Search Engine Optimization
What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
Search Engine Optimization is the process whereby you adjust your website’s technical aspects or content to better align your website to a Search Engine’s expectations. Google is the primary search engine at 92.42% of the market share according to Statcounter Global Stats. Since the next primarily used search engine is Yahoo at 2.61% of the market share, we focus on Google’s algorithm.
Google’s main goal is to give the user what they want; they are trying to match what the user’s search terms to the a single page’s content. The website page that Google ascertains will answer the user’s questions more completely will rank higher on the search results than others. To this end, Google looks at many aspects of the website: the primary focus of the website as a whole, the focus keywords, the questions answered, the length of the article, the number of articles written around and about this subject, and more. Then you have the technical aspects of the site: your sitemap location, crawl errors, SSL certificates, whether files are missing, etc.
The technical SEO and content SEO work together to effect your total SEO.
“My rule of thumb is build a site for a user not a spider.” – Dave Naylor
Why Do You Need SEO?
Google has been consistently working on their search results algorithm since they were founded in 1998. While no one has access to the actual algorithm, Google does tell us what they look at to rank websites. And that ranking is vitally important for your business; almost 90% of users do not click to page 2 in the search results. You can pay to put your company first, but ads only capture ~10% of the clicks, while organic results receive ~90% of the traffic.
Being on the first page of Google, then, can heavily influence your business’s bottom line.
“Successful SEO is not about tricking Google. It’s about PARTNERING with Google to provide the best search results for Google’s users.” – Phil Frost, Main Street ROI
While being higher in Google won’t effect your conversion rate (the number of people who visit your website and then buy, browse, or contact you), it will effect the number of people visiting your site. If you are currently getting a conversion rate of 5% – so 5 people out of every 100 visitors are becoming customers – and you now receive 200 visitors on your site, you could double your profits immediately.
This highlights the two aspects of fully utilizing your website. You want to optimize both your content ranking (SEO) and your conversion rate, but optimizing either will help your bottom line and provide an increased ROI for your website.
A Comprehensive SEO Strategy
When you hire someone to work on your website’s SEO, they should be looking at both your technical SEO and your content SEO. Since both effect your total SEO, you’ll want to make sure both are being handled.
Technical SEO Audit
White Fox Creative starts with the Technical SEO. If your website has major technical SEO issues, any content SEO created or adjusted will be far less effective and could even be practically invisible to Google.
Technical SEO audits will deal with any coding that either:
1) Hinders Google seeing or cataloging your site
2) Doesn’t follow Google’s “best practices”
There are a lot of issues to double-check. The issues below are some of the most crucial:
- 500 or 400 error codes
- no/duplicate title tags
- duplicate content
- broken internal links
- pages that can’t be crawled
- internal images broker
- duplicate meta description
- robot.txt file errors
- sitemap.xml file errors (incorrect pages)
- www vs. non-www issues
- missing HTML required tags
- HTML files are too large
- in-secure sites (http as opposed to https) or expired certificates
- mixed content
- Slow loading speeds
A technical SEO audit will find the issues and fix them. Once fixed, an automatic scan of the site can check to make sure that what the user sees and what the computer (or Google) sees is the same.
Depending on where the technical SEO audit scores your website, simply fixing the technical issues alone can drastically impact your search engine rankings. Regardless, skipping over an initial Technical SEO audit can hugely detract from any work you invest in the content SEO.
Want to see where you stand? Email us for a free technical audit of your site.
Once any technical SEO issues are resolved, you can fully turn your attention to content SEO. Before you start typing out a blog or adjusting page content, the most important aspect of content SEO is crafting a strategy.
Creating a SEO Strategy
There are three major steps to creating an effective SEO strategy.
Step 1: Audit Your Content
Whether you have 5 pages or 300, mapping the content you have is the first step. The easiest way to audit the content is using the old standby: a spreadsheet. Every page should have its own entry, with subpages and site structure noted.
Each page in your audit should be focused on one keyword or keyphrase. For example, this page’s primary idea is Search Engine Optimization. It might rank for other keywords or phrases based on Google’s discretion, but the focus is Search Engine Optimization or SEO.
