You’ve heard of SEO. You know it’s important and that it has something to do with keywords. This post isn’t going to teach you everything you need to know about SEO, but it will get you started.
SERP (Search Engine Results Pages) Breakdown
Understand the search engine results pages (SERPS). There are Organic Search listings (listings ranked by the search engine’s algorithm) and Paid Search listings (listings ranked by auction based pay-per-click bidding).
A organic search result breaks down into the following elements:
Building Blocks of SEO
SEO can be divided into three buckets. Authority, Accessibility, and Relevance. The buckets apply to two tactics, on-page (changes you make to your website) and off-page (marketing efforts that are done off site).
Not all domains are created equal. Trusted domains such as www.techcrunch.com or www.wsj.com can publish an article today and have it ranking in minutes. If a new site launches the same piece of content, it may not be indexed for days. A number of factors influence authority, such as the brand trust within the niche, the quality and quantity of inbound links, the age of the domain, and the social presence.
There isn’t a perfect way to measure the authority, although tools such as Open Site Explorer by MOZ, give each page and domain a 0-100 score. While this doesn’t exactly map to search engine performance, it’s a good indicator.
Accessibility refers to the ease and ability search engines can crawl and index a site. Programming languages such as AJAX and Ruby are harder for search engines to crawl. On a similar note, sites ridden with errors, broken pages, or poor internal linking can hinder search engine performance.
The larger the site, the more important this topic becomes. As you’d imagine, structuring a 5 page site requires a simpler approach than a 50K page site.
Site relevance is the most self-explanatory bucket. A blog about gluten-free recipes will have content about gluten-free recipes, therefore making it relevant to rank for gluten-free related search queries. However, if I search for “homemade sourdough bread recipes” you wouldn’t expect the same site to show up.
A site has the opportunity to rank for keywords relevant to it’s site content. It comes down to crafting the site around common ways people search for a given topic.
The buckets are approached with two types of tactics, on-page and off-page.
On Page SEO
On-page efforts such as page tagging, keyword inclusions in copy, and site structure influence accessibility and relevance.
Off Page SEO
Off page efforts such as link building will have the greatest impact on authority and accessibility.
How the Industry has Evolved
The search engine optimization world has evolved considerably since birth. Years ago, search engine results were easily manipulated with a few easy to follow recipes. Some of the tactics that used to work (but no longer do) include:
- High volume of forum post links pointing to a site
- Keyword stuffing – use the same keyword on the page multiple times to start ranking for that keyword (at one point repeating keywords in white text on a white background worked!)
- Link networks – nest of low quality sites that link to each other
- Press Releases – syndicate a press release with targeted anchor text links
- Ezine article publications
Search engine updates such as Panda and Penguin (among many others) tightened the ranking criteria to limit visibility of lower quality content sites propped up with low quality links.
Now it comes down to writing high quality and useful copy, collecting valid references (links) from trusted sources, and providing a product or service of value.