10 Fundamentals to Understanding SEO

If you remember when the training wheels were on your bike, the thought of riding without them was daunting and scary. Once your parents took off the wheels and you learned the required skills of balancing, steering, pedaling and braking, riding a bike seemed so simple and easy to understand.

The same is true for SEO. If you don’t understand the basic foundation, it will seem like a foreign language. My job is to take off the training wheels for you so you can steer your way in the right direction with your SEO strategy.

Related: 15 Useful Tech Tools for Your Business

1. On-site SEO

If you were to build a house and the foundation was in terrible condition, you’d have a lot of issues, regardless of how nice you decorated the interior. The same is true for SEO. You need to have a great foundation on your website, which consists of the following:

  • Unique text content
  • Internal link architecture
  • Bot accessibility
  • Sitemaps
  • URL structure
  • Server response codes

Don’t be intimidated by these tech-sounding terms. If you contact a website developer, within two to three hours, he or she should be able to do an audit of your site to make sure the foundation is solid.

Tip: I highly recommend taking this route. Oftentimes, our agency identifies an issue with the foundation of a client’s site, which holds the company back from its true potential in ranking well on Google. Having an audit done will ensure your foundation is rock solid from the beginning.

2. Unique website content

Duplicative or unnecessary website content can also hold you back from your true ranking potential. I can’t tell you how many businesses we’ve worked with or consulted for that have duplicate content on their site or a messed up URL structure.

Below are several examples.

  • City level pages: A business will try and rank for all suburbs around a city or all cities in the state by having a similar page for each one. By doing this, Google can detect that this is manipulative and oftentimes duplicative content, which can impact your ranking in a negative way.
  • Unnecessary pages: We’ll often see service pages broken down into sub-service pages, which isn’t always a good thing. For example, how many people are really looking for a display remarketing company in Columbus, Ohio? We have a page for online advertising, where we mention our focus on display retargeting, but we don’t need an entire page for this.

Tip: Go into Google Analytics and analyze which pages on your site get the most traffic vs. the least. If there is a page that hardly gets any website traffic, you might consider consolidating this page into a parent page, which will help the rank for the parent page.

3. Title tags

I just did an SEO consult with a business owner who was debating between the services he wanted to rank for on the homepage. I asked the simple question, “What is the revenue breakdown between service A vs. service B?” Once I figured out that service A drove more revenue and was also expected to be the service that would continue to drive more revenue, I told him the main focus should be on service A, since that pays the bills.

The title tag on your homepage is one of the most important components on your website. Choose wisely based off of actual business metrics when deciding what to include in the title tag.

Tip: If you are a local business, make sure to include your city name within the title tag on the site as this will help you rank in your local market. Too often, I see companies trying to rank nationally when 90 percent of their business is local.

Related: 25 Creative Ways to Promote Your App For Free

4. Quality backlinks

Backlinks are the foundation to Google’s algorithm. Once you have a good site structure in place, you need to focus on acquiring backlinks. A backlink is simply a hyperlink that points back to your site. You need to focus on quality over quantity.

There is a metric called domain authority that will provide you with a score on a scale of 100. You can find out your domain authority by using Moz’s tool; you can also compare your site to your competitors’ sites. How your domain authority stacks up to your competitors is one of the best indicators in the SEO world to determine where your site will rank on Google.

Tip: To acquire more quality backlinks, sign-up for HARO (Help a Reporter Out). You’ll get daily pitches from media outlets in your inbox and can respond on behalf of your company.

5. Digital PR

HARO is just one way to acquire authoritative links. If you want to really succeed, you need others sites to mention your site on a consistent basis, which will help you generate more backlinks. This can be accomplished by taking the following steps:

  • Reach out to industry-specific reporters to let them know you’d be available for expert quotes pertaining to your industry.
  • Reach out to industry-related websites and offer to share your expertise by contributing a guest blog post.
  • Reach out to partners, vendors, clients or customers to ask them to list you on the “partners” page of their sites.
  • Reach out to clients or customers offering to provide a testimonial on their site, which will also include a link back to your site.
  • Reach out to city-related magazines and publications to provide insight on your local market.

Tip: If you can acquire three to four quality backlinks per month on an ongoing basis, you should start to see an uptick in your SEO rankings, especially if you were never proactive beforehand.

6. Disavowing spammy backlinks

I mentioned that link building is crucial to SEO success. Well, there were plenty of people who tried to manipulate the system by offshoring their link building efforts or getting listed on spammy directory sites. This could have led to a Google Penalty.

I recommend that you log in to your Google Search Console, go to “Search Traffic” and then click on “Links to Your Site.” From here, go to “Your Most Linked Content.” Once you reach this point, you will want to “Download Latest Links Report.”

This will download an Excel file that will have all the backlinks that Google detects pointing back to your site. If you see very spammy links within the report, it might be worthwhile to contact an SEO company to have them do a backlink audit and potentially submit a disavow file.

Tip: If you have spammy links, uploading a disavow file will tell Google that you don’t want any association with certain links pointing to your site. If low quality links have been pointing to your site and a disavow has not been submitted, this could be holding you back on Google Search.

7. Local SEO

Have you ever wondered how businesses rank towards the top of Google with their address and the star ratings next to their business? This comes from your Google My Business page.

If you don’t pay attention to your Google My Business page, you should start immediately by taking the following proactive measures:

  • Make sure all of your business information is consistent (name, address, phone).
  • Make sure your photos are up to date.
  • Have a strategy in place to be proactive with your reviews.
  • Turn on the feature to let customers message you.
  • List your primary category to align with the services or products you offer.

Tip: There is an insights sections where you can view impressions and clicks that come from your Google My Business page. If you are a local business, monitor this to constantly improve your metrics.

Related: The 25 Best U.S. Cities for Tech Startups

8. Local business listings

Google wants to know your business is legitimate and local. This is where local business listings come into play.

According to Moz, a local business listing is an online profile that contains your business name, address, phone number and other details. There are thousands of websites and directories on which local business owners are allowed to create free business listings. Some you may already have heard about include Google+, Yelp, Bing Places, internet Yellow Pages and Yahoo Local.

For a small fee, you can submit your business to a local directory like Yext or Moz Local for under $100. This will make sure all of your business information is consistent across the board but most importantly, it will legitimize your local presence.

Tip: Check your business listing for free using Moz Local. If you receive a score under 70 percent, you should consider a local directory submission to make everything consistent and improve your overall score.

9. Monitoring your success

For $79 per month (if you pay yearly), you can track five campaigns within Moz. If this is too much money for you, split it with some other friends who own a business or are into marketing, since you can add five campaigns. You will be able to add your domain into Moz, track the keywords that are important for your business and measure the success of your SEO progress. There are so many key business decisions that can be made when you can track your keywords, so I highly encourage any marketer to sign up for this.

Tip: If you are unsure of what keywords to track, SEM Rush has a great free tool right on its homepage that allows you to type in one keyword and create other variations.

10. Continuous marketing

Google wants to see that you have a legitimate site with legitimate traffic. This means your content needs to be stellar. Your blog content on your own site should have compelling topics. You should be actively promoting your blogs on Facebook to drive traffic to your blog. Your homepage and interior pages should provide insightful information that will provide value for the reader. Your site NEEDS to be mobile friendly.

Your website is your primary marketing hub. Make sure the content is great because you’ll convert more customers and Google will like this as well!

Tip: Find a journalism or English major in college to go through your website and provide a critique. Getting a fresh perspective from someone with a strong writing skill set can provide you with a lot of insight.