Search engine optimization essentially started off for me as an interesting hobby that I enjoyed. Over time it eventually became a full time job. I was recently asked by a co-worker “why do you like doing SEO?” Well, SEO became interesting to me because it’s very much like a puzzle. It’s a puzzle that has no picture on the outside of the box. And as you’re putting the SEO puzzle together, a guy wearing a Google t-shirt named Matt Cutts keeps adding and removing pieces. (Stop it Matt!) Then he hops on his dragon and flies to his cloud kingdom in the sky made primarily from the tears of the SEO’s he’s made cry. (I kind of hope he has a real dragon.) Figuring out where all the pieces go in the SEO puzzle and watching the big picture start taking shape is what really makes SEO fun.
The reason I lead this article with explaining why I love SEO (and my puzzle-dragon metaphor) is to help those that are just beginning in SEO. Breaking SEO down, just as you would if you were putting a puzzle together, can help give SEO beginners some structure and a place to start.
Do you need to be an SEO expert to start making a difference? No. Am I an SEO expert? No. (Hope I don’t get fired now) I only say this because being an expert is next to impossible. Unless you have access to Google’s proprietary search algorithms that they keep under lock and key in Matt Cutts secret cloud kingdom, you can never truly be an expert.
Now, if you were to ask it in a different way, am I experienced? Why, yes. (Every morning I look in the mirror and say the Stuart Smiley affirmation “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me”.) SEO’s test and test and test again to find out what works and what doesn’t. In that sense, I’ve learned, trained and tested what works. So let’s look at how to put this puzzle together with SEO for beginners.
If SEO is a puzzle, then your content will be the main picture or the center piece of the puzzle. Without the center of the puzzle being great and engaging, it doesn’t matter how well you SEO around it, your site will simply be an unfinished shell of a puzzle. So the key here is to start from the inside out by creating pages with great content that people will find useful.
Each page needs to have a single focus in mind centered on one keyword or key-phrase. If you create a page that covers too many topics with a goal of ranking for too many keywords, it can not only confuse the visitor, but search engines as well. I call this type of page an A.D.D. page. (I like cookies. Talking airplanes are funny. A cat has 32 muscles in each ear. And that’s how you bake cookies.)
When you focus your content around a single keyword, phrase or topic, it becomes clear to both users and the SERPS (search engine result pages) what the page is about. If you have more topics you want to cover, create more pages. Ask yourself, would you rather be ranked number 1 for a single keyword or phrase, or ranking on page 20 for five keywords?
Take away – Don’t create pages that have Attention Deficit Disorder. Stay focused and create pages around 1 keyword or key-phrase.
Putting in the Corners of the SEO puzzle
After your content is created, it’s time to start putting looking at the 4 corners of your SEO puzzle.
URL Structure for Beginners
The structure of your URL and the way it’s laid out is very important to search engines and visitors. The URL is the first thing that search engines see to determine what your site page is about. While over the past few years, search engines such as Google have lowered the value of exact match domain names. Example: A site called www.SEOforBeginners.com doesn’t hold the value it did 2 years ago. But when you create a page with a clear URL with what the page is about like www.companyname.com/seo-for-beginners, it becomes clear to both users and search engines the purpose of the page.
Here are some great rules to follow when building out a great URL structure…
The URL length should be no longer than 100 characters
The URL should be readable
The URL should contain the main keywords of the page topic
Use dashes and not underscores
Always use lowercase letters
In the next article, scheduled to go live tomorrow, we will cover additional SEO basics for beginners.
We will be looking at the other 3 corners of the SEO puzzle.
SEO Title Tags for Beginners
How to write a meta description
How to use Header tags (H1, H2, etc.)
To be continued – tune in at 7:05 am CDT on 09/28 for part two!