SEO for beginners…alright, you’re new to SEO, and you’re wondering well…what the heck is it? Why is SEO important? Does your business need SEO? And probably more important…how can you improve your SEO as a beginner?
These are some questions I’m looking to answer for you today! SEO seems really confusing and technical at first, but the truth is once you understand the main concepts, it’s not too difficult. There’s always more and more technical considerations you can dive into, and Google is constantly updating its algorithms, but basic SEO for beginners can be relatively simple. And the best part? Even the basic steps can help you make tons of money!
If you’re a small business, you can implement these simple SEO strategies to drive more traffic, get the right kind of traffic, and ultimately, make more sales. So let’s keep exploring some beginner SEO strategies.
First of all, what is SEO? Technically, it’s “search engine optimization”. Wikipedia defines SEO as “the process of improving the quality and quantity of website traffic to a website or a web page from search engines.”
In more simple terms, I like to think of SEO as telling Google (and other search engines) what questions your website answers. And more specifically, what questions your products answer.
Google’s goal is to help people answer questions. Sometimes those questions are “thai food near me” and sometimes they’re “how much are wedding invitations?”, but at their core, they’re all questions.
Users ask a question and a good search engine’s goal is to answer it for them. Let’s try to remember that Google’s always responding to its users’ cues. It’s not updating algorithms for totally random reasons, and generally not even for purely self-serving reasons, because the thing that serves them best is for people to continue to use their platform.
Hopefully this is a good basic breakdown of SEO for beginners.
So if your website is good and your product is good, then why do you need SEO for beginners? The main reason is that Google’s algorithms aren’t quite smart enough to determine which products and services will best suit a user’s needs. They’re smart. But not quite that smart yet. So we have to help them out.
A subsidiary reason for needing SEO is that there are likely other good products out there like yours. If you’re a wedding photographer, for instance, there’s probably some other wedding photographers who are at least…almost as good as you. No offense, it’s just math!
But that’s where SEO comes in – it helps you communicate in Google’s language to help it sift through thousands of other wedding photographers and figure out that you’re the best answer for the user.
Ideally, in that case, Google would rank your page at the top for their search terms, and you’d get the sale!
But how does SEO work, exactly? SEO includes a lot of different tasks that mainly fall into three umbrellas:
We’ll start with that first one, because this is SEO for beginners and these are some of the starting points for optimizing your company’s website. So let’s explore how we make your website super easy for Google to understand.
Remember that Google is all algorithms. They’re robots. So they make their best approximations of what your website is about, but they’re not always right. For instance, if you were to use the words “wedding suite” in an article, you might be talking about a few things: a suite to get ready in the morning of the wedding, a honeymoon suite to stay in, a wedding invitation suite, maybe something else I’m not even thinking of. The key is – there’s a few things that term could be referring to.
How does Google know what your page is about, then? They use context clues. If your article includes a lot of invitation-related words, then they’ll be able to deduce that just because your work contains the words “wedding suite”, it’s not referring to a honeymoon suite in a hotel.
These context clues are the reason it’s important to create optimized content for your site to be found on Google.
“Content” is thrown around a lot when it comes to SEO. You likely see that and think “ugh, blog posts!”. I mean sure, you’re reading this on a blog post right now. It’s content. But content doesn’t have to be a blog post, and definitely doesn’t only include blog content. Think about a company like The North Face. They have great SEO, and don’t have a blog at all.
Other pieces of content that are considered by Google’s algorithms include:
…basically, everything on your site. In general, though, SEO content does refer to text content, because that’s what algorithms are best at reading.
Does that mean photos don’t matter for SEO? Not at all! For a few reasons:
If you want to SEO optimize your photos, just remember that the algorithm can’t really see pictures. So if you want them to know what’s in the photo, you have to tell them.
When it comes to videos, you’re generally embedding them from YouTube, Vimeo, etc. so they are able to compress them for you for better page speed. You can use alt tags or captions to put some keywords in place for that video. The good thing about algorithms with video is that they’ve gotten pretty at figuring out what your video is about. They can’t see it – but they can hear it! Automated captions have come a long way, and help contextualize your video content.
