SEO - Information about Search Engine Optimization

Even though I am a web designer and not an SEO company, I'm often asked, "What is the most important thing to have for good organic search results?" The answer is.... PATIENCE!
 


First, let me be clear that I am a designer and not an SEO company. But even though SEO is not a primary business service of mine, there are many aspects of search engine optimization that are involved with the content and structure of your website. The part of SEO that is related to your website is often referred to as "on-page" SEO. I do try to study up and stay current with these aspects of SEO. Keep in mind as you read through this article, that SEO is a very fluid thing and Google is changing things constantly. What you read today may be outdated in a few months so come back here often as we will undoubtably have to update this article as things change.

SEO is not only affected by your website, but there are many other things outside of your website and outside of my control that can affect where you rank in a search engine result. I'll try to cover those in this article as well.

Here is the part where you get some fresh coffee, a few snacks, take your shoes off, and relax while you read a while.

SEO involves so many different things that it can be easy to develop misperceptions. I'll address some of these as we go along, but one of the most common misperceptions has to do with how people judge how their site is ranking in Google search results. 

People often say something like "I'm ranking on the second page". I then ask, "How did you come to that conclusion?" They typically reply "I just went to google and searched."

There are three things to know here.

#1 - Using your regular browser is not an accurate way to determine rank.

When you use your browser in the regular mode, your own browser history can be factored in to the results that Google returns. So if you often visit your own site, that can result in a placement that would be different that someone else would see in their browser. 

There are analytics tools specifically developed to display how you may rank, but these can be complicated to use and understand the information. To use your browser to get a feel for where you are at, you need to be in "incognito" mode. For instance, if you use Chrome, you would go to menu and choose File -  New Incognito Window. This browser window will ignore your browser history in search results. There are still factors that might still make these results different than what others might see, but it will be a lot closer than using the regular browser mode.
 

#2 - Ranking can be different for each search word or phrase that someone might use.

People often think that they have one specific place where their website ranks in the organic search results. The fact is, each phrase or word that someone would use in a search could bring you up in a different position in the results. So testing rank requires using a list of different words and phrases and seeing the result of each one. (We will talk more about keywords later in this article.)

#3 - Search results tend to be localized.

In most situations, the IP address of where you have internet access gives Google general information about your location. This information is used by Google in determining what results are returned in a search. Google wants to give users not only the best, but the closest place for someone to find a product or service. So if you search using the same words and phrases in one location, you may get different results in the top positions in the next town over.

The three main locations within search results.

In simple terms, the three most common locations
that your site can appear within a search result page are:

Paid, Local Listings (maps), and Organic

Paid

This is the quickest way to have your site show up in a Google search page. For a new site that is trying to gain traction and has not yet plowed their way to the first page of the organic results, the paid ad area is the way to go.
 
But it is important to note that even though you are paying to have a chance to appear in this area of the page, to perform well in the search results, your sites content still needs to be formatted and written with Google indexing and keywords in mind.
 
To have your site appear in the paid area of the search page, you or your digital marketing person will need to set up an ad at Google Adwords. There you will step through the process of creating a short, text only ad. You will also be able to set your daily or monthly budget. This will determine how often per day your site may appear. You can also set a target market for the ad based on location, type of service, etc. Along with that you will select among suggested keyword phrases that you might want to appear for. Select these carefully as to not just waste money appearing to those who are not neccessarily interest in what you have to offer. Although I am a designer and not a digital marketing person, I can help in referring you to someone who can help you with this if needed.

Local Listings (maps)

If your business targets those in your local area, you are missing exposure to potential business if you do not take the steps needed to appear for free in this area. It is a simple process that should only take an hour or two to set up. In fact, part of it may already be set up by Google, you would just need to add more details to the information and check the accuracy of what is already there. 
 
