SEO 101: Your Introduction to Search Engine Optimization

As the owner of a boutique marketing firm that provides SEO for plastic surgery firms, I know how people usually think about SEO. Because of the various bad habits of a few black hat actors, many people tend to think of Search Engine Optimization in a dubious light. I’ve come across more than one prospective client who looks at SEO as a kind of risky behavior, a kind of gaming the system.

But that’s not what modern SEO is. It’s true that a few bad actors back in the day sullied the name of SEOs everywhere. But true SEO—the kind that will give you long lasting results and be good for the web at the same time—has a symbiotic relationship with search engines such as Google.

After all, the goal of any search engine (and, therefore, any SEO company) is to ensure that users reach the destination they’re looking for. So let’s take a look at some of the SEO fundamentals—the SEO 101—to see what’s always worked, what’s still working, and what will work in the future.

It’s All About Content

The first component of any SEO campaign has to be the content. Since the beginning of modern SEO, content has consistently been the most important factor in terms of rankings. That’s because, at the end of the day, content is what people are after. Content is what Google or Bing or Finder-Spyder (okay, that last one is fake) is trying to connect the user to.

This means that when we “optimize” content, we’re really asking a series of questions about that content:

  • Is the content useful to the user?
  • Is the content valuable to the user?
  • Is the content going to answer the user’s question?
  • Is the content easy to find?
  • Is the content organized in a way that makes its purpose clear?
  • Is the content going to keep the user on your page?

You can kind of get the idea. Here’s how it works these days: in order for Google to like your content, the user has to like your content. That means that the best SEO strategy is to put users first.

What Does Meta Even Mean?

One way to really tell Google—in simple terms—what your content is about is to utilize meta titles and meta descriptions. “Meta” anything generally refers to an abstraction of a larger concept. I tend to think of it as meaning “outside.” In other words, a meta title is the title outside of your page title.

It sounds a little confusing, I know, but here’s what it really means: The meta title is the title Google sees. The meta description is the description Google sees. This, then, is the data that is displayed by Google.

You can use the meta title and meta description to more accurately and more efficiently tell Google what your page is about. When your meta title and meta description is on point, when it is symbiotic with your topic, you’ll get more people to your page.
Example Meta Titles and Description for this page:

  • Strategies for Beginner SEO | SEO 101 Tips for Beginners
  • If you’re looking for some designed strategies for beginner SEO, these tips will be able to help you get started on the right foot!

example of meta title and meta description, SEO 101

It might not be my best work, but you get the idea. “Strategies for beginner SEO” is in both the meta title and meta description (as well as the content) because it’s the keyword.

What’s the Keyword?

The keyword is, basically, the search term you’re trying to succeed for. In our case, the keyword we’re aiming for might be “SEO 101” or “SEO for beginners.” But notice how that’s also, basically, what we’re talking about. We’re not being deceitful about it in any way and we’re providing useful information.

There are a few ways that you can go about emphasizing your keyword to Google:

  • Link Building: This is one of the fundamental SEO strategies out there. We’ll get into more detail on link building next time, but essentially, it’s a way of telling Google you’re kind of a big deal. Links pointing to your page help you, and links that have you keyword in them are even better.
  • Use Structured Data: Again, this is something of a back-end, more complicated strategy. Structured data is another way to tell Google what your page is about. You’ll likely want your developer to help you out with this trick, but Google does provide a handy guide for it.
  • Alt-Text: Your content will likely include images of some kind, so why not put those images to use? Images will often have the option to include some kind of alt-text—basically, that’s what Google sees instead of an image. Your alt-text should include your keyword in order to tell Google what your image is about and give your keyword a nice boost at the same time.

Always Changing

The field of SEO is always changing. It’s dynamic and exciting and sometimes a little frustrating. But if you’re an individual or a blogger, it’s hard to keep track of all these changes and updates. Your best bet, then, is to focus on one simple thing: content.

Even if you do all of the little things right, great content is going to be the catalyst to continued prosperity and success. You want results for tomorrow, sure, but also for next year, and ensuring your content will rank high year after year.

The best way to do that isn’t to cheat the system or try to sneak one past Google. The best way to do that is to provide content that users love, that users share, and that users find useful. That’s why I’ve always taken a user-based approach to SEO.

That’s your final SEO 101 tip: start with the user, generate great content for the user, and go from there.

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