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Crash Course #1: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Updated: Apr 19

Hands typing on laptop. Search bar on top of image.

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 best practices involved in improving the quality and quantity of online traffic to your website from a search engine like Google 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. Keyword targeting, title tags, image tags, meta descriptions, internal link structure, and backlinks are all elements of a 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.

Google - How results are automatically generated

The ability to work on, and improve, a site will depend on the platform it has been created on. For example, there are a wide variety of ecommerce platforms, such as WordPress, Wix, and Shopify. For larger websites these may be custom built using front and back-end developers.

CodeMasters specialize in working with Wix, you can find out how to optimize a website by following our beginner's guide to Wix SEO.

Why is SEO Important?

SEO is becoming a crucial component of the web design process since it allows you more control over consumer behavior 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 82% of all web searches 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.

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.

Page Speed:

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.

Duplicate Content:

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, it can make it difficult for the search engines to determine which content is the original and what should be shown to users. 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.

Keyword Targeting & Mapping:

When you are looking to build, and optimize, a website it's vital to identify the purpose and audience for each page. This will help prioritize keywords that are appropriate to target and ensure there's no overlap between each page on the site. For example, category pages will have a different focus from product pages.

It can take time to complete keyword research to select the most relevant and valuable terms to target, but this is a step that should not be overlooked.

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 SEO experts; we’re always here to help.

Additional SEO Resources:

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