Video has overall become a more popular platform and users really love it. If you’re able to incorporate video into your website content, you’ll probably have good results, whether from an actual SEO boost or just general user experience benefits.
The final thing we’ll cover in this article on SEO for beginners is SEO content creation. How can you create a blog or landing page that will communicate well with Google’s algorithms?
You’ll hear the term “keyword” thrown around a lot as you dive into SEO for your business. A keyword is literally just a search term. It can be a word like “Oranges” or it can be a keyphrase like “How do I make a smoothie?”. Then there are “long-tail” keywords that have a little extra extra on them – for instance “wedding invitations San Diego” is considered a long-tail keyword because it modifies a more simple keyword (wedding invitations) with more information (San Diego) that will narrow your results.
Long-tail keywords can still have a ton of traffic, and be really great for your business. In fact, when you start your SEO strategy, you may find that it’s best to start with long-tail keywords.
You need to know keywords because those are what people are searching. Or aren’t searching. And you have to start with keywords for content creation because keywords you think people are searching may not be true.
For instance, in the wedding world we call invitations “Suites” but there are dramatically fewer searches being done for “Invitation Suites” than for “invitation sets”, because regular people don’t call them that. Industry terms are generally not the best search terms.
Your keywords will rule your content creation, so start out with solid ones.
First, you need your main site keywords. These usually describe your business to a T and there are 3-5 of them max. These are the main search results you want your website showing up in all the time, and the keywords you want to put all your effort into. Usually, for smaller businesses just starting SEO, looking for something with around 300-500 searches per month is good (I’ll tell you how to figure that out below…).
Examples of main site keywords may be:
They don’t have to be location-based by any means, but they are specific to your ideal client. A good thing to consider here is that EVERYONE who searches this keyword should be theoretically a good candidate for your product. If I search “best Thai food in Denver” and some Mexican restaurants come up…they’re putting their SEO eggs in the wrong basket. Thus, I wouldn’t purposely target a location that you’re not in for these keywords, even if you are willing to travel there for a fee, as that might confuse people.
Secondly, you’ll want a page-specific keyword for every piece of content. If you’re writing a blog post, then you want to have a title that includes one main keyword you’re trying to rank that page for. It can be one of your main keywords, but it can also be different.
Looking at the above keywords, here are some potential content-specific keyword ideas (for the record, I’ve done no research on these, they are just brainstorming concepts):
The search volume for these doesn’t need to be in a specific range, but if you’re new, you’ll definitely want to stay under 1,000 searches per month for these. We’ll talk about that later.
Now, for each piece of content, you’ll likely discover some related keywords on your search. I like to add these to your document as you create, because they can come in handy to contextualize your piece of content and help it rank on these keywords as well.
Here’s an example if you’re writing content about a Beach Wedding Invitation Ideas! That keyword gets about 320 searches per month, and is a good one to start a blog post on. You may also want to include some of these:
|elegant beach wedding invitations||210||$2.92||0.99|
|beach wedding invitation wording||140||$3.28||1|
|beach wedding invitations in a bottle||70||$1.44||1|
|beach wedding invitations with rsvp cards||50||$3.42||1|
|beach destination wedding invitations||50||$3.76||1|
|watercolor beach wedding invitations||20||$2.69||1|
|simple beach wedding invitations||20||$2.16||0.87|
You’ll want to focus on your main content keyword, and work in your main site keywords as you go if you can. And if there are ways to add some of these related keywords naturally, then it’ll just help you rank on more things! I like to consider these as subject headings within my post – so “Beach wedding invitation wording” would be a perfect paragraph to include in that post (and it’s got 140 searches).
How do you find SEO keywords? I have filmed a quick video to show you my favorite tools for doing keyword research! And before you get started, get in the right headspace with some of these prompts:
Now, watch this video with the ideas you came up with in mind, and do a little research! See if you can find something within that 300-500 search volume range that feels like it clicks for your business. It’s a balance finding something that makes sense and has a good number of searches, but not TOO MANY searches that it’s really competitive.
There are a few Keyword Mistakes you’ll want to avoid as well!
….and the most common keyword mistake I see?
Let’s dig into that. Traffic is results. Sort of. But it’s not the same as functional results for your business. There’s always a case to be made that ANY type of traffic is good, but that’s not always the best use of your time.
