SEO for Dummies: Learn SEO in 10 Simple Steps

Brian Hughes
Brian Hughes Digital Marketing Director & Founder, Integrity Marketing and Consulting

Posted on May 22nd 2014

SEO for Dummies: Learn SEO in 10 Simple Steps

If you are anything like most people, SEO can seem like the unwanted elephant in the room. You know your business needs to deal with it, but you don’t want to be the one responsible for this task. When most people think SEO, they assume difficult, complex, and time consuming, but it doesn’t have to be any of those things. In fact, you can learn SEO in 10 simple steps. All you need to do is lean in, listen, and apply the information you are given. While no two businesses operate the same, SEO is flexible enough to accommodate any need, desire, or shortcoming. Remove the elephant in the room and take your business to the next level!

Teaching SEO

Step 1: Setup

During the initial setup stage, you should prepare yourself for success. Just as a house needs a solid foundation before the framing goes up, so does your SEO strategy. The foundation in this case consists of tools like Google Analytics, Google AdWords, and Google Webmaster Tools.

  • Google Analytics will play a major role in tracking and analyzing how visitors interact with your site. Because it is free of charge and relatively intuitive, it is a necessity for every SEO campaign. In addition to creating an account and adding it to your website, you will want to read up on the features it offers.
  • Google AdWords is particularly useful as it pertains to SEO for its keyword research capabilities. This incredibly valuable tool allows you to find out what users are searching for so you can cater to their needs, wants, and desires.
  • Google Webmaster Tools allows you to gain the most out of your SEO efforts by letting you view your site through the eyes of Google. This toolset gives you keen insight into how pages are performing, which links are pointing to it, keywords that are working, and aspects that need to be fixed. You will find it useful to read through Google Webmaster Guidelines.

Step 2: Site Audit

If you have an existing site, you will want to perform a site audit when starting your SEO. With each passing month, Google is becoming more stringent with its penalties, and rules are becoming increasingly cut and dried. The best way to ensure your site is in compliance is to perform a detailed site audit.

One helpful site audit tool is the Moz Site Audit Checklist. As a reliable source, this detailed checklist is great for examining everything from content and accessibility to site architecture and internal linking. Another good option is WooRank. This helpful website audit tool automatically checks and analyzes many items on the Moz checklist. While a site audit may take significant time and energy, it is completely necessary to SEO. Penalties for preexisting violations can be harsh and eventually undo much of the hard work you put into your site.

Step 3: WWW or Without

Surprisingly enough, a very important part of SEO depends on those three “w’s” you see in front of your site’s web address. If you aren’t careful, you could make a costly mistake regarding these letters. People often think this determines whether someone can arrive at your website by typing www.domain.com or domain.com, which is not quite the case. At its core, this is about how the search engines view your website and how links pointing to your site are treated. You can choose to go with the ‘www’ or without it, but it is important to choose just one. If you choose both, the search engines will view your website as two separate sites, which can badly damage your rankings and link quality.

Step 4: Keyword Research

Keyword Research

Some experts go as far as to say keyword research is the most important part of SEO. It’s hard to argue with that statement, as there are plenty of statistics to back it up. If you are serious about SEO, you need to invest heavily in keyword research. For your site to stand out against the more than 100 billion Google search queries per month, you must appropriately optimize. That starts with keyword research. Everything else falls into place after you gain an understanding of what your audience is searching for. Here is a sampling of useful tools you can use to get started:

Step 5: Navigation

Navigation, as it relates to SEO, is important on two ends. First, it is imperative for visitors to be able to navigate smoothly and quickly through your site’s pages. Second, search engines need to find clear connections between individual links and pages.

To accomplish both of these goals simultaneously, you need to build a universal navigation. Do this by identifying why visitors come to your site, what your top exit pages are, and what search terms are used on site. Next, you should divide your products and key pages into categories with useful names. Finally, put those categories in the universal navigation and keep things simple. If you use drop down menus, they need to be in HTML in order for the search engines to read them. If your product pages have more than 20 items on a page, consider adding a filter for visitors to narrow their search.

Step 6: On-Page Content

On-Page Content

While there is significant behind the scenes work that goes into SEO, you still need quality content for visitors to read and view. Google’s newest algorithm is putting a major emphasis on useful, high-quality writing instead of heavy keyword usage. Avoid keyword stuffing and instead use calculated, well-placed keywords. It is best to target one keyword phrase per page. As for the structure, each page should have a distinct arrangement and headings.

Step 7: Meta Tags

In order to understand the value of meta tags, you must think about things through the eyes of search engine users. When you search for something, how do you determine which result to click? You most likely analyze the first few results and read a few words from the title and accompanying description. As a site, you only have a limited string of characters to persuade a user to click on your result over millions of others available. That descriptive sentence is known as a meta tag.

Your site will see a noticeable improvement if you are able to properly attack meta tags. Each meta description should be around 160 characters and should include natural keyword phrases. It is also crucial that you include some sort of call to action. This can be difficult to accomplish in only a few words and requires careful planning and thinking. If you’ve done your keyword research and organized site content in an effective manner, it should all fall into place.

