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Beginner's Guide to Search Engine Optimization

Image of SEO
Casey Shull

If you landed here, you have probably at least heard the term search engine optimization “SEO”. You may have even spent money on trying to get your website to rank better for terms your customers are searching for.

Right now, you’re probably thinking, “Is SEO worth it?”

Well, let’s look at the stats. Did you know that more than 50 percent of all website traffic comes from organic searches on Google and Bing/Yahoo, and 93 percent of online experiences begin with a search engine?

Or that 89% of marketers say SEO is successful?

Spending money on SEO has become a must-have for businesses in most industries, including (but not limited to) healthcare, law firms, franchises, and home services.

Now, you might be wondering, “How do I get started?”

Well, in this post, we’re going to talk about it all. We’re going to explain what SEO is, how it works, and how to get started.

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can be a great boost to your website and content marketing

SEO stands for search engine optimization and it’s the process of improving your website so it comes up on search engines such as Google and Bing when people search online. This is an organic marketing strategy, meaning that you aren’t paying for an ad to show up on the search engine results page (SERPs), but rather using optimization techniques to have your site rank without paying for it (well, without paying search engines. You might pay for an SEO expert or SEO tools to help).

That’s the basic concept. But there are several types of SEO that you’ll want to be aware of, including technical SEO, local SEO, mobile SEO, and on-page SEO. To do SEO properly, you’ll want to work on optimizing your site on all of these fronts -- but don’t worry, we’re going to explain how.

Brace yourself, we are about to get into specifics in as direct a language as we can.

How SEO Works: The Fundamentals of SEO

Before we dive into how to get started with SEO for your marketing, let’s review how SEO works and the fundamental marketing elements you’ll want to understand.

What is a SERP feature?

Picture of SERP where you can rank higher with SEO

SERP features give you more space on search engine results

Besides wanting to rank on the first page of Google or Bing, another SEO goal you might have could be to show up on a SERP feature. SERP features are not traditional organic results, but rather modules that give a user more information and can improve SEO rankings. Below are the most common SERP features you might want to rank for:

  • Rich Snippets -- Rich snippets add a visual layer to an organic result and show things like star reviews for ratings right on the SERP.
  • Featured Snippets -- A featured snippet is either a paragraph or list module that shows up right at the top of the SERP to answer a question without a user even needing to click on the page.
  • Image Pack -- An image pack is when a group of images rank above the organic results, or in the middle of the SERP.
  • People Also Ask -- The People Also Ask section is where search engines gather similar questions and articles that can provide answers for those topics.
  • Knowledge Graph -- A knowledge graphic is a panel or box that appears on the right side of a SERP. You can think of this as the Wikipedia box, or the Celebrity Knowledge Panel because that’s usually what shows up here.

What factors do search engines use to determine search engine ranking?

Google uses over 200 ranking factors when deciding what order articles should appear in for a query. Bing posts its webmaster guidelines to help you understand how Bing finds, indexes, and ranks websites.

The main categories that all search engines use and the top factors that SERPs take into consideration include:

  • Domain Factors:
    • Domain authority
    • Domain history
    • Domain age
  • Page-Level Factors (On-Page SEO):
    • Keywords used in the title tag, meta description, headers, image alt-text, URL
    • Semantically related keywords
    • Quality content
    • Page updates
    • Keyword density
  • Site-Level Factors (Technical SEO):
    • Site architecture
    • Contact Us page
    • Sitemap
    • Legal pages
    • Optimized for mobile or tablet devices (Mobile SEO)
  • Backlink Factors:
    • Referring to links from external sites
    • Backlink age
    • Quality of linking content
  • User Interaction:
    • Click through rate
    • Bounce rate
    • Time on page
  • Special Google Algorithm Rules:
    • Geo-targeting (Local SEO)
    • Search history of the user
    • Search intent
    • Branded searches
  • Brand Signals:
    • Branded searches
    • Social media pages
    • Brand mentions
  • On-Site Webspam Factors:
    • Low-quality content
    • Distracting ads
    • Keyword stuffing
  • Off-Site Webspam Factors:
    • Hacked site
    • Unnatural amount of backlinks
    • Links from unrelated websites

So, what does all this mean? Essentially, you’ll want to:

  1. Write high-quality content optimized for strategically chosen keywords
  2. Obtain backlinks from trusted sites
  3. Link your own content internally
  4. Structure your site correctly and post your sitemap
  5. Have your pages be mobile-responsive
  6. Track your site speed
  7. Protect your domain authority

Now, let’s review how to get started with this checklist.

How to Get Started with SEO

SEO is a commitment and can take time to get website results

1. Keyword research and optimization.

2. Write quality content.

3. Execute on link-building strategies.

4. Review technical SEO elements.

5. Track and measure results.

1. Keyword research and optimization.

To get started with SEO, you’ll need to do keyword research to strategically choose which keywords you want your website to rank for. For smaller or mid-sized companies, you’ll usually target long-tail keywords with low to medium keyword difficulty.

