SEO Basics: What You Need To Know If You're Just Getting Started
I know you don't come to Holisticism for digital know-how and business strategy — you come here for holistic mystic realism, with the occasional skeptical side-eye.
Approaching business from an esoteric and strategic perspective is kind of my jam. The Akashic Records and Google Ad Words are equally important tools in growing my own business, and I like to share both aspects with you in case it's useful.
Lately, I've been getting hounded for more information about SEO, or search engine optimization. I learned SEO working at various companies in tech, and specifically learned the power of SEO while creating content. At this point, it's a valuable skill that people pay me good money to execute on for them, because SEO (or search engine optimizing) your site can drive thousands of new eyes to your work when it's done well.
But generally, I think SEO is a term that lots of new business owners know is vital for their internet biz ... but just don't really understand how or why it's essential. Like, "Oh, yes, SEO, right, of course ..." *looks around, sees if anyone calls their bluff and knows they have no idea what they're talking about*
So, if that's you, hi!
I'm going to give you a very brief overview of SEO, why it's a concept you should understand, and whether or not you should focus on it right now.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of making your website easier to find on Google. The goal of SEO is to get your web page or blog post or product on the front page of Google search — ideally, in position one.
Why do you want that coveted first spot? Because Google search is a fantastic form of free traffic. Instead of paying to drive people to your site, you can simply SEO your shit and people will automatically find you just by typing in the keywords you want to rank for.
The first page of Google
You can rank in position number one for many different keywords. Keywords are the search terms associated with your content. For example, if I searched "astrology," the first site that comes up might be Astrology.com. But Astrology.com might also rank first for the term "Capricorn horoscopes."
The more keywords you can rank for in your niche, the better. People don't generally search for just one term when they're trying to find information, right? Stay with me: If you're a Capricorn looking for horoscopes, what else might you search for?
Maybe, "Best traits of Capricorn"?
Or, "Which signs are compatible with Capricorns"?
Or, "Why are Aries literally the worst?"
But you get what I'm saying. Your site can rank for as many search terms as you'd like, but it makes sense for those terms to be relevant to each other.
How to Get Your Site to Rank in Position One On Google
Great! Now that you understand what the point of SEO is, how do you get your site to rank?
Think of SEO as an infinite point system — the more points you can get, the better your ranking. Google gives you points for lots of different aspects of your content, and the most important thing to remember is that Google wants to reward high-quality work. But you'll never be perfect or get a 100% rating, so don't stress. There's always room for growth, and in my opinion, doing SOMETHING, even if it's small, is better than nothing.
I'll teach you some tricks you can implement right now to optimize your site. One thing to be aware of, though, is that if you're not creating regular content and publishing it on your site weekly, then it will be difficult to dominate in SEO. Google rewards sites that update their content regularly because it wants viewers to continue to trust Google for search — when Google spits out awesome articles when you search for a term, you keep going back to Google instead of using other means of finding content.
Google makes money off of search, so it behooves Google to give you good stuff that makes you want to come back.
Sites that update their content regularly usually connote with quality content, because the site owner cares enough to give value consistently to readers.
If you're not putting out regular content, or updating your pages regularly, you can still get a high ranking on Google. It will just be a little harder and take a little more time.
How to Work with SEO If You're Just Getting A Website Set-Up
Pro-tip: If you're just getting started with a website, lay the foundation by optimizing the pages that you have. Don't worry too much about hacking SEO to get more views on your site or killing yourself to put out optimized blog posts. Instead, run a tight ship and have a "clean" website so that you get in Google's good graces (Google is totally a Virgo, it loves organization and cleanliness). When and if you're ready to double down on SEO, you'll be in good shape to get started.
Foundational Steps for Healthy SEO
If you have Squarespace, they just launched a new tools that helps you optimize every page on your site. If your website is on WordPress, download the Yoast plug-in.
Both of these tools have prompts for terms like:
Use these helpful built-in tools while you're building your site.
1. Make sure each page has a URL slug that matches the SEO title of the page.
If your slug is /about-astrology, then your SEO page title should also have those keywords. Also, make your page titles very obvious (don't try to be funny or cute here, Google doesn't understand humor) so that they show up on Google when you're searched.
For example, you're going to want to have an About page — so title that something obvious like "About Astrology" or "Learn About Astrology" as opposed to something a copy editor would write, like "Astrology and You: The Celestial Bodies As Metaphor for the Physical." (Obviously, you wouldn't write that, but you get what I'm saying.)
Also, your SEO title can be different than the title on-page. So if you want to title your page on your website that readers see to be "Astrology and You: The Celestial Bodies As Metaphor for the Physica," you can. Just make sure your SEO TITLE is "About Astrology." The main thing is that the URL slug and the SEO Title have the same keywords.
Create a URL and SEO title for every page on your site.
2. Your SEO description is what pops up under Google search, so you want it to be obvious what it is people will find on your website.
Remember, this isn't what people will see once they land on your page, it's what they'll see when they search Google. Google wants you to make this description clear, so it encourages people to click on your site on the Google results page.
Make your SEO meta description something that describes clearly what viewers will get if they click through to your site. Let's stay with our astrology website example. The SEO meta description for the About page might be something like: Astrology is the science of the stars that uses natal charts, planetary placement, and horoscopes to help people understand more about who they are. At Astrology.com, we believe in providing information for all signs to use astrology in everyday life.
In your SEO description include keywords you want to rank for — possible things like "astrology," "horoscopes" because you want it to populate when people search you, but also highly searchable terms like "natal chart" or "astrology reading."
Do an SEO description for every page on your site.
3. Google loves robust content.
Increase your points by adding things like links to other sites and to your own site (inbound and outbound links), photos, video, and organization like H1 and H2s in the pages you're creating.
Google wants your website to deliver high-quality content to searchers, and an excellent way to ensure that your content is good is by using things like citations (link outs to your work or the work of others) and mixed media. It proves you're not just a bot in Russia creating a page. No offense to Russian bots, you guys do great work.
If you can, add photos, videos, and links to other sites and within your own site (like to other blog posts).
Organization and clarity is also important, because it increases readability. Use things like headers, titles, bullets, and numbered lists to make your content easier to speed read.
Robust content also usually means long content. Articles that are 1,500 to 3,000 words are sort of the sweet spot, but if you write an amazing article that's 700 words you should still optimize it!
4. Update your content regularly.
Creating consistent regular content is the best way to increase your SEO. But, if you just want to rank for your name, make these changes and give it 2-3 months. Takes a while for the algorithm to get it :)
Most importantly, recognize that there is NO ONE MAGIC BULLET in business! SEO is a great tool to use, but it's not the only tool. Mantras and intention setting are powerful, but aren't the only thing that propels your growth forward in life and in work. At the end of the day, it's a combination of strategies that end up being the most impactful. There's not one perfect formula to follow, rather a bunch of variables you can throw together in any combination you like. So if you're keen to keep using SEO, great! If not, that's great, too!
There's a million ways to do anything — you just have to find what works for you. Have questions about getting started with SEO? Hmu in the comments below.