The Basics of Search Engine Optimization

SEO, SEM, keywords and ranking your website – sounds like a mouthful but these are the basics of search engine optimization. I’m sure you’ve heard about it before and may have even tried to optimize your own website. There’s a lot that goes into SEO but don’t worry, I’ll break it all down for you in this article.

Let’s face it, SEO and web design go hand in hand. Your SEO strategy depends on how your website is set up. Let’s go over the basics of search engine optimization, SEM, organic rankings and keywords.

Search engine optimization is made up of aspects that make your website more likely to rank in search engines.

When it comes to SEO, there are hundreds of factors that search engines use to calculate rankings and results. Google engineers have mentioned hundreds of factors publicly; most of them fall into one of two categories – on-page optimization and off-page optimization.

On-page optimization looks at how well your website is built. This includes things like:

  • The technical structure of your website (meta data, alt tags, XML sitemaps, etc.)
  • How you organize your content (user experience)
  • How much content you have (depth)
  • Site speed (load time)
  • Reliability and trustworthiness signals (SSL certificate, security updates, etc.)

Off page optimization looks at the number of links pointing back to your website from other websites. Links are considered “votes” for your website’s quality or importance. Search engines pay attention to these established relationships when they rank pages in their search engine results pages.

SEO is a long-term strategy for growing your business, not a quick fix.

SEO is a long-term strategy for growing your business. It’s not a quick fix, and it’s not something you can pay someone to do for you overnight. SEO takes time, especially if you are a new business or have just launched your website.

Websites need time to mature and grow before they can compete with larger, more established websites in the rankings.  This is where “SEO patience” comes into play. Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither is the ability to rank highly on search engine results pages (SERPs). In fact, patience has become so important that we’ve added it as one of our SEO best practices:

  • SEO Best Practices: Have Patience – Search Engine Optimization will take longer than you think (a few months or more) to really show results; don’t expect immediate results!

If anyone guarantees you fast results or says they can get your website ranked #1 on Google overnight, be wary! They may use black hat SEO strategies or they may just be misleading you.

For SEO to be valuable, you have to understand what your customers are searching for online.

Search Engine Optimization is all about understanding how your customers search for the products or services you offer. With this knowledge, you can then tailor your online presence to help them find you and engage with your brand.

So, how do you discover the language and terms your customers use when they search online? Begin by talking to them. Ask questions and listen to their answers. Brainstorm relevant keywords that describe your products or services—this is a good first step towards understanding what they are looking for.

You can also check out forums that relate to your business—even if they’re not specifically related to what you sell—and see which words people are using in regards to their pain points or problems. You may be able to identify gaps in information that you could fill on your website, thus helping it gain more traction with search engines in the process and making it easier for customers who need this information to find it!

Pay attention: It’s also important not only what type of content has been created but also where on each page this content appears so as not to distract from what most resonates with visitors (i.e., remember not put too much text above-the-fold).

The way you structure the information on your website matters.

You want to structure your website so that search engine crawlers can easily find the information and content you’re putting out there. The way you structure the information on your website matters, and it’s important to use key words in relevant ways throughout the copy on your site.

In general, don’t put all of your content on one page. Instead, break the content into separate pages or posts that have subheadings with key words (more on this below). Using keyword research tools like Moz’s Keyword Explorer will help you determine which keywords are best for your specific business goals. Ideally, as long as they make sense within the context of your other content, use a keyword in:

  • Subheadings
  • First few sentences
  • Last paragraph
  • Meta description
  • Title tag

You can have a variety of factors affecting where you rank in search results.

You can have a variety of factors affecting where you rank in search results. The biggest thing to remember is that you need to have information that is relevant and targeted to your audience. Meaning if your service area is Toronto, Ontario then you would want to use local keywords like “Toronto”, “Mississauga”, or “Ontario”. If you offer services that are industry specific then it would be wise to include industry specific keywords. For example a plumber could use words like “plumbing” or “toilet repair” or even more detailed keywords such as:

  • Drain Cleaning
  • Water Heaters
  • Sewer Repairs

Being present on social media can also improve your rankings.

Social media is a great way to interact with customers and build your brand. These interactions will help give search engines a better idea of how popular your company is and how well it communicates with others. It’s important to note, however, that links pointing directly to your website don’t count as votes in terms of SEO. Social media links might improve your brand recognition but they won’t do much for improving the rankings of your website (or so they say).

You can also pay for better visibility in search results with Google AdWords instead of (or in addition to) relying on organic listings.

This is a great option if you’re just starting out and you want to get to the top of Google search results fast. It also means you’ll only pay for the people who actually click on your site and visit it. The amount you pay per click depends on how competitive your industry is, but it can be as little as $0.1 per click or as much as $20 per click. You also set your own budget so that you won’t go over a certain amount each month or day, so there are no surprise costs at the end of the month. If you decide to run an AdWords campaign (or another type of paid ad), make sure that your ads are relevant and compelling- otherwise, people will likely not click on them.

You can start and stop an ad campaign whenever you want too, so if you have seasonal offers, events or promotions then this is a good way to ensure that they are seen by lots of people during those times and not before or afterwards, when they might not be relevant any more! Just like with organic listings, with AdWords you can also target specific regions of people searching for terms in different languages or operating systems such as tablets and mobile phones.

There are many things that affect how visible your website is when people look for local services based on keywords.

When the Internet was in its infancy, search engines were really simple. You could enter a few keywords related to your service and the results would be displayed by location and popularity. But as people looked for more information online, search engines became more sophisticated at providing relevant results. Now, instead of just looking for an exact match for your keywords, Google will look for synonyms and alternate phrases that are used in the market.

For example, if you searched “wedding venue” on Google starting around 2007, it would return websites that had those exact words on them somewhere. However, a few years later if you searched “wedding venue” Google would start returning pages that didn’t use those words specifically but did mention things like “banquet hall” or “reception hall.” These sites may not have even mentioned weddings or venues but they still showed up because of how people were searching for them.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this article has given you a better understanding of SEO, SEM, keywords and all that jazz. While it’s not a complete guide to the world of SEO, it should still be a helpful introduction if you’re just starting out. The more you know about SEO, the easier and smoother your user experience will be as you browse the internet. And that means one thing: happy browsing!

Work hard, play by the rules (we call it play by the algorithm) and your website will get found.

Related Topics


Preparing for your online store or catalog

Getting ready to or thinking about opening on line store? Here’s a post to help you getting your content ready for the shop data. Feel free to share it, you never know which one of your friends is planning something!

Read more

Get your free guide

Subscribe to learn more about the 5 Things Every Small Business Can Fix on Their Website in the Next Week to Increase Conversions, starting with this free guide. You can always unsubscribe at any time.

*We promise to keep your email SPAM free from us. Privacy Policy.