If you work in marketing, digital media, content creation, copywriting, or anything related to the internet and owning a space on it, you’ve heard of SEO. Understanding SEO, or search engine optimization, is key in creating success for your business.
Why, you may ask, is SEO so important? Because in a time when the phrase ‘Google it’ has become synonymous with “search and find the answer,” it’s important to stand out in an online search and situate yourself so that your business can be an answer.
The first page of a Google search is the holy grail for businesses, it’s where you’ll be showcased via your website and it’s the first chance to become relevant to prospective customers. But you don’t just want to be on the first page for a single keyword, you want your business to show up on result pages for as many keywords as relates to your industry.
To be successful you have to be relevant. And to be relevant you have to be organized, and structure your website according to keywords and key phrases that will earn you the top spot on search engines. To be relevant you must also have a clear understanding of what your business is about: Having a strong and central theme is essential to creating a cohesive website.
And there we have the idea behind search engine optimization
. If only it were that simple.
SEO is about organization, content structure and categorization, readability and relevance. For example, search engines love Wikipedia, it’s almost always the first result for a variety of differentiated topics. Wikipedia’s SEO relies on a few factors:
- High keyword frequency and even keyword distribution;
- Large numbers of navigational links and landing pages that provide clear information on varied topics;
- Backlinks, organization and categorization. When a website structures its content and navigational links in a way that presents a clear subject matter (i.e. real estate in Toronto) search engines will have an easier time understanding what that website is about, thereby producing a higher ranking on search engine results.
- Keyword frequency and keyword distribution
If you’re unfamiliar with SEO you might think you only need a few keywords, say 5, dispersed and repeated throughout your website. In reality, your site needs anywhere from 25 or more keywords.
Say you’re a real estate agent in Toronto, five keywords or key phrases you might think of right away could include: realtor, Toronto, real estate, rentals, buying a home. That’s a good start, but next you should try and go even deeper. Let’s stick with geography for a minute. Toronto is a great keyword, but which neighborhoods do you specialize in? ‘Trinity Bellwoods’, ‘Queen Street West’, ‘Liberty Village’, or ‘Entertainment District’ might be among your keywords. Or, to expand on the key phrase ‘buying a home’, you could use terms such as ‘first-time homeowner’, ‘renter’, ‘buyer’, or ‘housing market’. These secondary terms expand on your primary keywords and create depth to your content.
Keyword distribution is important because you can’t repetitively write “real estate real estate real estate” all over your website and expect to succeed. Instead, try and sound conversational yet professional, and always confident. Allow your voice and your genuine care and knowledge of your business speak through your website.
2. High numbers of navigational links and landing pages that provide clear information
Navigational links are hyperlinked text (hyperlinks) that, once clicked, will take you to a separate landing page. A landing page serves as the primary information page for a subject category. For example, a hyperlink might send you to a landing page titled “Trinity Bellwoods Neighbourhood” which would discuss the housing market in Trinity Bellwoods, amenities in the area, and anything else related to real estate in the respective neighborhood.
In order to optimize your website, ensure that you are not writing ‘Click Here’ for navigational links: your link is not about ‘Click Here’ at all. Your link is about a particular topic and that particular topic is what your hyperlinked text should say. For example, if you want to redirect towards a page discussing new homeowners, a sensible navigational link would say ‘First-time Home Owners’. Google keeps track of hyperlinked text to determine the relevancy of site pages, which is why it’s important that the hyperlinked text match up directly with the category being discussed on a particular page.
Search engine spiders use mathematical algorithms to figure out what websites are saying. Although flowery language and creative synonyms might sound nice to a listener sitting next to you, they don’t make sense to search engine spiders. When you’re creating your website and the content available on it be sure to use words that can be easily understood.
Search engines rank websites with many clear and informative pages higher than websites with little and confusing content. To show up on search engines, then, ensure that you have many, keyword- and content-rich pages on your website with unique information and a centralized theme. Of course, to break up all your content be sure to include images (that have been captioned so search engines can understand the text) and graphics (infographics are great additions too!)
3. Backlinks, organization and categorization
As mentioned above, search engine spiders use mathematical algorithms to rank websites. Make your website clear, organized around a central theme, and structured in categories that make sense.
If one of you your primary categories is “Home-ownership” your secondary categories should include “First-time homeowners,” “Condos,” “Houses” etc. because these categories naturally make sense. If you were to visit a realtor’s website and see a primary category of “Home-ownership” and then secondary categories of “Owning a home in Leslieville,” “Owning a condo in The Junction” you’d be confused–these categories do not make sense. For these latter secondary categories, the primary category should be “Neighborhoods in Toronto.” Why? Because it makes sense.
Luckily, there are lots of tools available online to help you configure your website and create your online presence.
1. Google.com/trends will show you how often a keyword is used during a given day, or over a period of time. This allows you to see how the relevance of keywords is changing over time and can help you find new keywords to use in your content.
2. Google Keyword Planner is a great tool that can help you find which keywords and key phrases to use in your content. You need an AdWords account to get started, but the tool can be used for free.
3. Bruce Clay Inc. has a free search engine optimization keyword tool which, similar to Google Keyword Planner, can help you find which keywords and key phrases to use in your content.
4. Single Page Analyzers can be found online, and help measure and analyze how effectively Meta tags are written, how often you’re using your intended keywords, and other useful word metrics that can help you organize your writing and content.
5. Google Analytics provides data about various properties on your website. This data include word metrics, which topics people are reading and which pages they’re redirecting to, and also geographical information about where your readers are are.
SEO is about a lot more than repeating a couple keywords on your website. It’s about creating content around a centralized theme or topic, structuring and categorizing your digital brand in ways that make sense, and formatting your website to have multiple clear pages with even more hyperlinks to direct readers and keep them on your website. To succeed in your business you have to remain relevant, and in order to remain relevant to your customers you have to show up on search engines. Perfect the art of SEO and as long as you’ve got a great product or service to sell, people will seek your expertise.