By Elin Enrooth
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your website so that search engines will recognize it as authoritative and relevant to users.
Following good SEO practices not only helps the search experience, but it also helps improve the user experience and performance of your site.
However, though it is vital for a website’s success, it is still somewhat of a foreign concept to many business owners. We hear a lot of the same questions, from both long-time and potential clients. It isn’t uncommon to question what it is and whether it’s necessary for your website (spoiler alert: it is).
Most SEO campaigns include two phrases: on-site and off-site SEO. These two “branches” have to do with whether the optimizations take place on your site or elsewhere on the internet. On-page SEO relates to the optimizations that you can control and perform on your own site, whereas off-page SEO is what others think about your site.
On-page SEO refers to the practice of optimizing a website in order to rank higher in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) and earn more relevant traffic. Fully optimizing a page includes making both content and HTML changes.
Page content can be optimized for keywords, quality, and relevance. Today, the most-valued content isn’t ranked depending on its length or the number of times it contains one specific keyword, it is instead about understanding who your users are and what they’re looking for.
Other optimization techniques include increasing page speed, adding relevant links, including metadata, and making sure your site is responsive to different device types.
The goal is to keep users engaged and on your site longer to help search engines and visitors see your site as authoritative, useful, and user-friendly.
Off-page SEO refers to changes that happen elsewhere on the internet that help to build brand recognition and website authority. In order to be discoverable online, websites need to be mentioned online.
Off-page SEO optimization techniques include writing guest blogs for relevant industry sites, maintaining social media pages, submitting press releases to media outlets, soliciting online reviews, and earning links from other sites.
While earning links is important for a site’s authority, search engines also take into account the value, domain authority, relevance, and reputability of that link.
In April 2012, Google launched the “webspam algorithm update,” later dubbed Penguin, as an attempt to fight black hat link-building techniques. Penguin ensures that natural, authoritative, and relevant links are rewarded, while manipulative and spammy links are downgraded.
While it’s easy to gain links from various sources, it is good SEO practice to only seek high-quality links from reputable and relatable sources.
Depending on the status of your website, it can take anywhere from four to six months for SEO to yield results, and sometimes longer. For some, this kind of long-term investment can be hard to justify.
When starting SEO, you should budget for at least six months, and expect to not see any real results until that point. Remember, SEO will continue to produce results, so the results you see at six months won’t be as great as what you may see at nine or 12 months.
Google does not update its search results as soon as changes are made to a site. The frequency with which Googlebot crawls and indexes your site depends on the site’s popularity, crawlability, and structure.
However, Josh Steimle argues that it is no longer accurate to judge the success of your optimization techniques by your position in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Instead, progress should be measured by how long it takes to start generating leads.
Because of the way that search engines crawl and index websites today, it is imperative that your site is optimized. Otherwise, it won’t be found by the users that you want to target. However, once you have completed the major optimization techniques, it isn’t necessary to keep investing as much time as before. Instead, your goal will be to maintain your rank.
Some people may want to pull the plug on their SEO efforts if they’ve yet to see results. This is a bad idea; If you’ve already spent time optimizing your website, or hired someone to do so, remember that it takes time.
Once you have made all of the necessary changes to your website and have reached your desired ranking, you should probably work to keep it. Performing site maintenance and minimal SEO will help to prevent your competitors from swooping in and outranking you.
At Hoist, we work with home service businesses to manage their SEO efforts and increase their authority on search engines. And every now and then we'll get together and record ourselves talking about SEO, you can listen to that right here:
Ready to talk about what good SEO practices can do for your website?