Step 8: Coding

Coding Robot Text Meta

Coding can be a difficult part of SEO for those unfamiliar with the topic. While you will probably need to find someone well-educated in coding to perform detailed actions, there is one area you should understand: robots.txt.

In simple terms, robots.txt is a text file that you put on your site to tell search engines which pages they are allowed to visit. While this code is not mandatory, it is very helpful in cases where you have pages you wish for search robots to avoid. Think of it like a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door. Thieves can still get in if they like, but most folks will leave you alone. It is important to make sure your robots.txt file is in the main directory of your site and is structured appropriately.

Step 9: Sitemap

You can have a beautiful, properly structured site, but unless people can view it, your hard work doesn’t mean anything. To get the maximum amount of traffic and visibility, your site must be indexed by search engines and directories, like DMOZ. Otherwise, the big guys, like Google, Yahoo! and Bing, are unlikely to find the most relevant page on your site to display (if your site is found at all).

Many techniques and tools promise to get your site indexed by search engines. However, the least time consuming and most reliable way to lead search engines and visitors through your site’s content is by creating a sitemap. With an HTML sitemap, visitors can quickly navigate the contents of your site and head to the most relevant area. Similarly, an XML sitemap is read by search engines to ensure the most relevant page of your site is displayed.

Step 10: Off-Page

Backlinks

In addition to the work you put into your site, you’ll need to spend some effort working off of your page. Focus on link building through content marketing, blog writing, guest blogging, infographics, site directories, and other tools that allow you to leave online footprints leading back to your site. Off-page efforts also include social media marketing. When properly used, sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram can be helpful tools in acquiring site traffic. Whatever you do, avoid black hat SEO techniques when it comes to off-page efforts.

Bonus! Build Trust

In addition to these 10 simple rules, you should understand the importance of building trust online by using Google+ Author Verification and WOT. These tools enable your site to build a healthy reputation and trust relationship with search engines and visitors. Registering your domain name for a minimum of 5 years also instills trust and indicates that you plan to be around for the long term.

SEO: You Can Do It!

You Can Do It

Whether you have tried SEO in the past and failed or have never given it a shot, don’t be intimidated by the noise. There are thousands of help articles discussing the “Do’s” and “Don’ts” of SEO, but you don’t need to learn everything at once. Follow these 10 simple steps and you will be well on your way to optimizing your site in a healthy way.

If you have any questions please post them in the comment area below and I will answer them as promptly as I can for you. Thank you—class dissmissed!

Woman Raising Her Hand in Class

Brian Hughes

Brian Hughes

Digital Marketing Director & Founder, Integrity Marketing and Consulting

Inspirational British leader Winston Churchill once said "Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference." I took that optimistic approach and founded Integrity Marketing & Consulting to help get brands recognized and their sites ranked highly.

I often say, "trying to accomplish the desired results from SEO without great content and branding is like trying to mix cement without water. You will not get solid long term results." But I also say this must result in more prospects and an increased bottom line to make clients happy. Accountability is key here. "A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all." - Michael LeBoeuf

Bragging rights: #1 Search engine rankings in Google for "SEO Fort Lauderdale" and "Internet Marketing Fort Lauderdale". Search for yourself to confirm.

I consider myself an entrepreneurial-minded business owner, where I take my years of experience in SEO and branding and use that to increase online awareness of companies by getting their websites to the top of major search engines for relevant keywords. I have accomplished this for myself and my clients.

All work and no play makes Brian a dull boy. Brian enjoys life with his beautiful wife and three kids. His love of SEO and Social Media play second fiddle to his family and faith. In his spare time, you'll find Brian enjoying the bread sticks from Olive Garden, rocking out to some good hip-hop or dubstep, learning from the entrepreneurs on Shark Tank, taking in a good movie with the family, and quoting random world thought leaders. "Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will." - Zig Ziglar

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Comments

SarahHarris818
Posted on May 22nd 2014 at 1:08PM

Great overview Brian! The resources you included are extremely helpful :)

Brian Hughes
Posted on May 22nd 2014 at 11:42PM

Thank you Sarah for the kind comment and for reading it! :) I'm really glad you found it udeful.

James Meyer
Posted on May 23rd 2014 at 2:01AM

Brian thanks.  Good article.  Where do you rank inbound links and page age?

Brian Hughes
Posted on May 23rd 2014 at 3:29AM

You're welcome James! Thanks for the kind words. I generally use Open Site Explorer to identify link rank, inbound and outbound. For page age, here is a cool tool http://www.webconfs.com/domain-age.php. Domain age is good to track as well. Thanks for the question, I hope that helps.

egodasa
Posted on May 23rd 2014 at 9:20AM

great article.i love the explanation of SEO on it.its very easy to understand for newbie like me.hope all newbie can read this one.

Brian Hughes
Posted on May 23rd 2014 at 11:22PM

Thanks a lot Ego! I appreciate the kind words and thank you for reading and leaving a comment. I'm glad you got something out of it. I wanted to create something for SEO newbies, folks in other connected areas of our industry and business owners. Thanks again, chow!