You’ve got a great video and it’s going viral across all the social media channels, with likes and comments streaming in.
Now, what happens when your viewers go to check out your website and yours isn’t the one that pops up at the top of the search engine results page?
You’ve failed to translate those views, and likes, and comments into actual users of your website. Or even worse, they don’t find any relevant, interesting content, or get lost navigating the pages. You’ve made a classic mistake-- focusing on social media to spread the word at the expense of basic SEO elements that can grow your business. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, gets your website seen and indexed by the most popular search engines so that your website comes up in their search engine results page (SERP). This helps your customers find you in the first place.
Social media, links and paid searches are all important, but if you aren’t spending your time on the architecture and infrastructure of strong SEO, then they’re just icing on a crumbling, unsatisfying cake. SEO is the missing ingredient, and understanding it means you can focus on what makes your company successful on the internet. At Appyness, our process starts with the basic elements of a strong SEO strategy, and we build from there.
One part of the process involves increasing a website’s ranking on search engines because the top results on an SERP get the most traffic, with the first link generating 33% of the traffic share, according to a study done by Chikita, an online advertising network. After that, the traffic slows dramatically. The second most popular link gets just half the same amount of traffic as the most popular, at 18%, and the fourth drops down to 8%. So one of the most crucial elements of a strong SEO is understanding what drives searches and what leads to getting that number one ranking.
Keywords are integral to this process, and therefore we need to make sure we’re using them effectively. MOZ Metrics defines keywords as “ideas and topics that define what your content is about” in their article, What Are Keywords?. This solid, simple definition helps us see how keywords relate to search engine algorithms, but also why they’re so important. Keywords are the connection between what you offer and what your potential customers are looking for. The keywords you choose will drive users to you, but it’s vital to keep in mind that this works best when we consider the audience as well as the website. You need to target the keywords your customers are actually using so that you aren’t missing connections.
The types of keywords you choose can differ as well-- “head keywords” are broad, one word terms and “long-tail keywords” are phrases of several words that are more specific. The head keywords might seem easier and more attractive, but long-tail keywords are more competitive for smaller companies. For instance, the broad search for “clothes” will result in millions of websites that might bury your company’s. But, narrowing the search terms, like “local vintage clothes” will make the SERP manageable, allowing smaller companies to shine through.
An “organic search” is the results lists of websites that are closest matches to the user’s search query. “Paid searches” are the advertisements of website owners who have paid to be linked to certain keywords and show up on the results page when these keywords are searched. In general, these links appear at the top of a SERP, and can be identified by the different formatting. 94% of website traffic comes from organic searches versus paid searches, but for shoppers paid advertisements might be more relevant, so it’s good to consider both and understand how they each play a part in driving traffic to your website. As of April 2017 Net Market Share found that over two-thirds of users rely on Google’s search engine algorithms to get results to their questions. That means, it’s important to figure out what makes a site popular with the Google crawlers that find and index sites.
Because keywords play such an important role in a page’s SEO rankings, it’s necessary to understand how they get used on the actual website. There are two ways to approach keyword usage. The first is on page keyword placement, which counts for 15% of Google’s algorithms when ranking, according to MOZ Media and their “Visual Guide to Keyword Targeting and On Page SEO”. This includes everything from the URL to the headline to the actual body text on the website.
First, keywords in titles: Using targeted keywords in prime spots of the title and start of the title tag or element is necessary as it helps the search engines weigh the relevance of a website, and also impacts a user’s likeliness to click on a link. For instance, if the targeted keywords include “best” “chocolate” and “cake,” then these should be located as early as possible in a page title. Users who see titles like: “Best Chocolate Cake in Under Twenty Minutes” are more likely to click because of the prominent placement of the keywords they’re searching, versus a page title like: “Twenty Minutes to Bake the Best Vanilla and Chocolate Cakes”. Along with this, the headline on the article page (often referred to as H1) should match the title listing on the results page to help reassure users the website’s content is relevant to their search. Matching the H1 with the search results page is also associated with higher rankings from the search engine.
In addition to prominent keyword placement in the title, the keywords should be reflected in the URL. URLs are copied and pasted throughout social media, and having keywords in the text of the URL lets a reader see a quick snapshot of the content they’re about to click on. Keywords in a URL also directly help with search engine results because it shows relevancy immediately. A quick warning though, user experience (UX) is important to consider, and a long string of keywords is clunky and hard to read, so opt for shorter, focused keywords in a URL.
Once a user is on a page, keywords play an important part in the unique content and value offered. This is what separates a page from other pages with the same targeted keywords. This drives social shares, linking and higher rankings from search engines. Therefore, because content is so tied up with the UX of a page, the use of keywords should feel natural, rather than being stuffed into a page, making a reader feel as though a specific word or phrase is being over-promoted. Not only will this turn off potential customers, but it can result in penalties and negative associations with the search engine algorithm.
Off Page SEO relates to all of the promotional methods to get higher rankings beyond strong website design. This might include link building and social media marketing. As the internet evolves there have been major shifts in link building, which involves websites and users linking to content on other sites, adding authority and increasing rankings as well as user awareness. Reliablesoft.net explains in their article, “What is Off Page SEO?” how these references from other sites help Google’s algorithm sort important websites on a scale from 0-10, and higher rankings give higher exposure. For instance, popular news media outlets will be ranked as more authoritative and therefore given more weight in search results than a small, personal blog. There are many techniques to link building that focus on strengthening a website’s reliability, authority and popularity, but the main factor in best link building practices remains quality over quantity. If a website’s articles are full of link worthy content, then more readers will share them over social media, or in posts, connecting back to the original material, and boosting that website’s presence on the SERP and in the reader’s lives. Social Media Marketing (SMM) is rapidly gaining ground as another factor in rankings, and functions in a similar way to link building because it relies on users sharing content across their social media platforms.
SEO is a way to increase the visibility of a website, and promote content to users eager for entertainment or solutions to problems. The techniques and terms might seem complicated, but it all comes down to producing great products that can be enjoyed and shared across the internet. Strong SEO strategies help build the foundation for all of the user experience that goes into a great website.
And, because mobile searches now outnumber the searches done from a desktop, according to Search Insights, part of Google’s algorithm considers the user experience (often referred to as UX). So, cross device compatibility, attractiveness and ease of navigation on a phone will weigh more heavily with Google than websites who haven’t paid attention to the UX.