The Beginner’s Guide to SEO: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started

Pair of women using an iMac to Google Search

What if your dream customers and clients could find you in the Google search results?

People are already searching for what your business has to offer. You just have to start showing up where they are searching.

A great way for customers to find your small business is in the search engine results pages (SERPs). You can position your small business as the answer to your prospective customers’ Google queries.

Showing up in the SERPs requires search engine optimization (SEO). This guide will explain the basics of SEO so you can get started with your search engine marketing efforts.

What Is SEO?

SEO focuses on increasing your website traffic by showing up in the organic search results (“organic” refers to the unpaid results in the SERPs). By optimizing web pages for the search engine algorithm, you are able to get more targeted traffic.

Why SEO Is Important

Though many small businesses focus on social media marketing, the majority of online traffic actually comes from search engines. This means if you aren’t showing up in the SERPs and your competitors are, you are losing out on customers and sales.

There is a joke in the SEO world that the best place to hide a dead body is on the third page of Google. And this joke has some truth: it is well known that very few users never venture past the first page of search results. In fact, 28.5% of users click on the first organic search result.

Most users scroll past the PPC advertisements and straight to the organic results. Search engine algorithms are smart, but you need to optimize your website so that customers can discover you. Search engine optimization gets your web pages in the organic search results.

How SEO Works

Search engines work by crawling the web and indexing pages. They use an algorithm to determine which results to show to users. There are several criteria that the algorithm evaluates when choosing sites to show.

SEO focuses on optimizing a website to appeal to the Google algorithm. Google is generally the focus because it has the highest search volume (92.18 percent of search engine traffic, to be exact). And performing SEO for Google will optimize pages for other search engines, too.

Essential Elements of SEO

Generally speaking, Google looks for relevant and useful information to share with searchers. Below are more specific details about what that means and how to do website SEO to ensure that your content shows up.

Crawlability

The first step of SEO is ensuring that your website is crawlable by Google. This allows Google to index your pages based on the content it finds. Think about it: search engines have to be able to find your content. Your other SEO efforts won’t be worth it if you skip this step.

There are many things that prevent Google from being able to crawl your site. Clear navigation, internal links, and website health will allow search engines to discover and index your pages. An SEO audit is handy for checking your website’s health.

Keeping things up to date with regular website maintenance can also help ensure that there are no 404 errors or excessive redirects that prevent Google from indexing pages.

Keyword Research

To appear in Google results for your ideal clients and customers, you need to do keyword research. You need to make sure that you write about your products or services in the same way as your clients. Keyword research allows you to discover relevant keywords to target that your audience is searching for.

There was a time when stuffing keywords on a page would get it in the SERPs, but the Google algorithm is smarter now. You should use the keywords you are targeting several times on the page, including headings, image alt text, and the body of your content. However, avoid overstuffing, or you will be punished.

The most important thing to keep in mind when targeting a keyword is creating high-quality content that answers the user’s query. Search intent will allow you to answer their questions and provide valuable content that they (and the Google algorithm) will love.

High-Quality Content

This is perhaps the most important part of SEO. Since Google’s mission statement is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” you need to make useful content.

The Google algorithm pays attention to user behavior after clicking on your site, so you need to craft your content for the user, not the algorithm. Quality web design, UX, and crafting keyword-rich content based on search intent all give the user a better experience.

The better the user experience, the more likely they are to hang around. This means the algorithm will show your content to more people.

Domain Authority

The Google algorithm also looks at how reputable a website is. This makes sense as they want to show high-quality results to searchers.

An essential part of this is backlink generation. Backlinks are links from outside sites to your website. You can think of them as votes that tell Google to trust you.

A backlink from a more reputable site carries more weight than one with little domain authority. Focusing link-building efforts on high-quality sites will give your website more trust and credibility.

Get Started With Website SEO

You now have a general knowledge of the basic aspects of SEO. There are tons of nuances that are beyond the scope of this beginner’s article. You can use this article as a starting point for your SEO efforts and build from there.

Many prefer to pass the SEO details off to the pros. It can be tricky to boost your SERP rankings, especially when you are just starting out. At Iconic Web HQ, we offer full SEO services to help you grow your website traffic, so check us out today!

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