7 Things You Need to Know About SEO

Before we get started here is how I define Search Engine Optimization: SEO (a.k.a. search engine optimization) is the process involved in increasing the opportunities for content to be found by people using search engines' "organic" (non-paid) listings. (Want another definition? Check out Wikipedia's page about SEO.)

7 Things You Need to Know About SEO

When you perform a search on Google you will see both paid advertising and "organic listings" on search results pages. The paid advertising usually sits at the top and right-hand side of search result pages. The links and descriptions below and to the left of these ads are what is referred to as "organic" search results. Everything I have written below is speaking to increasing visibility on search engines for these organic listings.

Let's get to our list of 7 things you need to know about SEO.

SEO: Content is King1. Content Is King! (?)

So what is content? Content is text. Content is imagery. Content is videos. Content is sound. Content is stuff that can be indexed by search engines. This whole Interweb thing is gamed around content. When people say content is king they are implying that content is the ruler of the online world and the SEO game.

Google loves content. If people perceive Google as their chosen source for appropriate, relevant content Google wins. When you use Google they serve you ads and they make BILLIONS from said advertising. It's pretty much the same thing with Bing, Facebook, LinkedIn and other online channels.

Does this make "content" king? Many people say yes. Others argue no. I don't care if "content" is the "king" or the "queen" or "bishop" or "rook." All you need to know is that content on the web is darn important!

Often great content drives lots of traffic. Sometimes it doesn't. But overall, the quality of the content you create is going to affect its visibility on search engine result pages.

Remember, this Internet thing is gamed around content. If you want to get results with organic search start thinking of yourself being a PUBLISHER of relevant, quality, engaging content routinely. Think blogs, event calendars, social media posts, video channels and so on.

SEO: Page Layout Is Important2. Page Layout is Important

When you create content if you do it by Google's "rules" it's usually going to increase your chances of getting found.

Engaging in keyword research to determine what people are searching for can be very effective. Creating content that people are already searching for is an effective SEO tactic.

Following Google's recommendations on-page layout is also going to help.

Do you know what a META title tag is? How about a META description or an H1 tag? Do you know how to select linking anchor text? If you don't know what these terms means start by checking out this post on on-page search engine optimization.

Bottom line? When developing content do it in a way that helps Google determine what your content is. There are very specific guidelines here and if you follow these you increase your chances of your content being seen.

SEO: Link Profiles Matter3. Link Profiles Matter

A huge part of Google's search algorithm (the "formula" for determining search engine results) is based upon Google reviewing how websites and other online content links to one another.

The effectiveness of this linking depends on the quantity and quality of links as Google defines them. Generally if Google perceives that links to your site are coming from "authoritative" and "relevant" sources, that is a very good thing. In this case, Google regards a link like a vote for your website's content.

If you own a hotel website and get a positive review and a link from the New York Times Travel section writer that's a very good thing. That's a strong vote!

If you get a link from a couple planning their wedding on one of those wedding planning sites and they link to your hotel, that's a good thing. Probably not quite as good as a link from the NYTimes but still pretty good.

If I have links coming from spammy websites (think casino or dodgy pharmaceutical websites) that's usually a very bad thing. If you paid to get links from websites, that's almost always a very bad thing.

You get the idea, right?

I often use the analogy of an aquarium when it comes to explaining the power of online links. Imagine that you've filled the tank with six inches of water. Raising the water level is akin to improving your opportunities of getting ranked well on search engines.

A link from the New York Times might be like adding several concrete blocks into the aquarium. The water level would rise pretty decently here.

The link from the wedding site might be like adding a brick into the aquarium. That's good!

A link from a website that Google or Bing regard as spammy or dodgy won't help and might even be akin to breaking the glass of the aquarium. Not good!

How do you get these links? Once upon a time you could trade or swap links or buy them. That's not going to work now!

The  best way to acquire links is to EARN THEM! And that brings us back to point 1.

Great content, which may be defined as content that attracts and engages an audience, usually increases your opportunities of getting links from other websites, social media channels, etc. 

Acquiring links in any way that Google, Bing, etc regard as "manipulative" will likely prevent you from ranking well and even get you into big trouble! That's why many people regard "content as king" when it comes to optimizing your website for achieving the best search engine rankings.

