Learn why search engine optimization is important to being found online.
Hi there, I’m Justin from HubSpot Academy. Welcome to the class on optimizing your website. In this training, we’ll cover the basics necessary to help you get up to speed on how to best optimize your content for search engines.
By the end of this class, you’ll be able to pick the right keywords for your site, ensure that search engines understand the content on your pages, and start earning links from outside sources. All of these elements will help make a solid foundation for your search engine optimization plan.
To start, let’s define what search engine optimization is.
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the process of improving your website so that it attracts more visitors from search engines.
It’s an essential part of the first stage of the Inbound Methodology. It helps you attract
strangers that are looking for content relevant to your business from search engines and turn them into new visitors on your website. So to understand SEO, let’s think about how people find information today.
Let’s say someone hears about the tiny house movement, a trend that’s happening across the nation where people are downsizing their lives to live simply in 200 square-feet or less, and wants to learn more on how to build one themselves. How would someone go about finding this information? Chances are, they’re probably going to head online and enter their question into a search engine, such as Google. And they’ll probably be specific in that search. They might type in: “How to build a tiny house on wheels” or “Tools and supplies needed to build a tiny house.”
Google receives over 3.3 billion searches every day, from people who have questions and problems that they’re looking to solve.
Search engines need to provide the most relevant, useful, and trustworthy answers. To find them, they send what are known as spiders, or web crawlers, to crawl through all of the pages on the
web, searching for that content. Those spiders try to figure out what each page is about. This is why having a solid, consistent SEO foundation is critical to being found through search engines. They need to know what you are trying to tell them!
From that data, they create a list of results that are relevant and useful to the searcher. Then, they rank those results based on the popularity and authority of those websites. The more visits a website gets, the higher it will rank.
This ranking is what you see when you look at a search engine results page. For instance, with Google, the first 1-4 results are paid ads through Google AdWords, and the rest of the ads will be forced to the bottom of the page. To determine whether a listing is paid or not, look for the small yellow box with the word “ad” inside of it. These websites are paying to show up on Google’s search engine results page. Below the paid ads, you’re looking at the top 1-10 unpaid, or organic, search results that contain the most popular, relevant answers.
As marketers and business owners, your goal is to be listed in the top organic results because, let’s be honest, most searchers only click on the first few results that they see. In fact, 94% of searchers clicked on a first page search result and less than 6% actually clicked to the second page and selected a result displayed there.
So how do you get on the first page of a search engine? That is where inbound marketing and SEO come in. You need to figure out what your prospects are searching for, so that you can make sure that they find your website.
In the next video, we’re going to focus on how to do the essentials of SEO, so that you can start increasing relevant traffic to your website.
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Learn what on-page SEO is, where to add those keywords to your website, and how to avoid search penalties.
There are many factors that search engines take into account when crawling your pages and trying to understand them, so let’s dive into some SEO strategy and best practices.
There are many factors that search engines take into account when crawling your pages and trying to understand them, so let’s dive into some SEO strategy and best practices.
One top factor, and the first element of SEO to focus on, is your use of keywords. This is a part of what’s called on-page SEO - optimizing the pages of your site.
Keywords are the words typed into search engines. Basically, they’re the topics that searchers are trying to learn more about.
In order to attract those interested strangers to your content, you need to do research to figure out which keywords relate to your business and your industry that this stranger might use.
Your research should always begin with your buyer personas. Your buyer personas represent the searchers who will become your visitors, leads, and ultimately, customers & promoters. You need to determine who they are, what their goals and intent are, and what problems they face, so you can begin to understand what they’re searching for.
So put yourself in their shoes and make a list of keywords that they might search for.
Let’s say your business makes smart phone accessories, including a waterproof phone case called the “Smart Phone Preserver”. And let’s say that one of your buyer personas is a teenager - let’s call him Lanky Luke.
If Luke drops his phone in a puddle, he has a problem. So what are the common industry questions he might ask? He might start by searching for “drying out a smart phone” looking for general industry knowledge.
Next, what questions might Luke have that your company provides solutions to? He may not know to search for your exact product yet, but he might start by searching for "waterproof smart phone cases".
Finally, what questions might Luke have when deciding to buy your waterproof case? He might be searching for phrases like “Smart Phone Preserver case reviews”. This is a great opportunity to gather information from your sales team - what are the most common questions they get?
By going through Lanky Luke’s thought process, you can come up with a list of keywords like “drying out a smart phone”, “waterproof smart phone cases”, and “Smart Phone Preserver case reviews”.
