What does SEO stand for? It’s a question that many people wonder about. In a sense, SEO stands for search engine optimization. Ultimately, it’s a digital marketing tactic to use so that your website is found by search engines like Google.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is something that every company needs, and it’s almost impossible to do it yourself. We understand that you require the right SEO strategy for your business. It’s crucial for all of the content on your site and social media outlets.
If you’re not sure what search engine optimization is or how to use it, our friendly guide can help. It’s full of SEO tips to help you understand what to do and why. However, we realize that this might not be enough. Those who don’t feel that they can do it alone can hire us as their SEO experts!
What Is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Why Is It Important?
You’ve probably heard of SEO before, and if you haven’t, you could get a quick definition of it. However, learning that SEO is where you change the visibility of a web page or website in the unpaid results of search engines doesn’t answer all those burning questions for you, such as:
- How do you optimize for a search engine?
- How can you boost organic search visibility so your content can be found?
- How can you decide what is good SEO advice and what isn’t?
Understanding what SEO is is just the beginning. Now, you have to learn how to leverage it to drive website traffic to generate leads, sales, and more revenue. From there, you can use SEO for social media marketing and all other aspects of your business.
What Does SEO Stand For and Why Should You Care?
People search for just about anything, and that traffic is highly powerful for a business because there’s plenty of it, and it’s specific. This is called search intent, which means your content answers the questions that others have.
If you’re selling cameras, you could rent a billboard so that drivers in the area see it, but are they ever likely to buy a camera? Instead, you want to use digital marketing with the right search intent. That way, when someone types in “camera” or any other search terms in the search engine, they have a good chance of seeing your information.
The latter method works best because those people have an interest already, making it easy for you to move them through the sales funnel quickly.
Someone searches for something related to your business. Plus, prospects search for other things that might loosely be related such as “how to be a photographer,” or “how to find the right camera.” These are even more opportunities for you to connect with those searchers, answer their questions, and become a trusted informational source. When they’re ready to buy, they remember that you helped them.
What Works to Drive Traffic from Search Engines?
It’s crucial to understand that Google is the top search engine in the world. While it can vary between niches, Google is probably the dominant player in search engine results pages that your website needs to show up in. Therefore, you need the best SEO strategies (as are in this guide) to position your site and the content well so that it ranks on Google and others.
However, the search engine’s algorithm is always changing because Google is focused on ensuring that the search results are tailored specifically to the searcher’s needs. This means that search engines can tell what content you put on your site. The ranking factors they use to bring you more traffic can change, but the basics stay the same.
What works? How can Google tell which pages to produce in response to the search query? How do you get such valuable traffic to your site?
The algorithm is very complex, but here are the basics:
- Google looks for pages containing high-quality content that’s more relevant to the query.
- Search engines determine the relevance of the content by reading/crawling the content and algorithmically evaluating whether it fits with what the searcher needs based on the keywords it includes.
- They also determine quality by various means, but the quality and number of other websites linking to your page are still prominent. In other words, it looks at the websites out there that link to your blog post options. If no one else links to those sites but they link to yours, your site is seen as more trustworthy. Guest blogging can also work well here; if niche experts post on your page, it shows that you are trying to help searchers get the information they need.
Additional elements are also factors on how high your website ranks, such as:
- Do people engage with the site (and how)?
- Is the site mobile-friendly, and what’s its loading speed?
- Do you produce unique content?
There are hundreds of factors that search engines use to determine if your website is suitable for the searcher’s needs. The good news here is you don’t have to be a scholar to know how to rank for appropriate keywords.
This guide walks you through the best practices that are repeatable and proven. If that’s not enough or not something you can do yourself, we can help you and are a top SEO expert within the industry!
Keyword Research and Best Practices for Targeting Them
The first step for search engine optimization is to know what you’re optimizing for. Therefore, you have to identify the keywords that people are looking for so that the website ranks for them in search engines like Google.
While SEO stands for optimization, there are different aspects of it. Though keyword research sounds simple, it can be a bit more challenging than that. You might want people to buy vacuums, but you can’t just add words like “buy a vacuum.” Here are a few factors to consider when choosing the keywords to target on your own site:
- Search Volume – You must check to see how many people search for that particular phrase or word. The search volume should be low enough that you rank higher but good so that enough people look for it.
