Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to techniques that help your website rank higher in organic (or “natural”) search results, making your website more visible to people who are looking for your product or service via search engines.
A long time ago the majority of a local company’s marketing budget went to yellow pages, newspaper, and radio advertisements. This type of push marketing is no longer as viable or effective for most businesses. As consumers, and we are all consumers, we tend to go online to our favorate search engine to find the products and services we are looking for. Statistically 97% of all searches begin online.
Search engines have one objective – to provide you with the most relevant results possible in relation to your search query. You can certainly pay to have your business show up in those results, however, once that click is done and paid for it’s gone. Better is to show up in organic searches that live on. Not that you don’t have to continue to do the work to remain at the top. The recent changes to Google’s algorithms is evidence of how we must stay on top of how to keep our businesses relevant in search.
Search engines look at two main areas for determining what your website is about and how to prioritize it.
1. Content on your website: When indexing pages, the search engines scan each page of your website, looking for what topics your website covers and that includes the back-end code for tags, descriptions, and instructions.
2. Second, what sites are linking back to your site: As the search engines scan webpages for indexing, they also look for links from other websites. The more inbound links a website has, the more influence or authority it has. Each inbound link counts as a vote for your website’s content.
A link from a website with a ranking of 1 will not give you as much SEO juice as a link from a website with a ranking of 8 or 9.
A few factors that a search engine algorithm may consider when deciding what information to show in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) include:
Geographic location of the searcher
Historical performance of a listing (clicks, bounce rates, etc.)
Link quality (reciprocal vs. one-way)
Webpage content (keywords, tags, pictures)
Back end code or HTML of webpage
Link type (social media sharing, link from media outlet, blog, etc.)
Rank is the position that your website physically falls in on the SERP when a specific search query is entered. If you are the first website in the organic section of the SERP (don?t be confused by the paid ads at the very top), then your rank is 1. If your website is in the second position, your rank is 2, and so on. As discussed previously in How Search Engines Work, your rank is an indicator of how relevant and authoritative your website is in the eyes of the search engine, as it relates to the search query entered.
Tracking how your website ranks for a specific keyword over time is a good way to determine if your SEO techniques are having an impact.
Tracking is also important because as search engines change their algorithms it will impact your ranking, sometimes for the good and sometimes not.
One area the search engines use to determine how authoritative and credible a website’s content is by calculating how many inbound links (links from other websites) it has. However, the number of inbound links does not necessarily correlate with higher rankings. The search engines also look at how authoritative the websites that link to you are, what anchor text is used to link to your website, and other factors such as the age of your domain.
There are tools available to keep track of your progress such as HubSpot’s free tool called Website Grader that will show you how many domains are linking to your website, as well as other areas that may need improving.
Relevance is a one of the most critical factors of SEO. In Google’s recent changes they are evaluating poor quality content.
No freshness boost for low-quality content. We have modified a classifier we use to promote fresh content to exclude fresh content identified as particularly low-quality. (Read all of the changes Google made in May.)
While there is no way to track how relevant your website is, there are some SEO basics you can practice to cover your bases and make sure you are giving the search engines every possible opportunity to consider your website. When in doubt, always err on the side of providing relevant and coherent content that your website’s audience will enjoy. If you find yourself doing something solely for the search engines, you won’t get the results you are hoping for, always go for quality content that engages your audience.