SEO 101

Wondering what SEO is all about or wanting to learn more? Check out our SEO 101 guide to help you understand what SEO is all about.

1. The Basics

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the work that goes into a website so it ranks on the first page of search engines like Google. That’s it. An optimized website shows up high on Google’s results page simply because it provides the best answer to a query.

And how does Google judge if a website is the best answer? They look for 2 things: relevance and trust.

Relevance = onsite work

Having optimized content, keywords, and code helps search engines better understand what your website is about. If you have content that backs up your purpose then you will have the relevant answer for the searcher. These optimizations give your customers the information they need about your services and products and supports what is being said offsite

Trust = offsite work

Content that resolves the queries made to search engines is counted as a trusted source. Google looks into different ranking factors to determine how much trust you have in your given field.

A website’s trust is determined by the number of other websites that link back to your website as well as the authors writing your content and ranking signals like traffic and dwell time. People can like, share, and click on these links to reach your website and, in the past, more was always better. Because Google has updated their algorithms to be as human as possible, backlinks should be gained with quality in mind rather than quantity. These links, called backlinks, are like a “vote of confidence” from one website to another. They are a signal to Google that other people can vouch for and recommend your services and products.

2. High Quality Content

Good content is the #1 Factor to get you ranked higher on Google. Content is the meat on your website. It’s the words on a page, it’s videos, it’s photos of products, it’s your blog. Content tells people why they should come to your business and your website over your competition. But not just potential customers. Good content helps Google elevate your site in the rankings above your competition as well.

There’s a fine balance between mentioning your target keywords several times throughout an article, and completely keyword stuffing it. More often than not, keyword stuffing is obvious to your readers and to search engines. Either way, you lose. Don’t keyword stuff. However, for every piece of content, whether it be blog or product description, and pick one or two important longtail keywords. And use those strategically throughout the piece. These keywords help your customers to understand more of what you do and essentially help people discover your website. Keywords attract customers who are ready to buy and searching for something very specific.

Blogging is also a key aspect of SEO. It’s where you show your expertise. And how you create new pages and new content for your website on a regular basis. There’s several things a blog absolutely should have in order to help it be SEO ready.

Easy to Understand. This is crucial! You would not believe the amount of poorly written or hard to comprehend content that exists on the internet! Whether it’s an image caption or a full-blown blog post, make sure that it makes sense, that your audience will be able to understand the point of it, and that it flows well from point to point.

Credible & Relevant. Credibility goes a long way with your website visitors. Your website is the place to show why you’re the best at what you do. It’s how you show off your skillset and demonstrate that you can solve the problems your customers face. But your content also needs to be relevant. Stay in your lane. And demonstrate your expertise. Good content is relevant to the time frame, to the business, and to current needs of customers.

Connects with people’s emotions and needs. There’s a phrase used in the journalism world, that people fascinate people. We love to read the stories of others that tug on our heartstrings. Or those great stories that people can relate to. While not every single piece of content needs to have an emotional tie, bringing that in from time to time can really help people connect with your business.

Don’t be afraid to go deep! Long-form content does well when it comes to search engine rankings, and for readers. In-depth blogs that get into the nitty-gritty of a topic (this one for example) can really benefit your customers and your website. These types of long-form articles truly demonstrate your expertise. It gives people actionable insights they can take to help themselves. And it establishes you as a leader in your industry and business niche.

There’s a lot of types of content you can write on your blog. You can write a thought leadership-type piece that shows why you’re an expert in your field. Write a how-to article or a listicle. Or, you can write about news in your industry and how it applies to your area. There’s so many different kinds of content you can write!

3. Keyword Optimization

One of the first SEO elements to consider are your primary keywords. You need to track your starting rank for each keyword so you can accurately track each keyword’s growth. Additionally, look at secondary keywords—keywords that may not be as popular as primary keywords but are still related to your main keywords. If your rankings start to improve in these secondary keywords, you know your SEO is on the right track.

