SEO can be a difficult subject to grasp. A Google search for “SEO” yields nearly 500 million results. Far more than any single person could hope to read in a lifetime. And a lot of that information is either out-of-date or irrelevant to the needs of a beginner looking for some simple, easy wins.
In this article, we will go over the absolute SEO fundamentals for 2020. This will be a series of simple, actionable SEO tips that you can use right away to improve your organic search visibility and rank higher in Google.
If you’re still hungry after reading this, we have a more comprehensive set of SEO tips for small businesses, as well as a buyers guide to SEO packages to help you effectively outsource your SEO.
Are you still with me? That’s right. Here are five beginner SEO tips to help you optimise your site and drive more organic traffic:
1. Research & Use Relevant Keywords
Keywords are the cornerstone of effective SEO. What do your potential customers look for when they use a search engine? Most small businesses will be a combination of what they do and where they do it: SEO company in Birmingham or plumber in Sutton Coldfield.
There are some tools and strategies we can employ here to ensure that we have a good selection of keywords.
Brainstorm potential keywords – Here, we simply jot down everything that is pertinent. What we do, the services we provide, and the locations where we provide those services. Once you’ve gathered all of these elements, you can combine what you do with where you do it to create a basic keyword list.
Use keyword research tool – There are a variety of keyword research tools available to assist you in identifying new keywords. Google offers a tool as part of its Ads PPC service. Other tools, such as ubersuggest and keywordtool.io, are useful in both free and paid versions.
Search for your keywords – When you search for keywords, you will frequently see suggestions in the search bar as you type, as well as a list of suggested keywords at the bottom of the page. Fill in the blanks with any relevant variations (and search them again).
What you really want to achieve here is to end up with groups of keywords that all have the same basic meaning and intent. For instance, in this article on SEO tips for beginners, we could group the following keywords:
- SEO tips for beginners
- Beginners SEO tips
- SEO basics 2020
- Best SEO tips
- Beginners search engine optimisation tips
- Search engine optimisation tips for beginners
- How to do SEO
- SEO basics
- Basic SEO Tips
Because the intent behind those keywords is mostly the same, they can be grouped together. Then, any given piece of content can be optimised for (i.e. include) those terms. This then ranks the article for the broadest possible set of terms.
Typically, I would enter these keywords into a spreadsheet with estimated search volumes and a score indicating how relevant they are. Don’t overthink it – we’re just trying to give a loose priority to the language we’ll be using here.
Tip 1: Determine and prioritise the keywords that your prospective customers use when searching for the products and services you provide.
2. Optimise Page Titles & Meta Descriptions
Once you’ve compiled a list of keywords, you’ll want to optimise your page title. It is important to note that this is the HTML title> element that is used behind the scenes and not what is visible on the page. This is usually editable through your website control panel (CMS) or an SEO plugin.
What we’re attempting to do here is incorporate our keywords into the page title in a natural way. Remember that page titles are what appear in search results, so we want to clearly indicate what the page is about and entice a user to click on our listing.
If at all possible, I like to include the what, where, and who. For branding purposes, the keywords are the what, the location is the where, and your business name is the how. In an ideal world, the keyword should appear near the beginning of the title to aid click-through and potential ranking improvements.
Marcus’s Plumbing Service is a plumber in Sutton Coldfield.
We can expand on this by looking at service pages:
Free Boiler Repair Estimate | Marcus’s Plumbing Service
Emergency Marcus’s Plumbing Service is a plumber who is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In both of these page titles, I’ve included a marketing element rather than actual SEO: We provide a free quote and are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These are elements that we place in your listing to increase the likelihood that someone will click on it.
Remember that a search engine listing is still an advertisement, so we must optimise our marketing as well as our SEO. And, as it happens, engagement with your listing can have a positive impact on your rankings, so doing good marketing is also good for your SEO.
A word of caution here: don’t over-optimize your page titles by stuffing them with keywords – for example, Plumber | Plumbing | Plumber Company | Emergency Plumber Company.
Keywords should be included in your page titles, but not at the expense of readability or clickability (if that is even a real word).
When we’re satisfied with our titles, the next thing to think about is our meta description. Again, this should be editable in the CMS of your website.
Although page titles have the most SEO impact, the meta description serves as a description for the content on your page. Your title should pique people’s interest, but your meta description should persuade them to click.
We used the following page title and meta description for this article:
SEO Tips for Beginners – 5 Easy Wins
Five easy SEO tips for newbies. Easily optimize your site, improve rankings, and increase Google traffic.
I detail what the article is in the title, and then the meta description expands on the premise, hopefully enticing more people to click.
It is important to note that meta descriptions do not have a direct impact on rankings. Getting listed, however, is only half the battle; you also need clicks. And if one result is clicked more than another, this can help improve your ranking via engagement metrics that Google considers. Worryingly, if a result is not clicked at all, it will lose position and disappear from the search results. The takeaway here is that, while SEO is important, it should never come at the expense of good copywriting.
Tip 2: To improve your organic traffic and rankings, create descriptive titles and meta descriptions that include your keywords and weave in your key marketing messages.
