What is SEO?

You might know what search engine optimization is, but do you know what goes in to it?

Posted by Ryan Desmond on November 26, 2013

Search engine optimization or SEO is the process of using techniques to positively affect the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine's organic results. These organic search results, or so called natural results, are not paid advertisements. The search results produced relate directly to the content on your website. Having a content rich website, using keywords, and phrases geared toward your business is the first and most important step to optimizing your website's search engine ranking.

If you are building a website it is important to understand and implement search engine optimization techniques. Having a website is only part of the equation. If you have a website you likely want people to find it. Following proper SEO techniques can and will make your website accessible via search engines. Google far and above has the majority of the search engine market share with about 85% of all global searches in the fourth quarter of 2012. It is important for you to know since the majority of searches are conducted using Google we use techniques that will be beneficial specifically for Google searches and could possibly be somewhat less effective with other search engines such as Yahoo, Bing, or Ask.com.

Google changes it's search algorithm 500+ times a year. The techniques used to achieve great rankings change slightly all the time. Sometimes it may change two or even three times in one single day. Google will speak in general terms with respect to algorithm changes but they do not publish or publicly give explicit instructions to help you achieve better search engine results. Google forces SEO experts to use trial and error, A/B testing, and other techniques to learn the specifics of the search algorithm changes.

How do I SEOThe following are some important SEO techniques. This by no means is a complete list as there are a couple hundred factors to consider. This simply is a good starting point:

  1. Content is king. You must have content on your website. If you don't have any content search engines will not produce results for your website. Content is the most important item on your website in terms of being able to be found by search engines.
  2. Keywords and phrases. Do some research and find out what keywords are best suited for your website. Google's keyword tool can help you discover what keywords and phrases are being searched for and how difficult it will be to get them ranked.
  3. Fresh content. If you want to stay relevant on SERP you must generate new content, articles, or something of value. Up to date content is extremely important.
  4. URLs. Remember those keywords we talked about? Use your keywords and phrases in your URLs. Your URLs shouldn't be any longer than they need to be. Short and effective is best.
  5. Menu structure. Do not use flash or complicated java script in your menu structure if it is not necessary. Simply use CSS. Your menu structure is typically very keyword rich. Using CSS to create your menu structure allows search engines to easily and accurately crawl your website for those valuable keywords.
  6. Videos. Make videos, upload them to YouTube, and then embed them into your website. After embedding the video on a page or post be sure to include text that pertains to the video as this will help maximize SEO for that particular page.
  7. Page title tags. Every webpage must have it's own title. It shouldn't be longer than 60 characters. It is displayed in the tabs of your browser and used as a description if someone bookmarks that page. In addition, page title tags carry a lot of algorithmic weight as it lets a search engine know what the page is about.  Words in the title tag generally appear in the clickable link on the search engine results page (SERP), having well thought out page titles can result in more click throughs. Don't forget to title all of your pages!
  8. Image ALT descriptions. If an image can not be displayed may it be a slow internet connection or some other issue the image alt description will be displayed. Describe the image as accurately and briefly as possible. Using keywords here is effective.
  9. Social media marketing. It has been said that social media is the new SEO. Social media alone won't cut it, but it is a very necessary part of today's marketing strategy. As you generate new and interesting content for your website you should be sharing it on social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, etc. Doing so can place those snappy new videos or articles in front of hundreds if not thousand of people relatively quickly. If you have a hot topic that is emotionally appealing it could be shared rapidly and generate a lot of new visitors to your website in a hurry.
  10. Backlinks. Also known as inbound links or incoming links, these links are important because they are an indicator of who is interested in your website. If you receive backlinks from other high ranking websites it in turn will help boost your ranking. For example, getting a links from a major website like cnn.com or domain names ending in .gov or .edu can be very beneficial. If you receive backlinks from websites that pertain to the topic of your website that's even a greater plus.
  11. Linkbaiting. When you knowingly title an article with a hotly debated topic in an attempt to specifically gain attention or encourage others to link to your website, this is called linkbaiting. Do it! It works. It can be an extremely powerful if you can figure out the right way to do it. Content that can go viral and drive traffic can help you move up that SERP very quickly.
  12. Keyword Meta data. It's well known Google no longer crawls your website for keyword meta data. Google focuses on the content of your website. However, other search engines may still use the keyword meta data. If you want to play it safe, provide accurate meta data that properly reflects each individual page on your website, but understand it makes it very easy for your competitors to figure out your SEO angle.
  13. Sitemap. A sitemap is an XML listing or index of your website. Listing all the pages on your website makes it easier for search engines to understand the architecture of the links on your website and it turn makes it easier for the search engine to index your website.
  14. H1, H2, H3. You should absolutely use H tags through out your website. These heading tags define the most important heading with H1 and the least important with H6. Keywords wrapped in H tags are weighted more heavily than keywords in P tags.
  1. Hierarchy. Focus on where the request or directive has come from.
  2. Scale. How big or small is the request/project.
  3. Time. How long will it take to complete the task.

Now, after stating the above, I must say, I wholeheartedly believe in getting things done as quickly as possible. Throughout the day I get a lot of requests about things that take little to no time to accomplish. I make an effort to get those little things done and out of the way as they come to me even when working on other projects of more importance. If you can scratch all the little things off your list as they come to you, they don't build up. Those little things that don't take much time to get done can and will add up to larger blocks of time later. If you keep saying, "Oh, I'll handle that later", later comes, something more pressing happens, and the little things that don't take up much of your time (to do in the moment) can turn into a project in and of itself. You may become more overwhelmed with all the little things you must do than having just handled them right away.

The bottom line is don't procrastinate. Don't complain. Stop talking about what you need to get done. Shut up and do it! You know the old phrase, "Actions speak louder than words." Actions are the only way to get things accomplished. So, prioritize and execute. Get to work! You'll likely find you are happier and more productive in the office. Please let me know what you think and how you organize your own work-life flow.