Lesson #17: Search Engine Optimization 101
Search Engine Optimization, as we have discussed several times already, is our primary strategy to build a stream of quality traffic over the long-term. It is a winning strategy because it will give us free, targeted, profitable visitors on a regular basis. This lesson will first cover what this “SEO” stuff is, then we will discuss how to get your site to #1.
Search Engine Optimization Defined (For Dummies)
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of getting your site to show up higher in Google (and others like Yahoo or Bing) for a specific search term or keyword.
If you owned a site that was currently in the 5th position for “Video Game Reviews” an dyou wanted your site to rank 3rd or better, you would do something called Search Engine Optimization to help your site move up higher. This lesson will teach you the basics of how to make that happen.
Why do SEO? Of course, we want to do this because the higher we show up for our search terms, the more people will click from Google to our site. The difference in traffic from the site that shows up #1 to the site at #2 can be dramatic. And needless to say, if you show up 11th or worse (which is off of the first page) you will get very, very little traffic. Our goal is to make sure you are AT LEAST #5 or better for your main terms.
Ranking for the Right Terms
You may remember from the work we have done in previous lessons that, obviously, some things get searched for much more than others. We saw that “Knitting” gets millions of searches per month on Google, where as a more obscure term like “Learn how to Knit Mittens” gets just a few hundred. It doesnʼt take a genius to figure out that if your site is the first result when someone searches for Knitting that you will get much more traffic than if your site ranks for the other term. Consequentially, there is much more competition for the terms with more traffic (i.e. more people wanting their site to be #1 so that they can take advantage of that traffic).
This is the concept that we applied way back in the early weeks of this course when we used the Google Keyword Tool and compared it with the number of websites that showed up in Google for the same terms. Remember?
We are going to expand on that strategy right now. We need to choose one main primary term that matches our website. Most of this work has already been done in some of the earlier lessons, but we will revisit this now.
Our goal here is to choose one term that we will be able to rank #1 for (or close to it) when someone types this into Google. Something that has a good ratio of: the number of people searching for this term compared to the number of web pages showing in Google for this term. Once again, letʼs visit the Google Keyword Tool which will let us know how many people are searching for our terms:
The general criteria is that it should include at least 30,000 searches per month and should have under 250,000 results. Or something similar to that ratio. I.E. you could double it and see 60,000 searches compared to 500,000 results. Make sense?
Using our trusty example of knitting, I find that “Beginners Knitting” has 40,500 searches per month (again, we have been over this example in the early weeks to learn about choosing our siteʼs general topic). This is probably a strong term for us to look at further.
The next step is to visit Google.com and type in “beginners knitting”. Along the top right you see: “About 788,000 results”. Meaning that there are 788,000 pages on the internet for this term. We would like to see a little less results (meaning that we have less competition) but that isnʼt too bad. If we wanted to, we could easily use this term and probably see great results within 30-45 days from now.
After you finish this lesson, go through the process outlined above with your site. The goal will be to find one awesome term that you are sure you can win with.
The Two Factors of Ranking Highly
There are two things required to rank at the top of the search engines. With both of these elements in place, your site should see high placements. But if you are weak in either, ranking will be almost impossible. They are: relevant content and links…
It may seem obvious, but I will point it out anyways. If someone types video games into Google, your site on the topic of carpet cleaning will not show up. This is because Google will automatically know what your site is about. In a nutshell, it will check your site and say “okay, this site is about video games. When someone types video games into me, I will make sure that this site is somewhere in the mix.”
This is not to say that your site will automatically be at the top (remember, there are also millions of other sites about video games). This just means that Google knows which terms your site MIGHT rank for. To determine whether it is #1 or #1 million we have to look at the second element…
After relevant content, there is another equally important factor: the number of links from other sites that are pointing to your site. This is an over simplification, but the site that has the most links pointing to it will rank higher than others. If your buddy links to your site from his, Google considers this to be a VOTE to push your site higher. If 5,000 people link to your site, you will be pushed much higher. Got that?
Repeat this until it makes sense: the more links a site has pointing to it, the higher it will rank.
