By Dan Goubert
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) may seem intimidating, and it’s true that a full college textbook—let alone a single blog post—couldn’t cover all of its nuances. But even though SEO is pretty deep, you don’t have to dive all the way to the bottom: simply learning to swim in it will be helpful enough for your advertising future.
The Basics: What is SEO?
SEO is a series of strategies used to make a specific web page appear more highly in search engine result pages. To understand why a high Google, Bing, or Yahoo ranking is important for businesses, just look at your own Google habits. Chances are, you rarely go beyond the first page, and neither do many of a business’s potential customers. The higher a company ranks on Google for a particular search term, the more clicks, followers, conversions, and sales they’re likely to get.
Understanding Those “Particular Search Terms:” A Keyword Research Introduction
Most SEO strategies involve knowing what keyword phrases—the specific series of words you type into Google—will bring in the right kind of site visitors. For most businesses, the “right kind” is those that will actually purchase their product.
There are countless ways to research the valuable keyword phrases your target audience is searching for. While a lot of the more detailed, quantified tools aren’t free, there are still robust options.
Ubersuggest allows you to type any basic words or phrases, and generate a list of popular phrases that are more complex. These so-called “long-tail keywords” may get fewer monthly searches, but their specificity means that the people typing them into Google are probably more ready to buy a related product.
Note how long-tail variants of “hot dog buns” show you the bun attributes people are considering: price and volume.
Answer the Public is a similar tool that generates commonly searched questions from a single keyword. Question searches help businesses understand what kind of information potential consumers want.
Who knew people were so interested in hot dog buns?
Using Those Keyword Phrases: On-Page Optimization
Keyword research is only SEO’s first step. Now that we have a better idea what people are looking for, we can tailor the content on our website to match. Every web page has certain customizable elements that can influence web rankings and click-through rates. Title tags are the page names that appear on Google, meta descriptions are the snippets, while URLs, headings, and actual article content are also influencing factors.
When writing a product or home page, you’ll want to start using those specific keyword phrases in your writing, in your titles, in your meta descriptions, and so on. Be careful to avoid “keyword stuffing,” though: being too obvious with keyword repetition will make readers and Google dislike you.
Google also gives higher rankings to sites that provide regular, quality content, so good SEO practice should involve regular blog and article posts. For example, a hot dog bun manufacturer could write a blog titled “Why Are Hot Dog Buns Cut Off Center? The Frank Truth.”
Let’s Go Viral: A Link Building How-To
Website popularity is important for a high Google ranking, but Google doesn’t just use visitor counts to measure popularity. A page’s number of inbound links is equally vital; the more websites that are linking to your page or blog post, the higher your page will rank. The quality of an inbound link is important, too, so a single link from The New York Times will pass more “ranking link juice” to your site than a hundred links from Billy’s Backwoods Blog.
How do you build backlinks, then? The easiest way is to simply produce high quality, valuable content that people will want to link to. But if you’re a small website it might be tough to get exposure. That’s why you can try pitching content pieces to other websites who will link back to your site. Search Google for “guest blog opportunities” and start developing a content pitch that will turn heads.
The Value of SEO for Students
It may seem like a lot of work to research hundreds of keywords and write long blogs in the hopes of getting one link back to your website, but every time you increase your Google ranking for a high competition keyword, it is worth real money to online businesses.
By understanding SEO on a basic level, you can start rethinking the way you write about and advertise your own services or online portfolio. And in an increasingly digital job industry, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have “SEO” in your LinkedIn profile’s skills section, either.