While most marketers and businesses are aware of SEO—and many utilize it to a degree–it never hurts to brush up your understanding of SEO, what it’s used for, and how it helps drive traffic to your website.
Search engine optimization is a multifaceted method of increasing your own website’s page ranking and connecting you with valuable organic traffic online. It’s all about boosting your ranking factors to appear higher in a Google search and even securing you a coveted “first-page” search engine results page (SERP) spot.
A first-page spot is essential to attracting the most organic traffic possible and converting that traffic into customers. Only twenty-five percent of users ever click to page two of a search engine, and fewer still visit subsequent pages. Google, for example, shows ten results per page; this means that, for seventy-five percent of people performing a search, those first ten results are as far as they’ll look.
So, what determines those top ten SERPs, and how can you be one of them?
Search engines like Google receive roughly 5.5 billion searches every day. To meet this titanic amount of demand, search engines need to compile lots of information. Search engines build special bots—software that performs repetitive, predetermined tasks—to gather information from websites and store it in an index. This information will then be selected and delivered as search results based on the search keywords used and other important factors.
Understanding how search engines work can help you determine what information and features your website should include ranking higher among millions of search results.
In the end, it comes down to two different types of SEO—on-page and off-page.
On-page SEO involves a set of factors that you can implement and control directly on your business website.
The first step in an effective on-page SEO strategy is to make and include high-quality, crawlable content rich with specific keywords, links, and tags.
Search engine bots are sometimes called spiders—they crawl webpages searching for repeated keywords, linking, tags, and more to include in their information index. Say you own a company that sells tea: those bots may find the word “tea” several times on your webpage, and your company will appear on Google. But with over a billion results for “tea” on Google, your company may not show up even in the top million results.
With optimization—like introducing blogs, product descriptions, links, tags, and more—you increase your chances of organically appearing higher in search engine rankings.
Search engine optimization introduces specific and repeated keywords. For your tea company, consider keywords in product descriptions and blog posts like “organic matcha tea” to help narrow the field and become more relevant.
The challenge is choosing the right keywords to engage an audience and capture their search intent. Keyword research helps immensely, but you can get started right now, keeping a few key concepts in mind:
Identify Product Specifics: Consider the specific features that make your product unique in the tea company analogy. If it’s organic and fair trade, say so. If it’s bespoke and small-batch blends, don’t be afraid to boast that fact repeatedly in your keywords.
Clarify Company Identity: Your company values can make excellent keywords. Especially now, in a world of social and environmental awareness, your keywords can attract all the right traffic and boost your company’s trustworthiness if your company commits to ethics, diversity, and community service.
Answer Questions: Ask questions about your company as if you don’t run it, and use keywords to answer them. This can go hand-in-hand with the two concepts above but can also go further. Do you deliver worldwide? If so, then highlight the global accessibility of your products.
Consider Trends: With so much of the world constantly online, it’s easier than ever to detect trends as they happen and adapt accordingly. Matcha tea, for example, has exploded in popularity in the past year—it’s highly sought after, and using it as a keyword will draw valuable organic traffic.
Internal linking is a huge factor in SEO. Link building comes in a few parts: internal and external/inbound. Inbound link building is an off-page SEO tactic and can be found in the off-page section below, but the linking you include on your own website has a massive impact on your overall optimization.
An internal link is a link you include somewhere on your website to another page on the same site. Consider adding links to your other pages from blog posts. Imagine a potential customer reading a blog post about the benefits of chamomile tea and clicking straight to the order page from the blog to make a purchase. Internal links effectively convert visitors to customers.
Internal links are vital because many pages are only accessible via internal linking. Finally, search engines treat links like votes—internal links show search engines which pages of a website are of most importance or relevance.
What is a meta description?
When you use a search engine like Google, a meta description is the few lines of text under the website or webpage title that briefly describes what the site or page is about. Searched keywords will be bolded in the meta description, showing that the returned result is relevant.
An effective meta description that includes frequently searched keywords can help your company land higher on search engine results pages and drive more clicks.
Overcomplicated sites are bad news—crawlers prefer “flat” sites. A “flat” site means that all pages are ideally just one click away from the home page. Diving down a rabbit hole to order a product drives away customers, downgrading their user experience. A user-friendly website with a fast page load speed will result in a positive user experience (UX) and improve your site’s SEO.
Don’t stop at on-page SEO; off-Page SEO is just as vital when trying to generate traffic for your website—in some ways, even more. Off-page SEO refers to search engine optimization actions made apart from your website that contribute to overall site SEO health. There are many ways to support your website on other channels.
