If you’ve been following along in the series, you have a solid foundational understanding of the impact the creative and brand consistency within your website can have to deliver a fantastic UX (see what I did there). What we often run into today, that even just five to seven years ago was not really necessary conversation to have on a website project, is what work will be done on a website before it goes live for search engine optimization. Similar to UI/UX being misinterpreted, SEO (search engine optimization) is one of many different SEM (search engine marketing) activities a business should or may take part in to improve their presence within search results.
In laymen’s terms SEO is the process of ensuring the individual pages of a website are properly “optimized,” referring to the ability of any given search engine’s spider or crawler to review the pages of your website. The search engine will index them based upon complex algorithms to ensure people searching for specific information find the most relevant websites and pages. Picture the index of a library being used to put books in the right section of fiction vs non-fiction, and within the right category or subject.
The often over-used joke/story we tell new clients to help provide some insight to the need for SEO is the following: Picture building a gorgeous new business selling water in the middle of the desert. You spent countless dollars making sure it was attractive from the road, signage was large, and you had plenty of parking. What you didn’t do is tell anyone you were moving, market or advertise the new location, and there’s only one car a day that drives by on average. Your business will fail miserably without proper means for notifying people you exist and making sure you are located in an area that you can actually be found. This is why SEO is now an industry in and of itself and a very necessary part of any website redesign, as well as an activity or service that needs to be executed properly for businesses of all different types and sizes.
Now that we have the ramp up out of the way, let’s dig in to the meat and potatoes of what optimizing for search engines really means. Like many skilled trades, every agency or SEO professional will have a slightly different opinion on what optimization should or could entail, but the globally known factors that are most important are the following:
- Page Names
- Page Titles
- Header Tags
- Meta Tags
- Naming of On-Page Assets (Images, Flash Movies, etc.)
- Keyword Density and Placement Within Content
- On-Page Anchor Text
- Image ALT / TITLE Tags
- On-Page Styling (Bold, Italics, etc.)
- Ensuring Unique Content
- Ensuring No Bad Methods Being Deployed (eg hidden text or links)
It’s one thing to know what you need to optimize on a website, but a whole other knowing the best keywords and terms to use when optimizing those pieces of your website. When searching Google or any other search engine there are numerous variations one might search. For example, one person may search for a new pair of shoes by typing in “Buy Shoes Online”, while another may search “Buy Shoes”, and another my search “Shoes Online”. Each one of those terms will return a different set of results. When you optimize your site for certain keywords and terms it’s important to know what the competition is for each of those keywords and terms.
On Google, when you do a search it displays the number of results it has found from your search. The higher the number, the higher the difficulty in getting on the first few pages of results, let alone on page one. This is where the science and expertise comes with the optimization of your website. The mixture of proper tactics for search engine optimization with a keyword analysis can dramatically increase traffic to your website.
A good keyword analysis study will be most beneficial in the optimization of your website, but also for ongoing search engine marketing (SEM) tactics. At this point you’re probably thinking, “Thanks for telling me there’s a huge void in my current digital marketing strategy, so what exactly am I supposed to be doing to get more traffic?” We’re glad you asked! In a few weeks we will publish our next installment, “Stop Ignoring Your Band Online – Part Four: SEM Activities” that will dissect the many different ways to perform SEM, which strategies make the most sense for your business model, and how to quantify the value of results.