Welcome to the ContextWest Crash Course in SEO. In this blog we’ll share vital information on how to start optimizing your content and outranking your competitors.
As valuable as SEO can be, Google reports that over half of online businesses are not optimizing their sites or have no SEO strategy in place as of this year. Ignoring SEO is a big miss when you think of all of the people out there searching for solutions just like yours. Online searches grew from 1 billion per day in 2010 to 7 billion per day in 2020 and have only continued to rise. Also, the SEO Market Report recently revealed that SEO lead generation has an average conversion rate of 14.6% compared to 1.7% with traditional strategies. So SEO does an amazing job of getting you qualified leads for your business.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization is the art of organically increasing the rank of your content based on search input. Implementing SEO best practices gives your website the best chances of being discovered organically (i.e., for free) to maximize traffic and conversions.
Why is SEO important?
SEO drives real business results for brands of all sizes. Whenever people want to go somewhere, do something, find information, or buy a product or service, their journey typically begins with an online search. So how do you get your site on the elusive first page of search results?
How do search engines work?
Increased website traffic means you have better chances of converting people. But it can be difficult to know what kind of content to highlight. For example, what is more valuable – using a keyword with 1,000 search results at a #15 ranking or one with just 10 results ranked at #1? We would bet on the #15 out of 1000. But why? It all has to do with the probability of being discovered. To know exactly how to optimize your website, you first need to know how search engines actually operate:
1) Crawling – Search engines ‘crawl’ the web from page to page, following links and user journeys, finding new pages and indexing them as they go. They collect information at every step and find patterns in similar content.
2) Indexing – All existing web pages, PDFs, images and other linkable content are stored in a search engine index. If a crawler finds something unique or particularly interesting, the search engine will acquire it as a new piece of content in its index. There is a unique index entry for each page that describes the content and location (URL) of that page.
3) Rendering – Rendering is the process of gathering information and assessing the content of a page. All of the information collected can then be used to evaluate your site content against others with similar search terms.
4) Ranking – Search engines organize pages by relevancy and assign a position on the results page based on a given search.
Keeping these 4 steps in mind, you can begin to understand how a search engine might judge your website. The goal is to include the correct information and digital signals to get the highest possible ranking.
The Pillars of SEO
So how does SEO actually work? Spoiler alert! It’s not all just based on keywords. SEO algorithms are constantly changing and evolving so it’s nearly impossible to pin down a perfect strategy. However, knowing how search engines grade your website and what they look for can help. These are the known, tried and true pillars of SEO that search engines like Google use to judge the fitness of your content:
1) Security and accessibility – First and foremost, your content should be safe to use and accessible to the public.
2) Page speed – The content on your page should load quickly. Google penalizes slow load times severely.
3) Mobile friendliness – Make sure you’re providing a seamless user experience regardless of the device your content is accessed on.
4) Domain age, URL and authority – Your domain should be relevant to your topic and area of expertise. Total traffic and time spent on the page contribute to your website gaining domain authority.
5) User experience – Don’t underestimate well-conceived navigation, sleek design and appropriate headings. Metrics like click-through rate, bounce rate and dwell time (the amount of time users spend on a page before returning to the search engine results page) are key indicators of user experience.
6) Links – Both internal and external links help give validity to your content, but external links to reputable and highly visited websites are best.
7) Social signals – If your content is linked or cited many times on social media, blogs, news articles, or other popular or authoritative sources, search engines will recognize this as a signal to index.
8) Accurate business information – Updated and accurate information helps your content achieve additional Search Engine Results Page (SERP) features. SERPs are extra pieces of information or content that a search engine will automatically display following a search. An example of a SERP is the Google MyBusiness panel that appears on the right side of your browser when you search for a business name. Google will automatically provide accurate business information such as the street address, phone number, website link and business hours.
Best practices and tips for getting started
Let’s be honest, there’s a lot of bad SEO out there today. Strategies like keyword stuffing are shortcuts that don’t actually work. No one wants to read an article that repeats the same 5 keywords every paragraph. But when SEO is done right, it really pays off. The best advice you can follow in the world of SEO is actually quite simple:
- Understand how search engines work so you can use algorithms to your advantage and increase your visibility.
- Don’t forget that content is king. Focus on creating great quality content first, and SEO second. If people love your content and continue to visit your page, search engines have an obligation to understand why. Conversely, if your content is lacking but you use tons of SEO applications, it may appear at the top of some search results for a short blip, but it will never stand the test of time.
- Pay attention to context. Gary Vaynerchuk once said “If content is King, then context is God.” At ContextWest, we’re obsessed with the context in which your content appears. In fact, we’ve developed a unique ‘context marketing’ methodology focused on who is searching for what, where to find them and when they’re looking. Our SEO practice plays a big part in this.
- Remember to EAT. As of 2018, Google announced that Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness are major ranking factors for their algorithms.
- Expertise: Do you as the author of a piece of content have the requisite skills and knowledge in your field?
- Authority: Is this the best source to answer the searcher’s question or is there a better source?
- Trustworthiness: Do you provide an honest, unbiased presentation of the topic in your content?
- Start with the Google SEO Starter Guide to learn more.
ContextWest offers superior SEO services based on the latest algorithm updates. Get in touch to find out how we can help you make your content more effective and your website found by the right people. Because it’s always better for people to feel like they have found you rather than the other way around!