SEO: The Very Basics for Beginners


Published: October 5, 2015 Author: Jason Holicky - Hometown Design Studio Inc.
SEO: The Very Basics for Beginners

Promoting your site and your content are important ways to drive traffic to your website. However, up to 64 percent of web traffic comes from organic search, or when someone types a few words into a search engine like Google and chooses one of the unpaid links in the results. One recent survey gives 90 percent of all organic search credit to Google so today we will be talking about the best practices for getting your links to the top of Google’s results pages.

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

SEO, or the method of optimizing your website and web pages for search engines, is something that web designers and businesses have been trying to perfect since the first search engines debuted in the early 1990s. In the beginning, search engines indexed web pages based on specific words that were on each page. In those days, SEO consisted of jamming as many important words as you could on a page so Google would think that page was very important for those words.

Over the last 20 years, however, Google has come a long way. Too many pages that got a top billing on the results pages were spammy and unhelpful, and Google has customers to please, too. In order to make their customers—people using search engines—happy, Google is continually updating the methods and signals they use to rank pages and mark them as useful and important.

Today’s SEO involves giving Google the right shortcuts to understanding what your page is about, and then creating brilliant content that is truly useful to the people who are looking for it. We will get into the technical aspects including how to give Google those shortcuts in another post. For now we’re going to stick with the “brilliant content” part of the equation.

Google Needs Amazing Content

Always remember that Google has customers to serve. They are not served when a shady SEO service “figures out” what Google’s algorithms are searching for and then tries to trick the system. Google is staffed with some pretty smart people who have figured out lots of ways to determine when something is written by a human and when it is created to make a human’s life better. Aim for that always and never believe anyone who tells you that you should do otherwise.

Aside from creating content that is well-written and designed to solve the problems of your readers, here are a few things to keep in mind about creating quality content:

  • Keywords.

    Keywords have always had a prominent place in the SEO landscape, but because their use has been overly manipulated in the past, search engines like Google downplay their importance in a site’s or page’s overall ranking. Today, search engines are smart enough to understand longer words and phrases and to assess the overall topic of a page so there is no need to include a certain number of very specific keywords.

  • Formatting.

    The structure of your page is just as important as the words on the page. Most web users like their content broken up into easy-to-scan chunks rather than lengthy passages and long paragraphs. Use lots of subheadings to make it easy to skip around and use bullet points and numbered lists to group similar ideas.

  • Links & Promotion.

    Google takes a few cues from the world to determine if your content is any good. Social signals are a vote in your favor, so it is important to make sure your content gets out into the social media atmosphere on a regular basis. Incoming links from other reputable sites also give you a little internet street cred because it means that someone found your content useful enough to send his or her readers to it. Getting these links can be tricky, but it all starts with making sure your content is good enough to link to in the first place.

People First

If you think about how some companies used to game the search engines in the past, it doesn’t make a great deal of sense. First, even if your link is at the top of the search engine results page, if the reader doesn’t like what they see when they get there, will they be very likely to make a purchase? Getting your pages to the top of the list is an important way to drive more traffic to your website, but it is only effective at drawing more leads if the reader gets exactly what she wants when she gets there. Focus on delivering that experience, and Google will be far more likely to reward you with a top billing.

For more on Search Engine Optimization, check out these articles:
Deciphering Some Technical SEO Best Practices Part 1
Deciphering Some Technical SEO Best Practices Part 2
What is Link Building and Why Do I Need It
What is Local SEO

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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