SEO is that magic term that you’ve heard will unleash the flow of traffic from Google to your website. Take the SEO pill, sit back and watch the customers roll in. Not. At least not the magic part (or the pill). But SEO is important in getting Google to give you the love I know you deserve, so let’s take a closer look at what it actually is and how you can implement it.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. In other words, it is the process of optimizing your web or mobile content to allow Search Engines to find it and to convince those search engines to display it in their search results above all other relevant content.
How does SEO work?
Let’s say a person is looking to purchase custom kitchen cabinets. He types in “custom kitchen cabinets” in Google (or another search engine — the principles are pretty much the same for all, but since Google has over 90% of all searches, we’ll focus on them exclusively). Google has their minions of “spiders” crawling every corner of the web to create the most useful index of available content they can. When you type in your cabinet query, Google displays what they consider to be the most relevant answers from their index, ranked in order of relevance.
Google decides how to rank its search results based on its own proprietary algorithms, which they do not reveal. But Google has given us guidelines as to what they like (and don’t like), and lots of statistical tests have been run, which in total give us a pretty good idea of what we need to do to get Google’s positive attention. It’s called SEO.
Now back to our cabinet example. The first thing Google showed me when I typed “custom kitchen cabinets” are ads.
Yup, this is how Google makes billions of dollars a year. Each time someone clicks on an ad, the advertiser pays Google an amount of money. It’s called pay per click (PPC), and the price of a click is determined based on a competitive auction. The more competition for the particular keyword, the higher the price.
The “custom kitchen cabinets” keyword phrase happens to run around $5 per click. Some keywords can cost as much as $47 per click (mortgage, attorney). That seems a lot for a click, but it really depends on the price of the product you’re selling or even more so, on the lifetime value of a customer. We’ll talk a lot more about this in a dedicated post about PPC.
Once you get past the ads, you’ll see Google’s local listings along with a map.
This is where you’ll find results based in your local area. You’ll see the top 3 on the first page and a longer list by clicking on “More places”. If you have a company, it should show up in Google’s local listings when you search for your related keywords.
For example, when I type in “digital marketing agency” from my home (which is about 1.5 miles from my office), Onrush Digital Marketing is #1 in the organic listings (the first listing is an ad).
Now, even if you don’t do anything, Google will try it’s best to find your company and list it. You don’t even need a website. But you obviously have to be somewhere out there in the web to get found. The most direct and effective way to let Google know you exist and get included in your local listings it to create a Google Business Page. If your company has been around for a while, Google might already have created a page for you, which you’ll need to claim and update with your own copy and images.
Ideally, you’d like to see your website listed in the organic results, which appear beneath the local listings box. Here’s how those results look in our “custom kitchen cabinets” example:
You’ll notice some familiar big box names like Homedepot, Lowes, HGTV and Costco. These huge websites are usually almost impossible to beat, because they have massive “authority”, tons of inbound links and content (we’ll get into why that’s important in a minute).
But you’ll also notice that Google has thrown in a couple of local companies, because it knows where my query is coming from. For instance, suburbancabinet.com, which is second to last on the list is probably on page #1 ahead of Costco simply because it’s located close to where my computer is right now. The first organic result on the list is also located not that far away, in NY.
You can see the importance that location plays in Google’s algorithm. That’s because Google is looking to get you the most useful information relating to what you’re searching for. And if you’re searching for “custom kitchen cabinets”, Google feels it makes the most sense to show you results that are near you.
The SEO you need to do
So what SEO do you need to do to get your website listed on page #1 of Google?
If I could guarantee you a spot on page 1 every time, I’d be a very wealthy man, and probably very hated by Google. All I can do is give you the best SEO practices that you can apply to your site right now and pretty much guarantee that if you ignore them all, you probably won’t hit the top of page 1.
Here are 5 main factors that play a role in SEO:
People search for keywords, and Google searches for content that contains and relates to those keywords. In order to rank (and get displayed) for those keywords your website content must contain them. But simply stuffing those keywords in nonsensical sentences onto your page isn’t going to do the trick (as it did in the “old days”). That’s called “keyword stuffing” and it could get you penalized by Google.
Your content must not only include the keywords you are targeting, but it must be relevant and informative. Google is looking for the most relevant content that will answer its user’s query. The better your content does that, the better chance you have of ranking highly for it.
It’s important to bear in mind that you are competing with every other website out there that is also trying to target the same keywords as you are. So even if you’re writing great content, your competition might be writing even better content (same goes for links).
When applying SEO to your webpage there are a few important items to include:
Hover your curser over the browser tab of your page and your see words. This is your Title tag. If it says “Home” or the name of your company, you need to fix it. Your title tag should be a phrase describing what you do that includes the keywords you are targeting. It is one of the primary things that Google will look at when trying to determine what your page is about. That’s why “Home” isn’t going to help you much. And unless someone is specifically searching by typing in the name of your company, neither is your company name.The title tag is usually the first thing I look at to determine whether a website has been built by someone who has a clue about SEO. I have to admin, it makes me joyous to see “Home” because it means that I can reach out to the company and offer them my SEO services.
There are several tags in the html code of your webpage that are called header tags. They indicate the degree of importance of the text they surround. When Google sees a line of text surrounded by an H1 tag, it assumes that the text reflects the main focus of the rest of the page.The SEO way to “mark up” a page is to wrap an H1 around a phrase containing your target keywords, and then wrap H2 tags around related keywords, and so on down the line. There should ONLY be one H1 tag on a page. No, your H1 should not be around the phrase, “Welcome to our homepage”. In our cabinets example it would ideally contain the phrase Custom Kitchen Cabinets.
The description tag in the code of your webpage contains the text that Google displays in the search results for your listing. Google will often bold the keywords that are part of the user’s search query, which is why you should include your keywords in your description. The description will also play a big part in convincing the user to click on your listing, which will increase your click thru rate and make it more likely that Google will show your page again.
Every image on your page should have an “alt” tag containing words describing the image that preferably include your keywords. Google doesn’t read images (yet), so without the “alt” tag you’re wasting an opportunity to share your content with Google.
As we discussed in this previous post, Google judges your site based on its mobile compatibility, so you MUST make sure that your site looks awesome on mobile.
Google takes the speed of your website into account as a ranking factor. That’s because sites that load quickly provide a better user experience than the ones that make you site and wait for them. Users have little patience for slow loading sites and tend to “bounce” when they encounter one.
Inbound links from authoritative websites are a primary ranking factor because they tell Google that your site has reliable information worth sharing (and trusting). Getting these links is no easy task. It requires writing amazing content and building relationships with the authoritative folks in order to get them to link to it.
At the very least, however, you should get inbound links from major directories and social media sites. There are services that can do this for you for a small fee.
Remember we spoke about Google’s local listings? Well, the only way Google will know that you’re local is if you tell it your location. You should have your company name along with your address and contact info in the footer of your website, so that it appears of every page of your site. It’s better if you add schema markup, but Google will find it even if you don’t.
[By the way, there’s no such thing as submitting your site to the Google directory in order to be indexed. Google does it automatically.]
SEO contains various elements and is a process that usually takes time to show results. It’s worth getting started asap. To help you do that I created a brief tutorial showing you how to implement some of the basic SEO elements on your own website today. Click here to watch it.