One of the most common questions we receive here at the Suite is “what is SEO?” or “what is search engine optimization?” or “why should I care about SEO?”
So let's start with the first question: what is SEO? The simplest definition is “the methods used to boost the ranking or frequency of a website in results returned by a search engine, in an effort to maximize user traffic to the site.” But we realize that even this definition may not mean all that much to you. Let's break this down even further.
What is Search Engine Optimization?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process through which a website owner will let Google know their website in on the web, what their website is about, and how helpful their website is. This process includes both onsite SEO tasks and offsite SEO tasks.
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Parts of SEO
Search Engine Optimization is divided into two activities: onsite and offsite activities. Both are important to attain good SEO.
The first set of activities are done onsite — meaning you perform these tasks on the site you are trying to make sure gets found. This entails developing a strong keyword map, writing relevant content, using optimized images, inviting your readers to interact with your posts, and making sure your page-load speeds stay as short as possible.
The second set of activities are done offsite — meaning that you or someone else will need to perform these tasks on another site. This process entails having other sites let Google know you are there by linking to your site through quality links, linking to them through quality links, and making sure you keep some separation between your site and webspam.
How Does Google Rank Websites?
No one knows the exact calculations Google runs to produce their rankings. What we do know is that there are over 200 separate factors that each affect rankings to varying degrees. The number one rule when it comes to setting up your site for SEO is this:
Google is in business to serve the people who use their services to search.
This is because people tend to try to kill the messenger. If someone goes to Google and performs a search and is sent to a site that is filled with spam, irrelevant information, doesn't load, or is hard to read and navigate, they will blame Google for delivering up a bad result. This isn't good for you as a site owner or for Google as a search engine. So Google does everything it can to make sure that when someone performs a search on their system, they deliver the best available content and answer their questions as completely as possible.
Additionally, thanks to recent changes in their algorithms, favored methods of search engine optimization before are increasingly irrelevant. But just as with any algorithm changes on any other channel, if you remember to serve the people using those services and providing quality, engaging content, then you will come out ahead no matter what changes come your way.
Bad SEO Practices to Avoid
The top five SEO mistakes website owners should avoid:
- Not having a keyword strategy. Putting together a keyword strategy will not only help you with content ideas and mapping but will make it easier for people to find your site overall. Make sure to start by building a strong keyword map.
- Misusing your keywords. Whether you over-optimize your keywords or optimize the wrong keywords, both can penalize your site's rankings. Remember, if it wouldn't read well to a human, then it won't read well to Google. Make sure to avoid keyword stuffing and overuse of synonyms.
- Writing low-quality content. Spelling, grammar, and context all play important roles in your ranking on Google. (Incidentally, this is another reason to avoid over-optimizing your keywords and keyword stuffing — both will lower the quality of content, thereby hitting you with a double whammy and lowering your ranking even more).
- Forgetting to also optimize for mobile viewing. More and more people are accessing the Internet through their smartphones and tablets. Currently, roughly half of all Internet traffic is done over a mobile device. If your site or blog is not optimized for mobile viewing, it may hurt the user experience — something Google will knock you for.
- Forgetting to optimize your images. Just as with your written content, your image content should be relevant and high quality. The image title, caption, description, and ALT text values should all be written with humans in mind: if it won't read well to a human then it's not going to read well to Google.
What About Other Search Engines?
There are dozens of search engines available, many of them routinely used. Optimally, you will want your website or blog to rank high on any or all of them. However, Google currently owns more than 70% of the search engine market. This means that while it's nice to rank on some of the other search engines, less than 30% of people who search the Internet use Google to do so. If you don't rank on Google you lose potential traffic to your site.
What about Paid Ads?
Paid ads can get you listed on Google, but they aren't a replacement for good SEO. However, people trust organic placement more than paid appearances. This means that while you may find some success through paying for ad placement on Google, you will never have as much success as you would by implementing a strong SEO strategy.
Why do I Care About SEO?
Search Engine Optimization is something every website and blog owner should care about because when done well it is the best way to make sure people are able to find our sites. This means that with a strong SEO strategy, you can gain a competitive advantage over others in your industry, increase your reach and authority, and result in a higher return on investment (ROI) for your website or blog.
What are the Benefits of Search Engine Optimization?
Some benefits of Search Engine Optimization are you get increased organic traffic to your site, improves credibility and trust, and reaches all of your ideal client. SEO are hyper-targeted and customer centric, which means as your ideal client is looking for you, you will continue to pop up on their results over and over, and they'll start to trust what you say. As time continues you'll start to see an increase in traffic and other return on investments.