SEO SEO SEO
Where to begin with a topic such as this one? SEO is such a crucial aspect of digital marketing that has so many components, it is difficult to decide where the focus should be. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and is defined as, “the process of getting traffic from ‘free,’ ‘organic,’ ‘editorial,’ or ‘natural’ search results on search engines.” Essentially, as marketers of a firm, you want your site to land higher on the search results page so that you can get more site views from visitors. However in order to do that, marketers/developers have to make sure an organizations website has the “proper ingredients” that search engine “algorithms” look for, or as Moz likes to call them “rank factors.” Moz describes the process of SEO as this: “When a person performs an online search, the search engine scours its corpus of billons of documents and does two things: first, it returns only those results that are relevant or useful to the searchers query; second, it ranks those results according to the popularity of the websites serving the information. It is both relevance and popularity that the process of SEO is meant to influence.”
For those that are unfamiliar with SEO, Moz offers a great beginners guide that explains the ins and outs of SEO. However, for this post I want to focus on 2 prominent principles of Search Engine Optimization: Why it’s important and some basic best practices that need to be followed in order to employ the technique successfully.
Why is SEO Important?
It goes without saying that when an organization creates a webpage, JPG, PNG, PDF, etc. they want it to be highly visible amongst their target market (or the population in general that might be searching something related to their organization). However, if organizations do not acknowledge SEO and the “ingredients” that go into the algorithm, they will not be able to achieve this high visibility amongst their various pages. Moz puts it best when they say, “An important aspect of SEO is making your website easy for both users and search engine robots to understand. Although search engines have become increasingly sophisticated, they still can’t see and understand a web page the same way a human can. SEO helps the engines figure out what each page is about, and how it may be useful to others.” This statement by Moz brings up a good point that captures a key importance for organizations to keep in mind when creating a webpage; search engines being able to understand the webpage. Most marketers and web developers keep users in the for-front of their mind when designing web pages. While this is a good practice, it is also important to keep “ranking factors” in mind and create the page in such a way that will allow these “search engine robots” to understand the page and what it offers to visitors. This is not to say that webpages should be designed primarily with the tactics of SEO, however the concepts should be kept in mind by organizations in order to ensure higher visibility. If organizations choose to forgo factors that search engine algorithms looks for such as titles, keywords, and links, the sites will not be perceived as relevant and thus will not rank as highly on the results page.
- “Indexable Content”: The very first recommendation that Moz makes in “designing and developing a search engine friendly site” is to ensure that “the most important content is in HTML text format,” the reason for this being that other forms such as flash files and images are “often ignored or devalued by search engine crawlers.” This is an important practice for organizations and their developers/designers to keep in mind because it explains the basic formatting that content should be presented in, in order to ensure that the “crawlers” acknowledge the content. Frankly, it does not matter how relevant the content the organization produces is, if the crawlers ignore the content completely. While it is okay to utilize those other text formats, organizations will want to ensure that their most important content is in HTML text format.
- Keywords: Including keywords that define the industry you operate in and what your organization does is a crucial aspect of search engine optimization. Moz states, “The entire science of information retrieval is based on keywords. As the engines crawl and index the contents of pages around the web, they keep track of those pages in keyword-based indexes rather than storing 25 billion web pages all in one database.” Moz then goes on to state, “obviously, if you want your page to have a chance of ranking in the search results for ‘dog,’ it is wise to make sure the word ‘dog’ is part of the crawlable content of your document.” Essentially, Moz is breaking down the idea of “crawling” and that pages are organized based on keywords; thus if your page is lacking a critical keyword it will not even be included in the indexed web pages that the “robots” draw from when putting together search results for a query. This is an absolutely fundamental aspect of SEO for organizations to be aware of because web pages will not even pop up in search results if they don’t contain the relevant keywords of the users search query. Taking the example that Moz gave, if you want your page to show up when dogs are being searched, your page better include the keyword dog somewhere inside of it. Taking this information into account, organizations can benefit by ensuring they have a comprehensive understanding of what their consumers are searching when they search for items related to their industry. They will then want to ensure those keywords are included in their webpages.
