You’ve heard of Search Engine Optimization before, haven’t you?
If you’re an entrepreneur, business owner or content creator and have been focusing only on creating content — or you have done some SEO without much luck — then you’re in the right place!
In this guide, I’m going to share with you practical advice, strategies and tools you can follow and use to boost your search engine optimization and video SEO efforts.
By the time you’ll be done with the article, you’ll know everything you need to know to start getting more visibility for your content on Google and YouTube and increase your business’ overall online visibility.
What is SEO? (And Why You Can’t Ignore It)
Moz.com, one of the most authoritative sites in the field of Search Engine Optimization, defines SEO as ‘the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results’.
In other words, by optimizing your content, you’ll increase the chances of more of the RIGHT people coming across it on the world’s #1 search engine: Google.
As you can see from the graph above, Google remains the #1 source of traffic at 57.8%. The second individual biggest traffic referrer, Facebook, follows at 5.2%.
I guess it makes sense to focus on the biggest traffic-referring platform, doesn’t it?
While I’m not saying you should make SEO an activity you focus on 24/7, it’s important to keep it in mind and make it part of your content strategy.
Let me use a different example to understand its importance.
Let’s imagine your company sold chocolate cookies and it would do so through a supermarket called Google.
SEO does two things.
First and foremost, it helps people navigate the supermarket by displaying relevant signs at the top of each aisle (e.g. bread & cereals, beverages, electronics, etc.).
Second, it helps your cookies be placed as much to the front of a shelf as possible.
Being among the top results of the first page of Google equals being the cookie boxes at the very front of a shelf (the first ones a customer sees).
See what I mean?
If you create content and leverage content marketing, then SEO is something you can’t ignore.
SEO Best Practices and Google Ranking Factors
A while ago, Backlinko’s Brian Dean put together a list of Google’s 200 ranking factors.
In case you’re wondering no! I’m not saying you’ll have to carry out each of these steps for your content to rank on the platform.
With this article, I’m going to help you navigate the SEO waters without having to turn your search engine optimization efforts into a 24/7 activity.
Here are the main Search Engine Optimization aspects to keep in mind and focus on:
- Add your keyword at the beginning of your content: the location of your keyword within your blog posts matters.
- Ideally, you’d want to include it in the first few sentences of your articles. No need to go overboard with it (avoid the so-called keyword stuffing), one mention in the first paragraph will do!
Write custom page titles: when you use your keyword as the page’s title, you are letting Google know that this particular page is about this specific keyword. It really can’t get much simpler than that.
- Many content management systems (like WordPress) and web-hosting sites automatically create page titles for you based on surrounding content. Convenient yes but not SEO-friendly…
- Move your keyword at the beginning of your page titles. Here’s Brian Dean’s advice when it comes to this point:
- ‘Front-load Your Main Keyword’: “Front-load” simply means that you start your title tag with your target keyword.
- Why is this important? Well, search engines pay close attention to the terms that you use in your title tag. Which is why you want your keyword in your page title’.
- Use your keyword in the H1 tag: in addition to adding the keyword at the beginning of your page titles, make sure to include it in the H1 within your article (I’d suggest using it in a H2 sub-heading too, at least once).
- Write enticing Call-to-Action-like meta descriptions. Just like with page titles, it’s likely that your content management system automatically creates a standard meta description for you if you do not write one yourself. If your CMS does not, then Google automatically does for you anyway.
The importance of writing custom meta descriptions yourself is to get people to choose your page over another. If you are unaware, a meta description is what shows up underneath the page title and URL on a search engine.
Optimize your site’s loading speed: without getting too technical with this aspect, you should make sure that it doesn’t take ages for your pages to load. This isn’t just important for SEO purposes but for user experience too (do you know someone who would wait 2 minutes for a web page to load?).
Brian Dean recommends using the Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to look at your website and web pages load fast, especially on mobile.
- Optimize your images: this is one of the things that will help with your site loading speed.
Additionally, a well-optimized image (which has a filename that describes what’s in the image — instead of something like image1 — and that has been added to your web page along with the alt text) could even rank higher than your articles in the Images section of Google.
- Link internally: ‘Internal linking is one of the easiest SEO best practices to use’, writes Brian Dean. ‘All you need to do is add a link from one page on your site to another page on your site.’
Brian’s advice should NOT be understood as adding as many random links to your blog posts as possible.
Instead, you should link to RELEVANT articles and use the keyword-rich anchor text (as Brian points out, ‘Google uses your anchor text as a clue to what a page is all about’).
