Search Engine Optimization. SEO. You may know that it's important to get your site on the first or first few pages of a Google search. You may even know a few tricks about how that's done, like the use of keywords and metadata.
You may not know that there exists a deep knowledge of how Google ranks websites and that there are at present, more than 200 ranking factors that Google uses to determine where your site shows up in a search. The closer to the top of the search, the more traffic to your site. Increased site traffic leads to increased sales.
We're here to talk about the benefits of SEO, how it links to Google rankings, and how SEO works to grow your business.
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
Some brands are so popular that their name becomes what's called an eponym, or generic trademark. More than 70% of internet users search for what they want through Google, making it one of the world's newest eponyms. The combination of market share and expertise have granted Google the right and responsibility to manage how their search results appear to the user.
Google's ranking is meant to provide its users access to the best quality search results. For example, when someone searches for your product, Google knows that you are actually selling it, that your site is secure, that others have spent time on your site in search of the same product, and that their experience on your site is a good one.
Inbound Marketing and SEO
Inbound marketing is an extension of your visitor's experience. Good inbound marketing is the practice of attracting customers and then converting them to loyal promoters to your business. Good results are achieved through social media marketing, SEO, and content marketing.
Inbound marketing uses two types of media: owned media and earned media.
Owned media: Owned media are your business channels such as your website, YouTube channel, social media profiles, and blogs.
Earned media: Online earned media is comprised of likes and mentions, online conversations or forum discussions, and online reviews.
SEO can help your inbound marketing efforts by crafting your owned media website to earn the best Google rankings. Your customers are looking for you, not the other way around. You already have the advantage of them wanting what you're offering.
How Does SEO Work?
We'll start by explaining how search engines work. A user types a word or string of words into the engine's search bar, also called a query. The search engine then uses a set of rules, or algorithms, to determine what pages to show, in what order in response to that query.
The user is then presented with a list of results on the first page. The higher up on the list, the more clicks that page receives. In fact, around 50% of users will click the top result, and all the other results will share the rest of the traffic. Additionally, only a few percent even visit sites beyond the first page.
The algorithms are complex and use hundreds of factors to determine the rank of their search engine results pages or SERPs. We mentioned earlier that Google uses at least 200 ranking factors to determine their SERPs. SEO is the process of using as many of these factors as possible to increase your site's visibility on those results pages.
How Do You Start?
You or your SEO marketing service increase your inbound marketing by starting with three core metrics that these search engines use for evaluation: site architecture, site content, and links. How these are designed into your website directly affects your rankings, and is part of what a good SEO marketing service can help you with.
Let's examine these three metrics in depth, starting with site architecture, or structure.
Your site's structure is crucial to many of the ranking factors used to bring your site to the first SERP. You may have performed a query and seen not only a site URL but under that a few internal links to choose from. These are called sitelinks and they don't happen by accident or through basic coding.
Sitelinks appear because Google recognizes your great site structure and awards your site with them. Google's crawlers index your site's contents and return it in their search results, so a good hierarchy needs to be part of your website plan.
Ideally, your site structure should be planned before you or your developers start building your site. A site hierarchy looks like a pyramid, where the top is your front page and from there it is easy to navigate to other categories.
For instance, say you search for a restaurant in your area. You find the page and from there you see links to their menus, hours, locations, catering, and contact pages. That is a clear hierarchy that is likely to show up on a SERP with those convenient direct links under the main URL.
Some people call this "content SEO" and it is a combination of good copywriting and keyword strategy to help rank your page higher in search engines. We mentioned Google indexing your site's contents: it reads your website so the words you use in your copy determine whether your site will rank in their SERPs.
Good website copywriting is going to incorporate good keyword research. All good content SEO scheme should start with keyword research which helps you identify the words you want to rank for.
Aside from understanding your business's purpose, the steps to creating well-ranked content are:
- Good keyword research
- Listing all the keywords you want to be found for, and
- Creating landing pages for those keywords
There is a whole science behind keyword research and some concepts behind it include understanding your searcher's intent, defining a focus keyphrase, and use of long-tail keywords that can pinpoint a search string.
The more a site is linked to within a different site, the more it establishes its authority and demonstrates its popularity. Many optimization specialists think that a top SEO objective is getting your site to be an external link on another page. This metric is called off-page (or off-site) SEO.