- Relevance – If the term is searched for a lot, that’s good. However, it might not be fully relevant to the prospects. Though relevancy seems straightforward, it isn’t. If you sell email marketing software, you can’t show up in the search engine results for pet supplies. Though email marketing software might seem like a good description, it could be highly competitive if you’re trying to reach large companies. Those searchers might not want to buy the software, and those who don’t can’t afford it.
- Competition – SEO requires you to think about how likely you are to succeed. Therefore, you need to understand the competition and the likelihood that you can rank for specific keywords.
This means you must know who your customers are and what they’re searching for. If you don’t know this, it’s a good idea to create a buyer persona. From there, you should know what:
- Things those people are interested in
- Problems they have
- Language they use for describing what they need or use
- Other companies they’re considering buying from
Once you know all that, you have a seed list of potential domains and keywords to help you get ideas. Then, use a keyword tool and input those things into it to get a longer list of options. That way, you’re providing relevant content to those who need it.
The goal here is to look at the competition but also find lesser-known avenues for keywords. That way, you get a wider assortment and can write content for those.
If you’ve already got a website, you probably get some traffic from the search engines already. If that’s true, you can use the keyword data to determine which phrases drive traffic. Take them and rank higher by crafting more content.
Google doesn’t deliver as much information about what people search for to analytical providers, but you can use many tools to help you get a better idea. Then, you see the search queries that are driving more traffic to the site.
The free Webmasters Tool is great for that, but you can also use it to diagnose various issues with your technical SEO requirements.
Once you know how the prospects talk, what they look for, what competition you have, and the terms that drive traffic to you, it’s important to find out which terms you can rank for and where your opportunities lie.
It’s often hard to do this, so you must understand how:
- Authoritative and popular each page is in the search result
- Well-aligned you are with the keyword
- Trusted and authoritative you are to other sites that compete for that same term
If you have the budget, you can use different paid tools to help with keyword difficulty scoring, such as:
Those who find it too challenging to do all that work can also hire an SEO professional to do the work. We’re available to help with keyword research and all the rest!
When you have your list of keywords, you should implement them into the site’s content. Each page of the website should target a core keyword and various related ones. On-page SEO also takes other elements into account. That way, you can drive more search engine traffic to the site:
Google wants to understand the meaning of the page and punish any manipulative or aggressive usage of keywords. However, you should still include the related and primary term that you hope to rank for in the pages. The best place you can put that is in the title tag.
Title tags aren’t the page’s primary headline. What you see on the content page is an H1 (or H2) HTML element. However, the title tag is what you see in the browser tab and is often populated by the source code of the page in a meta title tag.
The length of this tag varies, but it’s best to stick to 55 to 60 characters here. Try to get the target keyword and use related modifiers, as well. However, remember, that the title tag is what the searcher views in the search results for your page, so make sure it’s clickable and exciting.
The meta description is another HTML element that you can update in the source code, and it isn’t shown on the actual page. Still, it’s considered an additional ad copy. Google usually takes liberties with what it displays in the search results. Therefore, your meta description might not always be there. However, it’s good to have a compelling meta description of the page to attract people to click and give you more traffic.
Just remember that showing up in the results is ultimately just the first step. You have to get users to come to the site and take the right action.
Typically, the meta description is about 150 to 160 characters and is shown under the title tag and web address. You want a meta description that explains the content and is exciting enough to warrant a click.
The content of the page is also very important. Different page types have various jobs. The cornerstone content is what others can link to and should not be the same as support content that offers the answer.
With that, though, Google seems to favor certain content types, and as you build the pages, here are a few things to note:
- Unique and Thick Content – There’s no magical number for word count, and if some of the pages are a few hundred words, that’s okay. In general, though, the Panda updates favor unique and longer content. If you’ve got thousands of short pages or duplicated content, you could get in trouble. Look at the whole of the site – are there large percentages of thin and low-value pages? If so, thicken them up and boost word counts without adding filler or fluff text. Also, consider excluding them from the search results so that they don’t appear on Google at all.
- Engagement – Google weighs the user experience and engagement metrics seriously. Impact that by ensuring that the content you provide answers the questions searchers ask so that they stay on the page and engage more with you. Also, pages should load quickly with fewer design elements that could turn visitors away.
