Search Engine Optimization Basics

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Search Engine Optimization Basics

Although I don’t offer search engine optimization (SEO) services, I have always tried to incorporate good SEO practices into the websites and blog posts I create. The concepts I’ve learned through observation have worked well for my clients and me over the years, even without formal SEO training.

It’s no secret that things have changed dramatically over the last few years. Google’s Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird and other updates have had a huge impact on some websites’ search engine ranking.

To make sure I wasn’t overlooking anything important, I recently completed a Basics of SEO Webinar Series taught by Rebecca Gill. It was packed with valuable information and tips, but it all boiled down to one thing.

Since Google’s priority is to keep users happy by displaying relevant links in the search results, we should focus on publishing high quality content that meets the needs of real people. Haven’t I always said that providing good content will do much more for you than trying to manipulate the search engines?

SEO Week: Basics of SEO Day One from Rebecca Gill

Here’s the SEO Formula which Rebecca has followed for the last ten years:

  1. Research keywords
  2. Map keywords to content
  3. Write content
  4. Optimize content
  5. Build internal links
  6. Build social shares
  7. Build off-site authority
  8. Check ranking progress
  9. Optimize further
  10. Document and repeat success

Steps 1, 2 and 10 are the most important. In fact, Rebecca stated that skipping over the first two is the most common reason for failure!

Keep in mind, however, that keyword optimization isn’t about loading up your content and metatags with keywords.

You do not have to place your keywords word-for-word in the content… Google is no longer trying to match the keywords you type into its search engine to the keywords of a web page. Instead, it’s trying to understand the intent behind the keywords you type so it can match that intent to relevant, high-quality content.

Hubspot, 17 SEO Myths to Leave Behind in 2016

Although the first webinar confirmed much of what I already knew, it also opened my eyes to what I didn’t know as well as things I could be doing better. I’m looking forward to reviewing my notes, trying out some new SEO tools and strategies, and sharing them with you in future posts.

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A former professional organizer, I now eliminate stress for my clients by hosting, monitoring, and maintaining their WordPress sites so they don’t have to worry about security, downtime or performance issues. When I’m away from my desk, I enjoy reading, photography, watching movies, and cooking.

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  1. Avatar Seana Turner on January 20, 2016 at 11:56 am

    I feel like SEO is a constantly moving target. We learn one technique, and then things change. I appreciate the simplicity of the advice here. Thanks for keeping us on our toes, Janet!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on January 20, 2016 at 1:52 pm

      I know what you mean, Seana — that’s why I signed up for the course. I learned a lot but it was also gratifying to know that if you focus on your readers, you’re probably going to do okay.

  2. Avatar Autumn Leopold on January 20, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    Awesome post! Thanks Janet I can’t wait to share with my bloggers! It is amazing how much we have to keep up with. That’s why having Yoast SEO Plug -in is invaluable!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on January 20, 2016 at 1:50 pm

      Yes, the Yoast plugin is great! You just have to be careful that you don’t just focus on getting the green light. You can manipulate your settings to make it turn green even if you’ve selected a really lousy keyword — and that’s not going to do much good.

  3. Avatar Sabrina Quairoli on January 20, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    After doing Adwords advertising for a marketing agency for a few years recently, I came to realize that keyword are helpful in SEO but really what is really helpful is phrases, 2-4 phrases works great. Thanks for sharing Rebecca’s insight.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on January 21, 2016 at 6:30 am

      That’s an excellent point, Sabrina! Sometimes clients say they want to come up on the first page of search results for “organizing” and I point out how difficult (i.e. next to impossible) that will be, because of the number of relevant websites (including many large ones) they will be competing with. Instead, they need to choose a “long-tail” keyword – a string of related words that are more specific, e.g. “professional organizer toronto” or “organize my closet”.

  4. Avatar Jill Robson on January 23, 2016 at 10:02 am

    I feel the same as Seana, so thank you for keeping us up to date Janet.

