The New Website Owner’s Guide to SEO

Did you recently publish your first website? Congratulations!
You’ve launched your beautiful website for the world to see. But where is everyone? No one’s flocking to your website in droves. Why is your website traffic so low?
The problem is no one can find your website online.
To accomplish your website goals, you must work to drive the right audience to your website. One of the best ways to achieve this is through search engine optimization (SEO).

What is SEO?

Moz defines search engine optimization as “a marketing discipline focused on growing visibility in organic (non-paid) search engine results. SEO encompasses both the technical and creative elements required to improve rankings, drive traffic, and increase awareness in search engines.”
Search Engine Land’s definition of SEO is “the process of getting traffic from the ‘free,’ ‘organic,’ ‘editorial’ or ‘natural’ search results on search engines.”
We use search engines to find answers and information online. SEO helps your website rank higher for relevant queries and ultimately brings interested users to your new website.
Keep in mind, these tactics do not include using paid advertisements on search engines. This is known as pay-per-click advertising and is an entirely different segment of search engine marketing.

Why Does SEO Matter?

Did you know approximately 3.5 billion (and counting) Google searches are conducted a day? A 2006 Forrester study also found that 93% of online experiences begin with a search. Another study discovered that content in the first position on Google receives 33% of the total search traffic for that particular query.
Search engine optimization matters as it is an effective and affordable way to generate traffic to your website. If your website does not appear in the search results, you’re missing out on a great deal of highly qualified traffic for your content. In addition, if your audience cannot find your website on the search rankings, they’ll click-through to a competitor’s website!
To have your new website appear in the search results, you must begin with a few key steps.

1. Keyword Research

Before you can implement any search engine optimization tactics, you need to know what your audience is searching for. These queries are known as keywords. Researching and leveraging the most common and highest quality keywords used by your audience is vital for rising in the search results.
Moz mentions in their Beginner’s Guide to SEO that keyword research not only provides insight into your audience’s behavior online but also their needs as a whole. You can discover a consumer’s questions, habits, and more, all from their search engine behavior.
To determine which keywords are ideal for your efforts, you’ll need to do a bit of research. Keyword research tools provide a wealth of information, including:

  • Top search phrases
  • Search volume
  • Similar keywords and phrases
  • Cost per click (for PPC advertising)
  • Competition level

And, that’s only scratching the surface. To find the right keywords for your SEO strategy, take advantage of these keyword tools:

Ideally, you should perform your keyword research prior to crafting your website copy and content. Having a deeper understanding of the keywords and phrases your audience searches for can assist in creating engaging and optimized website content. However, content can be altered and optimized at anytime, so don’t worry!
After finalizing your keywords to target, implement them throughout your website and content in places such as:

  • Headers
  • Title Tags
  • Meta Descriptions
  • Website Content
  • Image Alt Text
  • Paragraph Copy
  • Buttons
  • URL Structure

2. Internal Links

In a previous article, we discussed the importance of a website’s internal linking structure. Internal links direct website visitors to other pieces of relevant content or pages on your site. If you want to rank higher on search engines (and you do), a solid internal linking strategy is imperative.
When search engines review or crawl a website, they use bots to analyze the content and context within the website as defined by the internal links. The bots examine the links to identify the relationships between content on a website. These connections provide the bots with more information about the context of the website content, which is then used (in combination with several other factors) to rank it accordingly.
In addition, internal links disperse link value or authority throughout your website. In the “eyes” of a search engine bot, your homepage has the most authority or value. When your homepage links to other pages and content within your site, this value spreads to those pages as well. As a bot crawls your website, this internal linking structure helps it determine the values of each page and piece of content.
With this in mind, it is easy to see why websites with few internal links do not rank well since they are seen as less valuable by search engines bots due to the lack of relationships between content.
To improve your website’s internal linking structure, there are several strategies you can pursue, including:

  • Linking to and from cornerstone content.
  • Using links to content where logical or relevant.
  • Including natural anchor text within the links.
  • Creating resource or FAQ pages with applicable links.

3. External Links

External links are links on other websites which lead to your site content. While internal links establish connections between content on your website, external links show search engine bots that your website has relationships with top websites across the Internet.
Although your first thought might be to gain as many external links as possible and shoot to the top of the search results, this is not the case.
While bots do take the quantity of external links into consideration, the quality of your links matters more. This means your external linking strategy should be focused on gaining links from authoritative websites.
For instance, if your website is dedicated to educating users about coffee, receiving a link from a well-known source such as Counter Culture Coffee is far more valuable than a link from a new food and beverage blog.
However, you can’t sit back and wait for external links to magically appear. You must obtain them! A few key external linking tactics include:

  • Building out online directories for your brand.
  • Sending an email to bloggers, website owners, and brands stating why their readers would find your content valuable.
  • Reposting other blog content with permission from the author.
  • Linking to other experts/authority figures in your content.
  • Distributing your content on top social media networks, forums, and communities.

Start with these simple techniques and build up a solid portfolio of external links from quality sources.

4. Leveraging SEO Plugins and Tools

Several WordPress plugins and tools are available to assist in your SEO efforts. These assets can help with everything from creating your sitemaps to identifying content optimization opportunities.
Consider utilizing any of these popular SEO plugins and tools to amplify your rankings and website visibility:

Armed with your keywords, internal and external links, and SEO tools and plugins, you’re ready to implement a strong search engine optimization strategy for your new website.
What do you think new website owners should know about SEO? Let us know in the comments below.

Machielle Thomas
Machielle Thomas | Content Manager
Machielle Thomas writes and curates web and email content for marketing professionals, small business owners, bloggers, and more.

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