What Are Some of the SEO Basics I Need To Know (For My Small Business)?

If you’re a typical business owner, having a website gives you an online presence– sort of like an office open 24/7 that lets you service your customers while you are asleep or even on weekends and holidays.

Having good SEO, however, allows people to more easily find you online. Search engine optimization continues to be an important part of any online marketing strategy. 

Anyone can get started with some SEO basics; search engine optimization is easy to understand, but it does take a lot of work, and continues to evolve with ever-changing consumer behavior and other emerging market trends.

Indeed, SEO is a highly specialized skill, and is very much sought after, especially so in this age of ecommerce stores, smart phones, and artificial intelligence. 

That said, let’s cover a number of actionable items you can work on right away to help give your business website a much-needed boost in online visibility and discoverability.

  1. The Most Important Google Ranking Factors
  2. Content is Still King
  • Quick Content Tips
  • LSI Keywords
  • 5 Ways To Tank Your SEO Rankings
  • The Use of Media
  1. The User Experience
  • Mobile-Friendliness
  • Optimizing for Voice Search
  • Page Speed
  • Site Security
  1. Building Your Reputation
  • Optimize for Local SEO
  • Link-Building Efforts

To put things into perspective, great content helps establish your expertise in a particular subject matter, building your reputation is all about authority, and an awesome user experience is all about nurturing and earning trust.

1. The Most Important Google Ranking Factors: A Quick Review

We all know that Google has over 200 ranking factors that determine your website’s place in search results. Even as you scramble to figure out how to best optimize your business website, a new round of updates can roll out and change the algorithm significantly.

But to keep things simple, the most important factors for Google when it comes to assessing a page’s search engine ranking are:

  • General usefulness and helpfulness of the content.
  • The overall user experience (UX) 
  • Length and comprehensiveness of the content
  • The page’s backlink profile 
  • Your site’s authority and reputation
  • The use of relevant and quality media such as photos, videos, downloadables, and others.
  • Your URL length
  • Internal links to the page
  • Some outbound links to high-authority, high-quality sources
  • Your (or the author’s) reputation

2. Content Is Still King

Of the most Google ranking factors mentioned above, quite possibly the most important of all is still content. Specifically, content that your target audience finds relevant, timely, and useful.

While Google loves fresh content (and therefore, loves blogs in general), it loves comprehensive content more. Longer & informative content tends to rank higher in Google’s search results. 

Quick Content Tips

SEO in 2019 is a leap forward compared to how we’ve done search engine optimization 5 years ago. The search algorithm powering Google is smarter now, able to better make connections in order to discern intent and serve the best possible results anytime someone types in a query.

That said, consider these three pointers when creating posts and pages for your website today:

  • Gone are the days of 300- to 400-word posts published daily. At a time when all sorts of topics have already been covered, coming up with longer, more informative, more market-relevant article is the new standard. In fact, the average Google first page result contains 1,800 words now.
  • It’s perfectly fine to publish at a lower frequency (i.e. once a week, or once a month, rather than everyday) as long as you do so with higher quality content.
  • If you already have a fairly well-established blog, revisit it and get rid of redundant and outdated pieces of content. Fold what you can into fresh showcase pieces, and keep adding or updating as needed.

LSI Keywords

LSI stands for “latent semantic indexing”, and this helps Google determine the actual purpose and value of your content. 

Essentially, these are phrases and language commonly associated with your chosen niche, and it is through these that Google can figure out just how comprehensive your piece is, and which other topics it connects to. 

LSI keywords now form the basis of how keyword research is done today. They are more conversational in structure, more multi-worded phrases, perhaps even in question form. 

These words and phrases should naturally flow within your articles as you’re creating a a genuinely helpful, informative, and market-relevant post.

Note that there are a good number of online tools available to help you generate your own list of LSI keywords to help you figure out exactly what people are entering into search:

5 Ways To Tank Your SEO Rankings 

A lot of articles will tell you what to do, but not a lot will tell you what not to do when it comes to your search engine rankings. For your website to do well in 2019, here are five things that can really hurt your SEO, so make sure you avoid these pitfalls altogether.

