10 things to understand about SEO before you start
So you know what SEO is, you know that you need it, and now you’re interested in knowing more so you can start improving your online presence by hiring someone to get the job done.
The thing is, you have a business to run.
You aren’t expected to be an expert in Search Engine Optimization. It is, however, a good idea to know about some important pieces of the puzzle when it comes to what makes a good online strategy.
This blog post is intended to do just that; to give you a leg up, so that when you decide to execute that strategy in-house or outsource your SEO, you’ll be able to develop a plan to improve your rankings, attract more customers, and build your business into a relevant, authoritative online presence.
This is not an outline of everything you need to know or a complete breakdown of SEO. You don’t need that right now. You need perspective.
Understanding SEO at a basic level
Mindset, perspective, and understanding are critical for success in anything, especially SEO.
Before you get started with any plan or strategy. Before you assign an in house team or hire an agency. Before you do ANYTHING, you must acknowledge 3 important things about SEO to get the most out of it:
- You have to be relevant
- You must provide an excellent User Experience (UX)
- Patience, SEO is a long game
The goal of SEO is to optimize your website so that it ranks higher in searches relevant to your industry; there are a million different ways to achieve this, but almost everything boils down to how you can prove exactly how relevant you are in your niche or industry. In building your relevance, you’ll also build authority.
Your relevance is a measure of how appropriate your content is for any given keyword being searched through Google (or any other search engine), and your authority is a measure of how trustworthy Google thinks your site is. Both of these things can be achieved and then improved on in many ways.
Once you’re relevant and able to be found online, you have to make it simple for consumers to get what the want or need from you. In comes user experience. If people can easily find what they want from you, they will convert easier. It’s simple.
Once you have your system in place, it has to be maintained. SEO is definitely a marathon. This seems to be the area people have the hardest time with. I’ll elaborate later.
All in all, it has been said that there are ~200 ranking factors that can affect your SEO. Don’t worry, we’re not going to go through all of them in this post as there is no reason for you─a business owner─to know them all.
Just know that almost everything about not only your website, but your online presence is currently impacting your SEO.
Content Is King
You can have a great website. You can have a stellar following on your social platforms. You can even pay truck loads of money for ads. In the end if your content is lacking, your SEO and conversions will suffer.
Remember, relevance is important. It’s the backbone of search.
With this in mind, you have to find a balance between pleasing the user and pleasing the search engines when creating your content. When looking at an online strategy, you ultimately have to optimize for people first, then robots. This is something you must keep a tab on.
Think about it. If someone comes to your site and it’s not easy to read or hard to understand, they will definitely go find a site that can deliver.
I know that all of this seems like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised at the lack of care that goes into creating relevant, easy to absorb content.
If you'd like to run a free SEO audit on your website to see where you stand, check out the link below.
DON'T OVER OPTIMIZE YOUR KEYWORDS
When most people think of SEO, they think of keywords. After all, it’s kind of the main interaction a person has with a search engine. You go to Google, you type keywords, you get results.
Keywords are definitely vital and you should definitely regard them as so; but we have to remember that at the end of the day, the user needs to have a comfortable experience when absorbing your content.
This means creating content that flows in a conversational manner and not overloading your blog posts or web copy with the same phrases so frequently that it’s distracting.
When you do over place keywords, it is commonly referred to as keyword stuffing.
Not only is this bad for UX, it is now considered a “black hat” tactic. Google dislikes black hat tactics like keyword stuffing because those methods focus on trying to trick the search engine algorithms rather than creating a great user experience.
You definitely don’t want to be on Google's bad side.
PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR IMAGES
Images are important in search engine optimization. In today's world, they carry as much weight as written content, and branding.
When users are looking for a particular image, what do they search with?
Keywords. They search using these keywords on Google & Google Image Search. I bet you’d be interested as to how much traffic Google images gets.
Over on Quora, Nate Smith, former Product Manager on Google images said this: “This is not a publicly disclosed statistic.” in relation to exactly how much traffic Google images gets.
Digging deeper we've found that as of 2010, over 10% of Google's traffic went to Google images. This puts the number at over 1 billion daily users of Google image search!
As you can imagine that number only grew over the past 8 years.
For this reason, you would expect that there is a way to optimize your image for search, right?