- Sharability – You must understand that each piece of content is not likely to be linked to or shared thousands of times. However, you should focus on who might want to share the pages and link to them before you create them. If you have tons of pages that can’t be linked to or shared, you’re not likely to rank well in the search results. With that, it doesn’t do any good to create the full picture of your site to the search engines, either.
The way you mark up the images impacts the way search engines see the page and how much search traffic the site generates in image searches. An alt attribute helps you offer alternative information about an image if the user can’t see it. The images are likely to break with time because files get deleted. Therefore, a useful description of the picture is helpful. That also gives you one more opportunity to help those search engines understand what the page is all about.
You don’t want to do any keyword stuffing where you cram the primary keyword into every nook and cranny of the alt attribute. If it doesn’t naturally fit there, don’t include it. Just don’t skip this step, and make sure you’re offering an accurate and thorough description.
When you write naturally about the topic, you don’t over-optimize. In a sense, you don’t appear to be trying to trick Google to rank your page higher for that target keyword. This gives you a good chance to rank for long-tail variations of the keyword and topic.
The URL structure of your site is also important for tracking. You can segment data for reports when you have a segmented and logical one. It also works well for sharability because descriptive and shorter URLs are easy to copy/paste and less likely to get cut off.
However, your goal is to create something descriptive and not cram in as many keywords as you can.
If it’s not necessary, don’t change the URLs. Even if they aren’t “pretty,” you don’t have to modify them to be more keyword-focused if they don’t negatively impact the user experience. When you must change the structure, use the right redirect (301 permanent).
Markup and Schema
Once you’ve got the other on-page elements in place, go one step further to help search engines see what’s on the page.
Schema markup doesn’t make the page rank higher in the search results, but it can give the listing more “real estate” within the search results. This is similar to what ad extensions do for Google Ads.
If no one else uses the schema, you have a better click-through rate because your site shows things like ratings while other sites don’t.
There are different options here, and some of them might not apply to your business. Along with that, you should consider off-page SEO options, which are the factors from other websites that might affect your rankings.
Internal Linking and Information Architecture
Information architecture focuses on how the pages are organized on the website. The way you organize everything and link between the pages impacts how the content on your site ranks for searches.
The reason is that search engines think of links as “confidence votes” and a way for users to see what the page is about and how trusted it is.
Search engines look at the text you use to link those pages. Anchor text is the descriptive word or phrase to link to another page and helps Google see what the page is about.
When you link to a specific page, it’s an indication to the search engines that this page is important for your site. Plus, the pages on that site have more external votes (links from other sites that are trustworthy). This gives you even more power to help your site pages rank well.
Here’s a quick example to understand the concept of link equity impacts your site architecture and the inbound links. You have a snow removal website:
- We publish a study on how snow impacts construction, and it gets linked to from everywhere on the web, including social media.
- The study is also published on the main snow removal site. The other pages are sales-oriented to explain the aspects of the snow removal offerings, but there are only internal links and no external ones.
- The study is positioned well to rank high in search results from all search engines. The sales-oriented ones don’t do as much. If we link from the study to the sales-oriented pages, we pass the authority and trust from the guide to those pages. They aren’t as well-positioned as the study, but it’s better than when there were no authoritative documents.
In most cases, you’re linking from your home page to others, so make sure that those are strategically placed links. This is an excellent SEO strategy that can help you boost rankings without having to craft more content.
Information architecture is a complex topic, especially when it comes to bigger websites. There are so many things to understand, but here are the most important ones:
- You must understand the pages with the most outbound links.
- Keep important search pages higher up in the information architecture. That means you link to them more often and whenever possible.
- Have a flat information architecture so that you keep the pages you wish to rank for a few clicks away from the home page.
Link Building and Content Marketing
Since the algorithms on search engines are based more on links, you must have high-quality links to your website to drive traffic. You can do everything possible for technical SEO and all the rest, but if you don’t build links, you don’t show up in the listings.
There are many ways to handle link-building for your site, but as Google becomes more sophisticated, most of them are very risky. If you’re new to SEO and want to leverage this, you may not realize how to navigate the pitfalls and avoid the issues that come with it.
