SEO for Dummies 2019 Checklist: Simple, Actionable, Scalable Tips for Better Rankings
Many entrepreneurs and marketers cringe at the mere thought of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It’s the proverbial big elephant in the room and a huge nightmare for many.
Every marketer wants to hit page #1 of Google rankings for their websites and landing pages. SEO is often seen as a malicious obstacle standing between them and better Google rankings.
What if we look at SEO in a different way? Not as an obstacle to website success, but as a handy strategy to help users find what they seek?
Remove the fear of SEO, and you suddenly acquire a nifty tool that can do wonderful things for every aspect of your digital business.
SEO is the gateway to quality traffic - online users who are already searching for the products, services, and solutions you offer.
SEO in and of itself is a virtually cost-free PR tool. Given that people trust Google, top ranking means that you are credible and trustworthy in the eyes of the user.
SEO stats tell it all.
75 percent of SEO is off-page and 25 percent is on-page
91 percent of US Internet users search every month. That’s 9 out of every 10 users!
The top 5 results get 75 percent of the organic clicks
Against this glaring background, staying on top of your SEO campaigns and efforts is a no-brainer.
We have put together one of the most comprehensive yet straightforward SEO checklists for beginners. It’s simple, scalable and actionable.
What is SEO?
SEO is the acronym for search engine optimization.
In practice, SEO is the art and science of matching your content — webpages, products and services—with what people are searching for online.
It’s a great way to ensure that your business, website, products and pages are easily found online via searches.
Without SEO, no one will know you exist online.
SEO is a core part of digital marketing strategy that helps you improve the quality and quantity of web traffic to your pages.
Why quality? Glad you asked.
If Google sent online users who want to buy a new iPhone to your website, but you only sell iPhone cases, then users are frustrated because what you offer is of little value to them and traffic to your site does not help your sales. SEO directs searchers to useful sites.
Why quantity? The more qualified visitors you get to your website, the more conversions and leads you get. It all boils down to your sales, profits and even credibility.
Here’s a classic example. If you search the phrase “best airlines in the US” using Google, who comes up at the top of organic search results?
How did The Points Guy land at the top? SEO
How did Thrillist land in the second position? SEO
These two sites have created relevant, up-to-date content which provides a thorough answer to the question: what are the best airlines in the US. SEO is all about answering the questions and your potential customers have about a specific subject or item.
Contrary to what most entrepreneurs and marketers think, SEO is not some arcane technical area. It has a proven track record of delivering strong business results.
How Relevant is SEO to my Business?
Search engines sift through billions of pages, sites, and pieces of web content and leverage myriads of ranking factors to score them based on the likelihood of providing an answer to a user’s search query.
That’s where SEO comes into the picture. While paid search results appear top on the page, organic results often get the most eyeballs from discerning searchers. In fact, organic search results account for the biggest portion of the search engine results page (SERP).
Organic entries appear more trustworthy to savvy users than paid ads.
SEO strategies help you achieve one simple task: rank higher in search results than your competitors.
After all, 33 percent of all clicks eventually go to the first result on the SERP. By comparison, the result in the third position receives a paltry 12 percent of all clicks. If you think that’s bad, the results in positions 9 and 10 on the first SERP receive a combined 2 percent of all clicks, according to a Smart Insights report.
As a business owner, entrepreneur or marketer, you must ask yourself these crucial questions:
● Is any or all of your business online?
● Do you have customers who try to find you online?
● Do you care to stay ahead of your competitors online?
If the answer is yes to any of the above questions, then your best chance of doing more business through online channels is search engine optimization. There is no other answer. SEO is THAT important. It is an absolute necessity.
SEO is also one of the only online marketing strategies that, when set up correctly, can continue to pay dividends over time. If you provide a solid piece of content that deserves to rank for the right keywords, your traffic can snowball over time, whereas advertising needs continuous funding to send traffic to your site.
Reasons to Invest in SEO
SEO is the unicorn of the digital world filled with mules and donkeys. It’s the ‘one and done’ online marketing strategy in the era of instant-everything.
But that isn’t all there is to SEO. Among the list of reasons to use SEO, the top ones are:
(1) SEO builds credibility for a business
As mentioned earlier, a higher Google ranking is often perceived by searchers as a credible source of information. Isn’t that the reason they skip paid searches altogether?
To get to the top of a search results page, you must have done something right. You must be worthy of the online users’ truth. That’s why 3 out of 10 clicks go to the 1st result, with the number degrading to only 2 percent by the tenth position.
(2) SEO makes the user experience much smoother
Online users love easy to use pages and sites. SEO can come to your rescue when you need to create a positive UX for them. Even better, Google scores user-friendly sites better on its ranking.
