Search engines make it possible for the hundreds of thousands of websites in existence to be found. More importantly, found by the people who are looking for exactly what that website shows. In today’s business environment it is essential for any company to have a website for their business if they plan to have any chance of succeeding. It is simply unavoidable. But what is the power of a website if your target prospects or customers can’t find it?
Just because you have a website for your business doesn’t mean anyone is seeing it. Let alone the people who have a higher chance of becoming your customers. The search engines rely on an algorithm. This algorithm helps determine the most relevant search results and uses several thousand always evolving factors that it relies on. That is where search engine optimization, also known as SEO, comes in. With SEO, you can ensure that the people who are looking to find exactly what you do or offer can find your business’ website and connect with you.
To understand how SEO can significantly improve your bottom line and bring in more customers you have to take a look at several things. What exactly SEO is, what metadata is, and what strategies you can use to up your website’s search engine visibility.
What Is SEO Anyways?
To truly understand the power of having a digital presence online, it helps to know exactly what SEO is and how it works. Search engine optimization (SEO), according to leading SEO resource Moz, is “the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.” SEO’s number one goal is to drive relevant traffic organically (unpaid) to your site. Ideally traffic from people who are finding what they are looking for and will engage with your site. This engagement will then hopefully lead to conversion.
The way the search engines work is that they have “robots” that crawls the content of everything they can find on the internet. Then that information is indexed. But, the most important thing the search engines do is to provide relevant search results. So, this indexed information is then run through an algorithm of thousands of ranking factors. This determines the order, or ranking, that websites should appear in the search engine results pages. These pages are also known as SERPS. Theoretically, the SERPS will provide the most relevant results to a visitors search term. This is where SEO comes in. SEO makes it easier and quicker for the robots to see exactly what the website is about, which keywords it should be associated with, and how relevant it is to that keyword. Thus increasing your chances of your website being shown higher in the search engines.
SEO, specifically which strategies are working, is always evolving and changing. The search engines are constantly changing to offer the most relevant and useful results to searchers. This means that the factors that the search engines build into their algorithms to deliver those results are always changing and growing. For SEO to be successful, it is imperative you stay on top of the latest industry developments, strategies, and changes.
Another huge factor in effective optimization is technology. As technology advances so do the SEO algorithms and ranking factors. With the emergence of newer technology like voice-assisted search with devices like Alexa or Siri, search engines were forced to get very specific. Before this technology, most people would do a Google search for something broad like “hairstylist in New York”. After things like voice-assisted search emerged, the need for much more specific long-tail keywords exploded. Now, a normal search would sound like “women’s hairstylist who specializes in highlights near me”. Once you learn what keywords, long or short, your target audience is searching for, you can gear your optimization towards that. This ensures your site will be presented to those people who are looking for exactly what you do or offer.
One of the best things about SEO is that once it is implemented and you have a way to track it, it provides invaluable insights for you and your business. Insights into who your visitors are, where they are coming from, how they found you, and what tweaks need to be made to bring in more relevant visitors.
What Is Metadata & Why Is It Important?
Search engines don’t read websites like a human looks at them and reads it. The search engine robots can only read behind the scenes text associations for everything on the site within the source code. Essentially they’re only reading the “1’s and 0’s”. They are blind and deaf and do not see pictures and videos like a person looking at a website. If there is no text associated with many parts of a website, the search engines will not see it, and of course not know how to appropriately rank it. This is where metadata is essential.
The metadata of a website exists on each separate page and tells the search engines what words and who to associate your content with. It allows them to fully understand what each page portrays. The page title and description of a web page are two of the most important pieces of the metadata. These are encoded into the backside of the page but not actually displayed on the screen that is visible to a website visitor. This invisible data and HTML code is the first thing a search engine reads on your website’s page.
The visible side of the metadata is that it is what the search engine displays when your page shows up in the SERPs after someone performs a search. Thus, this is the first thing that determines how many people actually click on your website link and see what your business is about.
That is why it is so important to optimize your business’ website and make sure you are targeting the correct keywords that people are frequently searching. Targeting the most effective keywords within your meta page title and meta description is a very powerful strategy. You will not only increase your rankings in the search engines, but you will also drive more relevant traffic. The most important thing is to use your metadata to entice them to click through to your page.
For example, let’s say you are a personal trainer who specializes in corporate health and wellness. You want to sell health and wellness packages for businesses in the area and their employees. Take the time to do some keyword research to determine the keywords your target audience is using most frequently, like “corporate wellness programs in New York”. Then, come up with a way to use one to two of those target keywords per page in the metadata. Be sure to include a call to action in the meta description so people want to click on your listing in the search engine results. Something like, “Let’s get your employees on the road to healthy living. Call today!”. Use that same keyword in the meta description that you do in the page title so the search engines know exactly what the page is about.
There is an important factor to keep in mind when writing your metadata for your site and it all comes down to space. Because the search engines list 10 results per page (not counting the paid ads at the top and side), they have to limit the number of characters that are used for the metadata. If you utilize your target keyword and keep your page title to 65 characters or less and your description to 160 characters or less, you will ensure nothing gets cut off and ends up with a “...” at the end of the line.
Utilize SEO Over The Long Run
Once you’ve got your metadata in place and optimized it’s not the end of the road. Optimizing each page of your site will help of course, but it won’t stay that way forever. As mentioned earlier, the search engine algorithms are always changing and evolving. So what worked now for keywords, may be far less effective in 3 months. That is why SEO and staying on top of the optimization for your site is a long-term process that will change frequently.
“Good SEO work only gets better over time. It’s only search engine tricks that need to keep changing when the ranking algorithms change.”
– Jill Whalen (@jillwhalen), WhatDidYouDoWithJill.com
With the availability of tools like Google Analytics, ahrefs, and others, it is easier than ever to track how effective your optimization is. You can see what kind of traffic is being driven to your site and what needs to change. With these tools, you can break down your website data into such precision. Determining things like exactly what keywords are driving the people to your site who are staying longer and converting is achieved in just a few clicks.
Using this kind of reporting allows you to track what is working and what isn’t. You can stay on top of the always changing algorithms and adjust as needed.
Source: Google Analytics
Another factor that comes into play is that your competition is always changing. So, the SERPS that your website are coming up in for certain keywords may have a new competitor pop up that jumps ahead of you all of a sudden. It’s important to also track and stay on top of what your competition is doing. What are they ranking for? What keyword phrases are they targeting? Piggyback off of their strategies and mix in your own that you know are successful for your site and its engagement. Then, you will always be able to compete with your competitors in the search engines.
Wrapping It All Up
Your metadata is essentially what tells the search engines what each page of your website is, who it should be shown to, and how frequently. In this digital age, it is imperative that you give your business’ website the best opportunity to be shown. Especially to those people who are searching for exactly what you do or sell.
The search engines number one goal is to show the most relevant results to people doing searches from all types of devices and technology. Keep your business toward the top of the results by utilizing the power of SEO.