To some, the unknowns that make up the world of search engine optimization (SEO) are a thrilling challenge; to others, they can be a nightmare.
The reality is that we’re probably all doing some level of online marketing. At its core, SEO helps boost the success of your campaigns and strategies, because it helps improve your organic rankings in online search engines.
How do search engines work?
In the milliseconds it takes for Google to come up with results to your search query, many things are happening behind the scenes to ensure you receive the most relevant results. Take a look at this short video from Google that breaks it down:
What can I do to improve my site’s organic ranking?
SEO is made up of two parts: on-page SEO and off-page SEO. What does this mean?
On-page SEO refers to what search engines get when crawling through your site’s content and structure. Here are the top elements that every page should have.
- Content: Good content is the most important factor to determining where your page will be ranked in search results. Quality content addresses a specific need and is linkable, among other things.
- Title tags: The title tag defines what the page is about and is the brief preview of a page that appears in search engine results. It should be an accurate and concise description of what’s on the page, because Google crawlers look for content relevant to the search query. Google will display title tags with as many characters as fit into a 512-pixel display, which translates to up to 55 characters.
- Image alt tag: Images are often included in online content to capture the attention of readers, but there is more to it. Google uses alt tags to help determine not only what the image is about, but also to determine the value of the text around it. This is where having a targeted keyword list for your content comes in handy. Include at least one focus keyword in the image alt tag that relates to your content.
Sample of what an alt tag code:
<img src="GATeam.jpg" alt="Team GA"/>
Also for the blind and visually impaired, alt tags help assistive programs identify what your image is about. For a fun infographic about on-page SEO, check out this graphic from Backlink.
- URL: In addition to being a pathway for internal linking your online content, a well-done URL reflects the hierarchy of information.
Here’s an example of a good URL structure:
This link shows a clear hierarchy and helps Google figure out that this page is about SEO mobile optimization without even needing to process the content of the entire page.
Bonus Tip: Content development is a strategy that can help further your SEO goals. Read more about inbound marketing on our blog.
Off-page SEO is another important factor in how your pages will rank organically. It relates to links and mentions that come from 3rd party sites. Off-page SEO is important because backlinks, also known as inbound links, are an indication to Google that your content is popular and relevant. Other sites will only reference, cite and share your stuff if they like it, right?
The quality and quantity of links in your content, tips about trust, personalization and social media presence can be found here.
How do I measure my progress?
You can optimize for search, but measurement is the only way to know if you’re successful. So be sure you set up analytics before you make updates to your SEO. Here’s a popular resource for configuring Google Analytics for SEO.
Google's Search Console is a tool that helps you see your site’s performance the way Google sees it. It’ll give you insights into which pages and information has been indexed based on search queries, popular keywords, rank positions, and what links point to your site. Here’s a guide to set up your own Search Console account.
Within these tools, things you can measure include:
- Referring visits
- Search engine terms and phrases for referral traffic
- Conversion rate
- Visits from search engines for each page
For example, what search terms boosted page traffic the most? What were the most visited pages? Did 3rd party referrals play a part? Did you convert visitors – ie did they leave you with their information and take advantage of an offer? Keep what you measure and what you achieve aligned with your business objectives.
What resources can I follow to stay up to date on SEO trends?
SEO is ever-evolving, so to help stay on top of it here are a list of recommended blogs to bookmark:
- Google Blog
- Search Engine Land
- Search Engine Watch
- Search Engine Journal
- SEM Rush
- Content Marketing Institute