What is SEO and How Does it Work?
SEO is an important term in the web and business world that stands for Search Engine Optimization, which refers to the act of optimizing your website so that it can rank highly (and effectively) on Google and other search engines. Contents hide 1 The First Step: SEO & Keyword Research 2 What is “On-page SEO”? […]
Sep 18, 2017 | 10 min. read
SEO is an important term in the web and business world that stands for Search Engine Optimization, which refers to the act of optimizing your website so that it can rank highly (and effectively) on Google and other search engines.
In this day and age, SEO is an essential digital marketing strategy for any business that’s looking to generate leads and grow their business online. “Content is King”, a now famous phrase coined by Google and many other digital content marketers, means that your content must be optimized for users so that they can find exactly what they’re searching for, which will in turn boost your ranking positions on Google and other search engines. SEO affects your organic traffic, which is traffic that’s grown organically over time through Google and other search engine’s ranking algorithms.
If you want your business to reach the height of success and stay ahead of the competition, investing in SEO is a move you’ll need to make.
The First Step: SEO & Keyword Research
The first step of integrating SEO into your website involves keyword research, as this is the stage where you use the SEO tools available to you to research opportunistic keywords and create a content strategy based on keywords that would be most beneficial for your business as a means of generating leads and new customers. If you’re relatively new to the SEO scene, sometimes it’s best to rank for long-tail keywords, which are keywords with more keywords per phrase, as opposed to short-tail keywords, due to the fact that there is oftentimes less competition and more “buyer intent”, which means that a customer is more likely to purchase from you if they found you from a specific search term.
Let’s say that the business you run is a moving company that focuses on long-distance moves to California, Oregon, and Washington. In many instances, a business that’s unfamiliar with SEO will choose to use simple keywords like “moving company” and “movers”, a method that most likely won’t generate many new leads. However, by implementing long-tail keywords that are more specific, such as “long-distance California movers”, you’ll start to see more engagement with these keywords from consumers that are searching for exactly what you have to offer. Choosing the right keywords and implementing them throughout your SEO strategy can be the difference between ranking on the second page of search results or in the top three websites on the first page.
It’s also highly recommended that you research your competitors and analyze their keyword positions in order to intelligently formulate a competitive strategy to search for opportunities or outrank potential competitor’s content. No matter which industry you work in, the competition you’ll face when attempting to rank highly on search engines is fierce, so you’ll want to use every SEO tool at your disposal to make sure that the keyword strategy you use is a sound one. Understanding the keyword positions of your competitors will allow you to know what works best for them and use this information to your advantage, providing you with the means of avoiding time-consuming SEO mistakes that you might otherwise had never known about.
What is “On-page SEO”?
On-page SEO is the optimization of the website itself, from a user experience and performance perspective, which focuses on organization, ease-of-use, and speed. If your website is well-organized and loads quickly, Google will rank your website higher than your competition, who may not be on top of their own on-page SEO efforts. While Google and other search engines directly take into account such variables as site structure, keywords, and links, the patterns these search engines obtain when examining this data also allows them to identify additional information about a website, such as usability and user experience, which are metrics that Google and other search engines weigh heavily when determining your ranking potential.
The optimization of website meta information, from the page title and page descriptions to search snippets, is another essential aspect of on-page website optimization for SEO. For instance, meta descriptions are very short summaries of what a web page is about, which will appear directly under the link when a user searches for your site on Google. A well-written meta description that incorporates opportunistic keywords will not only help your website rank towards the top of search results, but will also attract new visitors to your site who find the description to be intriguing. On the other hand, the page title is among the most important elements of on-page SEO, as the SEO tags included with your title have a massive impact on search rankings.
If you’re unaware of what this type of title is, it involves the words that you see at the very top of your browser when you’re browsing a website, they’re also used as the title for a Google search result.
Simple yet effective titles can work exceedingly well by drawing in new customers and keeping them engaged on your website, especially among desktop users who leave open numerous tabs at once. You also want your title tags to be descriptive, clearly telling the user what your article is about in just a few short words, which can help to entice the user enough for them to click onto your website and become aware of your brand.
