Understanding SEO basics
Understanding how SEO actually works is the first step. While this won’t turn you into an immediate pro, learning a few of the basics can help demystify it.
In a nutshell, search engines crawl the internet looking for content to index, and then use a complex series of variables to determine and verify what your content is, establishing which keyword searches your pages will show up for – and most importantly, where in the list you will rank.
To make these determinations, Google’s algorithm looks at both on and off-page SEO elements.
On-page SEO refers to what search engines can identify as the actual content and technical components of your site. In addition to the content itself, meaning the words/keywords that are part of your copy, on-page elements include:
- Metadata / Title Tags and Header Tags
- Image Alt Tag
- Internal linking
- XML sitemaps and architecture
Off-page elements are all about authority and authenticity. Basically, Google looks to external linking to verify that you are who you say you are. They look at all the potential inputs outside of your content and technical information on your website. The tactic of link-building is a key component to off-page SEO success, and one that takes time to develop and expand.
Getting started with search engine optimization
Now that you have an understanding as to how search engines function, you can move towards selecting the keywords and content that you want to rank for.
Utilizing SEO tools can assist greatly in this process as they help to understand what your competition ranks for and where your greatest opportunities lie. Be sure to consider the overall search volume and the “value” of a keyword when making these selections. Tools like SEMRush, SpyFu and Google Analytics/ Google Search Console are a great starting point. With these, you can see your website from Google’s perspective with information ranging from your indexed pages, external links, rankings and important keywords.
Keyword research and competitive analysis is an ongoing and time-consuming endeavor, so be mindful that these findings will come over time.