Get the Lowdown on SEO
Happy 2018 and happy Martin Luther King Day! I still can't believe that we are already half-way through January! In the spirit of #NewGoals, I want to check off one of the first ones that I planned to set in motion this year: blogging more. To be honest, I am cheating a little bit because this post was originally written last year for The International Association of Professional Wedding Officiants (IAPWO). Rev. Laura Cannon reached out to me after reading one of my other featured blog posts and I couldn't refuse. And since this article is still relevant today, I might as well post it, right?
It never ceases to amaze me how much buzz, fear, and overwhelm happens around the phenomenon called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). I've seen this acronym get misused, cursed at, and even ignored over the years due to its popularity with marketers and the need for businesses to connect with prospective customers. As with anything that gets misused, it gets complicated and confusing.
The reality is that SEO is a Millenial - it was born in the 90's and according to thebalance.com, this generation craves attention, are prone to switching things up, and they get the job done. (Total Disclaimer - Millenials often get a bad wrap but these traits are awesome).
So here is my lowdown on exactly what Search Engine Optimization is in plain English.
Over the past few years, I have noticed a surge of interest in the topic of SEO, (Search Engine Optimization), particularly within the creative entrepreneurship community. And there is a good reason for this interest because SEO happens to be the number 1 sales converter for businesses that want to attract more online visitors. So what’s with all the hype about search engine optimization? In order to have an A to that Q, you first must have a solid understanding of WHAT SEO is, WHY you need to practice optimization techniques, and HOW you can apply those tactics in order to leverage your business online.
WHAT IS Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
Simply stated, search engine optimization is the art or technique(s) used to drive organic traffic to your website in order to obtain a high ranking position on search engine results pages for search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
I use the word ‘art’ because there is no definitive roadmap on exactly which technique warrants the best result or in what order they should be approached. Being that Google is the largest search engine used in the world today with over 80.5% of total search engine market share, they dictate what techniques will make your website easier to be found. There are over 200 elements or algorithms that Google looks for in order to determine where a site should be positioned. These algorithms are ever-changing in rank and importance and Google does a great job in keeping their formula a secret. They do, however, give us clues on what website owners should do in order to optimize their web presence. I have created a tried and true formula that puts SEO in laments terms:
THE SEO FORMULA
SEO = CONTENT + RELEVANCY + FREQUENCY
Please keep in mind that you have to consider this formula from two perspectives - from the audience that you are hoping to attract and from the search engines that are trying to connect you with that audience.
Content: Having good content means that you are speaking the same language as your target audience by being creative and utilizing the keywords that they would use in order to connect with you. In order for the search engines to scan through your content and interpret what your content is about, you need to make sure that you include clear concise words that state:
Who you are
What you do
Who you do it for
Where you do it
What this content is about (keywords)
Something else to consider is that search engines scan through several locations in order to decipher what your website is about - the words that your website visitors can read, and some behind the scenes text in the code.
Relevancy: In order to be relevant, it is extremely important to research your target market to understand their needs. Being relevant means that you are meeting your prospective customers where they are in order to build a relationship and establish trust. Hang out where they hang out, create content about what they are interested in, and connect with other brands that attract the same audience. You should place digital content across all the right channels to draw in your target audience.
According to a recent BRIDES American Wedding Study, 82% of all brides-to-be are connecting with wedding professionals via social media. So in addition to having a nicely designed website with optimized content, it is essential to have a digitally cohesive brand presence across all of your touch points.
Frequency: How often are you generating new digital content? Are you consistent with writing a blog post or posting on social media? How often are you being mentioned or referenced online? This is what frequency is all about. Search engines are keeping tabs of how frequently you create new digital content, and whether it is getting referenced, shared, liked, reposted, pinned, retweeted, or commented on.
So WHY does SEO exist?
One thing I have realized through my career is that the back story is crucial to know in order to fully understand the WHAT, especially with creatives who are driven by passion and intention.
The digital revolution began in the 1980’s. Prior to then, the Internet was primarily used by the government. The first public world-wide website that was globally accessible was launched in 1991 and the initial web directories were created in order to manage the sites being created. Back then, things were moving so fast, nothing was organized, and there really wasn’t any control. By 1996, 43 million US households owned personal computers and there were approximately 14 million users online. That same year, Google was born and quickly became recognized as the most widely used web directory because their unique approach was to organize web content by relevancy. Instead of focusing on categories or topics like the other web directories, Google chose to focus on keywords to connect online visitors with the content that contained those keywords. Fast forward to today, Google is the # 1 website in the world and they currently use computers or bots to scan through websites in order to determine relevancy. To make ranking fair, they use algorithms to determine who should be listed at the top.
So why is SEO so important?
SEO is important because it’s effective. Out of all the other digital marketing efforts, you can apply to your strategy, SEO is still the top converter for generating sales. It also ensures that you connect with prospective customers that are closer to the point of purchasing because they are searching for you. SEO leads trust you are credible because you are appearing in the search results.
HOW Do I Apply SEO Tactics To My Website?
With SEO being one of the most of effective ways to convert online visitors, there are several methods you can use.
DIY: There are a ton of resources out there that explain how to optimize your site. If you plan to DIY, be sure to take into account what platform your website is built in. For Wordpress site owners, can add an SEO plugin like Yoast to help guide them through the process. For Squarespace site owners, you have built-in tools that will help you optimize your content in your page settings. For ShowIt site owners, they have a tab specific to SEO settings. For Wix or Weebly site owners, there are SEO wizards to assist you.
Get Technical Assistance: If you are the type of person who would rather invest in getting assistance from someone who is more knowledgeable in SEO, there are also a ton of resources out there as well. I advise that you work with a credible source and beware of the scammers who solicit to you via email.
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out by contacting me. Although we only work with a few clients one-on-one with their SEO, but I can at least point you in the right direction.