Search engine optimization has become a prevalent marketing practice in recent years because businesses can do it themselves at little to no cost. Any company can take small steps to optimize its website site for local or industry-specific searches. But before we dive into how to begin an SEO campaign or audit, we need to explain some of the basic principles of SEO.

Search engine optimization comprises various techniques and skills that help websites “rank” better in search engines. Ranking, or appearing on the first or second page of a keyword search, can help websites gain more visibility within their target markets. Whether it’s Google, Bing, or some other search tool, the search engine decides which websites are most helpful for users searching specific terms. If you follow these search engines’ rules and best practices, you will have a greater chance of reaching your target audience online.

First, you will want to see what is already ranking for your branded and non-branded search terms. Go to SEMRush for an overview of how your site performs and what keywords rank best on it. You can also search your brand name to see what results appear on the first page. Do this on a different computer or web application from what you’d typically use because Google will often tailor results based on your device’s search history. Once you’ve identified the top results for your brand name, you will also want to see if your site ranks for geo-specific keywords you’re trying to target.

You also want to see what Google is currently ranking for your website. You can do this by searching site:yourdomain.com. The top-ranked pages on your site will appear. You can then examine which pages are performing best and need to be improved.

It would help if you then did a website crawl, using tools like “Beam Us Up” to get a general idea of technical areas that need immediate changes or show up with errors. This tool will show if all of your domain variations have been claimed and duplicate content. If the content is copied, it needs a canonical URL tag to prevent website penalties. A canonical tag redirects duplicated content to the preferred or original content source.

You also want to create branded pages on as many social and business listing sites as possible. If you do this, you reduce the risk of someone else using your brand name on a social site and having them control your brand image on that platform. It also boosts your presence and can help you own more search engine “real estate.

Finally, you want to analyze your website design. Certain design elements that make a website user-friendly can help your overall SEO strategy. Is your website well planned and organized in a way that makes sense for the user and the search engine? Adding a sitemap can help web crawlers easily access your pages and index them accordingly. You can add a search bar or craft a better navigation bar to help.

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