3. Optimise Page Content
We want to optimise our page content after we’ve optimised our page titles and meta descriptions. Our keyword research (#1) should have yielded a list of related terms that all have the same intent. We’d now like to incorporate these keywords into our copy in a natural way.
A page has several components, the most important of which are:
- Header Tags – H1, H2, H3 etc
- Body Content – the text on the page
- Images – the images you use to support your copy
Consider the page’s headings and subheadings first. These can be optimised to include your keywords where it makes sense.
Second, write copy that accurately describes and promotes your company, and aim to use all of your keywords naturally. Don’t be concerned about keyword volumes or specific instances of the terms – just write naturally and try to incorporate the terms you discovered during your keyword research.
Images can also be optimised, with the primary factors being the image title, alt text, and description. If the image is also close to relevant text, it can help even more. Alt tags also assist blind users by providing a description of the image so that they can determine whether or not it is relevant to them!
When done correctly, your page will be visible for a broader range of terms, and you will be speaking the language of a larger cross-section of customers, which should increase engagement (and generating more leads and sales from your website). Win-win.
Tip 3: Improve your visibility for a wider range of search terms by optimising your headers, content, and images.
4. Optimise Your Business Around the Web
Your website is essential to your SEO efforts, but it is not the only place where your company is listed. Your company’s information will also be available on social media and business directories such as Yell.com. Search engines use this information, as well as information about your company, to help build trust and an understanding of what you do and where you do it.
You should update all potential business listings (also known as citations) that are relevant to your business with your correct address and a summary of the services you offer. You should incorporate your most important keywords, as well as a mention of any key locations, into these business listings.
You can apply a similar strategy to your social media profiles. While you may not be able to include a complete address or description, you can still cover the essentials of what you do and where you do it.
Remember that these listings can rank well, and potential customers can view your company’s information here. Don’t just set it and forget it. Make sure you explain what you do, where you do it, and why they should consider your company. If you can incorporate calls to action or other marketing elements, do so.
Tip 4: Update your business listings and social media profiles with information about what you do and where you do it.
5. Build Relevant Links
Link building is an essential component of increasing visibility for competitive keywords. Link building, on the other hand, has a bad reputation – and often for good reason. Links can both help and hurt your search engine ranking.
However, developing strong visibility necessitates having the right kind of links pointing to your site. These links assist Google and other search engines in determining your relative importance and in ranking search results based on these metrics.
If there is any doubt, we can follow Google’s own advice and “make sure other sites link to yours.”
Google elaborates on this point by saying:
“Links assist our crawlers in finding your site and can increase your site’s visibility in our search results. Google uses sophisticated text-matching techniques to display pages that are both important and relevant to each search when returning results for a search. A link from page A to page B is interpreted by Google as a vote by page A for page B. Votes cast by pages that are themselves ‘important’ carry more weight and contribute to the importance of other pages.”
As a result, a good, relevant link is still a vote. And votes demonstrate that you are important and relevant, resulting in increased visibility in Google search results. It’s just that they have to be the right type of votes.
It goes without saying that link building is the most difficult aspect of SEO and where many beginners get stuck. However, there are a few simple strategies you can employ to obtain some safe backlinks that will aid in improving your visibility in search results.
1. Highly Credible Directory Sites
We’re talking about sites like Yell.com and Thompson, as well as the major business directories and portals in your industry. Search for your keywords and location on Google, and any listings that appear on the first page are worth investigating. A good litmus test here is whether your potential customers will find and click on these listings – if the answer is yes, it is worthwhile to seek out a listing.
2. Competitor Link Analysis
Examining your competitors’ links will frequently reveal link opportunities. When you look at your top ten competitors in a tool like MajesticSEO, aHrefs, or OpenSiteExplorer, you will frequently find a variety of link opportunities. You are not looking to copy every single link here, but rather to identify the best of the best from a number of competitors. Consider quality over quantity, and again, consider whether your prospects are likely to see and click on this link.
Some tools allow you to enter multiple competitors and see which sites link to two or more competitors – this can help you identify links that are more closely related to high ranking competitors. Correlation is not causation, but it can help you sort through data.
3. Testimonials & Existing Relationships
Offer to write testimonials for companies with which you work. Your website’s creator. Your social media or SEO firm. All of these are sites that do work for you, are most likely local, and can generate a relevant link.
Similarly, if you already have relationships with suppliers or customers, look into these sites to see if a link could be added to them.
Tip 5: Build relevant and quality links to your website and content.
Bonus Tip – Register with Google Search Console
Finally, make sure to register your site with Google Search Console. This tool analyses your site and provides diagnostic feedback that you can use to improve your site’s visibility in search results. This is information straight from the search engine, so you’d be foolish not to take advantage of it.
Here we have 5 basic SEO tips that even beginners can implement to improve your SEO:
- Research & use relevant keywords
- Optimise page titles & meta descriptions
- Optimise page content
- Optimise your business around the web
- Build relevant links
That’s all there is to it. Implement these fundamental SEO tips, and you will notice an increase in your rankings and traffic. Often, in SEO, 20% of the effort yields 80% of the results, and for most small businesses, this is a great starting point that will help your site be more visible in organic search.