In digital marketing, SEO is the process of optimizing a website to rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs). By improving the website’s content and structure, businesses can see a significant increase in website traffic and ROI.
SEO has three parts: On-page SEO, technical SEO, and off-page SEO (also often called off-site SEO). On-page SEO focuses on content and relevance, ensuring that keyword use is optimized and that the quality of the content is top-notch and something people want to see in a web search. Technical SEO focuses on optimizing the website’s code and infrastructure to improve things like loading speed, accessibility, and responsiveness (i.e., desktop vs. mobile versatility). Off-page SEO focuses on building links from other websites back to the original site.
How SEO works
SEO is a process that can take time to see results, but when done correctly, it can be extremely effective and save your business lots of money because you will be ranking organically for keywords that you would otherwise have to pay for in a Google Ads campaign.
The specific things Google uses in its search algorithm to rank one site over another is a closely guarded secret, but that doesn’t mean that the force of an entire industry that has been created as a result isn’t trying to figure it out. There are over 200 known factors that contribute to search rankings on Google. The algorithm Google uses changes and evolves multiple times each year, often in unexpected ways. What they want is to deliver the best, most relevant, and quality results possible—their success as an organization depends on it.
At the end of the day, quality and structure reign supreme. From its inception, the search algorithm has been evolving to become more human-like, anticipating what we need even if we lack the words to ask correctly. So, if you are looking to anticipate trends in search but aren’t quite ready to sign on an as SEO client, keep your website well-organized and focus on creating content that captures the imagination. (And if you use photos or videos, please, for the love of all that is holy, make sure the files aren’t huge and actually load up nicely on mobile.)
The three parts of SEO
There are three main aspects of SEO that businesses need to focus on in order to improve their website’s ranking: on-page SEO, technical SEO, and off-site SEO.
What is On-Page SEO?
On-page SEO refers to the optimization of a website’s content and structure for the purpose of increasing its visibility and ranking on search engines. This includes optimizing titles, headings, images, and other elements on the page that help crawlers understand what the page is about.
One of the most important aspects of on-page SEO is keyword optimization. Businesses need to identify keywords that are relevant to their business and target those keywords in their content. They can also use keyword research tools like Ahrefs or SEMRush to find keywords that have low competition but high traffic volumes.
Businesses should also focus on creating high-quality, relevant content. This includes writing informative and engaging articles, blog posts, and other content that will interest potential customers. Quality content is one of the most important factors for improving a website’s ranking on search engines, and as Google is growing up we are finding that relevant content is key. For example, if you own a bookstore and your website’s blog talks about how to run a small business, your ranking would not be as good as if you wrote about reading and the love of books. If it makes sense to people, it’ll make sense to Google, especially as the algorithm continues to improve!
What is Technical SEO?
Technical SEO is the process of ensuring that a website’s code is optimized for search engines. This includes ensuring that titles, metatags, and other elements are properly formatted and that the website’s structure is easy to crawl. Technical SEO also includes optimizing the website for speed and mobile friendliness.
Mobile friendliness, or responsive design, is becoming increasingly important as more and more people use their phones to search the internet. In fact, Google has announced that they will be using mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor in their search algorithm. This means that businesses need to make sure their website is optimized for mobile devices or they will risk losing traffic and rankings.
Speed is also important for SEO. Google has stated that they prefer websites that load quickly, and while there is no perfect loading time, the general best practice is to aim for a website that loads in less than 3 seconds.
A relatively new addition to the key drivers list for technical SEO prowess is accessibility. The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) has provisions that allow for equal use of and access to public property. While digital property was not a provision of the law (it was signed by George H.W. Bush in 1990, after all), it has gained acceptance as a necessary provision of the ADA and case law is continually being written to support it. Domino’s Pizza recently lost a long battle in court over its website not being accessible. It is vital that those with visual, cognitive, and other disabilities are able to access the content and information on your site. If you are lost and want to know how BotLabs can help, let us know. We offer website accessibility optimization as part of our ongoing SEO services.
What is Off-Page SEO?