Let’s say I’d like to link to my podcast interview with fellow podcaster Yann Ilunga.
Instead of linking using something like listen to our interview, I could put emphasis on the topic of the interview (if that’s my keyword) and write listen to our interview on podcasting systems and link to the keyword ‘podcasting systems’.
If you already have a library of content, then linking to related blog posts is easy.
But what if you’re just getting started or are planning to start focusing on a keyword you haven’t looked at before?
It will allow you to build out the silo and create relevance – and they also make great backlink targets.’
There are many different things you can do (Google has published some suggestions too) but getting started with the ones mentioned in this blog post will have a big impact on moving the needle of your SEO endeavors.
Keyword, Your SEO Anchor
True, as we’ve just seen, most of the SEO best practices can be carried out in a matter of minutes (we’ll cover a more strategic and practical approach to SEO toward the end of this guide).
However, of all the things you can focus on, you should start with one well-defined thing, your “SEO anchor”: your keyword(s).
You can think about keywords in two ways.
The first one is short-tail keywords. This type of keyword is typically just one or a combination of two words.
These are examples of keywords people may use to find content related to business, SEO, content marketing or sailing boats.
“Old school SEO” consisted of focusing exclusively on a short-tail keyword and optimizing your content with it.
The second type of keyword, which is more of a recent concept in the world of search engine optimization, are long-tail keywords.
Typically, a long-tail keyword is made of three or more words:
- Business → How to start a business
- SEO → SEO tips for eCommerce businesses
- Content Marketing → Content marketing tools
- Sailing Boat → Choosing your first sailing boat
A while back, HubSpot wrote about the importance of long-tail keywords:
‘Long-tail keywords are used to target niche demographics rather than mass audiences. In other words, they’re more specific and often less competitive than generic keyword terms. Because of that, they provide both short-term and long-term benefits.’
And there’s more.
‘Since they’re specific, they allow you to rank highly in search results for popular topics relatively quickly while still gaining ground on head terms. Plus, they tend to attract highly qualified traffic that’s more likely to convert to leads and customers’.
Remember our cookies-supermarket example?
If someone is looking for ‘gluten-free cookies’ rather than just ‘cookies’, they’ll be more focused in their search at the supermarket.
And Viola Eva discussed long-term keywords in an interview with Thrive Themes founder Shane Melaugh.
As she put it, long-term keywords are more of a low-hanging fruit. The more specific and descriptive your (long-tail) keyword is, the more quality traffic it will get.
Back to our supermarket for a second…
If you think about it, someone baking normal cookies probably wouldn’t care much about having the cookies being displayed to a bunch of people who can only eat gluten-free ones.
Having a smaller group of people, where everyone can eat normal cookies, would be much better.
Sure, you want quantity but you should want quality too (after all, a person finding your content is just the beginning of their journey into potentially becoming a new client).
So, go for keywords like ‘gluten-free cookies’, not just ‘cookies’.
Video SEO: Optimizing Your YouTube Videos
YouTube is the world’s #1 video platform and the second most-used search engine. This makes creating videos and leveraging video SEO a no-brainer.
Brian Dean, whose YouTube videos rank at the top for some of the most competitive keywords in his industry, has compiled a list of the key features you should focus on to optimize your YouTube videos.
As we’re about to see, most of the video SEO principles are the same we’ve looked at for “normal SEO”.
When it comes to your Video Title, Brian recommends doing two things.
The first one is to include your target keyword (just like you would for a piece of written content).
The second is to maximize Click-Through-Rate. This simply means writing video titles that are compelling, that trigger people’s curiosity and that make them choose your videos instead of your competitors’.
The Video Description of your YouTube videos has a similar role than the meta description of your blog posts.
Brian Dean suggests writing video descriptions that are at least 200 words in length and that include your keyword (whenever possible, you should also try to include your keyword and mention it within the first few seconds of each of your videos).
Then, there are YouTube tags.
By selecting relevant tags for your YouTube videos, you let YouTube know which topic(s) your videos are related to.
Identifying tags isn’t as difficult as you may think.
In fact, it’s actually quite easy if you have TubeBuddy in your toolkit.
One of the cool things about TubeBuddy is that it lets you see which YouTube tags you’ve used in your videos (including whether your video is ranking higher for a specific tag), as well as the ones your competitors have been using.
If you’ve already created videos, then make sure to take a moment to start browsing through your tags list (if you haven’t used tags yet, start adding them — use at least 5 tags).
Custom thumbnails are more of an “SEO-for-humans” element rather than an actual YouTube SEO one.
