Optimization Prime — Search Engine Edition: Part 4 of 7
“Your volume, like any capability, is also a responsibility.” — Optimus Prime
Your search ranking, like any strategy, is also a responsibility—a responsibility that requires constant work and attention.
Fourth up in our seven-part optimization series—search.
Search engine optimization. These three words have a considerable impact on any business. In my opinion, search engine optimization is one of the—if not the—most difficult of marketing strategies and tactics to master or successfully execute. SEO is fast-paced and dynamic, with multiple fields to manage such as emerging trends, algorithmic changes, technological advancements, and of course, your audience. The world of search engine optimization is complex and ever-changing. Understanding the basics to stay well-informed and learn continuously will make a big difference.
While paid advertising such as Google ads, Facebook ads, social media posts, and other online forms generate internet traffic to your websites, most of your online traffic is driven by search engines.
What is Search Engine Optimization?
According to Moz, “SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It’s the practice of increasing both the quality and quantity of website traffic, as well as exposure to your brand, through non-paid efforts—also known as "organic" or “natural" and “editorial” search engine results.”
As mentioned before, this is a dynamic, multi-field tactic. Let’s break down search engine optimization even further:
Search engines are basically answering machines. With their use of algorithms based on multiple factors, search engines scour billions upon billions of pieces of content and serve up results that are most relevant to a user’s search. Search engines ‘crawl’ and ‘index’ all of the content available and sequence it by how well it matches the query—otherwise known as ‘ranking’.
Crawl is the process in which search engines scour the web for content, looking over the code and content for each URL they find.
Index is the process in which search engines store and organize content found during their crawling process. Once a page is added to the index, it can be displayed as a result of relevant searches.
Rank is the process in which the search engine provides the pieces of content that best answer the user’s search and are ordered by most relevant to least relevant.
There are three core metrics that search engines evaluate to determine the quality of a site and how it should rank:
Organic search, also known as ‘natural search’, refers to search results that are unpaid. This does not include anything that is paid, for example, Google Display ads, Facebook ads, or banner ads. These are populated via an auction system—more on that in a future post!
Needs and Wants
We may have mentioned one or two times—SEO is complex and dynamic. There are a lot of needs, wants, and moving pieces. Have you ever heard of Maslow's hierarchy of needs? It’s the theory that one cannot achieve the wants without ensuring the more fundamental needs are met first. Moz has taken this concept and put their spin on it to create a great resource—Mozlow’s Hierarchy of SEO Needs.
Crawl accessibility so engines can reach and index your content
Compelling content that answers the searcher’s query
Keyword optimized to attract searchers & engines
Great user-experience including fast load speed, ease of use, and engaging UI on any device
Share-worthy content that earns links, citations, and amplification
Title, URL, and description to draw high CTR in the rankings
Snippet and schema markup to stand out in SERPs
The Five Essentials of any SEO Strategy
As with other areas of digital, we spend more time and energy on the tactics rather than investing in developing an SEO strategy. While every SEO strategy is (and should be) different from business to business, there are five essentials that every SEO strategy needs.
A mind map is an easy way to brainstorm your strategy organically and visually without worrying about order and structure—building your strategy from the ground up. The map will include a branching series of categories emanating from the center, moving from more general to more specific categories, with ideas becoming increasingly granular. This is not an actual visual representation of your final strategy, but a way to think about and build it. Mind maps with SEO can support your thoughts in a nonlinear fashion, displaying all your ideas at once.
Once your mind map takes shape, and your strategy is more concrete, document your strategy, and craft a plan. Detail your goals, objectives, and tasks, as well as who is responsible for them and when they should be delivered.
Understand the Company
Solid understanding of the company is vital, as with any marketing effort, to ensure your SEO strategy is successful. Leverage your strengths and use tactics that match your brand. Understand the unique selling proposition of your business’s services and product, your company’s vision, and better yet, where your pain points are.
Understand your Audience
This strategy is of foremost importance—truly, across our entire optimization series, understanding and knowing your audience is paramount. When it comes to SEO, if you don’t know your audience, you won’t understand what keywords they are searching for and what they want! Understand their acceptance level of marketing, their knowledge level, and how close they are to your industry.
The goals you include in your strategy need to be precise, useful, and focused. A strategy is about achieving goals that have a specific impact on the company, its direction and future, and the way that the business itself functions.
SEO Optimization Techniques
Now that we know how search engines work and fundamentals of the strategy, we delve into optimization techniques.
Keyword research is typically where we all start with SEO and optimization. This is the process that involves looking at what keywords a site is already ranking for, what keywords competitors rank for, and what other keywords potential customers are searching for. This can help provide direction on what content to optimize and what new content you may need to create to improve your SERPs.
Once your keywords are identified, and you have created new, or updated existing content, it is time to market that content. Search engines place a premium on high-quality content; therefore, you need to, as part of your content marketing, look at what content is already out there and create a compelling piece of content that engages the user more and increases your chance of ranking higher. A plus point is that great content is shareable content!
Acquire links from external websites—‘backlinks’ in SEO parlance. This is one of the core ranking factors in search engines. Optimize your SEO by obtaining high-quality backlinks through the promotion of good content, reaching out and building mutually beneficial linkable relationships with others, submitting websites to directories, and drumming up press to build links.
In addition to off-page factors, improving the actual structure of the page can have tremendous benefits for SEO. Some of the most common on-page optimization techniques include adding keywords into URLs, updating title tags using relevant search terms, and using the alt attribute to describe images.
Site Architecture Optimization
Don’t forget the internal links! They play a significant role in SEO optimization. You can improve a site's SEO by making certain that key pages are being linked to, and that relevant anchor text is being used. Also, create an XML sitemap. Search engines love a good sitemap so they can discover and crawl pages.
Another key SEO strategy is to optimize a website's semantic markup. Semantic markup, also known as schema, describes the meaning behind the content on a page. Semantic markup can help optimize your site by adding rich snippets that display in the search results page.
What to Optimize
If you are looking to optimize your SEO, there are a few essential areas you need to look at—because search engines do—and there are others you should not do.
Search Engines Love:
Search Engines Hate:
Excessive link changing
Mobile app interstitials
Join us next week, Tuesday, July 16th, 2019, on CMSC Media for our part five edition of Optimization Prime series—Marketing Edition.
Catch up with our Optimization Prime series: