You’ve created your website, filled it with excellent content, and have your sales funnel all set up. But how do you actually start driving traffic to your pages?
While paid advertising provides quick results, the best long-term strategy is usually search engine optimization (SEO). This is the process of optimizing your content and website in a way that makes it easier for search engines to find. When done right, it results in your content showing up in more online searches, which means more traffic, leads, and sales for your business.
So, why is SEO important?
- 68% of all web traffic comes from search engines.
- People who find your content, products, and services through organic search are actively looking for what you have to offer. This makes them more qualified leads.
- 60% of marketers say SEO is their best source of quality leads.
Optimizing your website for search might seem complicated, especially if you’re new to the subject. But there are actually a number of simple tactics you can use to improve your organic traffic.
Keep reading to learn our 18 best SEO tips for beginners.
Write content that provides value
The first mistake a lot of people make when it comes to SEO is getting too bogged down with the technical side of things.
They spend all their time worrying about targeting the right keyword, optimizing their metadata, and how many backlinks they have. Don’t get us wrong, these are all very important. But none of this matters if your content isn’t valuable to your readers.
When you’re creating new content, ask yourself the following questions:
- Have you included all the necessary information?
- Does it answer the question your readers are asking?
- Does it solve your readers’ problems?
- Is this the best piece of content written on the topic?
If the answer to all the above questions is ‘yes’ then you’re already ahead of 99% of the content currently on the internet.
Google has ways of measuring whether people are actually reading and engaging with your pages, and this factors into their search algorithm. So, your number one goal should be to produce high-quality content that you know your readers will enjoy.
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Write for humans, not search engines
This is a bit of a continuation of our last point, but it’s worth mentioning separately. It’s often tempting to write your content with search engines in mind. By this, we mean focusing on using the right keywords in the right places with the right frequency, even if it doesn’t make the most grammatical sense.
Don’t do this.
When Google ranks pages, it’s not about who included the most keywords. It’s about who’s done the best job of answering the search query. Search engines want to recommend pages that are high-quality, not unnecessarily stuffed with keywords.
When you’re creating your content, write in a way that feels natural (like you were having a conversation with the reader). You’ll find that if you cover the topic in full your keywords will end up being included naturally within your text. Plus, you’ll avoid sounding like a robot.
Consider search intent
Internet users generally have two primary intents when they perform an internet search:
- They want to learn more about a subject, OR…
- They want to buy a product or service.
Make sure you’re targeting the right keywords, depending on the intent of your readers. Google knows whether a search term is informational or transactional and will recommend the appropriate page type.
For example, a blog post is generally about providing information. So, you should target informational keywords like “how to rank your content on Google.” A landing page, on the other hand, is meant to lead to sales. So target more transactional keywords with these pages like “SEO agency.”
Do keyword research
Google has expanded its algorithm to include many different ranking factors. However, keywords are still an important part of SEO. Keywords tell search engines what your content is about, which helps them determine whether you should rank for certain queries.
Before you write any piece of content, it’s a good idea to do keyword research. If you already have a topic in mind this will show you potential keywords that can be included. And if you don’t know what you want to write about it will help you discover topics that people are searching for.
Each page of your website or blog should target a good selection of keywords that are relevant to your topic. This includes one primary keyword and a few related secondary terms.
There are many different tools you can use to perform keyword research. Ahrefs is a paid tool with plenty of insights, including competition levels, clicks, parent topic, and more for each keyword. If you’re on a tight budget, Google Keyword Planner is a good free option. Keyword Planner will only show you the monthly traffic statistics, but it’s enough to get you started.
With these tools, simply enter a topic you’re interested in to generate hundreds of related search terms. Use the metrics for each keyword to find the best ones to include in your content.
Here’s what to look for in a keyword:
- It’s relevant to your topic: If your article is about smartphones make sure your keywords are also related to smartphones.
- It’s specific: Avoid general keywords, like laptops. Instead, target longer more specific terms like “best laptops for students.” These are known as ‘long-tail keywords’ and are usually easier to rank for.
- It gets traffic: Look for keywords that get at least 100 searches per month or more.
- It doesn’t have a lot of competition: Choose keywords with weak search results. If the pages currently ranking for a term are low-quality it will be easier to overtake them and get on the first page of Google. Most paid tools have a “keyword difficulty” metric to tell you how easy a term is to rank for.
Once you have your keywords it’s time to work them into your website.
Put your keywords in the right places
Place your keywords in the following locations to improve your chances of ranking in Google searches:
- In your page titles: Always include your primary keyword in the header of your page.
- In the body copy: Try to include your keywords in the opening paragraph, your subheaders, and throughout the text of the page. Aim for a primary keyword density of around 1% (for every 100 words try to use your primary keyword once, give or take).
- In your metadata: Your metadata is the title and description that appears on search results pages. Be sure to include your keywords in your meta title and description. Most website builders provide an easy way for you to edit this text for each page of your site.
- In your image title and alternative (alt) text: This is a written description of your image. While readers won’t see it search engines will, so it’s a great place to put keywords you want to rank for.
