What Is SEO? Why Your Internet Marketing Strategy Needs SEO in Order to Succeed
As a business owner, you know that the Internet offers you a wealth of opportunity in the form of prospective leads and clients. With that said, harnessing the Internet’s potential for astronomical growth is easier said that done. Having a website is not the end-all-be-all of digital success, it is simply the beginning when it comes to garnering the attention your business deserves online.
What Is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is more than just a marketing buzzword; it’s a digital marketing strategy that yields impressive ROI when done well. Comprised of multiple elements, SEO is an intricate process utilizing a variety of moving parts both on and off your website.
On-page SEO tactics, in the simplest terms, tweak your site content in such a way that search engines can find and classify each individual page on your website. This begins with keywords. Keywords are the specific terms and phrases that your potential client would search to find you. Notice that these are not the phrases that you necessarily think that your site should rank for – though most of the time these two groups of phrases coincide.
By developing title tags and strategically placing desired keywords on specific pages, search engine bots can locate and rank your website according to relevance. Without these keywords, search engines like Google have a difficult time deciphering exactly what your website is about. This is because search engines don’t see websites like humans do. The bots crawl your site’s architecture and static text, while checking metrics like site load speed, on page navigation patterns, bounce rate, and more. Search engines don’t see the awesome animation or design features – which might play a large part in the overall experience of your site.
What You See:
What Google Sees:
Your website relies on more than just the content of its pages to gain visibility. Off-page SEO relies on the backlinks connecting your website to other sources.
Backlinks are the “popularity votes” of the Internet*. When a website links to you, search engines see this as an indication that the information found on said page is valuable – so much so that this other website wants to share it with it’s users, too. Having a large profile of quality backlinks is therefore essential to increasing your website’s overall visibility.
*It is extremely important to note that likes and shares on social media are NOT the same as website backlinks. Though social media shares and other social engagement help to increase the visibility of your website or content, they do not give your site the extra “link juice” that a backlink does.
Even if you’ve built a strong backlink profile and have appropriately optimized the pages of your website, you still might not show up in search engine results. Why? Because there is a variety of technical factors that must be accounted for in order to effectively execute an SEO strategy.
Technical SEO ensures that search engines can find your site. If, for any reason, your website or some of the pages on your site have blocked search engine bots from crawling your site, you’re going to have a major issue. Beyond that initial – and essential – first step, there is a plethora of other technical elements that can impact the effectiveness of your SEO.
- Can search engines see all of your content? Using Fetch as Google in the Search Console, or tools like Browseo, you can see what the bots see. Is anything missing? If any of your optimized content doesn’t show up, Google can’t see it, and therefore can’t take it into account when assessing your website.
- Do you have a solid site structure and a good network of internal links? You want to ensure that the search engine spiders, and your website visitors, can easily navigate from one page of your website to the next. Sometimes, if you have pages that aren’t properly linked, or linked at all, through your site navigation, Googlebots will not find them, and therefore will not index them.
- Does your navigation work? Stemming from the point above, screwy navigation and broken links hinder search engines from continuing to crawl your site. Broken navigation links also hurt your overall user experience.
- Are there broken links on your site? Whether in your main navigation or anywhere else on your site, broken links hurt your SEO. You can check to see if you have any broken links using a host of online tools like Siteliner and browser extensions like Check My Links.
- Do you have the proper redirects in place where they are necessary? Improper use of redirects, or missing redirects, are both frustrating to users and detrimental to your SEO. One common problem can be seen when using the wrong type of redirect. Using a temporary 302 redirects where permanent 301 redirects should be impacts your website immensely because temporary redirects do not pass any “link juice” from the old page to the new one. You can check the status of your redirects using browser extensions like Redirect Path.
- Does your site load too slowly? Site speed is taken into account by search engine crawlers, but more importantly, greatly impacts user experience. Users today want to find what they’re looking for instantaneously, and if your site loads too slowly many will abandon your website and move on to the next result. To see how quickly your site loads, and get insights on how to make it faster, check out Google’s PageSpeed Insights.
- Does your site have duplicate content? You might have been under the impression that having the same content on multiple pages was simply a content issue, but search engines view this as a technical problem. Using tools like Siteliner, you can see how much duplicate content resides on your website, and where it’s located.
All of the issues associated with these questions can only be solved with technical SEO know-how (and some elbow grease, of course).
People use their mobile devices to conduct searches for information, products, or services more often than they use a desktop or laptop computer. This means that your website had better work just as well on a smartphone or tablet as it does on a laptop.
Mobile SEO is extremely dependent on whether you have a mobile site, a mobile-friendly site, or a mobile responsive site. With that said, mobile SEO concerns itself with the mobile user experience, and optimizing for that experience.
- For instance, is your website content easily viewable to mobile?
- Are your pages appropriately optimized for voice searches?
- How quickly does your site load on mobile devices?
It is important to note, though, that mobile SEO and desktop SEO should not be two separate entities, but one cohesive overall strategy that accounts for both.
User Experience (“UXO”)
As search engines [read: Google] evolve, more and more weight is given to the overall user experience that a website provides its visitors. Algorithm updates from Panda to Penguin, and Mobile to RankBrain have sought to continuously improve the quality of content in search results. By attacking low-quality content (Panda), spammy backlinks (Penguin), and working towards a better understanding of user intent (RankBrain) and more natural language (Hummingbird), Google is getting closer and closer to providing the perfect results every time. By focusing on giving the user what they want using high-quality, unique, relevant, and valuable content that is easy to navigate and visually appealing, websites can better position themselves to succeed.
This goes back to the idea that keywords should be targeted according to what your clients would search to find you, not necessarily how you talk about yourself and your brand. In this way, the “customer is always right” mantra rings true in the digital world – with keywords being only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Do I Need SEO?
SEO is, in essence, a process designed to facilitate your website’s capacity to sell. No matter where you are in the process, from website ideation, to the design and build out, to working with an existing website, SEO can give your business an advantage that no other marketing strategy can offer – a competitive position on the most widely used search engines in the world. Though the results of implementing an SEO strategy are not instantaneous, consistent gains offer tangible returns on your Internet marketing investment. With that said, if you want to increase the visibility of your company’s website, gain more clients, and make more sales, then yes, you need SEO.