What Is Search Engine Optimization?
SEO is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” search results on search engines.
All major search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo have primary search results, where web pages and other content such as videos or local listings are shown and ranked based on what the search engine considers most relevant to users. Payment isn’t involved, as it is with paid search ads, but time, knowledge, and effort are definitely involved in establishing and improving search rankings.
Onsite or on-page SEO is the structural aspect of search engine optimization that focuses on the technical details of a website rather than content quality and promotion. Technical SEO is about optimizing the structure and code of a website so search engines can find, understand, and send traffic to that site. A site with proper technical structure has a distinct advantage over sites that do not.
The content and promotional aspect of SEO concentrates on how to create well optimized content, build links, and boost social shares. This is sometimes also referred to as off-page search engine optimization.
If your site isn’t set up right via onsite SEO, Google won’t even see it. But once your structural issues are resolved and you have a way of monitoring and maintaining ongoing structural integrity, the majority of SEO effort focuses on offsite, content and basic on-page optimization.
Both onsite and offsite SEO are needed to drive as much organic traffic from search engines as possible. To promote a page, link assets or backlinks are needed, but if Google doesn’t see those assets, and you’re not ranking, there are likely structural issues do to poor on-page SEO.
Search Engine Optimization Methodology
SEO Intent & Context
SEO starts with user intent. Everyone typing a query into Google’s search bar is looking for something. Regardless of keywords used, they have a specific intent. But that intent exists within the context of what they’re doing and what they want or need.
Both the intent and the context of a search are critically important to understand.
When targeting a keyword, you must understand user intent and the context behind the search. What is the prospect searching for? Why do they likely want this information? Knowing these answers will determine what information to provide in each piece of content. SEO delivers answers, information, and solutions by being able to anticipate needs.
SEO Asset & Channel
Once the intent of a particular search is determined, the next step is to build a unique asset to satisfy that intent. This stage is all about content creation, but first, these critical questions need to be answered:
- What is the targeted keyword/intent?
- What asset will satisfy that search?
- Where should the asset live? (blog, social media, video, ebook, maps/directory etc.)
Google Is Just One Available Search Engine
Google is just one of many search engines to optimize for. Every channel that uses search has an algorithm that can be leveraged for success. Search engine optimization helps in understanding how the algorithms on those platforms work and then doing what it takes to make your content rise to the top.
Google’s search bots are incredibly smart, which makes it hard to rise to the top of their SERPs. But most other search bots—think Amazon, Yelp, or Pinterest—are less complex and easier to understand. Not only that, there are likely fewer people competing for their top spots, so it’s an easier game to win. Approaching it this way, we may take the search game to a smaller playing field. While there may be fewer people searching those other channels, we will create content that’s optimized specifically for them.
The goal is to choose an asset (or assets) that will best answer the intent/context (better than anyone else on the web), then choose the channel where each asset will reside. For each search query, the targeted channel wants to put the absolute best page at the top of its results. So the page/asset with the most relevant and the closest match for searchers’ intent wins.
SEO Optimization & Ascension
This stage is about optimizing each asset for the applicable channel’s search algorithm and having a customer ascension plan in place that takes an individual from being just a visitor to becoming a customer. To do this, being able to answer the following questions is critical:
- How will the prospect find this asset?
- What is the next step in the Customer Journey?
Just getting traffic from SEO isn’t the end goal. The ultimate objective to any digital marketing campaign, SEO included, is to create leads, sales or whatever conversions help you reach your goals. So as we optimize your content/assets for SEO, we are also focusing on telling visitors what their next step is.
Search Engine Optimization Metrics
- Traffic by Channel – In Google Analytics, this is the first report we typically look at when we get access to a site. It tells you a lot at a high level: Where are we hurting? Are your traffic sources relatively balanced or does traffic come from just one or two channels?
- Quantity/Quality of Backlinks – Tracks how many websites are linking to your site. That number should be trending upward, with more and more quality sites linking to you.
- Keyword Rankings – Tracking the positions for those keywords you want to rank for.
- Conversions from Search – Set up from Ecommerce or Goals in Google Analytics to show top-line revenue and number of transactions over time. The metrics to focus on are Sessions, Revenue, and Transactions.
Search Engine Optimization Terminology
- Technical SEO – Technical SEO is about optimizing the structure and code of a website so search engines can find, understand, and send traffic to that site.
- Intent – A person’s goal when typing a search query on the web. What information are they looking for? What are they hoping to achieve with that information? If you know your customers’ intent, you’ll be able to find the keywords that are most relevant to your business.