The most common way to measure an SEO campaign is to track keyword rankings. The entire point of SEO is to get your website moving up in the rankings for the keywords your customers are searching for. So as you see keywords climb in the rankings from page 11 on Google up to page 1, that means your SEO campaign is successful. More keywords ranking high in the SERPs should hopefully bring in more traffic.

The number of keywords desired for ranking and the competitiveness of those keywords is a major factor in determining the cost of SEO. Ranking for more keywords will require more SEO time, and therefore, more SEO spend. It’s important to note here that some keywords will be harder to rank for than others, and some will be difficult for certain businesses, but not for others. Not all keywords and not all businesses are created equally, so steer clear of SEO companies that base their prices entirely on keyword count.

4. Link Building

Anchor text is a keyword that includes a URL link to a particular web page. For example, SEO tips with a link back to our domain tells Google that our homepage is relevant to giving SEO tips.

The more anchor text keywords that point to a page, the better that page will rank for that specific keyword – BUT only to a certain extent. To put it simply, the anchor text for your links should be natural and not forced, so there should be variety. Google expects to see branding to be the top anchor text terms, followed by urls, then actions, and lastly keywords.

Obtain links from creating engaging, shareable content for a specific audience. Site owners experience broad results with some higher rankings for target keywords. The overall goal is to increase brand recognition and create a great customer experience.

Since Google’s Penguin update, people link to other sites less in fear of being penalized or providing a bad customer experience. Today, people determine a quality link by its relevance to other content on the website. Create purposeful and useful links. Organic content that is correctly formatted and valuable passes more link juice than links from re-hashed or low quality content.

5. Analysis and Reporting

Do you get a report of your analytics? Does your SEO company give you access to real-time or regularly updated metrics of your progress? If you don’t have access to these analytics and metrics, then how will you ever know if your SEO campaign is working? How will you know if you are being undersold to the point where you may never end up ranking well? Since it is your SEO in question, you should ensure that you’re able to see the work being done and the progress your website is making. So, what analytics or metrics should you be tracking?

Local Maps Rankings & Impressions

If you are a local business, your business can also be found in the Maps section of a search results page. Check your rankings in the Maps section to monitor improvement. You can also track your impressions in the Maps section. Don’t underestimate the SEO power of Maps, especially for local businesses.

Queries / Impressions

Impressions are the result of paying attention to your keyword and Maps rankings. Find out how many queries and impressions your website gets when you start your SEO campaign and then compare that to how many you receive as your campaign progresses. As your impressions and queries improve, you’ve got some proof that your SEO efforts are paying off.

A note about patience: even with great keyword tracking and Maps and improved impressions, SEO takes months. If you check your rankings, queries, and impressions every day, you likely will not see any notable progress. So don’t become obsessed with daily fluctuations instead of long-term growth. Check in regularly, but don’t over-obsess about the daily movement. We recommend monthly check-ins. This allows time for SEO changes to happen and you can use your time in the best way possible.


Additional traffic to your website is the ultimate indicator as to whether your SEO is working. Are you getting more visitors to your website? Are you getting more business?

Increases in traffic and business do not happen by accident. The Internet, as much as we like to think otherwise, is NOT a random place. Websites don’t spontaneously appear at the top of search engine results pages. Search engines review the websites and rank each site according to the site’s use value. The websites that reach the top are those that the search engines deem most valuable to the searcher. And, when you reach the top of the search engine results page, more people click on you—a lot more. In fact, 99% of searchers click on first-page results!

Good SEO will get you to the top of search engine’s results page (SERP) where the majority of clicks happen. The more prominent your website is, the more likely it is you’ll attract potential customers.

When you get more online traffic, you have the opportunity to get more sales, more business, and more leads. Those sales and leads are indisputable evidence that your SEO is working.

A word of caution when measuring your traffic: a decrease in traffic from one month to the next doesn’t necessarily mean your SEO isn’t working. Many service-related businesses usually see less traffic in the months of November and December than during the rest of the year. The best way to determine if a decrease in traffic is a problem is to compare your traffic to the traffic you had in the same month the previous year.

