Looking to build a website that will show up in customers’ searches AND grab their interest once they click?
Search engine optimization, known as SEO, is the process of making your website appealing to both search engine bots and human users. There are many factors that go into both, and in most cases optimizing for one will improve the other as well. This guide will help you understand the basic components of SEO and how implementing them gets your site into potential customers’ searches—and makes them more likely to interact with your brand or make a purchase.
When engaging in self-care, you focus on 3 important aspects: your Mind, your Body, and your Spirit. No one factor is more important than the others—in fact, neglecting one can severely negatively affect the whole self. A plethora of studies show that balancing the 3 is crucial to a long, happy, healthy life.
Similarly, there are 3 facets to an SEO-healthy website. Focusing on only one or two of these will lead to poor rankings and user interaction, and your traffic will suffer. But finding a steady harmony among all three will give your site long-lasting benefits.
Technical SEO is the inner workings of your website. Much like your brain, it stores all of the internal data that keeps the heart beating and the lungs breathing. Technical SEO is the blueprint for building your site and keeping it running efficiently. Factors like schema, and the robots txt file tell search engine crawlers what your site is about and how to properly index it, while site speed makes your website more friendly for both crawlers and humans to navigate.
Site speed is one of the most important factors in technical SEO. How quickly users can load, view, and navigate content on your site will heavily affect how long they interact and how many pages they visit before leaving. In turn, these user actions help determine how and where you are ranked by search engines.
And it’s not just about your desktop version either; more people than ever are searching on mobile phones and tablets. Your mobile site speed is just as, if not more, important to your overall SEO success.
Also referred to as structured snippets, schema is a string of code that tells search engines what your site is actually about, or gives detailed information about products you sell. This data helps search engines like Google create rich results for your site that are more informative and more appealing to users.
A sitemap is just like it sounds—a map of your website. It acts as a blueprint for search engines to crawl and index content on your pages. Building an accurate and thorough sitemap improves SEO by making sure you’re being indexed properly, and showing up for relevant searches.
Search engines use “crawlers” (also known as “spiders”) to crawl and index your website. With a strategically placed robots.txt file, you can control how and where the crawlers go on your site, and cause them to avoid pages you don’t want indexed (such as a site or page under construction). Crawlers will also index all URLs they find on any of your pages, so it’s important to make sure these all work.
When crawlers have trouble scanning or indexing your site or pages on your site, these are called crawl errors. There are two basic types: site errors, which means your entire site cannot be crawled, and URL errors, which typically point to broken links. Both types can have a number of causes, including server errors, robot errors, or 404 “Not Found” errors.
When a website mentions and links back to another website, this is known as a backlink. Search engines look at the amount and quality of backlinks pointing to your site as a way of establishing authority. The more trustworthy sites that recommend traffic to your site by linking to you, the better.
Detoxing is the practice of finding and rating other sites that link to yours. Sites that are poor quality or have a low domain authority can hurt your ranking. Paid links are generally frowned upon by search engines and can lead to a poor user experience as well. It’s also important to make sure your backlinks are relevant to the content on your site—otherwise, search engines might penalize you.
Lighthouse is an audit tool within Google Chrome. When accessed from the browser while on your site, it will rate your performance and accessibility and give you SEO and best practice recommendations to improve your site.
Much like your physical self, On-Page SEO is the image you present to the internet world. Whether through content or metadata, these are the actual words and images search engines and users will see on your website and in search results.
Content refers to the actual words you use on your website. This includes page copy, blog articles, headings, and more. While a lot of the reason for content optimization is to improve user experience, which does positively affect SEO, the quality of the content and its relevance to the keywords matter, too.
Headings are a way to organize your content both for your readers and for search engines. The most common heading formats are H1, H2, and H3, but they can go up to H6. The large the H-number, the smaller the text. Using headings efficiently makes it easier for users to find the information they’re looking for, and in turn trust your site for future queries.
Your meta titles and descriptions determine what information searchers see when your site appears in their results. Although these are not required, accurate meta descriptions can be useful in improving user experience and relevance in search results. If you don’t specify these tags, search engines will pull content from the page which may not send the message you want searchers to see.
When you upload images to your website, they become available as potential results in image searches. Having accurate and descriptive titles and alt text helps your images show up for relevant search queries, and it assists visually impaired searchers who use screen readers.
Keyword analysis is all about finding out what people are searching for in relation to your business. You want to rank (and rank high) for terms that are the most relevant to your brand, but you want to make sure those terms are being searched for. Keyword analysis helps you understand what your qualified leads are looking for, so that you can structure your content around it. You want to use popular search terms as often as possible without resorting to keyword stuffing.
A lot of people make the mistake of focusing mostly on optimizing for machine learning. But how easily searchers can navigate your website makes a huge difference. There’s nothing more frustrating than a page that takes forever to load, or only loads halfway. Broken links are also a major nuisance, and no one likes being bombarded with flashing photos or media that gets in the way of scrolling. If people can’t move around your site quickly and without incident, they’ll leave before they get a chance to see how great your product or service is.
While On-Page SEO is your image, Off-Page is the relationships you build. Whether with other websites, search engines, or users, establishing upstanding connections—and avoiding toxic ones—improves your credibility, trustworthiness, and authority.
When another website links to a page on yours, this is called a backlink. These can include listing sites if you’re in real estate, review sites if you sell products or services, and more. The more positive backlinks you have from trusted sites, the better.
Not only do you have to worry about your own site’s optimizations, you have to keep up with your industry. Analyzing the SEO strategy of your top competitors shows you where you’re missing platform or keyword opportunities. You can also see where your customer base is most interactive and willing to engage.
You also want to see what kind of content your competitors are ranking for and build similar content for your site. Identify and farm high-ranking sites in your industry to brainstorm opportunities and map out valuable content for your blog, webpages, and more.
There are many different ways search engines deliver results. Besides the standard listed results with title, URL, and description, you have image carousels, local business listings, and shopping results. Keyword reporting tracks the performance of certain search queries in the various formats, and helps you determine which ones to focus on based on what type of format is most beneficial to your business.
A major goal of SEO is to get your site ranking higher in search engine results. A search engine results page (SERP) report is an in-depth analysis of the top ten ranking URLs for a particular keyword. The report shows potential ranking signals and gives the reader an idea of why certain sites are ranking higher for that keyword.
If you have a brick-and-mortar business, you want to make sure you’re ranking high in local searches as well. This typically involves having an informative Google My Business page, a high star rating, a large quantity of reviews, and a website that is relevant to your GMB page, among other things.
Just like taking care of your whole self is a long-term investment, great SEO takes time, patience, and practice. Some optimizations need to settle in for a span before you start to see results. And SEO best practices have and will continue to change and evolve over the years.
The world of search engine optimization is an ever-changing landscape. Even the most seasoned SEO professionals have to stay on their toes, do continuous research, and test practices and methods to see what works best.
Back when SEO was first begun searches were more simple and we would talk to search engines like computers. For example, people would search for “pizza dallas delivery.” Today search engines are more complex and the types of searches have also become more complex. So we’ve moved from the idea of a search keyword to a search phrase or query to better highlight how users actually search the web.
We’ve been doing this for a long time. Our digital marketers have a collective 20+ years’ experience performing successful search engine optimizations. We know how to spot the potential for improvement, implement a best practice, and get results. Contact us to learn how we can take your website to the top of the page.