In our SEO Marketing: Part 1 blog, we discussed what Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is and the important role it plays in getting your site noticed by your target audience. We examined three components on your website that you have control over:
- Your website content needs to be relevant to what you are offering.
- Your website needs to be properly architected to enable search engines to successfully crawl your site.
- Your website needs to have its HTML properly configured and defined.
All of the above three components play a significant role in getting your website properly indexed into search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. What you may not be aware of are other factors that are off your own website that are also integral to achieving a top-ranked search engine listing.
A very early “off-your-own-website” ranking factor is links. The more links on other websites pointing to your website, the more “votes” a search engine will give you. It’s like having hundreds or thousands of customers referring your product or service to other potential customers. Links coming from sites with lots of traffic will count as more votes compared to links on sites with very little traffic. The content of the links is also important. If you have hundreds of referring site links with the word “books” in them, search engines will give you votes for both the number of links and the content word “books.”
Personalization—or what you see on a website—continues to evolve, making the browsing experience more relevant. Depending on the country someone is coming from, terms may have different meanings (think of the meaning of “football” between the UK and the USA). If this matters for searching your content, then you will have to work on your international SEO. Beyond a country level, search engines will filter to the city level so make sure you consider city relevance as well.
Nearly 80% of internet users in the USA have a social network profile. Facebook, the leading social site, is moving heavily into gleaning information from its user base to present more relevant search and advertising results. If your site has a social following and gets likes/recommendations from social users, chances are search engines are picking up on this information and will be using it as another input for ranking your site. Consider your site’s social presence on Facebook and Twitter and capitalize on your network of followers to boost your search results. A related area is reviews, like on Google when you search for a specific company. Poor reviews, whether they are legitimate or not, can drive customers away from your business. As a business owner, respond to these reviews and use them to further promote your company, as customers see both the review and the response.
In an effort to improve the quality and relevance of their search listings, search engines also apply penalties to sites that use dishonest means to boost their search ranking. Things like “thin” content, cloaking, keyword stuffing, hidden text, piracy, top-heavy ads, and link spam are some of the techniques sites use to boost their ranking. Search engines used to get duped by these techniques, but today they are very sophisticated in detecting these practices. If detected, they will apply penalties that move your site listing way down to a point where it becomes irrelevant. As of 2017, Google announced it will start penalizing sites that use popups. A popup to offer a signup for your newsletter is legitimate but it hinders the experience the user gets when visiting, especially from a mobile device. Because Google decided it doesn’t like popups, you must ensure your site is popup free unless you feel it is a necessary feature despite the penalty it may incur.
To wrap up our blog on SEO, there are many factors that go into having a well-ranked search listing. Some of these you control directly, while there are others you don’t (but you certainly still have an influence over them). It is important to stay on top of search engine changes, but that is not always practical for the average business owner. There many companies that can help you implement a good SEO strategy, but a lot of the things we spoke about in Part 1 and here in Part 2 come down to you as an owner or employee being diligent in making you site relevant and content rich, and fostering an excellent relationship with your customers.