SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is becoming increasingly important to website success. In a world where the internet is a staple in everyday lives, competition to be heard and seen online is intense. Moz, a company that started by providing SEO consulting services and moved to supporting all inbound marketing efforts, has a popular ebook on the subject called the “Beginner’s Guide to SEO“.
So what is SEO? Simply put, it’s all about making your website better to receive more visitors from search engines such as Google (and probably only Google…sorry Bing!). Search engines have two main functions, which are called crawling and providing answers. Crawling allows search engines to find paths through links through the use of “spiders”, enabling them to reach documents on the web. As disturbing as the image of a spider crawling around in a web is, it’s definitely an easy (and terrifying) way to remember this function. Link building techniques are important, but it’s also important to not practice over-optimization of link building. Links used to be seen as a vote of confidence for your page, and as soon as everyone figured that it, they began to be abused in order to gain favor in search engine ranking. Now, you can be penalized for such practices. As far as providing answers goes, that’s obviously the whole job of sites like Google. In order to do that search engines determine the best sites to display based off of relevance and popularity. There are many factors that go into determining this, and Google has a fancy algorithm to sort and rank all of it.
Moz has an important saying: “Build for users, not for search engines”. You want to deliver relevant information to your target users, and by doing so, you should organically affect your search engine ranking. What type of search will your target be performing? Do they want to “do” something, like listen to a song? Or are they trying to “know” something, like the name of the song? Or maybe they’re trying to “go” somewhere, like the homepage for the song artist. By determining whether your target user will make a “do”, “know”, or “go” search query helps you guarantee that when they land on your site, they get what they were expecting to.
Here are some example queries I performed with my favorite band, The Head and the Heart
“Do” – I wanted to listen to Josh McBride, and there it is on YouTube, exactly what I needed.
“Know” – I wanted to know who sang Josh McBride and Google provided that information for me, but ignoring that, the next page down gives us some interesting information. It seems Google could have thought I meant who plays Josh McBride the actor, NOT who plays the song…but relevant information if you ignore my lack of specification.
“Go” – I wanted to learn more about The Head and the Heart by going to a site to see them. Their homepage pops right up!
So what makes these websites (or any website) SEO friendly? The first law is having indexible content. This means important content should be in HTML form, as search engine spiders/crawlers can’t see things like Flash or Java. That means you could have really awesome information on your site that’s essentially being IGNORED by crawlers! You also need to provide crawlable link structures, which make it possible for people to navigate to your page. If Google can’t find it, they can’t direct people to it! One of the most important elements, however, is the selection and use of keywords. While it’s important not to abuse them (you don’t want to HURT your search engine ranking) you definitely want to use the specific keywords that people will be looking for when searching for what you offer. It’s important to keep in mind the Long Tail of keyword demand, which shows that while most people would think they need to have the most popular keyword searches, those are actually only in 30% of the searches performed. The other 70% contains keywords that may only be searched 5 times a day. It’s important to not ignore these less used keywords.
There are many more important tips and tricks for good SEO practices, but it will all be for naught if your content is worthless. You must always DEVELOP GREAT CONTENT. Do you want to be an epic fail or have epic content?
Epic FAILS – Good content means non-offensive content. Also, the abuse of hashtags is synonymous to the abuse of keywords. It’s not relevant? Don’t keyword/hashtag it!
Epic CONTENT – Birchbox uses their online magazine to pump out never ending beauty tips and tricks. Not only is their content relevant to anyone searching for beauty products, but it’s actually made according to what its subscribers want. Talk about the ultimate listener!
All in all, Search Engine Optimization, if done right, will get you seen where it matters: the epic first page of Google!