Crash Course #1: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Updated: Jan 6
Let’s face it: internet lingo is confusing. New concepts and ideas are constantly emerging across the world wide web, and it can get overwhelming and exhausting for the everyday consumer to decipher each one on their own. It takes time to understand new techniques before you implement them for your own purposes, and more often than not, simplicity is key. In this “Crash Course” blog series, we’re breaking down the basics of the most common tools, strategies, and practices involved in web development, site design, and digital marketing. This week, we narrow in on the “what,” the “why,” and the “how” of search engine optimization.
What is search engine optimization (SEO)?
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the process and set of practices involved in improving the quality and quantity of online traffic to your website from a search engine like Google, Yahoo!, or Bing. When you type something into the search bar of a search engine, an algorithm looks through all the available pages in its index and attempts to present you with the most relevant results. Google explains that their Search algorithms look at many factors and signals of a web search, including “the words of your query, relevance and usability of pages, expertise of sources, and your location and settings.” The algorithms then use these pieces of information to connect you with the “right” content.
SEO demonstrates to these search engines that your content is the most relevant result for the topic in question. Keywords, title tags, image tags, meta descriptions, internal link structure, and backlinks are all elements of your site that a search engine will look through as it prepares the list of results for a web query. SEO assists with streamlining all these parts of your website, thereby increasing your visibility and relevance so your website appears higher up on a web search.
Why is SEO important?
SEO is becoming a crucial component of the web design process since it allows you more control over consumer behaviour and the best positioning of your company’s brand. As the journey of buying a product or seeking out a service continues to shift online, it is important for your website to show up in search results so that customers, clients, and casual browsers notice and consider what you have to offer.
Google continues to be the leading search engine online, with over 83% of all web searches in July 2022 conducted on Google property, and it famously uses more than 200 ranking factors to determine which websites best meet its users’ queries. While Google isn’t particularly open about the exact factors it uses to rank search results, its Search Quality Raters Guidelines helpfully outline many of the conditions and elements typically found on good, well-functioning websites. It’s a bit of a long read at 167 pages, but this document is regularly updated to reflect what is most appropriate, appealing, and innovative on different types of websites.
How can I use SEO effectively for my business?
Google’s Search Quality Guidelines helpfully separate high-quality and low-quality content according to detailed lists of acronyms and micro-specified content, but you don’t necessarily need to understand all this technical information to effectively use SEO for your business. While you can certainly review any relevant nitty-gritty guidelines once you’ve perfected your SEO strategy, the following simple changes to your website and its content can quickly improve your current SEO and put you on the right path towards a more functional and easily discoverable online presence.
Simple URL structure
Search engines aren’t particularly fond of reading long strings of words or complex structure in your website’s URL. Instead, short and simple web addresses with little fluff beyond the main keywords and separating dashes are a quick way to optimize your site so it is more easily found by a search engine.
We covered page speed a bit in our blog post on website design, and when it comes to SEO, it’s also very relevant. Search engines tend to use load times as an indicator of quality, so the faster your page loads, the better. Loading times under four seconds are a reasonable goal, but that time will fluctuate depending on content.
Dead links or broken redirects
Dead links send users to a nonexistent page, and broken redirects send users to old locations of pages that have been moved elsewhere. Unsurprisingly, these are both bad for user experience, and they’re also bad for SEO. Take some time to check the links on your site with a browser extension, dedicated link checking software, or consult with a website development expert if you have concerns about broken or dead links.
Seeing the same or very similar content is just as confusing for a search engine as it is for a human being. When it becomes difficult for a search engine to differentiate and separate the content of your website, that is an obvious strike against your SEO. There is some grey area for duplicate content, but for the most part, the content of the pages on your website should be relatively distinctive from each other, for the benefit of both your user and the search engine.
When it comes to website design and development, you will hear about the importance of keywords over and over again, but for a very good reason. Search engines immediately pick up on the phrases and terminology of any industry, and the websites which use that relevant language will appear higher in search results. It certainly takes time to research the keywords best suited for your website, but it is one of the easiest ways to hyperfocus your content to your industry and start playing the ever-important relevance game with search engines.
Are you ready to optimize?
Just like that, we’ve covered some of the most basic elements of search engine optimization and how you can start implementing it in your business’ online presence. But there are many other video tutorials and step-by-step guides available for those new to the process or wanting to work towards perfecting their SEO strategy. If you’d like to see some more reputable information on search engine optimization, feel free to check out the links below. Or if you prefer some down-to-earth and trustworthy conversation, reach out to one of our experts; we’re always here to help.
Additional SEO Resources
SEO Starter Guide: The Basics | Google Search Central | Documentation | Google Developers
Beginner's Guide to SEO [Search Engine Optimization] - Moz
SEO Training Certification Course: Learn SEO | HubSpot Academy