Search Engine Optimization
The web is huge. I mean REALLY huge, and growing bigger every moment. Why does that matter to you? Simply put, that means everyone on the web, including you and your business, is getting smaller every moment, by comparison. And for a business, this is a big problem, as your entire purpose of spending money and resources on marketing is to get noticed so you can sell your products or services.
Think of your business as a bucket bobbing around in a vast sea of businesses, all trying to get noticed by fast-moving helicopters flying over head. Now, imagine that all the other buckets are also waving their little watery hands trying to get noticed by the customer-helicopters cruising along overhead. Yeah. It’s no wonder that web-based marketing can seem like a blackhole for money.
The good news is that a solution to this problem exists. And it is a three-step process that starts with SEO.
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the process of optimizing your website for viewers to find you via search engines. In essence, you are making your website more visible in search engines for your target audience. Following the sea of businesses analogy, this means SEO can make your bucket bigger, brighter, and easier to spot from the customer-helicopters that have expressed an interest in what you offer.
How Do Search Engines Work?
Search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing use programs called “spiders” to scour the web, recording and cataloging information and images. They evaluate web pages for the content that is on them, taking into account everything from layout, structure, keywords, images, tags, links, schema, and more.
All of this information goes into a database, where the search engines use proprietary algorithms to prioritize, or rank, each piece of content. Then, they rank every web page based on how well the content matches search terms or queries. These queries are often referred to as “keywords.”
The more keywords your website ranks for, the more traffic it will receive from search engines. The more traffic it receives, the more other search engines will take notice and shine a light on the site, allowing it to discover more content and rank more pages and keywords. As you can see, a snowball effect begins to take place over time. This is how your bobbing bucket starts to look like a yacht and eventually, an ocean-liner, to the blue sky full of customers.
This is why SEO is most effective when seen as the first step in an overall strategy for growing your brand and adding traffic to your website.
Optimizing your website for search engines is a complex and intricate process. It helps to start with the basics, which is not as common as you might think. So many prefer to dive right into keyword optimization or building backlinks, but Search Engine Optimization really starts at a core website level.
Ensuring your website is set up properly is vital for optimizing it for search engines. Having all of the technical components in place for easy crawling involves:
- Fast site speed
- Optimized images and videos
- Clear navigation
- Hierarchical site structure
- Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
- No Broken Links
- Important Pages (Privacy, Disclaimer, etc)
- Necessary Schema
- Mobile friendly
These technical components can be messy, but they ensure that a crawler can easily move around your website. This allows it to maximize its time while crawling your site, while also sending positive technical feedback to its algorithm.
The great news is that these technical details are also good for the user. Viewers love a fast site that is easy to navigate. Viewers don’t want to go do a dead end page or a broken link. Getting the technical details right is good for search engines and for viewers.
Another important and often overlooked aspect of SEO is getting your website’s search intent correct. Before performing any of the traditional SEO tactics, it is vital to understand what your target market wants out of each and every search query. This ensures your pages are accurate and on-point.
Understanding the types of queries that your target market searches for, and what they want when they perform that search, is vital to ranking your website. Search engines like Google deeply understand what a user is looking for when they search a specific query, and if your website doesn’t match that, then you won’t rank.
Long gone are the days where a website could easily game the system and quickly rank on search engines. Over the past decade, search engines have gotten extremely sophisticated in how they write and execute their algorithms.
It is theorized that Google uses over 200 different components, or ranking factors, in their algorithm. These factors are constantly changing, and Google readjusts the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) frequently in accordance.
Google releases several Core Algorithm Updates each year, which are broad in nature and large scale updates. But, in reality, Google does 500-600 updates of their algorithm every year. The majority of these are smaller in nature, and less far reaching, but impactful all the same.
All of this means that search engines are extremely advanced, and getting more advanced each and every day. Shortcuts might still work, but only in the short term. Optimizing your site for search is a lengthy and rewarding process.
A Few Important SEO Buzz Phrases
While there are hundreds of individual factors that play into SEO for a website, these are the three main buckets that everything can be grouped into. These should be your main focuses.
On-Page work in SEO refers to everything that you do in the technical set up and makeup of your website. Making your website have as positive an experience as possible for users results in better rankings on search engines. When you offer a better and easier experience for both users and search programs, you can realize big gains in your search engine rankings.
You’ve probably heard it said that Content is King, and that is especially true for SEO. Content is the cornerstone of good SEO. Without great content, your website won’t rank. Period. Google has put a huge emphasis into understanding the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness of an article, a website, and its contributors.
Backlinks began and continue to be the number one ranking factor for Google and other search engines. Simply defined, a Backlink is a “vote” from another website, and acts as a great distinguisher for search engines to rank based on.
Crafting a link strategy where your website is set up to receive Backlinks naturally and organically is incredibly important. When Backlinks are not authentic in nature, it will definitely put your website in a dangerous and precarious place of getting blacklisted. Unnatural linking is the number one reason for websites to receive Google penalties, or manual actions.