Search Engine Optimization is Also Known As SEO
WE will discuss how search engines work and why search engine optimization is important.
In the second section, we’ll discuss basic techniques and important factors in SEO and search rankings.
And, in the final section of this guide we’ll discuss how to maintain and continually improve SEO long term.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is optimizing your content to drive search engine traffic to your work.
It involves gaining a thorough understanding of how search engines work and then reflecting that knowledge in your writing and webpage design to maximize traffic to and user experience on your page.
SEO is important because search engines like Google, YAHOO!, and Bing drive the majority of web traffic. Shares on social media can cause short term spikes in stats, but real, long term success comes from maximizing search engines ability to drive traffic to your page.
Not only will good SEO improve search rankings and increase traffic for the author, but it helps people interested in your topic find your page and improves the viewer’s experience as well.
SEO involves strategically using appropriate keywords, building links to your work and making your pages search engine friendly. Although it is important to understand what SEO is, it is also important to understand what SEO isn’t. While SEO can make a big difference in stats, it cannot fix bad writing or poor content. SEO can make good writing into a great, high performing webpage, but it cannot turn poor content into good writing.
How Search Engines Work
Search Engines use “spiders” or “crawlers” to build an index of the webpages available, the words on each page, and where on the page those words were located.These program robots begin on popular webpages and add important words found on the page to the search engine’s index. From there, they follow every link on the page and index the corresponding pages before using the links on those pages to go to the next set of pages, and so on and so forth. This process is known as crawling.
Once this information is gathered by the spiders, it is encoded and stored for indexing. In order to even out the difference between the time needed to search a term beginning with a popular letter like ‘t’ and a search term beginning with a less popular letter like ‘q,’ a numerical value is applied to each word. This process is known as hashing. Not only does hashing even out problems related to letter frequency, but it condenses the index. Only the numerical value and a link to the actual information is stored in the index. This increases index and search speed, especially with more complicated searches that involve multiple words.
When a user performs a search, he or she types a query into the search box. Boolean operators can be used to define specific relationships between the terms in a query. Some of the most common operators are:
- AND-requires that both terms are on the page
- OR-requires that one term or the other is on the page
- NOT-excludes pages that include the following term
- NEAR-requires that two terms be near each other on the page
- “quotation marks”-requires the query be treated as a phrase, instead of each significant word in the query being considered an individual keyword
- FOLLOWED BY-requires that one term be followed by another
These searches are defined as literal searches. Research is currently underway on concept based searching which uses statistics statistical analysis of webpages containing your query to recommend pages you might be interested in, as well as natural language searching which allows users to type a question into the search box using the simple language they would use to ask a friend their question instead of using Boolean operators.
There’s More than One Search Engine
Each search engine uses different rules for determining which words are indexed and which words aren’t. Some search engines index every word on the page. Others focus on the most common words, the words in titles and subtitles, meta tags and the first few lines of text.
If you’ve ever tried searching the same phrase on different search engines, you probably noticed that you got different results. This is because each engine uses different algorithms to weight and index keywords and determine search result rankings. Search engine ranking algorithms use website popularity, meta tags, number of back links (links to the page), keyword frequency and location and a wide variety of other factors to rank webpages and how well they correlate to viewer searches.
In addition to relevance, website popularity is taken into account in determining search rankings. As more interested users are directed to your page by your SEO techniques, not only will the techniques increase your relevancy scores, but the popularity component of the ranking algorithms will increase as well.
(For more concrete information on specific ranking factors and their relative weight please see this website.)
Your Audience is Important in SEO
Now that you know how search engines function, we need to consider how users interact with search engines. To conduct a search, the user types a few keywords into the search box and clicks enter, browses the results and selects a page to visit. If the user is unsatisfied, he or she will return to the search and select another result or modify their query for a new result list.
People perform searches because they a) want to go somewhere specific on the web b) want to do something specific or c) learn a piece of information. In order to create a high performing webpage, you need to think like your user.
Ask yourself how many of your audience’s needs can be met on your page. Add additional, relevant content that meets these needs to attract more viewers and happier views. Then ask yourself if your audience can find your page. What queries might your target audience put into the search engine? Are those keywords found in your titles, subtitles, alt text, summary and first few sentences?
Remember, building content for your users will lead to better results than trying to build pages for search engines.
Will New Top Level Domains Matter in 2015?
In the world of online marketing, misinformation abounds--and it gets compounded exponentially by an incredibly dynamic and rapidly evolving world. Most of the things you think you know (but don't) about search-engine optimization, or SEO, may have been true a few years ago but have changed; one of the following was always a myth.
Here are some of the myths you need to move beyond to get smarter about SEO.
Myth 1: Metatag Descriptions Help Your Rankings
Not anymore; in fact, metatags are no longer even indexed by Google and Bing. But don't ignore them altogether: Your metatags form the text that is displayed along with your link in the search results--and a more compelling description will compel more users to click on your listing instead of on others.
