SEO: The Basics

Search Engine Optimization: What is it and how can it help you with your communication strategies?

SEO. Search Engine Optimization. A mouthful shortened down to an ambiguous acronym. The question remains, what is search engine optimization? If you’re interested in the communications field, most likely you already know. If not — or if it’s just still a vague, theoretical concept to you — search engine optimization is essentially an organic (i.e. free or very inexpensive, based on how you go about it) marketing strategy that focuses on boosting traffic to you or your client’s website, social media and other pages.

Search engines power the internet. Think about it. Most people don’t type a full URL in anymore. Instead, with one or two keywords in the URL box or in their homepage search engine box,  it’s more important than ever to make sure those keywords are bringing your intended audience to your ideas and campaigns with links that are going to be the prioritized on the first page of the search results when they type that keyword in and hit enter.
SEO is a vastly complex concept, so today we’ll just start with breaking it down with some simple terms and basics, and continue to build on it later.

Starting At The Search

To implement SEO to boost your visibility and traffic, it’s first essential to understand search engines: how they work, what they do, and how they affect you.

Crawling

Search engines use what are called crawlers to determine content,

importance, subject, titles, images, links in order to categorize and identify content that may be relevant to their search results. They’re also kind of like that Instagram model curator, they don’t like cluttered content or an unorganized aesthetic when they bounce through a site.

They collect links from any given page, turning them into the next page of links to scan and organize. This is why it’s important to maintain control over what you’re linking and how you’re linking on your pages, whether it’s redirecting back to your own content, or other relevant content that fits in well with the schema of your site. Make Use Of created a fun exercise to create your own crawler and get the feel of how it actually works. This stuff is complicated if you’re not tech-savvy, so if you’re a hands-on learner, give it a try.

Ranking

Once these crawlers have taken a good gander at your site and indexed the contents, it’s going to spit the results back to the search engine. At this point, the search engine is going to prioritize pages based on relevance and popularity. This is the stage that is the easiest to address when utilizing SEO in your own practice. Search engines have very specific and lengthy guidelines to determine these elements. By knowing, understanding, and utilizing those guidelines, your chances of being a top result are exponentially better.

Boosting Your Ranking

Of course, that was an incredibly reduced minimal view of how search engines collect information and work. They’re infinitely more complicated than that, but for now, those are the two concepts to keep in mind in order to begin to implement more SEO friendly practices. So how do search engines decide what is relevant and what is popular?

Here are some things to consider when posting, creating and updating to effectively get the most traffic for your effort

  1. Content. It doesn’t matter how pretty your fonts are, how well placed your images appear, or how well you utilize links if your page doesn’t have a clear offering. Nothing is ever more important than having substantive content. People want sites that are cohesive and that offer interesting perspectives, and new and exciting content that’s believable and worth following. It doesn’t matter if Tim Cook himself designed your website’s interface, you still have to have something worth clicking on and reading through. Keep your sites cohesive by using categories, only publishing stories and content that is relevant to your site, and that remains timely and interesting to your target audience.
  2. Backlinks. Essentially backlinks are your best friend. If another website links to your site, you know you’re doing something right, and so does Google. These are equivalent to likes on a post — the more you get, the more popular your content is. If you’re just starting out, considering creating backlinks for other pages on your posts. Everyone knows if you like someone else’s post, they’re more likely to give you the same consideration. Unless it’s like, a supermodel. They probably won’t care. But normal folks? They will. It’s also a good idea to make your pages social media friendly. Include links to share and like right on your page.
  3. Layout. Keep the pages on your sites uniform across the board with the best possible layout in order to boost popularity. Titles, headers, URLs, and image tags are all incredibly important when it comes to keeping your page organized and running smoothly.
  4. Mobile friendly. This one can be a bit hard to achieve at first if you’re just starting out, but keep it on the back burner while you’re developing, learning, and growing. With more and more people ditching their laptops for their smartphones, websites that offer easy navigation on that tiny screen are going to do much better.

 

More Resources

If you’re just itching to go with some more SEO information and best practices, here are some great resources to flex your brain muscles and dive right in.

  • Moz’s Beginner’s Guide To SEO for some great infographics and even better information on the technological side of it, and step by step ways of how to boost your ranking and visibility.
  • Google’s 200 Ranking Factors for an extensive list of what you can do to tweak your website in ways that Google appreciates
  • Reading List for a great list of books to dive into and emerge from a search engine expert

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