Search engine optimization is something many people find confusing and rightfully so. Google hides the majority of the information regarding its algorithm but in time search marketers have devised detailed plans on how to rank websites. In addition, most people who own a website are not internet experts but rather business owners who rely on their website to service their customers. Recently I heard an explanation that resonated with me to help typical users better understand search engine optimization and I hope it clarifies what we do as SEO’s.
When you think about the internet as a whole, what really is it? The world wide web is a collection of data where we use search engines to sort through information to provide an answers to our searches. The data comes in many forms such as text, pictures, video, audio, graphs, charts, etc… The simplest definition of search engine optimization is to describe the data types above in the best ways possible. Every opportunity you are given to write a description about your website you need to take advantage and do so. Let’s look at the easiest example of the data types from that list, an article.
Keywords and LSI keywords
The majority of the web is text-based web pages that people and Google-bot can read to learn about the content on the page. The most obvious form of describing an article is the content keywords and keyword density. When writing an article about SEO, using the vocabulary of an expert in search engine optimization provides Google with the context that your article is about that topic. The vocabulary of a niche is a language unto its own and the phrases you use directly relate to your subject. In some cases SEO’s will repeat the use of the same keywords instead of using what are called LSI keywords or a latent semantic indexing keywords. These keywords are not synonyms but are words that are similar in meaning or are longtail versions of your keywords, searches with typically three or more words in the query.
An easy way to find LSI keywords is to start typing a search query into the Google search bar. Google will populate the search bar with words that are most often searched with the terms you have typed in the bar. You can see above for a one word keyword Google will provide additional longtail keywords as suggestions. The next best place to look at at the bottom of the search results page where Google will list related keywords. This list typically coincides with the pre-fill results but has more variability and the list is clickable instead of having to type and re-type words to find the right combination. The last place to look is the #1 search result for LSI keywords which is LSI Graph. This is a great resource to use to mix up your keywords and increase the variability in your articles.
In posts such as this, there are different header tags that define sub-categories within an article. These <H> tags give Google an indication that this information is more important than words on the page outside the header tags. Only one H1 tag should be used per page which is typically your page title. Some wordpress themes place H1 tags elsewhere in widgets and other locations which can over-optimize your site. Make sure to check your page source code to verify you have only one H1 tag per page.
It is ok to use more than one H2 and other H tags as they are subheadings of the H1 and are describing the previous headings. Don’t go overboard forcing headers where they do not belong. Remember you are optimizing your website first for the people using your website, and then the bots. If people find your website confusing than they will stop visiting and ultimately visitors are more important than the bots.
Anchor text is another important factor for both incoming and outgoing links. If you are driving traffic to your website, you typically want visitors to stay and find the information on your site. In some cases your website may not be the best to provide such information and a user may want to confirm your data from more reputable source. For example, if you are writing about search engine optimization you can link to outbound authority websites such as searchengineland.com where they posted similar data to what you are presenting. This gives your audience a reference to what you are writing about and can provide them with further context on that subject matter. Subject consistency in your content with anchor text linking to authorities gives Google further context about your website and relevancy.
Inbound links are more important than outbound links but outbound are what you can control for your on-page optimization. Inbound links typically involve link outreach to other authority websites that are in your niche. Some websites allow guest posting and where you provide value to their audience and in turn they will give you a link on their site. Link building and anchor texts are a whole topic of their own that I will describe in more detail in a future post.
Metadata is often overlooked and is too complicated for the average user. Metadata has a few different styles of website markup that identify various information on your website. None of this data shows up for a visitor to read on your website but it can be found in the source code. Metadata is for the search engine bots to better understand your website. Web standards have been produced from entities such as w3standards.com, schema.org, and others to define how webmasters are to mark up websites. Metadata can provide Google with information about your business such as the name, address, phone number, hours of operation, currencies accepted, employees, or business accounts links from Facebook or Twitter. All of this data may be on your website elsewhere but as I stated at the beginning, you are trying to describe your website to the fullest extent you are allowed.
Here is a quick video describing how to mark up your website.
The creator makes a great point in the beginning about information needing to be consistent throughout all platforms but let’s get back to schema. The best example I was given when I first started to research metadata was with a series of numbers. Take a look at the numbers below and guess what each of these strands represents based on their character length.
The examples above are in the following order: Credit card number, serial number, phone number, social security number, zip code, and street address number. These examples are just a series of digits and without pointing out what each is, it would be very difficult to figure out what they represent. Sure, context around these strings like “call us now” would indicate the string is phone number but think about it from Google’s perspective: Google’s search engine has to process billions of pages of data and outputs results in mere seconds when you search information. The easier it is for Google to decipher the meaning of your website, or these numbers, in this case, the better. Telling Google behind the scenes “if you see this number, its a phone number” allows Google to process the data much faster and it reaffirms the information on your website.
Last and most importantly, the URL and page slug are the best indicators for Google to understand what is on your website. URL’s are items that are not changed as changing them would counter-productive. The world wide web is a massive network of links from one website to the next and when a URL is changed it breaks the bond between sites. If webmasters kept changing URLs the web would cease to exist. Make sure your page slugs (the part of the URL after the .com/) describe what is on your pages and insert keywords where they naturally fit.