During this initial process, you might find that many of your pages have duplicate primary keywords. If you find that to be true, you’ll need to adjust the content, site structure, or keyword focus of your pages so you don’t end up competing with your own site. See the Bucket section (Step 3) below.
Step 2: Research Keywords
Whatever keywords or phrases you mapped out in step 1 are the search terms you yourself would search. But not everyone will use those same terms. So before we starting organizing our key ideas, we need to make sure there isn’t another keyword or keyphrase used more commonly.
“Google only loves you when everyone else loves you first.” – Wendy Piersall
For example, you might think the best keywords for a page is “Basketball Skills”, but when you look up results, “basketball training” or “basketball drills” might get more searches per month. Or you might find that your keyword is too general. If you optimize a page for “skills”, not only can it be far more difficult to rank for, but it also is too broad; do you mean “interpersonal skills” or “alexa skills”?
Along the way, you might also end up with synonyms for your primary keyword or phrase. While the terms “interpersonal skills” and “alexa skills” are two completely different ideas, “communication skills” and “interpersonal skills” might work for your content as synonyms. But remember, you’re primarily writing for PEOPLE not Google, so don’t cram in any idea that sort of relates to your primary keyword.
Step 3: Organizing Your Buckets
Keyword “buckets” is the idea that 1 keyword or phrase will probably have a vast “bucket” of knowledge around it. You can’t (and shouldn’t) answer every question possible for that idea in one post. While Google does seem to give preference to longer articles, that doesn’t mean writing a 200,000 word tome will be beneficial to your cause. Instead, each keyword or phrase should have a primary page devoted to it, with all other “bucket” ideas written in posts or additional pages.
This is my primary page for Search Engine Optimization. But, here are all the questions people ask that I could answer to fill up my keyword “bucket”:
Found on Answer the Public, these questions can be sorted into subjects about Search Engine Optimization and then written about by subject. Each blog post would then funnel back to this page – my primary Search Engine Optimization page.
You can do this with blog posts and with child pages. A child page is a “sub” page of your primary keyword page. For example, if you have a product that solves three problems for people, you could organize your keyword bucket like this:
- Product Page: Primary Keyword/phrase
- Problem 1 solved
- Problem 2 solved
- Problem 3 solved
Each of the problem pages would expound on the primary keyword/phrase and then point back to the product.
Step 4: Analyzing the Competition
Search Engine Optimization is a competition; if you’re in the #1 spot in Google’s search results, someone else’s website isn’t. Now that you have your content figured out and structured, it’s time to look at the competition’s content.
Using an incognito browser (so Google doesn’t cater the results to you), each primary search term should be entered and analyzed. If you don’t show up yet anywhere in the first couple of pages, you can simply use the first page results as for your analysis.
Just like your rankings, your competitive’s ranking will include a plethora of data points. Which page on their site is ranking for this keyword? How long is the page? how old is their site? what keywords do they use?
Analyzing their content and structure can help you build better content on your site.
Along the way, you might find that your content is structured similarly or vastly differently from your competition. This can be good or bad in a case by case business. If you find you’re missing content on your site, mark down what else you need to add to your “bucket”.
Step 5: The Strategic Summary Roadmap
When the analysis is complete, you might feel a bit overwhelmed. You’ll probably find that there are a million things you need to fix RIGHT NOW and only 24 hours in a day to fix them.
Instead of trying to grasp for the #1 position in everything immediately, the final analysis of your site’s SEO should be creating a useful roadmap. Which keywords will have the best ROI? Which keywords can you optimize for effectively, quickly, and there’s little competition? Most of succeeding is built on correctly judging where to focus your efforts.
Ready to Optimize Your Website?
SEO is not a short-term strategy; it can take anywhere from 2 days to 6 months to see the full effects of what’s been optimized. But if you’re aiming to grow your business or website readership in the next 6 months, SEO is not something you want to put off.
Call White Fox Creative for a free Technical SEO audit or to speak about improving your website’s search rankings.