Search engines utilize their own algorithms to determine how to show the most relevant, trustworthy results to consumers who are searching for your services or products every second of the day.
In layman’s terms, Google is one giant library of information. Your brand or business’s website is one book out of a million that Google is trying to measure as the best source of content. Search engine optimization (SEO) practices tell Google what each book — or website — is all about and how much it can trust yours.
If you’ve ever searched the chiropractic term “Gonstead,” for example, and wondered how Google determines the results or how businesses are shown as a result, SEO is your answer. In basic terms, SEO best practices help Google rank your website onto page one of organic search results.
By ranking on the first page, you will see an increase in “earned/owned,” “organic” traffic to your website. To convey the importance of organic traffic, consider this. According to data collected by Advanced Web Ranking, the top five search results receive a large majority of organic keyword search traffic.
Now, before digging into the nuts and bolts of SEO, ask yourself the following questions about your own user habits:
• Why do I avoid ads at the top of Google’s search results? Probably because you feel like you will be required to submit your email address and then endlessly spammed until spam becomes a staple of your diet.
• How often do I choose the results on Google Maps? If the distance between you and the service you are looking for is a big factor in your decision, then you will probably utilize the results of Google Maps.
• Why do I trust Google’s organic results? The results are intent-based. You are searching for a particular piece of content to answer whatever questions you may have, and you trust that these organic results will not barrage you with advertisements. You will have the freedom to conduct your research in peace. Therefore, there is a higher level of trust in Google’s organic rankings.
Navigating The Learning Curve
Google looks at more than 200 signals and many more sub-signals when determining how to rank millions of websites. The great thing about SEO is that there are a lot of resources for you. Foundationally, I recommend learning about the Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors. And Google is constantly updating its criteria throughout the year, so it is important to stay on top of the news and what other SEO specialists are discovering from their own research.
As Google’s signals have evolved, our agency has taken painful steps to learn about each modifier, testing in various modes, industries and technologies. While Google would disclose just parts of the formula, as industry professionals, we have had to test and retest again and again, to see which parts of the strategy are duplicable for each client and which ones require additional knowledge.
So, Are You An SEO Superhero Or Villian?
It’s important to first note that there are two types of SEO strategies in Google’s world. Are you going to be a superhero or a villain to Google?
1. White Hat SEO: This encompasses organic search traffic and refers to SEO strategies that fit within the terms and conditions of search engines (i.e., Google).
2. Black Hat SEO: Using “black hat” tactics means you are being deceitful to Google and trying to game or take advantage of the system. Typically, Google’s updates work to weed out websites that are using black hat SEO strategies.
If you are a villain, Google may ban your site. Using white hat strategies is the only way you should be conducting your SEO efforts.
Strategizing For White Hat SEO Success
There are several aspects that each company must consider when planning their SEO strategy, but I find two to be extremely important: competitive research and keyword difficulty. Beyond keyword volume is keyword intent, so figuring out higher click-through rates (CTRs) for target keywords and comparing them against competitor rankings is where you should start.
Be armed with data before you make a single decision on a piece of content, landing page or backlink. Data will become your friend in executing high-level strategies and on-the-ground efforts to help drive more organic traffic.
SEO has evolved into a machine with a lot of moving parts, and it takes time to learn. But whether you take on the strategies yourself or work with an expert, SEO should be a key factor in your annual growth plan because, like you and me, we are using Google in our lives — every single day.