Search Engine Optimization – A Summary
The Definition of SEO
If you have a website (or just work online in general) you’ve definitely heard of the term SEO before. Anyone and everyone seems to be trying to gain SEO, use SEO, sell SEO, but what does SEO even really mean? Well! If you want to be literal, SEO actually stands for Search Engine Optimization. The purpose of this term is to very literally optimize your website for search engines such as Google or Yahoo.
Ok, so that sounds nice and all but what exactly needs optimizing and how would you even go about it? SEO’s prime objective is to make sure your website will show up somewhere on the first page (ideally the top) of search results on search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
How it Works
Now that you know what SEO stands for and what it aims to do for you and your website, we’ll break it down as to how it actually increases (or decreases) your ranking on search engine pages.
Your ranking, better known as your online authority and whether or not you get to be on the first page of results on searches, is determined by several factors! We’ll list a few here for you to get your feet wet and help you start optimizing your site:
Search engines love to categorize everything, and we mean everything. By including keywords both in your written content as well as in the back end of your site in the meta data, you’re helping search engines better understand what your site provides and where it should pop up for user searches!
What does this look like though? Let’s say you have a website for your flower shop, Beautiful Bouquets. You can use simple short keywords such as flowers, bouquets, roses, and so on but these are rather vague and are going to be used most likely by ALL of your competitors. Instead, while you can still use the shorter keywords, using what are known as “long tail keywords” will help you even more! An example of some long tail keywords would be: flower shop bouquets, beautiful flower arrangements, Beautiful Bouquets’ flower arrangements, and so on.
When creating both long and short keywords it’s helpful to remember that you should be selecting phrases and words you think people will be typing when using Google or other search engines. Keywords are essentially what you are telling search engines you want to appear under for users!
PRO TIP: Using your company’s name in a long tail keyword can be known as a unique keyword, as it is most likely only going to be used by you! If you start to struggle coming up with new long, short, or unique keywords you can use helpful online tools such as SemRush and Spyfu.
Becoming an authority in your field is always impressive to search engines, but how can you prove you’re a great and trustworthy source that deserves to be displayed at the top of search results? A great way to build this trust is by having what is referred to as backlinks.
The way to gain backlinks is by having other websites link and reference your website on theirs! For example, using our flower shop example from earlier, let’s say that someone recommends your flower arrangements on their blog and they include a link leading to your site. This is considered a backlink! With this, search engines will start to acknowledge that users trust your website as a great solution for what they need and want (which in this case is fabulous flower arrangements).
PRO TIP: While blogs are useful to start gaining a reputation and gathering backlinks, it’s important to remember that online directories are also a powerful backlink source as well! Online directories such as your local chamber of commerce directory or Yelp are already well established and trusted sources to search engines, so having them as a backlink greatly improves your value as a reliable source online!
Now if you don’t have an SSL certificate already this will need to be priority number 1! This special certificate lets users know that your site is safe to browse and is an overall secure website. Search engines (especially Google) love to see that you have an SSL certificate, and if you don’t your chances of landing in the top search results become greatly effected.
You’ll know if you have an SSL certificate on your site if you see the iconic lock icon sitting on the far left side of your site’s name at the top of the screen. That special little lock icon is what lets users (and you) know that this site has SSL.
PRO TIP: If you’re in need of an SSL certificate there are several sources to get one! GoDaddy for example provides SSL as well as other source such as CloudFlare which provides a free certificate for you!
In the online world you only have a limited window to really grab someones attention on your site … less then 2 seconds if you want to be exact. It’s because of this that making sure your site loads as fast as possible is imperative! What can effect a pages speed though? The biggest and most common culprit of a slow site are graphics. Make sure all of your logos, photographs, and other digital assets aren’t too large for your site because an image that’s over 1mb will take much longer to load on your site than an image that is half that size!
PRO TIP: If you’re not sure how to downsize some of your images without risking the quality, you can use online sources such as Tiny JPG to help! Sites like this take your large beautiful image, and reduce the overall size while maintaining its great quality.
We’ve gone over a lot, but believe it or not this is just the surface!
Good SEO will also include making sure you have strong header titles throughout your site to help search engines recognize that your information is organized and well thought out, include Google Analytics to track important site information such as page visits and overall website traffic, make sure your meta data is as clear and concise as possible, and so much more!
While we may have discussed the four most common SEO terms for you to start familiarizing yourself with and start optimizing on your own there is more for you to look into! Keywords, Linking, SSL, and Speed is only the beginning on your SEO journey to becoming number one in search results!
To help find out even more on what your website specifically may need, a useful online tool is this handy dandy SEO analyzer by Neil Patel!