What is SEO and how does it work? Updated 12.10.22
SEO, aka search engine optimization, is a huge and complex subject. At it’s core, SEO is a set of rules set forth by the search engines, and mainly Google, to be applied to your website and web copy. If these rules and standard practices are applied correctly, your site will meet the criteria for search and findability on the web.
A higher search rank for your website means that your site will appear closer to the top of the list for search results, so you can get in front of more customers searching for your products or services. That’s the overall concept around SEO. Now, let’s move onto the complexities of SEO and top considerations.
Structuring SEO and content in a way that satisfies the search engine requirements takes significant effort. This means your priority website content and pages, namely the ones directly related to your top products or services, and associated subjects, will be indexed by the search engines based on specific subjects or topics. This means that if you submits a search query, such as “Nile Roger Hitmaker Stratocaster Guitar near me” , there’s a good chance the websites that have published details about this product will be considered a match, and there’s a good chance that your data will be served up to you by the search engines. Why do I say ‘good chance’? A significant number of variables are at play in search rankings. It’s like the search engines want your website to be a straight A student – and then the student will be properly rewarded. If however, your site flunks all the SEO tests, your website will not pass the class, therefore your website will not be recognized. More about this below.
Even if you perform the all the right actions for SEO applied to your website, other actions unrelated to structuring your web content impact the overall searchability of your website.
The most important considerations for SEO to be effective on your website
- The performance of your website will affect your overall standing in relation to competitors – Try running a G-Metrix test to analyze your site performance. If your site falls below an ‘A’, for instances, this will impact your SEO, or, search and find. Your website will be ranked somewhere in here: A, A+, A-, B, B+, B-,C, C+, C-, D, D+, D-, F, F+, F. How the site is rated will impact your site’s overall search performance. For instance, the faster a site loads, and with all the images rendering quickly on a page, with no other significant technical problems, this will improve search ranking with the search engines. If however, you have bloated images and it takes 2 or more seconds for your site images to load, and you have a load to technical problems, your site will get a lower score.
- The security of your site – if you don’t have SSL, or, secure socket layers – you know, the padlock on the top of the URL bar when you enter a URL like www.pro-world.com. If you have good anti-virus protection on your computer, or even default security features, they will warn you before you go to the site that it may be “dangerous”. Without SSL, your site is vulnerable to a host of problems like hacking, infected code which can be injected onto the site and therefore infect anyone who visits, and more. Not having SSL will actually demote your site with the search engines. Good luck finding your site in search – you may end up on page 21, like one company we worked with.
- How content is used – The frequency and combination of keywords chosen for your web pages, based on main subjects and topics, services or products, will impact the the authority and relevance. This means if you are writing about RV’s and RV’s are the only references on your website, but someone searches for “motor coach”, your RV page may not be served up. While Google’s AI is getting smarter at serving up an RV page to a motor coach search query, but excellence in SEO means you will have both, on different pages.
- Search intent: If people click on a subject based on the title, but the content is not aligned with that subject, but uses a bait and switch method to sell you on their product (click bait), that is not good for your SEO. And, if you intend to buy Google Ads, Google may reject your request to purchase due to the copy mismatch. Also, when people search a site, don’t find what they want, then go backwards on the browser tab because the search intent is was not satisfied, that site will actually get demoted. In contract, subject matter experts will have their own processes and voice when writing about a subject. Capturing authentic content is very important to the value that is ascribed to your content, and the web page where it resides. Ideally, copy or content is written by someone who understands the features, benefits, problems and solutions of a subject – which could be a business owner, or product manager, or technician, or the marketing manager – but it specifically adds value to the reader. If the copy is focused on a specific subject or topic, well written, with good grammar, this will create what is considered authoritative or relevant content – by search engine standards. How you write copy matters. We write copy for our clients with this focus.
These are just a few of the requirements for setting up your SEO for success. There are other considerations like Google Analytics, Google Console, and much more.
While anyone can learn and follow the rules of SEO, to be truly competitive with SEO and rise to the top of search, consistent content and search ads will aid in accomplishing your search goals.
Are your best efforts good enough?