Trying to create links to manipulate the Google rankings offers no value to the business if the algorithms shift, which could cause those rankings to disappear altogether.
Instead, you should focus on SEO marketing approaches like promoting and creating content that includes keywords you wish to rank for and engaging in more traditional PR for the business.
Typically, SEO marketing uses social media in a way to present information in new ways to everyone involved. When you can create content that can be shared as links or as snippets, you see more interest in the topics and can become an authoritative figure online.
The process of promoting and creating content to get more social shares and links is labor-intensive. There are various guides out there (and ours is one of the best). However, most companies find it easier to hire us to help them manage all of their content needs.
If you want to give it a go yourself, here are three primary steps:
Understand and Identify the Linking/Sharing Audience
The first thing to do to get traction for the content is to understand who might share or link to it. There are various tools out there. When you use them, you identify thought leaders and linkers to the space and understand why they want to link or share it. Then, you can create content with value so that they share it all with their audiences.
SEO Stands for What Content to Create and How to Promote It
You know that SEO stands for optimization of content, but it also focuses on what blog article to create and when while also thinking of how to promote it.
You must understand your capabilities and the content you like to create that could be shared or promoted by others. Social media is one of the best inventions ever. As you craft content, you can share it on Facebook and other platforms. Add links to tweets containing the information, and even use Pinterest for image-based content, such as infographics.
In fact, social media is the go-to place for content promotion, but it’s far from the only one. You should also be focusing on sharing your blogs and articles on your website and within (internal links), putting it on forums and in discussions, and asking other bloggers to link to them.
Assets to the Specific Keywords
Don’t forget about the keywords! You must create something amazing without cramming in keywords that don’t fit. Instead, you use the keyword research you’ve done as a way to discover pain points within your potential customers.
If someone turns to a search engine to look up something, they need content that appropriately and completely answers the question. You can then create new assets to help you look for the language the prospects use.
These new assets include the keywords you want to rank for and boost your visibility online.
Best Practices for Technical SEO and Common Issues
Though the basics of SEO marketing focuses on how to build links and drive search engine rankings higher, they have changed recently. Now, content marketing is just as important.
Therefore, what most people think of as traditional SEO is still valuable for generating traffic. As you already know, keyword research is crucial, and technical SEO issues that might keep search engines from understanding your site and ranking the content higher are prevalent.
However, the technicalities for complicated and large sites are a discipline in itself. Here are the common mistakes that most business owners face:
Search engines focus more on having a site that loads quickly. It’s beneficial for that but also for the users. You want high conversion rates, and the page speed indicates if people stay on the website or click off quickly (bounce rate).
If your website is driving significant traffic from mobile searches, you should make sure that your site is mobile-friendly because that impacts your rankings on those mobile devices. Sometimes, mobile traffic outweighs desktop or laptop traffic.
Google announced another algorithm update that focuses specifically on this. Therefore, it’s crucial that your website is easy to read and navigate on smartphones and tablets.
Those header response codes are also important. If you’re not technical, this is often complex, but you should ensure that the work pages return the right code to search engines and that they aren’t found returning something that says they’re no longer active.
Getting the codes wrong means that other search engines and Google produce a “page not found” indicator on a functioning page. This makes it look duplicated or thin. With that, you might indicate to Google that every piece of content on the site is not found, meaning any of the pages get indexed and are not eligible to rank at all.
If you use redirects incorrectly, it could negatively and seriously impact the search results. When you can, make sure that you’re not moving the content from a particular URL to another. When the content is on one page and getting traffic, leave it there unless you have a super-strong reason not to.
For those who must move the content, ensure that you implement 301 redirects, which are permanent so that Google knows the move is done. Remember, if you change the URL structure, you may create broken links, so it’s harder for visitors to navigate the website.
Duplicated content is another problem for Google’s Panda update. If you duplicate the content (put similar or identical content on several pages), you dilute link equity between them. Therefore, you have less of a chance to rank for competitive keywords with sites that consolidate link equity into one document.
You can find various SEO tools available to help you discover duplicate content.
An XML sitemap helps Google understand the site and find all the pages of content. Make sure that you don’t include irrelevant pages and know that submitting the page to a search engine in the sitemap doesn’t automatically ensure that it ranks for anything.
