If you're just getting started in SEO, you're a little late to the party--but that doesn't mean you can't still take advantage of all the benefits SEO has to offer. There are always new ways to build authority and outrank your competitors, even on a small budget, but you have to know what you're doing.
To many newcomers, this idea is intimidating--you have to know what you're doing to succeed at SEO, but there are so many ranking factors, considerations, and false information that it's virtually impossible to learn everything without making it your profession. It's true that more knowledge and more experience mean you're going to see better results, but if you're just getting started with a small budget and some introductory goals, the basics are all you need. If you're in the market to learn, start with these seven fundamentals:
1. The fundamental components of SEO. Before you get started with SEO, you have to know the fundamental elements that help a site get ranked. There's no shortcut to the top, nor is there any one strategy that can get you there alone. It's a combination of many factors, working together, including your on-site SEO (technical performance, on-site content, site design and navigation, and other website-specific factors), ongoing content (blog or news articles), inbound links (from high-authority external sources), and other off-site factors, such as social signals. To sketch an outline for your strategy, these core components all need to be present.
2. Basic on-site ranking factors. I could write a book about all the on-site considerations you'll need to factor in for an SEO strategy. On-site SEO is complex, multifaceted, and often confusing to outsiders. However, if you're just getting started, you can skip the technical nuances and instead focus on the basics. Make sure your site is mobile-optimized. Include unique, descriptive titles and descriptions for every page on your site. Offer an intuitive, neatly organized navigation and sitemap. Include your contact page (and information) prominently and throughout your site (perhaps in the footer). Include well-written, descriptive content on every page of your site. These things will get you started.
3. Content marketing best practices. Next, you'll want to educate yourself in some content marketing best practices. Obviously, you'll need some kind of ongoing content strategy, which for most people means an onsite blog in combination with outside guest posting opportunities. Figure out where your niche lies, and cater your content toward one specific target demographic. Use original research and industry expertise to craft content that's unique, valuable, and detailed, and publish at least one new piece a week (later on, you'll want to scale this up). Write with semantic clarity, cite external sources, and include images or video when you can. Above all, write topics that people want to learn about. Publish what your customers want to find, and provide value.
4. How links pass authority. Old-school link building is practically dead. Today, the best links are earned rather than built. When a piece of content is particularly well-researched, original, and thought-provoking, it can go viral in syndication, naturally earning links as more people cite it as a reference for their content. Since you won't always be able to rely on this, supplement that with building links through quality content on external publications that are relevant to your niche. One of the best ways to do this is to become a guest contributor or columnist to a publication that your audience reads and trusts. Always choose sources related to your industry, of high authority, and only link to your site when relevant--any irrelevant or low-authority link pointing to your site could do more harm than good.
5. How to build external relationships. On social media and with other sites, building relationships can lead to more SEO opportunities. Reaching out to editors of major publications can earn you guest spots, giving you wider reach for your content and an opportunity to link back to your site. Engaging with new people on social media can give you a bigger outlet for your new content and more direct traffic to your site. Learn how to build and maintain these relationships, then get to work doing so.
6. How local SEO works. Local SEO is actually a separate algorithm from national (non-local) SEO, and it's a low-competition opportunity for practically any business to rank near the top of Google's search results. Today, local results come in a 3-pack--the top three businesses for a given query. To rank here, you'll need to ensure your name, address, and phone number (NAP) information is accurate and consistent on your website and all over the web, and claim as many profiles as you can with third-party directory sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor. From there, you'll need to cultivate positive reviews from your customers and adhere to other SEO best practices along the way.
7. How to measure your results. Last, but perhaps most importantly, you'll need to know how to measure your SEO results. The best way is to install a Google Analytics script on your site--it's free, and with it, you'll learn tons of information about your audience and visitor patterns. For starters, you'll gain insight into your "organic traffic," which is the number of people who found your site through search engines. Ideally, this number will go up as you increase your efforts over time. If it isn't, you'll know something's wrong. Take measurements monthly to start, and scale up to weekly when you raise your investment.
Simply knowing these seven concepts won't allow you to become a number-one ranker for competitive search queries, but it can help you get started with an introductory campaign. All great SEO campaigns begin with a solid foundation, so don't let yourself be intimidated to start. Getting your on-site SEO in order and producing high-quality content regularly will put you ahead of most of your competitors, and the rest you can learn as you become more experienced in the field.