  5. Avatar Andi Willis on January 23, 2016 at 10:11 am

    I was told recently that my SEO must be spot on because of how they found me website. It made me laugh because as much as I’ve been trying to focus on SEO, I think a lot of what I do is a crap shoot. What is your best recommendation for keyword research?

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on January 23, 2016 at 12:33 pm

      That’s a whole topic in itself, Andi, but the Google Adwords Keyword Planner is an excellent tool for seeing which keywords are popular and suggesting alternatives.

      I also recommend checking your site logs to see what terms people have used to find your site.

  6. Avatar Liana George on January 23, 2016 at 11:15 am

    Thanks for sharing Janet! SEO is not my strong suit so it’s always helpful to have more information to process and implement. I guess it only makes sense to think like Google as they control the Internet!!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on January 23, 2016 at 12:35 pm

      In many ways, they do! Though sometimes it seems as though Facebook is trying to replace the internet by providing all the tools we need right in their site: a business page instead of a website, messenger instead of email, groups instead of discussion forums, photos instead of using photo sharing sites, etc.

  7. Avatar Hilda Rodgers on January 23, 2016 at 11:27 am

    Thanks for sharing these tips Janet! I usually try to picture what words I would use if I was Googling the info that my post is about and then try to use those as my keywords. Maybe not the most scientific approach but it seems to be working. I will start doing more research into keywords though and measure more what is working and what isn’t.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on January 23, 2016 at 12:36 pm

      That’s my starting point too, Hilda – then I (sometimes) enter that phrase into the Google Adwords Keyword Planner to see what they suggest. The trouble is, we don’t always think in the same terms as our clients!

  8. Avatar Jamie Steele on January 23, 2016 at 11:45 am

    I love that Google is no longer trying to match the keywords exactly and that they are looking for the intent behind the words. Makes writing a whole bunch easier!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on January 23, 2016 at 12:38 pm

      It sure does, Jamie! I hope that the Yoast SEO plugin takes this into consideration soon. Right now, if I enter “SEO basics” as my keyword for this post, it will say that I haven’t used it in my title or URL – I’m pretty sure Google knows that this post is relevant, even if Yoast doesn’t. 😉

  9. Hazel Thornton Hazel Thornton on January 23, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    I’m with Andi (crap shoot) and Seana (moving target). So I gave up on paying attention to SEO several years ago. It’s a wonder anyone finds me! But….perhaps there are some things I could to to enable more people to find me. Thanks for the tips, Janet!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on January 23, 2016 at 4:37 pm

      You’re welcome! I’ll try to share more as I wrap my head around it all. 🙂

  10. Natalie Natalie on January 24, 2016 at 7:46 am

    Like most of the others who commented, SEO is not my strong suit, so I appreciate this information. I am a firm believer in focusing on writing quality content as my main “SEO Tool”, but I should probably give attention to some of these other areas. Thanks Janet.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on January 25, 2016 at 6:56 am

      You and me both, Natalie. But it couldn’t hurt to have some of these concepts in mind as we create our amazing content!

  11. Avatar Sarah Soboleski on January 24, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    I really need to brush up on this area. I always feel so behind with SEO stuff. I look forward to future posts on this topic! Thanks, Janet!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on January 25, 2016 at 6:58 am

      Most people are, Sarah! Even Neil Patel, who is quite a genius when it comes to digital marketing, said, “Even some Google employees don’t understand everything that’s happening with the web’s most dominant search engine.”

  12. Avatar AJMoneyMatters on December 28, 2016 at 12:26 am

    SEO is definitely an area we want to look into so thank you for posting this!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on December 28, 2016 at 6:36 am

      I’m glad you found it then! I wish you all the best!

  13. […] several years now, Google has been focusing on high quality content. This isn’t new, so if you’re still stuffing your blog posts with “SEO keywords” and […]

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