Search engine optimization (or SEO) is a phrase used to describe the creation of content in such a way that search engines can easily find a website or specific page easily. This marketing endeavor is accomplished using several different tactics.
- Keywords – which are the short phrases your target audience might use, like “digital marketing company,” “website design services in Florida,” or “turnkey marketing”
- Meta title – headline of 70 or fewer characters
- Meta description – page/website description under 160 characters
- URL – short, preferably with relevant keywords incorporated
- Photograph Alt Tags – keywords and short description associated with graphics used
- External links – links to outside sources you use, or your links used on other websites
- Internal links – Helps Google build a more accurate image of your website
Many professionals and business owners question why it takes so long for their SEO efforts to prove fruitful. Other marketing efforts – such as paid advertising – can show significant results in a short period. Why not search engine optimization or organic traffic marketing?
The only way to fully understand the reason behind this is to learn how Google (the primary search engine used around the world) does what it does. Continue reading below to find out about Google indexing, crawling, and PageRank.
Google Index – The World’s Largest Website Library
Google uses crawls (explained below) to find new pages, as well as obtain a good idea of what is on those pages. Once it has done this, Google then incorporates the new website and its different pages into an indexing along with millions of other sites. When someone searches for a keyword your webpage targeted it pulls up the results most relevant to that keyword and somewhere in that listing will be your website.
Website Crawlers – Digital Bots, Not Bugs
We told you that Google crawls in the paragraph above, but we don’t mean it literally. Instead, “crawling” a website is accomplished using digital bots.
Although it’s a little more complicated, the bots essentially scan websites which already exist inside of Google’s index. If they discover a new external link (i.e. one which has not been indexed) then they follow that link, so they can add that site to the index.
It’s a constant process, with bots regularly scanning existing web pages so they can find new links to scan, which are then added to the index, so they can scan those for new links. It’s very circulative.
The Google Search Process – Broken Down by Steps
So how does the Google search process really work? We now understand some of the delay in SEO (remember the bots) but how do you end up in search engine ranking pages (SERPs)? Let’s break down the search process step by step for a clearer understanding.
- Someone types a query into the Google search bar.
- Google uses its algorithm (called “PageRank”) to decide which relevant pages will show up highest in SERPs. This includes your site, which could rank on any page for any targeted keywords.
- The prospective reader browses the page and clicks on the most relevant one. This is almost always a result from the first page and is rarely (if ever) a result from beyond the fifth page.
But wait… what is Google PageRank and how does it choose which websites are worthy of the highest positions?
Google PageRank – What We Know
The problem with this formula is that it’s top secret. We do know a lot of the items that help websites or content rank, but nobody knows for certain which are the most important. A few of these items, for example, include:
- How new and well-written your website content is
- How often content is updated
- How many websites are linked to yours
- How many website visitors you’ve already had
- How well your meta title, article headliners, and URLs fit the search query
Another thing we know is that It is this system which is responsible for how long good SEO takes. Not only do web pages need to be crawled so they can be indexed, but PageRank then has to determine where it should fall on SERPs.
Since traffic and backlinks play a crucial role in this determination you can expect a slow, steady rise to the top versus an overnight first-page ranking.
Tips for SEO Success
You may not be able to improve your website traffic overnight but by focusing on other items affecting your ranking you can slowly start bringing people to your website. This, in turn, will gradually increase your traffic ranking which, once again, will bring more visitors to your website. It’s another cycle in the way SEO works.
Below we discuss some of the things to ensure if you want to have the most success in your search engine optimization efforts.
- Ensure website content is grammatically correct and error-free. It should be clear, concise, and optimized for readability. This includes using short sentences, short paragraphs, bullets, numbered lists, and headers.
- Ensure keywords are included in your article’s header, metadata, and used once or twice throughout your article. Don’t overdo keywords usage, because then it could get flagged as spam by Google.
- Use the right keywords. Do your research and see which the correct ones for your specific niche and company are.
- Make metadata (titles, descriptions, alt tags, etc.) obvious, relevant, and keyword-dense.
- Share content on social media platforms to bring in more traffic.
- Consider writing guests blogs on other sites to build backlinks.
- Constantly update your website to stay relevant.
- If you update a URL always redirect your old ones so anyone who has bookmarked the page does not receive a broken link or 404 error when trying to visit again.
- Routinely check Google’s guidelines to see if there have been updates and, if there have been, what the updates targeted. A recent update to Google’s guidelines can be found here.
- Remember to keep your target audience and/or buyer personas in mind with everything you do. All SEO efforts rely heavily on what those potential customers are searching for. If you don’t know the answer to that, your efforts have no direction.
While it can be aggravating when SEO takes more time than you’d hoped, know that if you stick to the best practices detailed above you will soon find great success in your efforts.