SEO 101: A Brief Guide to Search Engine Optimization

July 3, 2019

Picture this – you’re out to dinner with friends and family, chatting about whatever comes to mind – the weather, the next big game, travel plans, your new car, etc. Someone says, “I’m looking to buy a new SUV. Which company has the best safety scores?” You pause and rack your brain. Someone else chimes in. “Google it.”

The same scenario is happening simultaneously all around the world. “What are the best lunch spots in Pittsburgh?” “How to choose an affordable bankruptcy lawyer.” “Dermatologists in my area.” Market research company Forrester says 60% of customers don’t want to interact with salespeople anymore, 68% prefer to do research on their own, and 62% have developed their own set of criteria to choose a vendor.

Because search engines have become our primary mode of seeking information, search engine optimization (SEO) is essential to grow your business, extend your digital reach, and simply maintain online visibility. When done right, SEO can significantly increase your search traffic and improve your audiences’ overall experience finding and navigating your website.

The nature of SEO—what it is, how it works—is complex, and in many ways, still mysterious to the average business owner. But don’t panic. We’ve put together this basic guide to help get you started.

What is SEO?

SEO can be broken down into two parts – a practice to improve visibility and ranking. When you ask search engines like Google a question, they spit out a list of links – SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). Realistically, people will only click the top 3-4 links, so it’s crucial to be near the top, if not in the number one spot. Search engine algorithms rank based on relevancy and authority, measured through the use of keywords, backlinking, and other practices.

How Do You Optimize a Website?

Technical Setup

Your website looks different to your eyes than it does to the “eyes” of a search engine. Where you see the formatting, images, colors, and other visual elements, Google only sees a block of text. The technical setup allows the search engine to decipher, scan, and index content in a way it can understand. This requires you to do the following:

  • Keep URLs short and sweet
  • Improve page load time (page speed)
  • Fix broken links
  • Create a sitemap (tells the search engine what to crawl and index) and robot.txt file (tells the search engine what not to index)
  • Remove duplicate content


You must post regular relevant content for search engines to rank you high on SERPs. The search engines are also crawling to determine whether your content is quality by analyzing things like keyword use, content length, and structure.

Keywords are important because they bring the right audience to your site. These are people who are actively searching for something that only you can give, or that you can give a better version of. Start by identifying terms and keywords that someone looking for your product or service might use. Next, you’ll want to conduct thorough research for related terms.

Another important element is on-page optimization. Much of this relates to the keywords you use, but there is also an element of code, including meta-titles and meta-descriptions. To help search engines understand where to rank you, include at least one keyword into the following elements of your page:

  • Title
  • URL
  • H1 tag
  • The first paragraph of the content
  • Meta-title and meta-description
  • Image file names
  • Alt text

In general, longer content tends to rank higher on Google. As a rule, do notdrop below 350 words. But more importantly, post regularly. Don’t let long periods of time pass without publishing new content.


Your authority is measured through something called backlinks, or external links. These are links on a third-party source that bring readers back to your content. You want a combination of volume and credibility. To gain credible backlinks, consider implementing a link building campaign. This would involve the following:

  • Forum participation
  • Interacting with sources online, asking for features
  • Building long-term resources with credible sources
  • Guest blogging

Another good SEO practice is internal linking. This requires you to link your reader to relevant content on your own website. This technique makes it easier for search engines to navigate your site and a specific topic.

What is Cosmitto’s SEO Process?

If you choose to do SEO work with Cosmitto, our process will look a little something like this:

Initial Call

First, we’ll discuss your competitors, company goals and values, and negative keywords. This can be particularly helpful for a company with specific services, such as a law firm. If you are a workers’ compensation firm, you don’t want to come up in a Google search for “divorce lawyer.”

Keyword Research

After the initial call, we take several days to complete keyword research analysis. First, we find out what keywords your direct competitors are ranking for. We look for keywords that have low to medium competition and high search volume, both nationally and locally. After one or two rounds of revisions, we send our keyword research to you for feedback. Our main focus is to ensure the keywords we rank for represent your voice and brand and stay relevant to your target audience.

SEO Audit

Next, we perform an SEO audit, which is a complete analysis of your website. After the audit, we can make appropriate recommendations on how to fix errors and improve website navigation and search engine rankings. This includes analysis on mobile friendliness. We also take a look at your on-page copy and discuss opportunities for keyword alignment.


In most cases, after presenting the audit, we work on metadata and on-page rewrites. We look at all meta descriptions, titles, URLs and H1’s that are missing or exceed character threshold and rewrite them to align with SEO best practices while including appropriate keywords for each page. We can also implement these rewrites (once you approve them) on the website.

Ongoing SEO

We generally deliver ongoing SEO reports at the end of every quarter in March, June, September, and December. For new clients, we start reporting 3 months after the first week of implementations and send quarterly reports from that point on. These reports include updates on the keyword rankings, discuss any new metadata issues that may arise that we need to address in the next quarter, and compare our rank against competitors. Ongoing SEO is important because Google changes its algorithm 500-600 times in just one year! That means we have to be on top of our game to make sure your website is updating and evolving to meet the standards of the most current algorithm.

We hope this overview helps you better understand the ins and outs of SEO. Contact us today and we’ll be happy to discuss customized SEO services.

Because search engines have become our primary mode of seeking information, search engine optimization (SEO) is essential to grow your business, extend your digital reach, and simply maintain online visibility.

Emily Laubham

Emily Laubham