3 Components of SEO and Why They’re Important to You
What exactly is SEO? Search Engine Optimization is the process of improving a webpage and improving it to increase visibility on search engines. SEO is separate from advertising as it focuses on a search engine’s organic results. It involves no payment for keywords and no negotiating with different search engine providers. It is not a quick and easy process, and must be continuously updated. Because SEO is so complex and involved, it can be very difficult to understand, and is advised that you seek an SEO specialist or a marketing agency to run it for you. However, having a basic understanding of the subject can prove very helpful. Knowledge of SEO can help you communicate with your specialist, and make well-informed decisions.
1. The Technical Foundations
The two main components of SEO, on and off page optimization, share a similar foundation. It is important to understand how search engines scan and categorize websites before explaining the different optimization strategies.
Search Engine “Spiders”
To index webpages, search engines send out programs commonly known as “spiders” or “crawlers.” Spiders read text and HTML coding on webpages and index them based on content, link structure, and crawlability. They discover new sites by following links found on other pages.
SEO Friendly URL’s
Search engines also look at the quality of a site’s URL when indexing it. A URL is generally made up of 5 parts in the following order: subdomain, root domain, domain extension, sub-folders, and page name. They are organized as such:
As an example, the following is a link to one of our other recent blogs at Encite:
The sub domain “www” indicates that that this page exists on the world-wide web. The domain and extension enciteinternational.com indicates that the title of the site and that it is a commercial domain. The /2017/ and /03/ are subfolders that the page titled organic-social-media-interactions lies within. Search engines tend to favor pages organized into subfolders as such. It makes them easier to index.
Speed has become a prominent factor as consumers demand for faster sites has increased. Most search engines are concerned with their user’s experience. If they spend too much time waiting for a page to load, they will bounce right back to the search engine and continue their search elsewhere. Engines like Google can, and usually will penalize webpages for loading too slowly. A slow connection can also affect how the spiders crawl. If it takes too long, they will skip over indexing a page.
In a similar vein, as mobile computing increases, search engines are placing mobile friendliness higher and higher in their criteria. Mobile friendliness includes the speed at which the site loads on mobile devices, and its ease of use.
2. On-Page Optimization
On-Page optimization is the one aspect of SEO that is firmly in our control. It is up to the programmer how the page should look and function. As previously discussed, how we organize our page effects what and how easily spiders index.
As we also already stated, spiders read HTML code and plain text almost exclusively. Clearly coding pages in HTML can aid in the indexing of your site. Specifically, HTML can be used to tag and categorize certain pieces of content. Tags include title identifiers, description tags, heading tags, and other categorizing factors. Search engines use these as the text and site descriptions seen on search results pages. This helps attract people looking for your content subject. It also helps search engines match your site with different keywords and determine its relevance to user’s searches.
The Importance of Keywords
Keywords are site descriptor words used to match relevant content with web searches. Keywords can be anything from a single word to a short phrase. For example, if you were to own an automotive repair shop, one of your keywords could be “automotive repair shop.” The list could also include anything from “car” to “my useless piece of junk clunker keeps breaking down.” The trick to keywords is choosing a list of both long and shot-tail keywords that are related to whatever your site’s content consists of.
Short-tail keywords are short and don’t get much longer than 1-3 words. They are much more common and frequently searched. Most competitors in a market will have similar short-tail keywords. These keywords are more flexible and will show on synonym searches. Long-tail keywords are usually phrases or complete sentences. They are much more exact and usually won’t show up unless a searcher types in the exact phrase.
Keywords are found under a specific HTML tag. In this tag, you list the keywords you expect your potential customers to search for on a search engine. Spiders will read this list, and associate your site with it. Having keywords in your HTML code, while useful, isn’t enough to draw good traffic. Spiders also look for keywords in your site’s content. They look for frequency of mentions, and how naturally they are incorporated into the dialogue. As long as you mention your keywords frequently and naturally, search engines will view your page more favorably.
To be able to incorporate keywords into your content, you must have content in the first place. Quality content is increasingly important in SEO. Search engines pick up on sites that users aren’t getting value from. Bounce rates and page visits affect how sites show up in search results. Content must be valuable to visitors, and unique to your webpage. Copying and pasting content is bad form, and will be punished by search engines. Find out what is best for your users, and make your content valuable to them. To have well optimized copy, remember the following considerations: keep it consistent with the theme/tone of your website, aim for at least 100 words, include 30-50 unique words forming sentences that other webpages don’t contain, and avoid republishing content found elsewhere.
3. Off-Page Optimization
Off-page optimization encompasses the activities we can use to influence our online reputation. Overall, we don’t have much pull over this, but we do have some influence.
Search engines assign each website a page rank. This rank determines how popular, reputable, and visitor friendly a site is. The rank lies on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being very poor, or unknown sites and 10 being popular and well-received sites. New and spammy sites are generally ranked very low while larger sites that have been around for a long time are ranked higher. Page rank greatly varies, and is determined by algorithms put in place by search engines.
There are many factors that influence a page rank, most of which are closely guarded trade secrets. Field experts are constantly working to figure out exactly what the in-place algorithms are looking for. We do know that one of the major influences is other websites linking to your site. The source page’s rank adds weight to the link, building your own rank. Rank weights compound as higher ranks are achieved. For example, 1,000 links from 100 rank 1 pages will count for less weight than 1 link from a rank 9 page. Building a high page rank aids in order appearance on search engine results pages.
Beyond boosting your page rank, building links to your site also increases traffic and visibility to potential customers. As mentioned, links carry the weight of their source pages. However, there is more to the quality of a link than just its source. First, links to specific content are always more valuable than a general link to your site. General links are helpful, but specific links show that you content has been read and proved valuable. Diversity of link sources are also important. Many links from a single source triggers search algorithms as potential spam sources and lowers your overall page rank. A sudden reception of a large number of links is also a trigger for potential spam. Make sure to space out the frequency you receive links.
As important as links are to a growing website, they are also difficult to get. In most cases, sites won’t regularly link to yours unless you are well established and popular. This is where we can resort to traditional personal marketing tactics. The most obvious being asking site owners with applicable content to link directly to one of your pages. Other strategies include being a guest blogger, answering forum questions, writing articles, speaking to reporters as a trusted source, or writing a testimonial. The point is, beyond your website you must become part of the greater community surrounding your subject. The more active you are in the community, the more link opportunities you have.
Despite the extent on and off page optimization can have, it is important to remember that neither can exist without a well thought-out technical foundation. This also marks the importance to having an experienced professional to manage your optimization. If you currently use a marketing agency, ask them what kind of SEO options you have in your service package. Attempting your own SEO can actually do more harm than good in the ever evolving world of search engines.