Sometimes called off-site SEO, off-page SEO is the process of creating links back to a website from other websites. This can include both creating links manually and using tools such as link-building software. A simple way to get some quick links is to ensure that your website is listed in local directories and others like Yelp and Google My Business (which will allow it to show up in Google Maps). If you’re a dentist or doctor, make sure your business is listed on relevant ranking sites like Healthgrades and others. If part of your work is related to a specific trade, get your site listed in the trade association directory. The goal of off-page SEO is to increase the website’s authority and visibility in SERPs by creating a wealth of incoming traffic from different, but related, sources.
First, Create Content People Link to Naturally
One of the most effective ways to build links is to create high-quality content that other websites will want to link to. This includes writing informative blog posts, designing infographics, and creating other types of content that are shareable and linkable. Putting out great content is one of the best ways to earn natural, high-quality links.
High Authority Link Juice
Getting a link from a high-quality, high-traffic site will raise the domain rating of your own. Domain rating is not a Google metric but rather a metric that many SEO platforms use to measure a great number of factors that determine the searchability of a site. Domains with high authority, or a high domain rating, appear in the top of search results more frequently than those with a low authority score. When a high-authority site links to a low-authority site its influences increases the authority of the lesser site. SEOs call this “link juice.” And high-authority sites have a lot of it.
For example, if your site got 100 backlinks from related businesses or associations in your state, it would increase your domain rating, or authority score. But, if instead your site got a single link from the New York Times, your domain authority would fare even better than it would have with the 100 links from lower-authority site. Your site just became “cool” by association.
Build Relationships, Build Links
Who you know is just as important in the world of SEO as it is IRL. You may not know someone at the New York Times who will link to a piece you’ve written on your site because it makes their story better, but you may know other people who have high-authority sites. And if you don’t know people, start reaching out. Developing relationship takes time, but it can pay off in droves. There are many tactics available in the SEOs toolchest for building links, but most businesses don’t engage in link outreach because it is so time-consuming. Handing this work off to an agency that excels in this area will be a game-changer for your search results.
A Brief Note on Black Hat SEO Tactics
If an SEO agency ever tells you that they can build links for you by paying high-traffic sites money to link to your content, even if those sites are relevant to your business, run for the hills! If Google finds out, you, and not the SEO agency, could be banned from search. Links should never cost money, and if you pay for them and get caught it’ll come back to bite you.
“Black hat” tactics like these are smarter than your standard spammy, link from hundreds of random porn sites type of black hat backlinking. (Seriously, we have seen it all!) Comparatively, paying for links from otherwise benign sites may feel like the high road, and it may even provide a quick and immediate boost to search results, which is why some agencies use them. But, doing SEO the right ways takes months of work before results start to pay off. A quick boost to otherwise low rankings may wow a client in the short term but result in years of low rankings because the pit is so hard to climb out of.
We have worked with numerous clients to repair negative search reputation because of black hat activities performed on their behalf. Recovery from a negative search reputation is possible, and BotLabs can help.
Soft Skills Are Important
All three aspects of SEO—on-page, technical, and off-page—are important for any business that wants to succeed in digital marketing. However, each business will have different priorities depending on its goals. For example, a local ice cream shop might want to focus on on-page SEO to make sure its website appears when people search for “ice cream near me.” Meanwhile, a custom shoe site might want to focus on off-site SEO to get other websites that sell similar products to link to their own. Link-building is kind of like high school: popularity by association (i.e., links to your site) helps you climb the ladder and gets you noticed above your peers. And just like high school, when it comes to SEO the smart kids win in the end.
When selecting an agency to work with, make sure you partner with one who listens to what you need and can explain your business back to you. And for SEO specifically, make sure that they develop a plan that isn’t cookie-cutter. Your business and what is going to make it rank is unique. Many of the tools and strategies work from one business to another—but not all of them. A good SEO will listen to what you have to say, learn about your business, and build a plan that caters to your needs. If you would like this kind of service, drop us a note to set up a free 30-minute consultion. We’d love to hear about what you do and how we might get more people to find your site online.