You may have heard the term “SEO” before, but what exactly does it mean? And why is it so important?
SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimization, is essentially a combination of different factors, methods and strategies that – when put together and used properly – help the pages on your website rank highly in the search engines (like Google and Bing), namely for keywords that are related to your website’s topic/theme/subject matter.
The relevancy of the keywords is important. For instance – your site could rank highly all day for terms related to cleaning products, but if what you are really selling is kitchen appliances, those high rankings aren’t really going to help much. You need to rank frequently for keywords that are highly relevant to your website’s topic.
And when your website ranks highly for those relevant keywords, people are more likely to find your website when they’re searching for that topic/keyword on the Internet.
For example, say you have an online store that sells cakes. You build a website, stock your kitchen, and you’re ready to open your doors to the Internet. BUT how do people find you online?
You could run ads, tells your friends, promote your business on social media, yes, but how do you get people to find you just because they were searching the Internet for “online cake shops”?
That’s where SEO comes in. When done properly, your website will pull up in the search engine results for the specific keywords that relate to your industry – in this case, think keywords like “chocolate cake to buy” or “online bakeries” or “cake delivery” or “cake shops online” – you get the idea.
So, that’s great and all, but how exactly do you go about making your website rank for those keywords? How does your site pull up highly in search results, ultimately bringing you more potential customers?
Let me answer those questions with another – have you heard of search engine spiders/crawlers? If not that’s ok. It’s pretty simple. Basically, search engines like Google and Bing send out little “spiders” to crawl/look through all the content on your website. The spiders note the site layout, keyword usage, links, content and a whole slew of other factors that contribute to your site’s overall ranking. Taking these things into account, the spiders then send the information back to the search engines, where it is indexed, run through complex algorithms and finally arranged and ranked on the search result page that you see when you search for a specific term on Google. The order in which these results are displayed is related to the relevancy that Google sees between the query (term typed into the search box) and the page listed.
There are a lot of things (ranking factors) that contribute to the order in which separate pages are displayed on a search result page, including:
Is it unique? Does it add value to the Internet? Is it useful to readers? Does it tactfully contain the necessary and relevant keywords? All those factors play a part. Googles wants to give its users the very best results, and if you’re content is amazing, you’ve already got a head start.
On page optimization.
These are little factors that make a big difference in the overall ranking of your page. Is the keyword you’re targeting listed in the title of your page? The heading? Several strategic places throughout the text/body of the page? In image alt tags? Are there internal links pointing to the page? Away from the page? All of these things matter. (I’ll go into more detail about these factors in a later post.)
Site structure and URL structure.
Google looks at the overall structure of your site, taking note of which pages are linking to each other, and the significance of those links. No matter what, all of your pages should be linking to the other pages on your site that are related to them in some way – for example, if you offer a variety of services and have an individual page for each one, all of those individual pages should link back to your general service page, which in turn should link back to your home page. No pages should be left out – otherwise the Google spiders can’t find them when they crawl your site. Think of it like a web. The spiders need to have a path to follow when they crawl your site – if the links aren’t there, the spiders can’t find your content! Even if it’s awesome. So site structure is important.
URL structure is also important. Your URL’s need to be clear and easy to understand – for example, the URL for your chocolate cake page could be http://your-site/services/cakes/chocolate-cake. Search engines can easily determine what your page is about and where it fits within the hierarchical structure of your site (under services > cake).
If you want a page to rank for a particular keyword, it helps to use that keyword in the URL, first for search engines, but also, this will help people choose that keyword as anchor text when linking to your site.
What is anchor text? Anchor text is simply the word that appears in the text that contains a link. (For example: Here is a great article about content marketing <– content marketing is the anchor text that is linking to the page on my site about content marketing.)
In the case of the cakes, if you want a certain page to rank for “best chocolate cake” then it would be helpful for people to link to your page using the term “best chocolate cake” as the anchor text. (For example: I have tried a lot of chocolate cakes in my lifetime, but the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had was from a little online bakery based out of Dallas <– the words “best chocolate cake” on their site would link to your page about chocolate cake.)
Whatever the keyword that you are trying to rank for, it’s best if those linking to your page use that particular term in the anchor text of the link. It shows people and Google alike what the link will be about once they click it/crawl it.
Do others find your site useful? The more sites that link to your page the better, as long as those links come from quality sources. It doesn’t pay to link spammy pages to your own, just to create links. Google will find out, and you will be in trouble. Seriously, don’t do it. But, if you can get links from quality sources, perhaps in the case of online bakeries, from sites that love your chocolate cake and want to tell the world how awesome it is, then link away! Trustworthy links tell Google that others find your page useful or important, and if some people find it useful, others might as well, causing Google to rank you page higher in search results.
While this is in no way a complete list of the factors that affect page ranking, it’s at least a good place to start. There’s a great pie graph about the ranking factors that influence search engine algorithms on Moz.com – I would recommend checking it out! This will show you the weight that is given to each factor, and how much each affects your site’s ranking ability.
Well that’s SEO in a nutshell. I’ll be delving into the different factors in greater detail over the coming weeks so that it all becomes a little easier to understand, but in the meantime, here are a few great resources that have helped me learn SEO:
I hope this helps! Do you have questions? Be sure to leave them in the comments below!