That is rule #1 about linking, but there is also more too this linking stuff than just that.Let me illustrate by giving you a puzzle. Go to Google and type in “Click Here”. The first result should be either Adobe Reader or Apple Quicktime. Based on what we have learned, why would these sites possibly show up here? Neither of them say “click here” anywhere so the content is clearly not relevant…
The answer: there are so many other sites that point to Adobe Reader with a link that says Click Here (i.e. click here to download Adobe Reader). The point I am getting to is that what the link actually says matters immensely. If someone points to your site with a link that says: YourSite.com, that will help you rank for YourSite.com. If they point to you with a link that says Learn to Knit, that will help you rank for Learn to Knit. Are you still following me?
So what does this mean? Can you guess? Once you know what terms you need to rank for (should be completed in the section above), we will begin to build links in the next two lessons. When doing this, you need to make sure that those links (the part with the underlined text) match that term. Are you going after Video Game Reviews? Then you better make sure all of your links use the text: “Video Game Reviews” – Exactly. Again, this is because the more links that say “video game reviews” the more VOTES your site has to push it higher when a user types this into Google.
I know, I know. I have not explained everything yet and depending on where you are coming from, it might seem a bit over your head at this point. Just accept that and keep moving, there is no easy way to explain the inner workings of SEO in one lesson. It will take time and practice to master what we are discussing here.
More About Relevant Content
There are some people in this industry who go to great lengths, spending hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to make sure their web pages are perfectly relevant to the search engines for their terms. But in my experience their results are (at best) marginally better than average.
The good news is that most of our content work is done. Remember back when I had you go through the process of using that keyword tool to find article titles and I stressed that you use those terms for the page titles? That was specifically for this reason. Because of that, your articles themselves are already perfectly relevant to the search engines. That part is totally done. You can thank me now.
The last thing that I ask you to do is take your main term (the one you found above) and use that for the homepage on your site. You should already have a homepage built through wordpress. If not, reference lesson 10 under the heading “setting a homepage.”
The reason we want your main term to be the actual title of your homepage is because Google values the titles even more. When it sees a page that has the specific term as itʼs title, it gives it that extra boost that might help it rank higher.
If you have already written this homepage content as one of your articles, donʼt sweat it. In that case all I want you to do here is change the title of this page to match your term exactly. For example, if you are using Video Game Reviews, make your websiteʼs homepage titled Video Game Reviews and you are done.
If you have not written this page, (i.e. when you visit yoursite.com it is still blank), write this content now. Again use your main term as the title and then create about 300-500 words of content on this topic. That will be your homepage and it will help your site rank even higher.
More About Link Building Techniques
Now that we have covered the process of creating relevant content we are basically done with that concept for this course. It is a pretty simple area to master. You simply make sure that you have pages and articles on your site that match up with whatever topics you are looking to rank for. The remainder of the marketing section of this course will be focused on building quality links – also referred to as backlinks.
When it comes to building links, we have a set of techniques or strategies that will help us achieve top rankings. The next two lessons will dive deeply into these topics so that you can master them. Here, however, we will simply outline the techniques with a brief description.
Article Marketing – This is our #1 strategy and all of lesson 18 is devoted to this topic. This involves writing articles and submitting them to other sites. The articles will be displayed on these sites along with a link back to your site.
Social Bookmarks – These are sites like Digg.com, Reddit.com, Searchles.com, and others. They are built to allow you to save and share your favorite sites with others, but we can use them to share our own site, which will give us a free link.
Forum Signatures – Most message boards / forums allow you to include a footer or signature that links back to your website. If you use any forums regularly, this is a great way to build backlinks.
Press Releases – Iʼm sure you are familiar with press releases. What we are referring to is similar, but in a more basic format, specifically designed to give you dozens of backlinks from press release sites.
Directory Submissions – There are entire websites setup as directories where you can submit your website. While you wonʼt get many visitors from these sources, they give you free links to your website, which is what we are looking for.
Again, all of these topics will be expanded in future lessons, so there is no need to be too familiar with these concepts just yet.
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