Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your website to appear higher in search rankings and consequently boost organic traffic. There are lots of different types of SEO, trends to follow, and tips to remember – it can easily get overwhelming. That’s why we’re giving a general overview of all of that for you right here in this post.
Keep reading to learn why SEO is important, the three pillars of SEO, current trends we’re seeing, and general tips.
Why Is SEO Important?
They say the best place to hide a dead body is on page 2 of Google, so working on your website’s SEO to appear on page 1 is crucial to bringing in more traffic.
SEO can make a huge difference in your website’s traffic, especially if you rely heavily on organic traffic (which comes from visitors who reach your website through a search engine like Google). More traffic means more potential customers and more potential revenue.
Good SEO can also help you increase brand awareness since it increases the chances of consumers seeing your brand in their search results. And while SEO may take more time to employ than paid search campaigns, it costs a lot less – and of all successful searches, SEO receives 94% of clicks, while PPC only receives 6%. If you’re looking to gain more traffic, SEO is going to be your friend.
A holistic SEO strategy can also help you reach audiences at all stages of the buying cycle. While some searchers are looking for categories of products (like “electric guitars”), many are looking for the specific products or services you can provide (like “Gibson Les Paul Standard electric guitar in cherry sunburst finish”).
Appearing on page 1 of the search results for terms across all stages of the buying cycle means you’ll see a better return because clicks to your site will be more intentional and relevant.
Three Pillars of SEO
You can picture SEO as being made up of three pillars: content, links, and technical.
In SEO, content has to do with every written thing you publish on your website – both how you write it and how it is structured. The content you create should be focused on keywords that your target audience is searching for. If you’re creating content based on what you already know your audience wants to read, you’re more likely to be found by them.
Long-tail keywords are typically easier to rank for since they’re often less competitive. Choosing more specific terms will also help you reach those customers who are more likely to be interested in your brand.
For example, if you’re creating content about a pair of sneakers, only using the keyword “sneakers” is less likely to bring you traffic because more large, well-known companies are also likely targeting that term. Instead, you could try a longer, more specific keyword like “women’s basketball sneakers” or “men’s trail running sneakers,” which have fewer searches and less competition in the search results.
You can create content purely for the purpose of ranking for terms, but it should be well written and at least generally relevant to your site. Your content should also aim to provide genuine value to the reader. Even if a visitor doesn’t immediately make a purchase, high-quality content helps generate more awareness and respect for your brand.
Good content also increases the chances of your website getting backlinks – the second pillar of search engine optimization. This simply means other websites are linking to your content. While a great website often attracts backlinks naturally, link building is the process of intentionally creating specific content that provides enough value that it “earns” backlinks from other sites. Actively promoting that content to other sites can help boost the quantity and quality of links earned to your site.
Backlinks tell search engines that other people have found the content on your website to be valuable – kind of like a “vote” in favor of your site. And if Google sees your website as more valuable, you are more likely to be seen as an authority, and you are more likely to rank higher.
Google places a lot of importance on the acronym EAT: expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. If you can generate a lot of links to your site from reputable sources, then you are likely showing all of these “EAT” qualities. And remember: getting backlinks starts with having good content that people want to share – it’s all connected!
The final pillar is technical SEO. Technical SEO involves the structure of your website and Google’s algorithm being able to find you in the first place. It won’t impact whether Google’s algorithm ranks you higher or lower, but it will impact the algorithm’s ability to find and crawl your website.
Some aspects of technical SEO are crawl signals, site speed, structured data markup, and meta tags.
Technical SEO is the foundation that good content and sufficient link building should be built upon. Making sure that your site is optimized for the technical stuff will make ranking for content and link building a lot easier.
7 SEO Best Practices to Focus On
There are a lot of best practices to focus on when implementing SEO. Here are some of the most important.
1. Crawl accessibility. First and foremost, we want to ensure that search engine bots can crawl your website so they can find your content and add it it to their search results pages. A comprehensive Site Architecture Audit will uncover all crawl errors, but some of the main areas to review include the robots.txt file (use this file to tell search engines which pages it should not be crawling, like login pages or thank you pages.), the XML sitemap (list only your core pages within this file – remove any redirected or 40X/50X error pages from this file), and the use of robots meta tags throughout your site (these directives instruct search engine crawlers on whether or not they should index a page, and whether or not they should follow links from a page.)
2. Images. When content is supported with graphics, Google’s algorithm is more likely to see it as a valuable resource. Be sure to intersperse your content with imagery where it’s relevant, and think of new ways to present your written content as graphics. Don’t forget the age-old saying: a picture is worth a thousand words!
3. Alt tags and title attributes. Giving the images on your website alt tags means providing additional information about it if the user is unable to view it (images are blocked by browser or company security protocols, for example). Title attributes are what’s displayed when the user hovers over an image. Alt tags and title attributes should accurately reflect what the image shows and, if relevant, contain your keyword(s).
4. Data-driven content. Create data-driven content that provides value to your market and targeted contacts. When brainstorming content ideas that could be link-worthy, try to create content that is unique, engaging, and influencer-targeted.
5. Keyword research. Keyword research is going to be crucial to determining what content you should write about because it’s what your audience is searching for. Conduct keyword research to help inspire what your website content is about.
6. Evergreen content. Evergreen content is content that is always going to be relevant and isn’t based on timeliness. It’s more likely to see return traffic over an extended period of time, as it’s always going to be a reliable resource for users.
7. Meta description. The meta description is the snippet of text, typically 150-160 characters, that shows up in a search result. While meta descriptions are not a ranking factor, they do affect click-through rates, so it’s important that they entice the user to click on your result, rather than a competitors’. Be sure to include any relevant keywords, and give a synopsis of what the reader will see when they click on your clicking the link. If there is room, including a USP like “free shipping” in the meta description can also help boost click-through rates.
If you want to further shape up your SEO skillset, check out some of our resources below:
- Complete Local SEO Checklist
- The 4 Pillars of a Successful SEO Mindset: Building Strategies for Concrete Results
- 8 Tips for Product Page SEO Optimization
- SEO Superiority on the Amazon Marketplace: 4 Seller Strategies
- Search Engineering: Google RankBrain, Artificial Intelligence, & the Transformation of Organic SEO
- 10 Steps to Master SEO Layered Navigation on Your Website