The best way to determine if your decreased traffic is a problem or not is to compare your traffic to the traffic you had in the same month the previous year.

If your SEO company has access to your Analytics and Webmaster Tools accounts, it should be able to provide you with all the information you need to track your progress. If your SEO company can’t give you this information, you are working with the wrong company.

Wide Audience and Multiple Platforms

If customers and clients can find you multiple places online, your SEO efforts are much more likely to pay off. When search engines see that your company shows up in numerous different online venues, they’ll deem you more reputable and rank your website higher.

6. Indexing

The secret to success is knowing the rules of the game. Search engines – like Google, Bing, and Yahoo – have a difficult job in organizing the Internet for us. They index hundreds of millions of web pages that are constantly being created, changed, or even deleted. As website owners make these changes day-to-day, search engines have to rediscover the webpage and any changes that have been made, reporting back to their index and, in turn, their searchers within a fraction of a second with any relevant results found.

In order to make this impossible task easier, search engines do all of their categorizing and searching ahead of time. To do this they use millions of little minions known as spiders or bots to crawl each site, using a particular set of rules to determine the relevancy of every page’s content and index the information. The job truly is non-stop. The spiders collect data and report back to the mothership known as a search engine’s index.

Each search engine has its own index, and that index is what tells the search engines which sites to show users when they search for certain words or phrases using their own algorithms. When someone talks about “updates in the algorithm” they are typically talking about interactions with this index.

7. Site Speed

Site speed is the speed that your site loads as users navigate through it. Google’s Site Speed report in Analytics shows how quickly users are able to interact and see content on your site.

PageSpeed is the speed at which an individual page loads on your website. Different pages can have different speeds due to factors found on the page like images, scripts or plugins.

You can track your PageSpeed with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. This will tell you how well your page ranks from 0-100 according to Google’s recommendations. While this can be a handy tool to see where you can improve your pagespeed, it should be noted that chasing a perfect 100 might not be worth your time but special attention should be paid to metrics that are denoted as Web Vitals by Google. As long as your web pages load in around 3 seconds, you should be fine.

8. Mobile Optimization

When someone visits your website, you ultimately want them to take an action. That could look like making a purchase, calling your business, or filling out a form to learn more. If your site is unable to perform these tasks on a mobile device then your conversions will be lower. A higher conversion rate means your SEO campaign is working. More conversions likely means more business and more revenue.

9. Sitemaps

Web design and internal linking structures determine whether search engine crawlers find your pages at all. Once a crawler ends up on your site, it sees links to your other pages and travels to index that content.

A crawler might miss some content because:

    • You haven’t included any direct links to a certain page on your website
    • You’ve protected some pages so users have to submit a form or put in a password before they can access the content (crawlers won’t try to submit a form)
    • You have too many links on one page (search engines only crawl so many links per page to cut down on spam)
    • You have included links in JavaScript, a Flash plug-in, or other formats crawlers cannot see

No other SEO choices you make will matter if crawlers cannot access your pages. Structure your website so each page links to the next logical step in the purchasing process. You can tell Google how to navigate through your website by submitting a sitemap through Google Search Console

10. MetaData and Alt Text

A picture is only worth a thousand words when people can see it. Alternative text or Alt text explains the content of a picture. It was created for situations where an image was not available for the reader (e.g. they have turned off images or need a screen reader due to a visual impairment. Search engine crawlers can’t see your images either, so alt text improves your website from a usability and an SEO standpoint.

Include this alt attribute in HTML to give a brief description of the image. Make sure your description relates the picture back to your industry or services so crawlers recognize its relevance.

The file name, alt text, title, caption, and description of your images all send signals to Google. Using the right keywords in your MetaData will help your site rank better on both web and image searches (image searches can provide a significant amount of traffic to your site too), but don’t just stuff your images with keywords. Make sure you actually describe what the picture shows.

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