What is SEO and do you need it?

You’ve probably heard the term thrown around but very few people have an understanding of what SEO is and therefore don’t know if they need it.

Google had almost 6 million search results just today while I write this.   That means it’s tough to stand out amongst the crowd, and that’s only on Google.

You probably know SEO stands for ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ but what exactly needs to be optimised?  Is it the writing? The design?  Or maybe the links?  It’s all that and more.

When someone searches for something, Google looks at over 200 elements on a website and determines where on the search podium your website lands.  Ultimately you want to be at the top of the first page.

When it comes to SEO, there is the searcher, the search engine, and your website. If your website is about your cookie business, you want the search engine (which, in 90% of all cases, is Google) to show it as a top result to anyone who searches for the phrase “Cookies”

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SEO is the magic that makes Google most likely to show your content, page, website or post when related search terms are entered into Google.  So in short, YES, you need SEO!

For a deeper dive into SEO here’s an overview of the content

  • Overview
  • White hat vs black hat
  • On-page SEO
  • Off-page SEO

Overview

Now what does that magic look like, and why does it even matter?

Like I said earlier, the vast majority of online experiences begin with a search engine, and nearly 75% of searchers start their searches on Google.

Combine that with the fact that the first five results on Google get 67% of all clicks, and you get an idea of why search engine optimization is so important.

There’s a joke going around the web that highlights how crucial it is to hit the first page of Google:

If you ever need to hide a dead body, you should place it on the second page of Google search results.

If your blog post, article, or product is on any other page of the Google search results than the first, then it’s the equivalent of it not ranking at all.

But to understand how to show up first in the search engine results, you first need to know how search even works.

How Search Works:

Now that you have an idea of the basics of SEO, I’ll take a look at some of its components in detail.

Google protects their algorithm pretty well so we don’t exactly know all 200 determining factors but these guys did a pretty good job -> Backlinko did a great job of compiling as many of them as possible into one big list.

But first, I need to get one thing straight. There are two sides to the SEO force, and you need to choose yours right now.

White hat vs Black hat

black vs white hat seo

As with anything life, there are going to be what seem to be shortcuts to getting the desired result and SEO is no different.  Many marketers make use of the black hat SEO techniques with a “get rich quick” mentality.  Many of the black hat SEO techniques have been identified by Google and most back hat marketers realise very quickly that these techniques are not sustainable as Google penalises websites heavily utilising these methods.

Black hat SEO focuses on the search engine element and completely ignores the human audience element.

On the other hand, white hat SEO is a sustainable way to build your websites online presence and focuses on the human audience by offering your followers content that matters to them and on a platform that is easily accessible by complying with Googles rules.

For an in-depth comparison, check this out at inbound marketing

On-page SEO

Ther are 3 big areas concerning on-page SEO!

  • Content
  • HTML
  • Architecture

Content

You’ve heard it before “Content is King” and it’s never been more true than it is today.  When someone searches for “How to make the best lasagne” Google does everything it can to present only the best results for that person.  And it does this by looking at these elements.

Quality – This is obviously a great start to any SEO optimised site.  It’s not the only thing Google looks at but it’s definitely a big part and quality content never goes to waste!

Having said that, quality content is harder to create than you might think.  It basically means you need to become a teacher and a pretty good one at that.

You don’t have to start from scratch though and this article does a great job of explaining how you can create quality content that converts!

If you have an idea for some great content, start by generating a few headlines for the topics you’d like to talk about.  Here’s a great resource to test out your headlines.

Writing something every day is a great way to start levelling up your content.  Some of your content will generate hot traffic and other content will just end up filling up your archive section.  Here’s a great article on how to generate more of the first kind!

Keyword research – a vital part of SEO is keyword research.

Use of keywords – Over the years Google has gotten smarter. Including keywords in your content is important but gone are the days of stuffing your blog post with as many keywords as possible.   This actually decreases the performance of your website,

The freshness of content – Hubspot has confirmed that frequent posting and content updates on your website increase SEO.

Direct answers – Answers to specific questions show up on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page).  If you provide specific answers to a specific question, Google might use your answer on the SERP.

HTML

You might know what HTML is or you might have no clue.  You certainly don’t have to be a programmer or coder to understand the basic though.

  • Title Tags
  • Meta Descriptions
  • Schema
  • Subheads

Title tags – Simply put title tags are your headings.  Think of them as newspaper headings.  In HTML they are called H1-Tags.

Meta description – When Google displays your page in a SERP the meta description is what shows up under your Title.

If you optimize a meta description result, Google will never cut it off and end with “…” or make it seem like it ends mid-sentence. Optimized meta descriptions also often mention the content’s keyword up-front.

Schema – Schema is the result of a collaboration of several search engines. It’s basically just a subset of specific HTML tags that will improve the way the search engine result pages display your content.

Subheads – Subheads are an important part of any good web page.  They offer your reader navigate your content and help improve SEO.

Architecture

Architecture runs the risk of getting very “techy” nut this is the 3rd biggest factor when considering om-page SEO so I’ll sum up quickly.  Any of the below terms can be explained further with a quick google search.

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Architecture offers users a great experience as well as cross-platform optimisation like mobile-friendliness.

  • Easy to crawl
  • Duplicate content
  • Mobile-friendliness
  • Page speed
  • Keywords in URLs
  • HTTPS and SSL

Off-page SEO

Here are the 4 big areas of off-page SEO

TRUST

Google has recently hit spammy and obscure websites quite hard so trust is of growing importance.

Authority – A mix of 2 kinds of authority help google determine your sites overall authority.

  • Domain Authority
  • Page Authority

Check the authority of your page here

Bounce rate – This is simply how many people come to your website and then immediately leave without going to another page.

Domain age – Your domain age matters, even if just a little

Identity – A brand or personal identity helps Google determine your trustworthiness.

LINKS

The idea that “backlinks are everything” is just wrong.

Quality of links – The quality of links matters so much more than how many links you have.  Quality over quantity.

Here is why focusing on the number of links is a problem.

  1. Low quality or spammy links might get ignored by search engines.
  2. new site links are worth more than existing site links.
  3. Links from other websites are worth more than a bunch of links from your own site (from one page to another).

Anchor text – This is the text that other sites use when they link to your website.  It matters a little but it’s good to know

The number of links – Yes this matters but again, quality over quantity.

PERSONAL

These are personal factors and quite frankly are out of your control but they’re good to be aware of.

Country – Anyone who searches online receives results from the country that they’re in.

City – Geo-targeting goes even further and targets the city that you are in.  That’s why you see the pizza place around the corner show up when you google “local restaurants”.

Searcher’s history – If the searcher has been on the same page before, or even if they’ve just visited your site in general, you’re more likely to show up because Google thinks you’re a relevant result for them.

SOCIAL

Good results on social media will also help you rank better on Google!

Quality of shares – Not all shares are equal.   Google knows who the prominent social media influencers are so if Will Smith shares your post, you get more SEO mileage out of that than if your friend does.

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Conclusion

Hopefully, you’ve realised that SEO isn’t optional anymore and in fact is a vital part of any business online or not.  If you have a website it’s probably there to market your business and ultimately drive traffic and leads.  Now you know what it takes to compete online.

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