I don’t know about you, but every week I get “emails” touting a new secret SEO growth tactic or hack that promises to get me on the first page of Google! 

It got me thinking about how overwhelming SEO can be to entrepreneurs, because there are so many components to consider. 

Keywords, on-page and off-page optimization, link building, oh my! The list goes on and on. 

So, let’s start here, how much do you know about SEO?

Sorry (not sorry) for the rhyme there, but it’s a question that every small business owner should be asking themselves. Over my many years working in the digital marketing space, I’ve realized that many entrepreneurs aren’t sure where to start with SEO. 

And that’s ok, don’t worry, I’m going to walk you through everything so you can build a solid understanding of SEO (I’ve even created a free workbook that will walk you through the process! More on that in a minute.) and how it’s a crucial part of any successful digital marketing strategy!

So, let’s ask the most basic question right off the bat:

What is SEO?

When you search for something on Google, how does it know the best results? Is it magic? Nah! It’s SEO, or “search engine optimization!” 

Here is a basic explanation of how Google and other search engines work: They have bots (essentially, computer programs) that are constantly crawling the internet, collecting information about websites, and putting that information into a vast index. Once they’ve compiled that information, algorithms start to organize it, finding the highest-quality sites and content.

Then, when someone does a search, Google goes through countless results in seconds to find the best matches. Every business wants to be at the top of those results, or at least the first page. When was the last time that you clicked on the second page of search results? Exactly.

Search engine optimization is a process where we improve specific aspects of your website so Google will rank it higher in the results. You want your site to be right at the top, as those are the sites that most people click on. Getting there, however, is a bit complicated. 

Google tracks everything!

For example, they can see how long someone stays on the site and measure that visitor’s engagement. If that person is clicking on links, scrolling around, and reading your content, Google will notice that and improve your website ranking.

You might be thinking, well, I’m already running Google or Facebook Ads and they’re already driving traffic to their website. So I don’t need to worry about SEO. While it’s excellent that your ads are driving traffic to your website, ROI when compared to paid advertising has an incredibly higher ROI. 

So where do you even start? Well, let’s simplify the process by focusing on X ways to get started with SEO. 

#1: Set Goals

Just like all of your marketing efforts, you should first start by setting your SEO goals. You want your goals to be specific and measurable such as increasing your search traffic to x monthly visitors by x date. You want your goals to be actionable and realistic! 

#2: Create a Strategy

How are you going to reach your goals? By creating an SEO strategy, of course. I always start by doing my keyword research and competitor analysis. Then, I move into creating pillar content and on-going quality content and outreach to get more quality links back to your website. Once you have a strategy in place, you absolutely want to monitor and tweak your strategy as your go forward. SEO isn’t just something that you can set and forget. You want to make sure that your strategy is producing a ROI for you. 

If you are freaking out, wondering how on Earth you’re going to figure out keywords, research your competition, and more, don’t worry. There are a ton of tools out there that can help.

#3: Use the Right Tools

If you’re looking for a paid option, I recommend SEMrush. This tool is what I use for my clients. It’s incredibly useful for keyword research and competitor analysis. If you put in your own URL, it will give you a list of your closest competitors. You can then plug their URLs in so you can see all the keywords they are ranking for on Google, which pages are ranked for those keywords, and how many visitors they are getting from those keywords. 

If you’re not quite ready to jump to the paid level yet, don’t worry! There are some free options as well! I highly recommend Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest as one of the best tools available today for keyword research. It’s actually kind of fun putting in a variety of keywords to see how they rank.

FInally, if you have WordPress, you simply must download the Yoast Plugin. It does a lot of the work of SEO for you! When you post something on your site, Yoast will score it. If your readability and keywords circles turn red, then you have a problem (which it will show you, allowing you to fix it). Your goal is to make as many of those circles as possible turn green. It’s a bit tricky at first, but easy once you get the hang of it!

#4: Content is Still King

The quality of the content on your site is often a direct reflection on your business. It shows Google that your site offers unique content that is appropriate for your industry. And content marketing drives inbound traffic.  

