The ABCs of SEO


A – Analytics

Consistently checking in on your Google Analytics for your website is key to understanding the effectiveness of your existing keyword strategy and overall engagement with your audience. Learn More

B – Black Hat

Black hat SEO tactics are sketchy, at best, and punishable by search-engine-inclusion death. Google’s algorithms have gotten better at recognizing these tactics – keyword stuffing, invisible text, link spamming, and doorway pages – but there is still no catchall. The worst part about black hat SEO is that there is no consideration for the user. Instead, priority is given to the search engine, which is entirely unhelpful and frustrating for searchers with burning questions. Learn More

C – Competitive/Comparative

Competitor analysis is another important element of SEO. While you don’t want to copy a competitor’s keyword plan or content strategy, you can learn from what they are doing and find new venues that are not being taken. Find out what is missing for your market or industry, and use that information as inspiration for content strategy and keyword planning. Learn More

D – Disavow

Disavowal of a link gives website owners and search engine optimizers the ability to request an external link NOT be part of Google’s reading and ranking of a website. Wondering why you wouldn’t want an external link to be a factor in your site’s ranking? Links that appear on low-quality directories or hyperlinked keywords in forum posts are considered black hat and just useless. If you are performing an SEO audit, be sure complete a backlink analysis to see some your links need to be disavowed. Learn More

E – Experience

SEO is, at the most basic level, an exercise in user experience. People search because they have a question or require a service, and businesses and SEO teams need to be aware of this. Good UX, from an SEO standpoint, means information is relevant, valuable, and interesting. SEO UX is becoming increasingly important, especially with search moving in a contextual and intent-focused direction. Copywriters, designers, developers, and marketers all have a responsibility to make all the elements of their website with the user in mind. Learn More

F – Funnel

When creating an SEO strategy, you need to treat your website as a funnel. Broad search terms across all your pages is not as effective as creating a focused keyword plan. Think about the user experience and how people search to make the most out of your SEO plan. For instance, if you are selling shoes, your primary navigation pages should be general, like “men’s shoes” and “men’s sandals.” The deeper into the site you go, the more specific keywords should be. For instance, “men’s shoes” turns into “men’s dress shoes” or “men’s shoes brown.” Funneling includes search logistics, too. The navigation and nature of links between pages are also significant funnel systems.

G – Google

The ABC’s of SEO is pointless without mentioning Google. According to the company’s official history page, Google started as a small search engine (then named BackRub) on Stanford servers in 1995, and by 1998, PC Magazine had recognized Google as having “an uncanny knack for returning extremely relevant results.” The rest, as they say, is history. Google has been nearly uncontested since its inception and most SEO guidelines are created as reactions to Google’s actions.

H – Hummingbird

Google’s Hummingbird algorithm first surfaced in 2013. While Panda and Penguin focus on website and SEO practices, Hummingbird focuses on user intent, the context of the search, and works to better recognize what searchers mean instead of just what they type. This approach to more conversational search terms was – and continues to be – a game changer for both written searches and voice searches, including how we choose what to optimize.

I – Intent

User intent continues to be an important consideration when developing a keyword plan, buyer personas, and a comprehensive SEO strategy. Despite BrainRank beginning to decipher “what we mean” and not just computing “what we write,” user intent has become essential when choosing high volume keywords. Learn More

J – Juice

Link juice will always be a powerful force for improving a website’s ranking. Google does take into account which sites provide backlinks to your website, however, much like content these days, it isn’t the quantity of backlinks that matters – it’s the quality. In tandem with your SEO strategy, you can take a proactive approach to receiving quality backlinks; it never hurts to reach out to an industry resource. Learn More

K – Keywords

Keywords are the building blocks of all SEO plans, and we’ve come a long way from hyperlinking keyword texts in forum posts. However, two-word keywords are faded memories that have been replaced with long-tail keyword phrases. Searches are getting more specific, and Google is getting better at understanding search term semantics. You may have heard rumors that “keywords are dead,” but that’s not true. They have simply evolved, like most Internet elements do. Learn More

L – Local

Local SEO can be a big game changer for businesses that boast being local, community-oriented, or “Mom and Pop shops.” Local SEO can help those smaller businesses compete with national or international services. If you have a local service, you’re going to want local traffic – which means local keyword optimization. Generally speaking, local search traffic generates the largest percentage of qualified leads and queries. Learn More

M – Mobility

Mobile search is on the rise. While Google does recognize and share the mobile responsiveness of a site, a search is a search is a search, whether it’s from a phone, a tablet, or a desktop. Optimization strategy doesn’t change much, but thinking about “mobile search moments” or a person’s location can change and even enhance how you optimize content. Mobile search introduces the practice of voice search; so planning a keyword strategy that mimics the way we speak is essential to maximizing your SEO efforts. Learn More

