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A Short & Simple Guide to SEO for Beginners

Discussion in 'White Hat SEO' started by ceung, Apr 2, 2014.

  1. ceung

    ceung Registered Member

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    Dear fellow BHW'ers,

    My cousin is starting a new website for his music band and asked me to send him some SEO advice. I thought I would share the email that I sent him as I think there are some good tips and observations on SEO that a beginner might find useful.

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    Hi [Cousin],

    Just thought I?d bang my thoughts into this email in terms of what you might be able to do to help your site get found on Google when it is up and running. I?m no expert but have picked up a fair bit of knowledge about search engine optimisation (SEO) and how to generate web traffic through working on my own sites and keeping up to date with the latest trends through forums and newsletters?

    Post email comment: Sorry for the mammoth email, got a bit carried away when writing this!

    Keyword research

    Getting high quality traffic from Google starts with setting out your goals, determining your target audience and then doing keyword research to work out which search term(s) you should be targeting to get your target audience to click from Google onto your site.

    I guess you have (or will have) a good idea of your objectives and target audience for the site so on to keyword research. A good place to start here is to put yourself in the target audience?s shoes and think about the search terms (keywords) that your target audience is likely to search for when using Google. Keywords are typically a string of between two and five words. As a general rule, keywords consisting of two words have more people searching for them than those with three or four, but then these shorter keywords are typically more competitive and harder to rank for on Google. That said, it totally depends on the keywords/niche that you are targeting.

    Make a list of keywords that have a good balance of:

    a) high relevancy to your target audience;

    b) high search volume; and

    c) low competition.

    To find out keyword search volumes and keyword competition, feed your list of keywords into a keyword tool. There are some free ones on the web, such as the Google Keyword Planner, Traffic Travis (free/light version) and Market Samurai (free 30 day trial).

    Note: When using these tools, make sure that you refine the settings when using them so that you are searching for ?exact match? terms (rather than ?broad match? or ?phrase match? terms) and that you have the location/ geographic settings set to your target audience's location (e.g. UK only...unless you are thinking big and intend on targeting other countries as well, of course!). This will give you the exact number of searches for terms in the given country. Broad and phrase match include similar terms to the keyword rather than the exact terms, so avoid broad and phrase match to get an accurate view of the number of searches going down. Having a play around with the keyword tools should give you a good idea of what search term(s) you should be targeting with the website. Ultimately, you should decide on targeting one main keyword and four or five secondary keywords that have a good balance of: high relevancy to your target audience; high search volume; low competition.

    Off the top of my head, good keywords might be things like ?London indie band?, ?hire London rock band?, ?local rock bands Hackney?, etc. They might be crap examples for your own niche but plugging things like this into the keyword tools should give you a good idea of which terms you should be targeting.

    Onsite SEO

    • Keyword inclusion and frequency

    When you have determined your list of chosen keywords, you then need to go about preparing your website to be ?search engine friendly?. How you go about doing this depends on how your website has been built. If built with a content management system (like Wordpress) then you should be able to install an SEO plug-in for your website that does a lot of the hard work for you (e.g. ?SEO Yoast? OR ?All-in-One SEO?). If built simply with HTML and PHP coded files, then you will have to manually alter the code by hand.

    To make your website SEO friendly, you need to make sure that your keywords (your main keyword in particular) are included frequently within the content of the website. Doing so gives a strong indication to search engines that your website (or page) is relevant to a searcher?s intent when they search for your keyword.

    Ideally, your home page should be set up so that it contains the main keyword multiple times within the main body of content and also in certain HTML tags where appropriate (namely the page?s <H1> tag, <H2> tags, image <alt> tags, <title> tags, meta description tags and meta keyword tags). The SEO plug-ins mentioned above make editing the tags much easier. Once you have done this for the home page, you should then repeat the process with all of the other pages on your website (however, the main and secondary keywords you target might change from page to page ? after all, on the one hand, you might want to target a different audience for different pages, on the other hand, you might want to target the same audience across all pages and hence use similar, if not the same, main and secondary keywords for all of the pages below the home page).

    While getting your keywords into the main content and tags of your website is important for SEO, it is becoming increasingly important to make your website user friendly rather than simply search engine friendly. In recent years, Google has started to penalise websites for spammy practices such as keyword stuffing (i.e. having too many instances of your keywords within the main body of text and/or the tags mentioned above). There are guidelines on how frequently you should include your keyword(s) on a given web page if you do a search for this things like ?keyword frequency guidelines?.

    I think that a given keyword should not take up more than around 3% of the overall content of a given web page (as a general rule). There are tools on the web that you can use to analyse the frequency of your keywords on a per page basis, so it might be wise to keep tabs on this to avoid being penalised by Google. Also, from a user experience perspective, having too many keywords on your website/web page is obviously going to turn off the traffic that you do generate because it will look spammy if simply stuffed in there without giving a thought to the reader. So a nice balance of keyword frequency and user friendliness is a good way to go here.

    • Content creation

    One you have set up your main pages to be SEO friendly, the best thing you can do is create more content! To help with this, set up a blog and write as many blog articles as you can, as frequently as possible for maximum impact. Make sure that each post targets a specific keyword and make sure that a reasonable proportion of your posts target the same keywords as those that your home page is targeting. This will help Google to associate your overall website/domain with the main and secondary keywords that you are targeting with your home page and will therefore help your home page rank higher over time.

