If you work with something related to digital, chances are you’ve heard about the term SEO. But what is SEO, and is it relevant to you as a creator? Let’s find out!
In this article, we’ll discuss what SEO is and how you can use it to improve your online presence. We’ll also answer some burning questions often asked by creators, businesses, and curious folk.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. In a nutshell, it’s the set of practices that an individual or business uses to get more organic traffic through search engines, like Google or Bing.
As you can tell, the definition is pretty vague. That’s a testament to the fact that SEO can be done in several ways, and has changed dramatically over the last couple of decades. Despite this broad description, all branches of SEO share a common goal: helping you engage with an audience.
As of today, we can identify three macro-areas within SEO. These are:
- On-Page SEO
- Technical SEO
- Off-Page SEO (or 'links')
Although this article revolves mainly around content SEO and links, we’ll give you the resources to develop as a skilled technical SEO practitioner!
What are the basics of SEO?
As we’ve just discussed, SEO is very broad and can mean several things. For this reason, it’s difficult to highlight some specific ‘basics'. From personal experience, I would recommend you start with this first skill: keyword research. Let’s dig into that, alongside a checklist of essentials, below.
Keyword research is... key!
Keywords are one of the building blocks of SEO – you’ll often hear people throw the phrase ‘keyword research’ around when talking about this branch of digital marketing. Keywords are words or phrases related to the topic you’re writing about, ranked by search volume and trends.
If a topic is trending – or you anticipate it doing so – you can incorporate the relevant keywords into your content. Knowing how to perform good keyword research can help you unlock the content you have on your website and find new verticals that you could target with your content.
Which free SEO tools can I use?
On-page hygiene can make a difference
After you’ve learned everything about keyword research, I would suggest you dive into how to write articles with the keywords you’ve found. Obviously, I’m not talking about creative writing – I’m sure you’re much better than me at that! Rather, this is about respecting the minimum criteria for on-page SEO. I’ll make a quick checklist with a short description:
- Make sure that your pages have a *unique* meta title and meta description. These two attributes are what appear in the search engine results, like in the screenshot below. Usually, you can write these straight into your CMS (content management system), like WordPress. Double-check these tags are unique and contain the main keyword you want to target.
- Ensure that your page only has one H1 heading! How you structure your headings does make a difference, and having two H1 titles might send contrasting signals to Google or other search engines.
- If you use images, check that they are compressed. Large images slow down your page, making it less appealing in Google’s eyes. Ideally, you should use new generation formats for your images, like WebP.
To guarantee your pages fulfill the minimum requirements, you can use a Google Chrome extension called SEOquake (which is also free!).
Basic linking strategy
When it comes to linking, keep in mind that Google uses links as an important ranking factor. As a rule of thumb, if your website has a lot of websites linking to it, chances are it will rank high in the search engine results pages.
On the other hand, internal links (links from one page of your domain to another) can help a search engine decide which pages on your website are the most important. At the same time, this makes it easier for search engines to find new pages. Some things you could do to improve your basic linking strategy include:
- As soon as you publish a new page or blog article, make sure you link to it from some of your old pages. This will help search engines to find it, index it, and rank it. Plus, it will probably improve your user’s experience.
- When linking to other articles on your website, make sure to use descriptive anchor text instead of something generic like ‘Learn more’ or ‘Read more’. For example, if linking to an article about sound effects, use the keywords ‘sound effects’ as an anchor text.
- If you know writers or journalists who write about a topic similar to the one you write about, ask them to link to some of your articles from their website! This will be their way of saying your articles are legit, which also tells Google and other search engines that your website is trustworthy.
But then what about Technical SEO?!?
In the paragraphs above, we’ve spoken about content SEO and links. But what about the technical SEO we mentioned near the beginning?
Well, technical SEO is not really what I would consider a ‘basic’ skill. It’s an incredibly interesting and complex subject that requires some web-development knowledge to be fully explored.
Technical SEO focuses on the tech hygiene of your website – some of the best practices include making sure that there are no error codes, that the website is fast (remember: the faster the website, the more Google likes it), and that the domain is easily crawlable.
If you’re interested in these topics, we recommend you do some autonomous research. If you want a starting point, Google Search Central’s YouTube channel is great for visual learners. But for beginners or people with less experience who just want to get a feel for technical SEO, here are a couple of pointers:
- Making sure your website has a functioning sitemap. If you use a CMS like WordPress, you’ll have access to built-in features for generating these. A sitemap is nothing but a list of all the URLs that you want Google to index!
- Create a robots.txt file where you link to the sitemap! A robots.txt file tells the Google crawlers which pages to look at and which pages to ignore.
These steps might already be a little technical for the average blogger, so we recommend you ask a web developer for some help!
Let’s summarize: is SEO doable for you?
SEO can be hard sometimes, but don’t give up! Even if it seems like a waste of time, just remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. All successful websites use SEO to their advantage, so that means it must work (I know for a fact that it does *wink wink*).
Make sure you start working on some of the pointers I’ve written above and trust the process – you’ll be rewarded! Now, let’s tackle some of your questions.
Is SEO still relevant in 2023?
SEO will hardly stop being relevant in the future, and I would argue that it’s even more relevant in 2023 than it was 5-6 years ago when I got started! That’s because people and businesses don’t have as much money to spend on their marketing strategies and, as a consequence, they turn to SEO since it’s mostly free.
What we can agree on is that SEO looks very, very different than it was 10-15 years ago. That’s why you’ll hear people saying stuff like ‘SEO is dead', because that type of SEO they’re talking about is surely dead. People had a great time fooling Google’s algorithm with basic HTML tricks, but all this stuff doesn’t work anymore. Google has gotten much more clever than it was before, and unless you keep learning and developing with the algorithm, you’ll probably be less and less effective as time goes by.
Does SEO need coding?
You do not need to know how to code to be effective at SEO. Obviously, the more you know about coding, the more things you can have an influence on when working on SEO. Knowledge is power and this is a clear example!
Can I learn SEO in one week?
Well, it depends. What do you want to achieve with your one-week SEO knowledge? Do you want to reach the #1 position for a very competitive keyword in one week? If so, it’ll take you longer than a week.
Do you instead want to learn some actionable principles that you can then use for your content? Then definitely, yes! You can certainly learn some helpful tips, tricks and processes that will improve your SEO within a week.
Can I do SEO on my own?
You can! Most SEOs I know learned a lot on their own using resources such as the Moz SEO Guide or YouTube.
What are some relevant resources I can use to learn more about SEO?
So, I’ve listed some above already, such as the Moz SEO Guide and Google Search Central’s YouTube channel (for technical SEO specifically). To these, I would add:
- The ahrefs YouTube channel: Teaches you about the SEO basics in a very easy-to-understand way
- Backlinko: Famous blog that talks about everything SEO, from the basics to the more advanced stuff
- Search Engine Land: SEO blog made by SEOs, for SEOs. I suggest you don’t look at this too much if you’re just a beginner!
These tools are great for learning SEO and will help you out a ton with moving toward SEO excellence.
I hope that you found this article helpful! Keep following our blog for similar resources and guides about content creation and the world of digital marketing!