Search Engine Optimization, more commonly known as SEO, is a buzzword many marketers talk about, but not many marketers truly understand. I myself was not super knowledgeable about how to S-E-O until recently, when I completed the HubSpot Academy SEO Certification.
In this blog, I will share a few basics about SEO. I am not a website programmer, so the basics I am going to cover will not include the more technical/programming components of SEO. I will instead focus on some of the things marketers and website owners can do themselves to help with SEO efforts.
Why SEO matters
In 2021, 68% of online experiences began on a search engine. What do you notice about your searches on a search engine, such as Google? Most often, you will query a term or question - examples being: “restaurants near me”, “how to repair a lawn mower?” or “Stop my smoke alarm from chirping!!!!”.
Notice: searchers are most likely not typing in the name of your website.
If you’re not wanting to pay for top-of-Google Ad placements, then the next item to focus on is ranking for these types of searches using SEO strategies. Good SEO work will rank you higher in search engine results without needing to pay for top placement.
Ranking organically means that when someone queries something related to your business or industry, your website would appear in the search results (under the paid ads, of course).
Let’s look at a Google search results page to explain this further.
When I Google “How to repair a lawn mower” the top result comes from homesleading.com. They have a piece of content called “Lawn Mower Repair: 11 Common Problems And How To Fix Them”.
Google has ranked this article as the #1 search result because this article meets the criteria for being relevant to this question and authoritative on this topic. They believe it will best answer my question of how to fix a lawn mower.
Only 0.78% of searchers will click on a link from page two of search results, so it’s necessary to rank on page one if you want to be found, and ranking on page one takes some work…some SEO work. 😉
How does Google find my website?
I get asked this question a lot, and it’s a good one. How does Google find your website?
Google has deployed its Googlebots all over the web. Their job is to crawl websites, index them, and help Google decide how to rank them. Googlebots could crawl your website anywhere from every three days to every four weeks, depending on many different factors.
Google’s bots have many jobs, but their biggest use is to crawl and discover websites. They crawl all around the web, taking notes and sending them back to Google. One of the things Googlebots do is index website content. This helps Google determine how relevant the content on the website is to what is being searched.
Keywords are terms and phrases that match what searchers are typing into Google’s search bar. When a Googlebot comes to your website, it makes note of terms that it sees on your website often and indexes these.
If your goal is to have people looking for lawn mower advice to come to your website, then your website should contain the words “lawn mower” and other related terms and phrases throughout your website content, especially in headings and page titles.
If you want someone to know that you sell custom embroidery services, but you only list that on your website in one place, chances are Google is not going to display your website as a result for a “custom embroidery services near me” search query.
But, if you had several articles and an entire page on your website dedicated to discussion about custom embroidery work, then your chances to rank for this would increase.
Sometimes, businesses get all caught up in being crafty with their messaging, when all they need to do is be clear about what they offer. Doing this helps customers AND Google to understand what it is you do.
For more on how to clarify your brand message (a.k.a. say what you do), read my blog A Formula to Clarify Your Brand.
Unfortunately, having the right keywords alone is not going to get your website found on Google. Googlebots are also looking to see what type of an authority your website is on these topics. It is important for them to know who else is visiting your website and using your content as a resource.
Authority is determined by the number of links that are going to your website, as well as the quality of those links. Links coming into your site are called “backlinks”. If other websites are linking to your website, it tells Google that you are providing quality content and so they may want to send people there as well.
Having a content strategy is a key way to earn backlinks to your website. Blogs or other shareable content will not only help to increase traffic to your website, giving people a new reason to visit occasionally, but they also provide other websites a reason to link to your website, helping you to build authority.
Take this article as an example of how to earn backlinks. In doing my research, I found some stats that I wanted to include to help support what I was writing about. All of the external resources that I have linked to, are now receiving backlinks to their websites! I view them as authorities on the topics I’m writing about, so Google now will as well.
Where to start?
There are many places to start working on SEO. Using some of the thoughts from this blog, I would recommend starting with these three steps:
Determine keywords you want to rank for. Make a list of keywords or phrases (also called long-tail keywords), that you think people may type when looking for your products or services.
Research keywords. Google Keyword Planner is a free tool that allows you to search keywords and analyze competition, number of monthly searches for that keyword, as well as other suggested related keywords you may want to include in your list as well. Research can help refine the list of keywords you want to use.
Add keywords into content. Work to fold keywords into your website content, but avoid “keyword stuffing”, just using keywords to use them. Google is pretty smart, and will catch this, so make sure you’re using them in a logical and meaningful way. A tip would be to optimize each page of your website for one keyword to begin with.
SEO is a big task to tackle, so maybe marinate on the information in this blog for a bit and stay tuned for part two, coming soon!
In the meantime, if SEO is something you’re curious about or would like help having incorporated into your website strategy, please reach out!