SEO basics to know before a website redesign
Introduction: Why everyone should know SEO basics
The majority of all internet traffic comes from search engines, especially from the big three: Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Claiming your piece of that pie and directing searchers to your website is where understanding the SEO basics is so important. Although it’s a dream of so many to appear on the holy grail that is ‘Page 1’ of Google, it’s sadly not as simple as your target market searching the phrase ‘best mining company for investment’ on Google and seeing your company’s name first. (Wouldn’t that be great, though?) As you’re looking to redesign your website, you want to make sure that you’re not compromising your existing website’s SEO. What does that all mean? First, let’s learn the basics.
What is SEO?
SEO is short for Search Engine Optimization. It’s an aspect of marketing focused on growing your website’s visibility and authority in search results by taking into account a number of both technical and nontechnical factors (which we’ll get into below). An important part to note here is that SEO focuses on organic search engine results. There are also many paid ways to show up first on search engines. Your goal, however, should be to focus on where you rank in terms of organic traffic.
Why is SEO important?
Time for an analogy. Let’s go back to the ‘your website is your house’ idea from our Website Hosting Basics blog. Now think of search engines as the roads and pathways that lead cars, or website traffic (ha), to their desired destination. If there are no efficient roads that lead directly to your house, no one will be able to come visit you, or even find you at all. The process of Search Engine Optimization is like building multiple roads that point back to your house, making it more accessible and raising awareness that you’re home. The internet is so packed nowadays. Without optimizing your website for search engines to find you, you could be as good as invisible to Google and your target market.
What are some characteristics of websites with good SEO?
Keep in mind, there are entire Ebooks and marketing guides that get into the nitty gritty of what you can do on the technical side for better optimization. Here are five higher level items that search engines look for:
High quality content
You want your website content to have a unique offering and a real value to it, different than the same 10 second spiel that’s on a thousand other competitor websites. The more useful content you have, the more likely people will stick around, as will search engines. Some good examples of high quality content can include industry articles, videos, and blog posts. Vary up your content, but make sure to have clear titles, headings, and descriptions.
Another important part of content in terms of the basics of SEO is in your keywords and keyword research. As search engines ‘crawl’ through your website, they’ll look for certain keywords that align with your offering. The more targeted and better your keywords are, the higher ranking you’ll receive when users search for that particular keyword. But BEWARE OF KEYWORD STUFFING. Search engine algorithms are smart, and they’ll catch you if you’re attempting to use the same keyword 30 times on a page. A good rule of thumb is to stick with one specific keyword per post or page.
Search engines have to be able to find clear pathways between individual links on your site and the pages they link to. It’s also just as important for your website visitors to intuitively navigate through your site. 404 pages are not good. Broken links are worse.
One of the immediate killers of a website’s search engine ranking is when a site has a high bounce rate, or when people click onto your site and for whatever reason leave right away. A great user experience contributes to a lower bounce rate, or lower amount of people abandoning ship right away. Some factors contributing to a great user experience is the site’s functionality, ease of navigation, it’s look and feel, and (our favourite) accessibility on ALL browsers and ALL devices. (Have you checked out how your website looks on a tablet lately?)
Links and link building are probably the hottest (and hotly debated) topic when it comes to SEO. The basic logic is this: the more credible websites that link to your website, the higher authority your website will have. Theoretically, the idea is no one would want to link to a bad website. Many SEO experts believe that external linking is one of the most important aspects to know when it comes to improving your search engine ranking. External linking also refers, however, to your website linking to credible outside sources.
Title Tag & Meta Description
You’re probably very used to seeing title tags and meta descriptions every day, even if you didn’t know their names. Here’s what they look like:
The title tag tells internet browsers, as well as search engines, what the page is all about. The meta description, then, gives search engines some more insight. To be golden for search engines, the title tag and meta description should directly address the question that’s being asked. For example, if your target market is searching ‘what are some gold production companies in Canada?’ and that’s you, your meta description should read something like ‘XXX is a gold production company in Canada specializing in XYZ’. This direct correlation helps search engines when they’re attempting to find answers.
Conclusion: Can I do SEO by myself?
We hope the SEO basics above can at least give you a head start when assessing your website. But remember, the world of SEO can be overwhelming, especially if you’re looking to review your metrics on applications such as Google Analytics. A professional agency can take all the guesswork out of Search Engine Optimization, and can easily find exactly what metric you’re looking for. They can also tackle some of the technical aspects on the backend of a website that can get pretty confusing.
In any case, remember that the key to good SEO is to continually assess your website’s performance and make improvements; tweaking the content strategy and user experience to get the best results. Good luck, and feel free to reach out to us with any questions you may have!