Search engine optimization (SEO) is miraculous. Well, it’s technically a digital marketing strategy that makes methodical changes to owned media to rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs). But even with the context of sound science, it’s pretty unbelievable.
Think about it. How fortunate is it that you’ve stumbled upon this specific article on SEO basics? Out of the thousands of articles written on the subject, many of which were written by bonafide SEO gurus, you’re reading this one. An article written by a small digital marketing agency based out of Chicago.
We’re not pointing this out to highlight the improbability or luck of our encounter. Quite the contrary—we’re celebrating SEO success. Even in the face of literally thousands of articles, our organic strategy worked, breaking through the noise to bring you something of true value. And we can do the same for you.
But enough patting ourselves on the back—we still need to prove ourselves with helpful insights. We haven’t even talked about why SEO is important yet.
Why Is SEO Important?
The basic goal of SEO is to get your content (blog article, product page, etc.) visible on the first SERP for relevant searches. This leads non-branded search queries (relevant searches that do not include your company name) to your digital storefront to discover and interact with your brand.
Think of SEO as the great equalizer of digital marketing. It offers every company a fighting chance to thrive and find its audience, even in the presence of hyper-competitive markets. With quality content and thoughtful SEO implementation, you can successfully compete for the same audiences as the most intimidating industry giants.
SEO is also relatively low risk and high reward, being perhaps the simplest, most cost-effective way for companies to improve their online visibility and reach. While many paid SEO tools can help you truly optimize your keyword performance you can also very easily get by with a DIY assortment of free SEO tools (which we’ll dive into in this next section).
The SEO Best Practices Worth Your Time
There’s a laundry list of best SEO practices if you want to cover every nook and cranny of the first SERP. But we also don’t want to overwhelm—this is an SEO basics article, after all. So let’s consider these three essential practices for every SEO strategy.
1. Keyword Research
Keywords are what make the SEO world go round. But it’s not enough to just try and aim for words and phrases you think are worth ranking for. You need to do your research.
- Use relevant keywords: Google’s bots are no dummies. They know when keywords and content topics are not aligned. And from a user experience viewpoint, it’s just bad business to target keywords that don’t apply.
- Consider search volume: Search volume is an estimate of how many search queries a particular keyword generates on a monthly basis. The higher the search volume, the more popular the keyword/phrase which, in turn, is an indication of how likely people will stumble upon your optimized content. Consequently, that also means more businesses are keen on targeting those words, causing keyword difficulty to rise in tandem.
- Beware keyword difficulty: Keyword difficulty is what makes SEO, well, difficult. Some keywords are just so hyper competitive, it’s nearly impossible to rank for them. Say you opened a coffee shop. What keyword would you want to rank for? Probably ‘coffee,’ right? So does every other coffee shop and retailer on the planet. But if you aimed for something more long-tail like ‘coffee-cocktails in Chicago’? Now you’re cooking. Ahrefs and SEMRush are two industry-standard tools to help gauge keyword difficulty.
- Don’t stuff: Overloading your web pages with long strings of keywords looks unnatural and affects readability. Like most things, it’s best to use keywords in moderation, looking for opportunities where language can be swapped without impacting the flow or meaning of your writing.
2. SEO Auditing
SEO takes months, sometimes years, to gain traction and get you to the first page. If you’re not equipped to handle the data and stats with no SEO experience, or without employing best-in-class knowledge to your SEO strategy, you’re wasting your time and money. It’s like spending thousands of dollars to walk in the wrong direction.
SEO auditing is the ongoing process of tracking, monitoring, and reporting on SEO performance metrics like keyword rankings and keyword traffic to make sure you’re walking down the right path. You should complete these audits at the beginning of any overarching SEO implementation (to help you understand your SEO baselines) and also on a monthly or quarterly basis throughout implementation.
Consistent audits are necessary as the virtual landscape of SEO is turbulent and ever-changing. A page that ranks in the top spot one day may dive down to obscurity in a matter of weeks. Regular SEO reporting can also help you decide if it’s time to pivot your keyword strategy if your efforts are not yielding expected results.
Tools like SEMRush, Google Analytics, and Google Search Console give you access to all of these insights, making it easy to breeze through an SEO keyword report with a long list of high level details. Use these audits to make necessary course corrections to your SEO strategy and stay on track to reach or maintain the first results page position.
While keywords are the foundation of SEO, they shouldn’t detract from the primary purpose of search engines: Delivering reputable and relevant content.
Backlinks are a great indicator of reputation. A backlink is a link from one webpage to another. In this context, other companies link to your website when they think it is useful to support their own content. Backlink number and quality signals to search engines like Google that your site is trustworthy and deserving of higher rankings for your target keywords.
In a perfect world, backlinks happen organically as other businesses discover your content. But in practice, you need to strategize. This may include:
- Creating a resource page
- Finding broken links on other pages that match your content offerings
- Creating supporting content for a web page with a high volume of existing backlinks
- Create and promote testimonials for products you use
When to Ask an Agency for SEO Help
The above best practices are enough to get you started learning how to do SEO yourself. At the very least, you can get comfortable with Google Analytics and Google Search Console and some other basic tools to learn more about SEO metrics like search volume, rankings, keyword difficulty, organic traffic volume, and other nuances of SEO.
But you may run into some challenges along the way as you begin to put SEO into practice. Maybe you get lost in all the information found within your SEO audit and need assistance to implement updates on your website. Or maybe it’s just too difficult to juggle SEO with the demands of your other marketing endeavors. These stumbling blocks may make you worry whether or not SEO is worth it. We can assure you it’s worth your time.
Take our work with The Lactation Network (TLN), a lactation services company we helped become the premiere destination for lactation care. Thanks to our SEO efforts, they saw 1 million total sessions in the span of seven months—380K of which were organic search sessions. And the best part, those sessions translated into 54,000 conversions for breast pump orders and lactation consultation requests.
Mabbly starts any SEO process with an in-depth audit to understand the current state of your digital visibility and SEO equity. In addition to looking at backlinks and current keyword performance, we look at some of the more technical facets of SEO. This includes site structure errors like redirect loops and 404 errors, as well as formatting optimizations like metadata and proper headline structures.
Your website is the nucleus of your brand’s digital presence. The goal of our SEO audit service is to assess or reassess your SEO strategy to understand what’s working well, what needs to be reinforced, and what specific SEO tactics we should start doing to maximize your digital visibility and drive more conversions. We hope to pave the way towards a more sustainable process that gives you the organic results you’re looking for.
Consistent Partnership for an Ever-Changing Medium
SEO is a marathon. It takes time, strategy, constant monitoring and ongoing discipline. One of the hardest aspects of SEO is creating a roadmap and keeping a consistent pace with all of your implementations—on-page and off-page. Mabbly can execute an SEO audit and craft an SEO roadmap to strengthen your foundation and increase your online visibility over time to funnel a constant stream of new users for awareness and conversions.
Working with Mabbly helps you outsource that proverbial finger. Let us worry about the details and implementation of your SEO while you see your organic traffic come rolling in. If you want to find out how this can become your reality, reach out to your local Chicago digital marketing agency so we can talk next steps.