SEO for Dummies, and even those that are not!
When it comes to SEO, everyone assumes that you know everything about it. They throw around all sorts of terms, trying to impress you, but you often feel as if you’re in some other dimension where English isn’t English any more. And you certainly don’t want to seem as if you don’t know what they mean because it might harm your negotiating position. Well, we have decided to clear things up, so here are some of the most important terms you need to know in regards to search engine optimization.
Search Engine Optimization
This is the obvious one to start with. SEO, or search engine optimization, refers to publishing information and marketing it in a way that shows search engines it is relevant to the queries in question. To achieve this, various factors have to be considered, including:
- Keyword research
- SEO copywriting
- Information architecture
- Building links to your site
- Building your brand
- Managing your online reputation
- Viral marketing
So, search engine optimization simply refers to all the measures you need to take to make sure the search engines consider your site or its content relevant for a specific search query.
For example, if you run a plumbing business, you might go to an SEO agency and ask them to help you get your site to the top of Google’s search engine results page whenever someone searches for e.g. “nyc plumber.” The agency would use a variety of strategies and methods to make your site as relevant as possible for that term, which would help in convincing the search bots that your site should be at the top.
If we’re talking about search engine optimization, it’s important to understand that search engines are a tool used to discover relevant information based on various algorithms. These algorithms include:
- Spiders – algorithms designed to crawl or spider through the web looking for pages relevant to the search that was performed;
- Index – represents a collection of information used as a database through which searches are conducted to find an answer to a request made by a user;
- Relevancy – algorithms designed to determine how useful the search results are, based on which search engines rank the pages;
- Search results – these are the pages where the results of the query are displayed, also referred to as SERPs.
So, you can picture a search engine like a librarian that helps you find the right book or document based on your requirements. You tell the librarian what you need, and she will look through the appropriate categories of books and make recommendations based on her knowledge of the materials as well as other people’s opinions of the quality of said books.
A keyword refers to the term or phrase a person enters in the search box when looking for specific information. Keywords are essential to search engine optimization because they are used to improve the chances of your content being considered relevant to search queries entered by your target market.
For example, if you run a pet sitting business in, you want to make sure that your site shows up in the results when people search for a pet sitter. You certainly don’t want your site showing up for someone looking for a pet sitter in e.g. “Portland, Oregon,” or for someone looking to buy a dog. This is where keywords come in as they are used to target your content to the right search queries.
The process of discovering the right keywords to target in your SEO marketing campaign to ensure your site is considered relevant for the appropriate search queries. Keyword research can be done using a variety of methods:
- Using keyword tools, such as Google’s Keyword Planner;
- Analyzing data from your analytics;
- Researching the sites of your competition;
- Paying attention to feedback from your customers and prospects;
- Adding a search box to your site to discover what people want to know;
- Surveying customers to discover how they learned about your business and why they chose you.
So, during the keyword research phase, you are trying to discover the terms people use to search for specific things online.
One of the things they would do is to look for the keywords people use when searching for the services of an e.g. “carpet cleaner” in your city, which they would then develop content around that could be posted on your site to show the search engines that your site is relevant for those keywords, increasing the chances of it showing up in the SERPs.
Information architecture refers to the design, categorization, organization and structure of content in such a way that it is useful and significant to readers and search spiders. Some recommendations for good architecture include:
- Ensuring each page has a specific focus;
- Employing meta descriptions to explain what the content of page is about;
- Writing page titles that are clear and descriptive;
- Breaking up text with subheadings for easy viewing and good structure;
- Showing relationships between pages through inter-linking and with the help of breadcrumb navigation.
A link is when one website references another website. Think of it a bit like reading a non-fiction book that makes mention of another book or article as a reference for some of the information presented.
Search engines use links as part of their algorithm in determining the quality and relevance of a website. Thus, the more links a website has, the more relevant it is considered. Note that links from established, relevant sites are more powerful than links from low quality sites. In other words, if Investopedia.com links to your financial planning website, that link is more valuable than ten links from your daughter’s clothing website that gets ten visitors per month.
Link building is the process via which you obtain links to your website. The goal is to obtain high quality links from quality, relevant sites. This will signal the search engines that you have a quality site that is trustworthy, relevant, and authoritative. A few tips on link building include:
- Focus on creating content with unique value, in other words content that takes a unique approach to a topic;
- Create content that will go viral and make people want to talk about you and link to you;
- Focus on getting quality links naturally;
- Try to get relevant bloggers to mention you on their sites.
Viral marketing refers to any marketing technique that is self-propagating. In other words, an article that goes viral is one that people share because of its value. So, one person shares a link to that article with their friends, who in turn share it with their friends and so on.
Search engine optimization is an expansive field encompassing a wide range of terms, but you don’t have to worry because the terms presented in this article will enable you to understand most of what a we—or any other online marketing agency—is trying to tell you.