What is SEO, and how does it work?Search engine optimization is the practice of optimizing a website’s quantity and quality of traffic (visitors) from a search engine’s results page. When done properly, SEO brings in free, passive traffic directly from Google every day. No paid ads needed. In simpler terms, it’s basically the practice of optimizing your website and its content so that Google likes it and ranks you higher for terms relevant to your business. For example, if you’ve got a course for learning guitar, SEO will help you be more visible when people search for “online guitar course”.
How does SEO work?Think of search engines like a massive digital library. Only instead of books, they store copies of websites. Google sends out bots called “crawlers” to investigate every website. These guys figure out what a site is all about, and then index it in the library. When someone searches “online guitar course”, Google’s algorithm scans the index and displays what it thinks is the best answer to the query. Search engines evaluate your site based on hundreds or even thousands of factors, including content, user behavior, authority, social media and links (a lot more on this later). Google even judges your page based on speed. It’s trying to show the best results for users, so if your pages load slowly, you’ll be penalized. That’s how advanced the algorithm is. So, if you think about it, SEO is optimizing your pages to please Google’s algorithm and demonstrate to it that you’re the best answer to a search term. Related: The 3 Most Common Mistakes Online Course Creators Make
Why is SEO so powerful for course creators?Imagine a steady stream of interested visitors coming to your website every week, all without paying for ads, spending all day on Reddit, or monitoring Facebook groups. Some course keywords have hundreds or even thousands of searches a month. If you rank at the top of Google, the majority of the visitors will come to your site. Back to our guitar course example. About 450 people search for an online guitar course per month. That’s 450 highly interested customers looking for a guitar course with the intent to purchase. That’s roughly 112 per week, or 16 per day. I don’t know about you, but I’d love to have 16 interested customers come to my sales page each day with no extra effort. Even if I only convert two, that’s hundreds of dollars in sales a day. Can you see the potential power of ranking for a key term with regular search volume? Compare this to other marketing methods, and it becomes a no-brainer.
- Google or Facebook Ads: They’re becoming more and more expensive, and ROI is decreasing. Plus, they require a lot of capital to get off the ground. SEO requires only time and patience (plus knowledge on how to do it right).
- Social Media: Facebook requires constant monitoring and customer service. It’s highly valuable for sure, but it requires a lot of time that could be better spent elsewhere. With SEO, you do the work upfront, and from there it’s 99 percent hands-off.
- Affiliates: Finding affiliates for your courses is one of the best ways to get sales in the beginning, but you’ve got to pay up to 50 percent or more to the affiliate. With SEO, you keep 100 percent of the sale.
How to do SEO for courses the right waySEO is both very simple and very complex at the same time. It’s simple in that, for the most part, you really only have to do all the things a business would naturally do to attract an audience:
- Create content about your products
- Create an active social media presence
- Connect with others in your industry
- Create a great user experience on your website
- Make sure your site can be crawled by Google and is secure for visitors
Keyword research: Discover what your audience is actually searching forProper keyword research is the foundation of search engine optimization. If you don’t do the keyword research right, your SEO efforts will be a waste of time and money. Most people get it wrong in the beginning and end up wasting months going in the wrong direction. Proper research is all about finding out what your audience is actually searching for and which order you should target them. First, let’s cover finding the keywords. The best way to start is just to brainstorm using that big thinking machine in your head. You can even use Google’s auto complete to help. Bonus tip: Use the related searches box at the bottom of the Google results page to get more related ideas. You can find a lot of gems there. Once you have all these ideas, use a keyword research tool to find cold hard data on all key terms related to your course. Here’s where most online course creators (and people in general) go wrong. Most people think Wow, this term has the most traffic. I’ll target that one first, because it will bring the most visitors to my page. The terms with the highest volume (head terms) have the highest competition. And because Google heavily favors established websites with lots of content, links and authority, chances are you’ll get crushed by larger competitors if you go for these “head terms.” Also, head terms are usually very broad, so if someone lands on your course page from one of these terms, they might not be interested in an online course.
Here’s what to do instead to bring in low-competition trafficIf you want easy traffic, you should actually do the opposite of targeting head terms. Target the low-volume, more specific keywords first and build from there. Specific keywords also usually have more targeted intent than head terms, so your ROI will be higher. For example, don’t target guitar course or guitar class. Instead, go for “online guitar course for beginners” so you’ll get low competition traffic. Once you start getting traffic, Google starts warming up to you more. So all the low-competition traffic will slowly give you enough juice to go after the bigger head terms. Simple enough, right? Okay, now you’ve got all the key terms related to your course. Next up is planning it out. Related: 4 Crucial Things To Consider Before Creating An Online Course
How to plan and create your content for perfect SEOPlanning and structuring your content topics properly is a major SEO advantage that could catapult you over competitors who are just producing content for the sake of content. The best way to plan your content is in what’s called “content clusters.” A content cluster is when you create one article on the main topic and several other articles on a subtopic within that topic. Then you link to the subtopics within the main topic’s article. Like this: For example, you might have the main topic of “how to play guitar.” Here, you’d write a massive, fully exhaustive guide to everything you need to know about how to learn the guitar, including subtopics like basic theory, guitar chords, fingerboard exercises and picking techniques. Then you’d create articles on each of those subtopics and link to each of them within that article. And also, you’d link all the subtopics together as well.
Why organize your content into clusters?The reason you organize your content into clusters is because it makes it easier for Google to understand what your website is about, and it also provides more value to your users. Say I’m a newbie looking to learn how to play the guitar: It’s much better for me to be directed to a website that not only covers all the topics in a single page but also provides in-depth information on each of those subtopics too. It gives me everything I need to know to learn guitar in one spot. Compare that to a website that just creates random guitar articles, and it’s easy to see why Google prefers this type of structure.
How to write good content for SEOWriting informative, easily readable content based on your key terms is crucial for SEO. Content for the sake of content is not going to cut it these days. Yes, targeting the right keywords is important. But what’s even more important is you satisfy the reader’s query and provide them with an enjoyable reading experience. Even professional SEO writers neglect one or even both of these principles from time to time. Here are a few quick tips for writing good content around your keywords.
1. Short, readable sentencesGoogle prefers easily readable and easily scannable content. That usually means the following:
- Short sentences
- Simple sentences with minimal punctuation and simple grammar
- Short paragraphs