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What is SEO?

Man using Google search on a laptop.
Photo by Benjamin Dada on Unsplash

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the term given to the methods and techniques you can use to make your website rank higher in search results.

The higher your page ranks, the more organic, or free, traffic you get. You could buy paid ads to appear at the top, but this isn’t nearly as effective as organic results. An estimated 70 to 80 percent of searchers ignore paid ads.

There are multiples search engines, but Google reigns supreme. In January 2019, 79.07% of searches worldwide took place on Google. The next largest search engine was the Chinese search engine Baidu with 12.61%.

Given Google’s outsized influence on the market, it makes sense to pay attention to how it’s algorithms work, and what you can do to rank higher.

SEOs have identified hundreds of signals and thousands of sub-signals that are relevant. Google has also weighed in and regularly updates its algorithms, meaning that SEO is a constantly moving target.

This can make it difficult to set a strategy, especially if you are just starting out. Here are a few of the things you need to know as you begin to optimize your site.

SEO Basics

Quality of Traffic Matters

Users clicking on your site and immediately returning to the search results can have a negative effect on your rank. This is also referred to as “bounce rate” or “pogo-sticking.”

There are several reasons occurs. One is that users come to your site but don’t find what they were looking for. Knowing your target keywords and building out contextual, supporting content can prevent this from happening.

To do this, write blog posts that are relevant to your business, take advantage of long-tail keywords, and provide useful information to readers.

Tip: Avoid being deceptive to capitalize on high volume search terms that are not related to what your business does or sells.

Sites Need to be User-Friendly

Another way to reduce or eliminate pogo-sticking is to have a well-designed site. It should be easy to navigate on all devices, including desktops, tablets, and mobile phones.

Having a site optimized for mobile is essential. This is why many people advise having a mobile-first mentality as you design your site. In 2018, over half of all internet traffic came from mobile devices. The percentage of mobile web traffic has steadily grown over the past decade and is expected to continue to rise.

Slick design isn’t enough though. You also need it to be fast. According to Google’s data, 53 percent of users will leave a mobile site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.

Tip: You can check your page speed using this the PageSpeed Insights tool from Google.

Technical SEO is Key

There are many blog posts that proclaim content is king. To an extent, this is true. But you also need to optimize technical SEO to support any content you create.

Like we said above, if your site it taking too long to load, people are going to leave before they even see what you’ve written or created. Quick loading sites are one aspect of technical SEO.

Others, like sitemaps, helps robots crawl your site. This is another way you can provide the search engine information about what your pages contain, and why users will find them useful.

Mistakes on the backend can prevent your site from showing up in search results or limit their visibility. It is important that you or someone you work with can identify and address coding and robots.txt issues.

Tip: Take advantage of Moz’s On-Demand Crawl and Google Search Console to quickly find and resolve issues. 

On-Page vs Off-Page SEO

Most of what is discussed above is within your control, these are on-page factors like how your site is structured and what it contains. But off-page SEO plays an important role too. This is largely out of your control.

When a search engine measure off-page signals, it is looking at things like the quality of links that point back to your pages, the history of your website, and what your online reputation is.

The goal of combining on-page and off-page SEO is to provide a user with the most relevant content that satisfies their search intent. It favors high-quality sites and diminishes the possibility that someone uses keyword stuffing or black hat tricks to rank near at the top.

Tip: For more information, Search Engine Land’s Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors is a good resource.

All of this only scratches the surface of what SEO entails, why it matters for businesses, and how to optimize your site. If you have questions about how to best use SEO, you can contact us here. You can also check out our blog for more resources.

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