Search engine optimization (SEO) promises many benefits, enabling you to increase traffic to your website, improve brand visibility, and set a course for long-term growth. But if you have no idea what you’re doing and no real experience in the SEO world, is this strategy totally inaccessible to you?
The short answer is no! However, even if you have no idea how search engines work and no experience creating content for SEO, there’s a path forward for you to utilize this strategy in whatever way you please.
What is SEO?
Just in case you aren’t familiar, let’s cover SEO basics. You probably already know that most people rely on search engines to answer their questions, research new topics, and gather information.
You can probably guess that most people click on the first or second result they generate from a given search rather than scrolling through multiple pages. Search engine optimization is about increasing your likelihood of having your web pages ranked in one of these top slots.
You’ll need to utilize many individual tactics to rank higher in search engines. We’ll cover some of those in more detail later on.
The Three Paths of SEO for Beginners
If you’re a total beginner, there are essentially three ways to tap into the power of SEO.
Learn and do it yourself
It’s a bit intimidating at first, but you can learn the basics of SEO on your own. Most of the fundamentals are easy to grasp, and there’s an abundance of online content you can use to learn new skills and get some initial practice.
Within a few hours, you should have a grasp of the basics, and after a few months of practice, you can probably call yourself an expert. Of course, SEO can be difficult, and it’s always very time-consuming, but if you’re patient and persistent, you can hypothetically do everything yourself.
Utilize third-party SEO services
You don’t have to do it all yourself. You could also enlist the aid of SEO services offered by agencies, freelancers, or employees you hire to build your own team.
This option is more expensive since you’ll likely be paying thousands of dollars per month for professional services. But you’ll save yourself loads of time, and you’ll have much more reliable results.
Establish a hybrid approach
The other option is to establish a kind of hybrid approach. You’ll still learn the basics of SEO and practice standard techniques independently. However, you’ll also leverage the power of third-party services to amplify your capabilities and compensate for any weaknesses you might have.
This is arguably the most balanced approach and the one most commonly chosen by newcomers to the field.
Learning the Basics of SEO
It’s impossible to summarize all of SEO in a single article, much less a single section, but we’ll introduce you to some of the fundamentals here. The two primary considerations you need to consider when optimizing for search engines are relevance and trustworthiness.
Google and other search engines want to prioritize the visibility of content they perceive as relevant to a search query and trustworthy enough to recommend.
The relevance side of the equation is mainly attributable to keyword optimization.
Keyword optimization has evolved significantly over the years and is much more sophisticated than it’s ever been. Still, the basic idea is that you need to create content suited explicitly to search queries you believe your target audience will be making.
For example, if you sell pogo sticks, you’ll need to write a lot of content on your site about pogo sticks so that you can show up for pogo stick-related searches. As a result, companies often spend significant time and money on keyword research to make sure they’re choosing the most appropriate targets.
The trustworthiness side of the equation is based on a number of factors.
Google prioritizes technically polished and easily accessible websites, so it pays to make sure your website is fully functional and easy for users to use. Beyond that, you’ll need to think about your “authority” score, which mainly depends on the quality and quantity of links pointing to your site.
Do Early Research and Strategizing — Then Break Actions into Three Components
Onsite technical optimization.
Onsite technical optimization is all about making sure your website loads correctly and efficiently. You’ll also want to make sure to improve the overall user experience.
Mobile optimization, faster loading times, and clean coding can all help you here. In addition, you’ll need to make sure your site is showing up in Google’s index – though if you use a mainstream website builder, many of these issues will be handled on your behalf.
Onsite content development.
Content is still the heart of SEO. Writing onsite content will help you establish the context of your site and improve its relevance for user search queries. It’s also a useful quality indicator used to evaluate trustworthiness to an extent.
As an added bonus, content is valuable for appealing to new users and securing conversions, making it strategically useful even independently from SEO.
Offsite content and link building.
You’ll also need to think about offset content and link building. Building lots of links is great, but building high-quality links is better. You’ll also need to think about the appearance of your links, as unnatural links could earn you a penalty.
Finding the Right Partner for SEO Services
If you decide to work with a third-party service provider, either exclusively or as part of a hybrid model, you should know that it’s essential to find the right partner for your needs. There are three main options to consider:
- Agencies. Agencies are some of the most reliable providers you can find since they have entire teams of experts to help you and a solid motivation to do good work. However, they tend to be more expensive, and they may require long-term contracts before they work with you.
- Employees. Having a team of employees to help you execute your vision can also be valuable. This arrangement is somewhat more flexible and allows you to retain more control, but it can get expensive quickly.
- Freelancers. Freelancers are less reliable and hard to find, but this is one of the least expensive options available if you can find good people. Freelancers are also helpful if you want to scale your strategy over time since you can gradually add more people as you need them without much hassle.
What to Look for When Shopping for SEO Providers
- Experience. How long has this provider been in business? Do they have several years of experience to inform their decisions, or are they just starting out? Do they have any expertise in your specific field?
- Specializations. What kind of services and specializations are available through this provider? For example, does this agency offer video content in addition to written content? Can they help you with keyword research? Or do they exclusively focus on one aspect of SEO, like link building?
- Available resources. Are there available resources to handle your needs? What happens when you need to scale? Will you have a dedicated account representative to help answer your questions?
- Strategies and approach. Pay close attention to the strategy and overall process used by this provider. Are they following ethical, white hat strategies? Or do they seem dodgy whenever you ask questions about how they approach SEO? Be on the lookout for red flags here.
- The working relationship. In addition to having knowledge, experience, and resources, it’s also essential that your provider maintain a healthy working relationship with you. Are they willing to make compromises? Are they easy to communicate with? Do they answer your questions in a straightforward way?
- Cost. Finally, consider how much this provider costs. You often get what you pay for in the SEO world, but it’s also possible to overpay for simple services. Get multiple quotes and compare apples to apples to ensure you get the best deal.
Whether you’re trying to accelerate growth for your small business, promote yourself individually, or add a new strategy to an existing business’s repertoire of marketing strategies, SEO can be a valuable tool – even if you have no experience.
Of course, it will take some work, some knowledge building, and some patience, but even unfamiliar marketers can leverage optimization in their favor.
Image Credit: by Monstera; Pexels; Thank you!