a copywriter to help you smash out all of the content you want, and that racks up costs quickly.
It can help your authority to publish content every day, but that’s not always cost-effective for a new website. Come up with a budget that allows you to publish at least one blog post per week. Ideally, you want your post to be no fewer than 750-1,000 words, but content that’s too long can hurt your search console metrics just as much.
Optimizing your content is a topic that, like keyword research and link building, is worthy of its own entire article.
For now, I’ll simply suggest using a tool like Surfer SEO‘s content editor. This powerful SEO tool helps optimize blog posts for digital marketing by analyzing the SERP landscape for your keywords and providing hard metrics like optimal word count, keyword densities, and more. In fact, I used Surfer to write & optimize the words you’re reading this very second.