The first step is to go to mybusiness.google.com. Then search for your business. If you find it, claim it as your business. You need to be logged into google first to do this. If you do not find it, just follow the steps to add your business. In either case, it will likely walk you through a verification process that might involve getting a card in the mail with a code to confirm. While you wait on that, if needed, you can start adding all the details about your business. Be sure to add as much information as you can and use keywords (phrases) that someone might use to search for your type of business. But use them sparingly and naturally. Over-using a keyword, also referred to as keyword stuffing, will cause Google to deducts points in your rank worthyness. Also, be sure to add photos to your profile. This will also add your business to google maps and place a marker on maps for your business when people are viewing Google maps for your area.
 
As Google search results can be localized, having your business set up with google will in turn help you to appear in the organic search results as well.

organic

This is what most people are referring to when they talk about ranking. It is the ultimate goal to rank high here and therefore it is the most involved and difficult to acheive.
 
Ranking well in the organic area requires work in two main areas. First the "on-page" SEO which is the writing and formatting of the content of your website along with the process of submitting a site index to google. Secondly are all the factors outside of the website itself that can effect how google views whether people would be interested in seeing your site or not. Next I'll brake down the basic info for these to areas.

On-page Factors for good SEO

Keywords in paragraph text
Good on-page SEO has more to do with the writing than anything else. And the use of keywords in your text is the most important factor when writing for good SEO.
 
First of all, let's define what we mean by keyword. Think of all the things you may type into a Google search to find the kind of business that your website is about. Those are your keywords. Also, keep in mind that it is actually more than just single words, but now more than ever people search with phrases. And many times the phrase will include a location. For example, "Nashville headshot photographer". 
 
You may have heard before that you should put all of your keywords in the "keyword tag" within the head code of a website. This is now an outdated method as Google now ignores the keyword tag. Due to people stuffing this tag with a lot of irrelevant words, this method became a very inaccurate way for Google to determine who would benefit from seeing a paticular website.
 
Google is constantly making their algorithms more intelligent and now keyword matches are determined from the actual text content of the website.
 
OK, then we should just stuff our text content full of keywords. That will work, right? NOPE! The intelligence of Google's system can detect the stuffing of keywords in content and now they deduct points from your ranking score for it.
 
The "key" to using keywords (pun intended) in your text content is to ask yourself, "Does this sound like a natural way of speaking?" If it doesn't sound natural to you, it will not do well with Google.
 
The first step to writing your content is to make a list of keywords and phrases that are relevant to your business. Then interject those words throughout in a natural way that you would speak in a conversation.
 
Keywords in title (heading) text
Throughout the text of a webpage you should have titles (headings) at the begining of a body of text referring to what the follow text is about. Within the code (or website text editor) we give these titles or headings a tag. They will be H1, H2, H3, and so on. These go in order of importance to what the entire page and individual text areas are about. There is only one H1 per page but there can be multiple H2 and so on. These tagged titles give Google context for what the page is about and who might benefit from seeing this page in a search result.
 
For example if someone has a photography business and they have a page within their website that is dedicated to just headshot photography, then the heading titles through their text may look like this.... 

(H1)  Headshot Photography
Then followed by some introduction about headshot services. This H1 tagged title tells Google what the main topic of the page is.
 
(H2) Headshot Photography Pricing
Followed by text related to just that topic. 
 
(H2) How to Prepare for Your Headshot Session
Followed by text related to just that topic. 
 
(H3) What Is Included in a Headshot Package?
Followed by text related to just that topic.
 
Using tagged titles gives Google a much better understanding of what your content is about and what search phrases would be a good match for displaying your site in a search result.
 
This also is a good example of the fact that it's really not about where your web"site" ranks, but about how the individual pages of your site are ranking. As each page covers a different topic, it will have it's own search terms that it can get matched to. But among all of your pages, the home page will be the most important one for text that provides with the main information about your business. A beautiful home page design will often have to give in to function over form when it comes to good SEO.
 
Keywords in your domain name
This is often the most overlooked and one of the most important areas for keyword placement. If you do not already have your domain name, please consider this.
 
