An Introduction to Search Engine Optimization
What Is SEO?
What is SEO? Search engine optimization or SEO refers to designing a website, social media profile or content posted to the web so that it rank well with a search engine. How search engines determine the ranking of a website has changed with each Google update, and search engine optimization methods have had to change to keep up.
How Search Engines Determine SEO Today
Search engine optimization used to be defined by how well content online matched the search query. If your website had the greatest density of the user’s key search term, that was what rated highest on the search engine results page. However, that is what SEO used to be.
Today’s search engines have advanced artificial intelligences behind them that try to determine the user’s intent and then present the best content to answer the question the AI thinks the user is asking. Direct search term density isn’t completely gone. For example, your content is ranked based on how well it matches a direct query, such as the full question someone asks as part of a voice search. This is why frequently asked questions sections are popping up on product directories and company websites, to capture the natural language queries and rank better with search engines that associate someone’s short search query with those full length questions.
Search engines use signals like how long someone stays on the page as a measure of how well the content matches the user’s intent. If someone bounces off the website quickly because it is slow to load or has annoying popups, your website’s design inadvertently hurts its SEO. Your website’s design can actually hurt your search engine optimization when it takes so long to load that people bounce off the site in a matter of seconds; this is read by the search engine as a poor match even if the content was otherwise ideal.
Search engines use other information like repetition of location information across many sites, social media signals, high authority backlinks and consistent branding to determine the quality and reliability of a site and its content.
Links and SEO
Search engines still use your website’s link profile as a measure of its quality, but the quality of the links is more important than the quantity. Search engine optimization increasingly relies on social media signals, giving extra weight to links shared by people via social media because that is harder to automate than link spam. A high volume of links on sites search engines give low authority or trust scores will flow back to your site and lower its ranking with search engines. This means a few links back to your website on high credibility news sites, verified social media profiles and major sites like WebMD or Wikipedia are worth more than thousands of spammy links across many different link directories.
The greatest challenge many websites face is determining their trust factor with search engines, since Google no longer gives a straight numeric answer for this. Instead, they have to rely on values like the MozTrust score by third party groups to know how reputable search engines consider their site.
Social Media and SEO
Social media signals like likes and votes up are taken into account by search engines, though they are not the strongest signals. Social media outreach or SMO thus impacts your SEO, and you should share your company’s newest content in order to improve its SEO. And you need to apply SEO to your company’s social media accounts so that they rank high on search engine results pages for your company. In this regard, social media accounts are a type of content that you can quickly create and optimize to increase your company and brand’s presence on the internet.
Brands and SEO
Search engines are now using brand recognition as a rival to keyword density for SEO. This means your content needs to reference your company name or brand name along with the key search terms. Search engines give extra weight to a brand when it is consistent across many different channels, so your company needs to not only be present on social media but use the same brand names, company names and ideally user names.
A growing niche in SEO is local SEO. Local SEO or local search engine optimization is the optimization of content for location based search results. Local SEO requires location based key terms in content on your website and using a standardized name, address and phone number for your company across your website.
Search engines reward businesses that have the same location information across many different business directories. Conversely, variations like Mario’s Pizza and Marios Pizza and Suite B and Ste. B hurt your business’ rankings in local SEO because search engines are confused as to the correct address. If you have more than one location, give each location its own number or designation so that search engines recognize each location as its own entity. Always place the link to your business on each business directory entry to generate a constant stream of traffic and gain a high authority backlink.
Don’t neglect the need for local SEO on the average business’ website. Use the standard name, address and phone number format you used for your business directory entries. This ensures that search engines know where you are located and show it properly on a map. They give extra weight to sites that have many different location references to the same address, contact information and business category. Location based references to your company’s content also improve local SEO. Don’t go too broad by saying you service an entire metropolitan area and all its suburbs, listing each neighborhood and suburb out by name, on the same page that shares your main address. Instead, give your company’s address and then state you offer X services to city Y and its suburbs.