Once you select keywords that you want to rank for, you’ll need to begin creating content around those keywords or optimizing the marketing content you already have. This means including the keyword research in the title of your post, the first few sentences, the meta description, the meta tag, the URL, and the alt-text for any images on the page.

Then, you’ll want to also use synonyms or semantically related keywords. This will give search engines an indication of what your post is about.

Additionally, you’ll want to add internal links (anchored to keywords) to posts so that you can help Google find more of your pages and help them rank higher.

If you offer a local product or service, you’ll also want to include keywords for your location.

Also, look to include anchor text

2. Write quality content.

One of the main factors for ranking higher in search engines is quality marketing content that’s written for humans (not for the algorithm). When in doubt, write quality content over keyword stuffing.

But you might be wondering, how does the algorithm know what content is best?

Well, it will use some of the user interaction factors discussed above, including average time on page, bounce rate, click-through rate, length of marketing content, and more.

At the end of the day, the best content, placed on the most relevant websites, wins out. The best content is human. Ask yourself, "What would I want to see if I searched for this keyword?" It should be informative and conversational and provide real value. Also, the deeper you go with your content, the more opportunity it will have to show up in search engines. 

3. Execute on link-building strategies.

Link building is one of the harder search engine SEO strategies to implement because there are few ways to get external links without using spammy tactics.

Instead, a more sustainable approach to external link building is to create a guest blogging program for your site and have your content writers guest blog on other sites. This type of collaboration will give you natural opportunities to place links externally.

Plus, the more businesses you collaborate with, the more likely they are to recommend your product or service on their blog posts, which will improve your search engine rankings and marketing.

Another way to build external links is to promote your content on social media marketing channels. This means creating detailed, tactical posts that are so useful people want to share them. Social shares and this type of linking will help your content rank higher on search engines.

4. Review technical SEO elements.

On your site, you’ll want to make sure your technical SEO elements are taken care of and maintained. This means regularly tracking your page speed and redirects. If you have a slow website and a lot of broken links, you won’t rank as high on search engines.

Another technical SEO element to review is your site architecture and sitemap. This requires having some backend knowledge of how to get this set up.

Additionally, make sure your website is mobile responsive and will look beautiful no matter what device a user is searching on.

5. Track and measure results.

Once you get started with SEO, you’ll want to start tracking results right away. But remember, organic SEO takes time -- sometimes months to build up.

To track how well you’re doing, you should look at keyword rankings, organic traffic, your click-through rate, how visitors are engaging with your pages, what pages are the most visited, and what channels are bringing you the most traffic.

Additionally, you can use conversions as a way to measure success. If you have blog posts that have a natural conversion path and CTA, then you can see how many people converted due to your organic content.

Now that you understand more about how to get started and what strategies you’ll want to implement, let’s review some of the best tools you can use to help you.

SEO Tools

  • Scorpion: You can use our dashboard to review your SEO strategy and measure success. We also have a team that can help you run your strategies. Our artificial intelligence has the power to find exactly what you should rank for as a business 
  • Google Keyword Planner: This will help you strategize what keywords you want to rank for on your site.
  • Ahrefs: You can use this to research keywords, perform a competitor gap analysis, review how many keywords you’re ranking for, and more.
  • Google Search Console (GSC): GSC is a great way to track what keywords are bringing in impressions and clicks to your pages.
  • Google Analytics: Of course, one of the best ways to track your website analytics is through Google Analytics.
  • Google Data Studio: This tool will help you create visualizations using the data connected to your Google Analytics.
  • SEMrush: Another keyword/SEO research tool, you can use this tool to research keywords, come up with topic ideas, and review your current site.
  • WordPress SEO tools like Yoast.

How Scorpion Ranking can get you to page 1 faster. 

Get more organic search leads with the right team and technology to guide you. At Scorpion, we use artificial intelligence called Ranking AI to do three crucial things to get you to rank better. 

1. Custom strategies - With Ranking AI, your ranking strategy is personalized to you. We use machine learning to identify how we can improve, and then our ranking experts execute.

2. Focus on your industry - From our machine-learning technology to our team of ranking specialists, we are zeroed in on your industry. We know what it takes to succeed there.

3. Driven by data, not gut feelings - Every action we take is backed by Ranking AI, a proprietary marketing AI that has analyzed 400,000+ data points for every keyword you want to rank better.

SEO might seem like a confusing concept, but when you break it down, executing these strategies over time will become easier and easier. It is important to find the right partners and the right technology for search engine ranking. At Scorpion, we empower local businesses with the tools and services to succeed in strategies, such as Reviews, AdvertisingChat and Messaging, Websites, Lead Management, and more.

Contact Scorpion today to find out how a shift in your SEO strategy can bring you more business from the Internet.