What is SEO?
The marketing world seems to be filled with an abundance of acronyms. SEM, PPC, B2B, B2C, SEO…and the list goes on. While the shorthand can be useful, it can also get confusing. In our last post, we discussed SEM and PPC, but for this post we’re turning to the “all-natural” advertising of the search engine world, also known as SEO. What exactly does SEO mean? It stands for Search Engine Optimization.
Briefly defined, SEO is the process of getting “organic” or “natural” traffic from search results on search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Unlike paid search ads (and most things associated with the word “organic”) it’s free, with no payment involved. The main goal of SEO is to help your website get found by more people, as easily as possible. It’s important to remember that this tactic is only as good as you make it—hence the “optimization” part. Below we’ll break down the two different types of SEO, and provide you with a checklist to get you on the path to success. For this guide, we’ll specifically be focusing on SEO as it applies to the Google platform.
On Page SEO
SEO can be split into two different types that work together to create an effective strategy. Both should be used to ensure your site is getting as much exposure as possible. On page SEO should be your first focus, especially if you have a brand new website. This part of the strategy focuses on the optimization of each web page that your site contains so you can rank as high as possible in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS).
Off Page SEO
As the name states, this part of the strategy is what you can do outside the boundaries of your website to convince a search engine that your site is worthy of ranking highly in the SERPS. This includes techniques like link building and social media marketing to prove that your site is of high quality and helpful to users. On page and off page SEO should be thought of as two equally important cogs in the search marketing machine—they turn best when they’re working together.
Must-haves for SEO Success
- Figure out where your site is currently ranking
If you have an existing website, the first step should be to analyze it to figure out what your current ranking is. After all, you can’t improve your status if you don’t know where you stand in the first place. SERPs.com is just one of many resources you can use to check your site’s keyword rank. Once you determine your ranking, you can use the rest of the list below to help you optimize your website. Improving your ranking will allow you to show up for individuals who are looking for the information, products, or services you offer.
This is where optimization is extremely important. By making your website as relevant as possible to the audience you’re seeking out, you’ll be more likely to show up on the first page of results. Google uses what’s known as a site “crawler” or “spider.” This program goes on an internet expedition, visiting websites, reading the pages and other information available to create entries for the search engine index. Think of it as a shrewd eight-legged creature sifting through every iota of information on your website. If it doesn’t find your information to be relevant and well-organized, you’ll find your site dropping off the index.
- Use the right tools
Like any specialty, good SEO practice requires some tools of the trade for success. First, you’ll want to install Google Analytics. This will help you gain more insight into the types of visitors who are coming to your site. You’ll also want to add your website to Google Search Console, which analyzes several factors that can affect traffic to your site and will show you where you need to make improvements. Google PageSpeed Insights is also helpful when it comes to determining whether your site is meeting the standards of speed and responsiveness. Site responsiveness is just one of the factors that has a direct impact on your Google ranking.
You’ll also want to make sure your content management system (CMS) has an SEO plugin that will allow you to write titles, descriptions, image tags, headers and page tags. It may sound like a lengthy list, but essentially these things allow you to efficiently index every page of your website, which will help it show up higher in the search results. These tools are just a sampling of all the ones available for SEO, but will give you a solid start.
- Find quality keywords
Keywords and phrases are what people are using to find what they’re looking for via search engines. Quality keywords make it possible for potential clients and customers to find your site. Think of them as the foundation upon which you build all your other SEO efforts. Finding the right keywords can be a process of trial and error, but they should be relevant to the products, services, or information that you’re offering. Finding the right keywords should be an ever-evolving process, meaning that you’re always updating and expanding upon your keyword list.
Keyword placement and organization is also an important factor when you’re trying to improve your website ranking. They should be included in titles and the body of the content on your web pages, as well as in your URLs. You should also be organizing them into small and manageable groups of related keywords. These things will make it easier for Google’s site “crawlers” to find your web pages, deem them as relevant to what an individual is searching for, and make it possible for people to find your website.
- Publish great content
Having quality content on your website is what will make it stand out as an authority when it comes to whatever information, service, or product you’re promoting. You also want enough content on each page to make it crawl-able. At least 500 words are recommended to go with each URL. Keywords come in here as well—you want to be using them within your content. However, you don’t want your content to sound unnatural or repeat keywords too often. This can hurt your site ranking. Conversational yet informative writing that is influenced by your keyword research and based around your intent will be well-received by Google’s site crawlers. Once you have content written don’t take the “set it and forget it” approach. It should be updated often.
Regularly updated content is a major indicator of a site’s relevancy, so you’ll want to keep it as fresh as possible. If you have good content, it’s worthy of a Facebook share, tweet, or LinkedIn post. URLs that have a high number of likes, shares, and tweets stand out to site crawlers. Essentially, it’s another way of making your information the authority. You’ll want to make the content on your web pages easily shareable with share buttons that stand out, and optimized meta descriptions. A meta description is a snippet of text that summarizes a web page’s content and appears to an individual in the search results. Think of it as a mini billboard to attract individuals to your site.
- Don’t forget to optimize your images
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and while this may be debatable, there’s no doubt that including images along with the text on your web page will make reading your content more enjoyable. While finding fun and relevant images is important, you’ll want to save some of your energy to make sure these images are properly optimized. Images should be relevant to the information you’re providing. You’ll also want them to be as small as possible in terms of download size. The same goes for any other media that you may have on your web page other than text.
Optimization doesn’t stop there. If you leave an image as is, site crawlers won’t be able to “see” the image. By adding what is called an ALT tag it’s possible for the image to be read as useful information. An ALT tag is a commonly used abbreviation for an “alt attribute” or “alt description.” Also, known as alt text, it provides a text alternative for search engines, and allows a site crawler to read an image. As a result, you want an alt tag to be as descriptive as possible. It will describe what’s on the image and what the image’s function is on the page. Google values alt text as it helps add context to the surrounding content, and helps determine if the information is relevant. If done correctly, images with alt text will help you improve your ranking on the SERPS.
The list above is a great start, but it would be impossible to tackle every aspect of SEO in one post. If you’re looking for more advice, or want to learn more about what SEO can do for you, feel free to contact us! Search Engine Optimization is just one of our many specialties, and we’re happy to help.