The Absolute Beginners Guide to SEO

Most of the visitors to your site are going to get there through search engines, the vast majority of which from Google.  There are many companies out there that will promise to get you at or near the top of Google rankings for your keywords.  Stay away from these companies; stay far away.  There are no guarantees in SEO, particularly if you are in very competitive field with many established competitors.  If you are a new company with a brand new URL, even if you do everything right you might still find yourself buried on page five in the organic search engine results.

That being said, there are many simple things you can do to increase your chances of being listed higher in Google.  This guide is intended for someone who is just starting out and has no experience in SEO at all.

Behind the Scenes Code 

  1. Page URLS: Each page should contain a keyword rich URL.  For example if you have a page on your site about fishing boats, example.com/fishing-boats/  is a much better and more descriptive URL than example.com/fshngbts/
  2. Title Tags: All pages should have unique title tags that are keyword rich and no longer than 55 to 60 characters in length.  The title tag should accurately represent and describe what the content on the page is about. Don’t repeat keywords or make the title just a string of keywords.
  3. Meta Description Tag: Each page also needs a unique meta description, which should be no longer than 160 characters.  The meta description should be easily readable by humans and accurately describe what the page is about.  The meta description should be keyword rich, but don’t repeat a keyword more than once.
  4. Meta Keyword Tag: Ignore the keyword meta tag.  Google doesn’t currently use them. They were prone spam, as people would try to game the system by repeating the same keywords over and over.
  5. Image Alt Tag and File Names:  Google can’t tell what your picture is about by just looking at it.  It uses the file name and the alt tag to determine what the picture is about.  This info is also used by Google to help it understand what the page the image is on is about.   For example, if you have a picture of a Tracker Pro 160 Mod V bass fishing boat, a good file name for the image would be: tracker-pro-160-fishing-boat.jpg, and a good alt tag would be “Tracker Pro 160 Mod V bass fishing boat”.  Don’t just put the image on the page with a file names\ such as image1.jpg or DSC_0001.jpg.  Make sure you give it a descriptive file name.  The alt tag shouldn’t be too long.  It should be short and to the point.  Google will see excessively long alt tags as spammy.

On Page Content

  1. Page Structure: The content on your page should fit within a certain structure. You need a heading, paragraph(s) and in some cases subheadings.  Make the headings stand out from the main content.  Your content should be geared toward the users of your site and not toward the search engines. Use heading tags properly, h1 for the most important headline, h2 for the next most important headline, and so on.  Make sure your content is easy to read and typo-free.  Your anchor text (text that links to other pages within your site) should be keyword rich.  Anchor text should not simply be “click here”, as that doesn’t give any context to Google about the page you are linking to.
  2. Text as Images: All the important text on the page should actually be text.  On some web pages you will see what looks like a block of text, but when you try to copy that text you find out it is actually an image. This is often done to get a pixel perfect layout or because the font used for the text is non-standard.  Avoid this at all costs.  Google doesn’t read the text in the image so it is useless for SEO.
  3. Navigation: Your site should be easy to navigate and have a well thought-out navigation hierarchy.  All navigation menus should be text based with no images, JavaScript or Flash navigation that Google can’t read.  If it is hard for your users to navigate through your site and figure where things are, it will be hard for Google to understand as well.
  4. Mobile Ready: Your website should look good on both mobile, tablet, and desktop devices.  Google favors websites that have mobile-friendly designs.  If your website doesn’t look good in mobile it will be penalized in Google’s mobile search results.  There are two different methods to make your site mobile friendly, either via responsive design or adaptive design.  Both ways work, but Google’s preferred method is responsive design.
  5. Content: Though this is last on the list, it is probably the most important.  Make sure the content on your site is original, high quality, and updated frequently.  The content should be easy to read and geared toward people, not search engines. Though you shouldn’t write content that is geared to the search engines, you should keep in mind keywords that your users may use when searching for your content and use those keywords, in a natural way, throughout your pages.