Is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) just a buzz phrase you hear floating around the office among your colleagues?
In this article our goal is to help you understand SEO better by explaining the fundamentals of how Search Engines work, what Search Engines need to rank your website and how we “SEO” a website in an effort to give the Search Engines what they need.
Understanding How Search Engines Work
Search Engines are the directories of the Internet. Imagine the Internet as the largest library in the world. Now picture finding an image or article in this vast library. Unless the image has some defining terms to enter into the library directory, that picture is just a piece of paper floating around without categorization in the miscellaneous drawer. Now envision the billions of pages that users around the world have deposited onto the internet.
Search Engines were originally created to sort through all the information uploaded to the web daily. Search Engines use spiders to find and crawl the information on each new page. The Search Engines then have to decipher how this information fits with every other page on the Internet. The page is then categorized and added to an index so that is it faster to recall and show in a Results page for a relevant search.
There is a big difference between what Search Engines actually show in results and all the potential results they could show that are stored in their results. In fact, Google uses more than 200 factors in its algorithm and is continually updating the formula to meet user demands. In the last year alone, there have been almost 900 updates!
What Search Engines Need from a Website and How You Get Ranked
Before any website can be shown in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) the Search Engine must be able to:
- Find your website.
- Crawl (or spider) your website pages.
- Understand what information is on your website.
- Categorize each of your website pages in the indexes based on what it understands from your Source Code.
- Understand the intent of any Search Query by a person and display the pages in its index it believes are most relevant.
This means that your website must be easy for Search Engine spiders to find, to crawl all your pages, understand what is on your pages (including text and images) and be confident that your web page is the most relevant. Sound like a lot of work? This is where Search Engine Optimization comes in.
How Search Engine Optimization Works in 5 Simple Stages
At 1st on the List we like to break SEO down in 5 stages that work together to make the website most accessible to the Search Engines and most relevant to what visitors expect to find.
1. Site Analysis:
Taking stock of the current state of any website provides a good strategy for moving forward and determining what needs to be fixed to make it easier to the Search Engines to access and crawl your website.
- Review the site to make sure the Server and Hosting is set up properly, to make it as easy as possible for the Search Engines to access any page on your site at any time.
- Review the website for duplicate content, spam, slow load times, broken links and other things the Search Engines will demerit your website for.
A large part of Search Engine Optimization is making sure that the words people are using to search for a company like yours are visible on your website for the Search Engines to read. Keyword research provides the basis for optimizing the content on your website and seeks to discover:
- What phrases people are using to search for your company? (these are your “keywords”)
- What SEO Keywords are the most popular (search volume), have the fewest competiting pages and are most relevant to the content presented?
- What phrases are most attainable for your website and will attract the most qualified traffic?
Once the research stages of the Site Analysis and Keyword Research are completed it is time to start optimizing the content on the website. This SEO work includes but is not limited to:
- Proper page source code
- Internal link structure
- Meta Data
- Alt Tags
- Page headings and sub-headings
- Sitemap creation
- Body text content that supports the keywords searcher’s use.
A site must attract visitors and it must hold the visitor’s attention. Google uses engagement metrics as one of its ranking factors. The more people who visit your website and stay on it for a long time and look at a number of pages, the more often the Search Engine will show the site in Search Results.
Content optimization focuses on accessibility, reliability, readability, currency, credibility and more as these all affect site rankings. Content optimization also focuses on giving visitors the exact information they are looking for, plus anticipates what additional information the visitor will need in order to complete a conversion, such as purchasing a product or signing up for a consultation.
Once most of the initial grunt work is complete to bring a website up to Search Engine standards the best way to increase value is to monitor its progress and growth. This stage is called “Analytics” and includes:
- Monitoring visitor traffic to the site over a set time period
- Tracking and understanding visitor motivations
- Tracking where and how visitors use the website
- Tracking and measure sales conversions
Often Analytics can give additional insights to go and tweak items from the Site Audit, Keyword Research and Content Optimization stages.
If you think SEO is a one time task you are wrong. SEO is always ongoing as the Search Engines like to see fresh and new content on your website. With more than 500 websites created every minute and with your competitors working on their SEO strategy you can’t afford to just sit back. Ongoing website optimization and maintenance keeps web content current, relevant and maintained to meet the changes that the search engine algorithms make, changes in HTML standards and what visitor searching habits indicate.
Search Engine Optimization has changed drastically in our 17 years of experience. However, our general process for optimizing websites has remained stable and is able to achieve lasting results for clients.
Do you need help applying the SEO Process to your website? Give our consultants a call at 1-888-262-6687 to set up a free meeting to discuss your needs and the SEO Plan best suited for your goals and budget.