Search engines like Google place more value on social media engagement than ever before, making social media essential for SEO. Most companies maintain social media presences for this reason—social media is free, accessible to everyone, and can reach massive audiences quickly. Clicks, shares, and likes carry considerable weight, and algorithms naturally boost posts with higher engagement rates.
Linking back to your company website from social media is an excellent method of driving traffic.
As discussed above, link building is a cornerstone of both on-page and off-page SEO. While internal links are considered on-page SEO, external links that lead back to your company website are regarded as off-page SEO. If you remember how search engines view links as votes, you’ll see why one-way backlinks on other websites that direct back to you boost your position on those search engines.
In our tea company analogy, consider the impact of a recipe website linking your product for a recipe for matcha macarons. That recipe website essentially says, “This tea company offers the best option for this recipe.” In short, they vouch for you.
This is sometimes called “backlinking,” and it remains a pillar of SEO strategies. Identifying relevant websites that can boost your own business allows you to engage larger audiences and even have the option of supplying a “guest blog.”
Creating connections with other businesses—or companies whose job is to boost websites—opens a valuable door. Some companies allow businesses to provide a guest blog; this collaborative effort offers benefits to both the host and you:
Increase Domain Authority: Domain authority describes your website’s relevance to a particular topic and how often your site will appear in a given search engine’s SERP. While domain authority may not help your search rankings, it does provide valuable insight into your overall SEO health and shows where your site may be lacking.
Increase Backlinks: The more backlinks that exist, the better. More backlinks mean more brand mentions, greater click potential, and more traffic. Most importantly, since those backlinks are in relevant and trusted places, the traffic that comes your way will be more easily converted into customers.
Increase Content Creation Skills: Your host may require specific standards when posting a guest blog. In learning to meet those standards, you learn how to craft more effective website content.
The key is to find websites that will allow guest posting and external linking back to your website. Some services find related websites and companies, or you could start small—with local companies, online forums, friends, or family.
Online reviews play a significant role in your overall SEO health. Positive reviews on Google signal to the search engine algorithms that your company is trustworthy and your product is good or helpful. Be sure to keep your company and customer service firing on all cylinders and encourage your customers to leave reviews.
Ethics and high standards are a must with all the ranking factors to consider in crafting effective SEO techniques. These approaches are generally referred to as “black hat” versus “white hat” SEO, and it applies to both on-page and off-page optimization.
“White hat,” a callback to honorable and ethical characterizations, should be the standard for any SEO you choose to implement. These adhere to search engine terms of service and provide the best shot at higher website rankings.
Quality Content: No matter where you post, ensure that your page content is well-crafted, well thought out, accurate, and helpful. This applies to social media as well as your website.
Keyword Rich: Aid crawlers in their work by providing one main keyword per blog (guest blogs included), product description, meta description, and two-to-three relevant supporting keywords. An optimized URL structure containing keywords is also essential.
Fast, Easy Navigation: Your website should be quick to load and easy to navigate, even on mobile devices. Website speed is an SEO ranking signal—the faster, the better.
“Black hat” SEO refers to quite the opposite—cheap or unethical practices of SEO that will ultimately hurt your company and website far more than help it. These generally break search engine terms of service.
Keyword Stuffing: Cramming your website with hidden keywords only visible to crawlers is a problem. White text on a white background seems like a simple solution but is considered an SEO party foul. Most crawlers are smart enough to identify keyword stuffing and leave you on the receiving end of fines or search engine blacklisting.
Link Farming: A pay-to-play option that puts your website links on huge lists that are hidden from viewers. These lists are typically on completely unrelated websites. Link farming won’t get you traffic—just fines and flags.
Cloaking/Bait and Switch: Showing the crawlers one thing and redirecting elsewhere for human viewers isn’t just unethical—it will land your company in hot water with most search engines.
When it comes to SEO, it’s best to play fair—you get out what you put in.
If this feels like a lot to consider, it’s because the art and science of on-page vs. off-page SEO demands time, investment, and an expert understanding of the rules. There isn’t always time to be concerned with every last detail when you’re running a company.
That’s why Visual Rankings boasts a roster of SEO specialists that can give your company the advantage it needs in a dynamic internet landscape. With white-hat adherence and a full range of services, Visual Rankings can get to work on both on-page and off-page SEO.
Boost your business ethically, and see what excellent SEO health can do for you—contact Visual Rankings today!