However, its importance is still critical.
In fact, thumbnails are like book covers, they are what draws the attention of YouTube users.
An eye-catchy thumbnail, along with a good title and compelling video description are the elements that contribute to a better Click-Through-Rate of your YouTube videos.
And if you’re serious about video SEO, then make sure to optimize your YouTube channel’s header, its description and overall messaging and try to organize your videos in YouTube playlists.
Playlists that feature only your video content will increase audience retention.
Why you ask?
Because people will consume more of your content instead of watching someone else’s.
The “Tools of the Trade”
Now you know about keywords and optimizing your written and video content, but what can you use to actually implement what we’ve discussed so far?
I’m not going to lie, this aspect alone could be the topic of an entire blog post…
I’m going to try to keep things simple and I’ll be sharing a few tools following a “1-2-3 approach”:
- Keyword Research: Google Keyword Planner, KW Finder and Serpstat are some of the tools you can use to do keyword research (and much more!).
- Content Optimization: you’ve identified your keyword(s), now what? The WordPress plugin Yoast SEO — my content optimization best friend — and Textmetrics will give you practical content optimization advice (where to add your keywords to optimize your pieces of content, among other things).
- Keeping track of things: Google Search Console and Google Analytics will provide you with a snapshot of how you’re doing in terms of search engine optimization, indexing and traffic.
By using some of the tools included in the list, you’ll be able to get into SEO and content optimization with your best foot forward!
When it comes to video, TubeBuddy (to learn more about it, you can check my podcast interview with Andrew Kan), VidIQ and Tubics are a couple of tools that you could use for both keyword research, video content optimization and keeping track of your YouTube efforts.
I’ve recorded some video tutorials, each covering the features I mentioned above.
Getting Started With SEO in 7 Steps
It’s time for us to take action and go from theory to practice!
If you’d like to increase the visibility of your business online (Google and YouTube in particular), here are 7 actionable steps to carry out.
- Optimize your EXISTING CONTENT
Viola Eva said it best: ‘Don’t create competition for your existing content’.
If you already have articles and blog posts published on your blog, start with those.
Use the Google Search Console to find your posts that are currently ranking on page 2 and 3 of Google search results and optimize those.
If Google has placed your content on page 2 or 3 it means that it deems it relevant for a specific keyword but not “good enough” to be displayed on page 1.
Focus on optimizing those blog posts FIRST.
- Understand who you’re trying to reach and what their main challenges are
This isn’t an actual SEO strategy but it’s something that you should think about even beyond just search engine optimization.
Knowing the goals and the main challenges of your target market is key so you should take a moment to research and analyze them.
- Identify content and keywords related to your target market
This is where keyword research comes into play.
Once you know what your target market is struggling with and what its goals are, you can plan content that will help your prospects and clients overcome these challenges and achieve their goals.
Keyword research will let you know which aspect(s) of a specific topic to focus on — this is what you should create content around.
- Create new content
Now you and your team can focus on actually creating pieces of content that revolve around the topics, challenges and goals of your target market (and that include the keywords your prospects use in their online searches).
In her interview with Thrive Themes’ Shane Melaugh, SEO expert Viola Eva shared one concept that I believe should underpin your overall content creation strategy: ‘Create the best answer to the search query.’
When creating a new piece of content, do your best to make it the very best answer to a specific question or the best solution to a certain problem.
- Interlink your content
As you’re planning and creating new pieces of content, keep your older content at the back of your mind and, whenever possible, link to it.
Remember Brian Dean’s words?
‘Internal linking is one of the easiest SEO best practices to use.’
And for your YouTube videos, consider adding relevant videos to the same playlist.
- Optimize your content
Keyword research serves as a sort of compass in terms of the direction your content should have.
Content optimization is the process of making sure that you’ve followed the SEO and video SEO best practices for a piece of content you’ve just finished creating.
Use Yoast SEO or TubeBuddy’s checklist feature to make sure you’ve crossed all the Ts and dotted all the Is and that you’re content is as optimized as possible.
- Keep track of your efforts
SEO and content optimization are dynamic processes that have long-term benefits — and your progress with them and benefits you’ll get won’t happen overnight.
That’s why, it’d be a good idea to make tracking your SEO efforts part of your monthly or even quarterly activity tasks (the Google Search Console and TubeBuddy will help with that).
Now you know what to do and what to use to start optimizing your written and video content.
But remember that you don’t have to do it alone!
If you need help putting together an SEO strategy or would like to boost your video SEO efforts, my team and I are here to help — get in touch with us here!