Here's example of ours; the metatag is everything below the URL.
Myth 2: The More Inbound Links, the Better
False. In all the recent updates to Google's algorithm, the search giant has made it a core priority to have quality trump quantity. Gone are the days of having thousands of superlow-quality links driving up rankings; in fact, creating those links can look spammy and get your site penalized.
Focus on obtaining links from sites that are relevant to your products, services, or industry--and on having those links be surrounded by relevant text. A blog review about your "blue widget" that links to your site is far more valuable than a rogue link for "blue widget" stuck in the footer or sidebar of some site--even a highly ranked one.
Myth 3: PageRank Still Matters
Google's infamous PageRank (named after Google co-founder and now-CEO Larry Page, mind you) is a 1-to-10 ranking of the overall authority of every website; the bigger the number, the higher the rank. In years past, this seemingly all-powerful number dominated the attention of SEO experts.
But today, Google's algorithm has evolved well beyond any single indicator. The PageRank still exists, and if all things are equal, a higher PageRank trumps a lower one--but factors such as relevance and context matter, too.
As with inbound links: If you run a dental practice in Los Angeles, it's better to have a link from a site that reviews doctors and dentists in L.A., even if it has a PageRank of 4, than to have a paid link with no context in a huge site with a higher PageRank of 7.
Myth 4: Google Prefers Keyword-Rich Domains
In years past, Google seemed to put a disproportionate amount of emphasis on keywords in the domain name (what you may think of as the URL). For example, vinylhousesiding.com would almost certainly be ranked first in a search for vinyl house siding.
Not anymore, says Google. If vinylhousesiding.com is in fact the more relevant, authoritative site on the topic, it will probably still rank first--but not because of its domain name alone.
Myth 5: Websites Must Be 'Submitted' to Search Engines
In 2001, yes, this was the case--indeed, this was the first service that my company, Wpromote, ever provided. But in 2012? Not at all. At this point, if there is any connection from any site to yours, your site will be quickly discovered by Google.
Note that being indexed is a far cry from achieving high rankings--but that initial step of submission is no longer needed or helpful.
Myth 6: Good SEO Is Basically About Trickery
False, false, false. Although there are still some SEO experts out there who go about their business trying to "trick Google," this is absolutely not the way to provide good, lasting SEO.
Good SEO is about creating a relevant, informative website, with unique content and great user experience, and encouraging the sharing and distribution of great content to drive organic publicity and links back to your site.
In the end, this is exactly what Google explicitly wants to reward with high rankings--so it is anything but "tricking" the search engines.
I'm planning to dive into other online marketing topics in the future, to find the biggest myths--so if you've got suggestions, please weigh in below.
Will New Top Level Domains Matter in 2015?
Whether your brand offers a product or a service, you'll always be looking to increase the amount of visitors to your website. You don't necessarily need to put out the next viral marketing video or hire an expensive marketing agency (although both would probably help) to achieve a high rate of traffic. All you need is a bit of elbow grease, a few tricks up your sleeve, and a commitment to making your site a quality destination for visitors.
How to Drive More Traffic to Your Website: Twitter
For many companies, Twitter has quickly become an indispensable part of their business plan. The goal of Twitter isn't necessarily to spend all of your time trying to get followers. Certainly, that's important, but the quality-;and consistency-;of your tweets will have a long-term impact on how much traffic will be driven to your site.
For example, consider your tweet lengths. "If the end of the tweet is a link, as it often is, then your link will be lost," says Tim Frick, author of Return on Engagement: Content Strategy and Design Techniques for Digital Marketing. This happens especially when your tweet is retweeted by someone else. To avoid the truncated tweet, make sure you're keeping tweets short enough - under 120 characters if you can.
If you're building your business or you're launching a start-up, you'll need to target potential customers who may have never heard of you in order to draw attention to your brand. "The biggest unused Twitter resource for small business owners is the search.twitter.com function," says Alexis Wolfer, founder and editor-in-chief of TheBeautyBean.com. "You can search for what people are talking about in real time, which is very powerful. I can search for 'drugstore mascara' and see the people doing anything using those words. So if someone is at a drugstore wondering what mascara to buy, I can say, 'Hey, did you see this article we wrote on the best drugstore mascaras?'"
Getting retweeted is the goal of any good social media manager. Even if you only have a couple hundred (or even fewer) Twitter followers, you can face great exposure by crafting pitch-perfect tweets that are picked up by your followers. In other words, try to find something new, interesting, or funny to say. It doesn't have to be about your product or service in particular, but it should be well thought out and carefully planned. A tweet with typos or factual errors will make people think twice about clicking to your site.