- Avoid Duplicate Pages: Moz describes duplicate content as one of the most “vexing and troublesome problems any website can face” and search engines respond to duplicate versions of content by “assigning them lower rankings.” Basically, when there is multiple versions available of the same content, for whatever reason, the search engine does not know which version should be presented in search results and will only show one version of the content to searchers based on which version is “most likely to be the original.” The problem then becomes, maybe the page they select is not the one that organizations want to show up in search results. As Moz puts it “Which diamond is the right one?” In order to avoid this confusion and ensure the correct pages are showing up in search results, Moz suggests that every page have a unique URL, or the pages be combined. “When multiple pages with the potential to rank well are combined into a single page, they not only stop competing with each other, but also create a stronger relevancy and popularity signal overall.” Organizations can benefit from this information by keeping it in mind when creating multiple versions of the same page; assign different URL’s or combine the pages so that you are in charge of what the “right page” is and not the search engine.
We cannot discuss SEO without discussing a very important “ingredient” that contributes greatly to the rank a web page receives: the amount and quality of links that point towards that particular web page/site. Link building is defined by Moz as, “the process of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites to your own.” In other words, the main question the search engine algorithm is asking itself is how many other sites/pages point to your site/page and what are the “quality” levels of those sites that are hyperlinking to your page. Keeping that in mind, link building is then the process through which you can get more sites/pages to hyperlink to your page, thus increasing the rankings of your page. As a general rule, Moz says that “the more high-quality websites that link to you, the more likely you are to rank well in search results.” That being said, a very important thing for organizations, and SEO’s that concentrate on link building, to keep in mind is the quality aspect. Yes the crawlers are looking for how many sites are pointing to a page, but they are also assessing the credibility of the source that is pointing to the page. If a collection of faulty sources are linking to an organizations page, chances are that page will not be seen as credible.
The next question you might be asking yourself is why is link building a prominent job of SEO’s and why does the amount and quality of hyperlinks to your page effect its ranking? Moz offers a very simple comparison when they say that a link is a “vote of confidence” for a page and when someone “links to another website, they are effectively saying it is a good resource.” For those that are still confused, this is how I think about it: The search engine robots are frequently trying to assess the quality and relevance of a webpage. In the minds of the algorithm, if another page is linking to your page they are giving your page credibility and proving that it is a good source. Taking that point into consideration, it is clear why building these hyperlinks to your site is a crucial “ingredient” to SEO; because it is vital to have those votes of credibility/acknowledgment from other pages. Moz says that building “high quality links” takes up a good portion of SEO’s time and that it can really create separation from competitors if it is done successfully.
Now the question becomes, how do you build/get these hyperlinks to your page? The Moz ebook on link building offers several principles/tactics for doing this, but also notes that an organizations strategy depends greatly on the industry that they are in. This is a crucial component of link building for organizations to keep in mind; just because a tactic is successful for one organization does not necessarily mean it will work for another. The following are a few strategies, of many, that an organization could employ to build links:
- Guest Blogging: This tactic essentially involves asking bloggers/blogs to post an organizations content on their blog. While this strategy will benefit organizations by creating “high quality links,” Moz cautions about using this tactic too heavily.
- “Ego Bait”: this strategy for building links presented by Moz, is an idea that I found quite entertaining simply because it works by appealing to the ego of others. The strategy essentially involves “playing on the ego of people” by “featuring” people in your content and they will then feel prompted to share said content. While this seems like an interesting and odd tactic, it is a link building strategy that organizations can benefit from because it could potentially generate these “high quality” hyperlinks that organizations are searching for, by simply appealing to the ego of important persons.
Overall, organizations will benefit from employing link building tactics because it will create “votes” of credibility and acknowledgment from other pages; these votes will then boost an organizations ranking on search results because the search engine robots will view the page as a good “resource” that would be relevant to searchers.
While Moz used to be a company that focused specifically on the various aspects SEO, they have now moved away from that narrow industry and serve a broader purpose via their support of inbound marketing in general. MOZ offers two software products that support branding, social, analytics, link building, content marketing efforts etc. When Moz was founded, they were known as SEOMoz because they primarily focused on Search Engine Optimization and consulting in that area. However, Moz is no longer a consulting company; that being said, they still offer consulting recommendations.