Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of those areas of marketing that still scares quite a few people.There are blogs, experts, and even whole agencies dedicated to this field.
With so much noise out there about this topic that speeds right past the fundamentals and into advanced methodologies, it’s a good idea to stop and remind yourself about the basics every now and then.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to drag you through the weeds and explain how the search algorithms work, how search engines index your website, how the ranking system actually works, or any of that nerdy mumbo-jumbo.
We’re going to get into a quick refresher about the marketing basics of SEO.
1. Define Goals and Objectives
Too often, people start with the idea that they “need SEO” and jump right into cramming keywords into their page titles. But, just like most things in business, SEO for the sake of SEO is superfluous.
Before you can start any meaningful SEO improvements, you have to clearly define your goals.
This is standard practice for any campaign, but important to note nevertheless. Having clear objectives can guide your SEO development strategy, and it will make it easier to properly measure ROI and performance.
2. Analyze Yourself and Competitors
With clearly defined goals and objectives as the pillars of your SEO campaign, begin gathering business intelligence.
Analyze Your Website
Take a moment to examine your website and assess if the page titles, headers, and body text are set up properly and if they are crafted in a way that delivers your key messages. This will give you an indication about how well positioned you are for search engine crawlers — from a technical and keyword perspective.
Cap this off with a search engine results page (SERP) analysis by Google to search keywords and phrases relevant to what you’re trying to position on your website and see how you’re fairing.
Analyze Your Competitor’s Website
No one likes to look at how well the competition is doing — we all get that hint of anxiety when we look at the other people in the race. But, that’s exactly what you need to do.
Repeat the analysis you’ve done for yourself for each of your competitors. Then, take a look at the keywords and phrases they are successfully (or unsuccessfully) ranking for, and think about how relevant they are to you. This will give you insights into their strategy (or lack thereof) and better inform you on how to compete.
Now it’s time to select keywords that best describe your business, product or service, the value you provide, and, more specifically, each page. Only a handful are needed. Try for about three per page. Ultimately, figure out which keywords you want to target and hope to rank for.
Don’t reinvent the wheel. This should be largely influenced by your key messaging, so draw ideas from that. But be sure to segment words based on each page (About, product-related pages, etc.).
A balance must be struck between keywords a marketer would like and a search engine would like.
3. Jump Into Keyword Research and Development
Now that you have an educated guess on the keywords and phrases to use, the next step is confirming their feasibility for SEO. Ultimately, you want to see if people are actually searching for these terms.
This is an important step — maybe even the most important — because it gives you an opportunity to refine that list of keywords, properly assess their viability in your SEO, or go back to step two if necessary.
Run the keywords and key phrases through a keyword planner — there are plenty of tools out there. These tools will tell you the search volume for your chosen keywords and even offer suggested alternatives. If your selected keywords do not have a high search volume (especially compared to others), that’s an indication that you need to revise your keywords or target new keywords.
Keep in mind that the higher the search volume, the greater the likelihood of tougher competition for search engine ranking.
Remember: Regular Checkups!
Keyword analysis is not a one-and-done activity. You need to reassess your chosen keywords continuously. We recommend a status check once a month, and a full re-audit every year. This may give you an opportunity to refine and update your keywords further, or even develop new keywords and phrases.
4. Craft SEO Content and Submit
It’s time to take your refined list of keywords and phrases and put them to work.
Ensure you are writing for the user, not the robot. Search algorithms are quite advanced nowadays — they aren’t suckered in with cheap tricks anymore. A natural approach works best — search engines punish robotic language.
Page titles are a large part of determining search ranking, so this is an important component. Stick to roughly 50-60 characters. Use the most important keywords that best describe the page and create an organic page title. It needs to be relevant, organic, and feature keywords.
Meta descriptions don’t directly influence search page rankings. However, they do directly impact click-through. So, more than the crawlers, you are writing descriptions for the user. Create a relevant and accurate description of the webpage, that still features some keywords and targeted phrases.
Integrating your targeted keywords and phrases into your page’s existing content is important as well. It helps search engines determine what the page is about. Approximately 800-2,000 words of on-page text is recommended (from an SEO perspective).
Develop and Submit Sitemaps
Make it easier for search engines to index your website by creating and submitting sitemaps.
5. Measure Performance
Now that you’ve implemented some SEO improvements, it’s time to measure ongoing performance.
Use analytics tools (e.g., Google Analytics, HubSpot, etc.) to assess performance of organic traffic and your keywords. Doing so will allow you to see what does and doesn’t work and optimize. Take the chance to also investigate how organic users (i.e., those coming as a result of your SEO campaign) are behaving on your website and optimize the user experience accordingly.
Also, don’t forget your own SERP check.
Is It Time to Audit Your Site’s SEO?
Ultimately, SEO is a crucial tool in a marketer’s toolbelt that should be part of any digital marketing strategy.
Developing and executing SEO improvements can help make your business more visible and accessible online, and can ultimately contribute to your business goals and revenue growth.
Remember, you shouldn’t expect the Renaissance on your first attempt. Search engine optimization is crucial for making you more competitive, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be the top result for every search term you’ve targeted.
Like everything else in marketing, that’s where those weeds I mentioned earlier come into play.
 (Title Tag, by Moz): https://moz.com/learn/seo/title-tag
 (Your SEO Checklist: 4 Steps to Optimizing Your Website, by Jon Rognerud):
(Beginners Guide to SEO, by Moz): https://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo