SEO: How it works and how to make it work for you
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and refers to those actions which are geared toward boosting content (websites, blog posts) with an eye to getting said content ranked by search engines (Google being the 800-pound gorilla).
What that means for your business:
Whether you are blogging for cash directly, or are trying to promote a website for your pre-existing business, the actions to take are pretty well the same. Where to begin? Well, let’s start by understanding the first major distinction for types of SEO. There are two general categories: on-page and off-page SEO.
On-page SEO means the things you do directly to your site/blog to increase its overall likability by search engines. What are the things that search engines like to see in a blog and/or website? Well the speed at which your website loads is a biggie. Go ahead and check your site speed with this tool.
Keywords and Keyphrases:
Another important factor is how well you employ keywords and keyphrases. The former are things like “house” or “painting,” the latter is like “house painting” or “interior painting.”
To give an example, let’s say you do have a painting business, there is little mystery as to why especially the combination of the words “house” and “painting” together creates a more achievable path to SEO success.
This is especially the case when one adds a locality to a keyword search such as “house painting Orlando Florida.” After all, “house” all by its lonesome could generate a swath of websites talking about houses in a real estate sense. “Painting” could invoke all sorts of search results, e.g. painting in the fine art sense.
Aside from having appropriately placed keywords/keyphrases in the body of one’s blog posts and web pages, there is another way to incorporate keywords/keyphrases.
Another technique is to weave them into the URL’s of your blog post. If you are using WordPress, this is an easy thing to do, and I show how to add seo-friendly words into your blog URL’s in this post. Placing your keywords/keyphrases in the various headings is also effective.
Importance of Images to SEO:
There are some other opportunities to employ good SEO which has to do with your use of images. From just a readability and engagement standpoint it is a great idea to include images in your blog posts.
That said, each image you include provides a way to include SEO-boosting words/phrases. This is done by (a) by adding a title and (b) adding what is called the alt-attribute of your image. This may sound technical, but it’s really simple. This video from WPBeginner is from 2014 but is perfectly relevant today:
Now let us talk about things one can do to boost visibility of your site by things you set up from other pages/websites/blogs aside from the one you are boosting. These activities are what we mean when we say off-page SEO:
- Links to your site/blog (internal and external)
- Non-link-related references to your brand and/or website
- Anchor text
All three of these might seem jargon-y and technical-sounding but don’t be intimidated, they are fairly straightforward.
This is a fraught topic because the role that links play has changed over time. There are two main types of links I am discussing here: internal and external links.
At it’s most basic, external links refer to how sites aside from yours link to different pages and posts on your site. As for internal links, it may be a counterintuitive, but the links one has on one’s own site even plays an SEO role. These are what are referred to as “internal links.”
By way of illustration, I could make a link to Uber-cool Nerd’s post about small business blogging, and this would be appreciated by the Google Machine.
The people at Yoast wrote a very useful post about how internal links help your SEO, making the general point that this practice makes some pages/posts on your site more valuable than others. It’s easy and just plain smart to make internal links work for you.
The subject of external links is the trickier area. This is because of two inter-related reasons: (1) the role played by links to your site has evolved over time and (2) link quality.
As for the first reason, at one time you would benefit from links of nearly any sort. Over time this has been changed: now your site benefits from links from high quality sites. There are many factors which go into determining the value of a site and so we’ll name some of those here.
Firstly, the question of relevancy. Simply, this means that the link to your site comes from a site from a genuinely similar subject as yours. One method Google uses to determine this involves what is termed “anchor text.”
Anchor text is simply the text which appears on a site which refers to an external length. An example from above is where I include a link to the Yoast blog post. The anchor text for that link is “how internal links help your SEO.”
Next, popularity of the linking page holds higher SEO value. Quite simply, how many visits does that site receive? Another consideration is trustworthiness of the referring site. Is there a lot of genuine content on the site? Is their content shared with frequency? The company Moz has a good post about how trustworthiness can affect your SEO.
Perhaps the best and least technical way to frame all this is: SEO is the art of making an authoritative website, the content of which gets lots of shares, which has language crafted to fit your subject, and is linked by other quality sites in the same field of interest.