What Is SEO And Why Does It Matter?
In plain English, SEO stands for search engine optimization, which is the process of making changes to web pages that will enable your domain to rank higher on search engine results pages, or SERPs.
That sounds like a pretty simple goal, but in practice, it’s a complicated process. There are all sorts of pieces that need to come together, and in a very particular way.
It’s important to point out that the #1 spot in Google’s organic search results gets 67% of all clicks. The #2 spot gets 18%. That means that the remainder, from the #3 spot all the way to the end, constitute 15% of all clicks. This is why it’s so important.
There is a technical side and a creative side to SEO, very much like Pay-Per-Click ad management (PPC ad management). And focusing on one or the other, without taking a holistic approach, will only generate small, incremental improvements.
Small, incremental progress can be helpful for companies who are already ranking on page 1 or 2 of Google. But if you’re nowhere near this, meaning your domain ranks 21st position or lower, incremental change will effectively be a waste of your time or money.
SEO Generates Traffic To Your Website
The number one thing that SEO will do for you is help with what is called organic traffic. This means traffic that comes from a user typing a question or keywords into Google or some other search engine.
For instance, if a user is looking for new shoes, they type “new shoes” into a Google search. Then, they see both paid and organic results. Some people click on ads, which are clearly marked, others intentionally skip over them. This isn’t really the important part.
The important part is that if you’re appearing organically on the first page of Google, you are getting the same real estate as paid ads — but it isn’t costing you an ad budget.
Now, this isn’t to say you aren’t paying for those results. If you hire an SEO company like nobox creatives, or a full-time person in your company, to optimize your website, you’re still paying for those results. But this is very different from paying to appear in the ad positions.
The question isn’t one of PPC versus Google-ranked organic traffic because they actually work together. The question is this: your competitors are there and doing this already; can you afford not to do the same?
If you’re curious about how this affects your business, pull up another browser tab and type a search for your products or services into Google (not your brand name, but what your product is — e.g. typing in “new shoes” versus “Zappos shoes”). Where do you show up? Or are you even attending that party to begin with?
If you don’t show up on that first page of Google, you’re missing a lot.
How Does SEO Work?
Any respectable, high-quality SEO strategy really begins with your competition. There’s no use in reinventing the wheel. When you know who your competitors are, and specifically competitors that show up on the first page of Google SERPs, there are online tools that professionals use to determine what keywords people are typing in to find them.
This is because whatever your competitor’s customers are typing into Google to find them is exactly what they’ll be typing into Google to find you.
A lot of times, business owners think they understand what others are looking for. Words like “think” and “believe” have little place in SEO without hard data. What they are searching for isn’t a matter of opinion or belief — it is a fact.
Those tools referenced above are used to make exactly those determinations. Then, you don’t have to repeat your competitors’ work in order to get where they are. Rather, you can use their own data to get to where they rank on SERPs and start from there.
Some people are skeptical about this approach because they are afraid to give up control, which is understandable. But trying to rank for keywords that your competitors aren’t using is like trying to find a route without streets for your business…it’s very unlikely someone is going to visit a brick and mortar store that doesn’t have a road leading to it, or a driveway to access it from the road.
SEO is a pretty involved process. The objective is to build “domain authority” which, right now, Google is determining based on many different factors.
Factors That Influence Domain Authority
Keep in mind that your business might not be able to do some of the following. However, it’s important to be aware of these factors so that you can understand why another company that isn’t doing everything you are might outperform your own site.
It simply lets you know that, for instance, if your website domain isn’t as old as a competitor’s, you have to work that much harder on the other components in order to beat them. Let’s start our list with that.
1. Domain Age
This is a large component of SEO, but not something that you’re really able to influence. It is, however, really important to keep in mind. Domain age is one way that a business that doesn’t follow SEO best practices can still rank high in Google.
So, for instance, if another website has been around for 10 years and you have only been around for 3 years, you’re going to have to really pour in effort to the other components of SEO that you can influence. Just be mindful of this when evaluating your competitors.
2. Number And Quality of Backlinks
A backlink is a link from another domain to your own. So, for instance, if you sell shoes online and The New York Times Style section mentions you with a link, that is a backlink, and a really quality backlink at that, based on the traffic that a major media publication gets on a daily basis.
