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What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of matching the content on your page to what searchers are trying to find.  Search engines work hard scouring the internet to bring people the content that best meets their needs.  Your job is to not only create great content that satisfies those searches but to also structure the information in a way that allows search engines to find you.

SEO graphic

 Whether you’re a blogging newbie or a blogging veteran getting little site traffic, a refresher on SEO basics is vital.  A review of SEO basics can assist you in reviewing your site with a critical eye to ensure key structural features are addressed.  When you get the basics right, you help get your site noticed by not only readers but also search engines.  And hey, if 61% of marketers say improving their SEO is a top priority, you know there must be something of importance going on.  In this post, we will break down the SEO concept and some of the factors that affect it.

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 How Does SEO Work?

With billions of webpages on the internet, you may find yourself asking how a search engine determines which content to show you when you do a search.  The answer lies in pieces of software called web crawlers (also known as spiders or bots). 

Crawlers “crawl” through every website they can find and evaluate it based on specific criteria.  Using a specific set of rules, called an algorithm, the crawlers are able to assign each website a rank and it’s this rank that determines which sites appear first on the search engine results page (SERP). 

Search engines (such as Google, Bing and Yahoo) have each developed their own algorithms to evaluate sites in their attempt to find the user the exact content they are looking for.   

 

Factors that Affect SEO

To land your site on the coveted first SERP, you need to ensure that your onsite SEO is top notch and that your content appeals to both readers and software programs.  Sounds a bit daunting, right?   Well, while the components of the algorithms are closely guarded secrets, there are some well-known factors that play a big role in site ranking.  To keep your site in the crawlers good graces, here is our list of factors you should pay particular attention to.     

1. Keywords

When writing a post, it’s important to do a bit of keyword research before creating any content.  Having you desired keywords chosen first will allow you to easily integrate those phrases into your text.  If you develop the content first then try to add in keywords afterwards, your post runs the risk of sounding forced and keyword stuffed.    

For best keyword results, you need to choose ones that are popular (aka there is a chance that people will type those words into a search engine) but are unique enough that not everyone is using them.  When there is less competition for the reader’s attention, there is a higher likelihood that your site will be chosen over a competitor. 

 

2. Website and Blog Post Structure

A good website structure not only appeals to the reader, but also to web crawlers and it’s this appeal that helps your SEO. 

A well-organized site allows a crawler to easily find, assess and evaluate the contained content.  If the crawler finds the page worthy, it will allow that page to be displayed on the SERP.  Well-organized structures also appeal to visitors since they can find the thing they were expecting in a place they expected to find it.  This keeps your reader happy and on your site longer thereby helping to reduce your bounce rate. 

For great articles on website structure, check out these ones here and here

 For individual blog post, heading play an important role in page structure.  Typically, a page begins with a broad topic title that receives a Heading 1 (H1) tag.  For most pages, there will only be one H1 tag per page and keywords should be considered during the wordsmithing phase.  Following this, the topic is discussed in more detail and Headings 2 (H2), Headings 3 (H3) and Headings 4 (H4) tags are assigned as needed.  This allows everyone reading your site to logically follow the information you are laying out.    

 

 3. Quality Titles and Meta Descriptions

To stand out from the crowd, you need something to catch the reader’s attention.  One way to do this is an eye-catching title.  A properly worded title can pique curiosity or invoke a desire to learn more.  But how do you get close enough to the reader for them to see your title?  By adding relevant keywords to your title, you are making it easier for the crawlers to determine that your post fits the search criteria and should be returned on the SERP. 

 To learn more about creating clickable headlines, check out our headline anatomy post here.

 Meta descriptions are the 160 characters found on the SERP that summarize the content of each webpage.  While there are plugins that create meta descriptions for you, what usually ends up happening are the first few lines of the webpage being displayed.  This can be a detriment to your site as your first couple of sentences might not adequately summarize your webpage.  Therefore, a reader is confused by not only what the site is about but also why the description ends mid-sentence (the 160 characters were exceeded before the thought was complete).  To avoid this mishap, manually create your meta description so you can properly summarize the page while sprinkling in the occasional keyword to enhance your SEO. 

 

4. Links

For search engines to rank your site, they send out crawlers to do an evaluation.  But how do the crawlers find your site in the first place?  The answer lies in links. 

Think of the internet as a giant spider web and each site a node on the web.  The threads that join each node are links and the crawlers use the threads to slide from site to site.  If a node has a lot of threads tied to it, crawlers will consider this site an authority and will assign it a higher ranking than sites with only one link. 

 To improve your SEO, you need to encourage trustworthy, non-spamming sites to link to you.  The more links you receive, the more the web crawlers will consider you to be an authority, thereby increasing the likelihood of ending up on the first page of a SERP.

  To increase the number of links you receive, start by writing great content.  This will show readers and fellow bloggers that you are a site worth checking out.  Next, find other trustworthy sites in the same field and link to them.  By creating a link, you are not only helping the crawlers to find you but you might also receive reciprocal links in the future from your fellow blogger.  A key point to remember, though, is not to link in a spammy way or to link to sites that have no relevance to your topic.  Crawlers are becoming more sophisticated all the time and they recognize these forced links and may penalize you for the attempt. 

 Summary

In order to increase your site traffic, you need to be more visible.  By spending time on your SEO, you are increasing the odds of visitors finding your site and discovering your great content.  Time spent on it now will pay off later.  Happy blogging!

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