SEO, otherwise known as Search Engine Optimization, is a process of increasing your website’s organic visibility on Google and other search engines. In the last year or so, I’ve learned search engine optimization techniques and how they help me show up in search results.
At the end of 2015, I launched this website. Back then, all I wanted was an online space to share my portfolio work.
Then, one thing led to another, and I started freelancing as a side hustle.
Before I knew it, I was participating in several Facebook groups and absorbing all kinds of information about starting an online business.
From there, I made a risky(ish) decision and bought a Pinterest Marketing course from a reputable blogger. Because of her, I realized that I needed to start blogging.
After I finished all the modules in that course, I realized that I needed to approach blogging quite differently. Of course, 3-4 years ago, I had NO idea how complicated blogging actually was. That is, if you wanted to rank on Google, and establish authority in front of potential clients.
I’ve enjoyed writing since I was a kid (you may be able to locate Harry Potter fanfiction written by your truly if you search long enough-ha!). Back in high school, I was told by my English teachers that I was a natural writer. In college, I learned a thing or two about copywriting because I was briefly studying Public Relations.
Of course, I learned fairly quickly that copywriting under an SEO-approved checklist was totally different from the college admissions essays I used to write. It’s also different than writing captions for social media. And it’s obviously totally different than the Harry Potter fanfiction days.
Fast forward to the fall of 2018, and a shift happened for me. I actually had potential clients filling out my lead capture form, and telling me that they found me on Google. This was when I finally realized how important SEO was for my business.
Around this time, I learned about Google Search Console and immediately set up an account. I discovered that I was ranking for various keywords searches that related to Instagram hashtag research. This made total sense since I have written a few blog posts on this very topic.
So, I’ve personally discovered the power of SEO and I want you to do the same. SEO matters and it can transform your online business too.
What is SEO?
As mentioned above, Search Engine Optimization is a process that allows your website to gain visibility on search engines such as Google.
One of the first steps in working you way toward SEO is performing keyword research. Think about the last time you search for an answer on Google. You didn’t just type in “Pinterest” when you wanted to learn how to create better pin images. You probably searched for “best performing pins on Pinterest” or “how to create a pin graphic that goes viral” or something more extensive.
Why? Because you want to learn how to do something specific and you expect Google to show you the best resources first. How often do you scroll past the first 2 or 3 results? My guess is, never, unless you’re writing an academic paper.
How Does Google Decide which Websites will Rank?
Through SEO, of course! As you type in certain keywords into Google, what you’re looking at is the SERP (which stands for search engine results page). These top results are there because their article are skimmable, easy to follow, and contain a fair amount of relevant keywords without coming across as spammy.
Here’s the thing. Google takes their optimization process really seriously because they want you to be able to find quality information in a matter of seconds.
Why Your Website Needs Search Engine Optimization
Visitors on Google are there because they’re searching for a solution. What if you’re the answer to their solution? Bingo!
I have a photographer friend who wants to be known as an expert on photographing couples and engagement/elopement photographer. To help her out, I conducted some keyword research. Since she’s located to Atlanta, GA, we focused on what people were searching for in that region.
I found that there were very targeted searches. It’s too generic to try to rank for “Atlanta photographer” because then she is competing with 100 different photographers in the area. They all specialize in different types of photography as well, including maternity, newborn, wedding, and commercial photography.
Knowing that she wanted to be known for engagements and elopements, I collected a list of keywords related to those topics. That way, when people search for “Atlanta engagement sessions” or “places to elope from Atlanta”, her site is much more likely to show up in those results.
The best part? The people making those searches on Google are actually interested in booking an engagement session or looking for an elopement photographer. And that, my friends, is how you target the right people who are the most likely to do business with you.
How to Save Time on SEO
You’re a small business owner trying to run an online business. Whatever your business is, you’re focused on spending your time working with your own clients and being a solution to their problem.
SEO Marketing is confusing at first, which is why I want to create this resource for you. Knowing what Google wants will help you improve your content creation, so I want you to keep this information in mind as you write content for your website.
Related: Proven Ways to Increase Website Traffic
What is Google Looking For?
Google wants to remain the best search engine out there. They do that by providing the best user experience which means they need to stay relevant with the most up-to-date and quality content the internet has to offer.
Long Tail Keywords
As I mentioned already, if you’re searching for something on Google, you’re not typically searching for “Pinterest.” Instead, you’re searching for “how to create viral content on Pinterest” which is considered a long tail keyword. These keyword phrases are longer in length and get very specific on a particular topic.
Keyword research should be the first thing you do. What questions are your customers asking? What do they need help with? What are they searching for on Google?
I used a Google Chrome extension called Keywords Everywhere that helps me create extensive lists of keyword phrases to pull from. Once you have a list of keyword phrases that’ll help you connect with your audience, you can start plugging them into your website content.
If you’re unfamiliar with evergreen content, here is a quick definition: this refers to the content on your site that remains relevant, regardless of the amount of time that passes. Articles like “Best Marketing Practices in 2019” are NOT evergreen content and need to be updated every year.
I’m NOT saying that you should never post content that is time-based. Sharing special offers or covering a trending topic can be a good thing. But as far as SEO is concerned, your content should stay relevant in the long-term. Google values content that will be valuable for years to come.
Catchy Titles and Descriptive Meta Descriptions
Google loves catchy headlines. Also known as a title tag, this is the title of your blog post or web page. And the meta description is the portion of text below the title tag on SERP results. It’s typically 2 sentences or less and summarizes what your blog post is about. Take a look at the screenshot below, and you’ll see how one of my blog posts appear on Google.
Have you worked on the backend of your blog yet? Chances are that you’ve noticed Header 1, Header 2, and Header 3 as some options. These options help make your content skimmable, and they’re a great way to plug in long tail keywords into your content. However, don’t overdo it. That’s called keyword stuffing, and it’ll be flagged by Google.
This is copy that refers to the content that makes up the body paragraphs in your blog posts and web pages. You can also include keywords in your body text as long as you’re not overdoing it. I have academic friends and passionate writers that want to write long paragraphs with thorough sentences. However, the best SEO practices call for you to do the opposite.
Remember, skimmable content is a good thing. So, your body text should be short and simple. Side note: Google is prioritizing mobile-friendly sites. If the paragraphs are longer than 2-3 sentences each, then your content isn’t easy to read on smartphones and tablets. Keep that in mind as you’re writing. The shorter, the better. Sorry to all the academic writers out there!
Now that you know more about how to create SEO-friendly content, here is a summary on why SEO matters for your online business and blog.
1.) Better User Experience
Following SEO practices will help you create a better experience for your website visitors. Who wants to visit a website where they can’t learn more about the business or how to contact? Or what they offer and what value they give? If people visiting your website can’t locate that information right away, they’re going to click away.
SEO helps you organize your site and make it easier for visitors to reach out to you.
2.) Long-Term Strategy that Converts
The sooner you focus on SEO, the better! Look, I knew nothing about SEO back in 2015 and 2016. I have old blog posts that I need to rework or delete (but I can’t completely delete old posts because that’s bad for SEO!) You can prevent that process from even happening if you get started today.
2/3s of search queries result in one or more clicks. What if one of those clicks leads to your website? The better your SEO is, the better results you’ll have!
3.) Connect with Your Audience
Finally, SEO can help you connect with potential clients and customers. That’s the end goal for most business owners, right? Well, SEO will help you grow traffic organically, which means it’s FREE. The truth is, posting on social media and investing in online advertisements has to happen frequently. That means that you have to constantly be producing content in order to get results. With SEO, your hard work will do the work for you in the long-term.