Is your website getting buried? Read on to find out what SEO tips for beginners can make your website pop and bring it to the top of search engine lists
Before we get right to some simple SEO tips for beginners, we need to understand how search engines work. Search engines are constantly being refined to try to deliver the most relevant answer possible to the user. They crawl the internet, essentially reading every website’s content to see if it will answer one of the millions of questions posed to them.
Beyond that, they also weed out the majority of the sites and relegate them to the bottom of their lists based on an assortment of other factors. Relevance, ease of navigation, speed, fresh content, high quality content, and some esoteric internet juju all play a part.
Companies like Google keep their search algorithms secret and are constantly updating them, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some tried and true SEO tips for beginners that will move your site up in the rankings and make it more visible to the potential clients you want.
As a solopreneur (or even a small business) there’s no way to address every single SEO component that search engines factor in, but dial in the following ones and you’ll be well on your way to higher visibility and higher conversion rates from click to client:
- Numbered lists/bullet points
- Clean and effective UX
- Outbound links/backlinks
- Fresh content
- Relevance (write for the humans, not the bots)
We’ve all heard of keywords by now, no? These are the words or phrases that search engines note to determine whether or not a website or article satisfies a seeker’s question. Originally, they were just single words, although Google has moved on to pairings of words and phrases which complicate things for you as a writer.
There are several paid options that can help in keyword selection, and while they are great tools to help really narrow things down, most are filled with analytics and metrics that as a beginner you may find hard to make any sense out of. Additionally, as a beginner, you may find your finances already thin and need to wait before committing to that avenue right away.
One thread woven throughout anything written about SEO is that ultimately, you should remember that you’re a human writing for a human. If the writing is good and answers a question accurately, the site will be found. It’s maybe the most basic SEO tips for beginners.
That being said, part of answering a question or posing a solution to a problem is to try to think like a searcher. Let’s say you’re in pest control. People out there are likely searching for something like “How to get rid of mice,” or “best way of getting rid of mice,” etc. While you could just guess at the phrasing, there are definitely some better ways of seeing what people are searching for.
Use Google itself
Perhaps one of the easiest SEO tips for a beginner is to google what your business does. Referencing the above example, feed either of those two questions into google and observe what pops up. You’ll usually see a couple of paid ads, but almost immediately after will see a section called: “People also ask” with a list of similar questions.
Now scroll down to the very bottom of the first page and note what else you see. You’ll find a whole other section, again offering alternative searches related to your initial question. Both of these sections can be used to help you frame your keywords and keyword phrases.
Answer the Public
Answer the Public is another free option to help you see what people are searching for. It’s extensive and a little tricky to extract relevant information from, but can be a helpful tool for beginners if you take the time to learn its SEO tips. You get one free search per day without creating an account, or three per day with a free account.
One of the most well-known SEO tips for beginners is keywords, but knowing how to use them is another thing. Resist the temptation to keyword stuff! You may think that a search engine would be all over an article that repeated your keyword(s) over and over, but the opposite is actually true. Search engines are smart enough to see when writing has been overstuffed, and will note it as spam or irrelevant. Even if a human does eventually find your piece, it likely won’t read naturally at all anyways, and they will scroll on.
Once you’ve landed on your keywords, you want to liberally but organically sprinkle them throughout your writing. Re-read your work and ask yourself if it flows or seems redundantly obvious that you’re trolling for search engine hits.
To this point, the keywords for this article are in fact: “SEO tips for beginners.” You’ll find it throughout this article, though it still reads normally. It’s a delicate balance that takes some finesse and getting used to, but one that will pay off in the end.
One of the more basic SEO tips for beginners is to have well defined headings and subheadings. It seems like having the title of a post be larger than the rest of the article might be obvious, but this isn’t always the case. Search engines love headings, subheadings, sub-sub headings and so on. They should be using HTML “h tags” properly, which are h1, h2, h3, h4, etc. If you’re not sure about your h tags, don’t worry. Any good website template should have them set up in the right order. Additionally, it’s super helpful to insert keywords into your headings or titles if at all possible, although again–it must be organic and not forced.