Some factors that search engines consider when assessing the value of external links include:
- The linking domain's trustworthiness
- The linking page's popularity
- The link's anchor text
- The frequency of the link's usage
Links that lead to your page from another site are called backlinks. The more sites that include backlinks to your site, the better your search engine ranking.
There are three types of backlinks that affect your off-page SEO. The first is called a natural link and happens when the site creator points to another site logically. These links are logical, helpful, and contextual. They feel like they belong within their content, and are often created organically through social media and other channels.
The second type of backlink is a manually-built link. These links are created by asking others to share your content. You may ask a customer to include a link to your site or product or asking influencers to do the same.
The third type is a self-created link. These are more manipulative and tactical, like linking from a forum or press release. Some of these methods earn ranking disapproval, so be careful with this tactic.
The Benefits of SEO
By now you are beginning to understand how SEO works, and some of the benefits of optimizing your website for search engine rankings. It's time to dig further into how SEO marketing services can help grow your business.
If you are working with an SEO marketing service, they will employ some of the following techniques to improve your ranking and conversion rate.
Site Siloing: This approach employs deeper keyword and keyphrase research. It also requires a rich understanding of your site's theme and subject.
Imagine a cookie jar containing different types of cookies. A search term for cookies in a jar returns companies who sell cookies because a search engine thinks that's what you sell.
Separate the cookies into their own jars, yielding cookie type 1, type 2, and type 3. Search results would yield companies that sell those types of cookies.
Now stack the three types separately inside the jar. Well-planned keyphrases can yield cookies, types of cookies, and how to find them in your jar.
Good Graphics: Walls of text will cause customers to bounce away from your site, which can hurt your rankings. Use of relevant and attractive graphics break up the content and provide an enjoyable user experience.
Choose HTML5: Flash's time has ended. Over half of internet searches take place on mobile devices and Flash content limits those users' accessibility and prevents search engines from crawling that content. HTML5 is the new format developers use to make your content accessible from all devices.
Test Regularly: Your SEO marketing service knows how to analyze your site's performance to identify and inform your marketing strategy. They have the tools and expertise to monitor your site for visitor behavior and track your conversion goals.
Asking the Real Questions
The goal of this research is to convert your visitors into customers. Search Engine Optimization and Conversion Optimization combine to drive people to your site, keep them there, and convince them to buy what you're selling. You know it's important but you need to know how much SEO costs.
SEO and Conversion Optimization are both sciences and arts. It's a science because it employs strict methods of monitoring and measuring to determine what works. It's an art because each site is different and presents unique challenges for the marketing agency.
People are usually good at one thing and not the other. If you decide that you want to do your own optimization, and you can code, you may only pay for your time. You're at a disadvantage though, since you're learning as you go and your results may not be the best available.
The Value of SEO Marketing Services
An SEO marketing service will cost more than your time, but you have access to a group of people with combined skills to maximize your investment. They will also have real-world experience and a broad knowledge base which will yield you more value.
Here are some levels of expertise your SEO partners possess:
They can pinpoint the pages that show to search engine crawlers. Sometimes you don't need all your site's pages in the site index, and an agency pays attention to what's valuable.
They make sure the crawlers understand what they are reading on your site. You may have some code that is returning inaccurate results or has a script issue.
They know exactly how to research keywords and phrases because they already know your audience better than you do. That research yield better rankings.
They know how to leverage social media to earn backlinks to your site. Those valuable links give your site authority and earn search engine trust. That trust increases your rankings as well.
Now You Can Choose Wisely
One way you can track your ROI is to use your analytics to calculate how much you would have spent on outbound marketing efforts. The cost of a web or print advertisement can easily be compared to your conversion numbers online.
SEO agencies have access to more tools and resources than you do, and they know how to use them well. It is now a more mature industry, and SEO is the way to leverage inbound marketing to your advantage.
Now that you have learned the benefits of SEO, you can work with your SEO partner to achieve your best possible ROI. By using the information in this post, you can connect what they do with your results. A simple way to think about SEO is to understand that ranking equals visitors, visitors equal traffic, and traffic leads to either sales or sales leads.
Between your SEO marketing service's expertise and your new-found knowledge, you can give your website the head start it deserves, and start converting your visitors. Stay ahead of the technology curve by hiring a partner that harnesses the power of the search engine.