- Asset – The content produced to satisfy the intent of a customer or prospect. It may include blog posts, product pages, social media profiles, podcasts, videos, and more.
- Channel – The digital “home” of an asset designed to meet the intent of a customer or prospect. Assets might live on a website or blog, but they may also live on large content hubs like Amazon, Pinterest, iTunes, and TripAdvisor.
Search Engine Optimization Services
Step 1: Developing Your SEO Strategy (Initial Analysis Reports)
Critical research is the first step we take when performing SEO for you. Our comprehensive Initial Analysis Reports lay the foundation for the strongest search engine success possible and determines the best path in achieving a return on your investment. The analysis looks at on-page (technical) and off site indicators, it looks into the intent and context of the searches being performed by your target audience and market, and it also looks at your competitors.
The analysis is an extreme amount of information we need to collect in order to take action and direction with your websites. It takes us approximately two to three weeks to aggregate the below data, then we deliver the reports to you in an online meeting format.
These reports allow all parties to understand the scope of the project and will allow us to write a Strategic Internet Marketing Plan (SIMP). Once this plan is complete you’ll receive an official quote for ongoing SEO, but until that point it’s only guesswork as to the amount of effort that will be necessary to attain success. That’s why we start with a baby step of noncommittal research.
After that stage is complete you’ll know what it’s like to interact with our professional team, you’ll have a great amount of knowledge about the opportunity and obstacles, and we’ll know what it’ll take to help you achieve the success you want.
These Initial Analysis Reports include:
- Keyword Report – Define exact keywords and search phrases that users are searching on the Internet as well as the monthly search volume. This activity will give you an idea of the potential traffic searching for your products/services on a monthly basis.
- Initial Website SEO Analysis – Our software will look at images in relation to load times for each page, broken URLs, as well as other areas as it affects search engines from crawling the site. The website is a critical factor in good SEO. The layers or “hierarchy” of any website structure is extremely important to a successful SEO project.
- Competition Analysis – This report will help us identify the strength of the keywords and how hard or easy it will be to achieve search results. Our goal is to help you get a return on your business sooner rather than later. Keywords and search phrases are organized into a timeline, so then we can focus on optimizing keywords that can be won in the search engine on the front page while working on the more difficult keywords that can take longer.
- Initial Ranking (Benchmark) – This report shows where keywords and search phrases are ranked today. Accountability is a vital and necessary part of any good SEO company. In our benchmark report we will look at what keywords your website currently ranks for and where. Moving forward we will run reports benchmarking our efforts. We will run such reports every three to five weeks to measure success of the SEO project.
- Initial Competitive Intelligence Analysis – This step involves looking at who your top 10 competitors for the keywords and search phrases are and where they rank for keywords. As part of strategy and setting expectations, we have to know who your competitors are online and where they rank for the same keywords we’re going after. This analysis can help us dissect competitive websites and give us distinct advantages.
- Backlink Strength Report – This report contains many mathematical details on the strength of your inbound links to the pages within your website. Every link that comes from another website or blog has a mathematical value called citation flow that will be reported. These links, depending upon what site they are coming from, the age of the domain, the content on the website, and other areas can either hurt or help your website. Building a solid back link program that is steady in progression and rich in relevant content is vital to quality structure of SEO.
Step 2: Ongoing Search Engine Optimization
We believe SEO is the single best investment you can make. SEO is the process of gaining trust and authority with Google (as well as other search engines and media channels) on specific keywords. Once that trust is gained, and rankings are achieved, you’ll tend to maintain those higher rankings for years. This investment pays dividends month after month.
Step 2 is ongoing as SEO isn’t a once-and-done task. Google has hundreds of trillions (yes trillions) of web pages indexed, so it’s safe to say that every day new pages are being added and existing pages are being updated with fresh content. Your competitors may be doing a better job of optimizing the same keywords. We have specific approaches to combat this issue, which are detailed below, but basically, this means means your content needs to be finessed, updated, and promoted to rise in the search engine result pages (SERPs).
Google’s algorithm is also constantly changing. It’s based on artificial intelligence, and it’s learning more every day. As a result, the rules change too. The tactics used today won’t be the ones used next month or next year. A critical factor to being successful at SEO is understanding the rules as they evolve and adjusting accordingly.
We welcome those changes. The last several “Penguin” and “Panda” updates from Google have improved about 80 percent of our clients’ organic rankings, with the remaining 20 percent split between no changes, or moderate declines.
