SEO Beginner’s Guide For Cleveland Businesses.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Last Updated: October 14, 2022
By: Brian McCracken
Welcome To The Guide!
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a complicated, dynamic, ever-changing world so be sure to bookmark this page and revisit it on a semi-annual basis to help yourself stay well-informed as it will be update as tactics, goals, and strategies change.
Small business SEO is something that most business owners overlook at first, but it’s a tool that every entrepreneur has access to. There is no shortage of free SEO articles that have been published over the years but the problem with them is that they are not organized in a way that makes them useful to someone learning the basics.
The goal of this guide is to give you a clear starting point, and straight forward pathway towards learning what SEO is, how you can use it, and why it is important to your business.
While mastering SEO can take years, you can very easily understand and make use of the basics. With each small, basic improvement to your website’s SEO that you implement, the overall benefit of your combined changes will begin to snowball into having a much larger overall positive effect.
The most important factor in benefitting from this SEO knowledge to going out there and trying to apply it. Your willingness to execute on what you learn here, test concepts, and measure results is the difference between success and failure. If you, as the business owner and operator, don’t have time to carry out some of the changes you’ll want to make, be sure to find a partner that can help you do that. (We happen to know a person.)
What is SEO?
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process of increasing your website’s organic (un-paid) visibility in search results with the goal of increase the amount of traffic that comes to your website.
Most Google search results will feature ads near the top of the page, with the organic results below them. While businesses can pay to be in those ad spots, they can not pay to be listed highly in the organic search engine result positions (or SERPS for short).
The organic pages listed below the ads are placed and ranked based on Google’s opinion of the page’s quality, as well as the quality and reputation of the website the page is on.
The benefits of SEO for a business.
As a business owner, the benefit from improving your website’s SEO would be to be listed highly in the organic results so that more people who search for products and services you offer will visit your website versus your competitors.
Once they have come to your website, the goal is to them have them complete a transaction, or submit a request for more information – what is often referred to as “Lead Generation.”
The top organic search result receives on average, 27.6% of the clicks for a given search term, and is 10x more likely to be clicked on than the tenth result. [source]
Therefore your goal is to be as close to the top page listed in the search results so that you receive the most traffic, and generate the most sales or leads.
Whether you are a family-run small business in a small market, or are trying to build a brand that competes with corporate goliaths, by utilizing SEO you can produce lasting benefits which will help you engage with your local customers or level the playing field against even your largest competitors.
The three main activities of SEO.
SEO can be easily broken down into three sub-categories.
Technical SEO – Technical SEO ensures that search engines can crawl your site, find and index your content, and that the site loads quickly for users so that search engines view it as providing a positive user experience. Your web developer and website host can often help you improve your technical SEO for things that you may be unsure how to address.
On-Site SEO – This focuses on the content of your website. Design factors such as page layouts, user accessibility, and page navigation, linking, and structure also play a role in on-site SEO. A digital marketing consultant can assist you with these activities.
Off-Page SEO – This involves the marketing efforts that happen away from your website that could have a positive impact.
As this is a beginners guide for SEO, we will focus primarily on the first two activities leaving off-site SEO for a more in-depth article.
The basic needs of SEO.
Like humans, website SEO has needs that range from fundamental/essential to those that could be considered a luxury, or nice to have but not critical. Whereas you and I need food and water before we can worry about entertainment or social events, website SEO needs to be sure it is able to be crawled and indexed before it should worry about something like schema markup.
Crawl Accessibility – Crawl accessibility it a search engine’s ability to crawl and index your site, and the most basic need for SEO. If a search engine can’t crawl it due to technical issues (the site being hacked, crashing, or otherwise down) or can’t index it (permissions issues like noindex tags, or robots disallow rules) it will not be found in search results. This basic need is why we only provide managed hosting.
Authoritative Content – The second basic need for SEO is that the content on your website is authoritative, trustworthy, and answers a searchers query. if your content does not answer the question a searcher is looking to get more information about, it will not be featured in the SERPS for that keyword phrase.
Keyword Phrase Selection – If your content does not contain the phrases and topics that a searcher might be using to find websites such as yours, it will not be featured in the SERPS for terms your customers are using. If you want your site to be found for “Baseball glove,” your website is going to need to talk about baseball and baseball gloves.
Your Site Provides The User A Positive Experience – if you’ve clicked on a link, and the site took forever to load, or was filled with ads and popups, you probably didn’t have a great experience using that website even if the content was fantastic. We’ve all been there. Google wants their users to go to sites that provide exceptionally good experiences, which is a main focus for us when we build new websites for our clients.
Content That Others Want To Share – The next factor is if your content is unique and inspiring enough that your colleagues and customers would want to share it with each other. When people share your content on other websites (other than social networks), they will create a link back to your site. Those links may positively influence the ability for your site to be found in search results.
Page Titles, URLs, and Descriptions – well crafted page elements such as these may minor impact your ability to be found in search, but they can greatly impact the number of people that click through to your site once they see it, a metric known as CTR, or click-through rate.
Snippets, Structured Data, and Schema Markup – Website and their pages can have additional meta data that search engines can use to better understand what a given page or site is about. Sometimes search engines have special features and links for sites and pages that feature this unique metadata that can help improve your visibility in search results.
You should now have a foundational understanding of the basic principals that make up SEO and what it can do for you and your business. Below you will find a series of chapter that talk about the specifics of each SEO element in more detail.
In this chapter you will learn how search engines work, how they crawl the internet to find sites like yours, and add it to their indexes so that they can rank and show it to users looking for the products or services your business offers.
This chapter will give you the information you need to ensure that you get off on the right foot with your SEO efforts.
Keyword Research for Business SEO
In order to know how to be found online, you have to know what your customers are looking for. This chapter explains how users search, and how you can use that information to put your business in front of them when they are ready to make a purchase.
In this chapter your will learn how the content you produce for your website impacts it’s ability to appear in search results.
On-Page SEO Quick Wins
In this chapter we will cover important topics like user experience, content layout, and matching your customers expectations for the greatest SEO benefit.
Technical SEO Essentials
In order for search engines to rank your site, you have to let them know what your site is all about and why it exists.
Off-Page SEO and Link Building
Off-site SEO is all about getting other people on the internet to look at your site and expand the attention it receives, as well as awareness of your brand.
Tracking Results, Analytics, and Reportable Assets
The last chapter is all about knowing how much traffic your site receives so that you know if you have to make adjustments to your SEO efforts, or stay the course because things are going great.
The first thing you should do is begin to read the above chapters that explain the finer details of SEO in more granular detail. Be sure to consume the information at a pace you are comfortable with, there is no need to rush through it. What’s important is that you fully understand it, and can apply it to your website.
Search engine optimization is an exciting and fascinating topic. You may soon find that you are excited to try new things, reading the newest articles on changes that search engines are making, and how you can take advantage of those changes.
If after going through these articles, you know that you need to work on your website’s SEO but don’t want to do it yourself, we can help.