Search Engine Optimization - The Basics, Bumps and Bruises
You've likely heard of search engine optimization, also known as SEO - but it's also entirely possible you have no idea what it means, or why it is so vitally important. In short, search engine optimization is getting a "high score" in the search engine (Ex. Google, Bing), and having your website show up on the first page of search results when someone searches a term that relates to your website. Doesn't seem horribly difficult right?
Looking further into it, SEO goes into web design which is vitally important for drawing people to your site and keeping them on the page for long periods of time. The businesses/websites who rank the highest on search results are those who also often receive the most business, according to Business Insider's surveys. This could mean that there is a certain level of success required to see reliable exposure on the web and get external searches (organic traffic), or it could very easily mean nothing at all.
Something to ask yourself when looking at SEO is: "What does SEO really do for me/my business?" SEO does numerous things, but the two main areas to focus on is that it directly drives your web-based exposure and business if done properly, and it drastically improves your spot in the search results. Considering that search engines gather aggregated search results in barely two hundredths of a second by using algorithms to categorize into a search index, then ranking sites on this index based on SEO, it can be vitally important to ensuring your business has a solidified online presence - especially when global shutdowns have pushed businesses online, getting in front of potential clients has never been more important! Making sure your website stands out is key to business growth, and visitor retention - meaning that people will come visit your website during their spare time first!
How Do I Ensure That I Have "Good" SEO?
There are numerous ways to ensure that your SEO is high quality and effectively drawing in people to your website. It is first important to understand the two types of website traffic. "Paid Traffic", which as implied, is paid for, and "Organic Traffic" which consists of visitors that land on your website as a result of unpaid search results such as affiliate links, links on social media, direct web searches and more. When people go to a website, it is unlikely they're going there just for fun (recreational online-shopping aside), meaning that they are looking for "something". This "something" is your content! According to Hubspot "97% of customers use search engines to find local information" - this includes everything from business addresses, reviews, general searches to find a business like "Tailors in Winnipeg", and an incredibly significant portion of searches for a local business visit the business' physical location (if it exists) or revisit the website!
Why does content help increase your visibility?
A plethora of reasons, but chief among them being that consumers/customers are looking for content when they search like we discussed a moment ago, and the more content you have the more likely it is that you will have content related to what they are searching for! If you do, then you'll rank higher in the search engine index, and your visibility increases! But your content requires descriptions (captions), and this is where we get into keyword optimization. This is the specific selection of keywords so that you have a combination of high-frequency search terms related to your business/site, and clear, concise language so that your sites visitors can easily digest the content, understand it and by doing so, will want to come back more often to your site.
The main 5 areas we suggest you focus on for keyword optimization are: Titles/Headers/Captions, Website URL, Keywords in the first 100 words of your content, images & their file names, and semantic keywords (variations/synonyms of your keywords). Making sure that your language is relevant to your topic and the searches is key to web visitor retention, but there is another way to help give your website credibility besides developing it organically with site visitors over time - Links!!
You'll notice that we have added some clickable words in this blog post - these are perfect examples of links that you can add to your website! To use this post as an example, I referenced "Business Insider" to show where I took information from - this is a backlink to Business Insider which is an highly reputable and large scale organization, leading to a reputable backlink, and a trusted reference/source for the reader, which helps to build trust that you are providing good, truthful and useful information! If I had linked a website that was on page 33 of google search results, the reader would see the source as less credible, and they may not trust your content! Not only that, but because this is considered a "low quality link", it will actually negatively impact your SEO "score" - lowering your rank in the search results.
In published academic papers, there are typically a minimum of five sources in any post-secondary papers, and any of the papers that I personally contributed to in university had a minimum of twenty!! You don't need to list nearly that many, but if you are taking information from another source, it is important to lend credit to the proper creator - one of the main reasons other than legal (plagiarism) reasons is that the creator may re-share your content, or add a backlink to your website! If this blog gets a backlink on Business Insider because we linked it, not only does our website credibility go up, but our web traffic will skyrocket because people will be able to click on that link on a heavily utilized site - leading to plenty of organic reach!
