Search engine optimization (SEO) is key in attracting visitors to your website who are in search of a product or service you offer. Over 90% of all web traffic comes from places like Google and Yahoo. No matter what type of website you’re running, you should invest in SEO efforts. Doing it yourself is very difficult. We wrote a do-it-yourself guide for businesses and it was 10 pages long. Most business owners should invest in a service that will help drive new eyeballs to their website. That’s where we come in.

Is your site not being found by your customers?
Why do you need SEO for your company?

OnTarget Media Group is a full-service digital marketing agency. We know SEO inside and out, and we customize our work to fit the needs of our clients. We partner with our clients to put together the right SEO plan for their business. Call us today to set up a consult, and we will help you be found by your potential customers looking for your services.

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SEO helps your website’s pages be shown at the top of organic search results. It is a strategic method used by creating content-driven pages on your website tied to keywords people type in when looking for a product or service. This helps drive the right people to look for what you do when they need it most.

Google is by far the most popular search engine in the world using the most complex algorithm in the world. There are no shortcuts to be found on the first page of Google. Hiring professionals to take off this task for your business is key to your search results success.

Why Do I Need SEO?

SEO is important for many reasons. The traffic that comes from search engines (when connected to a website set up with the right content) stays on the website longer, browses more pages, and is more likely to contact a business for goods and services when needed. Social Media is great for branding, and Paid search will send a ton of traffic to your website. But when all of these are done together, you will be there when your customers are at the bottom of the sales funnel and they will have a bigger opportunity to pick your business when they need your products or services

This article will teach you a lot about SEO, from the basics to the advanced details.

Here are a few SEO-specific definitions:

  • Keyword: A phrase that someone types into a search engine
  • Search Results: The listing of links to pages that appears after you’ve searched a keyword, often called SERPs, for search engine results pages
  • Rank: Where in the SERP a page is listed. The first link is #1, the next is #2, etc.
Get In Front of Your Customers When They Have A Need
Perform Locally When It Matters Most
Increase Your Site’s Visibility Online
Claim More Coverage In Search Engines
SERPs usually show two main types of links: paid ads and organic listings.

Different Types of Search Results

Organic listings make up the rest of the results. Your SEO efforts directly affect the rank in organic listings. There are several types of organic listings, depending on the search. Google does its best to provide search results that best serve the user.

Map Packs

Map packs usually show up for a localized search. If you search “lunch,” for example, Google will assume you want to find a restaurant nearby and show you a map with some restaurants pointed out.

Question Box

The question box with the heading “People also ask” is a relatively recent addition to Google results, and it allows the user to see answers to related questions.

Featured Snippets

Featured snippets will appear for searches with a clear, simple answer. If Google is confident it can find the answer to your search on a webpage, it “snips” that text and shows it, saving the user the trouble of clicking into a site. That may seem to punish websites for providing a clear answer, but statistics show that pages in featured snippets get more traffic than they would if they appeared in traditional listings.

Videos & Images

Videos and images naturally take the top spots for specific keywords. A good example is “how to tie a tie,” a query satisfied best by a short YouTube video rather than a written step-by-step guide.

Let’s Start with the SEO Basics

Keyword Research

Most SEO strategies start with keyword research. SEO pros use tools, such as Google Ads, SEMrush (We use this one), and many others, to see the value of keywords. There’s search volume, the approximate number of times a keyword is searched monthly, and cost per click (CPC), taken from historical PPC bidding, which gives a clue as to the monetary value of bringing a single user to your site through a keyword.

An informational keyword such as “Eagles” has no CPC because the user is just looking for a baseball team’s roster. The user gets the information and leaves. “Eagles tickets” would have a much higher CPC, because the user is very likely to buy game tickets once landing on a website.

Deciding on keywords shapes the group of pages you’ll create and optimize. For a given page, don’t just choose just one keyword; it’s smart to have a list of secondary keywords that help flesh out the topic of your page. When Google evaluates pages, it looks for keywords that relate to other keywords as a clue as to how valuable your page is.

