SEO Starter’s Guide – Where to Begin?

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So, you are likely reading this because you are looking to begin SEO on your site, but you’ve been reading all the information out there and you can’t seem to make sense of it. I’ve totally been there!  Don’t worry, because I’m going to give a basic, quick primer on the overarching principles of SEO to get you started.

The Definition of SEO

I have stewed over definitions of SEO over the last 6 months to boil it down to one simple statement that I believe explains it solidly: SEO is the process of making webpage(s) more relevant for a given keyterm in order to increase rankings for that keyword over time. The two most important elements in this definition are:

  • Web pages not web sites – Remember, you are not optimizing your website…you are optimizing separate pages. Search engines see them as completely different documents
  • For a keyword – A webpage needs to be optimized for a keyword.  Your whole site could be about car tires, but if a search engine can’t find the word ‘tires’ anywhere on your site, you are NOT relevant for that keyword…no matter how many SEO principles you have incorporated into your site.

The Three Areas of SEO

There are three areas of SEO to become familiar with. Don’t worry if you don’t immediately understand one, because some professional SEOs spend years specializing in one. Become aware of them and their most often-found faux pas.

  • On-Site SEO
  • Off-Site SEO
  • Indexing

On-site SEO – The Stuff you Control

Your on-site SEO elements are your content and other page elements that you can freely change and control. These are found on your own site, and you usually have free access to edit any of them.  Some of these elements are your page’s title tag, meta description, headings, and keyword saturation levels in your page content.  An extremely helpful document for understanding these elements’ role on your page, I highly suggest checking out the Web Developer’s SEO Cheat Sheet.

Also be sure to check out the Basic SEO Checklist which is awesome as a simple checklist for launching SEO on your small site.

Off-site SEO – The Stuff Someone Else Controls

Your off-site SEO is made up entirely of links. When someone takes the time to mention your business in a blog post, or link to you on their site, this effectively tells Google that they vote for your site having great content or products. Enough people start linking to you, and that starts to tell search engines that your site is quickly becoming the ‘big man on campus’, and the search engines want to provide to searchers what is popular. For this reason, links are super important. Getting other peoples’ sites to link back to yours, using your desired keyword in the anchor text of the link will tip the search engines off of keywords they believe your webpage should rank for.

Indexing – Not Giving the Search Spiders any Obstacles

With the search engines’ spiders crawling the net at fantastic speeds with such high-tech equipment, their time is extremely valuable. Leading their spiders into loops, uncrawlable content, and other obstacles is viewed as a waste of resources. You definitely do not want to detain the spiders and incur the wrath of search engines for wasting their time, bandwidth, and other resources.

Hopefully this has been a helpful primer introduction into how to begin SEO for your site. Keep checking back on the OrangeSoda blog for more helpful information.  I’ve seen what our writers have in the pipeline, and I’m excited to see what you do with the info!