Search engine optimization (SEO) involves many complex variables, so unless you’re already familiar with the basics, it can be intimidating to approach. It’s a strategy that takes years to fully master, and even then, you’ll need to continually research and self-improve if you want to stay competitive.
The fundamentals of SEO aren’t so technically complex that the average person can’t understand them. In fact, you can get started with a campaign of your own with just a handful of simple ingredients.
Everything You Need to Start an SEO Campaign
If you’re interested in starting an SEO campaign for your site, these are the things you’ll need to make it happen:
1. Familiarity with the basics. According to Rand Fishkin, “The world of SEO is complex, but most people can easily understand the basics. Even a small amount of knowledge can make a big difference.” Your first job will be understanding the high-level overview of how search engines work, and how SEO can improve your site rankings over time. Essentially, Google and other search engines focus on two dimensions when ranking results: relevance, or a site’s significance to a given query, and authority, or a site’s perceived trustworthiness. You’ll use a combination of onsite optimization tactics and ongoing content to improve your site’s relevance for target queries, and onsite optimization along with link building to improve your site’s authority. There’s much more to learn here, but these are the biggest fundamentals.
2. A well-designed site. Next, you’ll need a well-designed site to anchor your strategy—and by well-designed, we don’t mean a beautiful site, we mean a functional one. You’ll need to ensure your site is cleanly coded and able to be indexed (or “seen”) by Google. Fortunately, most website builders these days have built-in SEO functionality here, though you’ll still have to make some tweaks yourself. According to Joost de Valk, “Out of the box, WordPress is a pretty well optimized system, and does a far better job at allowing every single page to be indexed than every other CMS we have used. But there are a few things you should do to make it a lot easier still to work with.”
3. A keyword targeting strategy. Next up, you’ll need some kind of keyword targeting strategy. There are many options here, but you’ll mostly want to examine your keywords’ relevance, search volume, and competition ratings using a tool like Moz’s Keyword Explorer. You can judge a keyword’s relevance to your brand based on your own perceptions (and a good understanding of your target demographics), but search volume and competition are numerically measurable; you’ll want keyword targets with high volume and relatively low competition.
4. A professional on deck. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s a good idea to have a professional on deck in some context. According to Shmuel Aber, “Even if you have SEO experience, it’s inevitable that you’ll run into a problem or dilemma that you aren’t sure to solve. Having a professional on hand, whether it’s an employee, an agency, or just a contact to call, can be your lifeline out of these situations.”
5. A team to work on execution. Finally, you’ll want a team in place to help you with the execution of your campaign. To be successful, you’ll need to produce high-quality content on a regular basis (ideally multiple times a week), syndicate that content on social media, and build links via guest posting and other tactics. Unless you’re prepared to spend dozens of hours a week doing this yourself, you’ll need the help of employees or contractors to even things out.
How Long to See Results?
You’ll note that these strategies are mostly intended to get you started with an SEO campaign—not to earn you the best results, or keep you going for the longest period of time. If you follow the basics, with a minimal investment, you should start to see momentum on your most important target keywords within the first four months or so.
However, with the abundance of competition on the national scale, and the ever-increasing quality standards at Google, these basic strategies won’t last you long. After a few months, you’ll need to work hard to step up your game, hiring better help and/or investing more in your campaign. The more experience you get, the better you’ll be able to plan and execute your strategy.