You’ve probably heard of the marketing term Search Engine Optimization (SEO), but it is much more complex and multifaceted than people realize. Although, having a basic understanding of SEO and how it works, is the foundation for helping anyone build an effective SEO strategy.
New websites are built every day to be found on search engines. However, if your website and its content are not optimized enough, it will disappear into the vast amount that is fighting for the same goal, to stand out and be at the top!
What we do know is that to have success in SEO, a strategy combining great content, credible links, and social media presence is the key to building authority, brand awareness, and value.
With Google’s algorithm always changing, it can be difficult to know how it can affect your business at a given moment. Therefore, we recommend following our guide to the 4 pillars of SEO, which have been the most effective in helping people demonstrate an effective marketing strategy. It is important to note, that SEO is a different process for everyone, and results will vary.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization, SEO for short, is a search marketing strategy used and designed by marketers and content strategists to increase content and brand exposure and visibility on search engine result pages (SERPs).
Creating an SEO strategy involves organizing content on a website (blogs and/or web pages) by topic, which helps search engines such as Google and Bing understand a user’s intent when they search for something. This is called Siloing. =
While writing blogs and web pages, keyword planning is an essential part of the SEO process. Content is optimized using keywords related to a specific topic, which help articles rank well on the Search Engine Results Page’s (SERP) on Google and other search engines. Most importantly, this improves the overall quality and quantity of traffic coming to a website through organic (non-paid) searches.
Search engines may look as simple as someone typing in a keyword and they get a list of the best and relevant web pages based on their search query. Truth is, it isn’t, as search engines are specific algorithms that are made up of significant rules and various components.
Therefore, learning how they all intertwine with one another, is necessary to gain an understanding of the significance behind search marketing. More about search engines and how they are the driving force behind SEO later.
4 Pillars of SEO: Elements Of An Effective SEO Strategy
Search engine optimization is the process of making your website appealing to search engines and users to receive more traffic organically. There is a competition aspect to this type of marketing as everyone wants to be seen and heard, especially on page one.
Content is king, but, SEO does not just rely on utilizing relevant keywords and having well-written content. It is much more than that.
These are the 4 pillars of SEO and the key components that marketers should focus on mastering:
SEO Pillar 1: Web Health (Technical SEO)
The first step to building a solid SEO marketing strategy is setting the foundation off strong by resolving any major technical issues that could hinder your ability to rank. This is known as technical SEO.
This beginning process ensures that a website meets the technical requirements of today’s search engines, intending to improve search rankings of its web pages organically. These ranking factors are page speed, security/privacy, mobile optimization/responsiveness, etc.
Technical SEO Components
Technical SEO entails a variety of important elements that help websites rank on search engines. These include the following:
- Crawling: This process is the first part of having a search engine to recognize your pages. To do so, search engines send out a team of robots known as crawlers or bots to find new and updated content and store all the links in a database. Content can vary as web pages, images, a video, a PDF, etc. Regardless of the format, content is discovered by links, which help to identify the best web pages to be evaluated for a search query. The bots search the entirety of your site for crawling errors or broken links.
- Indexing: Without indexing your website, it is pretty much invisible. Indexing is the act of adding information about a web page to a search engine’s index. This is a database or collection of web pages crawled by the search engine bots. Search engines such as Google retrieves data and stores it in this database when a user types a query into the search engine. The index catalogs the following information:
- Detailed data on the nature of the content and topical relevance of each web page.
- A map of all the pages that each page links to
- The clickable (anchor) text of any links
- Other information about links, such as if they are ads or not, where they are located on the page, etc.
It is important to note that your entire website is not indexed! Some pages are, while some aren’t. Google’s algorithm chooses with purpose what the most important web pages on your website are to keep in the database.
- Mobile-Optimized: Your website must be optimized on a mobile device! More than 80 percent of Internet searches are conducted on a phone rather than a computer. So, your website needs to be mobile-friendly, as search engines rank sites higher that are.
- Page Speed: Research shows that most people said that they will leave a website if it takes longer than three seconds to load. Page speed and loading time are huge factors, which majorly affect SEO rankings.
- Descriptive URLs: Ensure each of the URLs on your webpages is simple and descriptive.
- Hierarchy and Usability: Is your website navigable and user-friendly? This greatly influences what search engines view as good or bad content. If your website is NOT easy to navigate, structured well, and aesthetically pleasing, it can hurt ranking and visibility on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). For your website to rank well on Google, its architecture is very important. The content including webpages and blogs should be structured in a way that users can easily find, and the layout should be well designed, aesthetically pleasing, and easy to navigate.
- Navigation: Your site has to flow well, by organizing your information in a logical sense, that makes it easy for users to find the content they are looking for.
- Look: Your site should be presented in a simple and visually appealing manner that conveys trust, expertise, authority, and the essence of your brand.
- Feel: People are likely to stay on your site if they can effectively interact with your site.
- Good User Experience (UX): A website’s usability is one of the most important components. The layout should be easy to navigate and use.
