Back to Basics: A marketer's SEO starter guide

Robyn Jackson / August 2020

Back to Basics is a new Think with Google Canada series where Google experts explore digital marketing best practices.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the act of optimizing website content for search engines, in hopes of making sites more discoverable when people are searching online. All sites and businesses have unique SEO needs and require their own strategies.

For marketers new to digital or starting to think about their own SEO strategy, we’ve rounded up a few of the basic elements below. (For a more thorough list, see Google’s SEO Starter Guide.)

Relevant keywords can help search engines find you

Keywords are basic words or terms that describe products and services, most often found in the display copy of a website (like on an “about” page, a blog post or in a product description), or in the metadata descriptions. Search engines crawl web pages and index content and keywords, then use that information to help sort and show relevant websites, articles, images and videos to people when they are searching for those words.

Marketers looking to move beyond the basic keywords can use tools like Google Trends or the Google Ads Keyword Planner to help discover new and trending keywords, see search interest around specific keywords, and see how search terms compare to others in terms of popularity or customer interest.

Alt-tags can help with content discoverability

Adding descriptive, text-only alternatives, such as alt-tags, to rich-media content like photos and videos makes your site more accessible to people who use technologies such as screen readers. It also makes it easier for search engines to learn about the different types of content on your site, and index it in the right places.

Alt-tags should be short descriptions of the images, not lists of keywords, so the content is helpful and accurate.

Online business profiles can help keep information up-to-date

Online business profiles, like Google My Business, can help you manage your online business information and expand your presence across Google Search and Maps. Businesses can post photos, information and updates as a way to connect with customers, as well as get data and analytics on the people engaging with their listing.

You can inspect website links to see if they’re searchable

Search engines regularly crawl websites, so it’s important to check in on your links every once in a while, to check the status and check for any errors. You can inspect and test your site URLs regularly. Google’s URL Inspection Tool can help you to test your pages and get relevant information about how it is indexing, or any indexing errors.

Google’s Search Console site also offers tools and reports that can help you confirm Google can find and crawl your site, fix indexing issues or request re-indexing, show which sites link to your websites, and help troubleshoot search issues.

Content strategies can have an impact on SEO

Publishing original, helpful and accurate content can have a positive impact on SEO, and provide search engines with more information about your products and services.

However, it’s important to keep the original copy. If web crawlers find duplicate text on different pages or sites, such as articles copied word-for-word or with minor revisions, it can end up having a negative impact on SEO, as search engines will only index one of the pages. If there are times when you need to include duplicate text, such as re-publishing an article through a content partnership, look into ways to address it up front, like adding canonical tags.

Learn more about SEO basics in Google’s SEO Starter Guide and Google’s Search Console site.

Inside Google Marketing: 3 ways we think about SEO