We’re here to help you craft a top-notch SEO strategy. While it’s our specialty, you’re still going to want to know the basics. Understanding SEO, short for search engine optimization, is an essential part of using Google, Bing, and Yahoo to increase web traffic. So, let’s take some time to discover the ins and outs of SEO.
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization is commonly referred to as SEO. This practice is used in business as a way to make a website more visible and gain traffic through search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. With the successful implementation of an SEO strategy, businesses are able to gain visibility among their target market, increase their website’s traffic, generate warm, qualified leads, and increase their conversions.
The purpose of search engines is to provide users with the most relevant web page results to their search queries and make information readily available for all people. SEO is the process of optimizing web pages so that they achieve a high ranking on search engine results. This happens through the use of spiders, web crawlers, and bots which crawl through the web creating indexes of web pages. The indexes that are created by these crawlers are categorized based on a number of criteria. Then, when a user types a keyword into a search engine, algorithms are used to pull relevant web pages out of the index and turn them into search results.
The algorithms that determine which web pages to use as results are essentially the set processes used when a searcher types in a search query. They match the search query to the relevant web pages that appear in the results. While algorithms can be confusing and overwhelming, SEO doesn’t have to be.
In order to best understand how SEO works, we’ll break it down into four simple categories; technical SEO, content, on-site optimization, and off-site SEO.
1. Technical SEO
Technical SEO is the foundation of everything you need to know regarding search engine optimization. Technical SEO encompasses the ins and outs of crawlers and indexing, which truly is the basis of search engine optimization.
Search engines use crawlers, bots, and spiders to maneuver throughout the various web pages on the internet, gathering and storing relevant information. When you create a website, bits of code are written in as files and directives. This code acts as a guide to the spiders for crawling and indexing the website.
Robots.txt files are “Do not enter,” “Wrong way” signs. If there is content on your website that is private, thin, or duplicate, you will use a robots.txt file as a way to communicate to the crawlers to stay away.
If a robots.txt file acts as a stop sign for spiders, an XML sitemap is a flashing green light that says, “Hey, over here!” Any pages on your website that you want to appear in search results will need to be crawled and indexed. With an XML sitemap, you are broadcasting these web pages to the spiders. Each page’s XML sitemap has essential indexing information, including recent updates and the page’s priority on your website.
Each web pages’ header includes bits of code known as meta directives, which are read by the web crawlers. These directives act as a guidebook for the spiders, telling them how the content on the page should be indexed.
When a website is not user-friendly, visitors tend to leave pretty quickly. These websites don’t generate leads and they definitely don’t convert. When spiders are crawling websites, they are looking at details such as how long a visitor remains onsite, how secure the website is, and whether the website is optimized for usability.
There are three main components that impact the usability of the website:
- Website security, which includes HTTPS connections.
- Web responsiveness, which includes ensuring web pages are optimized for mobile.
- Website efficiency, which includes load time.
Websites that meet expectations in security, responsiveness, and load time, are rewarded with optimal indexing.
Technical SEO is also comprised of the site structure of the website. A clear, easy to navigate website is prioritized over those that are confusing and not put together well. When designing a website with an SEO strategy in mind, you will want to create a simple, seamless structure that creates a smooth flow for your visitors.
When considering the Technical SEO portion of your website, it’s easiest to break it down into the various parts, focusing on one at a time. By learning about each component and how to effectively implement it, you will be able to design the technical aspects of your website for a high search engine ranking.
Crafting your website using the components of Technical SEO, places it in the view of search engines. When the search engine’s spiders find your website, they’re ready to crawl and index each page, which means they’re going to be examining each web pages’ content.
Content has always been one of the most important aspects of SEO because the content on a web page is really what makes or breaks it for visitors. When someone visits a website, they are looking for specific information. Hopefully, the content that they find on the website will be what they need.
Written text, videos, images, graphs, and tables are all types of content that can be included on a web page. Spiders crawl through the content, extracting meaning and indexing the page.
When spiders crawl the content on a web page, there are five factors they are checking for:
Content on a website should be interesting, informative, well-written, and unique. It should create value for the visitor, providing them with the information they are seeking. When content is unique and written-well, the web page will be indexed for a higher search engine ranking.
Keywords are an essential part of an effective SEO strategy. These are words related to your content that will be indexed to come up during search queries. The right keywords will help your web page to appear in search results.
