If you’re reading this article, chances are you’ve at least heard the term 'SEO.' In this session of Buzzword Breakdown, we’re diving in and exploring the basics of SEO, what it is, why it's important, and a few simple ways you can get started with SEO today.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Moz defines SEO as “the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.” Before we begin to dissect this definition, let’s define a few need-to-know terms:
Hey Google… What’s a search engine?
“A program that searches for and identifies items in a database that corresponds to keywords or characters specified by the user— used especially for finding particular sites on the world wide web.” – My Google Home
There you have it—straight from the G.O.A.T.’s mouth. Did you know that 90.8% of all search engine searches are made on Google Platforms? This includes Google Images, YouTube, and Google Maps. The remaining 9.2% is split between Yahoo, Bing, and even Social Media networks like Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest count as a search engine.
Search engines are sophisticated tools that work off of an algorithm in two ways: 1) crawling/ indexing the billions of documents and webpages that are uploaded to the internet daily. 2) Providing a ranked list of answers based on a particular search query.
Optimization: The process of making something as perfect, effective, and/or functional as possible (Merriam Webster).
SERPs: Acronym for Search Engine Result Page (see an example of a SERP below).
Keywords: SEO keywords refer to the words in your website content that make it possible for potential customers & leads to find you via search engines. Long-tail keywords refer to a string of 3 or more words, whereas short-tail keywords are 1-2 words. Example:
- Long-tail Keyword: Building a solid SEO strategy in 2019
- Short-tail Keyword: SEO strategy
Pro Tip: Voice search will account for 50% of all search by 2020. As you continue to read, think about how you can write your website content to answer people’s questions.
(Hint: Almost 25% of voice search queries start with these 25 keywords.)
Why should I care about SEO?
Organic Results vs. Paid Results: Organic search results are those returned naturally by a search engine’s algorithm based on relevancy to the searched keywords. Alternatively, paid search results are advertisements that appear at the top and along the side of a search page. They are also based on relevancy to the searched keywords which have been bid on by a company or brand.
It’s these organic search results that lie at the heart of SEO; however, as paid search becomes increasingly popular, it becomes more difficult to ignore paid search when discussing SEO. The first five listings on Google get 67% of clicks, so what happens when a particular search query returns 3-4 paid ads and the first organic listing is the 4th or 5th search result? These stats are what makes the process of optimization that much more imperative. Here are a few other reasons why SEO is essential to any business or brand:
1. Organic search is often the top source of website traffic
If you recall, organic search results are those that search engines naturally return based on a particular search query and the top five listings receive 67% of all clicks. If you are not on the first page for specific keywords that pertain to your brand, that could be a problem for your business!
2. SEO builds trust & credibility with search engines
Trust is the foundation of every great relationship! The relationship between your website and a search engine is no different. There are many factors that come into play when building trust and authority with search engines like Google. Over time, things like quality backlinks, positive user behavior and experience, and on-page optimized content all contribute to a strong relationship between your website and a search engine.
3. Good SEO helps you stand out from the competition
We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again. The first five search engine results receive 67% of clicks! Keep in mind that there are so many factors that go into healthy SEO (over 200 to be exact), and mastering and monitoring these individual ranking factors not only helps your overall optimization but enables you to stand out from the competition. Don't worry, though. You do not have to learn or focus on each individual factor!
4. SEO plays a major factor in the buying cycle
The buying cycle refers to the stages that customers go through before they commit to buying from your brand.
Research is arguably the most crucial phase in the customer buying cycle. After consumers become aware of a particular need (or want), they begin to research. This is where they compare your brand against the other options. Today, the internet allows people to conduct more research than ever before. Smartphones and voice search means that consumers can find information from anywhere. More often than not, today's research starts with a Google search, which means your brand's visibility on SERPs is so important!
5. It’s a long-term strategy
The internet is always changing; therefore, so is SEO and its best practices. When best practices are implemented into your business strategy from inception and maintained, it will have a noticeable impact in the long run. This starts with the design of your website as well as the keywords and your content.
6. Practicing good and up to date SEO tactics can be relatively inexpensive
No, we are not saying that SEO is free; however, in the long run, if implemented correctly and continuously, it should have a positive impact on your bottom line. It’s an investment that no brand should forego.
