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Setting up a website for your home business is something that can be done in 5 easy steps.
But once you’ve set up your website, you’ll want to implement some of the best digital marketing practices, of which Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an essential element.
When you go online to find out about, say, where the closest pharmacy is in a city that you’re vacationing in, you likely use a search engine like Google, right? And roughly 70% of the time, searchers will click on the non-paid search results, or the organic search results.
Of the seven-ten organic search results that appear after you enter a search term (called keywords) or query (a search term more than three words that is in the form of a question).
As seen in the below screenshot, the results encased in blue are organic and the ones in blue are paid search results.
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So what exactly is SEO? I’m going to borrow this definition from Moz as it succinctly summarizes what can be a rather sprawling discipline.
SEO is a marketing discipline focused on growing visibility in organic (non-paid) search engine results. SEO encompasses both the technical and creative elements required to improve rankings, drive traffic, and increase awareness in search engines.
OK, so let’s unpack that a bit.
By “growing visibility” we mean improving the rankings of a site so that your home business’s site appears near the top of the search engines for your desired keywords and many others.
And while the above is correct to say SEO involves both technical and creative aspects, I would also add that there is an analytical side of SEO. We will explore each facet below.
What SEO can accomplish is manifold and involves increasing organic search traffic (as opposed to paid search traffic), growing the number of searches that your site appears in, improving user experience, building and earning backlinks to your site (links from other sites to your articles or content), and improving the overall performance of your site.
OK, So How Do I Improve My Search Rankings?
In SEO, the search engine results pages (SERPS) are ground zero and Google is the belle of the ball.
With nearly two/thirds of all searches being done on Google and having a direct effect on many businesses’ bottom line, Google is the absolute golden standard of SEO.
They also offer many tools that everyone in SEO should be familiar with, which we will expound on later. Getting your page on top of Google for your desired keywords is not a matter of just one or two things you do, but roughly 200.
Of course for our purposes, we’re going to look at the most important ranking factors and how they can be achieved through creative, technical, and analytical SEO.
The fact that I’m starting off with creative SEO is reflective of the many changes the discipline has undergone over the past several years.
Back in 2010, SEO was very much about buying backlinks from “link silos” that would give sites thousands of poor quality backlinks (sites with low quality or scraped/duplicated content).
Then Google unleashed a number of cutely-named algorithms (“Panda,” “Penguin,” “Hummingbird”) that penalized sites with low quality content and suspicious-looking links (after all, it’s not common for a hair salon in Wyoming to have 1,000 links from a Bollywood fan site in Mumbai.)
When it comes to the most important factor in Google’s ranking algorithm, most SEO’s are split between fresh content and high quality backlinks (links from sites like The Huffington Post, CNN, or other highly-trusted sites).
Being inclined towards writing and marketing tools like infographics, I personally have had a lot of success implementing a creative SEO strategy.
What does a creative SEO strategy look like? Well, you’re looking at it!
You’re reading a well-researched and (hopefully) well-written article by an SEO specialist with ten years of experience.
When it comes to writing content, it makes much more sense from an SEO standpoint to write in-depth articles on topics you’re familiar with or have researched a lot versus writing a short piece with information largely borrowed from Wikipedia.
That’s because not only is the in-depth content more likely to earn links from other sites, which are Google’s second most important ranking factor, but the content answers a question or problems that a searcher is looking for and thus Google has evaluated it as being most relevant.
Ultimately, the goal of creative SEO is to provide unique value to your users by offering fresh, never before seen information, insights, entertainment, or functionality.
Of course, just writing a fantastic article isn’t a guarantee in and of itself that your piece will rank well. This is where the technical and analytical sides of SEO come into play.
Up until the past few years, technical SEO was generally seen as referring to “everything else” that creating fresh content doesn’t cover.
Now, however, it’s often argued over whether technical SEO matters in the age of content.
For this article, we are going to say that technical SEO is just as important as creative and analytical and in many ways, it is what allows those other areas to flourish.
And without getting too caught up in the history of SEO, I suggest checking out this easy-to-read and highly informative history of technical SEO.
Technical SEO used to be how SEO’s could claim that “I can rank any webpage #1” because the technical aspect used to be more about most efficiently building links and scraping content.
Now, however, technical SEO is about optimizing the many different ranking signals that Google takes into mind, which includes everything from your title tags (the title that appears at the top of your browser), meta tags (meta descriptions are what searchers see and describe what the page is about in 155 characters or less), alt tags (the tags that tell search engine bots what a picture is about), and much more.
While that may all sound like a lot, right now on this page you are viewing an example of creative SEO written with technical know-how as I’ve optimized the title tag, article title, headers, and content itself for the keyword “home business.”
But why that keyword? Well, that’s where analytical SEO comes in below.
But before we move on, let’s talk about the role of technical SEO and CMS platforms like Wordpress that allow you to publish your own home business site’s content.
Wordpress features a number of plug-ins like Yoast that do a lot of the technical SEO work for you by letting you optimize the headers and meta description without having to get into the source code itself.
Of course, professional technical SEO’s often will get quite deep into a page’s code to implement such advanced features as SCHEMA (a mark-up language owned by Google that helps it to better understand what a page is about) and customized video embedding code (meaning that when you embed either a YouTube video or your own player, you optimize the code for SEO).
And let’s not forget the fact that Google gives websites a ranking boost if they turn their site from HTTP to the more secure HTTPS. And while this is a seriously intense technical SEO task, research has shown that it actually helps a site’s rankings.
As you can see in the image below, there is quite a lot to keep track in technical SEO and it’s always changing.
Ultimately technical SEO is all about making sure your site keeps up with the many technical changes that occur with programming language and web technology so that you can assess their SEO value and whether the “shiny new thing” will actually help your search presence.
Last but certainly not least, let’s take a look at analytical SEO.
It’s important to note that while SEO analysis and analytical SEO refer to two different practices, they both overlap quite a bit.
SEO Analysis is the process of running a site audit that looks at the technical make-up of each page, the quality of your onsite content, and the number of backlinks and social shares your content has gotten.
Now, those numbers of backlinks, shares, and your web traffic data if the meat and potatoes of analytical SEO, which is the practice of analyzing the available site data you have access to and being able to interpret it properly so that you can make the changes that need being made
Analytical SEO also comes in hand when choosing the keywords that you want to target for your site.
While a keyword might average three million searches a month, that will also likely mean that there exists a high amount of competition for that keyword.
On the other hand, a long-tail keyword is a keyword that is three words or more and while they tend to have much lower search volume, they also tend to result in more conversions (whether that be sales made, email lists sign-ups, or user engagement of some type.)
Doing keyword analysis used to simply be a matter of setting up a Google AdWords account and using their Keyword Planner tools that allowed you to input a number of keywords for which it would provide the search volume, the level of competition, and upwards of 800 other suggested keywords.
However, just like they made the keywords that searchers use to get to your home business site private or inaccessible a few years back, Google recently began hiding that data, meaning that using a third-party tool that costs money is becoming more and more necessary.
The other major part of analytical SEO involved Google Analytics and any other software that measures site data, like a page’s bounce rate (whether or not a user left the site after visiting that page), the percentage of unique (first-time) versus returning visitors, the path that users traveled through your site after the first page they landed on from the SERPs, and so much more.
We recommend checking out this slightly older article that provides an in-depth guide to mastering the many facets of Google Analytics.
And so there you have it, that’s the long and short about SEO.
Now, is there a lot more to learn? You can bet your home business there is, but by understanding the three above disciplines and how they relate to one another, you now have the foundation upon which we can start to build before you’re an SEO specialist in no time!