If you run any kind of business in the modern world, then you can’t afford to ignore SEO. SEO, or “search engine optimization,” is the process that helps your business move up the ranks on the results pages of search engines such as Google and Bing. Without proper SEO, you’ll lose ground — and customers — to the competition.
But how does SEO really work? What should you look for in a good SEO strategy? Here’s what you need to know.
Links, links, links
When search engines got their start, they needed a way to find all of these web pages and index them. Without an index, how could a search engine find results?
The answer came in the form of search engine “spiders.” These programs would scan the website code and process it. The spiders would find other websites by following links on those sites. The same links would help a search engine determine the importance of a site. Generally speaking, the more links, the more important the site is.
A lot has changed since the late 1990s and early 2000s, but links are still a vital part of how search engines work — and, therefore, a vital part of SEO strategies.
Authority and equity
So if one link to your site is good, then more must be better, right?
Well, actually, that was the case for a while — at least as far as anyone knew. You may remember that websites in the 1990s sometimes had long lists of other websites linked on their homepages. “Link-swapping” was, back then, a great way to make sure that your page was indexed; and because Google’s algorithm valued links, it also helped move your site up the rankings.
Of course, Google figured out that this wasn’t the best way to do things. That’s why it now matters (or matters far more) who links to you. The best link building services understand that the authority or “link equity” of a given site is a huge factor in link-building SEO — and that links from lousy sites can actually hurt your SEO ranking, especially if Google feels you’ve been gaming its system.
Text and keywords
So far we’ve talked about how search engines decide how authoritative or important websites are. But how does a search engine decide what subject or subjects a site is good or authoritative on?
Generally, it does so by using text. The text in the body of your website, the text in the links that go to it, and even the text in the captions of images matters to search engines. You want your site to match up well with “keywords,” which are important words that users query (and which you want your site to rank for). Nailing the text means getting the right “keyword density,” which is an ever-changing and complicated thing (keeping up is especially tough because Google’s ever-changing algorithm is top secret).
Metadata and HTML tricks
It’s not just the text in paragraphs or photo captions that matters to search engines. There’s also the text inside your site’s code, from the file names of images to the title of your HTML page.
And then there are the things that the HTML code does. You can get search engines to ignore certain links, for instance, or add metadata for search engines to read. All of this matters in SEO.
Your role in SEO
We just covered many things that go into a great SEO strategy. And this list is by no means as exhaustive or as specific as it would need to be as a guide for your own do-it-yourself SEO strategy.
Instead, what we recommend is that you invest in quality digital marketing and SEO services from a reliable third party. Unless you have a ton of extra time and expertise, outsourcing SEO is the clear best path for owners of businesses that aren’t tech giants like Amazon. Turn to a team that knows SEO and promises a strategy that will cover the important services above, and get back to doing what your business does best.