Demystifying Search Engine Optimization

When it comes to the topic of Search Engine Optimization, there is a lot of confusion about what this really means. I am sure that you have seen the term floating around or seen your competitors slowly overtaking you on Google. There are even those pesky phone calls and emails from companies promising the moon when it comes to online visibility, but you do not see any tangible results.

There are two things you can do. Ignore it and hope that it will go away, or educate yourself about this part of your business and become better informed when it comes to Search Engine Optimization.

What SEO is not

Let’s start by talking about what SEO is not. Around the dawn of the Internet, web developers and marketers were trying to figure out how they could show up in the search results when typing in their business or services. So, they developed tactics like keyword stuffing, invisible text and other SEO tricks geared towards fooling search engines into ranking their website higher. Although this worked for a while, search engines quickly picked up on these tactics and changed their search algorithm to prevent companies from ‘working the system.’

Google and other search engines have become more sophisticated than ever. They can now figure out which results are most relevant for people that search for information. One of the reasons that Google has become such a big part of our lives is because it is incredibly smart when it comes to getting us the results that we need.

So, with millions of web pages competing to be picked to show up in their potential customer’s search results, what can you do to improve your search visibility? Well, it can all start with utilizing digital marketing services, in particular Search Engine Optimization.

How Google ranks websites

Google’s search algorithm is basically a black box shrouded in secrecy - almost like the elusive Coca-Cola recipe. Although marketers don’t know exactly how it works (along with the fact that it changes constantly), extensive research has been done on what works and what doesn’t.

This illustration is an estimation (in 2021) of the things that Google looks at (a.k.a. The ranking factors) when generating results.

Your website comes first

The way your website works (or doesn’t) is the first thing that Google looks at. How fast does the site load, and how easy is it for visitors to navigate and interact with your site? Google knows how annoying a slow loading or poorly laid out website can be for website visitors, so they give preference to sites that load fast and are simple to navigate. Having a website that displays properly on a cell phone or tablet is another important signal for Google.

Although there is now less emphasis on keywords and behind-the-scenes technical SEO, it is still important to have your keywords in page titles and links. Just make sure that you use words for human beings, not for the “search bots.”

Content is the new SEO

With the arrival of Artificial Intelligence, Google now looks more closely at your website’s content. Instead of strictly relying on external tags and descriptions about your content, the Google bot will now read the content on your pages and decide how relevant your site’s information is. This is why it is now impossible to rank well on Google if you don’t have decent content on your website. Although it takes time to write good content, it is the best way to improve your search rankings in 2021.

Are they engaging?

When people land on your website, do they engage and stick around, or do they bounce to another site immediately? Your website visitors want to find content that entices them to learn more and gives them something valuable. This engagement is a good indicator of the quality of your content, and Google will reward you for this.

Links to your site are votes of confidence

The fact is that if a reputable website links to your website, it is a vote of confidence for you and increases the better Google ranks your website. The higher the authority of the referring website is, the more value Google places on the backlinks. The opposite is true for links from less reputable websites or spammers. Having these links pointing to your site can result in lower rankings as Google flags them as suspicious.

Social media presence is a ranking factor

With the explosion of social media, Google now has another information goldmine that they can use in their algorithm. The fact that a business has a social media presence indicates that they are probably actively serving clients.

Keeping up with social media posts on several platforms can be a huge challenge for many small businesses. Social media has been a fantastic channel for some companies to get the news out about their company and products. For others, it has shown no results. Regardless of how your business views social media, at the bare minimum, you should have a profile set up on these platforms with your contact information and links back to your website.

Local ranking factors

Google understands that people looking for a local place to eat only want to see the restaurants close to their location. Google My Business listing is an important (and free) source of information. It provides an excellent opportunity for business owners to basically hand Google relevant information about their business. Besides Google, hundreds (if not thousands) of other directory sites have information about your business. Make sure the information out there is correct and consistent. This information includes your business name, address and phone number.

Reviews are another important piece of the puzzle as more and more people rely on recommendations to get an impression of what it is like to deal with your company. In addition, people tend to trust reviews because they know that the business cannot moderate what is said online.

As you can see, a lot goes into Search Engine Optimization. Thankfully, quality content always wins and the better you understand what your customer is looking for, the more likely they will find your business on search engines.

Want to find out more about SEO and how you can optimize your website? Even more great information is on the Ultimate Guide to Building a Website.

Posted: October 28, 2021