Search engine optimization, or SEO for short, is the science of optimizing websites and pages to improve their visibility in search engines and receive what is called in the industry as organic traffic. Whether it’s Google, Yahoo, Bing, or any other search engine, the same basic principles, concepts, and rules apply.
SEO is a complex and sometimes confusing topic, especially when you consider that search engines change and improve their search algorithms rather frequently. Keep in mind that great search engine optimization does not necessarily equal a more profitable or successful business. In fact, it is not uncommon to see companies invest time and money in a stronger presence on social networks like Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest rather than search engines. Nonetheless, SEO should be an integral part of your marketing plan.
So, what are the SEO basics?
If you are on the other side of the spectrum and are instead looking for a position as a SEO specialist, we have you covered.
Optimizing your web pages to be more easily scanned and read by search engines is only one piece of the puzzle. But, done right, search engine optimization can yield some fantastic results. Remember that visitors coming to your site from search engines searched for some keywords and then decided to click through to your site. This alone is very powerful since those visitors have a vetted interest in what you have to offer. This is unfortunately not always the case when it comes to social media websites. Search engines are often regarded as sources of high-quality traffic.
This is especially important for marketing and advertising departments — effective SEO can make or break a marketing campaign.
SEO Best Practices
Search engine optimization is not something you set and forget, it requires continued efforts and iterations to be successful. It can usually be categorized into 6 aspects. Here is a brief description of each:
1. Keyword research and relevance
In order for your website or pieces of content to enter the first page of search results in any search engine, you need to have laser-focused keywords. The copy you use on your website must adequately reflect what your company or organization offers and keywords you use have to be relevant. There are some great tools out there to help with keyword research such as WordTracker, Keyword Discovery, and Google’s own Adwords Keyword Planner (previously known as Google Keyword Tool).
2. Link building
Link building refers to the quantity of web pages that point to your own website or content. At its core, link building is rather simple – the more natural incoming links your website has the better. And, for search engines, a high quantity of quality and relevant links pointing to your website simply means that what you have to offer is of great quality, and thus your website should rank better. Of course the science behind this is much more complex, but that is the basic idea. On a similar note, Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, strongly advises against buying links — paying for incoming links is a big no-no.
3. Crawlability and indexing
For your website to get indexed in major search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo) it needs to be well structured and easy to scan and crawl. Search engines all crawl web pages in a similar fashion using what are called crawl bots. Those bots crawl the web for web pages and fresh content and according to a secret algorithm, rank the pages they find on a scale from 0 to 10. In Google terminology, it is often referred to as the Page Rank, or PR. The more pages you have indexed, the better your chances of ranking higher in search results. This of course means a stronger web presence, more visitors, and ultimately more business.
4. Social media interactions
With the advent of social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and others, search engines had to evolve to stay on top of their game and now include social interactions as an indication of content that is popular, or trending. Search engines measure how often your content has been shared on social networks and places a value on those tweets, likes and +1s.
5. Website user experience
While it may be tempting to optimize your page to search engine bots alone, let’s not forget that real humans will visit your site, and thus your website needs to be easily readable by crawlers as well as humans. This is of utmost importance as search engines now take the user experience as well as loading speed of your website into account when ranking your pages.
6. Content update frequency
Search engines are avid for fresh content and frequently updated web pages. This might explain why more and more businesses are writing a blog nowadays. Blogging obviously helps them connect with their audience and build a following, but it also plays a key role in SEO as search engines love fresh content.
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Your Team’s Strategy
Search engine optimization should be a team effort. Combined with a strong social media strategy it can yield incredible results and take your website and business to a whole new level. Overnight success is far from guaranteed though.
Many agencies and companies are moving to more of a content-focussed marketing strategy where SEO plays a very important role. To create a fruitful marketing strategy that integrates SEO, your team will need to be composed of people with various skills and strengths. A team of content strategists, front-end developers, writers, editors, and SEO experts can take a rather basic marketing strategy and take it to new heights — and reap the rewards with the search engines. With content marketing as well as search engine optimization, building the right team makes all the difference.
There are a handful of online tools to help your team do just that:
- Moz has a strong community of leaders in fields related to SEO and content marketing, and they offer a myriad of exciting tools to help you manage and improve your search engine optimization. Their beginner’s guide to SEO is a must-read for anyone looking to improve their SEO strategy.
- SeoBook has many useful tools to help your team manage various aspects of your SEO strategy. From a Page Rank checker to a keyword list generator, those tools will for sure come in handy.
- MajesticSEO offers a lot of comprehensive online tools such as a backlink history tool or a domain comparator.
- Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools are crucial to the success of any SEO or online marketing campaign. Get insights and data directly from Google on which pages perform best, how much time visitors spend on your site, where they come from, and other extremely valuable metrics.
- Raven Tools offers a complete dashboard to help you manage your campaigns, research, and analysis. With those tools you can easily manage and report on your online marketing campaigns, which includes SEO.
We’ve only scratched the surface of search engine optimization in this article, and there is certainly a lot more for you to learn. Remember that SEO is an ongoing effort and it is critical to always stay up to date with the latest changes and news. Websites like Search Engine Land and Search Engine Journal write about SEO techniques, tactics, and recent developments on a daily basis making them go-to websites when it comes to SEO.