As you make this list, categorize the keywords by the stages of the buyer’s journey. Industry problem-based keywords are part of the awareness stage. Keywords that your company provides solutions to are part of the consideration stage. And keywords around deciding to buy are part of the decision stage.
Now, while you’re brainstorming, make sure to try and mimic the language that your buyer personas would actually use in their searches. And keep in mind that language may vary in different parts of the world. What is "soda" in one part of the world might be "pop" or "cola" in another.
Next, expand your keyword list by searching the web for alternatives.
If you’re feeling stumped and can’t think of any other keywords to add to your list, try typing one of your keywords into a search engine and see what the results are.
In this example, you’re looking at the keyword “boat names”. When you type it into Google, it autocompletes for other popular keyword phrases, like “boat name generator”, “boat name lettering”, and “boat name ideas”.
You can also look for alternatives under the different search options in Google, like image search or video.
In this example, you can see that by looking under video search, “funny boat names” is a related keyword phrase, as is Boaty McBoatface.
You can also use a tool like Wordstream’s keyword niche finder or the Google webmaster tools to get suggestions.
You can add all of the alternatives to your keyword list, and even expand upon those keywords yourself, as long as it’s a topic that relates to your business and buyer persona.
Next, determine which keywords people are already using to find your site. Some search engines, like Google, have encrypted their organic search data so that those keywords are hidden, which make this trickier to do. But you can use an analytics tool, like Google Analytics or HubSpot Sources, to get some insights.
Finally, decide which keywords you have the best opportunity to rank for. Remember, lots of other websites are trying to rank for any given keyword, and only 10 can make it to the first page of search results. Some keywords are just going to be harder than others.
Think about it, what would happen if you searched for the keyword “jackets”? Well, you’d end up with results for all different kinds of jackets - men’s, women’s, children’s, waterproof, and more often than not, only the biggest companies would claim the top of the search results.
A keyword like “jackets” is referred to as a short or broad keyword, because that’s exactly what it is - short and broad in scope.
If a small store specialized in jackets, it would be immensely difficult for them to rank for “jackets”. There’s lots of competition around that keyword, and some very popular, trustworthy sites filling up the top spots. The keyword is also pretty general - the small store wouldn’t get any qualified visitors from it.
But let’s say you searched for something more specific, like “men’s wool red sox jacket size medium”. You’d get more specific results that would better answer your question.
This more specific keyword phrase is called a long-tail keyword. A long-tail keyword is a primary keyword--usually 2-3 words, such as “red sox jacket”--that’s expanded upon with additional context, such as “men’s wool red sox jacket size medium”. Be sure that the keyword fits as a description of what the page is all about. In this case, the page is all about this this jacket. You’re optimizing for the visitor first, but it's also how a search engine can understand the purpose of the page to know how to best index it.
It’s important to optimize your pages for long-tail keywords for two reasons: 1) if you’re trying rank for “red sox jacket”--good luck. That’s not going to happen. The best way to show up for a primary term like “red sox jacket” is to be specific about the jacket in which you’re referencing. 2) when you optimize for a long-tail keyword such as “men’s wool red sox jacket size medium” you’re also optimizing the page for “wool red sox jacket” or “red sox jacket size medium”. These are all keyword phrases that a search engine is able to fish out.
There’s one last thing I want to mention about long-tail keywords and their relationship with SEO and rankings, it takes time to develop credibility online and earn traffic you want to receive. You have to think of the process like a savings account. Maybe your goal is to have $1,000,000 dollars in 30 years. The only way you’re going to get to $1,000,000 is to have a plan and be consistent with installments. If you stick to your plan, then over time you’ll earn returns on your investment, bringing you closer towards your end goal. It’s the same with content and SEO. Every optimized page is an investment towards your larger SEO and content goal. If you’re consistent in approach, then overtime you’ll have the opportunity to become content wealthy and start ranking for more difficult keywords. The best way to ultimately rank for a short, primary keyword is to crush it with many different longer-tail variations.
Need proof? Just check out this HubSpot customer’s sources report. This customer in particular is a great example, because the content marketer started January 2014, which is exactly when the increase in organic traffic happened. They blog 3+ times per week. And as you can see, results start to multiply over time. The proof is in the data!
Once you’ve identified keywords to target, start creating content around them.
