A website can only truly be great when it it optimized for search engines. Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the process of making sure a website can be found by the target customer. There are a lot of elements that go into quality SEO services, and the guidelines for SEO are constantly changing. This means that to get the best results, it can be important to choose an SEO company that has their heart in the process.
SEO services is more than just filling your site with keywords; it's a process that helps search engines, and customers, find your website. It helps you stand out from the crowd, linking customers to your website.
To understand search engine optimization, it can help to understand search engines. Although it may all seem like a bit of magic when you Google something and get exactly what you were looking for, it's really like asking a question to a very knowledgeable librarian.
Google and other search engines have automated programs called spiders. These crawl the internet, following links to get from one page to another. As they go, they gather data about the page. This data, such as what the page is about, is stored in an index.
When you search for something, the search engine will compare what you've asked to its index. It will then return you a long list of sites that match your query.
However, these results aren't just thrown at your screen in any random order. The search engine also ranks its results. This is done using a complicated, and largely secret, algorithm. This algorithm takes a lot of elements into consideration so that the best results are presented first.
When you optimize your website, you're making sure that your site can be easily crawled by the search engine spiders and that your site will be presented as a top result. SEO uses an understanding of what search engines are looking for to give your site the best chance of being seen by people searching.
Of course everyone wants to be number one at what they do, and search engine results pages are no different. In fact, being on top of search engine results pages can make a huge difference in how many people click through to your website.
A study published in late 2014 looked at the click through rate for search engine results pages, or how many people clicked the links they were given by the search engine. The results showed that over 70% of search engine users will click on a link shown on the first page of results. A whopping 67.6% will click on one one of the links shown in the first half of the first page, and over 31% go with the top result.
This study, and others like it, show just how important your search engine ranking is. With less than 4% of people clicking on links that appear on the second page, and less than 2% clicking on links from pages 3 and beyond, it is clear that to get people to your website from search engines, you need to be at the top of page one. Any lower than that, you simply won't be getting the traffic you want.
Now that you know a bit about how search engines work, and why it's important to be at the top of page one results, it's time to look at how to do SEO for your site.
Search engine optimization works in a few ways. First, it makes your site easy for the search engine spiders to understand and crawl. Secondly, it uses what we know about the search engine ranking algorithm to boost your ranking.
Although search engines keep their exact algorithm secret, they do give a good deal of information about what they consider important in determining their results rankings. This information can be used by anyone working on a site's SEO to ensure that it matches up with the search engine's requirements.
For Google and other major search engines, such as Bing, the ranking algorithm takes several main things into account. The ones often considered most important are relevance, authority, trust, and reliability.
Relevance: where content is king and keywords count
The biggest element in a search engine's ranking factors is relevance. In search engine terms, relevance means that the results they show have something to do with the word or phrase you have searched for.
As an example, if you search for "hats," the most relevant sites will be those that actually talk about hats. This might include a website that explains the history of hats, the websites of companies that make hats, and other similar sites. The search engine will refer to its index to give you a list of these sites, leaving out all the websites that have nothing to do with hats.
By indexing the sites it has crawled, a search engine can quickly return results to its users. In order to be properly indexed, your website needs to tell the search engine what it is all about. This is done through the keywords and content.
Keywords are a major part of any SEO work you'll do on your website. They can be thought of as the words and phrases somebody will enter into a search engine. They are the words and phrases you want to be found for.
Choosing the right keywords is the art and science of SEO. General keywords will be searched for more often, but there will be more competition for the top spot in the results. More focused keywords will have fewer searches, but less competition. Long tail keywords target longer phrases, including details such as location.
Coming up with an SEO strategy for your site is a matter of figuring out what keywords are going to make the biggest impact. An experienced SEO agency will be able to help you determine the right mix of keywords. While a keyword generator is a helpful SEO tool, knowing how to use its results properly is a skill honed over time.
In general, you'll want to focus on keywords that your ideal customer will be searching for. An SEO agency will be ready to do the research required to find out the best keywords, bringing together information about your business, your competition, and search volumes.
While keywords are an important part of your site, they can't just be placed on their own. To have real relevance, you'll have to have quality content.
Chances are, you've seen the phrase "content is king" as you've been looking into how to improve your website, but what does it really mean?
Well, when it comes to your website's SEO, it means that the most important element is what you have to say. Other things, such as links, images, and layout, have a role to play, but the content is really what can make or break your efforts.
While your content is being crawled and indexed by computers, it's going to be used by real humans. A bit of content that is only written for computers - stuffed with keywords, for example - will be indexed, but it will not get as high a ranking as one that is written with a human audience in mind.
This is because the search engine algorithms are able to take quality into consideration. When you optimize your site, you will be doing more than just finding out the right keywords and placing them on your page.
This hasn't always been the case, though. Search engine algorithms are always changing, getting more complicated, and becoming more able to find the most relevant sites for a given keyword. In earlier algorithms, relevance was just down to how many times a keyword appeared on a site. Because of this, website owners would stuff keywords into their content until it became gibberish.
These sites may have had high keyword density, but they didn't offer the user anything. If somebody had searched for "hats" they might be given a page that had the word "hats" over and over; this wouldn't be very useful if they were researching the history of hats or wanted to find out the hours of a store selling hats in their city.
