It’s Monday morning. Your boss comes into the office and says she was up last night reading an article about SEO. Now, she’s worried your company’s website isn’t up to par. “Our site isn’t optimized. We aren’t using keywords or backlinks to lift our rankings. Our alt-text is ruining our bounce rate. We need to get into the CMS and adjust all our content to create higher rankings!” And by we, she means you.
You know he was speaking English, but it sounded to you like a totally different language. And now, you’re supposed to follow through on her request.
Here at efelle creative, we have a lot of people come into our office and say, “I know I should be paying attention to SEO, but I’m not sure what that even means or where to start.” So, let’s start. What the heck is SEO?
“Search Engine Optimization,” or SEO, refers to any steps taken toward getting your website to show up higher in the results when a user searches for specific words and phrases on sites like Google and Bing. Search engines have algorithms developed to show the most relevant results to inquiring users, which is great news for searchers but also for business owners as it creates opportunities to get qualified traffic to your site once it’s been optimized.
SEO can help you target users who are actively interested in your product or service and reduce the number of people who stumble on your site accidentally. While it may seem at first glance that the more traffic, the merrier, these accidental visitors are prone to bouncing from your site as quickly as they came to it (ie, leaving your domain right away after seeing the homepage). As noted by an article on Search Engine Watch, “a high bounce rate would indicate that a site does not have the high-quality, relevant content Google wants out of its top ranked sites.” Those sites that stuff their content full of non-relevant keywords are not actually doing themselves a service. If anything, they’re hurting their SEO rankings.
A talented development and design team will take SEO considerations into account throughout the project process. SEO Specialists can also be brought in to provide additional services including pumping up your website code and dialing in specific recommendations on how to optimize for certain keywords. On a related note, many will also offer services to help you manage your online marketing and pay-per-click advertising campaigns.
To really understand what your site needs, it’s good to start with understanding the basic lingo. Here are 12 terms that we believe are the foundation for understanding baseline SEO.
AdWords: A pay-per-click advertising service offered by Google that allows businesses and individuals to pay for their site to appear at the top of the results page when users are searching for certain keywords. AdWords results are seen above the organic results. (See also: Organic Results; PPC Advertising.)
Alt-Text: Text used to describe an image that is embedded in the image’s HTML tag but that is not visible on the site. It is, however, crawlable by search engines (and is also essential when building an accessible website).
Backlinks: Links from pages on external domains to your website. The more popularity or “authority” that external domain has, the more valuable the backlink. (See also: Link Building.)
CMS: Content Management System—aka, the engine of a website where you go to edit your site content. A good CMS will allow you to make content updates without knowing a whole lot of code (if any at all).
Content: Your website’s copy, imagery, videos and any other files available for viewing by your visitors.
Keywords: Words or phrases that sum up the soul of your business and that should be featured throughout your website in a natural and descriptive way. When search engines crawl your site, they’ll pick up these words and phrases and associate them with your URL. The goal of SEO optimization is for users searching for these keywords to discover your site in the search-engine listings without having to dig too deeply in the results.
Keyword Stuffing: The overuse of certain keywords on a website in hopes of being ranked higher in the search results for more phrases. (As noted above, Bing and Google’s algorithms can recognize this type of behavior and will penalize websites that attempt to sway the rankings in this manner.)
Link Building: The purposeful cultivation of links to your website from other sources. Getting your site linked to from numerous other websites—especially sites that have strong reputations—will result in search engines attributing a higher level of authority to your site, in turn ranking it higher. (See also: Backlinks.)
Long-Tail Keywords: Specific queries that are—on a whole—searched for on a less regular basis than broader terms but that are more likely to provide targeted and qualified visitors to your site (the more specific the keyword, the less overall competition for ranking, meaning that your site will probably appear higher in the results). Most searches involve long-tail keywords. Example: “iPhone case” is a broadly stated search query. “Floral iPhone 5 case blue” is a long-tail keyword query.
Organic Results: Results that appear below the paid ads at the top of a results page.
PPC (Pay-Per-Click) Advertising: Paying to have your site featured near the top of a results page (above the organic results). Typically, the more popular the keyword, the higher the advertising cost. Example of a PPC advertising platform: Google AdWords. (See also: AdWords; Organic Results.)
Ranking: The order in which search engines organize search results. The goal of SEO optimization is to rank as highly in the organic results of a search query as possible. (See also: Organic Results.)
Site Map: A page on your website that lists links to every major page on your domain that is accessible to visitors. A well-constructed site map is one that is clear, organized and automatically generated so that when you add a new page to one of your site categories, it is cataloged without additional work on your site map. Search engines also crawl XML sitemaps in the root directory of your domain to establish an understanding of your site’s hierarchy. Creating and implementing high-quality sitemaps requires a knowledgeable design and development team but goes a long way for providing vital information about your website to search engines.
Those terms should get you started down the path of understanding SEO and all the buzzwords that surround it. But keep in mind that we’ve only scratched the surface—search engines also care about things like page load time, the size of photos, meta tags, proper use of headers throughout your copy and more.
SEO is a complicated process—businesses of all shapes and sizes call on experts to ensure their sites are optimized. At efelle creative, we’re obsessed with all things SEO. From design to development to content entry and beyond, we keep SEO in mind throughout the entire online marketing project process. Need SEO help for your website? Still not sure where to start? Give us a call at +1 808 446 4694!