Many small business owners and entrepreneurs have a very limited understanding of search engine optimization. They often perceive SEO as a formula of best practices that includes such things as keyword frequency, meta tags, image ALT text, and other coding techniques. Nevertheless, you will find many business websites that follow and adhere to these formulaic best practices lists, yet they never rank well nor do they attract a lot of traffic. This is because search engine optimization is far more complicated than is often represented in articles.
How Search Engines Really Work
As with all businesses, search engines will succeed or fail based on how effectively they feed customer demands and meet expectations. When a user performs a search, they want a list of websites that are both relevant and reliable. Consequently, over the years, search engines have tweaked their algorithms to improve results based on this principle. Moreover, search engines have begun to employ machine learning to better understand a search user's intent. Therefore, search context is becoming as important as search keywords.
At one time, the internet was referred to as the information superhighway. However, this once popular term was a bit deceptive. It is much more like a major metropolitan city. Every computer, server, and datacenter is connected using a complex roadway system. Essentially, search engines work at build a comprehensive guide to this city. So, for example, when a person is looking to buy jewelry, they don't want to find themselves down a dark ally buying goods out of the back of a van from a question gentleman. Don't you agree?
As a result, search engines send out spiders to crawl the streets of this city, which map every corner of the visible internet. After collecting all this information, it is handed off to search engine algorithms that will evaluate relevance, reliability, and popularity. When the internet was young, evaluating a website was simplistic and extremely formulaic. Today, technology has advanced to the point that algorithms can better evaluate quality based on a long list of factors.
How Search Engine Optimization Really Work
In 2017, search engine optimization is a complex and technical process that includes optimization at the website level (on-site), the individual web page level (on-page), and external factors (off-site). Google and the other search engines also employ a carrot-and-stick approach in order to encourage website owners to adhere to certain rules. They continually update their algorithms, finding and closing exploited loopholes so that better quality websites can move up in rank.
• On-site Search Engine Optimization
While many businesses want their website to rank, in actuality, only web pages will rank. It is very rare for a company's home page to land high on the first page of search results. More often, it is a content page that ranks, like a product or service page, a FAQ page, or a blog entry. Nevertheless, there are global website factors that will affect your search rank. This will include such things as the website's age, the total number of pages, how often it is updated, load speeds, mobile friendliness, and more.
• On-page Search Engine Optimization
Arguably, it is your content page which is the most important. Ultimately, what makes a page worthy of a position on a search engine results page is the content. That said, there are many quality content pages that are never seen. It is for this reason that content page optimization is as much an art as it is a science. Yet, there are specific technical factors. Is the content unique and readable? What is the weight of keywords versus contextually related terms and phrases? Is there a good use of meta data, Scheme markup, and rich snippets?
• Off-page Search Engine Optimization
Here is where the art of crafting quality content comes into play. Search engines are in the business of feeding the demand for information. Therefore, your content must have the ability to generate off-site signals that search engines will use to evaluate reliability and popularity. Does your content provide an obvious value beyond self-promotion? Search engines are paying attention to user behavior, such as click-throughs, bounce rates, time on site, and inbound links. It is very unlikely that search engines will rank a web page if it does not produce human engagement.
Do you have questions? What haven't we covered yet that is important to you? If you would like to talk about how search engine optimization really works. or a related topic, please contact us.