Search engine optimization, or SEO for short, has become a huge buzz word. You may be hearing “SEO this” and “SEO that,” but have no idea what people are talking about. We find that people are almost embarrassed to ask the question: “What the heck is SEO?” Don’t be! Hopefully the following description will help you get the gist of search engine optimization basics.
SEO is essentially the process of improving a website or web page’s ability to reach potential customers who are looking for its products and/or services. In general, the earlier (or higher), a site appears on a search engine’s results page, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine’s users (aka the more people that will click the link and go to view the site).
People have been trying to get their websites to the top of search engine results pages since search engines existed (Google was incorporated in 1998), and search engines, like Google, have been changing their algorithms and “rules” for making it to the top in efforts to better match user searches with the sites that are most relevant to what they’re looking for. And while there is no golden ticket to the top in the world of natural search engine rankings, there are many factors that continue to be essential to search engines and SEO.
Below, you’ll find a brief overview of these most essential factors, separated into two sections: On-Page SEO (strategies performed on a webpage) and Off-Page SEO (strategies performed online, but not on the actual website being optimized).
Metadata is a term used to described HTML elements (you know, those things on the backend of a website that look like someone just hit a bunch of symbols by mistake) that provide information about a web page. The meta elements most commonly used for search engine optimization in particular are keywords, meta titles and meta descriptions.
Keywords are select words or phrases that an Internet user is likely to type in their search for your company and its products and/or services. There are online tools available that keep track of monthly data regarding search queries so you can determine the words and phrases that are most appropriate for your site.
Meta title and meta descriptions provide a concise explanation within a certain number of characters of what a particular webpage’s content is about. This overview will not only tell the search engines what the page is about (information used to connect a webpage to Internet search results), but is also used by search engines on search result pages to display preview snippets for a given page, letting folks know exactly what to expect on a webpage as well. Here’s an example:
The content of a website is one of the most important factors that search engines use to determine the relevancy of a website and web pages to a user’s search query. This content not only needs to be well written (grammatically correct), but it also needs to include the keywords and phrases discussed in metadata above. Beyond that, the content needs to be unique, informative and compelling — compelling enough for others to potentially share your information and/or link to your website as an authoritative source for information on a certain topic (more on linking later…). In addition to written content, visual content (photos, embedded videos, etc.) should have appropriate optimization as well. This typically involves alt tags, another metadata element.
Search engines use the amount of incoming links a website or webpage has as part of their page-ranking algorithms. A link to a site acts almost like a vote for a site — it tells search engines that a website or web page has enough useful information on a particular subject matter that another page wanted to share it, thereby increasing a site’s overall authority within the web space. The more websites that link to your own, the more search engines will value the authority of your site, and the higher your rankings will be.
Social media not only allows you to acquire more inbound links (by linking to your website and its pages from your social media accounts and posts), but social media “buzz” for a company or brand in general can positively influence search engine rankings. You want people to read and share your social content as much as they read and share your website content. The number of Facebook fans you have, the number of Facebook shares, the number of Twitter followers, the number of tweets mentioning your brand or linking to your site and number of people in your Google Plus circles all have an effect on how high the search engines are ranking your site.
Yes, it seems like a lot to think about — and that’s because it is! Want to make it easier for potential customers to find your website? Contact us and you can stop worrying about search engine optimization.