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Understanding SEO: How to Optimize Your Content for Search Engines

May 30, '17 / by Krista Elliott

SEO Basics: A Beginner’s Guide to Optimizing Content for Search Engines

When it comes to being found online, page one of Google is where you need to be. In fact, 95% of all search traffic never goes further than that first page.


And with page one only being so long – 10 organic listings maximum – that’s a whole lot of jostling for a very small number of spots. So, how do you improve your chances of being found online? By improving your search engine optimization (SEO).

Understanding SEO: What is search engine optimization?

Search engines like Google have little robots made of code, called “spiders” or “crawlers.” These robots crawl through the entire internet, find each and every web page and index them in their databases. When someone does a search online, the search engine goes through its database and brings back the pages that are relevant to the search, ranked by popularity.

According to Moz, search engine optimization (also known as SEO), is the practice of increasing the quality and quantity of traffic to your website through organic search results. It’s about making it easier for search engines to index your pages into the categories – called keywords – that you want.

SEO encompasses all the techniques required to improve rankings, drive traffic and increase awareness in search engines. There are many aspects to SEO – from the words on your page to the way other sites link back to yours to structuring your website in a way that search engines understand.

But SEO isn’t just about building websites that are search engine-friendly. It’s about creating content that people want by answering their questions, solving their challenges and giving them the solutions they don’t even know they need.

Related Content: Test Your SEO Know-How with Our SEO Quiz

How to choose your keywords

When you’re creating content, you may already be thinking about the keywords you want to target. The thing is, it’s not really up to you. It’s up to your customers.

The most important question you can ask yourself when managing your SEO and choosing your keywords is this: “What are our customers looking for?”

“That sounds reasonable,” you say. (Why, thank you!) “But how am I supposed to find out what our target market is searching for?”

You do the same thing that you do anytime you need answers. You do research.

To find the right keywords to target, you’re going to need some help. There are plenty of tools out there, but some of our personal favorites include SEMRush, HubSpot and Google’s own AdWords keyword tool.

When searching, look for two types of keywords:

  1. Keywords with a high search volume
  2. Keywords with low competition

This might sound contradictory, but it’s not. You want a list of keywords that you know are hugely popular among your market. But remember, all your competitors use those keywords, too. So, it can be hard to stand out. That’s why you also want to choose keywords that are being searched but that have a smaller amount of results.

For example, if you’re writing content for a Texas-based orthodontics chain, you’d definitely want to have “Texas orthodontist” as a keyword, but you can also add a lesser-searched one like “lingual braces Austin” to your list.

And then, of course, you need to make sure that those keywords are relevant to what you’re offering. Don’t try to have people find you for something you don’t actually offer. It’s a waste of your time and theirs.

Write for people first – then for search engines

We’ve all seen blogs or web copy that focus a little too much on keywords. You know the ones: They mention “Texas orthodontist” (or what-have-you) in EVERY SINGLE SENTENCE of their copy. It looks about as genuine and inviting as plastic fruit.

While this might help you get found online, it’ll just as easily repel people away from your site or blog, never to return. So, the general rule is this: write for people first, then for search engines.

Create your content to resonate with your personas, identify with their problem and offer them a solution and a clear next step. Then, double back, and work on optimizing your content for the right keywords.

Optimizing your content for search engines

Now you’ve got a lovely, fresh list of keywords and you’re ready to integrate them into your site. We already know that you don’t want to just start polluting your copy with keywords until it becomes unrecognizable. So where do you focus?

Here are some great ways to integrate keywords while still having genuine, personable, real content:

  • Content titles. Popping your primary keyword into your title is a great practice. For easy ways to do this, you can check out our post on how to write a great blog title.

  • Body copy. Don’t force it. You want your content and copy to sound real. If you can integrate keywords and still have each sentence sound like something a regular person would say out loud, then you’re golden.

  • Alt tags for images and videos. Search engine robots can’t “read” images, so alt tags add your keyword to those images so they can be indexed. If your site is image-heavy or has a lot of videos, this is a vital step.

  • Don’t forget about behind the scenes! You can integrate keywords into your main text, but there are a lot of opportunities to integrate keywords into other areas as well. Here are some places your keywords should go:

 The title tag for each page/post
 The meta description for each page/post
 Page headings and sub-heads
 Your sitemap

Why backlinks are an important part of SEO

You know how word of mouth is often how you hear about the best hairstylist, restaurant or car dealership? As it turns out, links from other sites are the digital version of word of mouth.

When other sites link to your own, you not only increase your site’s overall visibility, but you zoom a lot further up the search engine rankings.

And how to get those links? There are a few ways:

  • Post your content on sites other than your own. Guest blog. Post your blogs on Medium or other content sites. And always include a link back to your own website.

  • Get your site listed on a relevant directory, be it local or national.

  • Comment sections and forums are also a great opportunity if you can include your website link in your signature.

  • If your business is part of a trade or professional association, make sure your website shows up in their member listing.

  • If you’re a B2C business, don’t forget about review sites. They get a lot of traffic that can then come your way.

Improving your rankings online is a long game, and it takes time to find the keywords that will work best for your company. You won’t see results overnight, but if you devote a bit of time on a regular basis to it, you’ll see your rankings improve in the long run.

Want an easy-to-follow toolkit that will help you do all of this stuff (and so much more)? Download our SEO Toolkit and get simple, step-by-step instructions to improve your search rankings and get your business found online.

Download Your SEO Toolkit Today!

Topics: SEO

Krista Elliott
Written by Krista Elliott

I’m a content and copy writer with over a decade of experience in communications and public relations. I love to write compelling content that disarms, informs, and creates that “Oh my gosh, they totally get me!” moment.

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