Wouldn’t you rather have 100 people come to your site and buy something than 1,000 people come to your site and not buy anything? Or even 99 out of those 1,000 people buy something? It’s still better to get the right traffic to your site, even if it’s less traffic.
Here’s an example: one of my biggest traffic drivers is a blog about Instagram Reels. It’s trendy, it came out at the right time, and has given me tons of traffic. But I don’t really sell anything that’s Instagram-related anymore. So that traffic is pretty much for naught. I monetize it slightly by linking my YouTube videos, and there may come a time when I add more Instagram products to my site – but for now, that’s an article I’m not actively updating or working on.
While I appreciate the traffic, and that helps my overall SEO authority and ranking, I’d likely trade 2,000 of those views for even 20 views on posts that get me paid – if the SEO Genies would grant me a wish, that is.
So don’t be persuaded to a less related keyword with 500 searches, when you can focus on one with 200 searches that’s extremely related to your work.
Now that you have your keywords picked out, you can write more naturally to them. It’s a lot easier than stuffing them in afterward – which is why we start with keywords, always.
The next step is to write at least 250 words naturally. If you’re writing a blog post or dedicated landing page, the number is closer to 2,000. That’s how many words are average in the sites that rank in the top ten search results. And as you go up – it gets higher.
So 250 words? No problem. 2,000 words? A little tougher, maybe. Why the difference?
250 words works well for something like a gallery page or even an about page. It doesn’t work so well for your blog posts or dedicated landing pages.
But I’d recommend following the flow of your page naturally. If you’ve got a landing page with 1,000 words that’s well optimized and flows easily, then don’t cram another 1,000 in just for the sake of it.
A big note here is that yes, even gallery or image-heavy pages have to have at least 250 words.
When you write what’s called a “long-form” piece of content, you’ll need to use headings to break up the content and further help the algorithms break it down.
They’ll see tons and tons of keywords in your content – in theory, every single word is a keyword in itself. And they’ll see phrases like “break it down” but they’ll need to understand that me saying “break it down” (even 3 times now) is less important to the overall piece than me saying “SEO for Beginners”. Enter…SEO Headings.
Headings are a way for bots to understand what your content is about on an outline level. They show hierarchy of topics. So within this piece titled “SEO for Beginners – What is SEO?”, the bots will recognize that the most important keyword and the subject of this article is “SEO for Beginners”.
They’ll see section headings in various hierarchical levels from there, things like “SEO Content Creation”, “Start with your SEO Keywords”, etc. Basically, anything not in the same format as this paragraph text you’re reading now is a heading.
The title is known as Title or H1 text (for heading 1). Then the next largest structure is H2, then H3, and on down…
As a side point, headings also help visually impaired readers scan an article using eReaders!
Your website should automatically program in settings for H1, H2, etc. that are easy to select, although different platforms express it differently. You should generally break up any text that’s longer than 300 words into a unique heading.
Headings are a simple way to break up your writing, create a better user experience, and also gain some SEO benefits. They’re a great place to pepper in those “related keywords” we talked about.
The last step to creating a good piece of SEO content is to optimize the meta data. Depending on which platform you’re using, this will be done in different ways.
If you use WordPress, use the Yoast SEO plugin to optimize everything that it tells you to – it’s pretty self-explanatory.
If you use a different platform, you may have to search around for it but Google will help! Here’s what you’re looking for:
Once you’ve done all 3 of these, your piece of content is ready to go! These aren’t the only steps to an overall SEO Strategy, but they’ll get you started on the right path.
I hope you’ve learned from these strategies for SEO for beginners. If you want to continue to improve your business SEO, the best way is to pay attention and double-down on what’s working. So how do you know if SEO is working? The first clue would be if your sales or conversions go up! But still, it’s nice to be able to tie those results directly back to your SEO work.
Luckily, Google provides 2 free tools to do that! I have a course coming in October you can take on how to use both Google Analytics and Google Search Console to better your overall user experience, website rankings, and ultimately…make more money online!
Hi, I'm Laney!
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I make wedding invitations and I teach artists how to work smarter, make money, and run a business that works for you.