SEO - Learning the Basics
What is SEO? Well, it can be a very complex and ever-changing field and topic. In short, SEO means Search Engine Optimization. What this means is how search engines like Google or Bing choose to show search results based on keywords entered into the search bar. Keywords are the words or phrases that are used in the search bar.
Why does SEO matter? SEO is all about what is shown when people search. 90% of people will stay on the first page of a Google search. So essentially SEO and where your website ranks within that first page massively influences our decisions, the news we get, the buying habits we make, and the businesses that we work with. And every single platform has its own SEO algorithm. Amazon decides how it shows its products differently than how Google decides to show its websites. Yet there are always similarities between SEO on almost any platform, and understanding how SEO works on a major platform can be a huge boon for your business.
SEO - Slightly Advanced
So how do you use SEO to get your website to show on the first page of a Google search? The first thing you have to understand is what keywords you want to go after. Search results are all based on what keywords are entered into the search bar. So you need to understand what your customers are searching for, and how they’re entering that term into the search bar. The next thing you need to understand is how competitive each keyword is. There are many keywords being dominated by companies and corporations that spend millions of dollars a year on SEO. For instance, if you just started a new travel company and you’re trying to rank for “cheap flights,” you’re going to have a really hard time, because not only are the airlines investing in SEO, but you have five or six major travel sites which put a huge amount of their budget into ranking for those highly searched terms. So if you’re just starting out with SEO and want to rank your site, you need to go after what are called long-tail keywords. This generally means you’re using three or more keywords in a search. This could be like “sandwich shop Phoenix AZ.” I’m not trying to rank for “sandwich shop,” but for a longer-term.
In summary, you need to make sure you’re picking the keywords your customers are searching for, plus keywords that don’t have too much competition for you to realistically rank for.
You have to communicate with Google or whatever platform you’re trying to rank on to convince them that you should be showing up when someone searches a specific term. Let’s say that I want my website to rank for “best vacations in the United States.” I’m going to need to make sure we put that search term within our website in a variety of places. I’m going to want to have that in H1-H3 headers throughout the website. I’m going to want that phrase and phrases similar to it in the text in the body of the website. I’m going to want to title my images and put keywords in the descriptions and captions of the photos I upload onto the site with a keyword or similar word. I’m going to want to hyperlink phrases on my website and text on my website to link to pages on my website that are titled with those keywords.
I know we’ve moved into some pretty advanced ideas, so let’s rein it back to Slightly Advanced. After you have optimized your website, the last thing Google looks for is backlinks. What Google does is they send their ‘spiders’ all across the web to collect information, bring it back to Google, and enter into the data algorithm to decide which websites they want to show to more people. The spiders will go and crawl your website and see what keywords Google believes you should be showing up for. They’re also crawling other websites. When other websites have links back to your website, Google looks at that as a vote of confidence, and it will usually help your ranking. Essentially every website that links back to your site is a vote that Google considers to determine who should rank the highest.
Back in the day, you were able to link any site you wanted to your website, and most sites had similar SEO. As Google has gotten smarter, they started giving different amounts of ‘juice’ to different websites. First, it’s going to look at, what is the page rank of that website that is linking back to you? A higher page rank almost always gives you more SEO juice. But in the last couple of years, Google has gotten much smarter and actually looks at whether the website that’s linking to yours is relevant. They did this because a lot of people were going out there and spamming, just creating tons of backlinks from blogs and sites that had no relevance to their site. Google realized that these SEO experts were tricking the system, and adjusted it to make it so that spamming backlinks can actually penalize you, and to get the best results you need to have websites that are related to your website in some way.
Google is also going to go and see if you’re mentioned in the news, and if the news backlinks back to your site. Often that can be great because Google believes and builds trust in your business because you’re being found in the news. However as the internet has changed and social media and web 2.0 have emerged, Google has started using that for search rankings as well.
Google now also sends the spiders to crawl social networks, and it looks at if your business is being mentioned within social media posts. Are people Tweeting about it, are people talking about it on Facebook? Google sees you being constantly mentioned on social networks as a credibility boost to your company, and therefore gives you a higher ranking in the search results.
SEO - Advanced
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Taking Action Today
I know we’ve just covered a little bit of the basics of SEO, but right now I want to give you some action steps you can take to start using SEO for your business.
#1 - Make sure to do at least a basic optimization of your website. If you’re using WordPress, I highly recommend Yoast SEO plugin. This plugin has a free version and will help guide you on when to use keywords, and what other things you can do on each page to help optimize it for SEO.
#2 - Start collecting backlinks. It can be advantageous to hire a company that’s an expert in acquiring backlinks. However, if you want to do it yourself, some of the top ways include getting in the news. A press release can give minor benefits to your SEO, but getting into regular news or other mediums can absolutely help your SEO. You may also want to exchange links with other local companies. If you have partners, make sure you have a segment about them to give them backlinks so that they can do the same for you. Look at creating interlinking keywords on your website. You do this by linking one of your pages to another page on your website using anchor text highlighting a segment of words on your website that are a keyword for another page on your site, and linking those two together.
#3 - Put yourself out there a bit more on SEO, and make sure you have links on your post that are linking back to your website. When Google sees your social signals, it can give you an SEO boost.
Today we’ve covered the basics and the slightly advanced knowledge on SEO. SEO is one of the most challenging topics I’ve ever tried to tackle. Not only is it massively complex, but it’s ever-changing. If you’re just starting up, it can certainly be beneficial to go through and set up basic SEO for your website. However, if you’re really looking to grow your business, you almost always will need to either hire an SEO expert on, or partner with a company that really knows what they’re doing. If you’d like to learn more about our services, you can set up a discovery session today where we can review your goals and see how we can help you achieve those.