(3) SEO allows businesses to engage and convert customers
Good SEO means better engagement with your target audience. By increasing engagement, you are bringing leads closer to a sale. Ultimately, SEO will help you convert more visitors and engaged leads into paying customers. It’s a win-win.
(4) SEO Increases traffic to your website
Effective SEO helps businesses of all sizes pull more traffic to their websites. The better your SEO ranking, the more traffic you will drive to your products, services, landing pages, and website.
(5) You must stay up-to-date with changes to Google’s search algorithm
Google releases multiple updates to its search engine algorithm every year. These releases are poised to affect your business online visibility one way or another.
Creating an actionable SEO strategy allows you to keep abreast of changes affecting search rules. This way, you can stay on the good side of Google, lest your site is penalized for violations you aren’t aware of. Check out our recent coverage of the biggest changes in Google search algorithms over the last year.
(6) SEO is a cost-effective form of marketing
SEO is perhaps the most cost-effective marketing strategy for the long-term. You might have to put in hard work, effort, and money into creating attention-grabbing content and polish your SEO strategies. However, your efforts and investment will pay off big time in the long run.
(7) Results can bring benefits for years
A top SEO ranking will help deliver quality traffic, build brand awareness and boost both your credibility and online visibility for a very long time. You can’t say the same about paid campaigns like PPC. For an in-depth analysis of SEO vs SEM benefits, check out our previous article on this topic here.
(8) SEO drives online sales
Today's savvy consumers do their homework before making a purchase. The first place they turn to is Google and other search engines. Leveraging proper SEO strategies, you can drive these "ripe" leads to your site, and convert them into sales.
With proper SEO techniques, you don't just attract potential buyers into your sales funnel, you can also entice them with captivating content, discounts, and other offers incorporated right into the search.
(9) SEO drives offline sales too
In the customer’s research and buying cycle, SEO is not simply the icing on the cake. SEO stands at the core of offline customer acquisition too. Online users are searching for local businesses, including their physical addresses, contact information, and directions.
Good SEO let’s potential customers find you wherever you are, whether online or offline, so you can make a sale.
(10) SEO keeps you ahead of your competitors
When you rank high in Google Search Results, your business will certainly gain the much sought-after competitive edge. SEO makes you stand out in a sea of competitors. With SEO, you become a trusted, go-to brand.
(11) SEO opens the floodgates to new opportunities
Every SEO strategy involves a thorough SWOT analysis. This will help your SEO team unravel all your strengths, weaknesses and threats to help discover new, more robust opportunities.
By studying your closest rivals, you’ll also understand your target audience better. This will help you optimize your services and pages to address their concerns and pain points.
(12) SEO is trackable and measurable
It's easy to track and calculate the ROI from your SEO campaigns. This way, you will know soon enough whether your marketing dollars are going to good use. If not, you can change your tack.
(13) Search is here to stay
If you don’t do SEO, your business and brand will be pushed into oblivion.
Business2Community estimates that combined annual spending on SEO (including your rivals) will be around $79 billion by 2020.
With the number of daily, weekly and monthly searches on a sharp rise, SEO is more important than ever. The roller coaster isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.
(14) SEO increases your customer attribution
How many times does your target audience “see” your brand?
Customer attribution is an important factor when it comes to brand loyalty and customer acquisition. The more times they view your brand, the more likely they will buy from your business.
(15) With SEO, you meet your customers where they are
Given this large search volume, chances are good that your target customers are also using searches to find what they seek. So, why not meet them where they are?
The list goes on and on. No matter how you look at it, SEO is a must-do in today’s ever-competitive business landscape.
The Fundamentals of SEO for dummies
What are the key components of SEO?
Google has admitted that it uses thousands of ranking factors to deliver the best possible results for a search query. You need to leverage these SEO ranking factors to get the best outcome.
After all, SEO doesn't function in a vacuum. Many components have to work in tandem to help your site rank better on Google. Some of the most important components of SEO include:
Knowing what customers want, what they are searching for, and how your services and solutions can help them is key to the overall success of your digital marketing strategies. You need to get a handle on your market and target audience research.
Who is your typical customer? What are his/her dislikes, likes, and interests? What makes your customers tick? Industry research will help you zero in on topics and create content that both Google and readers will love.
Keyword research is the cornerstone of any practical SEO strategy. Use keywords to pinpoint the best possible user intent to go after and find what your audience wants.
Google has also admitted that user intent is one of its most important ranking factors. That in and of itself isn’t at all surprising because their main goal is to ensure that the searcher gets the most relevant results.
Use a combination of keywords users are looking for and group similar keywords to drive user intent and conversion.
Use powerful analytics tools like Google Analytics, Ubersuggest, and SEMrush to understand the numbers showing who your web visitors are and why they are visiting. More importantly, analytics will help you tailor your campaigns by knowing how well the SEO strategy is performing.
