What is SEO?
So, you’ve started a website? Congratulations! Getting your own site is key to running a successful business in 2021. Now that your business is online, you may be coming upon some follow-up questions — like what is SEO?
As you research the next steps for your new website, you’re going to see the acronym SEO come up a lot. SEO stands for search engine optimization, and is a free practice that you can use to increase the amount of traffic to your website.
At first, using SEO might feel like a bit much. But, once you’re familiar with how it works and the benefits it adds to a site, you should feel more prepared to dive in. And, if you’re still hesitant, take comfort in knowing that there are experts who live and breathe SEO and can do the work for you!
How do search engines work?
Do you ever sit awake at night wondering how Google chooses the order of its search results? Well, get ready for a break in your insomnia because you’re about to find out!
Search engines like Google and Yahoo! rely on bots to scan every page of content on the internet. These bots — known as web crawlers — exist specifically for the purpose of indexing every page on the web. As the web crawlers make their way through the web, they search for new pages or pages that were recently updated. The crawlers automatically add each new page to a master list, which the search engine indexes.
In order to index each page, the search engine examines all the content it sees on the page, including photos, words, and video files. In this way, a search engine like Google can categorize a page in its index, and add it to a relevant search result.
But what makes a page relevant? And how does a tool like Google decide that one page is more relevant than another?
For Google specifically, the answer comes down to a collection of custom algorithms. One example is PageRank, which ranks a page based on the number of outside links that direct to that page. In other words, more links to your page can earn you a higher ranking on Google.
Algorithms look at things like location, quality, and relevance. In order to determine the relevance of a page, search engines look at keywords. In order to determine the quality of a page, search engines look at the number of outside links referring to the page. The ranking process has many signals that decide on a page’s ranking. Learning these and taking advantage of the way they work is key to SEO.
A closer look at SEO
As the name suggests, the practice of SEO helps you optimize the search engine algorithms in order to earn higher rankings for your site. Search engines generally keep their algorithms a secret. Fortunately, there are people who have devoted entire careers to understanding SEO, and who have shared valuable information for businesses and website owners to use.
Not all ranking factors are equally effective, but they all do a little to increase your website’s visibility on a search result. One of the biggest keys to SEO is related to the PageRank algorithm. Pages that have lots of trusted links pointing back to them from other websites will rank higher. Unfortunately, this factor is one of several off-page SEO elements, meaning it’s controlled outside of your website. Off-page SEO — which also includes social media referrals — can be difficult to influence.
On-page SEO is easier to control and still goes a long way in improving the ranking of a website. This includes everything from the quality of your website’s code and the speed of each page, to the structure of the website.
The most influential elements of on-page SEO have to do with the content on each page. A good SEO strategy plans for keywords in several contexts. Keywords are words that are commonly used by individuals when searching for sites similar to yours.
Not only should keywords be used in the first paragraph of the text itself, but they should be found in the title tag, the ALT tag, the URL, and the meta description. The search engine reviews all of these elements when it’s crawling and indexing.
Another on-page SEO factor is the length and quality of the content. The best length for SEO purposes sits between 300 and 1,000 words. Too few words won’t give the crawlers enough information.
Posting original content is also essential. It might be tempting to save time and copy some information that’s already out on the web somewhere. However, your page will be more engaging — and rank better on search engines — if you or someone else creates content specific for your page.
How to start using SEO
If you’re ready to optimize your website for higher search engine rankings, there are several ways to get started. You could continue your research online, and dive right in with keywords and fresh content. Or, you could use a program like Yoast, which has its own SEO plugin for WordPress, as well as SEO training courses.
If you are using HubSpot the Page Optimization tool is very useful.
You can also use the SEO tool in HubSpot.
If you’re up for the challenge and have the time to spare, learning about SEO at your own speed and implementing changes on your own is totally doable.
When to hire an SEO expert
Although there are tons of resources online to help you get started with SEO, sometimes it’s best to hand the reins over to a professional. SEO experts know all the secrets to making your website more visible in search results. They can provide SEO audits to each of your web pages, help you develop effective content, perform keyword research, and provide helpful training and help you better understand SEO.
If you want to make the most of your site as soon as possible, or don’t have the time to spend on SEO training, there are plenty of professionals — including Analytics That Profit™ — that can take care of it for you.
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