Beginner's Guide to SEO

from the marketing experts at Shore3

1. What is (and isn't) SEO?

SEO is the process of elevating your website's ranking in organic search results (non-paid sections of results). It involves changing the code on your website to make it easy for search engines to crawl (read), and building unique and informative content for your visitors. This is also referred to as "on-site SEO".

Marketing companies also perform off-site SEO or "link building" – getting additional links back to your website. The more links pointing to your site from others, the more trustworthy a search engine will believe your site is, and thus your rankings will increase. However, many marketers artificially try to inflate your popularity by getting backlinks from spam directories and advertising sites, which may produce temporary boosts in rankings but are known to harm your search ranking according to leading SEO researchers, since search engines know these sites are for spam purposes.

SEO does not include PPC (pay per click ads), blogging, social media, internet display/banner ads, or email marketing, but these are all components that can be used in tandem to build a successful marketing strategy for a business.

The more links pointing to your site, the faster your search rankings rise to the top. But watch out! A few links from spammy "link building" directories can erode search engine trust rankings, and negate all of the good links pointing to you.

2. The harsh truth

Some people may promise you first page rankings within a few weeks or months, but the reality is it takes time to naturally build your organic rankings. Depending on your business and target audience + location, and the size of your competitors, it can take 1-2 years to reach page 1 search rankings for competitive search terms (keywords).

It's important to remember that no one can guarantee search engine rankings unless they use paid ads, which are temporary and costly for competitive keywords.

Let's consider the case of a small local sporting goods store. Even with a perfectly-optimized ecommerce site, if the company is starting from scratch, it would take a considerable investment and several years to compete with giants like REI and Dick's Sporting Goods, two of the top results for the search term "sporting goods".

Up to $65 Billion

wasted on ineffective SEO each year, according to Entrepreneur Magazine.

Watch out for these common SEO myths and false promises:

Myth 1: Guaranteed first page or first place rankings

Fact: No one can guarantee a specific place in search engine rankings. Google and other search engines frequently change their algorithms which determine the order of search results, and the details of these algorithms are not shared publicly. Search engine positions are constantly in flux as sites gain new links and change their page content. Anyone promising guaranteed rank positions is a major red flag!

Myth 2: First page rankings can be achieved in a few weeks for competitive (common) keywords

Fact: It can take months to years for a new website to rank at the top of search results for common, short keywords e.g. "sporting goods", "clothing store", "plumber" etc. Using more specific keywords (also called long tail keywords) including your location or more qualifiers can be easier to rank quickly.

Myth 3: If I have a limited budget, I should spend all of it on SEO to maximize my long term returns

Fact: This is the worst way to spend your budget. Just like investing, successful online marketing is all about diversification. If you put all your eggs in the SEO basket, you may not see any revenue boost for months to years, and it won't be sustained for long. Instead, use a balanced blend of online marketing techniques including social, re-targeting ads, PPC ads, email + SMS marketing and more to ensure you reach new customers across all mediums and keep existing customers coming back for more.

Myth 4: I should stuff my website with as much content and as many keywords as possible

Fact: Search engines penalize sites with meaningless, keyword-stuffed content. They reward sites with useful and original content they deem valuable to users. Starting a blog on your site is a great way to boost your trust score and site rankings, but posts should be relevant and contain appropriate external references like any published article.

3. Building a successful SEO & marketing strategy

Here are best practices to achieve meaningful, long lasting results the honest way. We follow principles for every online marketing client we work with.

1. Create meaningful content

All content on your site should be original (not copied from someone else). We hope this goes without saying. In addition, you should write pages and articles that are on topic for your site, contain well- researched information, and external links to trusted industry experts, manufacturers etc.

2. Build high quality backlinks, through partnerships and guest content

Don't waste your energy building links back to your site from spammy link directories or pay-to-post sites. Reach out to partners in your industry to ask if they will exchange links or mention your site on their blog. You may also be able to negotiate guest blog appearances where your post will be published on their blog, and can link back to your own website.

3. Fix on-site SEO issues

Fixing any technical SEO issues on your site is table stakes. This includes any broken links, missing meta data, image alt tags, incomplete sitemap XML files, etc. If you aren't sure where to begin, try running a free SEO audit using the tool on our homepage. Your report will contain tips on how to fix any issues found, or we can fix these issues for you once you become a Shore3 client.

4. Check mobile usability and fix usability issues

Google and other search engines now penalize your site's rankings if there are any usability issues on mobile devices and even desktop browsers too. These issues can include fonts or buttons being too small, distorted layouts on small screens like smartphones, or the use of outdated Flash or Javascript content. Try running Google's Mobile Usability Test on your site to reveal any issues you may have. If you're not sure how to fix them, contact us for a free consultation.

5. Decrease load time and increase security

The slower your site is to load, the worse it will fare with search engines. That's because they know users demand quick sites, and slow ones are less useful. Tools like Google's Page Speed Insights can help you determine why your site may be slow. If you're not sure how to fix the issues it discovers, contact us for a free consultation.

6. Update your site regularly with fresh meaningful content

Updating your site on a continuous basis will help you rise or stay ahead in your search engine rankings. Sites with stale content that is months or years old will fall in search engine rankings. Learn more about content freshness from the SEO researchers at Moz. The Shore3 content production team can help you plan an editorial/content calendar for your site and create articles for you on a regular basis, as part of our managed marketing plans.

Start building a healthy, sustainable stream of new customers with our small business online marketing packages.

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Shore3 has experience working with clients in a wide array of industries. We take the time to learn about your industry and customer base, so we can understand how to best tailor your website and marketing messages to your audience.

Check out some of the industries we've worked in. Don't see yours? Set up a free design consultation and we'll discuss if we're a good fit for your business.

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