Since this isn’t a technical blog post, we won’t go into detail; just know that when it comes time to add imagery to your site, this isn’t an area that can be glazed over.
SITE SPEED MATTERS
This is important for two reasons:
- Google has implied that they use site speed as a ranking factor
- When your site loads quickly it makes for great user experience.
On an SEO level there are technical factors that we won’t dive into here. Of course, the thing that you have to be concerned about is user experience.
Noticing a trend yet with all of this?
Google wants to put sites with the best information and the best user experience in front of its users. Pages with a longer load time tend to have higher bounce rates because of bad UX. What this means is that when a user experiences a longer load time, they leave your site. Longer load times have also been shown to negatively affect conversions as well.
According to Google as a page load time goes from 1s to 5s, the probability of a bounce increases by 90%.
Not only will people leave your site, Google will start to lower your sites rank.
So Make Sure Your Site Loads Quickly.
BACKLINKING, THE RIGHT WAY
We all know what links are, right? A block of text, an image, or an area that is clickable and will take you to another site.
If you’re familiar at all with SEO, there is a chance that you’ve heard of backlinking or linking before. If not, here’s the scoop.
Your site has something called domain authority. This is a score, provided by Moz, who is a leader in the SEO industry.
Domain authority is a measure of how “trustworthy” your domain is. It’s figured by calculating the quantity and quality of inbound links to your website from any other site. The higher this score is, the higher all your pages across your domain are likely to rank in organic search results.
To raise this score, the goal is to get other relevant & authoritative sites in your industry and niche to link back to your site. This is extremely powerful when implemented.
Because of the power of backlinking, it can be very expensive and people often provide services centered only around link strategy.
There are many ways to get backlinks, and like in many industries, people find ways to manipulate the system. There are good, “white hat” tactics and there are bad, “black hat” tactics.
You should avoid black hat link building techniques at all costs. This is a tactic that will only have a short lived benefit and can potentially result in a penalty from Google; and like we’ve been over before, you do not want to be on Google's bad side.
Analytics do not directly impact your SEO. Don’t let that fool you, though. You absolutely need to measure the usage of your site and all of the metrics within.
We are living in a time when understanding how your site visitors are behaving on your site is just as valuable as them depositing money into your account.
You won’t get far in SEO unless you know how to measure your results, interpret said results, and use your findings to make educated and meaningful alterations to your efforts. The most popular and best tool for the job is Google Analytics (GA).
There are other tools that can help you along the way. All with pro and cons, and people have varying opinions on the subject, but GA is the best in my opinion, especially if you’re new to all of this.
Whoever is in charge of your SEO needs to spend some time experimenting with different metrics and reports, pushing and pulling in different scenarios. There’s a deep world to dive into with endless possibilities.
DON’T IGNORE YOUR GREATER ONLINE PRESENCE
It can be─and often is─argued that SEO reaches far beyond on-page technical SEO and link outreach. Google’s official word is that social shares are not a direct ranking factor. Links from Twitter or Facebook aren’t counted the same as links from other authoritative websites.
The truth of the matter is that anything that will reference your website or brand matters.
I'm guessing you may be able to guess why? You've got it!
USER EXPERIENCE. You want to make it easy for people to find you everywhere.
With that in mind, the more places that your content exists means that you're spreading your net as far as possible to get the most eyes on it that you can. The more that your content is shared means that more and more people are visiting your website. The more it is viewed, the more it gets shared.
Google’s official word is that social shares are not a direct ranking factor. Links from Twitter or Facebook simply aren’t counted the same as links from other authoritative websites.
Don't ignore those efforts, though! You simply cannot ignore the greater picture if you want to maximize exposure, leads, or conversions.
IT’S EVER CHANGING:SEO IS A MARATHON
Remember, in the end, SEO Is Ultimately About trust and the relationship between you, Google, and your collective users.
Just like every other relationship, it has to have a solid base and then be taken care of; it has to be maintained.
SEO takes time when done properly. This is the hardest part for anyone to make peace with. Everyone from SEO freelancers, business owners, agencies, everyone.
Google is always updating the way they rank sites, technology is always growing, people interact with that technology and it’s our job as business owners to keep up with it all.
With the right mindset and patience you can build a great online strategy that will take you far.
Do you have any other business owner beginner questions about SEO that weren't mentioned in this post? Contact us to learn how we can help you!