What is search engine optimization?
Search engine optimization (or SEO for short) is one of the most coveted (and most misunderstood) services in digital marketing today. Some think that SEO is a button you click or a plugin you install that magically propels your site to the "top of Google search pages." Other people think that it is a place on your website where you list all your keywords and search engines automatically rank your site at the top. Whatever the myth, there are set principles and practices that can help improve your website's search ranking.
The Coveted "Top of Google Search Pages"
This has been a catchword for qualified search consultants and charlatans alike. A lot of sales reps still use this as a metric for search engine success. I recommend walking away from anyone who promises this in their sales pitch.
There are two ways to get Google (and other search engines) to rank your website on the top of search pages. The first way is organically. This is where the search engine algorithm automatically picks your site for the top spots because it is so awesome. It is also what we refer to as organic search marketing.
The second way is through paid search ads. This is actually the guaranteed way to end up at the top of Google searches. However, you will only appear at a fraction of the user searches with your keywords. However, this post is focused on search engine optimization so I will revisit paid search ads on a different page.
When the internet was first becoming mainstream in the late 90's and early 2000's, SEO meant listing your keywords as many times as possible. Anything you wanted to be found for such as a location should be included in your content.
What Search Engine Optimization Really Is
SEO is the discipline for managing your entire website for maximum exposure to search engines. Google dominates the world-wide search market with 86.02% market share as of April 2020. There is no end in site to their dominance of the search market industry.
General SEO Guidelines from Google
Google's algorithm is a secret but their handbook to search isn't. You can learn more about Google search and how it works straight from the proverbial "horse's mouth." The Google Search Guidelines offer helpful clues about what to do and what not to do with your content. Here, you will find helpful suggestions about SSL certificates, URL structure, how to qualify your outbound links to Google, and more.
Beware of Google Webspam Content Violations
Over the years I have come across people who want to outsmart Google. One person I met wanted to "beat Google at their own game." Remember, Google has been in the search business for over 20 years and invented the modern search engine.
What is Organic Search Marketing?
Organic search marketing is the "holy grail" of search marketing. After all, it's free, right? Well, kind of.
When the internet was in its infancy, almost anyone could write a page of keyword-laden gibberish and drive traffic to their website. It was easy to get a page to rank on organic search back then. That is exactly how Google was formed by Sergey Brin and Larry Page in 1996. Google's initial mission was to create a better search experience for the person doing the searching.
This is an important point. Love it or hate it, Google considers their number one customer the people doing the searching. This means that you have to cater to the Google algorithm to be successful at organic search marketing.
The Number One Factor in Organic Search
There has been raging debate over how to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). Some experts say the design counts more. Others say it's backlinks. Still others say it's the "H tags." The truth is that your written content is the number one factor in how your site ranks in SERPs.
In the early days, keyword-laced content ranked higher. You could repeat the same keywords you wanted to be found for throughout the page and rank. Since then, search algorithms have become more sophisticated. Search engines began penalizing the websites that continued to indiscriminately add keywords to their content. This is called "keyword stuffing."
Content is so important in your website that content marketing sprouted around 2012 and still plays a prominent role in digital marketing. These days, how your content s structured, how it is written, and what it links to are huge factors in search today. Google uses artificial intelligence and machine learning in search today. This means that what worked just a couple of years ago may not work as well today.
Some experts tout that artificial intelligence can determine the author's intention for the content. Google favors less-salesy, more informative content that provides value to the searchers. So, it's important to keep this in mind when writing content for your website.
Other factors that influence search marketing results:
- Site security
- Mobile-first design and build
- Page loading speed
- Link structure and backlink quality
- Domain age, url and domain authority
- Social media presence
Helpful Posts on Search Engine Optimization
Here are some selections from my blog that you might find helpful on the topic of search engine optimization.