There are a number of strategies to acquiring links to your website both paid and unpaid. The paid is pretty simple - find people with reputable websites, blogs or social media profiles, and pay them to link your website on it. This does increase search traffic quickly and can be a huge boost to your business, but it is important to consider who you give your links to, and where you trust your links to be put up. Influencer marketing plays a large part in this - check out our Instagram video series linked here to get a quick understanding of that topic. The reason being that paying for links can result in "ranking penalties" or being shown significantly lower in search results because of something known as "Black Hat SEO" - we'll touch on that in a couple paragraphs.
Unpaid link building strategies include some of the following: guest posting, social media links, and outreaching other websites for links which is doable in many different ways. Guest posting is important because if you bring in a perceived "expert" to add their viewpoint, it can not only bring their audience to your site, but it can increase the trust of others viewing your site due to the positive reputation of these experts! When guest posting, it is important to remember that they may want to post the content on their site as well, and it is important to create something for them to share the post to their audience like a graphic, or a social media post - this will only send more people to the post!
Social media links are unbelievably easy to do - and you can easily consolidate multiple links into one link with sites like Linktree which is our personal favorite to use with clients as it is incredibly user-friendly and simple to setup. It's important to have a clean linktree name (linktr.ee/companyname - for us it would be linktr.ee/MarketwaveConsultants) because it is a link and contains keywords. Social media is hugely accessible and individuals can build up a solid following very quickly, and if they develop a following that listens to their recommendations and they post about you - let's just say word of mouth travels quickly.
Finally, outreaching other websites is an under appreciated tactic as it is tedious, unless you either pay for an automation service (or an employee to do it) or build your own automation services - CRMs like this exist in many different capacities, like Hubspot's CRM , Salesforce CRM and others. This can be incredibly valuable because not only may it increase the amount of links you have on your sites, it can dramatically increase the size of your business/personal network, and even generate new business partners and increase your business revenue! When Marketwave Consultants was just beginning to build our content bank and business network, we used this tactic! You'll see guest writers on this blog later on in the year because we did this!
If you pay attention to these points, you'll be able to formulate a plan for your website - once you have chosen your direction, you will be able to execute your plan to ensure your SEO will land you on the top pages of search results. But before you get going - we suggest you pay attention to one very important part of SEO - and that's Black Hat SEO.
Black Hat SEO
Black Hat SEO is what happens when you attempt to "break" the algorithms responsible for indexing websites and creating search results. The strategies include things like keyword stuffing (putting as many keywords as possible and not paying attention to sentence structure), cloaking (hiding keywords in your websites code so users don't see them but search engine algorithms pick them up) and buying the wrong links (distrusted websites, malware, etc...). Avoiding these at all costs is incredibly important, as your hard work to build your website up and improve your ranking can be trashed in seconds by these. The most common incident of these three is when people buy "shady" links to websites to embed or embed their link on "shady" websites. When buying links, focus on forming mutually beneficial partnerships and avoid purchasing links directly - if someone asks you to purchase a link directly it's likely a red flag and you should proceed carefully.
So Really, is SEO THAT Important?
Absolutely it is! The post you just read, as detailed as it may seem, barely even scratches the surface of how complex SEO is - but it is incredibly important. Clients can come to fruition just because you appeared on a google search! While yes, we are well aware it's easier said that done, all it requires to have a successful SEO strategy is to plan out every step, in detail and ensure everyone is on the same page. When everybody understands the goal and what needs to be done, as well as what needs to be avoided (maybe most importantly), each task becomes easier and more targeted towards your goals, ultimately providing you success.
Search Engine Optimization is a complex, yet vitally important tool for anybody on the internet who has a domain that they want people to see. It takes time, lots of reading, and a number of hot beverages of your choice, and a bit of "I'm so confused WHAT IS GOING ON" moments, but it will ensure your profile online is just as large, if not larger than your profile in the real world.
These strategies we discussed are recommendations based on a combination of our research and experience, so if you follow this to a T and it doesn't work - let us know! We love feedback, and we're continuously adding more posts so if there is something from this article you want to know more about, leave a comment on send us an email and we'll either send you some resources or we'll write a post about it!