Introduction to SEO for New Webmasters

Search engine optimization has always been a blessing and thorn in the side of so many webmasters. There is so much to learn if you truly want to master the art of SEO, but I will cover the basics here. SEO can be broken into two parts: on-page optimization and off-page optimization. Let's start with on-page SEO.

On-page optimization

When a user searches in Google, their search is formally called a "query." Google wants to return the most relevant results for that query. For instance, if you search for "dog toys," it's Google's job to return pages that are full of dog toys. Now, the way Google does this is incredibly complex and frankly understanding it is above my pay-grade, but here are the essential ingredients: relevance and intent.

Relevance

First, a result must be relevant. Pages about cooking obviously shouldn't show up. More specifically, pages about kids toys or dog training shouldn't show up either. Now, here's what happens in a real life search. Google finds thousands of pages that are all about dog toys. They need to find the ones that are the most relevant. The trouble is, they're all so relevant that they can't simply be ranked on that alone. In fact, Google mostly uses relevance to collect a seed group of pages and then uses a sorting algorithm with difference factors to give you the top 10 results you're so used to seeing. Here's the takeaway: if there's a keyword you want to rank for, your page needs to be highly relevant to stand a chance at ranking. You make your page relevant by, well, making it about the term! If you want to rank for dog toys then publish a page on your site about dog toys. Pretty simple stuff. There are a few technical steps involved with on-page optimization that include putting your keyword into the title, heading tags, etc. This stuff can be learned in minutes and you'll find a good overview from Moz here.

Searcher intent

These days, you have to move beyond mere relevance and think deeply about the intent of the user. What does someone searching for "dog toys" really want from a result? If you think they want an article about dog toys, you're sorely mistaken. Think about that: an article that is about dog toys and is perfectly optimized for the phrase "dog toys" doesn't stand a chance at ranking in the top 10 for the query "dog toys." That's because people who search that want to purchase toys for their dogs. The only way you're going to rank is with an eCommerce product page (more likely a category page) or with a blog post where you list out the top toys for dogs. If you spend a little while thinking deeply about this, you can make some good guesses as to what people want from any given query. However, it's much more practical and effective to get out there and see what's ranking. Whatever pages are ranking now are the types of pages Google wants to see. If a page is ranking higher than you think it should, it may be because it better serves the intent and you should follow in their footsteps.

On-page conclusions

There are other sitewide, technical aspects of on-page SEO, but we'll need to leave that for another day. For now, the two lessons are to optimize for plain old relevance and simultaneously optimize for the intent of the searcher. Make sure to think about what someone will want from their search before you write a word of content. You may end up creating a video or product instead!

Off-page SEO

Ah everyone's favorite SEO topic, link building. Yup, link building is 90% of what people are talking about when they say "off-page SEO." These days, reputation management and social signals are a part of the mix, but again, that's advanced and where not going there right now. Let's stick with an overview of link building.

What is link building?

So now you know that Google finds relevant pages that will serve the searcher's intent, but there's another big piece of the ranking puzzle. Google would rather rank pages higher that people have already said they like. One way the web "votes" for pages is by linking. Think about this: you've got a website with a bunch of tasty and healthy recipes. People with blogs and social media accounts will share and link to your recipes. Maybe the FDA even links to your site on one of their pages as an example of modern, healthy eating. If your site has a lot of these links (think votes) from other sites, they know it must be good. Now imagine you are up against other sites with very similar recipes. How does Google split the tie? By the site that has more links. That's more or less how it works, but I think I may be downplaying the effects of links. Hopefully this will change more in the future, but for now, we often see pages outranking better pages purely because they have more links. There's basically no way around it, if you want to rank well, you need to build links.

Conclusion

I hope you have a better idea now of how Google works and what it takes to rank in the search engines. At the end of the day, it's all about creating relevant and genuinely useful content for your audience. Getting search traffic is a longterm gain - it can really take forever when you are launching a new site. If you build an email list and generate traffic via social media, you should get plenty of engagement while you're getting your ranks in Google.  

