Search engine optimization (SEO) is really of set of strategies, techniques and tactics used to increase the number of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in the search results page of a search engine, including Google, Bing, Yahoo and others. It is common for Internet users to not click through pages and pages of search results, so where a site ranks in a search is essential for directing more traffic toward the site.

Blue HouseThere are many different SEO elements and the common way we geeks think of these are as “off-page” and “on-page” elements. What does this mean? Let’s use the metaphor of a house. Inside a house we care about things like good flooring, fresh paint, clutter-free hallways and stairs, organized cabinets, etc. These “inside the house” elements are akin to “on the page” SEO elements. Outside of the house, we care about things like a well-maintained yard and gardens, sound structures, a secure neighborhood, and good relationships with our neighbors. These “outside the house” elements are akin to ‘off the page” SEO elements.

One of my favorite infographics about this is Search Engine Land’s Periodic Table of the SEO Elements. It is a wonderfully compact presentation of what factors positively affect search engine rank and which ones do not.

Search Engine Periodic Table of SEO Infographic

On-page factors include things like quality of page content, number and quality of internal links, website speed, ease of navigation and use, error-free and properly formatted webpage code, properly written and unique webpage titles and descriptions, use of HTML headers and image ALT tags, properly optimized images and videos for Web use, and the existence of a truly mobile-friendly version of your site.

Off-page elements include things like the number of links you have from other well respected websites, listings, and directories; the length of time your website content and domain have been around; accurate location and identity information on the website and consistency of name, address and phone number across the Web; social interaction and engagement; the degree to which your website content is shared with others on social media; the placement and function of ads on your site, if any; and the health and security of your Web hosting environment.

When it comes to improving your website’s SEO, Google is encouraging businesses to stop putting all the emphasis on individual keywords outside the larger context of the website as a whole. For a couple years now, Google has been emphasizing quality and relevant content, website usability, website reputation and authority, social interaction, and other key factors. The days of simply putting a keyword on your page and expecting to rank highly for it are over, and have been for some time. In fact, Google recently and uncharacteristically stated that the top three rank influencers are content, backlinks, and their new RankBrain algorithm update, which is actually a part of the larger Hummingbird update and brings semantic search to a whole new level.

When you think about it, search engines are really nothing more than incredibly large databases of stored webpage information, and keywords do have their place of importance here. All search engines store data for your webpage titles, page descriptions, linked content, how many pages there are, age of the domain, number of errors it encounters, time for pages to load, etc., etc.

When a user goes to a search engine, they type in a keyword or phrase. The search engine then crawls its massive index looking for reputable, trusted, “important,” and relevant websites whose indexed content closely matches the INTENT or CONTEXT of the search phrase. This is why the focus on keywords themselves has taken a back seat and become a much less important rank factor. What matters today is rich, unique content that helps solve a problem, answers a question, or directs a visitor quickly to an action. The overall theme and context of a webpage is consideredas well as its relationship to other pages on the site (and other similar pages on the Internet). Businesses that continually create fresh, unique, and meaningful content will find themselves performing better in search engine listings than their competitors who do not.

The SEO laboratory is a vast and complicated space. Mixing elements in incomplete, improper, or “black hat” ways can have significant negative impact on a business. It takes time, effort, perseverance, and a good dose of patience and organization to “do SEO” for a site. If you believe that your site needs some help or if it’s simply been a while since anything was done, talk to us about performing an SEO review for you that will help identify issues and highlight opportunities. We would be happy to help!