what is seo?

When learning anything for the first time it is best to start with the basics. First, what is SEO? Wikipedia defines SEO as:

“Search engine optimization is the process of improving the quality and quantity of website traffic to a website or a web page from search engines. SEO targets unpaid traffic rather than direct traffic or paid traffic.”

However, there is so much more to SEO as we will explore in this article.

more on Wikipedia here

search engine optimization

The purpose of SEO is to increase the quantity and quality of inbound traffic to your website. It is beneficial to both the consumer and business because it connects searchers with content that is most relevant to them. The goal is to rank as high as possible in a search engines index.

Rankings in SEO refers to a website’s position in the search engine results page. There are various ranking factors that influence whether a website appears higher on the SERP based on the content relevance to the search term, or the quality of backlinks pointing to the page.

The most used search engine in the world today is Google for purposes of this article we will be referencing SEO in how it relates primarily to Google Search.

As mentioned above there are many factors which impact your SEO and thus your index ranking for Google Search.

Learn SEO online at Coursea offered by UC Davis

relevant quality content

One of the most important things to keep in mind when considering SEO is the quality of your content. Is your content relevant to your audience and does it provide your readers/users with value? Make sure you are creating content with your audience in mind.

It is important to create content that appeals to the interests of your target market or answers their questions. Not all posts need to be about your product or service, but they all should be industry related. Assert yourself and your company as an expert in your industry by writing SEO-friendly content that is interesting and informative and do it better than your competition.

Learn more about creating content and content strategy through Coursea offered by Northwestern

store your content in one place

Try to keep all your content primarily in one place. In order to get the credit and traffic your website deserves it is best to keep your original content under your own domain name. That means if you have a blog opt out of hosting with WordPress or Blogger and host the blog in a subfolder on your own domain (ie: www.example.com/blog ). Any time you have an opportunity to showcase other forms of original content like videos, infographics or whitepapers, make sure to also embed them onto your website as well and share from there.


Create eye catching headlines

Create eye-popping, attention grabbing headlines to pull your audiences in. You have a very short amount of text to make a very big impression and most studies show that the average attention span of site visitor to be approximately 7 seconds.

So, don’t underestimate the power of an effective headline!

Write headlines that are clear, interesting and make use of rich keywords. In addition to a great headline, also make sure your meta descriptions are interesting and further elaborate on the topic of your article. Keep in mind that your title and meta description are what show up in the search results, so make them count.

Keywords are critical

Try to build around keywords and longtail phrases. In order to utilize a keyword or phrase successfully you should first do some research on keywords and phrases and there are many online tools that you can use for this including Google’s keyword planner, Keywordtool IO, and Word Tracker. Use relevant, keywords and longtail phrases in your headlines as well as throughout your content to let both your readers and the search engines know what your post is about. But beware, too many keywords will not only turn off your readers but can result in search engine penalties for keyword stuffing. Use keywords thoughtfully and sparingly, sticking to a more natural feel. In addition to using keywords throughout the body of your post, take advantage blog tags by tagging a few relevant keywords for each post; most general blogs have tagging capabilities already built in.

Perform keyword research with Google here

structure your content

Structure your posts and save outlines that you create. Remember it is not only what you are saying but how you are saying it. How you deliver your content is important. The contents of your post may be great but can be easily lost in an unorganized, inefficient format. Breaking your content up into smaller paragraphs with headlines makes for an easy read that will keep your readers engaged. For the search engines, back-end organization is key too. Using proper tag hierarchy when tagging headlines is important to maintain a well-structured article. Well designed outlines can be reused and quickly deployed.

utilize photos and graphics

Be sure to use photos and infographics. This ties back in with structuring your posts and keep your audience’s attention. People are visual. Adding an image along with your blog post can make a big impression. Have a Pinterest account? In addition to promoting your blogs across your other social media channels, posts with images can also be pinned, adding another avenue for traffic to your website.

Create and utilize infographics here

promote content on social media

Promote and mirror your content through social media channels. Social media is a powerful tool that can help increase the reach of your content and promote sharing. Post each new article on social media sites and in forums, using engaging descriptions and a call-to-action. Since the power of social media lies in sharing, it’s also important to have share buttons on each of your blog posts. If you want more control of how your links appear when they’re shared, implementing Twitter Cards for Twitter or Open Graph for Facebook can give your shared links a boost, and may help your click-through rates.

build links to increase your ranking

Build links that connect back to your site. Link building has come a long way since the days of link buying and link farms, but links are still an important ranking factor for SEO. Linking to your own articles or website in your post ensures a link back to your website if your article is picked up by another site. If you get creative with other types of content like infographics and videos, adding an embed code on your site helps to promote content sharing and also adds a link back to the original source. Creating great content helps increase the shareability and the likelihood that other websites will link to it, so aim for quality and avoid “blackhat” techniques that could get your site penalized.

Learn more here

measure performance with analytics

Finally, be sure to continually track your site’s analytics. Stay on top of your SEO content by monitoring your efforts. Google Analytics is an easy and free way to track your page views and the average time spent on a page. Check things like your bounce rate and time on site to get an idea of how users interact with your website after landing on your content. If you see a high drop off in addition to a low average time spent on the page, that’s an indication that your content wasn’t relevant to what they were looking for, or worse, wasn’t interesting. Also, take a look at the number of social interactions to get an idea of the virality of your post. Just looking at these simple metrics can give you a good idea of which content pieces are well-received and liked so that you can replicate that type of content down the road.

Analyze your SEO performance

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