When our clients come to us looking for advice on how to improve their websites, the topic of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) inevitably comes up. Given that SEO is basically the engine that drives the growth of your company’s website, it’s not surprising that so many of us have questions about the process. Let’s explore the concept in detail and review a few ways website owners can optimize their SEO.
Regardless of how out of fashion it might seem, SEO matters: Data collected by Hubspot shows that 75 percent of users never scroll past the first page of search results. Companies that don’t achieve a top spot are likely to get overlooked. You might think that other solutions, such as your paid ad campaigns, are doing enough to create brand exposure and drive customers to your site, but the sad truth is that paid ads alone aren’t enough to make you competitive. Eye-tracking studies have shown that as many as 80 percent of viewers ignore paid ads and focus exclusively on organic search results.
With that in mind, let’s examine the basic principles of SEO and how you can improve your page’s ranking in the SERPs.
What Is On-page SEO?
On-page SEO, as you’d guess, involves every SEO-related decision you’ll make directly to your website. This means web copy, design layout, images, navigation; you name it. If it happens on your website, it ties into on-page SEO.
The most important on-page SEO strategies include the following concepts:
- Keyword optimization: All website copy you include needs to feature focused, targeted keywords based on market research. These keyword phrases are the primary way that web crawlers learn about the content of your page.
- Meta descriptions: Meta descriptions are the small snippets of text that appear under each link during searches. These descriptions are essential for providing information to both readers and web crawlers, and should feature the same targeted keyword phrases included within the page itself.
- Mobile optimization: The majority of searches now occur on mobile, and as such, Google prioritizes mobile-friendly pages in its SERPs. Examine your traffic referral sources and see how many are coming from mobile devices. It might be time to start exploring mobile-responsiveness, mobile-first design, or even dedicated mobile apps for your business.
- Content production: Online content such as articles or blogs are essential to on-page SEO. Every blog hosted on your site offers new opportunities for keyword inclusion within headlines, body copy, URLs, accompanying images, and the metadata of the page itself.
- The User Experience (UX): The UX is a critical part of SEO, and is the sole reason why every on-site decision you make affects your SEO value. SEO is all about bringing users to your site, but if they have a terrible browsing experience, they’ll bounce before engaging with any of your business materials. The concept of UX web design is complex, and you may need to make some website adjustments to accommodate it if your current site layout isn’t up to par.
What Is Off-Page SEO?
Off-page SEO is a little different, as it involves influencing SEO elements that occur off your website. These are generally harder to influence, but they remain an important part of SEO all the same.
In web crawler terms, off-page SEO elements tell search engines how credible and authoritative your page is based on how it’s integrated with other online resources. These improvements are trickier than they are for on-page SEO, but there are several strategies that you can work on:
- Link building: When other websites link to one of your pages, your page’s SEO value increases. These are known as “backlinks” and are a powerful ranking factor for SEO. Backlinks come as a matter of course when you publish great content that others want to share.
- Online directories: There are some online directories that let brands submit company information or unique content with the end goal of giving the site a backlink or two. Note that these are NOT the same as the illicit “link buying” strategies that Google penalizes companies for. Online directories, when used appropriately, are still a good way to get your brand out there.
- Social media presence: While social media doesn’t influence SEO proper, having a strong social media presence provides much-needed brand visibility and customer interaction touchpoints. A vibrant social page won’t influence how well you rank in SERPs but it CAN influence how much traffic your page gets.
Understanding Website SEO
On- and off-page SEO are the two pillars of search engine success, but don’t feel limited by the strategies listed above. There are countless ways to succeed with SEO, provided you make deliberate changes, track your progress over time, and always continue to refine your strategy.