On-Page Optimization

Once you have keywords to target, you can create the content of your pages. Antiquated SEO guidelines will tell you to force-feed the keyword into your content as much as possible. This is called Keyword Stuffing. Back in the early days of SEO, this sort of tactic worked. Google can’t be tricked. Stay true to the content you are creating for your website.

Here are some of the main elements of on-page content:

  • URL: the web address for the page
  • Meta title: the “official” title of the page, which appears in the tab at the top of a web browser and as the link in search results
  • Meta description: a short description of the page, usually 160 characters or less, appearing below the link in search results
  • H1 heading: the title as it’s shown within the page, usually in large, bold text
  • Body content: the bulk of the page’s offering, usually words, images, buttons, purchasing forms, etc.
  • Other headings: headings that separate the content, called H2, H3, H4, etc., based on their size and purpose in the page content, especially useful for long pages that cover a topic deeply

Writing SEO-friendly content can be a tricky proposition for many content writers. Google consistently urges websites to use natural language that speaks to their target audience. Use keywords liberally — it’s logical that your keyword will appear in the URL, meta title, meta description, H1 heading, and body content — but don’t overdo it. If you have a list of secondary keywords, don’t jam them into the content where they don’t belong. Even with secondary keywords, the guideline is still to satisfy the query.

Site Organization

Websites should be well organized, both for the user and for search engines. As a website manager, you want to use navigation links at the top of the pages and text links within the content to help users explore the site. All links should be placed logically, with text that is clear to the user. Links typically contain keywords that match the destination of the link, which helps your SEO efforts. One helpful guideline is to imagine a webpage with all the content removed, except for the links. Without the benefit of context, will users know where each link will send them?

Your URLs should be similarly buttoned up. Most websites use categories in their URL structure, like this:


Ideal site organization requires solid planning from the start. Determine the main categories of the information or products you offer. eCommerce sites, in particular, tend to be very large and contain many categories. Use a URL structure that is reflective of the search intent, user experience, and keyword strategy.


Often referred to as “external links” and “off-page SEO,” backlinks are links that go from other sites to your site. Backlinks give Google a big clue into the value and reputation of your site among the rest of the online world. If other sites reference your site and are willing to send users there, your site must be pretty great. OnTarget Media Group offers link-building campaigns, as either part of an SEO services package, or by itself.

SEO pros use tools, such as Majestic or Ahrefs, to look at all the backlinks your site has. Not all links have equal value. Links from authoritative, high-traffic sites will benefit your SEO much more than those from less reputable sites. Metrics such as “trust flow” and “citation flow” help calculate the total value of your backlink profile.

Google has improved its understanding of backlinks greatly in the last ten years. In more primitive times, websites successfully “gamed the system” by having their links placed on sites called “link farms.” These days, Google will easily detect this black hat SEO tactic and likely impose a manual penalty on your site, which is catastrophic to your rankings and a pain to fix.

Local SEO

For local businesses, there are some additional SEO steps to take. You’ve probably searched something like “restaurant” or “gym” and got search results for businesses in your area, conveniently giving you access to location, phone number, business hours, driving directions, and reviews.

Local SEO involves creating a Google My Business profile and making sure your business is listed on aggregation sites and social media platforms. Positive reviews can help your business appear higher than your competition. You should be consistent with your information, like location and hours. Some websites will optimize their pages to include localized keywords that help users and search engines know where your business operates. See our local SEO page for more information.

Technical SEO

The idea behind technical SEO is that users and search engines shouldn’t have any trouble finding anything on your site. Here’s a list of some parts of technical SEO:

  • Page speed: Page Speed is the amount of time that it takes for a webpage to load. A page’s loading speed is determined by several different factors, including a site’s server, page filesize, and image compression.
  • Mobile-friendliness: A mobile-friendly website is one that is designed to work the exact same way across devices. This means that nothing changes or is unusable on a computer or mobile device. Features like navigation drop-downs are limited, as they can be difficult to use on mobile.
  • Duplicate content: Duplicate content is content that is available on multiple URLs on the web. Because more than one URL shows the same content, search engines don’t know which URL to list higher in the search results. Therefore they might rank both URLs lower and give preference to other web pages.
  • Broken links: Anytime a user clicks a link and doesn’t go to a page or it goes to a dead page, that’s a bad user experience, and search engines will ding you appropriately.