Frequent posting of new content will help your website stand out to web crawlers. By posting regularly, you are giving your content a boost and making it more appealing to search engines.
Crawlers prioritize web pages that have a variety of types of high-quality content. Instead of simply posting a lot of text or graphics, mix up the type of content in your posts. As long as the content is high-quality and unique, combine text with videos, graphs, and images that are aesthetically appealing and valuable.
Overall, it’s imperative that the content on your web page is relevant to the search queries you want it to show up for. When you post relevant content, your visitors are likely to engage with your content and stick around. As web crawlers read your contents’ relevance, they index your web pages to rank higher in search results.
When it comes to your content, search engines are also concerned with its visibility to users and how those users engage with it. In order to ensure a great experience for your visitors, you’ll want to provide clarity with navigation, a simple and appealing aesthetic, a genuine brand voice, and make sure it's usable.
3. On-Site Optimization
With optimized content, aesthetics, branding, and technical aspects, you are helping your web pages to stand out to crawlers, spiders, and bots. However, there are also other areas of your website that you need to focus on in order to gain a high search engine ranking.
On-site optimization of your website means improving certain “on-site” features to make it more appealing and usable for visitors and search engines. Here are some things you’ll want to optimize as you focus on on-site optimization:
Page titles and meta descriptions
These tags hide in each web pages’ header and are used by search engines to create the bit of information shown on a results page. The tags from page titles are important because they contribute to your ranking on the search engine, which directly affects the likelihood of the user clicking on your listing and visiting your website. Tags from meta descriptions don’t affect your ranking, however, they do affect the click-through rate.
Numerous headers (H1-H6) are important to use throughout your content, as they contribute to the readability of your text and other types of content. H1-H6 tags are read by crawlers as a page or section header, demonstrating the clarity and usability of your web page.
By including alt text on your images, you’re giving the search engines something that they can read and understand. Alt text enables bots to decipher the meaning and relevance of the image in order to better index it. Another benefit of alt text is that it shows your web pages’ accessibility, which is important in optimization.
Simple usability can be aided by easy navigation. With internal links, you’re providing your visitors a cohesive way to move from one page to another. The links that you provide within your content are clear, relevant, and easy to use. They make it simple for visitors to scroll through your website, and they show search engines that your site is user-friendly and easy to manage.
Your website should include bits of code known as structured data. This code tells search engines what your content is about so that it can be properly placed in search results.
4. Off-Site SEO
If on-site SEO is everything actually on your website, off-site SEO is the opposite. Off-site SEO focuses on optimizing your website’s name on the internet as a whole. It’s important that your website is trusted and viewed as an expert on all corners of the web.
No matter how authentic you appear on your website, search engines aren’t interested unless they hear about it elsewhere. If you’re not spoken of anywhere else on the internet, then your claims of expertise are merely your own. Anyone can call themselves great, however, the greatest are so-named by others.
Search engines want to hear you called great by others, not just by yourself. They want other places on the internet, “off-site” places, to back up those claims to greatness. When that happens, trust is built. When that happens, your word is accepted.
When search engines are crawling for off-site mentions, they typically look for three types of signals:
1. Links to your website.
When one website posts a link to your website, it creates legitimacy. Essentially, every link that is posted directing traffic to your website is a vote of confidence in you and your website. It establishes authority for your website, showing the search engines that you are trusted. These links are validated even more when the posting website is a larger, more widely-read website.
2. Local search profiles.
Businesses that have a physical location or are a prominent provider in their area should use Google My Business to set up a Google Maps listing. This verifies your business and creates that legitimacy that the search engines are looking for. Having your loyal customers rate your business well builds your authority even more.
3. Social media.
Social media can’t be ignored. It has a huge influence on SEO. Your social media profiles on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, help you build your brand and show your business as an expert. Through these mediums, you are able to provide value to your followers and gain website traffic.
Now that you understand the basics of SEO, you’ll be prepared as we address and implement strategies in each of the four areas. Our step-by-step focus on Technical SEO, content, on-site SEO, and off-site SEO is a simple, holistic approach that enables you to be aware throughout the process.
As we focus on jumpstarting your website’s organic traffic, we’ll work on the steps that will provide the impact you need to start seeing your ranking rise. Once those first steps are going strong, we’ll implement monthly tasks to build on your SEO foundation, enabling continual growth and improvement.