Search engine optimization can be a confusing maze. It's easy to get lost, especially when you're trying to master it. You're not alone. Many people who attempt to learn about or do SEO are often frustrated by their lack of success. 

I've been at this for almost 15 years now, and I still struggle with some basic fundamentals. Some things haven't changed since day one. Others have. But here are my top tips for getting started -- and succeeding.

Write for humans first and search engines second. This is probably the most important tip I can give you. You must write for human users first and search engines second. Search engines are just a tool. 

If you don't know what your target audience wants, you will fail no matter how good your SEO strategy is. There are plenty of sites out there that will tell you how to optimize for search engines. They might even tell you which key phrases work best. But they won't help you if you don't know what those phrases mean to real people. 

Do keyword research. Spend time looking through competitor backlinks and finding out what content they're ranking well for. Read forums where your potential customers hang out. Look at their websites and social media profiles. Take note of any trends you see. 

You'll also want to look at what those topics related to your business are. What searches are being done? What terms have people used to find you? Which ones have led them to purchase from you? If you aren't sure, take a few minutes to run a Google Trends analysis. 

It may seem like a lot of work, but it goes way beyond a simple keyword list. The more data you gather, the better able you'll be to create content that's tailored specifically to your audience. 

Use targeted keywords in all the right places. Search engines want to show you results that match exactly what you typed into Google. But they can only do so much. You need to tell Google what you're targeting. 

This means using descriptive keywords as much as possible throughout your website. Make sure each page has its own unique set of keywords in the title tag and the meta description. And make sure the pages themselves are optimized for specific keywords as well. 

For example, let's say you sell pet food online. Your keyword phrase would be "pet food." That's what you should use in your title tag and meta description. And then you should add a couple of other descriptive words. "Pet Food" is too broad; "cat food" is too narrow. 

The same thing applies to your page titles, headings, alt tags, and H1 tags. Don't try to cram as many keywords into these areas as possible. Instead, focus on making them relevant and helpful to visitors. 

Focus on creating content that speaks directly to your prospects' needs. When a visitor lands on your page, they shouldn't have to think about whether they want to buy your product or service. They should immediately understand why you exist, what problem you solve, and how you're going to help them solve that problem. 

When you do this, search engines will reward you with higher rankings, more traffic, and increased sales conversions. 

Focus on UX. One of the biggest mistakes small businesses make is focusing solely on improving the visibility of their website. Sure, getting your site ranked high is great, but you need to provide a positive user experience. 

Your website doesn't exist in a vacuum. People go to Google to find information. So you need to make sure that all the elements of your online presence serve both the visitor and the search engine. 

It sounds obvious, but people tend to forget that every single element of their digital footprint needs to be useful. Whether that's a blog post, an email marketing campaign, a Facebook ad, or a promotional video, everything should be carefully crafted to meet the needs of the person reading it. 

And that includes your web copy and design! When someone visits your homepage, they expect to see compelling imagery, clear call-to-action buttons, and informative content. Every single detail matters. 

Remove anything that slows down your site. If your website seems slow, your visitors won't stick around long enough to convert. A sluggish site can also have a negative impact on your search engine rankings. 

There are two kinds of speed issues. First, you can improve the speed of your site by removing unnecessary images and CSS stylesheets. Second, you can make your site faster by optimizing your server settings. 

Your web host probably offers tools for both purposes. Ask them for recommendations. Or check out our free guide to speeding up WordPress. 

Format content for featured snippets. Google gives priority to content that appears in search results alongside a snippet of text. These snippets are usually displayed near the top of the SERP. 

One of the easiest ways to ensure that your content shows up in those results is to format it for featured snippets. By adding unique heading styles to your content, Google will recognize it and display it prominently next to your other results. 

In addition to formatting your content, you should also include a short introduction that explains why readers should care about your topic. Include a link to your main resource page or a contact form with an autoresponder subscription. 

Finally, use keywords within the body of the content itself. If you're writing about something that interests you, chances are you'll be interested in the actual subject. So put your keywords wherever you can. 

For example, if you're selling pet food online, talk about pets and cat food. Then mention your company name. Don't just repeat it over and over again. Instead, weave it into the body of the article. 

If you're writing about cats, don't just write cat articles. Talk about cat health and cat food. Add in your company name and maybe sprinkle in a few mentions of your products. 

Make sure your content is concise. If you need to write multiple paragraphs to explain complex ideas, consider breaking them up into smaller pieces. Keep your sentences short and to the point. 

Most importantly, though, make sure your content answers questions that your prospective customers have. If you do this, you'll build trust with your viewers -- and they'll be more likely to return to your site again and again. 

Remove anything that slows down your site. Again, your website exists in a virtual reality designed by Google. Anything that makes your site less than ideal will hurt you in the end. 

Make sure that your homepage loads quickly. Check to see if you have unneeded plugins installed. Fix errors on the backend of your site. Disable any widgets that aren't necessary. 

If you follow these tips, you'll increase your chances of having great organic search results. You'll also improve your conversion rates and boost your business profits. 

Keep learning. While these SEO tips are tried and true, you can always learn more. The internet is vast, and there are tons of resources available to help you succeed. 

Don't settle for mediocre results. Invest your time, effort, and money into learning more about the art of search engine optimization. And remember: Write for humans first and search engines second.