Dig Deeper: 5 Secrets of Highly Effective Twitter Users
How to Drive More Traffic to Your Website: Facebook
If your business doesn't have a Facebook page, it's time to make the leap. With about 500 million users, there's really no better platform to drive traffic to your site. Consider that even if you get just a tiny percentage of Facebook users to look at your page, you have a good chance in driving a fair amount of traffic.
In addition to the page details that list your company's address and website address, you need to utilize the Like and Feed tools to get as much traffic to your site as possible.
If you have your web designer program a Like button onto various pages of your site, it gives your current audience a way to tell their friends about something they saw - and liked - on your site. Once they click the like button, a link to your site appears in their Facebook feed, and depending on how many friends they have, it could means thousands of eyeballs on your product or service.
To get people to interact with your Facebook page, you need to create a virtual conversation that involves as many people as possible. Questions are a great source of interactivity. Jeff Widman, CEO of Brand Glue, a consulting company based in Mountain View, California, offers the advice to 'Put the question first, rather than last' and to 'ask a question where people don't need to click through a link to give you an answer.' In other words, you need to make sure your questions are direct and relatable to your customers. Also, make sure you don't confuse your followers with jargon or words your readers won't understand. It's best to keep it simple.
Dig Deeper: How to Optimize Your Facebook News Feed Presence
How to Drive More Traffic to Your Website: Blogging
No matter what service or product you offer, a blog will help drive traffic to your site. Blogs are especially helpful to get traffic from returning customers because you should have new content to offer, even if your product or service hasn't changed at all. Inc.com blogger and award-winning Internet veteran Maisha Walker says, 'The purpose of blogging in general is usually to establish and/or support an existing brand with an understanding of how that brand generates revenue.'
Here are few ways that blogging helps drive traffic to your site:
- Intimacy - Blogging can make your relationship with your customers far more intimate, and will help increase the amount of returning customers.
- Building Community - When you blog, you define your areas of expertise, but you also attract the relevant customers to your company or brand.
- Customer Research - Readers will inevitably leave feedback in the form of comments and e-mails. It's a great way to understand who is reading your blog and what they're interested in.
Dig Deeper: Blogging's 11 Big Payoffs
How to Drive More Traffic to Your Website: SEO
All efforts to drive traffic to your site culminate with the idea of Search Engine Optimization. Everything that you do online, whether its social media, blogging, uploading photos, or naming products, contributes to your organic search ranking. Experts say that most, if not all, of your marketing energy should be directed at landing the top search engine rank for your keywords. Here are three tips to improve your Google SEO.
- Google places a lot of emphasis on links, says Chris Dawkins, CEO of Trace Media Marketing, a New York City-based SEO and Internet marketing firm. When someone searches on Google for a particular keyword, Google has analyzed how many other sites have your link on their sites, which increases credibility, and therefore heightens your ranking.
- Use the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. This tool offers you keyword suggestions for your site, as well as providing stats on each keyword, like how many people search that per month, and which websites you'll be competing with.
- When Google crawls your site, it's going to want to know what - and who - you are. Creating meta tags and posting keyword-rich content to your site are essential. Don't forget to name all of your photos with keywords, either.
Dig Deeper: 5 Secrets to Selecting Highly-Effective SEO Keywords
How to Drive More Traffic to Your Website: Link Building
This term is becoming less specific as more and more marketing techniques are evolving to generate clicks to your site. But essentially, the term refers to generating inbound links to your site from other sites on the Internet. The two major benefits of building your link-presence online are a) to introduce another site's followers to your site and b) help your search engine optimization in terms of ranking.
There are a few ways to link-build. First, and perhaps the most common way, is to comment on an article, blog post, or message board and include your link. Beware, though. If you merely post a link to your site instead of a comment, you may be flagged as spam, which could result in your being banned permanently from posting on that site. The best way to include your link is to find articles that are germane to the product or service you are offering, or at least those that you feel confident in responding to intelligently, and write a meaningful post. At the bottom on the post, include your link with your signature. By doing this, the hope is that audiences will end up at your site after reading an article you've commented on.
Dig Deeper: Link Building - What not to do
How to Drive More Traffic to Your Website: Content Aggregators
Content aggregators are similar to link building in that they both help drive traffic to your site. They differ in the sense that you log onto these sites for the sole reason of sharing links to your site with the world. The most common examples of a directory or content aggregator are Digg and StumbleUpon. The best way to drive traffic to your site using these services is to have a popular third party post on your behalf, because they will have a devoted core of followers. Make sure your site is content aggregator friendly, too. For example, if someone visits your site and likes what they see, they should be able to 'Digg' you, which will send a link of your site to their feed.
Here, are some of the other content aggregators you should know about:
Driving traffic to your site is an organic process that takes time and one that never really ends. You'll always want to be working on your strategy in order to achieve a growing number of visitors to your site, because more often than not, that's where you'll be getting the bulk of your customers.
Dig Deeper: Top 13 Ways to Drive Blog Readership