Search is a moving target because it based on the billions of searches happening in real time, 24-7. We can’t say for certain that every week your site will maintain authority and relevance for a specific key word or phrase, because search queries dictate what is being searched. If there’s a new trend for a search word of phrase, your page could drop in ranking. What if a competitor is working just as hard as you, and serves up a bunch of new copy on similar topics, and they load the page with the correct key words and phrases? Your site may lose rank. I see this happening for one of our clients who places a significant effort in SEO daily – it’s a very volatile experience with keyword and search phrase rankings that constantly go up and down, depending on the day. Think massaging data, adding new content, interjecting more keywords, pushing it out to social, running ads on this subject with a landing page to it, adding a video on your page – it’s very time-intensive and expensive. That said, the good news regarding organic search efforts – once you apply organic content to your website, it’s always there, unlike ads, which you pay for, and then they are gone. SEO is a commitment that eventually pays dividends.
How do the large organizations use SEO methods to succeed?
Large corporations, like insurance companies with agents throughout the US must consistently monitor, report, analyze and manage new content on a regular basis, which requires a consistent budget and dedicated team or SEO marketer. Plus, there’s a lot of off-site efforts too, like back linking, and directories, so they dominate the entire search page in both organic and paid traffic. They also spend a good deal on search ads, which is the most expensive advertising on a cost per 1,000 people reached basis. AND, whether you are using organic search or combining it with paid search, people are often researching subjects, which means they are not necessarily ready to buy your product or service. So in this case, organic rules!
How can small businesses use SEO methods to succeed?
Small businesses are best served by:
- Developing a communication strategy, or work with a content agency or SEO expert so you can build on your copy every month.
- Focus on implementing the right copy to your website, and apply all of the standard practices at the back end of the site, and on the web pages.
- Utilize in-bound methods like social media (large databases and search engines) to drive traffic to your top pages, including having calls to action and conversion strategies. These support and bolster SEO.
- Evaluate your budget and profit margin to determine if you can afford search ads. In the least, try and maintain a small ad budget for search. If you need help with this step, just reach out, and we can help.
- Evaluate results on a regular basis, determine if you are getting traction, and if so, how much. How can you improve upon the past?
Experts in SEO and content agencies know how to address all of these issues. With the ever-changing rules set for by the search engines, as well as advanced concepts that will impact your website and long-standing SEO, we advise getting support for your SEO efforts.
Other SEO and Search considerations, if you really want to geek out
So how does search engine optimization work? The most advanced parts of SEO are very technical and frequently change
Clean code and clear, correct “mark-up”
It’s true. Google is trying to promote a robust, disability-friendly and future-device-friendly web. That translates to pristine code, and the need to “tag” every element on the page in a way that makes its significance obvious to blind robots. No matter how beautiful your site’s design or how clever your copy, if your site is running on subpar code you are likely being held back because of it. A remodel with correct semantic markup can cause a site to jump several rungs in the rankings.
Create a targeted content strategy
One of the most challenging part is often deciding on the top subjects and it’s associated keywords you want to compete for. There’s an entire industry of experts whose job it is to identify the most profitable search terms based on your sales goals, customer acquisition or customer engagement If you’d like help with keyword selection or its placement in your copy, ask us about setting up a keyword consultation. It wouldn’t be frugal to try and index every page of your website, if you have 200 pages, unless your site must be lead-generating machine. But, you must have a content strategy based on your top subjects, products and services. A content strategy can include subjects related to your company or industry. For instance, if you are a realtor, it could be on prepping a house for sale. You need to think of the subjects that have the highest value to the readers. We are dedicated to this practice as an agency, and it drives decisions for how we add copy to the website, then promote it through social media, advertising, and communication.
Off-site link building
What other people have to say about you makes a huge impact on your ranking. Just as in a person to person referral, search engines prefer not to risk their reputations by placing an unknown business highly. You can help put them at ease if credible organizations validate you as someone that can be trusted. Ask partner organizations to give your new site a positive mention when it launches to get started building a positive “buzz.”
Feeling a little overwhelmed by this information? This is normal, and you are not alone. Reach out for a free consultation if have you additional concerns or questions.