That said, you can’t just put any old thing up on your site and expect it to help your SEO score. Your content needs to be high quality, long-form (Google likes content that is at least 2,000 words) and complete with a beginning, middle, and end. Your content needs to help solve your audience’s problem but in a conversational, personality-infused tone. And you need to create a lot of content, because content drives that inbound traffic. 

If you run a podcast instead of writing blog content, no problem! Take the extra step to edit your show notes into a conversational blog post. 

Finally, make sure to include a call-to-action at the end of the blog, telling your reader what you want them to do next. For example, end it with a request to like, comment, and subscribe!

Generally, there are two types of SEO: one that works and one that doesn’t. Let’s take a look at them!

#5: Is there Good SEO and Evil SEO? 

Remember those old “Spy vs. Spy” comic strips in MAD Magazine? In it, two spies (one dressed in black and the other in white) try to outsmart each other. 

I want you to picture this as I explain whitehat vs. blackhat SEO.

Whitehat SEO is, essentially, the good guy! It uses techniques that organically boost engagement, drive your target audience to your website, and raise your search results ranking over time.

Blackhat SEO is, essentially, the bad guy. It uses techniques that basically “trick” the search engine algorithms to drive their results to the top of searches. 

What Are Some Examples of Blackhat SEO Strategies?

Please keep in mind that all of these are blackhat SEO techniques are ones that you want to AVOID! 

I was once working with a client, doing competition analysis and keyword research for their website. When we looked at one of their competitors’ sites, it was absolutely packed with blackhat SEO techniques. For example, they would include keywords that had absolutely nothing to do with their products or services. 

The one that REALLY caught our eye was the continuous use of the key phrase “Classy Girls.” Well, yes, I do imagine that many people regularly do searches for “classy girls,” they are generally in a very different category of websites than the industry this business was in. So, yes, using that keyphrase did push them up in search results, but for the wrong reason! And most likely the people searching those keywords aren’t looking for your services. 

Another blackhat technique you want to avoid is keyword stuffing. Years ago, I remember a client hired me to rewrite all of the copy on their website. For this example, let’s say they were a beauty salon in downtown Miami. 

When I took a look at their site, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. It said…

“If you’re looking for the best beauty salon in Miami, Florida, you’ve found it! Of course, you want to find the best beauty salon in Miami, Florida because you deserve the best. And there is no better beauty salon in Miami, Florida than ours in Miami, Florida.”

Pop quiz: Can you guess the key phrase they were stuffing into their copy?

Obviously, this is an extreme example, but many blackhat SEO strategies are similar to this. They try to trick the algorithm into thinking they are the “best beauty salon in Miami, Florida” by repeatedly using that phrase in their copy. Here is the problem: it doesn’t work. 

First off, keyword stuffing kills website readability, something that Google highly values. Second, Google is smart enough to spot this kind of blackhat SEO and bury that site down at the bottom of the search results. 

Here’s a fun fact that will show you how LONG I’ve been in this industry! A very old blackhat SEO technique used to be hiding hundreds of keywords in black font on a black background so that the user couldn’t see them, but the search engine could. Thankfully, it no longer works, as search engine algorithms are too sophisticated to fall for that kind of thing. But that doesn’t stop some people from doing it!

The bottom line of blackhat SEO is this: It might get you traffic to your site, but it’s not necessarily the traffic you want. The point of SEO isn’t just to get people to your site; it’s to get the RIGHT people to your site so they can take your call to action! 

And to do that, you want to focus on whitehat SEO that will improve your website’s user experience so potential customers will want to try your services!

Whitehat SEO Methods that Work

Obviously, you want to go with whitehat SEO.

Whitehat SEO focuses more on the positive than the negative. No trickery here, just a quality product that will convert visitors into raving fans and customers! 

