Search engine optimization or SEO is the process of getting your website found on the search engines, like Google, for specific search terms.
The idea is that you want to get your website and web pages found at the top of the search engines when people use those search phrases.
SEO has been around for about 20 years, and it’s still confusing to most people how to “do” SEO.
How Google’s SEO Rules Have Changed Over the Years
Google has continued to evolve, and has changed the rules around SEO many times, especially in the last five years or so.
In 2011, Google’s major update “Panda” was released, and its purpose was to demote lower quality websites out of search results. There have been many other changes to Panda, and new changes like Penguin, Hummingbird and so on.
There are tons of discussion groups, newsletters, social media groups and so on, dedicated to the proper way to do SEO – and even “black hat” (or cheating) SEO.
SEO technically isn’t really that difficult. I can teach someone how to do it in under 1/2 an hour. I even wrote a recent article about the 16 places to put your keywords.
So why doesn’t Google just come out and tell us the playbook? Why is SEO so shrouded in mystery and consultants charge big bucks to do SEO?
It Just Ain’t That Simple
Well, first of all, it’s not quite as simple as just saying “do these 16 steps, and you’ll be optimized”. It is that simple, and it’s not, all at the same time.
You have control over certain aspects of SEO, and a lot of it, you don’t have any control at all.
On page SEO
You have full control over the content that lives on your website, and how you set it up. Using my 16 places guide, you can put your keyword in all 16 places, and it’ll be a strong clue to Google that your web page should show up for that particular search term.
Off page SEO
You don’t really have much (or any) control over other factors that Google takes into consideration (there are up to 500 factors!), like who links to your website, what those links say (keywords or your company name), and who is interacting with your website.
So it’s really difficult to “do” SEO on these things. Many people try, and I get spam comments every single day that are clearly just attempts at building links back to their website (they get relegated to the trash heap).
Google also tracks a person’s individual search history and what she interacts with, and those are taken into account when displaying results. They also have an idea through Google+ and other tools who you’re connected with.
Pages that your friends are interacting with may influence what you see in your own personal search results. Your search results will be different than mine for the exact same search phrase.
That’s why there really isn’t a “Page 1” on Google anymore. The search results are all fluid and constantly changing, so you can’t ever be guaranteed of “position x” on the SERP (search engine results page).
So the actual formula is complicated beyond anyone’s comprehension, and with most of it, we don’t have any control.
We Tend to Gorge Ourselves
When, in the past, Google has said that something is good, like links to your website coming in from other websites, those who wanted to succeed, classically overdo it every time. If a little is good, a LOT must be awesome, right?
Web page Titles used to be the number one factor in helping your search ranking. Now there’s proof that a website can be well-optimized without good quality titles. And subsequently optimizing the titles may not help.
So What Has Google Been Saying?
They’ve been saying for several years now that there are three basic things they want ALL of us to do on our websites. Web sites that do these three things get a boost in the search results. And we can’t overindulge on these three steps. You either do it or you don’t (and you should do it!).
1. Make your website mobile-aware and mobile-responsive.
If your website is more than two or three years old, you should probably rebuild it. Most of us are using mobile devices (tablets or phones) and the older-style websites just don’t function that well. Google knows this and wants websites to be mobile-responsive. You can even test your own website on the Google Mobile-Friendly Test page.
2. Make your website fast and light.
If you’ve got big graphic files that are dragging the website down – especially on mobile devices that may not have a broadband connection – need to have a lighter experience. There are compression tools available to make your images smaller and lighter. Google is testing website load speed, and it’s a factor in where you show up. Smush-It is a nice little plug-in for WordPress sites. They’ll “smush” all your graphic to be smaller and lighter. You can test your website’s speed on Pingdom’s Website Speed Test page.
3. Make your website secure.
Even if you’re not doing e-commerce or credit card transactions on your website, they want your site to be secure. You need to install an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate and get it configured properly. You can read why you need an SSL certificate here and how to set it up.
SEO isn’t the only way to get found online anymore, and you have lots of options. Join me in a Digital Marketing workshop for consultants on June 18. You’ll learn how to attract your ideal customer and get them to know, like and trust you so they do business with you.