Search engine optimization (SEO): A term so important to our everyday, Google-obsessed lives, yet many people don’t really understand what it is or how it works.
In a nutshell, SEO is the process of increasing your website’s prominence in unpaid (aka “organic”) search engine results.
According to Moz, a leading SEO service provider:
“Search engines are the primary method of navigation for most Internet users.”
SEO can drive unparalleled levels of traffic to your website. However, the process requires technical skill, ingenuity and a strong understanding of what it takes to get on Google’s radar.
5 critical SEO factors to consider:
- Fresh content, continuously. First of all, relevancy is vital when it comes to SEO. Google’s goal is to find content that’s most applicable to each query it receives. The more viewers you attract through the fresh content that you post, the more helpful and relevant your site will seem. Doug Lacombe, Communicatto’s president and founder, states “Posting fresh content is an opportunity to help Google understand your website.”
- Social action – the audience must act upon the content. “Part of what Google deems ‘relevant’ content is the content people seem to be ‘voting for’,” explains Lacombe. “Essentially, if people share, like, comment, retweet, link to, quote or otherwise act upon content, these are signals that it is relevant, good or popular.” Simply put, search engines can’t consume content in the same way humans do. Instead, they rely on the content’s popularity to steer them in the right direction.
- Cross linking on natural language, non-generic phrases. As Lacombe describes, “Cross linking is the practice of linking from one of your own articles or pages to another of your own. It’s about making sure more parts of your website get discovered by both Google and viewers.” In order to increase your cross link’s SEO value, use discretion when choosing which words and phrases to link to. The more descriptive the phrase, the more Google understands exactly what your link delivers.
- Back linking from authoritative and relevant sites. When other sites create links to your site, this nod of acknowledgement is known as back linking. “If you have influential partners, associations you belong to, suppliers, or charities you donate to, back links from them can certainly help ‘legitimize’ your site,” says Lacombe. If you want to rise higher on the search engine results page (SERPs), back linking from influential sites is a vote of confidence in your favour. Just be cautious not to fall prey to unscrupulous SEO firms that sell mass linking services. Google can smell those “link farms” a mile away and you will be penalized for using such black hat techniques.
- Site and page structure. Oftentimes, sites that rank high on the SERPs have two things in common: ease of navigation and a strong structure. As Moz describes it, “Usability and user experience… provide an indirect but measurable benefit to a site’s external popularity, which the engines can then interpret as a signal of higher quality.” Many details affect the quality of your site – proper tag titles, use of keywords and even loading speeds can make a big difference in the eyes of the search engines. Don’t forget to keep it mobile friendly, or risk being penalized by Google.
“At the end of the day, as a publisher you are serving your human readers first, but to acquire that audience you need the robots to recommend your content. So you really serve two masters when considering SEO – humans and robots (that bring the humans),” concludes Lacombe.
Internet searches are designed for instant gratification. If your site doesn’t show up until page four of the search results, your competitors are winning the SEO race. By learning the essential factors of SEO, you can simultaneously serve the humans, the robots and your own business.