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Back to the Basics: Where Do I Start With SEO?

Whether you’re a business owner or a curious consumer, there’s someone strategizing every click you make on the internet. Especially when it comes to which result you choose first when you search on Google.

Google works very hard to only show you search results that are exactly what you want. And businesses/blogs work very hard to be what you want. But there’s competition – everyone wants their link to show up in those first result spots.

The strategies they use to show up above another company are called SEO – or search engine optimization. Want to learn more?

Read our SEO for Beginners guide, starting from true zero, below.

The SEO for Beginners Guide

Since SEO is a monster of a term, we’ve broken it down for you a few ways. First, we’ll look at the vocabulary that’s commonly used in SEO discussions,

It’ll not only help you seem up to date, but it’ll help you break down the overall complexities of SEO.

Then we’ll look at how all those vocabulary words tie together to create a higher ranking website.

Finally, we’ll look at the main SEO strategies people use to rank higher on Google. Let’s get started.

Understand the Vocabulary

There’s a learning curve when it comes to SEO and part of it is the vocabulary. You may not know what Adwords is, affiliate links or anchor texts are.

And those are just some from the A’s. To help you out, we’ve picked some must-know vocabulary terms to help you get your bearings.

Adwords

Adwords is a program run by Google that controls Google Ad placement. It’s what keeps that one post at the top in the paid search position and what pops up in the sidebar.

Your AdWords campaign is the bulk of your marketing budget, other than Facebook ads – at least – it is for most businesses.

Algorithm

An algorithm is a complex math problem where events are given values. Google has them and updates them all the time – they’re what showed our link above our competitors, which is how you got to this page.

Authority

Site authority is just what it sounds like – a level of trust that Google and other search engines assign you. The more you play their games and play into their algorithms, the higher your site authority.

Linking to sites with high authority is better for your authority than linking to some tiny blog. Think of it like a very wide popularity contest.

If you show Google that you appreciate and link to the popular kids (sites with high authority) they reward you.

Bounce Rate

When someone comes to your site and you look at your analytics, how long do they stay on your site? That averaged out number (in seconds or minutes) is your bounce rate.

Google loves a low bounce rate, which is when people spend more time on your page. They’re obsessed with the customer experience and websites that deliver value.

So the longer someone stays on your site, the more value Google assumes you’re giving them.

*When we say Google loves or likes something, that means it’s a positive ranking factor when it comes to SEO.

CMS

CMS stands for “content management system”. Part of the SEO ranking factors is putting out consistent content. CMS helps you do this by releasing your blog posts or social posts (etc) at around the same time every day.

CPC – Cost Per Click

This is something that goes with Google Adwords. It’s how much you’re willing to pay to get someone to click on your ad and go to your website. If you have very expensive products, then you usually have a higher CPC.

Inbound and Outbound Links

Also called internal and external links – these are hyperlinked text that makes sense in your content. Think of it like citing someone in a paper.

Generally, you want to have links out to sites with high authority (like we discussed above). But you also want to use internal links, which go to pages on your own site.

So if you were writing an article about why you need SEO services, you could cite a fact you wrote about in another article and link to it directly. That would be an internal link.

An external link would be linking to where you found that fact – which you’d do in the original blog post that cited it.

Using (and not abusing) links shows Google that you’re committed to creating a sort of online community. In Google’s mind (we assume) it sees them as olive branches to other sites.

And Google wants a peaceful internet community.

Keyword

When you search something on Google, you don’t type out a whole sentence, right? You type in “SEO for Beginners”, for example.

Then you let Google do the work of finding sites that have that phrase used relevantly enough to show you results. What you typed into Google is a keyword – and people can track them.

Not from your computer, per se, but how often they’re being searched and how much money that search makes. So think of something like “used cars”.

It has a high search volume (amount of searches). It also brings people who rank for it a lot of money, assuming they get the used car sale. So people pay more to show up higher on the results page for that keyword.

To find out what people are spending, we look at keyword difficulty – or how much competition you have for that phrase. Competition is ranked from 0-100. You want to pick keywords that have a difficulty of 30 and under.

It takes a lot of research to find out information like that, which is why you should hire a professional. At least until you get your bearings.

Landing Page

A landing page is whatever a link (including your URL) takes the user to. It could be your home page or the blog you linked to as an internal link – as we used as an example above.