How to Track/Measure SEO Results
Once you start producing amazing SEO content and putting all the steps into motion, you have to track it to see how well it does. There are a few key metrics to consider, but within each one are key factors to consider, too.
Finding out where the site ranks for a keyword list isn’t the final destination. Ranking high doesn’t pay the bills. Personalization for the search results makes it variable and harder to track. In fact, some people might think of keywords as dead.
Getting an idea of how the site rank for core terms is useful to tell you about your site’s health and is a big part of your SEO strategy. High rankings for a range of keywords strongly indicate better organic search visibility.
However, you shouldn’t get obsessed with rankings for a particular term. The goal here is to drive relevant traffic to drive more business.
Organic traffic is a better indicator of the health of your SEO efforts. When you look at organic traffic to the site, you can gauge the actual volume of visitors that come there and where they go afterward.
It’s easy to measure this with most analytical tools. Google Analytics is the best because it’s free and used most often.
With this option, you can even check to see how your paid advertising is doing. Both of these components are crucial for SEO marketing tactics.
It’s also very powerful for new sites that are just starting their SEO endeavors. Most of the site traffic is driven by branded queries (searches containing the brand name). You want people to search for your brand and find you, but you naturally do that from the home page. Most of your efforts should be devoted to driving incremental traffic to the website (those who haven’t otherwise found or engaged with you.)
Yes, Google has made it hard to get the actual keywords people use, but if you look at the page-level traffic outside the home page, you can gain insight into your progress.
Clearly, the primary method of measuring search engine optimization results should be the profits, revenue, sales, and leads you to get. Just as with other business activities, you must determine how the activity boosts your bottom line.
The easiest path is to set up some goals and eCommerce tracking through various tools. Look at each landing page to see who is converting to being a customer based on where they land on your website from an organic search.
This is pretty straightforward and a great way for many businesses to measure their success. Here are a few things to keep in mind, though:
- Web-based analytics are imperfect. If you transition from newspaper or billboard ads to online marketing, there are tons of data available. However, there are various tracking issues to make the data seem off. Make sure you’re skeptical of any information that doesn’t appear to add up and have checkpoints in place to ensure that everything is synced to the revenue you generate.
- The system could create tracking gaps. If you’ve got a back-end system that doesn’t tie into analytics, you could have issues seeing the full picture.
- Life-time and attribution value metrics are tricky. Though this doesn’t relate specifically to SEO, it’s still important and can be hard to do. Make sure that you apply the same tough questions so that you measure SEO in the same way as you might other marketing endeavors.
What Does SEO Stand For? Additional Considerations
For most companies, you only have to know how to get the technical aspects right, understand the keywords to target, and have a strategy to get the site’s pages linked to and shared. However, there could be specific cases where you should be concerned with a specific search type, and here are a few things to note:
- International SEO – There are various trade-offs and benefits of ranking your site in different countries or languages.
- Local SEO – For small franchises and businesses, these rankings are crucial and the most valuable. While links and shares and keyword research are important, there are other ranking factors that local businesses must consider.
- App Store Search Engines – If you’ve got an app, you want it to show up in the search, as well.
- Off-page SEO – Off-page SEO can include various things, and it’s something you should think about for your digital marketing needs.
- Social Media – Social media outlets are a great way to share your information and have others share it, too. Don’t forget this option when trying to boost rankings.
Conclusion – What Does SEO Stand For?
Exactly what does SEO stand for? You’ve gotten this far, so you know that SEO stands for search engine optimization. This includes a lot of information about how the search engines like Google rank sites and how to position yours to grow more search traffic. What can you do next for your digital marketing efforts?
Now, it’s time to prioritize. You can’t focus on each aspect and have various SEO strategies running at once. Focus on what you do well now and what might provide the best ROI.
If you can provide quality content or boost social media shares, that’s the first step. Just focus on the keywords and maximize your SEO efforts. Those who have larger websites may want to think about the technical aspects first or hire us to help them.
Small businesses should consider geo-focused terms and be ranked higher in the local section of Google. That way, they see more customers and get more visibility without as much effort.
Remember that your ultimate goal is to see more exposure and traffic for your company through the site content to raise your search rankings. If nothing else, consider hiring us as your SEO experts to have everything taken care of for you. Explain what you need, and let us lead the way!