What is SEO? We get this question often. This will be a multi-part series on SEO, what is SEO, and what goes into a strong SEO strategy.
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is tuning your website to the generally understood principles of how Google and others index and rank your content through search.
Who is this e-series on “What is SEO” geared towards?
Over the course of the next few weeks, this e-series will teach the basics of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and explain how SEO, in conjunction with User Experience (UX) will greatly improve the way Google indexes and prioritizes your website. Additionally, we will illustrate how a focus on content and copywriting should not be overlooked during the web development/planning stages. If you’re building a new practice or thinking about reworking your strategy to better suit you to find new patients, this series is for you!
What happens if I still don’t get it?
If you’d like tips on how to better optimize your own site, you could order a Website Review. Our reviews are an in-depth analysis of your website, using more than 300 factors important to SEO and Usability functionality. Our Results Report is a clear overview of all the things you are doing well (and should continue to do) and an action plan for how to improve your site.
Chapter 1 – What is SEO at the base level?
Prior to working on optimizing your site, it is paramount that you have a basic understanding of what search engines actually do. Over the course of the e-series, we will often refer to Google, however there are many other search engines like Bing, Yahoo, Duck-Duck-Go and others.
So what does Google do?
Search Engines follow links. They follow links from here to there and all over the web. Google is made up of three parts: a crawler (or spider); an index; and an algorithm. A crawler literally does what it’s name implies. It crawls the web 24/7 and saves the information it finds (HTML versions of a webpage) to a massive database (index). The index is updated each time a webpage changes. Depending on how popular your site is – Google will come back more frequently to check for changes or less frequently.
To initiate the first crawling session, Google has to be alerted in one of two ways. Either from a link on a site the search engine already knows and indexes or from a manual request into their database.
So now that we have a rough outline of how Google does it, let’s take a look other metrics Google uses.
Google Double, Super Secret Sauce (or Algorithm)
Google and others have specific mathematical equations to decide which pages and sites are shown in a particular order. As the title implies, there isn’t one person (outside of Mountain View, CA) that knows for sure all the variables contained within the formula. It’s pretty much like Coca-Cola’s recipe or KFC. But something different from Coke and KFC is that Google changes their formula with regularity. So even if someone were to know the exact formula, in a short timeframe, that information could be obsolete. So wait, no one knows this top secret formula? Well then how do you have SEO consultants? Testing and experimenting over a long period of time give us a relatively good sense for the important factors. But let’s digest one important factor right out of the box – links. Links give Google a KPI of a site quickly.
Internal and external links help Google in ranking a website. Internal links come from within your own website. For example, if you are a dentist; you should have a landing page, a meet the doctor page and service pages. On the first two pages you may link to content buried a little deeper into the site – this would be an example of an internal link. External links are just the opposite. They come from other sites and point at your content. But some links are more important than others. If you have links coming inbound from spammy sites or other weak sites, this could potentially hurt your rankings. Conversely, if you have links coming from strong URLs, you will see a benefit. (more on Link Building later in Week 2)
Onto the SERP (search engine results page)
A SERP shows roughly 10 links to sites and pages which match your search term the best. When we talk about organic search results, this is exactly what we are discussing. If you move onto the second page of results and beyond, more results are displayed which are considered organic. Organic meaning that Google found your site through crawling, indexed it based on your content and keywords (more about Keyword Planning Monday), evaluated your site’s popularity, and examined your relevance on the topic.
Above the first 10 blue links on page 1 of the SERP are two or three paid (inorganic) links. These links are ads. In other words – they bought their way to the top. But caution is needed, as prices for these ads vary widely. Google bases prices on competitiveness of the search term, number of people searching for the keyword or phrase and more. Similar ads (usually for lower cost) also appear on the right side of your SERP.
Today’s Conclusion – What is SEO?
So you want a high ranking in organic search results? Awesome! SEO is a profession that optimizes sites to make them appear higher in SERPs. In order to do that, SEO attempts to fit your site into Google’s algorithm. Wait! Wasn’t that a secret? Well yes, but after 10+ years in SEO, we’ve fashioned a pretty good idea about the most consistent factors. So simply, there are two categories that we investigate:
On-Page SEO Factors
There are many on-page factors that help Google rank your site. From technical factors like quality of coding to non-technical factors like site structure, text used, words used, and heading tags. During our lessons, we will learn more about the text related issues.
Off-Page SEO Factors
Off-page factors include link building and others. We will cover link building later on in the series, but for an in-depth analysis of off-page factors, it’s best to work individually on a site-by-site basis.