SEO refers to the process of optimizing your online presence for search engine performance.
What makes SEO testing so unique is that it is done in a live environment, which makes it more difficult.
SEO progress requires time to pass to generate statistically relevant results. This can take up to 3-6 months. SEO is not an instant gratification discipline.
You need wisdom and experience to understand the data. The data is not wisdom. Professionals outperform amateurs.
SEO is not cheap.
There are three variables for SEO services:
You want SEO that works. It takes a solid investment and it takes time. But it does work, and all of the traffic you earn is yours to keep.
SEO: KEY CONCEPTS
The Customer Journey
Interest- Aware of Need
Search- Clients using digital media to research options
Research- reviews, product specs, price, brand, expertise, authority and trust
Purchase- online, phone, brick and mortar
EAT refers to Expertise, Authority and Trust
Expertise, Authority and Trust are CORE Goals
Your Money Your Life - News, Government, Law, Finance, Shopping, Pricing, Health, Safety
Google gives specific importance to these topics and trust level needs to be high
People must believe you in order for you to perform in this segment
Least Imperfect and Ranking Curves
Top ranking site goes to site that is least imperfect
No site is perfect = impossible
Low End of SD= unoptimized sites
High End of SD= overoptimized Sites
Top Ranking= Natural, within Standard Deviation, not over or under optimized
PageRank system is a point system - not a ranking. Points can be in the millions.
People linking to you gains points. Internal linking can also generate points but can dilute equity.
Best Practice- link to Homepage for brand name, then link to subpages within the site by KW. Can pass rank.
Pages located furthest away from the homepage lose the most equity.
Pagerank decay = distance within the site from the homepage matters.
SEO: ABOUT SEARCH ENGINES
Search Engine (SE) Ranking
3 major areas impact SER
1. Search Engine- is not your friend. Public companies generate revenue by staying on a property and clicking on ads. This means impartial, vague answers and constantly changing. There are as many as 3,000 algorithm adjustments per year.
2. The Competition- also not your friend. It wants your traffic and is constantly changing.
3. Your own website- On Page factors, Off Page Factors, Rankbrain Factors, Production Schedules, Website Performance, Content, Term Ambiguity, Mobile Friendly, Local Presence, Jargon (Coke v Soda v Pop), Engagement Objects.
Google wants to reward organic sites because they are the best and deliver the best experience to their “customers,” who are the people doing the searching.
SEO: WEBSITE ANATOMY
Site Structure- should be able to start at the home page and get to the entire site. If you cannot do this, then the page does not matter to SE. Do not orphan pages.
Google uses Mobile First Indexing- sites must be developed in Mobile format for SE crawl.
Head Section- page title, description, canonicals, misc tags.
Body Section- section users usually spend their time in. Heading, body, image.
Page Layouts- Use responsive design.
Design for Mobile first- Mobile layout is what Google uses to interpret web design; if elements do not appear on mobile Google will not see them.
Use single URL for content and let CSS handle rendering- do not make multiple entities.
Always use compressed images- WEBP.
If on Safari, use compressed JPEGs.
TIP: Improper images are biggest speed suck out there
Navigation should be short and sweet on mobile.
Start off with major themes then drill down to specifics.
ID major pages, then secondary pages, then third pages, so on until four deep max. Create a map.
Major pages should be major SERP query answers, then secondary pages for longer tail queries.
Not every page on every site is spidered every day.
Some subpages might not be spidered every month. Crawl budget is important.
Spider does not determine if a page is worthy of ranking, it just determines if you are breaking Google’s rules. It can palace you in index, if you have a quality property. Spiders do not like errors. There can be a gradual increase in distance between crawls if a site does not update content.
TIP: No need to spider if nothing has changed
SEO: ON PAGE OPTIMIZATION
On Page Optimization is about 3 things:
Establish a theme. Make sure the SE knows what you are about.
Content should succinctly and descriptively answer as many user queries as possible.
Singular and Plural terms must be mixed together on the page
Write in natural language- to the consumer and not to the SE
Make sure you stay in the right topical universe
Use related phrases and keyword families: for instance — Smile, Smiled, Smiling
Think about intent, which will differ and shape your content.
Research Sites- Longer, fewer images, bigger images, slower load, less drilldown
3 Types of Queries
Informational- queries to gain knowledge- “What is…”
Navigational- queries to locate specific web property; directories
Transactional- queries to take a specific link to purchase a product; acquire products
Think about whether you want your site visitors to TAKE ACTION or simply COLLECT INFORMATION.
TIP: Sales and marketing intersect as you shape SEO strategies.
