When most of us think about SEO demystified, we have a list questions. We want to know who’s behind the curtain at Google stirring ingredients into a big black cauldron. In my mind, there’s a couple of reasons why this is the case.
First off, it has a crazy long and confusing name. Search Engine Optimization sounds like something you’d do on a sunny afternoon in the park, right? Of course not. It sounds like something you want to hand off to an intern and check back in… never. SEO isn’t easy or as fun as your favorite leisure activity, but it does pay off. It can pay in amazing dividends when it’s done right.
SEO is mystical and confusing to almost everyone on the planet. If you’re among them, know that this makes you human. You know you’ve found something difficult to learn when most website designers don’t even offer it as a service. Most web designers know how to make functional and pretty websites for your organization. Knowing how to make that website work to get found in the search engines takes a special kind of wizardry.
SEO isn’t impossible to learn, but that doesn’t by any means make it easy. If you’re willing to stick with us through this article, we’ll pop the hood and show you around.
It’s possible to boil SEO down into two distinct but related elements. We’re going to start with how they’re different, and we’ll tie it together in the end with how they complement each other.
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When you boil it all down, the search engines really only have 1 job. They exist to determine how relevant a website page is for any given search result. If you stop and think, it’s overwhelming the massive amount of information that is available on the Internet. The search engines have programs that exist solely to read the entire internet about once a week. That means that any given week your website can rank higher or lower against the entirety of the Internet. It’s both an awesome opportunity and a frightening prospect that you can both rank and be overtaken in any given week.
The search engines aren’t easily fooled, and writing content just for the search engines is an effort in futility. Your “content” (the words, pictures, graphics and other media that make up your web pages) needs to be written for human beings. You don’t forget the search engines when writing pages, but they’re not the primary audience for your content. The game of ranking through SEO is all about creating content that people will like, read and share. If you get that part right, you’re well on your way to ranking for the search terms that define your business.
If you create great content that people like, read and share, gaining links is made that much easier for your website. The whole point of gaining links is to get other human beings to share your content with the people they influence.
Let’s look at an example. If you’re writing a page about Real Estate and you want to get other people to share it, how would you write the page? Would people searching for Real Estate be more likely to share a page about a recent house that you listed or a page where you write 12 tips on how to prep your home for sale to get the highest selling price? This is where knowing your audience is absolutely key. In order to get your audience to share your content (thus giving you valuable links) they first have to like and read it.
The online landscape is full of helpful content for just this reason. Small business owners, entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies are all vying for your attention and linking power. The idea is that if your content is good enough, it should gain links from others just for being really great content.
You may have heard that links aren’t as powerful as they used to be. This is true, but absolutely don’t count out the power of linking. Linking is still a vital SEO strategy in ranking high on the search engines. Hackers and other unsavory types decided that they would scheme together and sell links to sites across the Internet. This is what we in the industry call a “black hat” SEO method. A “white hat” method is what Google and the other engines prefer we engage in, and they have “black hat” police out searching the Internet for this type of SEO. Black hat methods will usually help your website rank higher faster, but the inevitable penalty you will incur when Google catches you is never worth the short term gain.
The goal is simply this, great content wil gain links. Not so great content will usually sit there and not accomplish much for your website. The more you help others with your amazing content, the more they will help you in return by liking, reading and sharing your content with others.
Once you’ve written the text for any webpage, article or content on your website, the task left is to organize it in such a way that the search engines can crawl through it and rank you. This involves much of what we believe to be the magic of SEO practices. Great SEO agencies will edit your on-page elements such as titles, sub-headings, alt tags, meta descriptions and reading score. There are many aspects of optimizing a page for SEO, and finding a great SEO agency is paramount to success.
An SEO agency worth its pay will help you navigate which search terms your company should target. There’s one important fact that I want you to remember here. Not all search terms are created equal. There is a difficulty level for any given search term on the internet. Some are extremely difficult to rank for based on what is already available on the internet for that given term. If the term that you want to rank for already has the top 10 positions taken by Fortune 100 companies, you need to look for other ways people are searching for the same term. If you’re a small business and you want to outrank a company with a Million dollar SEO budget, know that it could take many years and months of constant effort.
It’s extremely tempting to start any page content with all of the SEO strategies already at front of mind, but this is dangerous. Remember that you’re writing this content specifically for humans to consume. Writing for the search engines usually means that you’re not composing content in a way that appeals to people, and that’s dangerous. If people won’t consume and share your content, you are facing an uphill SEO battle.
We’ve outlined above the foundation of a solid SEO strategy. If you’re wanting to drive online traffic, your strategy must include a combination of the elements above. Believe it or not, the results are really up to you. If you write good enough content that people find helpful, they will share it and you’ll climb the charts.
At Fusion Creative, we help companies just like yours get found online everyday.
David Gafford is the CEO of Fusion Creative, a company that provides world-class website design and SEO services. He spends most of his day coaching business owners in marketing strategy and specializes in Digital Marketing.