Let’s break for a quiz! If you recall, the definition of SEO is “the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.”
In the Search Engine world, which is more critical: Quantity or Quality?
If you chose quality, you are absolutely right! If you chose quantity, you were not all wrong. When it comes to your webpage, traffic to your site is the difference between a booming business and bankruptcy. The quantity of traffic your website sees daily is extremely important; however, if that traffic isn’t buying what you’re selling… what’s the point? That’s where quality comes in to play.
So, how can I increase the quantity of quality leads to my page?
Essentially, how can you ensure that Google is showing your website to the right customers during search? Google’s search feature operates via a complex algorithm named RankBrain. RankBrain uses machine learning (a form of Artificial Intelligence) to determine which results to show for a given query. In a way, RankBrain does a lot of the work for you by getting to know a searcher and presenting relevant content to relevant people, but at the end of the day, there is a lot that you as a marketer, business owner, web developer, etc. can do to increase your chances of being clicked!
As we mentioned before, there are believed to be over 200 ranking factors that RankBrain takes into consideration when choosing which results to display. Moz conveniently broke that list of ranking factors down into this tidy little pie chart.
Rather than go into detail on each ranking factor, we’ll highlight four reasonably simple ways that you can implement healthy SEO into your business & marketing plans.
1. Content is king, keywords are your queen, and research runs the show!
If there is ONE thing that we can stress when it comes to SEO, it does not overlook the importance of the content on your website. Content, and the keywords it’s made up of, give your website substance but also, it’s what allows your website to be found via search engine that gives it life! Your website and its content should exude your brand. That includes the voice, personality, and image you wish to portray. Potential customers have made it to your webpage for a reason, and it’s your job to engage them.
The best way to do this is by knowing your customer. Do your research. Before you can even begin to generate content for your customer, you must know your customer. It is not enough to know that your target audience is women, ages 18 to 38 because not all women are the same. Learn the habits of your ideal customer, what they like to do, where they’re from, their political views—even their favorite type of food! This is known as psychographics (but don’t forget to look at demographics!). You should also be conducting a thorough competitive analysis at this time. An in-depth analysis of both of these things will dictate your content and allow you to start researching the right keywords.
My personal, favorite keyword tracking tool is Google’s Keyword Planner (it’s free!). There are other tools like SEMrush, SpyFu, Moz, & Ahrefs, that you can use.
2. Web Design & UX
The way your website is designed has a lot to do with SEO. This includes the assets your customers see and experience like layout, graphics, and page speed. If users have a lackluster experience on your website, they’re less likely to come back and definitely won’t purchase your product. Time spent on your site as well as the quantity of traffic are both things that affect SEO and your website’s relationship with a search engine and its ranking.
3. Search Engine vs. Searcher
There are three major players when it comes to SEO: You, the search engine, & the searcher. Your job is to optimize your website content so that Google shows you to the right people; however, do not make the mistake of writing for search engines. When creating your website content, you must always keep the searcher in mind. This means avoiding poor practices like keyword stuffing.
'Keyword stuffing' is including large quantities of keywords in an unnatural way— whether that’s shrinking the size or making them invisible. Google penalizes websites that do this!
Instead, after you’ve conducted your audience analysis, start thinking of what types of queries your potential customers might be searching. Write your content to be educational & informative rather than salesy.
4. Don’t forget about those closest to you
The internet gives you access to billions of people all over the world, but sometimes less is more. Optimizing for local SEO search is a great way to manageably ensure that you are reaching people. Make sure your Google Business information is set up as well as your business settings on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. Today’s search technology, especially Google’s RankBrain, makes the most of location settings. Until you are ready to invest in paid digital advertising, there’s very little you have to do to show up for local searches.
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! This blog post just scratches the surface of all there is to know about search engine optimization; however, you should now have a basic understanding of the fundamentals behind SEO as well as some appropriate next steps.
As you have learned above, SEO is a critical way to get the most from your website. Proper use of SEO should result in higher search rankings and more contacts from people who, if they’re not making purchases, are at least interested in learning more about you.