- In your URL: Make sure the URL for the page includes your primary keyword. For example, if you were targeting the keyword “best muffin recipe” your URL could be yoursite.com/best-muffin-recipe.
Including your keywords in all these locations will make it clear to Google what your content is about and what terms you should rank for.
Optimize your content for featured snippets
Featured snippets are the snippets of content that appear at the top of Google search results. They’re generally a short paragraph Google has grabbed from one of the top-ranking pages that gives a quick and succinct answer to the searcher’s query.
This snippet not only appears at the top of the results, but also includes a link to the page it’s from. So, if you can get your content featured here it will provide you with a lot of traffic.
Here are a few tips to help you win this coveted spot:
- Target question keywords, then sum up the answer to the question in a single paragraph within your content.
- Some featured snippets are lists. By laying your content out in a list format and using subheading tags for each list item you’ll have a better chance of appearing here.
- Some featured snippets are tables, so summing up important information in a table is always a good idea.
Focus on long-form content
A lot of people say we have short attention spans these days, but that’s not always true. In fact, most of the content that ranks highly on Google is long-form content.
According to HubSpot, the ideal length for a blog post is 2,100 – 2,400 words. This isn’t to say that every piece of content you write needs to be over 2000 words. Some topics simply don’t warrant that kind of length, and you don’t want to include unnecessary filler. But what it does mean is that you shouldn’t be afraid to go in-depth with an article.
A good rule to follow is to simply cover your topic in as much detail as necessary. No more, no less. Depending on what you’re writing about that might be 700 words, or it could be 4,000.
Create original content
If there’s one thing Google hates more than poor-quality content it’s duplicated content. Search engines won’t charge you with plagiarism, but they will punish your site if they find you’ve copied your content from someone else.
If you create all your own content from scratch that’s great, you’re on the right track. However, with so much content already published on the internet, it’s not uncommon to accidentally copy someone else without realizing it. That’s why it’s always a good idea to check any new page you write for uniqueness.
There are a number of free tools available that will help you do this, like this one.
For the best results, keep the uniqueness of each piece of content as high as possible and try to shoot for 100%.
Make your site mobile-friendly
Recent data shows that over half of all internet traffic comes from mobile devices. Because of this, Google penalizes sites that aren’t mobile-friendly. You’ll also have trouble getting mobile users to read your content, since they’ll likely leave if the user experience on their device is poor.
So, it’s important to make sure your website works well across all devices. Most website builders feature responsive templates and allow you to preview the mobile version of your site before you publish.
Depending on the layout of your site, you might also want to make changes between your desktop and mobile version so it appears exactly how you want it to. For example, in the Leadpages Drag & Drop Website Builder, you can create mobile-specific versions of each section of a page that only appear on mobile devices. This gives you complete control over how the mobile version of your site looks.
Over the last ten years, video has become the dominant form of content on the internet. For many people, watching a five-minute video is much more appealing than reading a 2,000-word article.
Google knows this, which is why it generally ranks pages with videos higher in search results. In fact, adding a video to a page can increase traffic anywhere from 10%-250%.
Here are a few ways to incorporate videos into your website:
- Include a welcome video on your homepage that explains who you are and what you offer.
- Add videos to your landing page that summarize your product or service.
- Include a complimentary video along with your blog that sums up the information with the help of some added visuals.
- If you’re not able to shoot your own videos, embed relevant YouTube videos within your content to provide additional value for your readers. Just try to avoid videos that include competing offers to your own.
Build links to your content
Backlinks (inbound links to your site from other URLs) used to be the primary way Google decided which websites to rank at the top of their search results. This led to site owners using a number of shady tactics to gain links, so Google has since scaled back the importance of this metric.
However, it’s still a major part of their search algorithm. In fact, experts say link building remains one of the top two criteria Google uses to rank content. So, you’ll want to try and build some links to your content if you can.
When it comes to link-building, it’s important to stick to ‘white hat’ tactics. These are strategies that follow SEO best practices and won’t cause you to be penalized by Google.
Here are a few ways to build links to your content:
- The Skyscraper Technique: Analyze the top-ranking results for your keyword and then create something that’s way better than all of them. Use a tool like Ahrefs to see who is linking to the other articles, then reach out to them and see if they’ll link to your content instead.
- Broken Link Building: Find a page you’d like to get a link from, then use a tool like Check My Links to see if any of the URLs the page links to are broken. Contact the site owner to let them know the link is broken, and suggest they link to one of your pages instead (assuming you have a page that’s similar to the original link).
- Guest Posting: Contact other websites that are in your niche and offer to write a guest post for them if they let you link back to your own site within the article.
Finally, avoid ‘black hat’ link-building strategies. These tactics are designed to trick Google into ranking content and can result in your site being delisted. This includes purchasing links, using private link networks, and posting blog and YouTube comments that link to your content.
Link out to high-authority sites
You don’t just want other sites to link to you. You also want to link to other pages within your content. This might seem counterintuitive, but linking to other relevant content helps tell Google what your content is about.
