Our comprehensive guide to Search Engine Optimization best practices isn't just for SEOs, the clear explanations mean that it can be used by marketers to ask the right questions to boost their SEO.(by Ilia Markov)
SEO isn’t that complicated. It’s quite simple—or at least the basics are. But the basics aren’t enough to get you ranked, right?
Here’s the truth:
Most people who run websites have a limited understanding of SEO, so you often only need to get the basics right to succeed.
In this post, you’ll learn the five fundamental steps to SEO success:
- How to figure out what your customers are searching for
- How to optimize your web pages for your target keywords
- How to make sure your website is accessible to both search engines and humans
- How to get other websites to link to your site, and finally:
- How to start measuring your SEO success
Step 1: Learn what your customers are actually searching for
You can’t optimize your website without knowing what your customers are searching for—that much is obvious.
How do you figure this out? The best starting point is to use common sense.
Imagine that you run a hotel in Dublin, Ireland. It doesn’t take an SEO genius to guess that your customers are probably searching for things like:
- ‘hotels in Dublin’
- ‘place to stay in Dublin’
- ‘accommodation in Dublin’
Before you do anything else, think about what your customers might be searching for and jot your ideas down in a notepad. You could even ask them directly.
No need to go overboard here—a handful of ideas will do.
Done? Good. Let’s do some more research.
a) Figure out the most popular way people search for your business
It’s likely that some of your customers are searching for your business using the words and phrases you jotted down. Whether the majority of people are is another story.
So the first step is to figure out the most common way people search for what you do.
You can use the ideas you’ve already jotted down to do that. Start by doing a Google search for one of the words or phrases on your list. It doesn’t matter how ridiculous or long-winded this phrase is. I’ll use a purposely silly one to prove it.
Having skimmed these results for all of 10 seconds, I can see they each have the phrase “Dublin hotels” in the title.
This matters because websites tend to optimize their title tags for SEO, so it’s likely that these particular ones have already done some research and found that “Dublin hotels” is the most popular way people search for places to stay in Dublin.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
There’s no guarantee that these folks know what they’re doing.
b) Understand other ways people may be searching for the same thing
Look for more similar and related phrases that pop up over and over again.
In this instance, we see such phrases as “hotels in Dublin,” “Dublin city hotels,” and “cheap hotels in Dublin.”
These businesses have likely identified these keywords and phrases already, hence the reason they include them in their title tags.
c) Delve deeper into the more granular searches your customers are making
Now that you know how people search for your business, it’s time to delve deeper into the more granular searches people make in relation to what you do.
A simple way to start is to look at Google autocomplete results.
d) Find popular and engaging topics in your field
Content marketing is the art of creating useful and valuable content to attract your target customers or clients. But don’t just start a blog and hope for the best—figure out what topics are popular and engaging in your field and create content related to said topics.
For this, I’d recommend starting with Reddit.
Find a subreddit related to your industry (e.g., r/irishtourism). Look at what people are talking about and which threads are the most popular. You can even filter and sort by the top threads of all time.
e) Expand your keyword list by looking literally anywhere else
Google search results and professional keyword tools can give you a lot to get started with, but it’s in no way enough.
To be successful with SEO, you need to understand how people are talking about the niche you’re operating in, what problems they have, and so on. Use every opportunity to speak to customers and take notice of the language they’re using.
Doing this in person is great, but also very time‐consuming.
So here are a few places where you can find the words people use while talking about your topic of interest:
- Forums: There are quite a few communities where people discuss traveling. For example, a simple search led me to the TripAdvisor Dublin Travel Forum.
- Quora/Reddit: Quora is probably not the first place that comes to mind when you’re looking for travel advice, but you’d be surprised by the amount of information you can find there even on this topic. Where it comes to Reddit, the adage that there’s a subreddit for everything is generally true.
- Facebook/LinkedIn Groups: LinkedIn is more geared towards B2B markets, but when it comes to Facebook, there are groups for almost everything.
Any website or social network with a large number of visitors and user‐generated content can serve as a source of inspiration and keyword ideas.
f) Understand the metrics behind the keywords you’re targeting
Most people focus entirely on the following two metrics when doing keyword research:
- search volume (the number of monthly searches, on average), and
- keyword difficulty (an estimate as to how easy or hard it will be to appear on the first page of search results for that term).
These are important as they provide useful insights into the potential of the keyword and how difficult ranking for it is likely to be.
However, instead of looking solely at search volume, you should try to figure out the true search traffic potential for each keyword. That way, you can focus your efforts on ranking for the ones that are likely to send the most targeted traffic your way.