When you've been writing about SEO as long as I have you sometimes feel that you've run out of things to say. We forget that there is always someone new just learning about SEO and hasn't had the chance to read every article ever written on the topic. Not many people have that kind of time on their hands.
In light of that, I wanted to spend some time going back to the basics of SEO.
I recently was invited to speak to a group of beauty bloggers being hosted by L'Oreal in New York City. Most of the attendees write their own blogs or were responsible for the blogs for the company they work for. A good share of them also sold products through their blogs. Many of the illustrations I'll use in this series will be directed toward that audience, however they can be applied across the board to any industry, including those selling products or services.
The trick with going back to the basics is deciding what gets included and what doesn't. I'm sure there will be a lot of "basics" left out while some of the things noted here could be considered more advanced. Either way, the SEO information I'll provide here are those things which I consider essential. And perhaps that's a better way to look at this, not as SEO 101 but rather, SEO Essentials. Hopefully, whether you've been around a while or just learning about this stuff, you'll learn something new, have previous misconceptions expelled, or other thoughts confirmed.
Every site has to start somewhere. When it comes to people we've heard it said that beauty is on the inside. The same is often true of websites. The design of the site may be pretty and eye-appealing on the outside while the SEO elements are something a bit more creepifying. With a little work you can turn any SEO-ugly website into a gorgeous web marketing goddess.
But the point is, you have to start somewhere. Short of moving forward with the implementation of a good SEO strategy your site will be falling short in a number of different ways.
There are four basic benefits of SEO that are the foundation of the online success that it brings. In the end, what we are all looking for is more business. But in order to get that there are a few things that need to be dealt with as part of your optimization strategy.
Four basic benefits of SEO
Before you can get your pages to rank for your targeted keyword phrases, you need to be sure that the search engines can first find them, and second decipher them. This goes back to making sure that you have a strong, search engine friendly website architecture. You do this by ensuring your links are properly navigable. The navigation of your site must have a properly established hierarchy, and your content needs to be readable. I'll touch on these things in more detail later in the series.
This is what we all want SEO for, right? Actually, I hope not. We'll discuss the other two benefits which are far more important next, but while rankings are an important part of SEO, they are not the goal in and of themselves. Too many people look at rankings and think "I'm losing x amount of business because I'm not ranked #1. This may or may not be true. Different rankings produce different bounce rates. It's important to understand that rankings don't make sales, they just provide a way in the door, and those that come in at #1 may not be as ready to buy as those that come in at #5.
Once you start getting rankings, even for low-volume but important keywords, you'll start to see your visitor count rise. Again, this is good, but not the ultimate goal you're trying to achieve unless you get paid on a cost per impression basis.
This is the big goal. The end-all, be-all purpose of search engine optimization. SEO is more than just helping you get rankings and drive traffic to your site. It should also help you increase your conversion counts and percentages. A conversion can be anything you want it to be; a comment on your blog, a download of a white paper, a follow on twitter, or a purchase of a product. Its important to know what your conversions are so you can set your optimization goals to help achieve them.
Search engines are stoopid
Throughout the process of SEO it's important to keep in mind that the search engines, as smart and advanced as they are, are still pretty stupid. They can't tell the intent, so if intent is needed in order to determine relevance of a page or keyword, the search engines are unaware. Part of the SEO process is going out of your way to spell things out to the search engines so no guessing is needed.
Keep in mind visitors can also be pretty dumb themselves. Business owners are always complaining about calls they get asking for information that's clearly noted in the website. Of course, it's not that your visitors are really stupid, it's that they are impatient for things that are not easy. The harder your site is to navigate, find information, make a purchase or get that conversion, the more likely the visitor is to leave. They'll move on to another site where things are easy.
As we go through this SEO process we'll be looking at things that make your site easier to understand, navigate and process for both the search engines and the visitors. And while much of this information is "basic", it's these basics that still matter to the search engines.
Stay tuned for parts 2-15 (give or take) coming over the next few months.
Missed a part of this series?
Part 1: Everything You Need To Know About SEO
Part 2: Everything You Need To Know About Title Tags
Part 3: Everything You Need To Know About Meta Description and Keyword Tags
Part 4: Everything You Need To Know About Heading Tags and Alt Attributes
Part 5: Everything You Need To Know About Domain Names
Part 6: Everything You Need To Know About Search Engine Friendly URLs & Broken Links
Part 7: Everything You Need To Know About Site Architecture and Internal Linking
Part 8: Everything You Need To Know About Keywords
Part 9: Everything You Need To Know About Keyword Core Terms
Part 10: Everything You Need To Know About Keyword Qualifiers
Part 11: Everything You Need To Know About SEO Copywriting
Part 12: Everything You Need To Know About Page Content
Part 13: Everything You Need To Know About Links
Part 14: Everything You Need To Know About Link Anatomy
Part 15: Everything You Need To Know About Linking
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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