As a new blogger, entrepreneur or small business owner, you may be wondering, "how the heck do I get my business noticed online and without having to spend a ton of money on marketing and advertising?"
The answer, my friend, is SEO, or Search Engine Optimization.
In this post, I'm going to help you get a better understanding of what SEO is, how it works and why it's absolutely one of the most important things you should be implementing on your website or blog, especially if you are on a tight budget!
What is SEO?
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the process of getting free, organic website traffic to your website or blog from the search results on search engines.
In other words, it's how you get found online.
The Importance of SEO
Properly configured SEO helps you increase your website's traffic for FREE.
More traffic simply means more people will see your content, which means you'll have a higher chance of converting your page views into sales.
For example, if you and your competitor have very similar information on each of your websites, but your website is configured with SEO and theirs isn't, your site will be much more likely to show up at the top of Google, while theirs might not show up at all.
You get the business leads and they don't. Simple as that.
How Google Works
When a user is searching for something particular in the search field, it is Google's goal to find the most relevant and most popular content to present to them, so that the user can find the best answers to their questions. The sites that provide the best content for the keyword or key phrase that is being typed into the search field will be listed at the top of the search results page (SERP).
You want your site to be one of the first sites that come up in the search results because people are less likely to keep looking for their answer beyond that first page. Instead of clicking over to the next page, most people just type in a new question.
Example: My website comes up first (after Google's ad, of course) on the search results page for the key phrase "feminine branding and web design San Diego."
Top 7 Factors Google Considers When Ranking Your Site
- How long your site has been online - Google favors sites that have been online longer over brand new sites. This is why it can take a bit of time as a new business to get noticed online.
- Content - Create in-depth, valuable content consistently, using both words and engaging visuals (images, graphics, etc.) Longer, more comprehensive content tends to rank higher but the focus should always be on quality over word count.
- Keywords - These help search engines learn what the blog post or page is all about. One of the most important places to put a keyword is at the beginning of a title tag (the page title or the post title.) You can use Google's free Keyword Planner to do keyword research.
- Outgoing links - Google likes to see links to other quality websites or other pages/posts on your site that provide valuable content.
- Incoming links - Links from other sites can help improve your rankings, especially if they are from authoritative or popular sites like Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Yelp, etc.
- Mobile-friendly website - Most people these days use their phones or tablets to search for things online, so Google wants you to create a good user experience (UX) for them by having a site that looks good on any device (responsive).
- Security - Your website and server should be up-to-date and free of infections or viruses. One of the easiest ways you can do this by simply staying up to date on the latest version of WordPress and updating your plugins and themes on a regular basis.
How to Grow Your Website or Blog
Create quality content for people, not for search engines, and you will be more likely to show up higher in search engine results. You please Google by pleasing people.
Not only that, but you want write for your target audience; people who would be interested in your topic or what you are selling. This can help you generate the most long-term, sustainable revenue, which, in turn, can help you budget your finances better (and we know that's a big perk for someone who is self-employed!)
You also want to build trust from your target audience, as they are more likely to refer your website to others, through links and/or word of mouth. Referrals can be really good for business because there's a sense of trust for all parties (people are more likely to trust a referral from their their friends and colleagues over a paid advertisement). You build trust by providing correct information, being unique, not copying other people and showing integrity in all that you do. Plus, by being a trustworthy person who provides trustworthy content on their site, you can really help improve your SEO rankings!
To make it easier for your target audience to find you online, you really need to optimize all of your content for the search engines.
To do this, you'll need to implement the two types of SEO strategies that work together to help you get the best results.
The Two Types of SEO Strategies
On-Page SEO - This refers to how well your website’s content is presented to search engines. It involves creating quality content and structuring your pages and posts a certain way so that they get found by the search engines for given keywords and key phrases. With on-page SEO, you have full control over how your site is optimized.
Off-Page SEO - This has to do with how authoritative and useful your site is. It refers to all of the SEO practices that take place outside of your website such as backlinks, reviews, link relevancy, social signals, etc. You have less control over this type of SEO because all of these factors rely on the behavior of others.
