seo basics


“What do I need to know about SEO?”

It’s a common question for business owners and marketing managers, and even for industry professionals. What are the crucial aspects of digital marketing for the challenges facing your business, and how should you approach those challenges?

Recently, I encountered this question on a LinkedIn marketing discussion group from an intern in the marketing department of a small firm who did not know where to begin. In this case, her company’s website was “a catastrophe in terms of structure and content.” While she had plans to make the navigation more user friendly and vague awareness of keywords, backlinks and meta-data, the company was stuck when it come to optimizing their site for their visitors.

My answer to her questions, and hopefully yours, are below.

Getting Started

When it comes to your SEO question, there are plentiful online resources like Moz’s blog and Beginner’s Guide to SEO as well as resources from Google’s Matt Cutts, like his YouTube videos.

If you are thinking of redoing your site, start with focusing on its purpose. What do you want people who get to this site to do? What will they want to do if they’ve come to this site? Each page should serve a purpose of moving a site visitor toward becoming something like a customer, a fan (I’m not talking about Facebook), or a referrer.

Test What You Build

User testing would be a step I’d highly recommend if you’re starting from scratch, and it’s only as expensive as $39 per person (through

You can even field users from your customer base (“We’d like at most 30 minutes of your time in exchange for $30 to a charity of your choice”) or your local coffee shop. (“Would you mind looking at our website and answer X questions about it. We’d like to give you a $20 coffee gift card for your time.”)

It all depends on who your prospective customer type is, and be aware there is a difference between a prospective customer and a current customer. Of course, though, it all comes down to what you’re trying to accomplish with your website.

You Can’t Manage What You Can’t Measure

Fast forward to after this step and your new design is about to launch, and it’s been designed around what your users want and what will move them along. At this point, make sure you have analytics.

Set it up to measure those important conversion goals – those critical steps that you believe move people to become a customer, etc. Plus, Google Analytics is free, so you really have no excuse to not collectthat data. The data you gather through here should justify your time and investment to others. Share this data with the organization so they can realize the site’s importance and how it benefits them. In turn, they may begin to think of ways they can help it.

Testing, Testing…

Finally, A/B testing is a great way to incrementally improve your site. Test a headline, a picture, a callout, a call to action, etc. This can be done for free through Google Content Experiments (part of Google Analytics), or there are more robust solutions for a fee that varies based on your sites traffic levels.

This is by no means a comprehensive answer to SEO, but it will help you stay focused on what is most important to your business: your customers.


Brian Russell is a senior marketing strategist at 352. He's on Twitter a lot, but to get all the extra goodies, Google requires him to say he's on Google+, too.