First everyone said, "You have to build a website!" You did. Now they're saying, "Your website needs SEO!" But what does SEO stand for and where do you start?
We won't lie: creating and maintaining strong SEO for your site can get complex. If you start small and take it one step at a time, though, you can work toward your goal little by little.
Here are the basics you need to know to get started.
What Does SEO Stand For?
SEO stands for search engine optimization. As a whole, SEO is a collection of strategies you use to make sure search engines show your site in the search results for relevant searches.
For example, let's say you're a home remodeling company. You want your site to be on the first page or two of search engine results when someone local searches terms like "kitchen remodel", "bathroom remodel", "remodel my living room", and more.
What Are Keywords?
If there's one vocabulary term you need to know besides SEO, it's keyword. Keywords are the heart of SEO.
Keywords are the search terms users type into search engines. In the example above, "kitchen remodel", "bathroom remodel", and "remodel my living room" are all keywords.
The word "keyword" can be confusing because today we work more with phrases than individual words. Keywords that are actually phrases, like our examples above, are called long-tail keywords. Short-tail keywords, on the other hand, are one-word keywords like "remodel" or "contractor".
Why has SEO transitioned from short-tail keywords to long-tail keywords? One word: volume. With the massive number of searches users perform today and the number of sites on the internet (1.8 billion at last count), long-tail keywords offer the added specificity we need.
How to Start Optimizing Your Site
Now that you know the basic concepts of SEO and keywords, how do you start improving your SEO? Begin with these basic necessities.
The first step in any SEO endeavor is keyword research. This involves finding the keywords in your industry that have high search volumes.
Most keyword research tools will also show you a statistic called keyword difficulty. Keywords with high difficulty already have a large number of sites that are optimizing for them. Even if you do everything right, your chances of getting to the first page of search results are slim.
When you have a list of high-volume, low-difficulty keywords, find out where your site currently appears in the search results for them. You need to know that starting point to find out if you're making progress.
Meta tags are tags you need to add into the back end of your website to help search engines categorize each page.
There are three meta tags every page needs: title, description, and keywords. The title and the description will be visible to users in your search results. In Google results, for example, each search result shows the page title in blue and the description in gray.
Make sure each page has these three meta tags. The tags should describe the content on that particular page, not your site as a whole. Be sure to use some of your target keywords in your title and description, not just the "keywords" tag.