SEO: Super Simple Basics You Need to Know


Published: November 25, 2019 Author: Jason Holicky - Hometown Design Studio Inc.
SEO: Super Simple Basics You Need to Know

The concept of search engine optimization (SEO) can be intimidating for those who are unfamiliar with how it works. While a deep-dive into all the intricacies of SEO will require a bit of dedication and time, there are a few basics that should form the foundation of every SEO strategy that everyone can tackle themselves.

Let’s Get the Technicalities Out of the Way
In a nutshell, computers communicating with other computers (i.e., Google’s search engine and your website) requires some technical bits and pieces to be in place so the two can understand each other. Optimizing your site for SEO starts with making sure these technical details are covered.
  • Page Title. First, the title should accurately describe the content of the page so searchers can easily determine whether a click to your page will be worth their time. Try to keep your titles under 60 characters so they display completely in a list of search engine results.

  • Meta Description. This refers to the couple of lines of text that appear under a link in a list of search engine results. The experts go back and forth whether the meta description affects SEO, but we’re all certain that searchers read them so make yours catchy, descriptive of the content, and under 145 characters to make sure it all shows.

  • Page URL. In short, the URL of your pages should contain the title of the page, less any prepositions or short words like in, of, to, the, etc. What’s important here is to keep the URL simple as people get nervous about long URLs with a bunch of letters, numbers, symbols, and other seemingly strange characters.

  • Internal Links. Links in your blog posts and on your web pages that point to other posts or pages on your website is an easy bit of self-promotion that helps search engines find all your pages and visitors to find related information. What’s important here is to make sure the anchor text, or the words you’re attaching the link to, is associated with the page you’re linking to and to only use a couple per page. Don’t overdo it!

  • Heading Tags. Headings tell readers and search engines what’s contained in the text below them. They are useful for skimming readers and discerning search engine crawlers. Use big, bold text for humans and H2 tags for computers to recognize your headings.
What to Know about Keywords
The first thing to know about keywords is that Google and other search engines are continually improving their algorithms to deliver better results to searchers. Today, they are becoming more and more skilled at understanding searcher intent rather than relying on exact matches of words on a page. That said, you still need the right words on the page for those connections to be made. The second thing to know is that entire websites do not rank for keywords; individual pages do the ranking so your strategy will depend on the page you’re focusing on at the moment.

A successful keyword strategy relies more on connecting the dots rather than stuffing pages with words that seem relevant. It includes words that regular people use to search for your products and services--not industry jargon!--and covers a wide range of related words, topics, and ideas. Instead of thinking in terms of individual keywords you’d like to rank for, think about keyword themes or branches that can be applied to many pages.

For example, your product or service pages are likely to be the most important on your site as this is where visitors will go when they’re ready to connect with you or spend some money. These pages should contain your most important and most direct keywords. If you’re a landscaper, you want your service pages to show up when people are looking for things like landscaping, lawn mowing, leaf collection, groundskeeping, etc., whichever combination is most important and most applicable to the page itself.

Up next are the supporting pages: individual product pages, in-depth descriptions of your services, and all those blog posts. Here is where you want to start building your branches and expanding on themes. Think of your important pages like a hub, and the supporting pages like spokes from the hub: they should all connect to that central theme and help support it.

Blog posts are also useful for SEO success as a well-constructed post should be highly interesting to a small slice of your total audience. With a bit of smart promotion on your social media and other channels, they can become the gateway to the rest of your website for those that aren’t finding you through search. Plus, when one page of your site starts getting some good traffic, it’s a signal to Google that it’s of good quality and can lift up the relevance of connected pages.

Keyword Research: The Basics
Keyword research can be an intensive and dedicated process, especially for big businesses that need to capture a huge share of the market. For the rest of us, a little less intensity is necessary, but diligence still matters. Keyword research should also be an ongoing effort, not a one-time project as people’s search behavior and search-engine algorithms fluctuate over time. Your main or most important keywords are likely to stay the same for longer periods of time, but your supporting keywords will shift a bit.

Fancy software is helpful, but not required. Start by brainstorming lists of words that people would type into a search engine hoping to find you. Then expand that list to include questions people might ask, problems they may encounter that you can solve, and other situations that might call for a Google search. If you get stumped, head to Google and start typing in some search terms: what is Google suggesting as you start typing? Are your competitors showing up when you search? What’s popping up in the “People also ask” section of the search results? Don’t forget to include localized words such as your city, metropolitan area, or words like “midwest” or “east coast” if they are part of your service area.
Lastly, remember that the simplest and most direct keywords are going to be the most competitive and, therefore, difficult to rank for right out of the gate. As you gain some footing with less-common terms and long-tail keywords such as longer phrases or whole questions, you’ll start feeding into your ranking for more competitive words and gain traction for the long haul.

P.S. Google Ads are Not SEO
Search engine optimization is all about building a website that effectively answers people’s questions and solves their problems in such a way that Google and other search engines are more likely to suggest your pages to their customers (searchers). Google Ads are for buying a fast, but temporary pass to the top of the list. SEO provides long-lasting results without having to continually feed the ad-meter, although a few paid spots can help jump-start your traffic-generation strategies while you wait for the slower-moving SEO process to settle in. You can also use all the keyword information you’re getting from your Google Ads console to inform your SEO strategies so the two are not mutually exclusive.

Start Simple
In the most basic sense, SEO should be focused on how regular people use Google to answer questions and solve problems. As you start building your strategy, remember to start simple and build up to a more complex approach once the basics are in place. The foundation you create and the habits you build should be based on good organization and stay focused on the people you’re hoping to draw in (along with a handful of technical details). No amount of tricks, craftiness, or cash can provide the same long-term results as well-built SEO foundation that’s focused on quality, honesty, and serving customers.

About the Author

Creative Director Jason co-founded Hometown Design Studio of New Lenox, IL in 2013. He spends his days guiding and consulting industrial clients and small businesses owners on their marketing strategy and projects. Jason enables everyone to be successful and grow their business by sharing his knowledge and experience.
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