What is SEO, and why is it so important to digital marketing?
This is a very relevant question being asked today, and here’s the answer. Because Google is the entity that holds enormous amounts of traffic and leads – and SEO is the key that opens the doors to them.
Search Engine Optimization or SEO is the process by which you optimize your online content in order for search engines to show your page as a top result for searches for a particular keyword. While ranking high on Yahoo and Bing is great, it’s Google that most businesses wish to rank on.
We agree, SEO is constantly changing, and it’s tough to keep updated. However, the one thing that remains unchanged is the customer who finds you through organic search. According to the Hubspot list for marketing statistics, Google is responsible for 94% of total organic traffic. Also, 70-80% of the search engine users focus only on organic results. And finally, search engines drive 93% of all website traffic. These facts alone should convince you to adopt SEO techniques.
How does Google work?
Google’s algorithms consider many ranking factors in response to searches. The most important are:
Google crawls – or reads through your website to assess whether your content is relevant to what is being searched for. This is determined by the keywords that you use in the content.
For Google to rank you high in its results, you need to have high-quality content. One indicator of quality is the number and quality of websites that link to your page. If those are trusted sites, and with authority, then your website will rank high too.
How people engage with your website is another factor. Do they find the information they were looking for and remain on your page, or do they bounce back to the results page and follow a different link? Or, do they completely ignore your page?
- Loading speed
Google uses the loading speed of a website as one of the signals used by its algorithm to rank pages. This is mostly because page speed is important to Internet users.
Google is constantly updating its processes. Thereby, we need to update our knowledge and SEO practices accordingly.
So back to the question, ‘What is SEO?’ Let’s get back to the SEO basics and look into the strategies that will help you gain more traffic from search engines, organically.
First, you need to decide what it is that you are optimizing your content for. We start by identifying the words or terms (keywords) that people are keying into Google when searching for your product or service. These are the words that you want your website to rank for on Google.
While the process might sound simple, there are certain things you need to consider:
- Search volume
You’ll need to know how many people out there are searching for a particular keyword. The greater the volume, the larger the audience you can potentially reach.
Even if a term is frequently searched for, it doesn’t help you if it’s not relevant to your prospects.
You’ll have to consider the likelihood of success – and potential costs. If the competition is very high, your page might be lost among others.
You’ll first need to completely understand your target audience and what they will be searching for. If you need, here’s some help with defining your target audience. Once you’ve determined this, you will be able to answer questions like:
- What are they looking for?
- What are their problems?
- Who are they buying from? (Competitors)
Answering these will give you a ‘seed list’ that you can then run through keyword research tools. These will help you identify relevant keywords.
If you’re going old school and researching keywords on Google, try this – focus on the search intent rather than the keywords themselves. Identify the search intent to drive revenue instead of just increased traffic to your site.
When you type in your keyword, Google will provide a drop-down menu with its own suggestions for that query. These are the common searches that people perform around your keyword. Then, scroll down to the bottom of the search engine results page for even more suggestions from Google.
On-page SEO and off-page SEO
These are the two broad categories of SEO. Both are equally important to drive traffic to your website.
This involves optimizing individual web pages in order to rank higher in Google search results and gain more relevant traffic. It includes both the content and HTML source code for the page.
The three pillars of on-page SEO are:
- Technical excellence
Your code should be of high quality. The elements of HTML you should always optimize include:
URL: Use the keyword in the URL, and try to keep it short.
Title tags: These are what you read on the tab of your browser when you open a new page. In blogs, this is called an H1 tag, or the heading of the first order. This makes the title clear to Google.
Subheads: These structure your content and make it easy to read. Not just that, your H2, H3, H4, and similar subheads also affect SEO.
Meta description: This is the excerpt that appears when Google shows your page in response to a search. Currently, up to 158 characters are acceptable. A longer meta description will result in Google truncating it. Remember to have a unique meta description for each page. Each should accurately summarize the content for that page.
Image file name and ALT tags: Make sure your file name contains your keyword. The ALT tag is the text that is displayed instead of the image. Use your keyword here as well.
- Valuable content
According to a report from Ascend2, 72% of marketers worldwide say that creating relevant content is their most effective SEO tactic. People are looking for information when they visit your website. Hence, make sure your content:
– is relevant to their search
– includes the right keywords
– is easy to read.
You can check out the 5 tips to writing readable blog posts by Yoast, a search-optimization firm.
Google favors content that is:
– likely to be shared
Read our article on how content marketing and SEO can boost your website traffic.
- Great UX
A beautiful website is great, but it should be user-friendly. After all, users need to be able to find what they are searching for with ease, and within minutes. Site architecture is thus of utmost importance as your user navigates the page. It includes fast loading time, mobile-friendly design, a safe connection, organization of your pages on your website and more.
Off-page SEO involves everything that doesn’t occur directly on your website. It helps bring in potential customers to your website.
Off-page SEO includes:
- Creating trust
Quality content will help you rank higher. However, if you can get a few relevant sites, with authority to link to that content, you greatly increase the chance of that ranking going further up. Brand-building and creating trust does the same. This usually happens off-site. Take for example customer reviews.
Creating authority and trust are extremely important, so simply technical excellence is not enough. Relevance, authority, and popularity are essential factors to rank you well. While content and technical set-up are great to increase relevance, links are responsible for authority and popularity.
- Link building
Links – or backlinks – are references to your content on other websites. When another website directs traffic to your website, it is through a backlink. A website’s authority is determined by the quantity and quality of its links. The link quality depends on the popularity of the linking website, the relevance to the search, and trust in a domain. There are various ways by which you can build links:
- Contact websites for links
- Write guest posts for other websites that will provide links back to your website
- Your profile can contain links to your website
- Competitive analysis to identify links that you can recreate for your website
- Local SEO
Local SEO is also a form of off-page SEO. It’s especially relevant if you run a local business, most of which is best marketed through word-of-mouth. The online comments and reviews that your satisfied customers leave will be read by Google and other potential customers.
Local SEO also requires you to mention your company name, address, and phone number. Google analyzes proximity to the searcher’s location, in order to fulfill most local searches that use “near me”.
Your business profile on Google My Business – Google’s platform for managing local business listings, also affects your rankings.
Off-page SEO supplements your efforts towards on-page SEO, which is why both are important.
Track and measure SEO efforts
Once you have optimized your website through the various SEO techniques, how do you know whether your efforts are working? It’s fairly simple. Just follow a few key metrics to see if there is a difference in your website’s performance. Here are some key factors that could help you measure your website’s SEO performance:
- Keyword ranking
- Organic traffic
- Actual conversions
Now that you know what is SEO and have all the tools you need to excel at it, remember to prioritize your needs. Sit back and think about what you’re good at, what you can budget for and what will give your business the best returns. Is your website too large and confusing? Set the technical part straight. Are you great with writing and promoting content? Find which keyword you want to chase, and go for it. If you’re a small business who wants to thrive in that area, work on local SEO. Whatever you do, the end purpose is to increase your visibility and traffic to your business or website.
At Them You & Me, we strive to demystify Search Engine Optimization. If you’d like to learn what is SEO, or would like us to help you with your SEO strategy, give us a call.
To know about what we do and the SEO services we offer, please visit our website.