On-page SEO and Off-Page SEO Strategies Work Together
On-page and off-page search engine optimization strategies both play their own unique role in improving your website’s ranking.
It's important to know that a website that doesn't have great on-page SEO but has awesome off-page SEO won’t rank as well as a website that is fully optimized for both.
Let's take my first blog as an example:
When I first started blogging, I didn't optimize my site with any kind of on-page SEO, but I did promote it on authoritative sites like Facebook (off-page SEO) with links that linked back to my site (this is an example of a backlink from an authoritative site.)
I started seeing more traffic on my site, once I started implementing BOTH on-page and off-page strategies with every piece of content I put out.
In fact, let me show you some actual stats from my first blog...
I created my blog in June of 2013, but didn't really start blogging until the following June.
The first 6 months, I would promote my posts by simply sharing them on my Facebook page and also had people subscribe to receive new posts via email. Those were pretty much the only two ways I knew how to promote my stuff at the time (these are examples of off-page SEO strategies.)
Everything started changing for the better in December of 2014, when I taught myself how to do SEO and started optimizing my site with it.
My blog's traffic started growing much faster, I started making a lot more passive income from the affiliate links and referral codes I was promoting, and I was able to quit all my side jobs within that year! Once I quit those, I was able to put more focus on blogging and this business, which just helped me grow even faster and made me feel so much happier in general simply because I was able to do more of what I loved to do on a daily basis. 🙂
As time went on, I naturally started blogging more consistently (because I had more time in my schedule to devote to this) and made sure whatever content I created was valuable and helpful to others (a big plus to the Google gods!)
In 2016, I started posting monthly blogging income reports, and that's when my blog really started getting a lot of extra attention. People would email me, asking me if I could add a link to specific content on their site (also known as a backlink), work with them on various projects or promotions, or even do an interview with them! It was crazy how fast my site started generating organic traffic from people who were actually interested in what I was writing about... and without having to do any kind of paid advertising or crazy amounts of promotions.
How Blogging More Often and Promoting My Posts on Social Media Helped Me Increase My Web Traffic
- It helped me keep my site active - Google likes to see fresh, updated content as it shows search engines your site is being taken care of and is a good place to send web users.
- It helped me make my online presence stronger - By having more content on your site, the search engines will naturally have more content to crawl and index. This helps give the crawlers a better understanding of what your website is about, and which types of searches it should rank highly for.
A blog post is an example of an on-page SEO method and promoting your post on social media with links back to your site is an example of an off-page SEO method.
How Creating Useful, Valuable Blog Posts Helped Me Grow My Blog
- It increased the amount of time people spent on my page - Google loves to see people staying on a site longer and clicking around to different posts and pages, as this most likely means people are finding your content interesting and/or helpful, which means you have a better chance of ranking higher in search engine results.On the contrary, if people click on your site from the search engine results page but go “back” almost immediately, this tells search engines that the content on your site is not helpful or relevant to it's reader, which can negatively affect your bounce rate.
- It encouraged people to want more from me - When people like the content you're putting out, they are more likely going to sign up for your newsletter, follow you on social media or purchase a product or service from you.
An interesting thing to note: In the spring of 2017, I actually stopped producing income reports and stopped blogging as much, as the attention I was getting just felt kind of weird to me. Plus, I wanted to put more focus on rebranding this site so I could work more with my target audience and do more of the stuff that made me happy (producing income reports was not making me happy.)
That being said, you can see how my site's traffic went down a bit when you compare the year 2017 to 2016. As a seasoned blogger, I was actually expecting that, since I know keeping your site updated and active can help increase your website traffic (and the data I showed above is proof!)
I'm totally cool with all of this as I'm now taking my knowledge to the next level by writing out and cataloging all the things I've learned over the years of entrepreneurship on this site!
Be sure to stay tuned for more helpful info that can help YOU create and elevate your blog or business by subscribing!
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For a visual representation of how Google and SEO work together, check out this fun comic!
Also, feel free to comment below with any further questions or things that I may have missed and I'll try to help!