N – NAP Consistency

Name, Address, Phone Consistency is one of the most critical, but overlooked aspects of SEO. It is especially important for local SEO. If you want your business listed within and next to the map results, you will want your contact information to be accurate and consistent. Search engines will notice if your business is listed with varied NAP information and will have less confidence listing your business with all the others that are verified accurate. Learn More

O – On/Off-site Optimization

On-site optimization and off-site optimization are important elements of an SEO plan. You need quality content on your website, as well as quality content on all your digital marketing channels. This requires constant upkeep. If you don’t keep your content accurate and fresh across the Internet, you will see your organic traffic suffer. Learn More

P – Penalty

In an effort to maintain the quality of search results, Google will, unapologetically, penalize your site for using black hat tactics and other unsavory methods of optimization. Depending on your actual digression, Google will deliver a manual or an automatic penalty. You can appeal a penalty and bounce back, but that initial damage has been done – best to avoid a penalty altogether.

Q – Quality

Despite what we all may think, Google really does want to help people get what they want and get it fast. Luckily, we’ve been saved from websites that look perfect in search results that are, in fact, giant messes of keywords. We want to find what we are looking for, which means we want quality information that we can trust. When you choose a keyword to optimize, make sure you have relevant, quality content to back support it. If the keyword is there, but the content around it isn’t relevant, Google will ignore that page. Learn More


While you may not realize it right away, the ROI of SEO (done correctly) is massive. Don’t just look at your traffic numbers (although, it does feel nice to see your traffic double in less than two years). With the correct information and a quality CRM system, you can actually track how much of your organic traffic results in bona fide sales. According to an Advanced Web Ranking study from 2014, 71.33% of Google’s page one sites result in organic clicks. Move to page two or three and the results drop to less than 6% organic traffic. It’s pretty safe to say that improving your Google rank is worth the investment. Learn More

S – Social

While social media does not directly affect a website’s ranking, it is an unmatched tool when it comes to promoting your business and your website. That being said, Twitter profiles and tweets have started to appear in Google’s search results, so mentioning a few of your keywords in those places might be good places to start. Social sharing also raises the likelihood of your content, portfolio, or brand appearing in front of the eyes of a potential client or partner. You might even be invited to guest blog for a site with high Google Authority, and attach a link to your website somewhere on the blog. Learn More

T – Time

Search engine optimization is not a quick fix. Research and implementation takes time, as does the true reward of a site that is well optimized. As you can see from our ABC’s of SEO, there are a lot of factors in play when optimizing a website for search, and they are in a constant state of flux. In addition, your SEO plan needs to accommodate Google’s algorithm updates, your industry’s news, and the demands of your audience. Learn More

U – URLs

Your website’s URLs are the first places you can begin optimizing your site. While keyword stuffed core domains are a thing of the past, in the world of SEO, there is power in your URL extensions and folder names. As you strategize interior page content and structure, make sure you are customizing your URL to accommodate the unique keywords you are targeting on that page.

V – Volume

Choosing your keywords begins with researching the search volume and making sure what you offer is what people search. Using the Google Keyword Planner will give you insight into how often people are using a search term, where the greatest search is happening, and how competitive the term is.

W – Website

The architecture of your website plays a big part of SEO. While a great looking website is a huge asset, Google doesn’t “see” it. When the Googlebots crawl your site, it sees the code behind the site and the actual text content. Learn More


Extensible Markup Language (XML) is a markup language that is readable by humans and machines. Created by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), XML is a simple way of transporting digital data. For SEO purposes, XML is critical to the way we create sitemaps that are submitted to Google. XML Sitemaps indicate original authorship and get your site indexed (or re-indexed) faster by letting search engines know something within your website has changed. Proof of authorship can also save you from a nasty “duplicate content” penalty from Google. Learn More

Y – Yellow Pages

Behold, the predecessor of the Internet, search engine optimization, and the phrase, “Google it.” SEO for the Yellow Pages was mostly alphabetical and slightly categorical. Over forty years ago, Steve Jobs admitted that part of the reason he chose the name “Apple” was that it would appear before Atari in listings. Learn More

Z – Zoo by Google

This “Zoo by Google” is more often referred to as algorithms. Complete with Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, and Pigeon (oh, my!), this collection of algorithm updates continue to dictate how we optimize websites. Each animal represents a different search approach to maximize user experience.

Google Panda – Designed to improve the quality of content, Panda encourages SEO specialists to not just have content for pages, but actually provide useful, original, and valuable content for searchers.

Google Penguin – Designed to defeat black hat SEO and other unsavory optimization tactics. You can thank Penguin for taking spammy, keyword-stuffed, irrelevant website off the first search results page. And the second. And the third.

Google Hummingbird – Designed to understand “user intent” – the semantics and context of your search. For instance, if you search “the color purple,” Google will bring you results about the novel and film, The Color Purple, instead of directing you to websites that address purple as a color.

Google Pigeon – Designed to improve local search experiences. This algorithm also affects the results that show up in Google Maps. Using “near me” in search phrases has skyrocketed over the past year, and Pigeon caters to that.