What is SEO?
SEO is short for search engine optimization.
It is the art and science you need to pop up relatively high on a search engine's result page - the "SERP" - when a user enters a query.
Obviously, the higher the rank, the more likely the user is to see, click through, and visit your website.
If the user clicks, you have a good chance of converting casual visitors into leads.
However, there are some pitfalls and tips along the way.
A Brief History of SEO
The idea of ranking high in Bing, Yahoo, and Google results is not new.
Ever since consumers typed in keywords, and webmasters created content, the race was on.
Some would use unscrupulous practices to attract search engines to their sites. Examples of these "Spamdexing" tactics include keyword-stuffing content, adding hidden text, or participating in link networks.
All these practices had one aim: to trick search engines into upping web pages' rank in search results.
To combat these 'black-hat' SEO practices, the search engines refined the algorithms to weed out pages using these tactics and de-list them from search results.
These advancements benefited the consumer. Now, when you enter a query, you no longer land on a page that uselessly repeats your search term 50 times in a row and tells you nothing about the topic you wanted.
Instead, you're much more likely to land on a page that uses your query in a meaningful way and actually provides you the information you searched for.
Taking advantage of the search engines' ability to direct the right users to your website - those looking for what you're selling and likely to convert - lands us in the areas of content and technical SEO marketing.
What is Content SEO?
Google rewards websites with good content by sending organic traffic to them.
Organic traffic is traffic you don't pay for. Basically, it's search engines giving your site free advertising.
To rank high in this arena you, in turn, have to provide users with valuable information. You have to pay close attention to your content. Specifically,
- Use relevant keywords. If you are selling green widgets, your keywords should have to do with the topic. Do not suddenly add content that has nothing to do with your niche. The terms, “green,” “widget,” and “buy green widgets” would be appropriate.
- Create relevant content. In the past, most people had text-heavy websites. Now, in addition to blogs, there are vlogs, videos, audio, and images. Pros know that adding transcripts for video and audio content is another way of featuring relevant keywords on a site.
- Add unique elements. To rank high in search engine result pages - the "SERPs" - the engine must have confidence that your site offers searchers useful information. This means that each page is unique. Moreover, your blog and video content cannot be duplicated. Duplicate content will result in your pages dropping rank in SERP results.
What is Technical SEO?
While content is one aspect of good-quality optimization, there is also a technical side to the equation.
Google and other search engines want users to receive value, but they also require ease of navigation.
Pay attention to:
- Crawlable links. Even if you have your keyword structure down, consider your link setup. Can the engine browse all pages of your site? If it can't then the good-quality content on those pages is invisible to the search engine - and the searcher.
- Concise title tags. The first 70 characters of your title tag become visible. It's not the place to be long-winded or use filler words. Use your keywords.
- Succinct meta descriptions. They show up beneath your page’s name. Use it to tell searchers a little more about how great your green widgets to entice that click through. But again, be succinct: Google's SERPs show the first 158 characters of your meta description on desktop searches. On mobile, it drops to 120 characters. That means the first 120 to 158 characters matter most. Use an online character counter to help you optimize.
How to Make Your Website More Search Engine-Friendly to Attract Organic Traffic
You can work on those with the Google Search Console (GSC), which is a free tool. GSC puts you in the driver’s seat when checking how much of your site has been indexed as well as to find ways to make all your website pages visible to prospective visitors.
The XML sitemap is a little like a neighborhood-mapping device: it ensures that each page on your site has a crawlable link.
Although already mentioned in the technical optimization section, the sitemap.xml function goes deeper. It may feature a date stamp indicating when the element was last updated which is a vital function when you operate an extensive site with numerous interconnected pages.
This understanding leads to the usefulness of the robots.txt function. It allows you to indicate to search engines' crawlers what areas of your site are off-limits and not to be indexed.
Although at face value there is no good reason to apply a robots exclusion protocol, consider that many webmasters are consistently testing new pages with an eye on ranking higher on the SERPs. A/B testing takes place before letting a page go live. Until it does, you do not necessarily want the public to have access to it.
How to Determine Whether Prospective Leads Respond Well to a Site
You've dotted all your “I”s and crossed all your “T”s.
In short, you've employed all optimization practices to ensure that your website attracts organic traffic.
You set yourself up for success by using Google Search Console.
Are you done?
No! Now is the time to use GSC's analytical tools to take a closer look at the kind of traffic search engines are sending your site.
GSC tools allow you to tie business goals – such as conversions – to the traffic your site receives.
You can find out which pages receive a lot of traffic and which ones don't.
If you identify weaknesses, you can use Google Analytics' tools to hone in on where you're not getting the results you need.
Because GA's features provide you with details about user behavior, you have the opportunity to tweak technical problems as well as content optimization. Of course, doing so requires you to understand what the data that you have access to actually means.
How to Get Help Optimizing SEO
For the small business owner with a knack for tech, Google Search Console is a fantastic tool. It gauges consumer behavior as well as possible website functionality problems.
However, for someone less tech-savvy, it can be confusing and daunting. Moreover, it's hard to understand data without context.
There is help. These firms hire experts who adjust and optimize your site's content and technical SEO. They also help you to interpret the site analysis you receive.
No matter which side of the equation you fall on, optimization is not optional. Your site has to be a top contender to get consumers to notice it.