- Structured Data Markup (Schema / Rich Snippets: Structured data markup also known as schema and rich snippets are pieces of code that make it easier for a search engine to crawl, index, and display your content on the search engine results page. Snippets help search bots communicate to Google what your data means. Also, structured data markup can improve click-through rates (CTR), which is how many people took action and clicked on a link on a page versus just viewing it.
SEO Pillar 2: Content
The second pillar of an effective SEO strategy is your site’s content and how it is structured. A strong SEO plan includes these aspects: keyword research, content optimization, user experience, site design, and the presence of frequently updated content.
When crafting your SEO marketing strategy we believe the main focus should be one of the main types of search marketing called On-site SEO. This pertains to content strategy, and optimizing your blogs and webpages, along with some other elements on your website, to improve search engine rankings.
The most important factor when implementing On-site SEO that we cannot emphasize enough is designing your website or rearranging it until your layout is easy to use and navigate through. You want to start with a well-structured content hierarchy for your site. Believe it or not, this majorly affects your rankings.
I am sure everyone has heard the saying content is king, and it is the truth! Your content is the star of your website! Why not make it the best it can be, quality over quantity in this case always wins. Your messaging tells prospects a story, what you know, what you do, and why someone should use your business.
Most importantly, ensure the content is designed well, usability is at an easy level for most people, and most importantly, is navigable. Search engines extract meaning from each webpage based on the content and the keywords used on the page and rank them accordingly. These are the major components of content strategy:
- Content optimization: Use variations of keywords in both your blog or webpage copy that will help to increase search rankings and conversion rates.
- Page titles: It is beneficial to use keywords naturally within the title of your blog or webpage. Use H1, H2, H3 headers to break up your content into easy-to-read parts. The search engines recognize these tags as being the header of a page or a section of content and optimize them.
- Meta descriptions: Write your meta descriptions to entice people to click on the article including the focus keyword that is being targeted.
- Keyword research: The content you write needs to include these key phrases called keywords that you want to gain the most exposure in the search results. Researching which keywords with the best volume and cost-per-click (CPC) will help you better understand the language of your target audience and what words they are trying to increase its rank for on Google. Use these keywords through the content, (blogs or webpages), but do NOT keyword stuff, meaning overuse them!
- Internal Links: Within your content, it is crucial to use internal links, which have proven to boost SEO rankings. The clickable text on a given link (anchor text) conveys the context and meaning of an internal link. Linking pages within the content on your site are important, because it gives Google an idea of the structure of your website, and website visitors can easily click-through to other pages on your website. On search engines, the most important pages and posts will take precedence over less valuable ones.
- Type: Depending on the topic of the page or blog, you will want to integrate a combination of text, images, and video to ensure the page is dynamic, aesthetically appealing, and engaging.
- Alt-text on Images: When adding any images to the pages or blogs to your site, describe with the focus keyword. This alt-text provides the search engines with a written description of all images to your site, increasing your rankings.
- Strong Calls to Action (CTAs): Make it easy for your users to know what to do next. For example, contact us today!
- Quality: Unique, well-written content always provides visitors with valuable insight.
- Relevance/Timeliness: Fresh and timely content rank better on search engines. The more relevant your content, the more likely your web page will perform well in the search results. Often, the most frequently updated content on a website is your blog. Content relevancy scores are what you use to determine this.
You can have great content on your site, but if users have a hard time finding and interacting with it, search engines are going to notice. If your website lacks the following factors, your website will not convert or give you a good return-on-investment (ROI).
SEO Pillar 3: Off-Page SEO
Off-site SEO refers to actions taken outside of your website to impact your rankings within search engine results pages (SERPs). SEO is not just about your website. It is about the trust and authority it has on the Internet.
This type of SEO includes performing tasks off of a website to increase the site’s search engine rankings. It can be explained like this. No one will trust your website if you don’t put in the work to preserve your reputation by ensuring others that your website is worth visiting and your company and services are worth using, but through other avenues.
Therefore, your brand needs to not only be focused on the online aspect. Optimizing the brand through Off-site SEO can be successfully executed when utilizing citations (business listings), social media backlinks (Linkedin, Facebook), and cultivating relationships with customers and potential leads through these various methods, etc.
If done correctly, this type of SEO marketing will gradually increase your search rankings, traffic to your website, along with conversions, especially click-through-rates (CTR), and brand recognition.
Off-Page SEO components
These are the major components of Off-site SEO:
Backlinking continues to be the strongest ranking factor for search engine algorithms. Without an effective link building strategy, your SEO strategy is at a significant disadvantage. Backlinks are when one webpage links to another. They are also called “inbound or incoming links.” It is important to note that backlinks are different from outbound links (links from your website to another website) and internal links (linking to a page on your website).
For example, if someone links something on their website from something on your website, then you can call it a backlink from them. People chose to link back to your content because they found it to be relevant, timely, and useful, the qualities of a good website. One of the most powerful ways to create backlinks is to post content that links back to your website via social media and business directories. As search engines like Google understand the context of a link, creating strong backlinks comes from a trusted website, and uses anchor text to reflect what content is of importance.