Plus, linking to high-authority websites builds the credibility of your own site, which in turn helps with search engine optimization.
Before you include a link to another site you’ll want to make sure it’s trustworthy (linking to a URL that Google deems to be ‘spammy’ will actually hurt your SEO). Again, a tool like Ahrefs will let you see the website authority of any domain.
A good rule to follow is to only link to sites with an authority rating higher than your own. That way, you know every link you add will be beneficial to you.
Share your content on social media
Once your content is ready you’ll want to get as many eyes on it as possible—and social media is a great way to do this.
While social signals don’t directly impact SEO, sharing content across multiple channels will increase your traffic. This makes it more likely that people will find and share your content, which increases the likelihood of others discovering and linking to your content. And that very much helps with SEO.
So, any time you have something worth sharing, whether that be a video, a new page of your website, or a blog, do it.
Implement local SEO
If your business has a physical location then local SEO is key. This is the process of optimizing your online presence so you appear in local searches like ‘[insert keyword] near me.’ Essentially, if you do this right you’ll appear in search results any time people are looking for your products and services in your area.
There are a few easy steps you can take to make this happen:
- Create or Claim Your Google My Business Profile: This is essentially your business listing on Google. If a listing has already been created, claim it so you can update it. If one doesn’t exist, create one and include all your business’ information (address, phone number, operating hours, etc.)
- Get listed in local directories: Add your business to directories like Yelp, Yellow Pages, and Trip Advisor, and keep your business information up to date on these platforms.
- Make sure your address is the same everywhere: Google doesn’t just rely on the address you list in your My Business profile. It also looks at other places you’re listed. So, make sure your address is written exactly the same on your website, Google My Business profile, and any other directories you’re listed in.
- Use local keywords: Within your content, use local keywords. These are search terms that include the name of your city, county, or state.
Create a sitemap
A sitemap is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a ‘map’ of your entire website that shows Google what pages your site includes and where to find them.
Google and other search engines crawl your site regularly looking for new pages and content. So, you don’t necessarily NEED a sitemap. But providing Google with one certainly doesn’t hurt.
For Leadpages users, your sitemap will be created for you automatically. You can access it by simply adding ‘/sitemap.xml’ to your domain.
Once you have your site map create a Google Search Console account and submit it to Google there.
Pay attention to your page speed
People are impatient, especially when they’re surfing the internet. Studies show that one in four visitors will leave your site if it takes longer than four seconds to load. This is why page speed is an important ranking factor in Google’s algorithm.
To start, check your load times to see where you’re at. You can do this using Google’s PageSpeed Insights. Aim for a score of 90 or higher.
If your page speed is a little slow here are a few things you can do to speed it up:
- Upgrade your hosting: The easiest way to boost your page speed is to get a better hosting package. Virtual private server hosting and dedicated server hosting plans are more expensive than shared hosting, but will dramatically improve your page speed.
- Reduce your plugins: If you use WordPress review your plugins and remove any you aren’t currently using.
- Keep your images small: Make sure your image files are no larger than they have to be. If you use WordPress you can install the Smush plugin to compress your image files.
- Use the right website builder: Some website builders help you create faster sites than others. For example, pages built with Leadpages load 2.4 seconds faster on average compared to other builders.
Keep your content up to date
Things change quickly in the digital age. What was cutting-edge content just a few years is likely out of date today.
Take the topic of SEO for example. If we were publishing this list ten years ago items like mobile optimization and local SEO wouldn’t even be on it. This is why Google favors newer articles when determining what content should rank for a given keyword.
This doesn’t mean you need to rewrite all your content every year. However, it does mean you should review your content regularly and update pages with new information as needed.
Occasionally you might find an article is no longer relevant and needs a complete rewrite. But in most cases, you’ll just have to make a few changes or add some new information. When you update an article make sure to change the publication date so Google knows it’s been updated. You can also include a note at the top of the page letting readers know the content has been updated.
Doing this regularly ensures your content remains current and prevents newer articles from overtaking you in the search rankings.
Track your progress with analytics
SEO is an ongoing process. Don’t just employ the strategies above and then forget about it. Track your results to see what’s working and what’s not, and then use those insights to improve your approach.
The best way to do this is to install Google Analytics on your website. This will provide you with valuable information, like how many visitors you’re getting, where most of your traffic is coming from, and which of your pages are most popular. You should also create a Google Search Console account to see what keywords you’re currently ranking for.
Keep track of which pages are ranking for keywords and driving traffic, and which ones aren’t. If you find you’re consistently ranking for a certain topic then consider targeting more keywords in that niche. If certain pages aren’t performing the way you expected them to consider improving or revamping them.
Ready to rank your pages on Google?
There you have it, our complete list of SEO tips for beginners. Now it’s time to take what you’ve learned and rank your content at the top of Google searches. Remember, improving your search rankings takes time. Don’t expect it to happen overnight. But if you implement a solid search engine optimization strategy and stick with it, eventually it will pay off.
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