If you’re scared of the word “SEO” and you don’t fully grasp its meaning, this article will shed some light on the easiest steps you can take to conquer it. Search Engine Optimization might seem like a daunting task, but once you grasp the essentials, you will be on your way to rank higher in Google than ever.
Google uses an algorithm to rank your site by sending “spiders” to “crawl” and verify more than one hundred factors. This is done in order to see if your site is valuable and worth displaying on the first page of search results. The long list of factors or indicators includes user traffic, backlinks, fresh content, domain age and much more.
Search Engine Optimization makes sure the “crawlers” are content with what they find on your site. While this vast field is ever-changing, there are some constant strategies that should be known by anyone who attempts to understand and master Search Engine Optimization. Without further ado, here are the 7 most important SEO strategies for dummies.
1. Domain & Hosting Are Essential
The first thing to keep in mind is that it’s crucial to have your own domain and hosting. Unfortunately, free blog set-ups like those offered by WordPress.com* or Blogspot won’t help you rank higher in SERPs. On the contrary, it might weigh you down, pushing your content on the third, fourth page of Google results. Which is not what you’re after!
*Note the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. We develop most of our sites using the self-hosted WordPress.org platform.
There are a few hypotheses that try to answer the question of why is having your own domain and hosting essential. The most plausible explanation is that if you were very serious about your site, you would invest in a domain and host it yourself. Google sees this as a trustworthy factor. As a result, they only want to send their users to sites that are considered reliable and serious.
The best thing a new website owner can do is to acquire a domain and setup hosting from the very beginning. This way, you make sure you start on the right footing and you don’t have to worry about migrating all your data (content, photos, audio files) later down the road when you overgrow WordPress.com or Blogspot free hosting plans.
2. Relevant Links Must Be Natural
When another website owner or blogger likes your content and decides to link back to it, they create a backlink. Backlinks are like an endorsement: they make you look trustworthy in Google’s eyes and ultimately help your content rank higher.
While you can always buy backlinks, this is frowned upon by Google and other search engines. Be careful about the strategy you employ and the firm you hire. Not all backlinks are equal and investing in some from a dodgy domain won’t help you from an SEO point of view. On the contrary: you can get penalized and even banned. Getting a backlink from an old domain with great authority (such as .gov or .edu) can be priceless! These weigh heavily in Google’s eyes and will instantly elevate your ranking. A backlink from a domain with less authority is not worth as much, but it’s still a positive signal for Google.
While reputable, white-hat link building strategies exist, the best way to achieve high-quality backlinks is by producing helpful, relevant content and then writing guest posts for the best blogs and websites in your niche.
3. Problems Can Be Solved with Original Content
An important aspect to keep in mind is that Google’s biggest objective is to serve users with updated, relevant and useful results. As a consequence, the best strategy you can adopt for SEO is to create a lot of relevant and useful content to solve users’ problems. Solving problems means you will get a lot of shares on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. This sends good signals to Google, who sees your content as helpful and you get to rank higher in the search results.
When you’re creating original content you have to take into account more than just text. You should also think about useful pictures to accompany and backup your pages and blog posts. Videos are also extremely helpful since they have the ability to bring in traffic from YouTube and increase your mobile conversions. Use a mix of these to create richer, helpful content, and Google will pick up on it.
4. An Optimized Theme Is Key
You can split Search Engine Optimization into two big sections: off-site optimization includes backlinks and social media; on-site optimization includes things like your theme.
An updated, optimized theme will show Google that your website is trustworthy. Additionally, it makes the content you share on the internet easier to find. Since Google gives an advantage to websites that are built for smartphone users, make sure your site is mobile responsive.
You want to pick a cleanly coded theme and pay attention to how fast your site loads. The loading time is another indicator Google takes into account when it ranks your website. Your theme should load quickly so as not to drive users away. Using cache plugins will help you speed things up.
Last but not least, check there are no broken links on your site. Your navigation should work as smooth as possible in order to ensure the best user experience.
Here at Awesurance, we generally build out completely custom themes for our clients based on the specific needs of their website. This gives our clients complete control over the look and feel of their website. Perhaps most importantly (in the eyes of Google), building completely custom or heavily customized themes allows us to minimize bloat and allow the end user to load pages faster.
What is bloat? Wordpress.org themes made for a general audience often try to include many features that many people would find useful. The problem is, these features are often loaded even if they aren’t needed or used by your website. This can slow down your website performance, increase load times for your users, and result in a lower ranking by Google and other search engines.
When it comes to both Wordpress Themes and Suits, we recommend a custom-tailored solution vs. a cheaper ‘off-the-shelf’ solution. We promise, you will thank us later!
5. Social Media Profiles Shouldn’t Be Ignored
This is a newer Search Optimization Strategy that shouldn’t be overlooked. Google is paying close attention to all of your social media profiles in order to determine your site’s and your articles’ relevance and authority. This includes profiles like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.
The simple explanation is that if you acquire hundreds of tweets, there’s a pretty big chance your content is useful and it deserves to rank well. The simplest way to receive dozens of tweets is to establish a big and loyal following and focus on delivering killer content. This way, they will be happy to promote it for you.
6. SEOmoz Is the Best Study Resource and You Must Use It
Even if you are a beginner, don’t let fancy terminology discourage you from reading everything on the topic. The best place to check out is MOZ. Their content is rich in ideas and tips that will give you the much-needed insight you need to thrive in your niche.
Make sure to check in every week or so to stay up to date on the latest news and read about tactics and trends. Knowledge is power, and this applies to the Search Optimization Engine field as well. Since this is a dynamic, ever-changing domain, you have to stay on top of your game and ahead of the competition if you want to grow your business.
7. Leave Comments on other Websites & Blog Posts
You can create backlinks when you leave comments on other websites & blogs. Not only does this increase exposure and brings in more traffic, it can also be the foundation of new relationships. This type of networking can further be transformed into guest posts and even more backlinks. It’s best you always comment with your real name. This way, you establish an authority figure in the comment section and maintain a constant presence throughout the internet.
Additionally, you can also take a peek at what your competition is doing and check where they are getting backlinks from. You will discover some of them are from comments left on blogs that rank very high in SERPs and you can follow their example.
Social Media Examiner