SEO: Online Performance4. Online Performance is Vital

All the major search engines, and especially Google, monitor your website's performance in regards to search engine visibility.

So your site needs to load fast. The quality of the web server that hosts your website can have a significant impact here. The quality of the coding on your website impacts this too. And the optimization of images can also be a HUGE factor in site and page load times. So you need to pay attention to factors like these.

Your website also needs to address other user experience factors. Is your website optimized for mobile devices? Is your website "responsive"? Or do you have a dedicated mobile website or app?

If your website doesn't provide a positive experience for users accessing it on a variety of devices (e.g. smartphones or tablets) or platforms this will negatively impact your content's ability to be served up by search engines.

SEO: Social Media & Advertising5. Social Media (and even Advertising) Matters

So what does social media and paid advertising have to do with SEO? It's important.

Search engines monitor social media activity to help them determine what online content is important, relevant and appropriate to be served up in search engine results.

Did you know that Google is in a "relationship" with Twitter? And Bing and Facebook have been "dating" for a while. So being active in social media can be a very effective SEO strategy too! It helps Google determine what content is popular by the level of engagement. And it can drive traffic to your content. Google monitors this too.

It's often reported that paid advertising can have a positive impact on click-through rates in organic search engine results. How? Visualize this. You rank second or third for a keyword  or phrase search in Google.

Reports indicate that if you have a paid ad above or next to your organic listing the chance that your organic link is clicked increases. In this case having ads that you aren't paying for (because the ads aren't getting clicked) is helping your search engine ranking effectiveness. Nice!

SEO: Content Is Only Half the Work6. Developing Content is Only ½ the Work

So you have created great content?  You've rocked your on-page optimization and your content loads really quickly. Time to put your feet up and light up a cigar? Sorry friend. That's a very good start. But you've got more work to do!

The unfortunate thing most people don't realize is that that's only part of the SEO process. A good rule of thumb is to spend at least as much time promoting and marketing your content as it took to create this content in the first place.

So let's say you have just published a blog post. Now is the time to promote it via your Facebook page, your Twitter profile, Google+ (although that might be kind of "going away"), LinkedIn, etc. Depending on the content and your target markets it might be worthwhile to post to your active Reddit account and Tumblr profile. Often the type of content and the people you are trying to reach determines the best channels to promote your content. Match your content marketing and promotional efforts to the content and who you want to reach.

You need to "amplify" this content. Developing relationships with the "influencers" online is an important part of this strategy.

Can you get others to help promote your content? Wow! Suddenly things like "relationship building" and "viral marketing", public relations activities, etc  take on a whole new meaning in the world of SEO.

Don't ignore this guideline… take at least as much time promoting your content as you did developing it. And continually work on developing relationships with people who can have a positive impact on promoting or "amplifying" this content! That can include media, popular social media users or members of your target markets.

SEO: Google Penalties Are Bad7. Google Penalties Suck!

If you do things that search engines don't like you can get into trouble. Google can be especially harsh for people not "acting by their rules." You have probably heard of Google penalties such as Google Penguin and Google Panda. Cute names. But bad times for people who own websites if you get penalized!

Being ignorant of what can get you banned or penalized by Google isn't going to help. You need to know what to do for effective SEO. You should also know what you should not be doing. Think paying for links… or copying other people's content… Not good!

Trust me. We've worked with clients who came to us after they got smacked down with Google bans or penalties. Getting back in search results can be a daunting and expensive exercise. Bans and penalties can literally take down a business.

8. BONUS: SEO is Not "Free"

Don't think that "organic" listings are "free." You typically need to invest time and resources to achieve positive results with organic search engine listings. Often this time and resources can be significant.

What To Do Next?

7 Important Things You NEED to Know About #SEO! #SearchEngineOptimization

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Learn about SEO. If you can't or don't want to DIY, consider hiring a qualified, experienced consultant or company to help advise you of and/or implement SEO activities. And be sure to engage in "sustainable" SEO practices which help your online content get found and engaged with.

Questions or Comments?

So did I miss anything? Do you have any questions about SEO? Feel free to leave comments or questions below!

Roy McClean
Mar 26, 2015
By Roy McClean

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