5-Minute SEO Crash Course for the Do It Yourself Marketer
SEO Guidance from the Pros on Marketing Your Business
Did we mention that this is an SEO Crash Course? Buckle up – if you're the dedicated, roll-up your sleeves do-it-yourselfer type, this article is for you. You don’t want to start marketing your business without these tools.
Whether you are doing it yourself or having someone do it for you, the starting point is going to be doing your research, specifically, your keyword research. Hopefully, by now you have either a focused topic for your website or a few focused categories. You want your topics and content to be focused, and that also means the keywords you want to rank for need to be focused.
Be aware that being able to rank for the keywords related to the content is more than just finding the keyword or phrase that has the highest search volume – in fact, that is more than likely the wrong keyword to go after. Finding the right niche of high-volume but low-competition keywords and phrases related to your content is your key to success.
Here is a quick rundown of the steps you can take to find keywords that align with your content but also align with the intent of the searcher.
- Keyword research – look at volume, competition, types of results
- Google autocomplete suggestions – what are related phrases, discover user intent
- SERP FAQ – what questions are searches seeking to answer
- Analyze the SERP for intent words – “quickly”, “near me”, “at home”
- Do a search with keyword + intent word – evaluate if results have changed, who is showing up across searches
- Choose a primary keyword or phrase to focus on – outline how your content aligns with that keyword or phrase
Any spider readable text on a page is considered content, even if it is not displayed on the rendered page. This includes:
- Page Title
- Meta Description
- Headers (Headlines)
Your content should be focused on your primary keyword, phrase, or concept, but don’t overdo it, you don’t want to get penalized for keyword stuffing. Some general rules to follow are usage in the headline, the opening paragraph, and be sure to use it in the summary of the article. Most importantly, write naturally for your audience, DO NOT write for a search engine spider.
It is important to not only focus on your primary keyword or phrase but to incorporate related keywords and concepts throughout the article. If your target keyword is “4K TVs”, be sure to talk about the different types and features, Ultra HD, Smart, LED/OLED/QLED, give a well-rounded view of the overall topic to provide search engines a clear direction of the overall topic.
A great way to incorporate related concepts is in the filenames, alt text, and image captions. Again, if your target keyword is “4K TVs”, and you have an image of a Sony 4K UHD Smart TV, name the file 4k-uhd-smart-tv.jpg, and if it is a product image use the full product name and model number.
Keep the content focused on your target, but make sure to use all the elements on the page to incorporate related keywords and phrases.
Important fact – 20-35% of all search results clicks come from image search results, so paying attention to the imagery on your site is important. Optimization for imagery can be broken out into two categories – the image file and how you convey what the image is about.
- Image File – When optimizing the image file the three areas of focus should be the size, format, and compression, and they are all related. Size your images to the size they are displayed on your website, don’t use an 800x600 image if it is displayed as 400x300 on your site.
When choosing a file format for your images think about how crisp you need the image to be. Will a .jpg serve the purpose or do you need a high resolution .png? This decision will impact the overall file size. Once you have the sizing and format, try to optimize the file size by compressing it to reduce the overall download time.
- What the Image is About – There are a few elements that will help convey what the image is about, here are some guidelines to follow for each:
File Name – be descriptive, but concise, generally 10-20 characters
Alt Text – describe what the image is about, again be concise, generally 20-50 characters
Title – similar to the Alt Text, but you can put more here to describe the image
Caption – captions should be 1-2 sentences, these are important as many readers will scan the page and often pay attention to image captions more than the content
Imagery is an important part of making your content engaging, it should be unique when possible, and always relevant to the subject matter. Images are also a big factor in how long it takes your page to load, so be sure to get them optimized for a good user experience.
There are some items you need to take care of that your visitors will never see but are important to guide search engine spiders and give you more ranking opportunities. Focus on these four areas to ensure you get the most out of your crawl budget and visibility on SERPs.
- Robots.txt File – Your robots.txt file is your opportunity to tell search engine spiders where to focus their time and guide them to your high-value content. On an important note, these are suggestions to spiders, they do not have to follow these rules, but it is important to optimize them. There are three key elements to optimizing your tovots.txt file:
- User-Agent –The user agent function is to say which search engine spiders are allowed or not allowed to crawl your content.
- Sitemaps – Listing your sitemaps is not required but ensures the spider will find them and have a guide to crawl your site.
- Disallow Statements – Your disallow statements are important, this is where you optimize the time a spider spends crawling your most valuable content. You don’t want spiders crawling low-value pages like search results pages or a paginated list of articles, you want to keep them focused on the content you want to rank.
- Sitemaps – Sitemaps are important guides to spiders and are not limited to just your pages. Having a sitemap for your pages is absolutely necessary, but adding a sitemap of your images and videos is beneficial to ensuring those assets are discovered and indexed.
- Structured Data – Structured data is key to getting your content in rich snippets on the SERP. Rich snippets are things like “People also ask…”, image carousels, product listings, and information about your business like directions and when you are open. Structured data is not necessary, but is important if you’re to be a part of these rich snippet results.
- Performance Metrics – Search engines, Google, in particular, are putting a bigger emphasis on the experience a visitor has after clicking a search result. This includes things like how long the page takes to display, how long before a user can click a link, how much does the page move as it is loading, and a few other items, but these are the three to focus on. Addressing each of these is very specific to your website, but be sure to use Google’s free evaluation tool to diagnose any issues you may have to perform well.
If you're the DIY type and ready to get started in SEO, these are the key areas to focus your attention on first, this will set a good foundation for your website. There are additional areas you will want to address, like developing backlinks to your content, but focusing on these items first will make the value of future optimization work that much more valuable.
Keyword Research Tools
- MOZ Keyword Explorer
- Ahrefs Keyword Generator
- Merkle Google SERP Simulator – see how your page listing will look on the SERP
- Google Chrome Extension Keyword Surfer
- Google Search Results Page
- Google PageSpeed Insights
- Google Structured Data Testing Tool – this is being deprecated, but the Rich Results Tester is a good replacement once it is gone
- Structured Data Generators – Rank Ranger Schema Markup Generator & Validator and Merkle Schema Markup Generator
- Robots.txt Testing – Merkle Robots.txt Validator & Tester and Google Robots.txt Tester