  • Copying content. Don’t copy content from other sites and paste it onto your own. Remember, Google functions to index billions of websites all over the world. It’s sophisticated enough to know that content has been copied from elsewhere.
  • Generating content automatically.  Plugins that auto-generate content for you by giving you an RSS feed of articles or even pages of content from other sources will be flagged by Google as they index your site.
  • Clickbait headlines. Don’t use overly exaggerated or hyped up headlines. These may create a false set of expectations, and Google doesn’t like giving sites a good ranking when readers tend to bounce due to disappointing content.
  • In-your-face and sneaky ads. Don’t crowd up your pages with too much advertising or block your content with large ads so that your audience can’t read your article. Don’t even disguise ads or affiliate links as part of your main content. Avoid the use of popups.
  • Being superfluous. Don’t be evasive with your answers by using a lot of unnecessary blocks of text.

The Use of Media: Images, Graphics, and More

Various media can certainly make your article a lot more engaging, and it can also make it a lot more easily understandable and easier to digest.

Consider using infographics, charts, screenshots, charts, and other visual aids to help simplify more complex concepts in your article, or make important points easier to remember. 

Video is also a great way to explain new concepts or to add more items to further expound on your ideas. Don’t forget that you can also provide downloadable notes, transcripts, slideshows, reports, guides, and references for visitors to take away with them as well.

More importantly, make an effort to properly label and tag all your media as this helps with your overall online visibility as well.

3. The User Experience (UX)

When Google spits out a list of search engine results in response to a given user query, it only wants to present the very best sites first– the most useful, most helpful, most relevant results 

Because when users know they can find what they need on Google, they will then keep coming back to use the search engine whenever they have a burning question, or need to find something online.

Just over the last couple years, user experience (UX) has been given more importance by Google. Here are a few things you should know:

  • Google’s mobile-first index prioritizes sites that are properly configured for mobile phones, making them rank higher on search results.
  • Site security is no longer optional; it’s now a requirement to be seen as a trustworthy site.

Your Site Must Be Mobile-Friendly

Among digital marketers, it is a known fact that searches on mobile phones have already overtaken searches done on desktops, laptops, and tablets a few years back.

When designing your website, always check how it looks like on a mobile phone. Do you think users can easily find what they’re looking for? Can they easily read your content even as they swipe further down your page? Can they easily click on buttons or links on your site?

Remember, you could have the most awesome content on the internet, but if no one wants to read your site because of poor mobile design, your ranking is going to take a big hit.  

Start Optimizing for Voice Search

Experts predict that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be conducted using voice. This is, in no small part, due to the rising popularity of personal assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google Assistant across all age demographics.

What this means is that people will use a more conversational pattern while doing online searches. Rather than the traditional three-, four-, or five-word phrases typed in to the Google search window, queries will be now more likely take the form of a question– more complex, more conversational, and longer than the old-fashioned text search. 

Page Speed

The average speed of a top-ranking site is just under 2 seconds (1900 ms). Every second slower than this incurs an exponential likelihood of visitors bouncing out to visit another site down the list (because no one wants a slow-loading site). 

When your page loads slowly, it can be anything from:

  • Poor web hosting or server response time
  • Clunky coding of the site (HTML, CSS, Javascript)
  • Unoptimized photos
  • Too many plugins
  • Too many redirects

Checking how quickly your website loads can be as simple as using a free service as Pingdom tools or Google’s own PageSpeed Insights. For more additional information on how to speed up your WordPress site, visit this handy guide by Moz.com.

Site Security

In 2019, having an https:// prefix on your URL is now a requirement of sorts. This means you have a more secure site– guests who need to log in, enter their information, or make a purchase can rest easier knowing that your site makes it hard for hackers to skim their information as they go about their business.

It used to be that only bigger ecommerce sites with lots of online transactions would have this level of site security, but it is now a standard for websites in 2019 such that not having a secure site can adversely affect your rankings.

As site security gives your visitors that extra peace of mind, knowing they can better trust you and your brand, this all adds up to the overall user experience on your site.

Content and UX Combined

Together, high-quality content and thoughtful attention to your UX will form the backbone of most of your SEO efforts for 2019.

Of all the (most important) Google ranking factors, it is these two that we have the most control over. And as long as you keep your target audience in mind, as long as you have a genuine passion for helping out or being of service to your readers, and as long as you have something to share, you’ll do better than most everybody else.

So what exactly makes any single page or post of your website awesome?

