When Jay Leno was the host of “The Tonight Show,” one of his most popular segments was “Jay Walking.” He would ask random pedestrians questions about current events, politics, and a host of other topics. It was renowned for respondents’ hilarious – and often very incorrect – answers. Ask most people what SEO is, and the answers are often equally hilarious and inaccurate. Some people think it has to do with Google maps; others just think you misspoke and meant CEO. So we’re going to break down what SEO is, precisely, and why it matters to business owners.
To start, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. At its most basic, it means optimizing a website for search engines. Back in the day, when there were more search engines than Oreo flavors (anybody else remember Ask, Jeeves?), this could be a bit complicated. Today, it means optimizing for Google (you could throw in Bing if you’re really committed, but frankly, it’s overkill). Google operates on an algorithm that tells it which search results to populate. The primary goal of optimizing a website is to ensure that a business or product comes up in relevant search results.
The Google algorithm changes frequently, and they’re very hush-hush about it. In our industry, web specialists are paying attention to it to be able to give a pretty in-depth list of what matters when it comes to your website. If a business is just delving into SEO, here are some key areas to pay attention to:
- Good Content. That might seem too basic, but rest assured, it’s vital. Say someone is searching for “Writing a Blog Post.” Google populates everything that it finds with those keywords. Some of it is helpful, some of it not. However, one of the factors Google uses to evaluate whether or not something is a helpful search result is by measuring how long a visitor stays on a page. If a visitor almost immediately clicks back to the search results, this tells the Google algorithm it’s not a good result for the keywords. On the other hand, if they read through the whole article and spend 3-5 minutes on the page, Google learns this is a worthwhile result.
Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than that, or the top Google search results for a particular keyword would constantly be changing. The principle is still important: if what’s on a website is “fluff” or unhelpful content for the keyword(s) being targeted, Google will “punish” the website by ranking it lower in search results.
- The Right Keywords. Speaking of keywords, it’s essential to research what people are searching for and write text accordingly, whether it’s for website copy or a blog. These keywords should be specific to a business/topic and relevant to customers. For instance, a plumber isn’t going to use “chocolate ice cream” as a keyword on their website even though it gets 100k+ searches on Google per week.
Setting the right keywords helps a business get more of the right traffic to its website – we call this ‘organic traffic’. For example, the same plumber mentioned above may discover through research that it’s more common to search for “plumber for old home” than just “plumber,” for instance. Knowing this, they can then include the whole phrase “plumber for old home” in their website text so that Google shows their website for people performing that search. As a general rule, keywords should occur once or twice for every 100 words of copy.
- Website Speed. We often think of how fast a web page loads as being dependent on the quality of our internet. And while certainly internet speed plays a role, so does how a website is actually built. If images and code are not optimized, a site can be penalized. Often these are quick fixes, but still important!
- Page Information. In many ways, web pages are like documents. As such, each page has a header. In the header is stored all the necessary information that visitors to a website don’t need to see, but which Google needs to properly read and categorize a website. If the header information is not filled out, Google simply guesses. Sometimes, accurately, sometimes not. To make sure Google is getting the information a business wants it to, it is vital to fill out the meta titles, tags, and descriptions for each of the pages. This is also a great place to insert those previously researched keywords.
We recommend using a service if your business is looking to go more in-depth than just the bare minimum of search engine optimization or you’re already overwhelmed by the steps outlined above. Subscription services such as Yoast and SEMrush are great if you have a dedicated employee that manages your website. If not, hiring an agency is usually your best bet. We’d be remiss if we didn’t remind you that Engaged Marketing Co can help you with your SEO needs!