Here are some of the most common whitehat SEO strategies:

  • Include keywords that your customers are searching for. Makes sense, right? 
  • Create relevant, high-quality content regularly. This really is key! 
  • Label images properly so they come up in search. This is something I think most people absolutely forget to do! 
  • Include quality relevant links and references throughout the site. You want Google to associate your website with the other great websites out there! 
  • Use subheadings in copy to improve readability. No one wants to read paragraph after paragraph of copy. Most people skim for the information they are looking for, so make it easy for them to find your key points. 
  • Keep paragraphs short to improve readability. Try to keep it at 200 words for less! 
  • Backlinks to other relevant websites. Again, high-quality sites with authority. 
  • Internal links throughout your site. This is something I think most people forget to do. Make sure to link within your content to your other complementary content. 

As you can see, we could talk for hours about all of the SEO techniques that can improve your website and search ranking. 

How Long Will It Take?

Here is the point where I’m going to level with you. When you go around searching for SEO online, you find a lot of digital marketing companies that promise to jump your site to the top of the search results in no time!

Unfortunately, that just isn’t true. The reality is that effective SEO takes time. It isn’t something that you do today that starts to work tomorrow. 

If you have an already-established website you’ve been working on for years, you can go back through and do all of the whitehat on-page and off-page SEO, and you’ll probably start to see results in about three months. 

However, many of the clients who come to me don’t have any real web presence. In fact, some of them don’t even have a website yet. So, they will hire me to build one for them which of course includes SEO. However, I always like to be super clear that just because we do SEO right out of the gate, it doesn’t mean that the SEO will immediately shoot them straight to the top of the search results. It takes time (usually six months or so) and again on-going quality content and backlinks to get your website to move up in search results, no matter how polished and professional your website is. 

The good news is SEO will increase traffic, conversations and revenue over time. SEO isn’t something that you have to sit down today and do every step of. This is something that you can do in stages. 

First Stage: Keyword Research & Competitor Analysis
Second Stage: On-Page Optimization & Creating Quality Content
Third Stage: Link Building 

I’ve broken down the whole process in a simple SEO plan and workbook that you can download here. You can use this strategy to increase your ranking with Google so people can find all of that amazing content you’ve been creating! 

If you still feel overwhelmed or don’t have the time to do your SEO. I get it! SEO probably isn’t the best use of your time as a business owner. Reach out, I’d love to help create and implement your SEO strategy. 

If you decide to jump in and give it a go, remember can be a slow process. Patience is a virtue when it comes to SEO. Generally, I recommend a few hours of working on SEO a week. 

So What Did We Learn? 

Let’s sum up everything that we talked about over the last half-hour!

  1. SEO stands for search engine optimization.
  2. Google and other search engines use bots to index websites and find the best content for search results.
  3. You need to improve your website to get higher up in the results.
  4. Make sure to start by setting your goals and creating an SEO strategy. 
  5. Try using some SEO tools to make your job easier!
  6. There are two types of SEO: Whitehat SEO and Blackhat SEO.
  7. Blackhat SEO can actually damage your search ranking. It can also drive away potential customers.
  8. Whitehat SEO techniques are key to building a quality website.
  9. Content is key! Repeat after me, the quality of your content will directly impact your search result score.
  10. This doesn’t happen overnight. SEO takes time!

I realize that I threw a lot at you today. SEO is one of those “rabbit hole” topics that we could talk about forever. I have a ton more content about search engine optimization on my website if you’re curious to learn more. I will add some more links in the show notes for you! 

But to get you started, remember I have a free download for you: 3-Step SEO Strategy & Workbook. This brief checklist will walk you through all the steps in the process of optimizing your website for Google and other search engines. You can find the download here

If you want to get your website’s SEO in order, but you simply don’t have the time to do it yourself, I invite you to contact me today for a free consultation. SEO is a key part of my business, and fixing up my clients’ websites is always a pleasure and a joy! 

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About Jennie Lyon

Jennie Lyon is the founder of Jennie Lyon Virtual Assistant Services. Jennie specializes in helping busy entrepreneurs organize, manage, develop and promote their brand! She is devoted to helping small business owners and entrepreneurs with social media, content creation, email marketing, client relations, website management, and administration services. If you are a small business owner, coach or self-employed entrepreneur struggling to find enough time in your day to focus on what you really love - schedule a free 15 minute consultation with Jennie. www.JennieLyon.com

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