Search Engine Optimization & How it Works
What’s going on, guys!? Mike Norris here with Youtech. Happy Wednesday! Glad you all survived April Fool’s Day.
Today, we’ll be talking to you about SEO. More specifically: what is SEO?
I mean, everyone asks that question. It’s probably our most common service that we do here and yet many clients still don’t really know what it is.
To a lot of people, it’s smoke and mirrors or it’s all this behind-the-scenes work. You don’t really know what you’re getting. You don’t know what the deliverables are. If you hire an agency to do SEO for you, all you know is it involves Google and keyword rankings and stuff.
I want to start out by talking about a common misconception with SEO and that would be pay-per-click advertising or PPC.
A lot of people come in looking for marketing help and say, “Well, I don’t want to do SEO because I have to pay for the keywords for my business and I know the keywords cost a lot of money for my business and I don’t want to do that.”
Good news! That’s not SEO. That would be pay-per-click, so that’s advertising that goes after specific keywords that people would be typing in and it’s very possible that, in your industry, you have a lot of terms that maybe do a really high cost per click.
That might be the case, but SEO is completely different. You’re not bidding on any individual keywords or anything like that. You don’t have a budget, there’s no advertising money that goes into it, and all you do is you pay for the service of someone to perform SEO on your website for you, which will then, in turn, help you rank for a lot of different keywords, not just one or two specific ones.
So, What Is SEO?
So let’s dive in a little bit.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which essentially means we’re trying to make your website look better in the eyes of search engines. I like to describe SEO as the art of making the search engine’s job easier, so think of it that way.
If you’re making the search engine’s job easier and they know that they can trust you as a valid source of information and you’re not going to provide scarce content to the user when they click on your particularly link, they’ll rank you higher.
So, how do search engines do that? How do they determine that you’re a trustworthy source? How do they determine that you know you’re a really good place for this information?
That’s SEO, my friends.
It really breaks down into three main factors. It’s actually quite a bit more than that—there are hundreds of ranking factors—but there are three main ones of which you should be aware.
Ranking Factors: Content
The first would be content. You want the content on your website to really match up with what you’re trying to rank for.
For example, let’s say you are a personal injury firm and one of the things that you want to rank for is “car accident litigation.” I’m just making this up. If you don’t have a page on your website that’s titled “Car Accident Litigation,” your odds of ranking for that go down quite a bit, maybe exponentially.
It’s very hard to rank for things if you don’t have a specific page on your website that’s titled after whatever that specific thing is. It’s still doable, but it kind of depends. Your homepage might rank for a ton of different terms but, with something specific like that, you’re going to want a page titled “Car Accident Litigation” on your website.
When I say “content,” I’m mostly referring to written content, but video content is great, photos and images are great, especially if they’re original, especially if you’ve put a lot of time and effort into them and you know that they’re quality. That’s going to be good stuff. You don’t want to just copy and paste stuff from other people’s websites and put it on your website. Not only is that plagiarism, it’s also known as duplicate content and that’s a negative ranking factor.
But some really good things you want to do in terms of content include optimizing your page titles, like I said, but also rewriting the subheadings on your website. If those are keyword-related, as well, that’s going to be great for you. You really don’t want sparse content. You want your content to have latent semantic indexed keywords on the page, or LSI keywords.
Let’s say you’re going after the “car accident litigation” keyword phrase and you know that people in car accidents usually find attorneys for X or search “car accident attorney,” “car accident lawyer,” “car accident trials.” Those are all keywords that are related to the main keyword that you’re looking for and that’s golden when it comes to SEO.
It’s kind of a new thing that’s come out. It’s really gotten big in the last few years. It was not really a thing in the early days of SEO. In the early days of SEO, people would engage in what’s known as keyword stuffing, where they would just put “car accident litigation” all over the page. They might even hide it in the background of the page, put some white space over it so you can’t see it, and they just had that keyword in there hundreds of times and their page would rank.
Well, Google is pretty smart and they’ve caught onto that, so that’s not a thing anymore. Now you want those LSI keywords, your page titles, and your subheadings.
Ranking Factors: Links
After content, you’re going to want to look at your links. Links are very important for SEO.
The reason is that it’s not that easy for me to just go on my website and link back to your website. That’s a conscious act that I have to engage in where I’m saying, “Oh, I looked at this other page. I looked at what was on it. It’s relevant to what I’m talking about, and for that reason, I think it’s a good idea to link to this other site on my site, because that provides the user with a good experience.”
That is why links are so important. They show that trustworthiness and they also show that, if you’re getting links from really good websites that have high authority and high traffic and you know a ton of people are going to them, that’s going to mean a lot in terms of that link that you get back to your site now.
I keep saying link back to your site. It’s actually what’s known as a backlink. I’m sure you’ve probably heard that term. That’s really big in SEO. For instance, if I got a backlink from Yahoo.com and it was a follow backlink, that would be great. I would probably get traffic just from people clicking on that link, but it would also help boost the keyword ranking of my page that Yahoo linked back to. So that’s very big.
There’s something known as anchor text, which is also really big when it comes to backlinks. Let’s say you’re in Microsoft Word and you hyperlink some text and when people click that, it then takes you to the webpage. That text that you hyperlinked is what’s known as the anchor text.
Anchor text is great because that provides context to the search engine, saying, “This is what this page that we’re linking to is about.” So, if I got a backlink to my Car Accident Litigation page and the anchor text said “car accident litigation,” that would be golden. That’s a golden backlink right there. If that was from a credible source, highly trafficked domain, trustworthy, and it had the perfect anchor text that related perfectly to my page title, boom, my page is gonna rank. I’ll tell you that right now.
Ranking Factors: Technical SEO
It’s not all about backlinks, though, just like it’s not all about content. There’s one other factor—though it’s actually a variety of factors—that’s known as technical SEO, which is the stuff that I would say is more behind the scenes and can be seen as smoke and mirrors.
Site speed is a huge thing when it comes to technical SEO. If your page takes forever to load, people are just going to back out. You may think that people are going to hang around and wait for your page to load, but they’re not that invested in you. If they’re just looking for litigation services and your page doesn’t load, they’re going to the next one. So think about that for sure.
Other things: your robots file. Again, this is on the backend. This tells search engines and all bots on the web if they should crawl your website or what pages on your website they should crawl.
In relation to that, there’s something that’s known as your sitemap, as well, which is something else that’s usually not visible from the frontend. You can have a sitemap in your footer, but it’s really not the same thing. Again, this tells search engines your preferred method of crawling your website.
So, let’s say every time you add a new image to your site, it shows up in your media gallery and all your different blogs that you created, and then you have category pages that are showing up and you have archives that are showing up and it’s all the same content across all these different channels. You might want to prioritize the individual pages being indexed first over your archived page or over your media gallery page, things like that.
You can tell the search engine which pages on your website are more important than other pages and it will categorize them as such. By doing this, again, it just provides additional trust and that’s another minor ranking factor for your site.
There’s a bunch of stuff like that as far as technical SEO goes. Obviously, you want to be tracking the traffic that comes to your site so you know what’s going on. For that, Google Analytics is great. Google Search Console is also great for SEO. You really want to get those things going.
So, again, three main factors for SEO: content, links, and technical SEO. Those are the biggest things but there are hundreds of factors.
Happy Wednesday, guys! Thanks.