    Diverse content is also good for increasing search rankings. For example, publish video blogs as well as textual blogs if you have the means to do so. When posting video blogs you should ideally upload the video to YouTube and then embed it into your blog post with some descriptive text above/below it. Google loves this because it owns YouTube. When posting text only blogs, make sure each post has at least 400 words to ensure that it has a positive impact on your SEO campaign. Google doesn?t like websites with a ?thin? amount of content, so regular posts with 50 or so words can give out a bad signal to Google. Make sure that each post targets a particular keyword by including the term within the main content and the same tags mentioned above (e.g. <H1>, meta tags, etc).

    • Social buttons

    Social signals are becoming more and more important for SEO and I guess social media is of particular importance to a music band, so having social buttons on your website that link to your Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud (etc) accounts is crucial if you don?t already have them. The more shares, Tweets and what not that your content receives, the more popular, relevant and trustworthy you will appear to Google. Also, make sure that social sharing buttons are embedded into each blog post so that people can share individual articles, this helps generate both social media and search engine traffic. If using Wordpress, then plugins like ?ShareThis? help with this process a lot and can be used to analyse the number of shares, Tweets etc.

    • Other onsite sh*te

    There are lots of other onsite SEO things you can do to optimise your website, but the above just about covers the fundamentals as far as I?m aware. Check out reputable internet marketing / SEO blogs and forums for good tips on what else you can do. Topics/actions include de-indexing (or removing) duplicate content on your website, setting up an XML sitemap and submitting it to Google Webmaster Tools and other search engines so that they index new pages quickly, setting up schema tags to help inform search engines of what your site content is all about, and setting up Google Analytics so that you can analyse your traffic to help generate more traffic and increase user experience for people browsing the site.

    Offsite SEO

    While it is important to generate content that includes your keywords to generate search traffic, there are also offsite factors that affect your search rankings on Google. These factors tend to provide an indication to Google of how relevant and trustworthy your site is to people searching for a given keyword.

    • Link building

    The number, quality and relevance of links pointing from external website to your website gives an indication to Google of the relevance and trustworthiness of your site and, in turn, affects your site?s search engine ranking positions (SERPs). So, generally speaking, the more high quality links pointing to your website from relevant external websites, the higher you will rank in the search engines over time. Back in the day, SEO was a bit like the wild west, as in you could buy a whole load of low quality, spammy links from irrelevant websites and your website would shoot up the rankings. Recent Google updates have come to penalise such practices (i.e. buying links and using tools to blast your website with lots of low quality, spammy links).

    So if you want to increase your rankings in today?s world via link building, you need to make sure that the links you do build are high quality and come from websites that are similar to your own (i.e. highly relevant). The typical way of doing this in involves reaching out to owners/webmasters of similar websites in your niche and offering to write/produce a guest blog article for them. Guest blog posts are typically published on the external website?s blog with a link to your website in the author box below the post. Watch out here though, I have read that Google is starting to penalise websites that overdo guest blogging and article marketing on external websites as they are aware that some website owners are using this technique to manipulate search engine rankings. You should read into link building in more depth before going ahead and doing it because Google keep changing the goal posts and are on the warpath against using links to manipulate their search results. The onsite SEO stuff mentioned above is more important at first anyway, so better to concentrate on creating keyword rich content at first in my opinion.

    • Social signals

    As I mentioned above in the onsite section, social media signals are of increasing importance to SEO so you should have your website (and blog posts) linked to your social accounts so that people can easily share your content. You should also put links on your Twitter and Facebook pages/accounts which point to your website. This will hep Google to associate the number of fans/followers/shares you get from your social accounts with your website. This will, in turn, increase the relevancy and trustworthiness of your site in the eyes of Google, helping you to increase in the SERPs and generate more traffic. Be aware of buying fake Facebook likes/ Twitter followers. This might be a good technique to gain social credibility when you first start out, but it will not look good if you have lots of followers yet no engagement on your social accounts, while it is possible that Google will start to penalise sites which link to social accounts with fake followers in the future. Bit of a grey area! I think it?s okay to buy, say 1000 fake followers/fans at first but you should then grow it all organically so that people actually engage with you on the accounts/pages.

    • Other offsite sh*te

    There are other offsite SEO techniques, such as blog commenting, forum commenting and article marketing (search for these on Google if you like) but always be aware that offsite SEO techniques seem to be gradually getting stomped out by Google as they try to stop people from manipulating their results. Be conscious that what you do now to help increase your rankings in the short term might harm your site in the long term as Google constantly changes its algorithms in an effort to reduce spam. To stay on top of the game, read internet marketing forums and sign up to reputable internet marketing blog mailing lists to get an idea of what is / isn?t acceptable!

    The best thing that I think you can do to start with is focus on natural SEO by creating keyword focused content for your blog and social media accounts and building your social following. Keeping everything natural is the best for long-term growth. That said, you can download/buy social media tools to help you grow your following and audience. Also tools like Tweet Deck help you to automate your campaigns (e.g. set up a year?s worth of Tweets and schedule them to go off at given times).

    To get more of an expert opinion, check out the websites I mentioned above. If you?re really keen then check out this PDF ? it?s basically an SEO textbook and a couple of years old but the principles still apply and the first few chapters are interesting for explaining how search engines work and how the mind of searchers work.

    http://www.reedbushey.com/76The Art of Seo 2nd Edition.pdf

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    So there you go. I know it's really basic stuff and doesn't cover everything but hopefully it helps some of the beginners out there who want to run a long-term sustainable SEO campaign using white-hat SEO techniques.

    Yours faithfully,

    ceung
     
  2. Finez

    Finez Regular Member

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    Thanks! for this short and sweet Tutorial Mate!
     
  3. SkyrocketSEO

    SkyrocketSEO Jr. VIP Jr. VIP Premium Member

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    So, when are we going to read the answer? I mean, from your cousin.
     
  4. ceung

    ceung Registered Member

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    No problem, glad you enjoyed it :)