Now, search engines are getting smarter and smarter. In addition to understanding keywords, they also trying to understand a searcher’s intent. If you search for “london soccer teams”, your intention is probably to find information about London’s soccer teams. You’d find that there are quite a few - Arsenal, Chelsea, the list goes on. Google tries to understand what you’re actually looking for, looks at all related pages, and then shows you the results that it deems the most helpful. It’s not just going to show you exact matches to the keyword that you searched for.
Anyway, once you’ve written this great content, it’s time to optimize the page where it will be featured.
First, optimize the page around a primary keyword. Be sure that the keyword fits as a description of what the page is all about. You’re optimizing for the visitor first, but it's also how a search engine can understand the purpose of the page to know how to best index it.
Add the keyword to the page title. The page title shows both on the browser tab for the page, and also as the link to the page in search results. If optimizing a website page, include your company name as well. Use the vertical bar, otherwise known as a pipe, to separate the two. Make sure your company name comes after the pipe, as people (and search engines) read left to right and it’s important to call out the keywords in focus first.
Next, add your primary keyword to the URL. This can also be seen on the page and within search results. If using a long-tail keyword, use dashes to separate words (companyname.com/long-tail-keyword-phrase). If editing a live page, any change that you make to the URL will create a new page. So make sure to set up a 301 Redirect that will direct the old URL to the new one, sending people seamlessly to the right page. This will save all of your SEO credit and ensures that you don't break any links to the old page.
In the event of broken links, you’ll want want to have a custom 404 error page. Having a custom 404 error page will significantly improve the user experience, as it will provide the same look and feel as your website even if you’re on a page that doesn’t exist. It should also offer links back in. Without a 404 error page your visitor will go here. Pretty unhelpful, right?
Next, add the keyword to the page headers and content. Use the keyword naturally throughout the page.
If there are any images on the page, add the keyword to the image alt-text. Search engines can't read images, so alt-text allows a search engine to understand what that image is about. This also allows that image to get found in image searches.
Next, add the keyword to the meta description. This is the short summary below the link (or title) to your page in a search engine results page... Each page should have a unique meta description, no longer than 160 characters. Though it doesn’t directly affect SEO, its optimization can improve the rate of people clicking through to your page.
Another way to improve your SEO is to include relevant links within the content. Linking to relevant, reliable sources helps build the trustworthiness of your site. Don’t go overboard - link to one or two sources per paragraph at the very most. You don’t want your page to look spammy!
Link to relevant internal pages from your website, in order to drive traffic to them. And while it may sound counterproductive, also make sure to link to outside resources. Google Webmasters encourage this - it shows that you’ve done your research, helps you build connections, and it gives your readers more helpful resources.
For those reasons, outside links work best in blog posts. When you do link, make sure to hyperlink text that contains relevant keywords that you'd like to rank for. This clickable text is what’s known as the anchor text. For example, this blog post contains a link to another source about improving your mobile experience, with all of those important keywords acting as the hyperlink.
Edit your page to promote a good user experience. Search engines are also looking at the experience that people have on your site when determining how to rank you.
Make sure your website is intuitive and easy to browse. Don’t make people hunt for what they need. Show them the next step they can take with your business, and you’ll give your business the best chance at converting those visitors into leads, and eventually customers.
Finally, optimize your website for mobile.
Over 80% of internet users own a smartphone and most are on it searching online more than their computer.
“One minute. I’m just checking my email.”
And as more and more people use mobile devices to access the internet, search engines are trying to make it easier for people to find mobile-friendly websites. So whether you have a mobile optimized or responsively designed site, make sure that your website pages can be easily viewed on any screen size. If your page isn’t mobile-friendly, you may be missing out on valuable search traffic.
Once you’ve created and optimized your content, don’t forget to promote it through social media and email. The more that people see, share and link to your content, the more popular your site will grow and the more trust you’ll gain with search engines.
We’ve talked quite a bit about getting search engines to understand your pages, but how can you get them to see you as a trustworthy and authoritative site? Well, much of this will come from your great optimized content, but some of it also comes from the number of links that are pointing to you. This is a part of what’s called off-page SEO.
Search engines follow links between pages to see how they’re related to each other. Links coming into your website are called inbound links. Search engines view inbound links as a vote of confidence. If a trusted site is linking to you, your website becomes more trustworthy.
But not all links are created equal. Make sure that you're earning high-quality links, and not focusing on quantity. High-quality links come from existing authoritative websites that are relevant to your business or industry.