Bullet points/numbered lists
Bullet points and numbered lists are highly favored by search engines. Just search anything and more often than not, one of the very first responses will inevitably be a list. There doesn’t seem to be any preference by SEO for bullet points over numbers, although traditionally numbers are used only where a list must maintain a strict order, like steps in a recipe.
Clean it up!!
Anything that slows your website down (huge photos, bloated graphics, etc) will have a massive impact on your traffic. It essentially results in two critical things: search engines will push it down their lists as irrelevant or useless, and the humans that actually do find it will bounce away quickly if it won’t open immediately or seems broken. Studies show that you have literally seconds before someone will move on, so you need to make sure your site works flawlessly. There are online test sites that will let you know if your site is too slow and could use some streamlining.
Another thing that seems an obvious SEO tip for beginners but you still see all of the time is broken links—the dreaded error 404. Make sure your site’s links are all still active and point to relevant data.
Photos should be no larger than 300kb, max, and they should all be labeled, again preferably with keywords if you’re able and they’re relevant. Search engines look at picture titles and use that information to add to their formula that determines relevance, so don’t ignore them. If you need guidance on resizing your images check out this article.
As a solopreneur (or even a small business) there’s no way to address every single SEO component that search engines factor in, but dial in the following ones and you’ll be well on your way to higher visibility and higher conversion rates from click to client
One of the most important and maybe most elusive SEO tips for beginners is links. Links from your writing to other relevant material, and even more critically, links to your writing.
When search engines detect links that send readers to other material that also answers a similar or related query, they give it additional weight. To an ever greater degree, having others link to your article carries massive SEO benefits.
Sometimes people will stumble upon your work and organically link to it on their own, though very often you need to request it. It can be hard for a lot of people to ask for backlinks but it is so crucial as an SEO tip for beginners that it is worth the stress. If your writing is good and your information relevant, chances are good they’ll link to you. Besides, they are likely looking for backlinks themselves and will jump at the chance to fortify their own SEO.
I want to again emphasize that relevance is key. If what’s being linked to is not relevant, search engines will dismiss it and it will only water down your SEO results. Similarly, if a spammy website is linking to your site, your SEO ranking can also be negatively impacted.
One of the simplest SEO tips for beginners is to keep up on your fresh content. The best way to add fresh content to your website is to utilize your blog. Search engines detect old posts and rank you lower if nothing new is added or updated, so whenever possible you want to add fresh material.
For a lot of solopreneurs, constantly coming up with new work presents a major challenge due to time constraints and an endless list of responsibilities and tasks. At some point you could hire out the work, but a great and simple solution is to harvest from the work you’ve already produced.
Repurposing articles is an industry SEO trick that businesses have used since SEO became a thing. You can create what’s called a “pillar piece,” a lengthy bit of writing that covers several topics, then later write smaller pieces that address more thoroughly some of the individual points of the original article.
It’s also important to update any article that has dates or times in them. If your only work is from 2018, the search engines will note it. Take the time once in a while to scan your work for time-related posts and see if you can’t update them.
Give ‘em what they want
At the end of the day, search engines are geared towards one thing: helping humans find what they seek (or what the highest bidder wants them to find…but that is an article for another day). While you can try to outsmart the search engines, it’s ultimately best to try to write in a clear and concise way that best serves up whatever information you are offering.
It’s important to remember that SEO takes time. Usually results don’t start to show up for a couple of months until the search engine bots have crawled your site and cataloged its importance. And don’t forget that it is a moving target—it’s good to periodically audit your site to make sure it’s up to date and aligned with current SEO trends.
Work on these SEO tips for beginners, and soon you’ll find your page higher in the rankings and with some luck, conversions will follow and the clients will roll in.
Matthew Ogden is a Minneapolis-based copywriter and content writer and editor. He’s written for national retailers and lobster roll companies alike. When not writing he can be found nose deep in a book, writing and performing music, or nerding out about guitar tone.