If you’re reading this blog, that could mean one of three things: you’re a business owner who has some knowledge of SEO but could learn a little bit more about it (hell, who couldn’t), you’re someone who knows that SEO is important but don’t really have a clue what it entails and are essentially at ground zero, or you accidentally stumbled upon this article and are about to click out of it. Regardless, we’re happy to have you and think you should stick around. After reading this, we guarantee that whichever column you fit into, you’ll be clicking away with some pretty hefty knowledge about how to improve your website’s SEO.
Let’s start from the beginning.
What is SEO? Well, it’s a bit complicated. To make it simple, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and is a combination of many different strategies to help your website rank organically on different search engines– but mostly just Google. Google’s algorithm uses over 200 ranking factors to determine which results it will display when a search is made. Things such as relevancy to search, website speed, website authority– the list quite literally goes on, and on, and on.
In layman’s terms? SEO is simply trying to get Google to like you and your website.
So why is SEO such a big deal?
Well, the goal of any business owner is to increase traffic– we’re talking about digital traffic. The more traffic you’re drawing to your site, the higher your chances are of boosting your sales and profits. The better your site’s SEO is maintained, the better chances you have at ranking higher on Google. This will increase the traffic flow to your site and, say it with me, will increase your chances of boosting sales and profits.
Still on the same page?
SEO is the most important way to draw traffic to your website in today’s day and age. But getting Google to like you is much easier said than done. SEO has hundreds of parts to it, but to make it a bit more manageable, we’ve broken it up into the four easy to understand categories: structure, content, citations/listings, and modern technology.
Alrighty, let’s move on.
SEO Pillar #1: Structure
The first of the four pillars we’ll cover is the structure of your website.
The main components of your site’s structure are the title (meta title), headlines (H1, H2, etc.), alternate text for images (ALT tags), and meta descriptions. While these are all handled on the back end of your website, the words you use in these spots will tell Google what your site is about. How you appear on search engine result pages, or SERPs, all depend on your word choice.
You want to be using keywords that are important and associated with your brand as well as the search terms your customers actually use. This way, when Google is searching the internet for the best results for someone’s search, they can accurately take into account what your site is about in order to determine if it is appropriate to be displayed as a result.
I’m sure you’ve seen all kinds of websites that display the word “home” as the title of their homepage (or maybe you’re doing this now). However, if the brand is not about houses, then using the word “home” can qualify them for searches that do not match their business.
What’s worse, without the proper keywords, your site could even show up on SERPs that have nothing to do with the user’s search.
I know Google seems super smart, but it actually needs a lot of our help. By properly structuring your site, you’ll be helping Google help you.
SEO Pillar #2: Content
Your website’s content is the bread and butter in which Google eats. Without content, your website would be nothing–literally. With that being said, the reason we chose content as part of the main components of SEO is not just about having it on your website, but updating it. By updating your content regularly, you are telling Google that your business is alive and well, and should still be chosen to show up on SERPs.
Think of it like a teacher and students.
If a teacher is teaching a lesson and asks a question, who’s he more likely to call on: a student who has their hand raised or a student that doesn’t. He’ll want to call on the student that has their hand raised (unless you had mean teachers), since they’re indicating they know the answer.
Google’s job is to answer the questions of the internet and is always looking for websites that raise their hands with the latest and most relevant information. To show Google that your hand is raised, update your content regularly, post on Social Media, and get engagement (like reviews) from your customers.
Still keeping up? Great, let’s move on.
SEO Pillar #3: Citations & Listings
Onto our third pillar of SEO: Citations and Listings.
This pillar encapsulates all of your brand’s citations, listings and links from external sources out on the internet. This is important because Google ranks websites that have more, high quality listings higher on SERPs.
But wait, what makes a link high or low quality? Aren’t they all the same?
No, not all links are created equal.
You see the difference between a high and low quality link all depends on where that link is found. For example, if a New York Times article talks about your business and provides a link to your website, then it is a high quality link (Google likes these ones).
Many naive business owners might know the importance of citations and links to their brand, however they might not be aware of the importance of the quality of those citations and listings.
Unfortunately, it’s very common for SEO companies to take advantage of clients’ ignorance in this sense– bad marketers that sell you services with decade-old tactics.
Think of it like this: a business owner hires someone to go hand out flyers for their business to increase traffic and sales. Rather than actually handing them out to people, this person puts them on cars in a junkyard– completely pointless. When he goes back to the business owner, he can technically say he “handed them all out” but ultimately all he did was litter and waste the business owner’s time and money.
Citations of value are not easy but they start with you. Your membership listing with your Chamber of Commerce, your directory entry in your trade organization website, and your relationship with partners are all helpful citations that you have to work for. No marketer can do that for you.
SEO Pillar #4: Technology
For our final pillar, we’ve come to technology. Which in all honesty, encompasses many things. It includes all of the minor items that aren’t thought of too often but when taken together, add up to big value. It includes a variety of key metrics such as the speed of your website, the kind of sitemap you submit to Google Search Console, the availability of structured data, mobile friendliness, and an HTTPS secure certificate, to name a few.
Almost all of these components need to be updated regularly. Some more regularly than others.
Another key component to our technology pillar includes keeping up with the evolving internet standards. Much like everything in the technology industry, if you don’t evolve, you’ll fall behind. This includes utilizing newer modalities, image formats, and security features to show Google you’re still there.
One that is popular right now is voice search. You know when you ask Siri (or Google Assistant) the time a certain store closes, or what a restaurant’s phone number is? That is using voice search. And it gets technical to be able to be recognized by Siri, Alexa, and other voice recognition devices.
So why is this all important?
SEO is what digital traffic revolves around today, and getting more informed on it will ultimately help you and your business succeed.
All of these play into SEO which helps you rank on SERPs organically.
Why does that matter?
The more Google likes you, the higher you rank organically. The higher you rank organically, the less you need to spend on advertising and the more effective your digital advertising will be.
Hungry for more? Jump right into our next blog! The next one up, Getting Google to Understand You: A Deepdive into Website Structure, goes into more detail and specifics on what exactly makes up website structure and how to utilize it!
We’ve also dedicated deepdive articles to the remaining three pillars: Website Content, Listings & Backlinks, and Technology. You’ll find just about everything you need to know about SEO within this blog series.