To figure out which websites are authoritative, use a tool like the Moz Open Site Explorer or HubSpot Links to see all of the websites who are linking to you and their authority.
It also really matters what the links says. For example, if an inbound link anchor text says “click here” or your company name, it won’t be as valuable if it’s industry specific or non-branded. For example, let’s say you’re a travel company that specializes in tours of The Great Wall of China. Which inbound link anchor text sounds more valuable: your business name or “amazing tour deals of the The Great Wall of China”? The non-branded, keyword-driven anchor text will help increase your ranking value for that term.
It can be difficult to obtain non-branded inbound links because it’s usually a manual outreach process. However, if you’re able to control the anchor text, try your best to match it with the primary keyword on the page it’s linking to. This will help reinforce what you’re trying to rank for on this page.
While it definitely takes some time, building relationships with authoritative sites and industry thought leaders is one of the most effective ways to keep your company top-of-mind for people and their websites that could link to you. Use social media, send friendly emails or comment on blog posts. Or try good-old conversation: make connections at local meetups, conferences and in your day-to-day.
A good way to build those relationships and earn those links is to create content with input from those industry thought leaders. Not only will these thought leaders help you write your content, but they'll also share it, giving you new visitors and a new link.
You could create a "best-of" list or a resources list, and give credit to the sources or authors. Conduct an interview with an industry thought leader and publish it as a blog post. Write crowdsourced content - solicit information, answers or opinions on a particular topic from industry thought leaders. Or ask an industry thought leader to write the foreword or give a quote for an ebook.
Now, for some quicker SEO wins.
Set up a page for your business on the top online directories. Directories are websites like Yelp, Yellow Pages, and local chambers of commerce. Having a page on a directory will increase the number of links and citations to your website. Citations are online mentions of your business name and address, even if those outside websites don’t link to you. Both will help with your off- page SEO.
Finally, if your business is location-specific, create a Google+ Local Listing Page. This will help tie your website to a specific location, which Google will use in its search results. If your business is in a single location, link to your homepage. If your business has multiple locations, link to dedicated location page for each (ie - yourwebsite.com/boston)
So there you have it - the fundamental SEO strategy and best practices that you need to start improving the rank of your pages and getting new visitors to your site.
In the next video, we’ll cover a real life example of a company that has optimized their website pages.
Now that you understand how to optimize your website for search engines, let's test your knowledge!
Let’s take a look at a company called AnswerDash to see what a successfully optimized page looks like.
In this video, we’ll take a look at a company called AnswerDash to see what a successfully optimized page looks like.
AnswerDash is a venture-backed company that provides instant answers to common questions, right on a company’s website. In effect, this cuts down on the number of customer support calls. Visitors can click on anything they have questions about, and AnswerDash will display the frequently asked questions and answers for them. And if visitors can't find the answers they need, they can ask a new question.
As a startup, AnswerDash wanted to achieve two important goals: to develop a website optimized for generating leads and to acquire 100 customers within their first six months.
By creating an optimized website, they saw a: 60% increase in monthly leads, 55% increase in social media traffic, and a 10% increase in website traffic. All within the first 2 months.
Let’s take a look at a blog post they’ve written to see how they did it.
They’re addressing a common topic that their buyer personas might want to learn about: what to figure out before hiring another customer support agent.
Second, they’re mimicking the language that their buyer personas would use, like “figuring out”.
Third, their blog post focuses on a long-tail keyword - “hiring another customer support agent” - which is easier to rank for because it’s more niche, more specific, and more targeted.
And finally, they’ve used natural language and variations on the long-tail keyword.
Next, have they optimized this page? Again, they have their primary long-tail keyword in the page title, URL, and body, and though you can’t see it, behind the image in the alt-text.
Next, are they linking to other sources? Again, they are- both internal and external sources, with keywords in the hyperlink.
Next, are they promoting their content? We can see that they have prominent social sharing buttons, which means that visitors can share the article themselves. They’ve also promoted this content on their Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook profiles.
Finally, how well has AnswerDash built outside relationships and gotten other people and websites linking to them?
Look at related articles from outside sources in a Google search of company name. It looks like they’ve got CrunchBase and Geekwire writing about them.
Looks like AnswerDash is doing pretty well for themselves and is on the right track to improve their rank for this keyword and get some quality visitors to their site.
Grade your website against key metrics like performance, mobile readiness, SEO, and security.
This on-page search engine optimization guide will help you to optimize your website pages and give you the best chance of being found by your target market.