You built a website because that’s what you do to attract customers in the 21st century. You might have even hired someone to build it for you.
All that time and money and you wake up every morning to zero traffic. It’s as if you threw your money into a black hole.
And then you stumble upon this strange concept. Search engine optimization. Optimizing your webpage so searchers can easily find it.
You don’t dare to hope, but maybe it’s worth a shot? Maybe it will bring you traffic and ultimately sales? But you’re afraid to invest more money.
Well, we’re here to tell you that SEO is more than just a shot in the dark.
SEO might seem complicated. It’s not. If you know the basics and you’ll understand how to reel in customers through search.
How does SEO work? Let’s take a look.
What Exactly is SEO and Is It Different From SEM?
51% of all search traffic comes from organic search. And only 10% from paid search.
What does it all mean?
Google makes most of their money from ads. One portion of these ads is “paid search.”
When you type something into Google, you might notice an entry at the top of the page labeled “Ad.” These are the cheater results. Someone paid to get that link there.
Paid search is one arm of search engine marketing or SEM. But it’s not SEO even if you would use similar research tools for your paid search marketing.
SEO is The Other Arm of SEM
Think of SEM as an overarching marketing strategy geared toward getting traffic through search that includes SEO and ads.
SEO is all about organic search. Organic search is all the other results below the paid spot on a major search engine.
These are the results Google filters according to their internal rules. In the SEO world, we call these rules the “algorithms.” If you hear about an “algorithm update,” we’re talking about the sometimes large changes Google makes to their internal ranking software.
SEO used to be all about keywords. Google ranked websites by how many keywords or particular search strings showed up on a webpage.
Once webmasters figured this out, they began hacking this ranking rule by “stuffing” keywords into their pages. In response, Google began refining their search engine and tweaking the backend to minimize spam.
SEO is the “science” of ranking on Google and other search engines. Often, SEO gurus work backwards from data collected after Google changes their algorithms.
Sound complicated still? Let’s break it down further.
How Does SEO Work? The Three Pillars of SEO
A search engine is like a librarian. It catalogs information from around the web and directs you to the best of what it thinks you want.
The biggest difference is, it doesn’t shush you when you’re being too loud.
Search engines assign a value to the content it gives you. This value is called authority.
Authority is The First Pillar of SEO
How does Google determine authority? Google uses hundreds of factors to determine authority, but the two you need to worry about are content and links.
You’ll hear the term “On Page SEO.” This refers to the tweaking you do to your site to make it favorable to Google and other search engines.
One major part of On-Page SEO is content. Google recently implemented machine learning. It can now understand the context of keywords and understand user intent.
The all-powerful Google bot makes connections between user intent and keyword context. It’s gotten so good at “reading” content, it looks at structure and language to tell if the content truly addresses a topic.
It also looks at links back to a particular entry. This is off page SEO.
This is why we still focus some on getting sites to link back a page. If an already high authority site links back to your content, Google will look favorably on your content.
Essentially, when someone links back to your content, they’re voting for it. The more powerful the site, the more their vote is worth.
Relevance is The Second Pillar of SEO
People searching in other niches won’t suddenly be interested in your product. This isn’t like pay-per-click. SEO is about targeting and relevance.
Doing otherwise won’t fool the Google gods for long. And besides, if someone who is searching for bread knives finds a page for healing crystals, they’re not going to say, “hey, that’s what I was ‘really’ searching for!”
Relevance isn’t just about content. Links back to your content should be relevant as well.
If you’re selling healing crystals, your blog should garner links from astrology sites, Wiccan advice blogs, etc. If Google sees a bunch of links from muscle car blogs, it’s going to either ignore it or tank your rankings.
Lastly, the anchor texts other sites use to link to your site need to be relevant. Anchor texts are the words that appear highlighted as a link in the content.
Anchor texts help Google know what content that link goes back to. Also, if a reader sees a link to “healing crystals,” they’re expecting a website about healing crystals and not an insurance company.
Google looks at these elements to help users avoid spam. They want to know that if a user clicks on content, they’ll avoid spam at all levels.
Trust is the Third Pillar of SEO
Google TrustRank is the overarching term for how Google measures a site’s “trust signals.”
Trust in SEO is like trust in real life. When you go to the doctor, you see certificates of education on the wall, you hear or read reviews, and you experience their bedside manner.
Similarly, in SEO, what you disclose about your privacy practices/affiliates, what other sites link to you, and how users experience your site all affect your TrustRank.
We’ve already covered backlinks, but what about disclosures? If you’re an affiliate and you’re getting money through links, Google will “trust” you more if you’re up front with your users. Include a page about your affiliate relationship.
Lastly, bounce rate affects trust. If users spend more time on your site, that’s a good thing. And Google notices.
SEO is a Time Sink
How does SEO work? It involves many working parts. This makes it seem more complicated than it is.
The problem with SEO is time. It takes research and constant monitoring.
You’re busy. We get that. Why not contact Labrador Designs and offload your SEO concerns to us? We’ll get you that traffic you crave and help you make some serious money.