What is Search Engine Optimization? SEO Explained

As an SEO specialist, I get these questions and variations of them every time we tell someone what I do for a living:

  • “What is SEO?”
  • “So…how do you get websites to the top of Google?”
  • “What’s actually involved in your job?”
  • “What do you do all day?”

These are legitimate questions. I may be speaking for myself (but I don’t think I am), but as a search engine optimization specialist, it can be hard to keep track of everything I do for search engine optimization (as well as content marketing and web design). There are so many facets to SEO it can be tough to explain: Which is why I usually spend far too long explaining my job whenever someone asks me what I do. In today’s blog post, I’m going to shed some light on what search engine optimization really is, and how we help small businesses grow and succeed.

An Overview of SEO from
an SEO Specialist’s Perspective

When it comes to SEO, there are a few foundational concepts that need to be in place. These are the pillars of good search engine optimization:

Pillar One: Site Structure

Site structure is important for a good search engine optimization foundation for a couple main reasons:

Crawl-ability: Before it can be indexed and ranked, a Google bot must crawl your site. A purposeful, simple site structure will make crawling easier. Another bonus? A clean site structure may result in getting those super cool links below your search result – it’s not something you can request – it’s simply the result of an organized website structure. Check out this great article from Kissmetrics on the importance of site structure for SEO.

Usability: No one likes to visit a confusing site. We’ve all experienced visiting a website, only to go back to search results quickly due to confusion or lack of direction. This affects SEO in multiple ways: When you create a clean, simple-to-navigate website, people are much more likely to stay and read your content, share your posts, and come back for future visits. Not only is this great for your traffic and business, it has an effect on rank and SEO: Google takes note if visitors aren’t staying on a website long (this is called bounce rate). This directly affects ranking.

Pillar Two: Content

Content is king. SEO got a bad name because for a time, content wasn’t king. The rankings could be gamed and tricked. Now, content truly is king. It’s much harder to game the system, because coming up with good content can’t be faked. Here are a few reasons content rules the SEO world of today:

Content Builds Authority: When you research and create excellent content for your niche, it establishes you as an authority. This builds trust and influence with readers and customers.

Content Garners Shares: When people like your content, they link to it and share (which directly benefits rankings). This organic approach to SEO is much more genuine, and will help you build a strong foundation.

Freshness: Google has acknowledged that the “freshness” of posts is a ranking signal. According to them, it means: “…the latest news and information. This includes gathering timely results when you’re researching specific dates.” Keeping your site up-to-date not only can boost your rankings, it will illustrate to your customers that your site is current.

Link Building Opportunities: Creating excellent content allows for link building opportunities, both internally and externally. When you create useful content, other people are much more likely to share it – increasing traffic and authority for your site. And, as you write blog posts, you can link them together – which is great for creating a good site structure.

Long-Tail Keywords: When you write blog posts about your area of expertise that include related keywords and long-tail keywords, you’re catering to a completely different (but valuable) audience. Long tail keywords are keywords that are three to four words in length, and are very specific to the product or service you are providing. Well-known internet marketer Neil Patel says that focusing on long-tail keywords has increased visits to his site by 91%!

Pillar Three: Link Building

The link-building of the past is dead. Using shady, blackhat techniques will get even the most well-established sites de-indexed. Link building used to consist of including a link in comments across the internet, placing links in forums, or other ways of scamming the search engines. Now, link building must be extremely above-board.

Organic Links: The best links are organic – as in, they weren’t obtained by asking another website to post it, or by posting it yourself. Instead, they are gained by simply writing great content that someone else finds useful, and therefore links to. There is an overwhelming amount of information on the web, however, so getting links organically can be a difficult task.

Broken Links: There is a plethora of information online, and people have been churning out the content for years. Many articles, blogs and websites were written years ago, but still provide useful information. These articles link to useful information, but the websites they link to no longer exist. These are broken links. You can identify these links, create the resource on your own site, and email the author of the site with the broken link, suggesting your newly created resource as an alternative. Obviously, this is a lot of work, but obtaining quality links is a must for SEO.

Offline Link Building: This type of link building gets you out of the office. It requires dedication on the part of the business owner, but it pays dividends in the long run. To get offline links, a business must participate in real-world events, such as sponsoring a 5k, holding a fundraiser, or promoting an event. Many organizations have websites where they list sponsors, which will garner you a link.

Outreach Links: This type of link building requires you to make connections with fellow bloggers that will encourage the exchange of links. Since there can be penalties for too much link building, this requires a lot of insight into which sites you should try to obtain a link from.

Manual Link Building: To create these links, you need to write excellent content that is related to the industry you are linking to. Then, you need to find a place to post this content. Places like Tumblr, Blogspot and WordPress are great options. The more content, the better, so creating an entire website around your link will obtain better results.

Three Pillars: The Foundation of SEO

These three pillars: Great website structure, good content, and link building, form the foundation for excellent SEO. But, they are just the start. There are countless layers that build upward from this starting point. These layers include (but most definitely aren’t limited to):

Social Media Marketing: Social media plays an important role in SEO. While the direct correlation between social shares and likes aren’t a direct ranking signal, they are responsible for bringing more people to your site, which does affect where you stand in the search results. A good SEO understand the role social media plays in search engine optimization, and uses it to their advantage.

PPC Advertising: Pay-per-click advertising can play an important role in your online marketing. And, it must integrate well with your site and other content. A good SEO understands this, and works to include a PPC strategy into the overall plan for the site.

Conversion Optimization: A site can be well-built, filled with great content, and ranking well in search results, but if it isn’t turning visitors into customers, it is failing its purpose. Much of what encourages people to purchase or follow-through on your site is due to the right optimization. Placing call-to-actions on each page, and studying where people navigate on your site will lead to changes that will increase conversions.

Image Optimization: Images play an important role in SEO. As you know, Google has an entire search engine devoted to images. Images offer excellent on-page keyword opportunities (which help ranking), but also keep visitors engaged and on your site for longer periods of time (which reduces the bounce rate we talked about earlier).

On-Page Optimization: Many people don’t know how important on-page optimization is for their website’s success. If you have great content on the home page of your website, but your keyword is only on there a couple times, search engines won’t rank you correctly. Optimizing the keywords, meta description, and title have a big effect on SEO.

Our Jobs as SEO’s: Create the Web

As you can see, within each of these pillars there are a myriad of tasks. All these things encompass the basis what we do as SEO specialists. And, believe it or not, we haven’t even covered all of what we do here at 4theWeb. Because the internet is limitless, our job descriptions aren’t set. We do everything from content writing, reputation management, app development, Google Places optimization, keyword research, social media branding, logo design, and the list goes on. Keep visiting our blog to learn more about SEO, marketing and design, and you’ll see just how many different tasks we take on as SEO’s!

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