SEO: A Step-By-Step Guide For 2021

Posted on June 24th, 2021
SEO: A Step-By-Step Guide For 2021

What is SEO? 

You've heard of SEO and the many benefits that it can provide to a website and business, but what exactly is search engine optimization? As a digital marketing agency with locations in San Diego and Salt Lake City, we are going to break it down so that you have the knowledge of an SEO marketing expert!

SEO marketing is an organic form of advertising, meaning you do not pay to get results or exposure. Search engine optimization includes all efforts to get your website pages ranking on the organic search results of search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing and DuckDuckGo. 

How many times have you visited the 8th page of your search results? Our guess is probably never. With knowledgeable SEO efforts, you can unbury your website and start showing up in the coveted top search positions, especially Position “0”, located between the paid ads and the start of the traditional organic search results (SERPs)!

Consistent SEO efforts will help you show up for your consumers right when they are searching for you. For example, if consumers search for a specific keyword like "best SEO agency" with good SEO efforts you can rank in the top search results. This high ranking is super valuable for businesses as it puts you in touch with a consumer at the exact moment they have very high intent. So how do you get there?

Let's dive into SEO strategies for 2021 from a digital marketing agency with locations in San Diego and Salt Lake City that will make you rank and put you in the running with your competitors.

White Hat, Gray Hat, and Black Hat

The first step to getting your business in a top SEO ranking position is to be aware of best practices. With SEO, there are three categories every strategy or tactic falls into; white hat, gray hat, and black hat.


Derived from old westerns, white hat SEO represents the "good" tactics, and black hat SEO the "bad" tactics. What black hat versus white hat SEO really comes down to is best practices versus quick strategies that won't last the test of time.

White hat SEO strategies include a focus on original and well-written content, genuine backlinks, and web pages optimized for user experience. Black hat SEO on the other hand, includes practices like keyword stuffing, duplicate content, and getting links from irrelevant sites.

Gray hat SEO sits somewhere in the middle. While search engines will often penalize black hat practices, gray hat practices toe the line of best practice and frowned upon techniques.

The key to good SEO is to utilize tactics and strategies with your consumer in mind. Buying links from irrelevant sites and putting out guest posts that don't add any value won't help you reach your audience or make your website rank. Consistent and relevant efforts will give you long-term positive results.

Keyword Research

When it comes to laying out an SEO plan, the best place to start is with keyword research. Choosing the right keywords to compete for is a KEY to successful SEO work.


While doing keyword research, there are various metrics to consider like impressions, competitiveness, and the average amount of monthly searches a keyword has. Different metrics can help you decide what keywords to pursue and target on your web pages. Tapping into up and coming keywords using SEO tools will give you an edge in ranking as you beat out the competition.

Once you have a large variety of keywords, the next step is determining what pages you want to insert your keywords in. Choosing pages per keyword based on difficulty to rank is a common way to approach the process.


For businesses or organizations that promote Ecommerce on their website, another way to reach customers with high intent is to utilize high CPC words as organic keywords. Using high CPC keywords will allow you to rank organically for the most expensive words you want to bid on with your paid efforts. This strategy saves you money and targets customers with high intent to buy!


Content Optimization

As the saying goes, content is king! Getting content out that is relevant and valuable to your target market is essential for effective SEO marketing. So what makes content valuable?

Creating content that meets the intent of users is a great way to garner engagement, add value, and decrease bounce rates. Not to mention it can get you ranked! But how do you deliver content that is in line with what people are searching for? 

Once you've found a valuable keyword or phrase you want to target, check out what kind of content is currently ranking for that keyword to see what people are clicking on the most. Checking out the competition at the top will show you exactly what users want to be included in your content.


Getting the topic right is a good step but it is also essential to make your content easy to digest. Chunking your content will help make it more consumable and skimmable to readers. Catering to the short attention span of readers can include using a larger font and short headlines or titles.

Lastly, you want to make your content easy to act upon. For example, if you are explaining great business ideas, don't leave your audience hanging on how they can start creating one of those business ideas.

On-Page SEO & Technical SEO

Outside of writing great content, there are tons of additional things you can do on your website that will optimize your site and blogs. These additional tasks are often referred to as on-page SEO or technical SEO.


On-Page SEO includes things like the correct use and placement of keywords, title tags, H1s, etc. Ensuring each of your pages is optimized with the correct information in the content should help the user and search engines understand what your page is about.

Implementing technical SEO will help your site run smoother with a focus on things like site speed, redirects, schema markup, etc. With technical SEO, it is essential to work on internal linking so that your pages and website are set up to signal to search engines what is most important when they are crawled.


Off-Page SEO

Once your website is optimized internally, the next step is showing the rest of the world wide web how good it is. Gaining "trust" in the eyes of search engines depends in large part on your off-page SEO efforts.


The main goal of off-page SEO is to create valuable backlinks to your site. Link building is super important and includes various strategies. When working on link building, it is important to remember that quality is much more important than quantity. Find reputable sites and take the time to build relationships and pitch yourself to them to gain backlinks.

There are no shortcuts for backlinking that will provide you with long-term success. A great way to enter backlinking work is to create shareable content. Content that is valuable to reference for other people in your space will draw in more backlinks and interest.

Reach Position ZERO

The end goal of all SEO is showing up for your consumer. With consistent efforts using our tactics, you can start showing up where it matters, position zero! Position zero is also known as the featured snippet. The featured snippet is very valuable real estate on search engines since it is shown at the very top of the search result above all other organic or even paid results.

Beyond normal SEO efforts, you can rank in position zero by creating valuable content in paragraph, table, or list form. Zero is the new one, and showing up in this position will boost website traffic, conversions, and sales!

Get Started With a Digital Marketing Agency With Locations in San Diego and Salt Lake City


So what are you waiting for? Put the pedal to the metal and start putting the work in to get your site ranking! Remember that SEO is a slow-growing beast so set realistic expectations as you monitor your success.


Need help getting started? Contact Target River, a digital marketing agency in San Diego and Salt Lake City, to guide you on your SEO journey.



About Target River

Target River is a target marketing firm, backed by global buying power to deliver cost-efficient campaigns that deliver results. Our team utilizes on point targeting with pinpoint accuracy. We exist to delight our clients with campaigns that effectively target the right audience, reach that audience through the most cost-efficient tactics, and deliver the most relevant message. 

Target River was recently recognized as "Marketing Agency of the Year", "Best Target Marketing Company", and "Best Education Marketing Company"  in the United States. For further information, please contact brian@targetriver.com or call 619.571.7359. www.targetriver.com.