Over the past month, we’ve taken a close look at Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and how you can use it to improve your website’s performance. But how exactly does it work? We sat down with our resident SEO expert Joe for some insight on how to take advantage of Google’s crawling capabilities and prepare your website for longevity.
Q: We know that using certain keywords can help your website appear higher in search results, but how does Google know to look for these words and display your page first?
A: Google’s algorithms parse content from a holistic perspective. They index every word on your website based on thousands and thousands of criteria, but from a high-level, Google is looking at which words are being used frequently, commonly linked, and used in high-visibility positions (like an H1 heading).
In essence, Google attempts to parallel how people use websites. If a certain range or set of related words and concepts is being frequently used on a page and is being consistently linked to from other internal pages and external sites, that’s solid evidence that the page is likely a good source of content for those keywords. The more Google is assured of this, the more likely your search position will be strong.
Q: What is the real benefit of having blogs live on your site?
A: Like any other form of content, the SEO value blogs can have will depend on execution and positioning. I believe the biggest benefit of blogs is that they offer a consistent opportunity to diversify the content on a website, with little impact on the navigation and content hierarchy.
Blogs enable site owners to feature content that can be otherwise independent of the site navigation. Blogs also allow site owners to publish content that may otherwise be too niche to present on the main menu, too broad to push into one corner of the site, or too seasonal to keep around permanently. The transience of blogs let content exist for the sake of content, rather than website politics. That freedom translates to a diverse range of content, and it’s often the case that popular blog posts are not necessarily ones that communicate product features or service offerings, but those that articulate a peripheral topic of interest.
Without blogs, websites lack dynamism and diversity. Blogs help expand the reach of a website’s overall audience, and Google’s search algorithms will take that into account.
Q: What are the top five mistakes people usually make that cause poor search results?
- Losing the forest for the trees: People can fall into a black hole trying to identify every single small factor in SEO, but ROI is best maximized by tackling the major coefficients of the search algorithm – valuable content and a logical content hierarchy
- Not optimizing meta titles and descriptions: Most people see these as throwaway tasks, but at the end of the day, a site’s meta titles and descriptions are major factors in determining clickthrough rate at the search engine results page.
- Internal linking: Google’s crawlers are increasingly being programmed to replicate how humans approach and use a website. Internal links are more important than ever to guide crawlers and demonstrate what content focuses certain pages have.
- Overstuffed keyword lists: The more keywords a website tries to optimize for, the less the website will actually be optimized for any of those keywords. Aim for a lean keyword list that is regularly reviewed and re-optimized for.
- Content density: Aim to have at least 200 words for any page considered desirable for search. Anything less, and the search algorithms won’t have enough physical text to parse for scoring.
Q: Do I have to use paid search to improve SEO? What are your top three suggestions for improving SEO organically?
A: Paid search is a bonus because it can be used to “crowd” the search engine results page, giving your brand a feeling of authority, but it in no way directly affects your SEO. Top suggestions for improving SEO through organic means include:
- Researching and writing about relevant, popular content topics that people are interested in learning about.
- Developing content about topics not covered by our competitors.
- Identifying local geographical opportunities for optimization.
Q: How often do I need to update my website to keep my position in search?
A: It depends on the nature of the industry that the website operates within. A mature manufacturing industry may simply not have new topics of interest week-to-week, while a growing or dynamic industry, like electric vehicles, may necessitate daily updates to stay relevant and up-to-date.
Q: What are some tools that I can use to learn more about my website and its SEO performance?
A: Google Search Console is a completely free service provided by Google that uses Google’s own data to help site stakeholders benchmark keyword performance. More importantly, it provides data on visibility versus clickthrough, helping identify what keywords are underperforming despite their high position. All site owners should at the very least check it on occasion – the data there is incredibly valuable in understanding the nature of a website’s organic traffic before and after they arrive on the site.
SEO is not something that can be done overnight. It takes time to strategically plan and develop relevant content. Digital agencies that specialize in SEO like Bluetext can help improve your site both for the short-term and for the long-haul.