For over 20 years, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has been an increasingly important part of the marketing industry. With the growth of the digital age, businesses having an online presence is more important than ever, and SEO is one of the most effective ways to obtain long-lasting growth online. So what exactly is SEO and what can it do for your business’s online presence? Learn the basics below.
How Search Engines Work
So, let’s first go over some basics of how SEO works and how search engines like Google determine whether your website is ranked well or not. The key takeaway from this entire blog post should the term “relevance and authority”. When a person uses a search engine like Google, they’re searching for some kind information. So, in order for search engines to be valuable to users, they need to pull up the best results that match the user’s search query.
The way this is done is through what are called “web crawlers”. In essence, search engines will use these bots to go through the content on each page of a website. Then, through the search engine’s algorithm it determines whether the content is reliable, correct, and useful to search engine users. After the crawlers go through the website it is organized and indexed, meaning that it is now available to be shown to search engine users. However, the page’s ranking is what determines whether it is actually shown. This is where the term “relevance and authority” comes into play.
Based on many factors that will be covered later, search engines show the website pages that they determine to be the most relevant and authoritative in regards to what the user searched for. For example, if you want to learn about orcas and search “learn about orcas” in the search bar, you can expect to find reputable sources like National Geographic with the information you are searching for.
Why Do SEO?
Now, before we dive into some of the details of what makes a website rank well, let’s cover why you want your business to rank well. The current scope of your business does affect this. For example, if you’re a dentist, you may only care about ranking well in the cities surrounding your practice, but if you have a growing chain of clothing stores that sells online nationally, your site will need to rank well for a much wider audience to see your business online. The whole point of SEO is to be found by your target customers that will be searching for your products/services and you want to be the first (and best looking) option they can pick.
Being the first organic result in the SERP (search engine results page) when customers search for the products or services your business offers is quite an accomplishment when you consider how difficult it is to get there and maintain that position. For example, the clothing store mentioned before that sells nationally; that store would have to compete with every similar type of clothing store in the nation since they may be selling the same kinds of products.
Only about 25% of search engine users will even check the second page of the results page, which means your business needs to at least rank in the top ten in order to be seen. And since most of those users will only click one of the top three results since they’re perceived as the most relevant options, that’s the goal to rank for. Now, considering all those companies competing for the same spots, it can be daunting and have you asking yourself, is it even possible? The answer is yes, and it can be extremely worth it if done right.
What Makes Your Page Rank?
Now let’s go over what things will make your website rank well and get more of your target audience finding you online:
On-page SEO mainly has to do with the content on each website page. It’s important to remember that search engines don’t rank a whole website as good or bad, they rank individual pages on the site for their authority and relevance. When crawling a page, the general guideline the follow is Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness (EAT). So, as long as the content on your site follows these guidelines of quality and you’re pushing out more and more of it (most likely through blog posts), you’re showing search engines that your content is for your website visitor’s benefit and it will rank it higher.
Off-page SEO is basically the reputation your site gains online and mainly deals with links to your site. If your site is reputable and has info that others find valuable, it’s likely that they’ll share your information and link to your website like they’re citing an article. The more quality links to your site, the more search engines see that your content is valuable and should be ranked better. Online reviews and social media also contribute to your off-page SEO.
This is the lesser known part of SEO but is one of the most important. Technical SEO has to do with the health and structure of your website. For example, if your website has slow loading times, this makes your website less trustworthy and therefore, less likely to rank well. There is so much encompassed under technical SEO that we can’t cover all of it in this article. If you’d like to learn more about the specifics, you can find them here in Moz’s Technical SEO Guide.
You can’t talk about SEO without mentioning keywords. When those web crawlers from search engines go through your website’s content, they determine what your website is about based on its keywords and other data. After they index that data, every time a search engine user searches using the keywords your site ranks for, you will show up in the results (depending on how high your ranking is). For example, if you own an accounting firm in Dallas, Texas and your business ranks well online for the keyword phrase “accountant in dallas”, your website will show when people search for that phrase. Improving the ranking of the right keywords for your website will help your business gain better visibility, lead to more people on your site, and lead to more sales.
Content creation like blog posts are one of the best ways businesses can target certain keywords and improve their rankings. There are many factors that contribute to a keyword’s ranking, but the main principle to follow is to remember who your audience is. You’re not writing content for search engines, you’re writing it for your customers. Lots of quality content written to focus on your keywords but to benefit your customer is what shows search engines that your keywords should rank. Keyword stuffing and other practices meant to cheat search engines can actually result in search engines punishing your site’s rankings.
With the principle of creating content for your customers and not search engines in mind, one of the most important things to remember is that search engines want to see how people interact with your website. The more people that visit your site, the longer they stay on your site, whether they visit other pages, etc. all show search engines that your website is valuable, getting used, and should therefore be ranked better. These can all be tracked through your website’s Google analytics page.
Putting It Together
Achieving great rankings through Search Engine Optimization can be difficult and very competitive in some industries. However, different from many other marketing channels that require continuous funding, SEO offers your business long term benefits if done right. Once your page starts ranking and gaining more traffic, it is very likely that it’ll continue to grow on its own and deliver better and better results. Pages that rank organically through SEO have a much better chance of getting users to a website and converting them into customers. If you would like to learn more about SEO and what can be done for your business specifically, please contact us here at Grow Team for a free consultation. We’d love to answer any questions, no commitment required. We’ll see you on page one!