On-page SEO also includes the optimization of page content, both in the page copy and page code, which is done by using appropriate header tags where necessary in order to increase exposure for specific opportunistic keywords. There’s an important balance that needs to be struck with on-page SEO as it relates to keywords. Although you might think that abundant usage of these keywords within your site content will help you appear high in search rankings, it’s absolutely essential that you use these keywords as organically as possible, due mostly to the fact that the tool Google uses to rank websites takes “keyword stuffing” into account (and is now recognized as a punishable Black Hat technique — see “What is White Hat SEO?”).
If Google and other search websites find that you’re engaging in keyword stuffing, your website will slip heavily in rankings and you’ll no longer be bringing in new site visitors, an issue that can be avoided by using high quality keywords only when necessary and as natural as possible. In that regard, header tags are the perfect place to filter in your best keywords. These tags are the areas in your site content where paragraphs are broken up by headers, such as the one above asking “What is on-page SEO?”. Not only do these breaks in your content help with readability, which assists your search engine ranking, but they also give you the opportunity to bolster your SEO efforts with keywords, fulfilling two goals in one easy step.
Analyzing SEO Performance & Reports
Even if you believe that the SEO you’ve incorporated is performing well, you can’t be certain until you analyze the SEO performance and reports. In order to be certain that your SEO is meeting your performance goals, you’ll want to continuously monitor your SEO strategies by analyzing your results on a continuing basis. It’s important to understand that SEO takes time, as experts claim that it can take upwards of 6-9 months for content you publish today to rank on Google, which means that you may not see results immediately. While you’re waiting for results, it’s highly recommended that you start readying more potential keywords and plan for content to use, which will save you time once the results start coming in.
A fantastic way to analyze your SEO performance is with tools like Google Analytics, which allows you to track user behavior, traffic, and a wide array of interesting metrics that will give you the information necessary to identify what works and what doesn’t with your SEO campaign. With this tool, you’ll have the ability to ascertain exactly how much traffic each keyword helps to bring in, numbers that will prove invaluable as you plan your next SEO campaign. Google Analytics has the added benefit of being completely free of charge, allowing you to gain the advantage of having access to this data even if your current marketing budget is tight (integration and setup is simple, anyone can do this, and we highly recommend any website owner uses this — even if you don’t currently have an active SEO campaign!).
If you run a website that sells a product or service, the most important pages on your site are likely the checkout pages, which indicate that customers are purchasing what you’re selling. With the Google Analytics tool, you’ll be provided with data that details which pages and links are being clicked on the most, which allows you to know whether or not the keywords you’re putting out are directing customers to the right content. Once you’ve analyzed all of this data, you can focus on fine tuning the SEO on your website by changing the content or keywords on pages that aren’t performing as well as you would like and possibly reassessing your content strategy.
You might also want to consider using SEO tools like SEM Rush or Moz so as to measure predictive statistics about keyword performance and competitor data. Although this information doesn’t paint the whole picture and isn’t guaranteed to be successful (proper interpretation of data is essential), starting your SEO campaign with a selection of keywords and phrases that are likely to provide you with the results you’re searching for is much better than creating a content strategy on a “gut feeling”.
With these tools, you’ll be given data that highlights some of the more popular keywords that have been used in the past while also providing you with information on the volume, number of results, and trends associated with any keyword they have in their database. When setting out to drive new customers to your website, it’s important to understand that there’s no such thing as too much research. Although you will need to act on this research eventually, these data analytics tools you use can save you from costly SEO mistakes, which makes the time spent doing research a small price to pay.
Need Some Help? Want to Learn More?
Looking to begin your SEO adventure? See our article “7 Must Know SEO Tips & Tricks That Anyone Can Do” for SEO tips and tricks that you can start using on your website today to start climbing the rankings and generating new business.
While we’ve laid out what SEO is and how it works, SEO can be an extremely complex and time-consuming process, depending largely on your SEO goals and experience. We’ve been in the SEO business for over 7 years and would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have about the process. Are you interested in hiring an effective SEO firm and generating real results and new business? If so, feel free to message me directly (social media links below) or contact us about our SEO services today!
Subscribe to our newsletter and get more awesome content like this article.