While no one can predict what the next Google update will do, our track record has proven that our methodologies are very much in line with the direction Google is trying to move with their SEO updates. Our methodologies are proven across many different industries, and in incredibly competitive marketplaces, which is why our clients have over a quarter-million first page results!
SEO Methodologies Practiced During Step 2
Ongoing Search Engine Optimization – may include but is not limited to:
- On Page Optimization – On Page Optimization includes any technical cleanup and writing new properly optimized content to be posted to the site – developing your SEO assets. This content adheres to all the best practices such as: proper keyword density, keyword in the title, keyword in alt tags, proper keyword data in meta-tags, etc. If you so desire and provide back-end access to the site, we will post this content for you after your team has reviewed and approved such content for posting. In many cases we determine that we simply need to optimize what already exists instead of writing a new piece of content. We will either provide our recommendations on how to improve existing on page content and with your approval implement those changes or simply ensure changes made by your team adhere to all of our recommendations/best practices.
- Off Page Optimization – Not all backlinks are equal and you will never find us promise “x” number of backlinks since that has little value to you or the end goal of ranking. What we do provide are quality backlinks that come from blogs; these specifically talk about the keyword we’re trying to optimize for, utilize the keyword as the anchor text, and link back specifically the article we want to rank for that keyword. We highly believe in a sustainable approach to backlinks and thus believe in the control of those backlinks. When Google makes a change to how they view backlinks with an algorithm update, we can alter our approach and make changes to all of the backlinks we’ve previously developed for you. This is how our clients have not only become successful, but remain the incumbent winner in their associated spaces.
- Toxic Backlink Removal – We will initially look for and then continually monitor for toxic backlinks coming from unfavorable backlink neighborhoods, and when discovered we will go through the process of disavowing them. We have largely streamlined the disavow process by continually developing our own software since the announcement of Google’s Disavow Tool. Our tool helps locate toxic backlinks, requests the site to remove them, automatically checks in one week to see if removal has occurred, and then submits a report to Google if they haven’t removed said backlinks to officially disavow them. This documented process is required by Google to disavow toxic backlinks. This process can be exceptionally time-consuming if done manually. Our tool does much of the heavy lifting, but we combine human intelligence to ensure that ONLY bad links are removed for the best possible results.
- Social Signal Development – Social signals are beginning to have a significant impact on SEO, and that’s why when we post a new piece of content for a client we develop social signals to that content. This activity is completed through our social signal network that tweets, +1s, and shares the content. We take a much more gradual approach with existing content as Google would view many social signals about an old piece of content as unnatural.
- Mobile Search People – are conducting more searches from their mobile devices and your pages must be easily accessible from phones and tablets as well as computers. As such, natural language and latent semantic search are becoming an increasingly more important factor in organic search rankings. All of SEO activities are done with a “mobile first” approach.
- Performance Reporting – We will track progress in using real time performance reporting that you can access at any time. These reports will focus on KPIs that align with your goals and the objectives of you SEO campaign. This reporting will also monitor for technical issues and keep an eye on the competitive landscape. Comprehensive reporting brings transparency to the campaign and keeps everyone focused on the goals and objectives that matter most.
- Search Is “White Hat” (Our SEO Ethics) – Gone are the days of keyword stuffing. You must do what Google wants—and what they want is to provide a superior experience for their users. Old-style gray-hat and black-hat SEO tactics were borderline illegal, and they’re definitely unethical. So that’s NOT the approach we’re going to take. The tactics we employ will give your site a sustainable business that’s reputable and trustworthy. And honestly, it’s the only way to grow your business long-term. We believe in white hat SEO, but actually take our ethics a step further; we pass everything we do through a simple litmus test. We will not engage in underhanded marketing techniques or black hat SEO techniques, nor we will work with companies involved with adult themes, gambling, or activities which we consider morally questionable, or that may exploit anyone. There are five questions that must be answered of things we think, say, or do:
- Is it the TRUTH?
- Is it FAIR to all concerned?
- Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
- Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
- Is it the RIGHT thing to do?
- Weekly Meetings – We believe that we should have weekly meetings with our clients. SEO may take time, but we don’t believe that our objectives/tasks should take any longer than they need to. By having regular meetings with us you can keep us accountable, and we’ll keep you and your team accountable for the action items that need to take place. In these meetings we will also be going over reports of the progress of the campaign, and consistently share with you the results of our relationship.