The Basics Of Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization is the process of maximizing the amount of online traffic to a website by adhering to certain on and off-page criteria defined by the search engine’s algorithm. In some cases, you can tweak parts of your website to edge your way up the search engine results page. However, most of the benefits provided by doing SEO is awarded through genuine, informative content.
Optimizing your website, whether it’s for your blog, business or company can hold huge benefits and require minimal effort. I talk to a lot of people who are either just starting to build their own website or who have just finished building their own site and are always concerned with paying someone to do SEO for them.
The term “SEO” sounds like technical jargon but in reality, SEO is an idea. One that every person has an innate knowledge of. If you have created a website for your business or blog you’re actively doing SEO. It’s whether you’re doing it correctly and effectively which is what this article aims to address.
Search engine optimization is commonly used in conjunction with the world’s most widely used search engine, Google. Understanding how Google grew to such immense influence helps to understand the basic idea behind SEO and how it affects your website’s rankings.
Believe it or not, search engines existed before Google. They were just much less effective about matching relevant content with user queries. The founders of Google came from Stanford University and as they were brainstorming ways to create a better search engine they asked one simple question that would change the internet forever:
How come search engines don’t operate like academic papers?
In the world of Academia, published papers are evaluated by the credibility of their work. That evaluation is primarily based on the number of times a paper has been cited by other published academic articles.
Simply put, the number of times a published paper is cited is a measure of its credibility. If that paper is cited by other papers which themselves have been cited many times, that gives even greater value to its credibility. This was the foundation of Google’s search algorithm.
Web-links that link back to your website act like academic citations and their credibility affects your website’s rankings within the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). The number of relevant links to your website is the heaviest ranking factor for which Google values more than anything else. The internet is a network of content and its main goal is to provide users with the best possible experience and connect them to the most relevant content.
The real life interpretation of link building is simple; make your website’s content original, useful, and relevant to your industry or field. That way when someone visits your site and reads your content, they find it insightful enough to link back to it from their website.
This was and still is the basic idea behind Google’s search algorithm. However, Google has come a long way since its inception and now takes into account many different types of ranking factors. These ranking factors directly, and indirectly, influence your search engine value.
Direct Ranking Factors
Now that we’ve come this far in understanding what SEO truly is, let’s discuss the direct and indirect factors that can affect your site’s SEO. Direct factors include things such as your website’s meta titles, site speed, and site content. Google’s algorithm explicitly ranks these characteristics of your site and uses them within its search algorithm. We’ll go over a few basic direct factors in this post. If you want a more comprehensive list, Lori Ballen has a great blog post about Google’s ranking factors.
Meta titles are HTML elements that give a concise preview of what a page on your website is about. This information is displayed on the search engine results page as the blue clickable link into that page of your website.
Pictured above is MOJO Blog’s home page meta title and description that Google uses in their SERPs. Google indexes every page of a website in order to pull useful data to be used in their search algorithm. Below is the source code for how this metadata is viewed by Google’s indexing robots.
Every page of your website should have unique meta titles and descriptions because no two pages of your site should serve the same purpose. This metadata is user defined, meaning that you can write your own meta titles and descriptions. WordPress makes changing this metadata very user-friendly. It is a good idea to write your meta titles with keywords you want that particular page to rank for.
Site speed is self-explanatory. You don’t want your site to be slow because that directly affects the user’s experience. As I’ve mentioned before, one of Google’s main directives is the quality of a users experience.
Your site content should be keyword rich but not keyword stuffed. There’s a difference. If you have a blog about cars with a post about the newest 2017 Ferrari 488 GTB, it is beneficial for SEO purposes to reference that model of the car specifically throughout the post.
Keyword stuffing happens when the use of the keyword for which you are trying to rank gets out of hand and diminishes the quality of your content. Google recognizes keyword stuffing and punishes user’s rankings for it.
Indirect Ranking Factors
Indirect ranking factors are ones that Google has either explicitly stated do not affect rankings or just haven’t mentioned them in their ranking efforts. Social signals, for example, are an indirect ranking quality; how active and relevant your social networks are.
Google has publicly stated that social signals do not influence your website’s rankings. However, the more widely available your content is, the more opportunities you have to drive traffic to your site, which in turn helps boost your direct ranking factors.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of search engine optimization, it’s important to note that SEO is not an exact science and that Google is constantly updating their search algorithm as to keep people from gaming the system, and also to better their search-to-results process.
If you had absolutely no technical knowledge of SEO, you would still want your website’s user experience to be as friendly as possible and your content to be genuine and engaging to your readers. These two things can hugely impact the way Google (and other search engines) value your website.
With this, I encourage you to better your SEO efforts by following a simple 3 step process:
Launch, Measure, Repeat.
Search engine optimization is an ongoing process, it takes time and energy. What you learn today lays the foundation for what you’ll learn tomorrow.