For instance, if you are in the construction business and your business is named The Robb Smith Company. The domain name of therobbsmithcompany.com tells google nothing about what your business does. But if you choose a domain name of robbsmithhomebuilders.com or robbsmithcustomhomes.com then you are far better off. Also, if you have a competitor with the name of nashvillehomeconstruction.com and your domain is therobbsmithcompany.com, don't be surprised if they always rank higher than you in search results when people are putting "nashville home builder" in a Google search.
 
A mobile responsive website is not only a good thing... IT'S REQUIRED!
Google now deducts points when a website is not mobile responsive. In fact Google now gives preference to sites that have a "mobile first" design. Meaning sites that give their mobile view priority over the design of the desktop view.
 
What does mobile responsive mean? 
It simply means that a single website build adapts and rescales content based on the screen size of the device it is being viewed on. In the early days of mobile websites, a separate site had to be built for the mobile screen size. Now with a wide gamut of screen sizes out there, we have the ability to build a single website that works across them all! 
 
FRESH CONTENT!
You can build up good SEO and if google sees the same content on your site a year (or even months) later with no changes, your SEO rank can begin to drop. Anywhere you can have an area where the text can change to new information occasionally willl help to maintain good SEO. 
 
One of the most effective ways to do this is with a blog. A blog may not be fitting for every type of site, but if there is a way that it would be a good tool to have on your site, then it will give readers a reason to come back and will give searchers a good reason to see your site in search results.
 
 

Factors outside of your website that effect your seo 

There are many factors that are outside the control of your website (and web designer) that effect how Google determines which searches your site should show up in and where in the order of the pages. We'll cover a few of those here.
 
Social Media Interaction. 
How much traffic comes to your site from social media matters go Google. In fact anything that brings traffic to your site outside of Google matters to Google. This is because Google wants to provide searchers with quality content that is relevant to what they are searching for. When traffic comes to your site from social media, it tells Google that people are interested in seeing your website and that it should rank higher in search results that are related to the keywords that it has pulled from the content of each of your website pages.
 
Keep in mind, that especially with Facebook, things are constantly changing in how visible Facebook business page post are in the social media feeds. A Social Media Marketing person will up to speed with the latest developments and can give you much more information about how to leverage your social media platforms for building your SEO and bringing more traffic to your website.
 
Direct Traffic
This comes more from non-digital, traditional forms of advertising. This is where someone sees your website address in some form of advertising or hears about it from someone and then they just type it in their browser address bar. Just as with Social Media traffic, it tells Google that people are interested in seeing your website and that it should rank higher in search results that are related to the keywords that it has pulled from the content of each of your website pages.
 
This especially helpful when you have a new website and have yet to become established in the eyes of Google. I refer to it as "priming the pump". The more direct traffic you can produce from outside of Google, the more it encourages Google to join in and start to show your site in search results. 
 
At first the results may not be high ranking on page one, but as I've said earlier, the most important thing to have for good organic search results is patience.
 
Backlinks 
This is simply where other websites have links to yours. This is huge in establishing credibility with Google. There are some important considers with this.
  • For the links to be helpful for your SEO, the site they are on needs to be a well ranking website itself. If it has not established credibility with Google, then there is no credibitliy to be earned from the link.
  • The sites with links to yours need to be related to the same industry or type of business that you are in.
  • The links need to be used. If the links are not clicked on, that doesn't really tell Google that people are interested in viewing your site.

How do you get backlinks? There could be many different ways but many times it involves the manual work of making contact with industry related sites that have link pages and seeing how you can get on the list. 

One of the biggest sources of backlinks are blogs. If you find an industry related site that has a blog, then offer to write a helpful post for the blog that their users would find interesting. From that blog there could be links to your site.

Other sources of backlinks are community sites such as a Chamber of Commerce or some type of industry association. 

This sounds like a lot of work, right? That is where an SEO specialist comes in to help. If you don't know of one, we can help refer you to someone to take the load off.


Congratulations! You made it to the end of all that reading! Just know that it may seem like a lot, but it is only a summary of the basics of SEO. Just think about how much an actual SEO expert could tell you! If you need more info than what you have read here, let us know and we can refer you to an SEO specialist.