Search Engine Optimization | What it is & Why it Matters

What do you do when you’re looking for a fast, healthy recipe to feed your family?

How do you find out what social distancing currently means for where you live?

Where do you start when you decide you need a new host for your website?

Or perhaps when you need a good remote project management service?

If I had to put some money on it, I would guess you start by searching online using a search engine.

What is Search Engine Optimization?

93% of online interactions begin in a search engine and nearly all of those are in Google. This makes Google your BIGGEST entryway to your business… if your customer can find you.

That’s what search engine optimization (SEO) is all about. SEO is the method of optimizing the content on your website for a search engine. So when Suzy Q types into Google’s search bar “Web hosts compatible with WordPress” pages showing they hit those key words the most and the best will show up in her results. It’s important to remember that it’s not just about a keyword showing up repeatedly on a page. Search engine optimization is about making sure the search engine knows exactly what you page is about or what topics it covers in order to accurately serve the user. In other words, SEO is not about you or Google. It’s about the user.

If you don’t actually answer the user’s inquiry, your page isn’t going to rank for it.

What Not to Do With SEO

Once upon a time poor form SEO tactics actually included a keyword being blanket written on a webpage top to bottom, repeatedly, but made invisible to a user. Not only is that sneaky, but it no longer flies. Tactics like that will actually get you penalized by Google as it’s directly against web master guidelines.

The same goes for what’s called keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing looks like this:

Keyword stuffing is poor form because keyword stuffing forgets about the real human reading the keyword stuffing getting frustrated because the keyword stuffing mucks up the information the user was looking for. You shouldn’t engage in keyword stuffing even if keyword stuffing seems like a good idea since frequency of a keyword is part of Google’s ranking and keyword stuffing will get you a high frequency of keywords or phrases because your content is stuffed with keywords. Typically, you’ll see keyword stuffing by novice SEO writers or new business owners that think keyword stuffing is the most important way to rank their page.

That kind of “SEO” is counterproductive. Not only are Google’s algorithms sophisticated enough to tell the difference, but if the user is frustrated reading your content they won’t stick around. Which means they’ll be bouncing right off your page telling Google it’s no good. Plus, you won’t be linked or shared because people don’t share unless they found your content interesting or helpful.

And since things like bounce rates and backlinks also go into your page score for rankings, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

What Google Wants from Your Webpage

Google’s tips for what they’re looking for in their rankings aren’t super specific. There’s not a concrete checklist per se.

Rather they say you need to make your site stands out from your competition and to make your website for the user, not for any algorithm.

Search engine optimization, then, is anchored in how to ensure the algorithm can identify EXACTLY what’s valuable in your content for users, so they know EXACTLY who to show it to.

This optimization does have some basic best practices in how to do that.

For example, the ideal word count is around 2,000.

Number one ranked pages on Google average a 2,200 word count. This rule of thumb is NOT because that number of words will check a box for Google. Instead, 2000 words is a good estimate of how many words you can make good, detailed, and helpful content for your customer.

Some other factors that affect your rankings include the time it takes for your page to load and even the length and quality of your <title> tags. Why? Users leave pages within seconds if it takes too long to load, thus Google won’t keep serving a page if no one stays on it long enough to engage with it. Then the title tag is the clickable link that actually shows up in search. It tells the user what they should expect once clicking the link. Thus, inaccurate or vague title tags will decrease your ranking.

The list goes on to include meta descriptions, duplicate content, dated content, current SSL certificates, and more. As technology shifts, you’ll also want to think about how to optimize for voice search options as well.

It can be overwhelming. However, when you return to the idea that you’re trying to make your content valuable for your users and easy to categorize by Google your strategy can become quite simple.

In fact, you can lean back on the same tips your high school English teacher would be giving you. Keep it focused, be conscience, don’t be repetitious, and make your topic clear at all times.

Why Does SEO Matter?

Search is where traffic – or the lack of it – to your website begins. And we can’t make money through a website that gets no traffic.

So if you’re showing up in search, you’ll be increasing traffic, potential leads and even overall brand awareness. Additionally, users trust Google. If Google is recommending your content in the top slots, users will engage with it already thinking positively.

In other words, optimizing you content to show up in search is critical. Your competition is there. It’s where your customers start looking for what you offer. It’s a game you can’t afford not to play.