Newer search engine algorithms can judge the quality of a website's content in a few different ways. An overly high keyword density can be a red flag, but there are also methods that involve gathering data from searches themselves.
For example, imagine a site that shows up in search engine results for "hats" but everyone who clicks on it finds that it's actually a site about dogs. Everyone will pretty quickly go back to the search engine results. The search engine will keep track of these clickbacks (this part of the algorithm is often referred to as engagement metrics). The search engines know that they indicate that real internet users aren't finding that the site is very relevant to that particular keyword.
The quality of a website's content is also determined by its uniqueness. This means that your content has to be written just for your site. When working on your site's SEO, checking that your content is unique is important. Duplicate content, whether it appears on another site or elsewhere on your own site, can hurt your ranking.
A search engine's goal is to offer its users exactly what it is they are looking for. This is why relevance is the biggest factor in search engine rankings, but not the only factor.
Authority and trust: listening to the right sources
If relevance is how a search engine works to match your site to search engine queries, authority is how it knows that you are who you say you are. Authority is established in a few ways. Like relevance, engagement metrics are used to get feedback from search engine users, for example.
However, the main way a website can establish its authority is through links. Every link a website receives from another website can be seen as an endorsement. The more links a website has, the higher its authority.
Links are a tricky part of SEO, and one that can require the expertise of an SEO agency. This is because an SEO company will know how to set up the right type of links.
As search engines have developed, they have recognized that not every link can be given equal weight. For instance, the website of a hat designer can have hundreds of links that point to it. The quality of these links may vary. One might be from a user submitted review site, while another is from a fashion magazine. Yet another might be from a directory listing site, with another on a site of a department store. Other links might appear in blog post comments, or on sites for unrelated topics.
A search engine will give these links different levels of importance in determining a website's authority. Links from other authority sites will increase a website's authority. Their good standing is taken into account when determining your site's authority.
Social media does have a role to play in link building and authority building. If your site is regularly linked to by authority social media accounts, such as an official Facebook account for a major newspaper or a verified Twitter account, this will help your site's ranking.
When it comes to search engine optimization, developing authority can be a long term project. It is a matter of making sure your site has the links it should have, and that these links are accurate.
One big part of an SEO company's work is often making sure that all of your directory listings are correct. This means checking that they are pointed to your current site, and even the correct page on your site.
While having a lot of links can be a good thing, it's actually more important to have quality links. Flooding the internet with links to your site can get you a high ranking, but one that won't last for very long. This practice is one of the go to moves of black hat SEO and is something that can get your site penalized or even blocked by a search engine.
Instead, you should focus on getting good quality links. Like any type of business relationship, you can do this by approaching other businesses and explaining why they should want to link to your site.
This process of link building is a skill that uses a set of SEO tools as well as experience. An SEO company will help determine opportunities for quality links to your website.
It will also help you clean up bad backlinks. These are sites that link to yours that either have incorrect links or that are damaging to your authority ranking. For an existing site, a lot of SEO work done by a company will be getting everything in line with current search engine algorithm guidelines.
Link building is much more than just getting your site's name out, and is a part of search engine optimization that must be approached with care. After all, too many inappropriate links to your site may get you seen as a spam website that cannot be trusted.
Reliability: is your site there when it's needed?
The third big element that search engines will consider in determining their rankings is reliability. After all, even if your site has great authority and the best content online, it won't give a search engine user much joy to find that it isn't available when they need it.
Having a reliable website is partially down to your website's hosting provider, and partially down to its design and architecture. If your website is being developed, or redeveloped, from the ground up, it should be done so with search engines in mind.
This can mean making sure that duplicate content is removed, and that there are no dead links on your site. Remember that search engines find pages by crawling from link to link; a dead link is a dead end for a spider.
The usability of your website will also impact your search engine ranking. For example, as more people browse on mobile devices, it is becoming more important to ensure your site can be viewed in these browsers. Without responsive or mobile-friendly design, you might end up with a lot of clickbacks from frustrated users who simply cannot navigate your site.
Another important thing to remember about search engines is that they don't view a website in the same way a human does. They can only look at the code behind the page, which is text only.
Because of this, your site's search engine optimization should ensure that the great unique content you have to offer is visible to search engines. An SEO company will check to see that important HTML tags, such as meta and alt tags, are being correctly used. These tell a search engine things like what your site is about and what information is included in images.
Problems in a website's code can create big problems for its search engine ranking. These are easily repaired by an experienced SEO team and could quickly improve your site's search engine ranking.
While the basics of search engine optimization haven't changed much over time, the exact mechanisms behind them are constantly evolving. Search engine users want the best results, as quickly as possible. In order to provide this, search engines need to regularly refine their algorithms.
This is part of why SEO is an ongoing task, not something to be done as a one time only event. You should also remember that even when you get to the top of page one, you'll need to defend that position.
Your competitors will want to knock you from that top spot, and the best way to hold on to it is to continuously maintain your SEO work. This can include regular content updates, such as blog posts, and ongoing link growth.
While search engine optimization can be a big task, it is one that can make a big impact on how many people find your business. If it all seems a bit overwhelming, an SEO company can help you make sense of what you need to do for your site, and how to use the SEO tools available.