  • Long-form content that answers a particular question quickly and thoroughly
  • Exceptional imagery and thoughtful formatting. 
  • Other interactive media to help make your content easier to navigate, easier to understand, and easier to remember.
  • Subheaders and other media to organize sections, making them easier to find throughout the post.
  • Well-thought of headlines and accompanying meta descriptions that not just tell readers what to expect about your piece, but also makes them want to read it.
  • Not overly monetized with ads and promotional material
  • Good reading experience –  clean, readable fonts, lots of paragraphs to break up long blocks of text,.and ample white space
  • Fast load time, solid technology and security
  • A thorough job at properly tagging your media — photos, videos, audio, and other downloadables.
  • A few outbound links citing your sources of authority
  • Several other links promoting your other pieces of awesome content. 
  • Use of schema – lines of code that make it easier for Google to find the information it needs about your page when displaying your entry in search results
  • Information about the website and person who created the main content (the author or publishing team)
  • No duplicate content, or content copied from elsewhere
  • No broken links

4. Building Credibility and Authority

If great content is all about establishing your expertise, and the user experience is all about earning trust, the last important component will be discussing is authority, and your continuing efforts to keep building and developing this.

Thanks to one of Google’s most recent algorithm updates (the Medic update, as it is called), reputation and authority is now a more major consideration as far as ranking a website on search results go. 

A better reputation and higher authority ultimately mean more credibility, and this is all circles back to what Google is ultimately going for– giving users the most trustworthy, most reliable, most satisfying search results.

That said, today’s SEO is all about building authority, not just online, but in the real world as well. So if authority is clearly of key importance now, what can you do to boost the perceived authority on your website moving forward? 

  • Showcase your author or publishing team. If your site is all about a business or brand, you might also want to showcase your employees, partners, and other team members.
  • Bylines – your posts and pages should be attributed to a real person
  • Reviews on Google and on social media
  • Citations within local business directories or industry websites
  • Create resources designed for sharing (e.g. infographics, reports, podcasts, ebooks, guides, checklists, etc.)
  • Media appearances and mentions, as well as guestings in other brands’ videos and podcasts.
  • Outreach, earning backlinks, and other legitimate link-building efforts.
  • Other real-world engagements: speaking at conferences or seminars, lectures, authoring books or research papers, and more.

Optimize For Local Search

In case you didn’t realize, nearly half (46%) of all Google searches are local. With more people on their smartphones looking for local businesses, conversion rates for local markets are now better than ever.

If you haven’t optimized your site for local search, you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities. To quickly remedy that: 

  • Claim your Google My Business page for your brand.
  • Make sure you have updated NAP (Name, Address, and Phone number) info on your website. These have to be consistent throughout all your social media, directory listings, etc.
  • Optimize your SiL (Service in Location) keywords.
  • Build local citations (online mentions of your business) by reaching out to neighborhood associations, chambers of commerce, industry groups, and other relevant blogs and websites.

On Link-Building: Outreach is Still Very Important

It’s not always easy, but reaching out to other website owners is great for link building. A good backlink profile helps establish your authoritativeness.

The idea is to peddle your optimized pieces of content around to others within your industry. Perhaps they’d like to feature your awesome articles in their content. 

Use tools like BuzzSumo and Ahrefs to find suitable sites to reach out to.

Do some guest-blogging, ask if you could participate in podcasts, and see if you could arrange for interviews by your local media groups.

Link-building is understandably slow-going at first, and could take quite a bit of time. But as your pieces get picked up by the audience and fellow industry players, you’ll soon find that the rewards in terms of traffic are well worth it.

Conclusion

Just these last couple of years, Google has further reinforced the idea that the search experience is all about quality: more useful and thoroughly-written articles, high-quality links, and a shift towards delivering results for a more mobile-centric market. 

Specifically, SEO in 2019 is all about building three key areas:

  • High-quality, market-relevant, and helpful content helps establish your expertise in a particular subject matter.
  • A well designed user experience (UX) contributes a lot towards earning and nurturing trust – making your customers more comfortable engaging and doing business with you.
  • Continuously building credibility both online and in real life goes a long way towards building you (or your brand) as an authority in your chosen space.

While there is a lot more to search engine optimization, these SEO basics form the foundation of how we now develop digital marketing strategies today. 

These three key areas help you, your business, and your brand not just stand out in an ever-increasingly cutthroat marketplace, but they also help you to be discovered by new leads (and new customers) in the online space.

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