Tracking SEO Success

First, let’s establish the best ways of tracking your SEO success:

-Keyword Rankings
-Backlink Growth, Quantity, and Quality
-Organic Search
-Track & Analyze Your Lowest Organic Traffic Earners
-Track Your Conversions
-Track Behavior Flow
-Time Spent on Page
-Bounce Rate
-Mobile Traffic
-Returning Visitors and Direct Visitors
-Click-Through Rate (CTR)
-Domain Authority

These are just some basics about tracking SEO and site traffic.

One of the most popular and well-reviewed SEO tools is SEMrush. Among its many functionalities, SEMrush will track rank for any individual keyword you add to your campaign. Before you create or update pages, choose what keywords you’re targeting and add them to your tracking. Depending on the website, you may want to check your rank daily, weekly, or monthly, and record the results.

You may have found that the keywords you targeted aren’t the ones actually driving traffic to the site. Google Search Console will show how many impressions and clicks your pages got for individual keywords. If you find a new keyword driving significant traffic, add it to your tracking going forward.

On a broader scale, it’s good to know just how much of your total site traffic comes from search. There are other ways people can find the site, obviously, such as typing in the URL or using bookmarks (direct traffic), or clicking a link from another site, an email, or a social media app (referral traffic). It’s also helpful to know desktop traffic and mobile traffic percentages. Web analytics tools like Google Analytics and WebTrends can segment traffic and do so much more that can help inform your SEO and digital marketing strategies.

These are just some basics about tracking SEO and site traffic.


How long does it take to see results from SEO?

Some people say three months, some say six, some say twelve. There’s no easy answer. Every industry, keyword, and website is different. Assuming your technical SEO is done right, Google will crawl a new or updated page within 48 hours, but it can take a lot of time for Google to detect the user behavior of the page and begin to move it up or down the ranks.

Does page design affect SEO?

Yes. Anything that affects user experience affects SEO. Sites with attractive designs are likely to have better user behavior metrics. Navigation links, monetization widgets, pop-ups, images, and videos are all part of the structure of a page. If you’re redesigning a site, make sure that it’s mobile-friendly and has good page speed.

What’s the deal with HTTP and HTTPS?

HTTP was the standard internet protocol attached to URLs since 1991. The added “S” stands for “secure,” verifying that the connection between a browser and a server is safe. Starting in 2018, Google has significantly downgraded sites that don’t use HTTPS.

What is black hat SEO?

Black hat SEO is any tactic meant to “game the system” and manipulate search engine algorithms without providing legitimate value. Link farms are an example. “Doorway pages” that bring in traffic and send users to another page are another example. Honest SEO efforts are called white hat SEO, and tactics that are debatable are called gray hat SEO. Google and other search engines have become increasingly good at detecting black hat tactics.

What is a manual penalty? What should I do if my site was penalized?

If Google finds that a site is using too many black hat tactics, it may give the site a manual penalty, which will drastically lower rankings or remove the site from search results altogether. Using link farms or unnatural external linking is a common cause. To recover from a manual penalty, you need to fix the problem and prove to Google that you’ve fixed the problem. In the case of external linking, you’ll need to assess all the backlinks to your site, contact webmasters to have those links removed, record all the emails, give Google a report of links you want removed from your backlink profile, and wait. It sounds like a painstaking process because it is. If you’ve been hit with a manual penalty, we can help.

How often does Google change their algorithm?

Common SEO knowledge says that Google “tweaks the dials” every day, although these changes aren’t particularly noticeable. There are “core algorithm updates,” which are very noticeable and usually come with an official announcement from Google. There were three in 2018 and three in 2019. Google does not reveal much information about these updates, typically stating that the update aims to provide a better user experience for Google users.

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