SEO: Beginner’s Guide to What Matters
As a relative newcomer to the world of SEO I’d like to take a moment to zoom out.
There are a lot of things one can do to bring traffic to a website and get the phone ringing. In my almost two months here at Mockingbird my hands have been dirty redirecting URLs, nofollowing links, looking at content data to see what works and what doesn’t, answering the phone, getting Google Analytics certified, conducting onboarding audits, running competitive analyses… you get it. Trying to get stuff done, it can be easy to lose sight of what is most important to SEO and why we’re doing what we’re doing. That’s why I’ve made this SEO: Beginner’s Guide to What Matters.
Leads, Not Ranking
This list is not in order of importance, but I certainly didn’t list this first on accident. The one detail that has been emphasized to me the most, whether in my interview, training, or since, is that you can’t lose sight of the reason SEOs have jobs: to bring business to the client. It’s easy to get caught up in traffic, likes, shares, and yes, page rankings, when measuring the impact of your SEO efforts. Oftentimes these metrics are closely related to your end goal. But they aren’t it. Your end goal is to connect your client with people who want to pay them money in exchange for services. I would be happy showing up as the 2,573rd Google search result for all keywords if it also meant a steady, bountiful flow of leads. What I mean to say here is this: stay focused on goals that matter.
This article will mention ranking. Moving forward, keep in mind that ranking only matters if it generates leads. For more on this, check out Conrad’s blog post
We’ve all heard it. Content is crucial. It might even be king. But what is a king without a queen, a couple knights, peasants and a jester? Just some guy. What I’m trying to say it this: content is valuable, but only when used in the right way. First, the content being posted to your website needs to be of good quality. Search engines can easily sniff out fodder, the stuff used to fill a page. The content being posted must be actually relevant and helpful to somebody who stumbles upon it. Next, high quality content needs to be regularly promoted and marketed. Today, people are starting to figure out that in order to get traffic (and, ideally, leads), they need to post a lot of high quality content. The gig is up. There’s ample high quality content out there. So in order for yours to be seen, you need to push it out.
This is broad, but important. Site architecture is paramount to online marketing. It includes anything from website crawlability to mobile capabilities, site speed to duplicate content. In order for your website to garner attention from a search engine, in needs to be easy for the search engine to engage with. If Google has a hard time crawling your site because it has massive amounts of outdated, irrelevant content, non-descriptive URLS and no sitemap, it won’t be happy and there will be repercussions. But it’s important to remember that search engines aren’t ranking for themselves. They rank based on how helpful/effective they deem a site to be for the user. If Bing can tell that your sitespeed is in the pits, it’s going to recognize that this will annoy a user, and ding your ranking. When building a website, architecture should be kept in mind to easily accommodate search engines.
HTML, similar to site architecture, sends signals to search engines to help them determine what information needs to be put before a user. Title tags, meta description tags, and header tags all fall under HTML. When sifting through every piece of information on a site, tags give the search engine some guidance. Searchengineland aptly uses the example of a book; say you open a book shop with 100 books you’ve written. You happen to be a pretty bad writer, and you gave each book the same title, each chapter the same name, and put the same information in each sleeve. An interested reader who steps into your shop is going to have a hard time determining where to find content on their favorite genre, political intrigue. Or Vampires. The same is true for search engines. If a search engine can’t easily understand what content is stored on what pages, that content might be left by the wayside. Offer your content to search engines with plenty of explanation: relevant titles, descriptions, and header tags.
There you have it
An oversimplified summary of SEO priorities.