In our first series of SEO for beginners, we are going to briefly touch upon the subjects of search engines, keywords, content, and how you should utilize them in order to increase the traffic on your website.
Winner Winner Chicken Dinner
The year is 2018. You’re casually browsing your phone when you remember you have to make dinner today. Slight panic kicks in, as you haven’t got a lot of time to prepare it, so you resort to the search engine of your choice. Thinking for a few seconds, you decide you want to make something that’s done in less than half an hour, so you run your thumbs across the keyboard, and type in “30-minute recipes”.
Classic Shrimp Scampi? Sounds great, but you realise you haven’t got any scampi in your fridge, so you add another word to your search, “chicken”, ensuring you get recipes mostly pertaining to chicken. Great! You’ve made your job a lot easier by adding a single word to your search. But you’re bored of plain chicken, so you add another word to your search, “orange“. You settle for the 30-minute orange chicken recipe from The Gunny Sack and hope it turns out edible.
Years pass by. It’s now 2021, and you’re now a budding web designer and amateur chef. You want to make your own website, so you learn HTML, CSS, maybe even JS. You create a website for your own exotic chicken recipes, but something’s off. At first, you don’t really see it, but then it hits you. The traffic is low, nonexistent. No one but you (and your entire extended family you’ve shared your creation with) actually sees your recipes or visits your website!
You do a bit of digging and realize your website isn’t Search Engine Optimized. A day ago, you didn’t even know what SEO is, and now you’re determined to learn how to utilize and master it, so that you become visible on the Internet, and drive as much traffic to your website as you possibly can.
Let’s see what you may have come across on your beginner’s SEO journey.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Let’s face it. How many times have you entered a web address into your phone, or your computer, instead of going to a search engine, and inquiring about whatever interests you? I’m willing to say that the answer is “not many” for most of us. Need car parts in your local area? Why would you even know the web address of a website that sells them? Thankfully, we have Search Engines that carry out our web searches and present us with links to websites that provide the information we’re looking for.
These websites need to be optimized in a certain manner. So what is SEO, and why does it matter?
Before we find out about SEO, we need to learn a bit more about how SEs, or Search Engines, operate.
Search Engines have an algorithm that ranks pages and makes sure that you only see the relevant ones based on your search query. That’s why it’s highly unlikely that you’ll get results for car parts in Indianapolis when you’re really trying to find orange chicken recipes. Search Engines have three main functions. Firstly, they crawl all the content on the internet. Then, they index said content. Lastly, they rank that content based on your query.
We’ll talk more in-depth about crawling, indexing, and ranking when we discuss search engines in the future. For now, we’re sticking to beginner’s SEO.
So what is SEO? Well, SEO – or Search Engine Optimization – can simply be defined as tweaking search engine algorithms to make your website appear at the top of the search results for a particular term.
Which brings us back to chicken.
The entire reason you picked your 30-minute orange chicken on The Gunny Sack was because that website was finely tuned to have that particular recipe appear as the first result for the said search term.
So what did they have that a website on the fifth page of results didn’t?
What is a keyword? Let’s briefly go back to 2018, and your panic-induced meal searching session. “30-minute recipes,” “orange,” and “chicken” led you to hundreds of millions of results. You remembered that certain websites turned up at the top of the search results (which directly influenced you to make orange chicken dinner that day). How can you possibly compete with them, you wonder. What is the best way to show your recipes to the rest of the world (whilst making sure they see them)?
As soon as you start learning more about SEO, it dawns on you.
(Whenever you search for a certain item, you’re just entering keywords. The same keywords that websites use in their SEO in order to get you to see them.)
When you searched for your recipe way back in the day, what you really did was type in keywords. These keywords happened to correspond to the keywords provided by the websites that have that content.
So what is a good keyword?
You don’t need to be a marketing expert to know this. If you’re making a website about exotic chicken meals, then you ought to convey that with keywords. They need to be concise, relevant, and good enough to generate lots of traffic. You can likely come up with examples that cover the first two criteria. For the third, you’ll need to do some investigating. Thankfully, nowadays we have access to various SEO tools that can perform a site crawl show us the keywords of a particular website. (You can find some of these linked at the bottom of the article.)
Let’s look at your 2018 meal, for example.
Feel free to disregard the top section for now, and focus on the bottom of the page. You can clearly see that the first recipe for 30-minute orange chicken keywords leads to several variations. But what interests us most is what the websites behind those keywords are.
And there it is. Your 30-minute orange chicken from The Gunny Sack, on the top of the results page.
If we investigate more, we can find out that The Gunny Sack’s top page of all time is their boiled corn on the cob page, which has an estimated 585,640 visits. Half a million visits, for something as plain as corn on the cob!
By successfully utilizing SEO, a website not many of us have heard of has managed to become the top searched result on the topic of corn on the cob, and whenever someone searches for any of these phrases, (with the exception of corn cob, for which they rank third) they’re going to come across their website first.
However, keywords aren’t the only thing that’s going to propel your website to the front page of search results and generate traffic. You also have to provide good content and optimise it for search engines as well.
So you have a number of recipes you’d like to share with the Internet. However, so far they only consist of a list of ingredients and the preparation method. A day ago, you didn’t think there was anything wrong with that, but now, your SEO senses are tingling. Your recipe may be unique, but there is no unique content on your site.
Knowing your audience is important. Since you’re working on a recipe cookbook, you’re not going to write in a formal, but warm and relaxed fashion. You’ve come across dozens of recipes in which people talk about how a certain ingredient reminds them of their childhood spent in the countryside.
What is good content? It depends on your website and your audience, but we consider most good content nowadays to be:
- Well-written – be mindful of your grammar, syntax, and any spelling errors you may have. You can use digital writing assistant tools such as Grammarly in order to improve your writing style.
- Well-formatted – use an impactful headline, headings, and subheadings, relevant (and interesting) images, and break up your paragraphs, as people tend to get lost or disinterested in walls of text.
- Long-form – write in-depth about an interesting topic, but make sure to write content that contains a minimum of 1000 words (use your word editing software, or an online tool, to check the word count), but isn’t full of “fluff”.
So when chef Anne writes about her love for cinnamon, because it reminds her of her grandmother, what she’s really doing is writing good content in order for her website to generate more traffic. And the best thing is, she’s doing it whilst writing about something she loves!
After only a day of research, you feel ready to tackle writing content for your first proper SE optimized recipe page.
In the second part of our SEO For Beginners series, we are going to touch upon traffic – how it is generated, and all that can be done in order to generate more and get your recipe website to appear at the top of the search results. We are also going to talk about what backlinking is, and how reaching out to other content writers can greatly help you. For now, feel free to use these SEO tools to expand more on your current SEO knowledge.