Google mobile-first index is live and kicking. That’s why you should optimize your site, content and SEO strategies for mobile browsers. In fact, you should build the SEO strategy for mobile use first and then move up to desktop
Proper meta tags
These allow search engines like Google to know the purpose and relevance of a page. Make sure your meta tags are optimized for the right keywords and ready to help you rank at the top and above the fold.
Ultimately, this is where all keywords flow in. Strong content means a strong SEO. In the world of digital marketing, content is king. This is the equivalent of the saying in real estate, ‘Location location, location”.
Social media signals
Social signs are becoming more and more pervasive. Online users spend an average of 3+ hours on these platforms. They are among the most powerful tools to promote a business. Including them in the SEO strategy will yield positive results.
These are important because images lead to a much higher conversion rate. Don’t forget to use image tags and to describe your images with keyword-optimized copy.
When you add images to your articles in your content management system, you often have the option to add a title, Alt Tag and description to the image. This, in turn, will help your company rank organically in Google Images search results which is an underrated - yet powerful - SEO technique to also drive traffic to your website.
On-Page vs. Off-Page SEO
It is important to note that SEO is not merely a list of items to check off of a list. SEO involves both things to do on a page in the site as well as a list of items to take care of outside the site
On-page SEO is the act of optimizing the different parts of your website that affect your search engine rankings. It’s stuff you have control over and can change on your own website. This is also known as technical SEO and we’ve written an entire separate guide on this topic.
Title tags: To put in targeted keywords
Headings: The largest and most prominent words on a page
URL structure: Should always be optimized for search engines
Alt text for images: To help search engines understand what the image is about
Page speed: Faster speeds help rankings
Page content: Always needs to be useful and relevant
Internal linking: Linking internally to other relevant pages within the site
Off-page SEO: Focuses on increasing the authority of your domain through the act of getting links from other websites.
Backlinking: Ensures that content within a site has links to relevant external sites
Social media shares: To ensure the content reaches a very wide audience
Outreach emails: Proactively spread content, and hence links, to the site through newsletters, promotional mails, etc.
Domain Authority: Allows search engines to determine how much they can trust a site
Implementing SEO like a PRO
So, how do I go about doing SEO like a PRO?
A good SEO strategy is not a one and done thing. It is about constantly optimizing and testing different content-driven strategies. The stronger the foundation, the better the possible outcome. Some key items to note when implementing a robust SEO strategy are:
Make a list of topics: These will be used to create content around the products/services and show how they can serve the target audience.
Build a list of keywords to use on these topics: Include short and long-tailed keywords that will be used in the content.
Create pages for each topic: Create content for these topics using the keywords, then build pages for each topic. Use the best practices to build SEO-friendly pages.
Keep content fresh: Add new articles/topics and refresh the content on the ones already published to increase their domain authority.
Create a link building plan: This is for both internal and external links
Stay up-to-date on SEO best practices: The rules are continually updated. So—stay updated!
Analyze and optimize: Analyze the performance of the SEO strategy and optimize it.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a church website or a global e-commerce store, the odds are that you are looking for a significant amount of relevant traffic to your pages and website.
While social media, email and other inbound strategies will bring visitors in trickles, ultimately you want to show up on the top Google search results pages.
SEO is, and will remain for the foreseeable future, the hands-down best driver of quality and “free” inbound traffic. Why SEO?
There are myriad reasons that make investing in SEO a no-brainer. These include:
● It helps build trust and credibility for your brand and business.
● It’s good for UX.
● It allows your brand to better engage with customers, improving conversions and lead-generation.
● It helps to drive quality traffic to your site.
● It helps you stay abreast of changes in search rules.
● It’s cost-effective, especially in the long run.
● Good SEO is the gift that keeps giving.
● SEO drives both online and offline sales.
● If done correctly, SEO can help you lock out competitors and stay ahead of the pack.
● It helps you provide value to target customers and build your PR.
Unfortunately, not every SEO is good SEO. What makes for a SEO action strategy? Include the following components to take your SEO to the next level:
Market research - know the ins and outs of your target audience and industry
Keywords - The right keywords can make a huge difference. Start your SEO with top-down keyword research.
User intent - A combination of relevant keywords should comprise your core strategy in order to provide better value and improve conversion.
Analytics - Let you know whether your SEO campaigns are delivering desired outcomes
Mobile SEO - Ensure your site is mobile-ready, fast-loading and ready for Google mobile-first index.
Appropriate meta tags - Help Google know what your website is all about.
Content - Without impressive content, you won’t keep readers interested for long. Strong content translates into strong SEO.
Social media - Social signals will help your website rank higher in Google
Images - Photos, GIFs, videos and other imagery get a higher conversion rate
● Always keep fine-tuning the SEO strategy.
● Focus on content and the overall strategy at all times.
● Stay abreast of the latest updates in the SEO world and apply them to your digital properties.