Don’t Forget The SEO Basics

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Sean McGinnis

The SEO industry is at an inflection point. The last two years have brought an incredible amount of change to the industry, and the next two years are going to bring even more. Some of the recent changes are very exciting for those of us who are in the SEO industry. And SEO, of course, is key to your digital marketing basics.

Google is in the midst of a fight to quality. Panda and Penguin have gone a long way toward cleaning up the perception of the SEO industry by effectively killing off some of the ridiculously spammy tactics that used to work. And we’re on the precipice of even further changes with the implementation of authorship markup and author rank that may drive even more quality into search engine results.seo basics

One side effect of these changes is that SEO, as an industry, is beginning to involve more and more tangential professions. This expansion of participants brings both good and bad news along with it.

Bringing new people and professions into the SEO ecosphere is good because it broadens the experience base and creates divergent points of view. It also broadens the talent base. But, this expansion has the potential to create very negative experiences as new consultants lack a certain level of training or the benefit of hindsight involving where we have been as an industry.

Given all the attention being lavished on some of the newer search ranking signals, I thought now would be a great time to remind you to not forget the basics.

SEO Basics – Step 1 – Technical SEO

The first and most critical aspect of getting SEO right is ensuring you have the technical aspects of SEO dialed in. Ensure your content is hosted on a content management system that is easily crawled by the engines. Make sure your content is unique and not duplicated across domains. Make sure 301 redirects are in place so the entire site is not duplicated on the www and non-www version of your domain name.

Generally speaking, technical SEO is a deal breaker if you get it wrong. And getting it right is pretty easy if your website is built properly in the first place. Sadly, many SEOs spend a lot of their time cleaning up shoddy work in this area – from sites that were poorly built. That’s one of the benefits of choosing a reputable web design and development company (like Orbit Media, ahem) – you know the technical SEO aspects are already handled correctly for you.

Technical SEO Basics Checklist:

  1. Set 301 redirects so your site resolves on either the www version or the non-www version of your domain, but not both.
  2. Make sure you have installed Google Analytics (or some alternative to Google Analytics), Google Webmaster Tools, and Bing Webmaster Tools on your site.
  3. Ensure your page level url address strings are as short as possible and include the key words in them.
  4. Ensure your site is optimized for quick load times (test this in the Google speed insights tool –
  5. Find and eliminate or cleanup any broken outbound links on your site using Xenu Link Sleuth.
  6. Go into Google Webmaster Tools and cleanup/resolve any existing crawl errors related to your site. The easiest way to do this is to place 301 redirects from the error path to the new path of that page.

SEO Basics – Step 2 – On-Page SEO

Once you are certain the technical SEO aspects are in place, it’s time to move on and start thinking about a content strategy that will serve your site’s objectives well. Mapping out user personas, lining them up with site objectives, performing keyword research and creating a site map are all important steps at this stage of the game.

This is the step where you write compelling marketing copy that also includes the keyphrases for that page. Ensure the keyphrases are included in title tags and headers. But don’t get carried away! Write your pages for your website’s users FIRST, and sprinkle in phrases for search engines later. For a more detailed explanation of this, check out Andy Crestodina’s recent blog post on keyword research or his excellent book, Content Chemistry.

On-Page SEO Basics Checklist:

  1. Perform basic keyword with the Google PPC keyword planner ( Use that research to decide what to write. Select a keyword that is relevant to your business, that will bring the right kind of prospective customers, and that your website can compete for.
  2. Write a post/page that is compelling and adds value to your readers.
  3. Write a post title that has your key phrase in it and that is compelling to readers.
  4. Include your key phrase in the <h1> and/or <h2> tag in the body of your copy.
  5. Be sure the words in your key phrase are present a few times in the body of your copy.
  6. Ensure any images you use in your page/post are named with your key words where appropriate. Be sure to also include your key phrase in the alt tag where appropriate.

SEO Basics – Step 3 – Off-Page SEO

Once you have technical SEO in shape and your content written and optimized, now it’s time to ensure your content is getting shared and linked to from other places on the web. This is a critical component of getting your content ranked. It’s important that your site be so remarkable and valuable to your users that people will naturally share your content and link to it.

Again, there are many fine points to link building and off-page optimization. I’m not trying to cover all that here, but it is important for you to know that these continue to be very strong ranking indicators.

Off-Page SEO Basics Checklist:

  1. Once you’ve published your new page/post, go into your website and look for 2-3 different page locations where an internal cross link makes sense. Link those pages to your new content.
  2. Consider internal linking opportunities for this page/post as you add new content to your site as well.
  3. Share your content across your social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn – plus any other social network that makes sense for your business).
  4. Share the page/post multiple times through the first 1-2 days after it is published. Use a tool like Hootsuite to Tweetdeck to schedule those tweets into the future – using slightly different calls to action.
  5. Notify anyone in your network that you think this particular piece would value of its existence. Ask them to share the page/post if appropriate.
  6. Notify anyone that you have quoted, used as a source, an example or linked to that the page/post exists. Thank them for the role they played in helping you write the piece.

SEO Basics – Step 4 – NOW Try to Run

Hopefully, by now you’ve followed this step-by-step recipe for success. If you have, then you are in a position to capitalize on some of the new “shiny objects” of SEO – things like authorship and author rank. If you have NOT handled these website basics before trying to implement some of these more advanced ranking indicators, you are setting yourself up for failure.

There is no way your site will rank for much of anything if steps 1, 2, and 3 are not in place and well done. None.

With all the focus on the new SEO factors, it’s easy to forget the basics and hone in on these new SEO shiny objects. But it’s important that you only focus on these new factors AFTER the basics are all completed.

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Sean McGinnis

Sean McGinnis

Sean McGinnis is founder of 312 Digital, a Chicago based digital agency that provides websites, seo, copywriting and a full suite of digital services to small and medium sized businesses. Sean also provides custom training to companies across the US on SEO, content strategy and other digital marketing disciplines. You can find Sean on Google+.

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Comments (4)
  • The basic step for beginners is to get the keywords right and then keep adding content / articles about their industry on the site. Real valuable information which users are looking for in your industry


  • SEO basics are the foundation and to sharpen them strengthens a business, more so its online reputation. Thanks for this!

  • Nice 1 buddy, bookmarked the page for later reference. You can never have too many seo checklists!



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