Contributed by Peter Ellington
If you’re new to blogging or web marketing – you’re probably aware of how important getting ranked higher on Google is. Getting a good position on Google for your major keywords could make or break your business – so it’s not something you should ignore. Far too many new website owners ignore SEO or treat it as an afterthought when it should be one of your biggest considerations.
If you’re struggling to know where to start in your SEO efforts – you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to take you through from the beginning so you can get your new site on the right path to ranking success.
Why is Google so important?
Google is the number one search engine in the world – and it has been for a long time. If you haven’t heard of it, you’ve probably been living under a rock. What started as a simple search engine has now transformed into a multi-billion dollar company with global reach and interests in video, social networking, advertising, maps and more. But the search engine is still the bread and butter – and it’s something you want to make the most of.
While there are other search engines around (and you shouldn’t ignore these) – Google is still the major player. Research suggests that they make up about 80% of all search engine use in the world. While you can run a successful online business without the help of Google – it’s not easy. Most online ventures realise that they need to get ranked on the first page of Google for their main keywords. For many, it’s crucial to the success of their business.
Finding the right keywords to target
You’ve probably seen people throw around the term “keyword” a few times. If you’re unsure what it means – it’s simply the search terms people use that you want to focus on and “rank” for. Keywords can vary greatly depending on your business, they could include your location or other specific information relating to the product you sell.
To get started, you can use Google’s own keyword tool. This will give you an estimate for the number of searches particular terms get – as well as other suggestions for similar popular searches. You can also filter results based on location or other metrics. The more searches a keyword gets, the more traffic it could drive to your site. However, the most popular terms (with the most traffic) will also be the most competitive, and perhaps harder to rank for.
For SEO newcomers, it might be too difficult to rank for major terms with 100,000+ monthly searches, so set your sights on something a bit more realistic (perhaps in the 5,000 monthly searches range). Don’t simply pick one term – get a list together with ten to twenty variations that you’d like to try and rank for. These will be important later.
Avoiding hugely competitive search terms could save you a lot of time and effort. If you can’t get on the first page of Google – you might as well be nowhere. Some stats suggest that ranking 11th (or first on the second page) could only garner you 1% of the volume of searches for that term. It’s a fine balancing act – but make sure you target terms that get a good amount of traffic but aren’t too competitive.
Setting up your on-page SEO
There are two different types of SEO – “on-page” and “off-page”. You’re going to need to make the most of both of them, but let’s start with on-page. On-page SEO refers to how your actual site content is optimized for search engines like Google. You’ll need to make sure you use your keywords enough in your content (but not too much). It’s also important that you use the right headings – along with including optimized META tags and a good internal linking structure.
While this might seem like a lot to take on, there are thankfully a number of handy WordPress plugins that do most of the hard work for you and help make sure your on-page SEO is fully optimized and ready to go. Yoast SEO is one of the most well-known and fully functional plugins (with a free version available). There are alternatives, but this should be good enough to get you started.
The importance of backlinks
Now we come to your off-page SEO – and this is arguably more important. One of the main ways search engines like Google determine the importance and relevance of a site is by evaluating the number of backlinks that point to it from other sites. Not all links are created equal, and those from authoritative sites are deemed more valuable – passing on more “link juice”.
While more backlinks are normally good – you don’t want to appear too spammy. There are some cheap backlinking gigs on sites like Fiverr that offer thousands of links overnight. Many of these could actually see your site penalized by Google. It’s important that you use a natural and effective backlinking strategy. Another key tip is to try and use your keywords as the anchor text for links – but change this up as much as possible and keep it varied. The best backlinking strategies are natural ones.
How to get good backlinks
If backlinks are so important – how are you going to get them? As already mentioned, try and avoid spammy techniques that offer thousands of backlinks for next-to-nothing. Most good backlinking strategies follow natural, organic growth and rely on a combination of techniques.
When you write a new post for your site – try submitting it to a syndication network. There are a number of these networks that’ll take your content and re-publish it, providing a valuable link back to the original source (your site). You can also use social bookmarks to tag all the new content that you produce.
Try and find a few relevant and authoritative forums or communities in your niche. Many of these offer backlinks in your signature. Again, try not to be spammy and post relevant useful information. A couple of weeks’ worth of occasional posting could get you tens of useful (authoritative) links.
One of the keys to getting great backlinks is to write GREAT CONTENT. The better your content is – the more it’ll get shared and linked naturally. You can’t avoid producing good quality stuff if you really want your reputation to grow.