Most people try to link to a landing page that will get them a conversion – a sale or a page that will gather the user’s info.

PPA – Pay Per Action

Unlike pay per click, where you only get charged when someone clicks on your ad, PPC is for conversions. So if you have a PPC campaign running, you’ll only pay Google if someone “converts”.

You can tell Google what that action is – it may be hitting checkout or just putting their email in a subscribe box.

SEM

Search engine marketing – it’s SEO but from a lens of paying for distributing ads.

SEO

Search engine optimization – a group of tactics used with the intent of getting more users to your website. The subgoal of that is having your link show up higher on the results page.

Almost no one looks further than the first page when it comes to a search. Most people rephrase their search if they don’t see something they like above the fold (where they have to scroll down).

There are many more vocabulary words, but those are the ones that most often come up in conversation. If you don’t know a word a professional uses, just ask them to define it.

SEO is complex and no one expects you to understand it all on the first try.

Vocabulary in Motion: Our Definition of SEO

To lay it all out on the table, let’s redefine SEO by using all of the vocab words above.

People who optimize for SEO are trying to get higher page rankings and better site authority. They do that by using Google Adwords, keywords, and internal/external links.

The goal of SEO and SEM is to increase conversions or actions taken on your site. You want to have a low bounce rate on your landing page because that shows Google’s algorithm that your site is worth the customer’s time.

You can increase the conversions on your site by paying for PPC ads and having good content on your site thanks to a cms.

Creating an SEO Strategy

So, from our definitions, you know you need to build up site authority and decrease your bounce rate. But how do you do that? How do you differentiate yourself from all the other alike sites out there?

There are a few main strategies, which are laid out below.

Improve Site Quality

Part of decreasing your bounce rate is having a site that’s easy to navigate. People want to find what they’re looking for on your site within seconds – and we mean that.

The average online attention span is eight seconds, so don’t expect someone to search longer than that. Your graphic designer should lay out a clear site menu that works on both desktop and mobile.

You should also focus on delivering content (including the menu) above the fold. The fold is the spot on your website where a user has to scroll down to see more.

Use the Right Keywords

When you set up your site, you need to think about keywords from the get-go. If you’re really good at planning, you’ll even have a keyword in your URL.

But you’re not out of luck if you’re late to the game. You should use keywords organically around your site. That means if your keyword is “Denver Shoe Store” you should be able to find that phrase on your page.

Maybe it’s in your about us page or your history. It doesn’t count if it’s in a graphic, like your logo, since Google doesn’t see images in terms of SEO. (Unless you count alt-text, but this is a beginners article).

But you have to do this organically. You can’t write an “about me” that says the keyword six times in one paragraph. That’s called stuffing – and Google will punish you for it.

So you have to get more creative about using keywords, which is where the next strategy comes into play…

Create Valuable Content

When businesses first started blogs on their websites, the main objective was to find a new way to use keywords. And to be honest, from a business perspective, it still is.

But you should also see blog posts and other relevant content (podcasts, anything) as a gift you give customers. You want to decrease your bounce rate, right? Well if you write a relevant blog post that delivers good information, that person is going to stay on the page longer.

And yes, throughout that post you can sprinkle your keywords so that Google will rank you higher for them. You should also use that blog post to do internal and external links – to sites with high authority.

Make Sure it’s High Quality

These blog posts need to be quality – or people will click away. You’d be surprised at how fast someone will discount your page over so much as one misspelled word or typo.

That’s why many businesses and SEO agencies contract out their content writing.

They pay professionals to create content that fits the businesses needs and SEO goals.

It’s a large part of the growing “gig economy“. Almost all of these writers are ghostwriters, which means they’re contracted to let you use their work without using their name.

Ask your SEO agency about how they plan to help you create content.

Your SEO Plan

We could have kept typing for hours about this subject, but we’re trying to keep this SEO for Beginners guide digestible. There’s so much to think about when it comes to improving your rankings, it’s like a full-time job.

And it is – it’s our full-time job. We handle SEO for many companies, just like yours, and they’re thrilled with their results. Don’t try to add managing your SEO to your already full plate.We promise our services are worth the money and you’ll see a high ROI in the future. Ready to hand this SEO headache off to someone else? Click here.