But there are other ways to get backlinks, such as social media posts, linking to things via Quora answers, and other places as well.
This is where you should be careful, because not all backlinks are created equal. If Google is suspicious of a website’s intentions, as determined by user experience and behavior, that website linking to your domain will actually hurt your SEO performance.
So the key is knowing which backlinks are good, which are bad, and then sorting out how to get more of the good and get rid of the bad.
This is a fairly difficult process, called link building, but it is incredibly essential to have.
3. Internal Links and Sitemap Strategy
The layout of your website itself will affect SEO. You want to have a build with logical flow, and content on your website that is linked to other content on your website will help with this. Just remember that this isn’t nearly the same as having quality backlinks, but it’s still relevant to making substantive improvements in your SERP rankings.
4. Technical Updates, SCHEMA Markups, Title Tags, And More
This is one of the places where SEO can get a little tedious. Search engines like Google and Bing send out bots called spiders that crawl the web and catalog what they find. This is how keywords influence search results.
There is a whole host of technical aspects to SEO, and they are super important for a baseline. Without them, your content could be great and, still, you won’t see noticeable changes in your performance.
5. Effective Content Marketing, Blog Posts, And On-Page SEO
This is one of the single biggest headaches for a lot of businesses out there — in order to rank for SEO, someone has to create content, and a lot of it.
Content marketing is where the information you provide your target audience in the form of content, like blogs and images, guides people back to your website and into your digital marketing funnel.
Blogs are becoming more and more evergreen, and “static” content, like services pages, are becoming less evergreen. This is because your website should operate like a web, catching your targets and directing them to your various funnels.
On-page SEO refers to the optimization of individual pages, based on keywords and keyphrases, as well as the technical aspects.
The problem is that there’s a gap between the style that people crave when reading content and the substance required to rank on Google. If it doesn’t pass through Google, though, no amount of style is going to save you. This is why it’s essential to create a balance between how a piece looks and reads and how search engines deliver search results to users.
Without both sides of that coin, your efforts will be relegated to the wasteland of incremental change and improvement. And, just remember, the first two positions on Google SERPs get 85% of all clicks.
Where do you want to be?
White Hat, Black Hat, and Gray Hat Tactics
When doing SEO work, some people are tempted to try things that are considered out-of-bounds by Google. The degree changes, and this is a huge component of how Google is dialing in its machine learning to find out what people are searching for.
The difference between tactics comes down to how Google views them. And if they catch you doing questionable practices, your SEO score will take a considerable hit.
White Hat (Low Risk, Safe Bets)
This is where you are doing everything on your site in accordance with Google’s advice as well as following their philosophy which entails positive user experience.
Black Hat (High Risk, Dangerous Bets)
These tactics are what will get your domain outright docked in search results. Doing shady things meant to trick people, like offering something that isn’t actually on your website, or even something that causes a high bounce rate, will all be considered black hat by Google. Avoid these things. They will hurt you, even if they might help in the very short term.
Gray Hat (Completely Variable Risk & Danger)
Gray hat isn’t precisely in between black hat and white hat. Rather, gray hat tactics are what are “undefined” by Google.
This is where the philosophy of Google’s algorithm comes into play. Most innovative ideas are going to be considered “gray hat” at first. The trick is to monitor these tactics and eliminate them as soon as they start negatively affecting performance.
Eventually, you will be left with what works and you will effectively evolve with Google, and not separate from them.
It’s in this process that SEO professionals learn about trends and how they grow. But be warned, if you allow gray hat tactics to negatively affect you, it will be as if they are outright black hat, and you will be penalized.
This is why you absolutely must keep an eye on them if you choose to use them. Higher risk can occasionally bring a higher reward, but more often than not, it can hurt you. This is why you need to hedge your bets in terms of the tactics you use.
It Can Be Overwhelming
Likely, at this point, you have an appreciation for the complexity of SEO. That likely makes you wonder about it when it comes to execution.
If you’ve found this information useful and you never interact with us again, we’re so honored that you would trust us to do our job in educating prospects. But sometimes, you can be left with questions surrounding time and money. Do you have the time to do this meticulous work on your own? Do you have the budget to hire someone who knows what they’re doing full-time?
If the answer to those questions are “no,” then we could be a great fit for you. So, if you have more questions about how nobox can change your company’s ranking on SERPs, then we would love to talk to you!