How to Get Started with Social Media Marketing

The best way for a business to get customers is word of mouth. By extension, the best way to get visitors to your website too is with word of mouth. Traditionally, word of mouth has been, well, people literally talking to each other and sharing/recommending products and services they use. This is still true today, but social media has changed things a bit.

A new word of mouth

Think of social media as word of mouth on the internet. People chat openly on sites like Twitter and Facebook similar to how they may have a conversation offline. The difference is that these conversations are not private. A Facebook post on your friends wall may be seen by hundreds or even thousands of people. In a way, sharing on social media can be much more powerful than personal conversations held offline.

The simple truth

The simple truth about social media is the same as word of mouth. Excellent products get shared. Plan and simple. Now, more related to the subject of this tutorial, excellent websites will get shared.

So now I bet you’re wondering what’s next. Well first, some perspective:

Always focus first on making your site the best it can be. Make it as useful and valuable as you can, always. This ensures you get more word of mouth and more social shares. Every piece of content you publish has more potential to be shared the more valuable and unique it is.

Now with that out of the way, there is a lot you can do to get things in your favor outside of simply making a great website. Here are a few actions you can take to build traffic to your site by using social media.

Be Everywhere

The first thing you can do to boost your social media presence is to setup an account on every relevant site. A few of the most popular and important sites to be on are:

There are always new sites coming out too, so stay on the lookout (Snapchat is big for brands now). Oh, and make sure to check for niche social sites too. Heard of Ravelry? Probably not because it's only for knitting and crocheting. Being on more social sites will give you more presence online. You can better monitor conversations online and find opportunities to share with new audiences.

Look professional, get serious!

When setting up your accounts, don't just add the bare minimum information. Take the time to really spruce of your profile. No one wants to follow an egg person on Twitter! When it comes to content like taglines and descriptions, you should already have some marketing copy prepared from building your site. If not, this will be a good exercise for figuring out how you want to talk about your site.

Find what works for you

I can hear some people grumbling already. How can you manage profiles on all these sites? Well, running all of those accounts would be a lot of work, but I say you dip your toes in each one. Try it out. Make time because there's the good news: you won't be keeping all the profiles forever. The idea here is to try out every network and see which one is the best fit (could be multiple sites). Your content will fit much more naturally on some networks than on others, you'll get more engagement on one platform than another, etc. If you get 5 pinterest followers and no traffic after a month of posting, you can probably cancel it off your list. Meanwhile, if you're getting consistent engagement and generating real discussion on Facebook, well that's awesome and you should keep it up.

Post often

Most site owners don't publish frequently enough. Sure, there are those who could seriously take it down a notch, but most people need to be sharing more. Here's the trick. You don't need to publish completely original content 100% of the time. You can repost content you've already shared, especially on sites like Twitter. Twitter moves so fast that only ~1% of your followers are going to see each of your Tweets, so let 'er rip. Republish and cycle through them so that you're publishing consistently throughout the day and getting more people to see each individual Tweet you craft.

Here's a video from Gary V answering a Tweet about publishing frequency

Give yourself a hand

No, you don't need to be logged into these sites all day to publish frequently. You can use a tool like Buffer to schedule your posts. That means you can sit down once a day or even once a week and write out all the content you'll be sharing. Then load it all into Buffer and it will push the content out across your networks whenever you want. Buffer also has an extension that lets you quickly queue content for sharing that you find while browsing around the web. One more tool worth checking out is Meet Edgar. It's much more expensive than Buffer, but it's better for recycling your content. The scheduling is very intuitive. Maybe don't start with this tool, but if you see financial success with your social media marketing, it may be worth the investment.

Social media recap

So that's my overview of how to succeed with social media. In summary:

  • Give every network an honest shot
  • Stick with the ones that work for you
  • Remember to post frequently
  • Use tools to help automate

Social media marketing is really pretty simple. You share, you engage, you get results. My last tip: remember to have fun! You're supposed to be socializing after all :)