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What is Search Engine Optimization?

Search engine optimization otherwise known as SEO is the process of positioning your website for better success with in the eyes of the search engines.

The best approach to search engine optimization starts with relevance. Search Engines are relevance and popularity engines. The more popular your webpage is the more likely it will get ranked higher than other websites that are not as popular.

The question becomes “How do I make my website more popular?”

There are lots of details surrounding how we make your site more popular and relevant in the eyes of the search engines.  We are going to divide this into two sections so that you can easily learn the basics; On-page and Off-page optimization.

Let’s get to the core and start with the On-page optimization.

Search Engines use spiders to crawl your website and index your pages. Spiders are trying to understand what your web page is about. Within On-page SEO there are technical and non-technical aspects. Let’s dig into the technical aspect first.

Within the technical aspect, we will start with one of the areas which I consider to be the most important aspect of your on-page optimization.

This is the page title; which is also referred to as the Meta title of the page. The page title is the single most relevant source to describe to the search engines what your page is about.

It is extremely important for you to perform proper research to determine what your page title target should be.

Search engine advertising platforms have free keyword tools that you can use to determine the amount of search volume a keyword has and the level of competition associated with that keyword.

Usually, we will have more than one keyword in our page titles. We often take two titles as a phrase and use a separator to get two phrases or two distinct keywords into each page title.

In the same area of page title in the Meta information is the Meta keywords. Meta keywords used to be what determined how well you rank in the search engines. Times and algorithms have changed and Meta keywords are a lot less important for ranking.

It won’t hurt to add a few keywords in the Meta description area, just don’t spend a lot of time focusing in this area.

The last of the Meta areas is the Meta description.

The Meta description is extremely important from a traffic perspective. What the Meta description does is it gives your prospects an idea of what the page is about.

The Meta description does not necessarily help you to increase your search rankings; however, it does help you increase your search traffic.

This Meta description is the area of text which is visible in the search engines; so it is the first thing that the customer reads before they click on to your website.

Let’s say that I own a chain of hardware stores.

I might have a Meta description of: “Visit Big box hardware store today to get great deals on XY and Z.” The Meta description is an area for you to put in descriptive text which is designed to increase the desire for a prospect to click on it when they see your results in the natural search results. In summary, Meta information refers to the Meta Title, Meta Keywords, and Meta-Description. Spend time researching the right keywords for the page title and optimizing the description so that it captivates the prospect.

Another technical on-page element which is more code related is called schema. Schema originates from schema.org ; which is a library of data structure within the code that allows website to send structured data to the search engines.

I’m not sure if you have noticed that there are occasions when you search that the top listing is not actually a listing but an answer to your search query. For example if it was a recipe, the top result is going to display the data on top of the search results without you actually having to click on the link. By using schema, search engines understand the structure of the data for that particular item and understand how to index your data which increases your relevancy for keywords.

Schema continues to grow and there are specific formats of markup that can be used for recipes, store listings, blogs, and many others.  Schema.org markup is a great way to get more visibility and indexing for your webpage content.

Another important technical SEO aspect relates to the importance of the content. Think of a newspaper. If you have a newspaper folded in half, the most important content is going to be on the top half. Search Engine algorithms work the same way. The position of the content on your page controls what signal you send about the importance of keyword ranking. This means that the content which includes the keywords that you are trying to get ranked for need to be positioned towards the top of the page.  Another way to show on page importance is to properly use headings such as H1 and H2 tags. A heading is simply an enlarged format of the text to show a title or a subtitle. Search Engines know that if you put a heading text for a title on the page that more than likely that heading text area has some importance. Search Engines crawl and see that H1 or H2 heading as an area of importance for your page. That level of importance is what helps to increase keyword relevance. Lastly, in the area of on page technical SEO, is your sitemap. A sitemap is simply a directory of all webpages in a format which is easily accessible to search engine spiders. A sitemap will help to get your pages indexed in search. It is important that you have your website setup in a structure where you do not have duplicate links. There are many web and ecommerce platforms that are notorious for creating different versions of the same URL. If you have this problem, simply add a Canonical tag to your pages. A canonical tag simply tells the search engine spiders which version of the page to use when multiple versions exist.

Now that we have discussed the technical aspects of On-page SEO, let’s jump to the non-technical aspects. The next important aspect of On-page SEO is the content itself. Content can mean many things. For the purpose of increasing your SEO rankings, let’s focus on actual text. If you have a page with only images and no text, that will not be enough meat for search engine spiders to be able to rank you properly. Now this content can’t just be any content. It has to be original quality content. You need to write original content and spend a lot of time, thought and energy to create content that it is compelling in nature. Search engine algorithms know what is quality content and what is not quality content. Focus your time planning out content and ensuring the content ladders up to your keyword targets and you will win in that area.

We have talked a lot about on page optimization now we are going to talk about off-page optimization. Off-page optimization is the place where you build authority for your website and web pages. Off-page optimization refers to the art of building links. Think of a link as a vote. The practice of a 3rd party website including a link from their site to yours sends a popularity signal to the search engines. The more votes from authority sites you get, the higher you can rank.  All links are not created equal. It is better to get just one backlink from a site with high authority vs hundreds of sites with little or no authority.

One of the lowest hanging fruits associated with increasing authority through backlinks are local listing sites. Also referred to as citations, these citations are listings of your business details. There are hundreds if not thousands of websites which will publish your local presence information along with a basic business listing which usually includes your company name, address, phone, contact information, unique descriptions of your business, keywords, and links. It’s in your best interests to maximize the exposure of your business listing by adding as much information as you can to that listing. As I said earlier, search engines are popularity engines. Search Engines give higher ranking to the websites which it feels are the most relevant and popular for the terms that are being searched. What this means is that you need to use Off-page SEO to increase the relevance and authority of your website.

Another brilliant way to build links from credible sources which is often overlooked is through PR.  If you have an in-house or an external PR team, one great way to get links is through something called unlinked mentions. Monitor the web for new stories on your brand to determine whether or not the story includes a backlink. If the published story does not include a backlink, have your PR team reach out to the writer and kindly ask that they include a link. This really works! On the outbound side of things, your PR team can also champion those efforts and make sure that they include links in the stories that they are sending out to the press. There is also a website called HARO which is used by journalists and writers to find sources for stories. When you are included as a source, you usually will get mentioned, and receive a backlink.

3rd party outreach is another great way to build links. It’s best to start with people that you have relationships with. If you are in retail, start with your supplier list and make sure that you are listed on every one of your supplier’s websites. Most will have a where to buy section. You can even reach out to vendors of products you have purchased. Let’s say you are a company that’s in marketing and you purchased all of your phones from Cisco. Here you can reach out to your vendor’s PR folks and pitch them a story about how you use their products. This is a way where you can get high authority links that normally would be pretty unattainable.

The next best way to get backlinks is through content marketing. One such approach is to create a blog on your domain and publish great content. By publishing great content, people are generally inclined to share your content or use your content as a point of reference. You can also create infographics and visuals to tell stories. If your story is compelling enough, people will be inclined to share it.

Social media is also another great way of increasing the authority of your website. In SEO, social media has a time stamp, so if you if you are inconsistent in your social media efforts then it will not help you increase your search engine rankings over the long-term. Consistent social media content publishing will send signals to search engines in real time which will help increase your authority by sending trust signals.

In a nutshell, SEO is not rocket science. SEO is simply the combination of the right level of on-page elements which are your Meta information and content combined with authority which is given through third party links and social signals. It all equates to hard work and daily effort to increase your search engine rankings. Be consistent by creating relevant content and the authority will follow.

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