Website architecture changes, competition profiles change constantly, and the algorithm changes often requiring constant SEO performance evaluations.
Tips for Your Title Tag
Clickable and shown in SERP
Most SE truncate and 6-12 words is ideal
62-70 char on desktop, 110 on mobile
Be unique for every page
Google will often re-write your title for SERP based on query AI
Be aware of what competition is doing. If the competition has fewer words and all performing pages have fewer words, take the cue.
Tips for Your Meta Description (MD)
Also shown in SERP
Should be between 160-165 characters and read naturally, which enhances CTR
Can use a CTA in your meta description to encourage action
Use the KW toward the beginning
Use KW max of two times
KW in title must also be shown in MD. If MD does not have the same KW as in the query, Google may provide content pulled from the page as a better alternative.
Try to make sure every word in the title is repeated in the description tag. This provides a higher probability of displaying in SERP.
Use complete sentences and natural language. Relay what to expect from the page.
Tips for Your Headings
This is a legacy tactic, but still important
Be hierarchical in sequence
Should contain KW phrases
Should read like a headline with 2-5 words
Do not use for style purposes- use CSS for this instead
Tips for Your Images
People like pictures
Use brief and descriptive filenames and alt attributes
Remember, use a maximum of 12 words on alt tag
ALWAYS compress your images- helps with site speed
Get original images whenever possible. Unique images are better than stock. If using stock photos, alter them in some way to make them unique.
Alt Tags on images are also important for ADA compliance. If descriptions of an image do not match the image, it is a poor experience for individuals who are using screen readers. Images should contain dimension information
Tips for Your Links
Anchor text is more important than URL
Links must be descriptive of the target page and fulfill the promise of the link
Don’t go crazy with links per page- 100 max, but fewer preferred
Tip: Advertisement links should have a “Sponsored” attribute.
Target 8th grade reading level for general content. Higher for technical or specific content.
HTML- Best Practices
Load files in sections. First load above the fold JS and CSS, then delay load the rest of the page JS and CSS. It may be better to load inline JS/CSS for the top of the page.
Remember, user intent drives SEO. If your site can become one that answers all of the questions of your ideal client persona (ICP), you will improve your search ranking. Answering all of the questions matches the goal of Google providing users with easy and fast access to the content you want. All of the optimization tactics in the world won’t replace the value of good content on your website to drive organic traffic.
ID the searcher question or problem to solve
Understand who you are trying to sell or attract
Until you ID target audience you cannot determine KW, content, style, reading level, content gaps or initial SEO implementation plans
There are all types of strategies around linking. This is an area where you should really watch out for black hat practices, which are bad and represent major risks to your domain authority and site health.
Not all backlinks are good
Pay attention to the link profile. Determine if inbound links are poison. Disavow as necessary.
Links are important but not the most important
Links are used to transfer page rank
Internal links move PR from one page to another
Links are votes- website popularity- provide unique and relevant content on subject matter- link to other experts.
DO NOT use link farms or pay for links
Review link profile often and maintain
Links are used to show a network presence in the industry. Focus on non-competitors that are relevant.
Outbound links do not mean people will leave your page- bigger picture- fallacy
Problem with no outbound links is it shows you are not an expert
Signal of trust for Google- if you don’t link to trustworthy Google will not see you as trustworthy
*Not really plausible for e-commerce sites
Links should be within niche
Google does not expect your website to be a dead end- not participating in internet
Place links as high in the content piece as possible
50 links from 1 domain is not better than some good links from a few domains
Use links for social media distribution
Go for quality not quantity
Variety is a good indicator of influence- need .edu, .gov, .com, etc
Avoid excessive reciprocal links- bad indicator- shows possible collusion
There are 3 types of links:
Tips About Your Links:
Engage in regular link pruning
Disavow bad links
Review the source of the link to verify prior to removing
Inbound links should match industry
Be careful- do not cut good links- will damage your ranking
We briefly mentioned black hat above, and that’s a real thing. There are bad actors and malicious strategies in play that attempt to game the system. Google makes every effort to reduce these, but it’s important that you don’t engage in them, either inadvertently or on purpose. The short term yield could have devastating long-term consequences.
Solid SEO ethics look like this:
No intentional harm or misleading
Do not violate published SE rules
Do not violate any laws
No false representation of client content
Do not copy other people's work
No misrepresenting of your abilities / credentials
Do not set unreasonable client expectations
Have an internal and external dispute resolution process
SEO Code of Conduct
Do not deceive the SE
Do not serve one set of content to SE and another to user
No multiple pages with identical or nearly identical content for the purpose of influencing SE