What Is SEO and Why Does It Matter?
SEO stands for “search engine optimization,” and it is, in a nutshell, the key to unlocking massive numbers of visitors to any page on the internet. This is because most traffic on the internet does not come from advertising or referrals: it comes from search engines. When you figure out how to use SEO to your advantage, you are tapping into the largest potential source of visitors, users, and leads.
To understand SEO, you need to understand how people use search engines and how search engines organize their results. You have some idea of the first part already because you have used search engines yourself in the past. When you search for something, you type in the words that seem relevant to whatever it is you want to find. We call these words keywords or keyphrases.
Once you have entered your keywords, the search engine shows you a search engine result page (SERP for short). The SERP lists websites that the search engine’s algorithm tells it match what the user wants to see. This is the tricky part because you can’t say for sure what the search engine’s algorithm is considering. All search engines make this somewhat tough to figure out in order to prevent SEO cheating.
For the most part, though, you can assume that keywords matter. To get your content onto a SERP, you need the right keywords in all of your content, including the title, subtitles, metadata (hidden content on the page), and text.
Let’s go through the steps that you can follow to find keywords and then build SEO-friendly content.
Finding Your SEO Keywords
The first thing that you need to do is figure out which keywords or keyphrases you want to include in your content. There are a few methods that you can use to do this.
1) Guess and check.
This is the most creative method. You are going to think up keywords or keyphrases you think people may associate with the content that you’re writing. Then, check Ahrefs, SEMrush, or Google Trends to see how popular the keywords or keyphrases are.
2) Research your competitors.
This is the most cutthroat method. You are going to type your competitor’s domain into Alexa.com or SEMrush and determine which keywords or keyphrases are working best for them.
3) Research your own brand or website.
This is the method that usually offers the most growth, especially if you are dealing with a website for which the SEO is weak. Type your own domain into Alexa.com or SEMrush and determine which keywords or keyphrases you can use to improve your results most easily.
Striking the Balance between Natural Language and Effective SEO
Once you have settled on the keywords or keyphrases for your content, you need to find ways to include them in the content gracefully and naturally. This is where many content creators slip up. Although you can get away with some unnatural wording, you should always consider the balance between natural-sounding language and comprehensive SEO. Your number-one goal is still to create high-quality content. It just so happens that there is a number-two goal (SEO) that is also very important.
As you do your research, you will come across keywords or keyphrases that seem impossible to build into your content naturally. Remember that keywords and keyphrases come from people’s searches, not anything that they would say in a conversation. Take the keyphrase “best pizza shop new york city” for example. Think about how you would react if someone were to ask you, “Where best pizza shop new york city?” You would know what they were saying, but it wouldn’t sound great. Fortunately, search engines tend to ignore prepositions and articles, meaning that if you include “the best pizza shop in New York City” in your content, it counts as the keyphrase “best pizza shop new york city.”
Checking Your Keyword Frequencies
Building your keywords and key phrases into your content, you may feel tempted to repeat them ad infinitum. While more is sometimes better, there are limits to what search engines will accept. You don’t want to “pack” your content with keywords. Google, as well as other search engines, call this “keyword stuffing,” and they punish the websites that do it.
As a rule, repeat the keywords or keyphrases you want to use one time for every 200 words in your content.
But before You Ever Think about SEO
It bears repeating: your number-one goal is to create high-quality content. As a writer, you want to put together pieces that people enjoy reading. You want to satisfy your audience, not just draw them in through fancy SEO. In SEO today, there is a growing emphasis on three things: expert, authority, and trust.
Start by building those three things, developing content that answers people’s questions, and your SEO efforts will be that much more impactful. Then, all that traffic you’re driving through your content will convert into long-term readers.
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