SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and at its core, is all about increasing traffic to your site from search engines. SEO encompasses many aspects of your online presence, including the code and content of your website, your social media accounts, incoming backlinks, and even how your visitors are using and interacting with your site.
If you build it, they will come-Field of Dreams was a lie!
This article will go over the various facets of SEO, and how they affect your overall site’s ranking, traffic, and conversion rates.
On Page SEO
On Page SEO is primarily about two things: The way your site is coded and structured, and the words that your site says.
The way a website is coded will have drastic effects on how well your site performs and ranks in search engines such as Google. A well-coded site will achieve two goals, the latter of which will be discussed in a later section.
A well coded and optimized website makes it easier for search engines to index and understand the site and its content. This is crucial to ranking well and serves as the foundation that all SEO is built upon.
No matter how much money you throw at an SEO campaign, if a search engine like Google can’t properly index your site, or otherwise cannot determine which content is relevant, you will not rank well. This is why properly structuring your pages and content is so important.
Proper Content Structure
Think of each page on your website as a school course and textbook.
If you were to take a class called “Intro to Biology“, the name of that class gives you a pretty good indicator of what you can expect to learn in that class. This is the name/title of your website. Now you get your textbook, and the textbook is called “Biology 101: A beginners guide to highschool biology“. Great; this reaffirms what we can expect to learn in this class and adds some specificity. This would be the name/title of one of your pages.
Now you open up your textbook and see that it’s broken down into chapters, and each chapter is broken down into subsections and headings. Important terms are highlighted in bold or italicized to designate that they are important terms. You get the picture. Your website and each page need to be structured in a similar way.
By properly structuring your content, you are taking away the guesswork that search engines have to do in order to prioritize and categorize your content.
Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words have meaning and matter.– Dylan, Harmonic Design
We live in an amazing world full of machine learning, digital assistants, and wearable smart devices. These devices have become so good at predicting our needs and intentions that it can sometimes feel like they can actually read our minds! But they can’t. The output of any system is limited by the data you input. On a website, the content – the words you write – are the input.
Let’s imagine that you own a music store and sell guitars, offer repairs, and have a dedicated staff of teachers ready to train the next generation of rock stars.
If you want to show up in search results for “Music lessons near me” or “guitar lessons”, then you’ll need to have relevant, quality written and optimized content on your site. If nowhere on your site do you ever mention that you offer lessons, then how is Google supposed to know that you do?
On top of that, offering guitar lessons is something local – IE something that only customers in your city would be interested in. Search engines know where a user is making the search from, and tries to prioritize results from business’ in the same area.
This is why if you are in Toronto and search for “guitar lessons”, Google doesn’t return results for business’ in London. Because of this, it is important that the content of your website also references your location, and that your Google My Business account is properly formatted for local SEO as well.
Off Page SEO
Off Page SEO comes down to determining how popular your website is. Let’s imagine that you are a dentist in Hamilton, and you have a well-coded and optimized site with fantastic and relevant content. The problem is that your competition also has a well designed and coded site with great content. So how do search engines decide on which site ranks higher?
To go back to the highschool analogy well, the answer is popularity.
The idea is that if website A is more popular than website B, then users must prefer something about it more.
Search engines determine a website’s popularity through two methods. The first is how many backlinks a site has, and the second is through user experience metrics.
A backlink is any link from another website, linking back to yours – but not all backlinks are created equally. Here are some of the more important factors that determine the worth of a single backlink.
- Just like with real popularity, a backlink is worth more if it comes from a popular site.
- Backlinks from unrelated sources are not valued very highly.
- Backlinks need to be “dofollow”.
- Backlink anchor text – the text that comprises of the link, needs to be optimized for relevance.
- Backlinks should be surrounded by relevant content.
You could generate tens of thousands of low quality and spammy links, but they would be almost worthless. A single backlink from a high quality, authoritative website in a related industry or niche is the type you want to go after.
The user experience metrics are important because it’s good for your users. The metrics that search engines use to gauge a website’s popularity and success are the same ones that you should be using yourself to gauge your website’s performance. This is why things like the following are so important.
- Bounce rate (percentage of people who leave before interacting with the page)
- Time spent on page
- Pages per session (if users click to check out other pages)
A well designed and coded website with well written and relevant content all improve the user experience, improving the above metrics and your overall search engine rankings.
A well-designed site will lead the user to where they need to go without frustration. A well-designed site will make it as easy as possible for the user to find what they need to find while captivating the eye and encouraging engagement.
A well-coded site will be fast, secure, be cross-device, OS, and browser compatible, and be accessible to all. A slow site will encourage visitors to leave before they even see the content and will absolutely harm your rankings.
Amazon even found that for every 100ms (1/10ths of a second) that it took their site to load, they saw a 1% reduction in sales. For every 500ms that it took Google to generate search results, traffic dropped by 20%. In fact, as of 2018, Google actively penalizes slow websites.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope that you now have a basic understanding of what SEO is and why it is so important for your business. Please feel free to contact us for a free quote, or leave a comment or question below.