Remember, a website that has pages with a high number of backlinks drive the most traffic organically! Backlinks most importantly, increase a site’s ranking position and visibility on the SERP. There are different methods of backlinking which people can utilize. They are as follows:
In SEO campaigns, the primary goal of outreach is to create valuable backlinks from other websites to your own. The outcome of effective outreach includes greater organic search engine visibility growth in high-quality website traffic, potential leads, and increased ROI.
Citations (Search Listings)
Having your information on various search listings is a must for good SEO!! Google Maps, Yelp, Google My Business that list your information are known as citations. This usually includes your business address, phone number, hours, photos, reviews, etc.) Citations help to build credibility and trust in search engines. For example, if your company is 5-star rated, you will look very credible to the search engines, as well as, potential customers.
Public Relations (PR)
Good PR is an important part of any SEO strategy. Backlinking relies heavily on a social media and public relations approach. To get noticed by search engines, SEO strategists aim to generate organic traffic from gaining exposure online for example, by writing press releases and blogs.
SEO Pillar 4: Social Media
The final pillar of an effective SEO strategy is social media. Your social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Linkedin do carry value via the link they provide to your website.
Social media affects your SEO strategy in 4 ways: increased online visibility and traffic to your website, increased authority and brand recognition, broader content, and longer content lifespan, and improved local SEO.
Social media has transformed the way that we think about SEO, and how it works. It is having a direct impact on how successful businesses are, based on how their content is ranking on a Search Engine Results Page (SERPs).
Search Engines and How They Work
Now that we have established what goes into developing an effective SEO strategy, it’s also important to clarify what starts the whole process, search engines.
Search engines such as Google and Bing have specific algorithms, which are a system of computerized mechanisms whose job is to identify different elements that appear on websites. This includes types of content such as web pages/blogs, images, videos, etc. The level of visibility and recognition of the elements mentioned above are based on things that people type into the search bar, called search queries.
For example, Google, the most widely used search engine, has a database that consists of trillions of web pages and content in which the algorithm takes into account various factors and examines them to deliver the most relevant results. Each search engine has different algorithms and processes for ranking content.
How Search Engines Work
Before a person searches, the hard work is done way before. Search engines are complex computing machines that work around-the-clock gathering information from websites and organizing it in a way where it is both useful and easy for users to find.
There is a 3-step process that helps a search engine to process information and function effectively in the world of SEO. In simple terms, the algorithm of the search engine such as Google analyzes what a searcher specifically is looking for, and which results come up with the best answer to their inquiry. These components are called crawling, indexing, and ranking. Learn more below.
- Crawling: Search engines have crawlers that consist of computerized Google bots whose job is to scour the Internet for new and updated web pages, and extract (fetch) information from them, including content, keywords, HTML code, and internal and external links. The information is copied and downloaded into a database called the Google index and is analyzed for later use.
- Indexing: Crawling and indexing are not mutually exclusive. Crawling is gathering the information and indexing is the actual database through a system called “Caffeine” that collects and stores all the information that Google and other search engines can find. This makes it possible for pages to show up in the search results (SERP).
- Ranking: The third step of the process, and probably the most important, is called ranking. Each search engine’s algorithm uses various elements to define the quality of the webpage in its index. Google’s algorithm is made up of thousands of tiny algorithms, utilizing 200+ ranking factors! Content is found based on some of the following criteria below:
- Keyword use
- Content popularity
- Backlink quality
- How recent or timely the content is and when it was updated
- Website is mobile-friendly
- Page speed
After the crawled content is analyzed and sorted through in the index, search engines return the most relevant results for each query, based on the factors about and qualitative experience that users have when they land on the page.
The takeaway for marketers is that search engine algorithms contain a set of rules to compute and return answers for what people are searching for. The goal of Google and other search engines is to show the most relevant information and deliver the most useful and usable results so that users keep coming back.
Why is SEO Important?
Knowing what people are searching for, the answers they are seeking, the keywords they’re using, and the type of content they wish to read is the basis of what search engine optimization is.
This is extremely prevalent, as it helps us increase visibility on search engines, connecting others to people who are searching online for the solutions they offer. This, as a result, means more traffic, better rankings, conversion rates, return on investment (ROI), and most importantly, more opportunities to convert leads into customers.
However, one fundamental mistake marketers seem to make with search engine optimization is sometimes treating all websites like they are the same. Well, we are here to tell you they are NOT! While the components of SEO are the same, everyone’s goals and strategy for their websites will not be.
The Digital Intellect Can Improve Your SEO Strategy
SEO is complex to understand, but it does not have to be. These 4 key pillars and their components are part of a structured and methodical strategy that has helped us and many others implement an effective and successful SEO strategy, resulting in highly-ranked optimized content. While this can be you, it is important to realize that producing results does not always happen overnight, and does take a little time to produce long-term consistency.
Our experienced team at The Digital Intellect has benefited from this knowledge. We have created tangible conversions and ROI for our clients, by leveraging their website as a way to help them increase their site rankings/traffic and brand awareness, revenue, and turn leads into customers.
Through our resources and expertise, we will be able to help you cut through the noise and focus on what is essential. Improve your overall SEO strategy by contacting us today!