SEO and Digital Marketing – The Wizard Behind the Curtain
When digital marketing professionals talk about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) they often skim over the details. They talk about backend coding and plugins, add in some mumbo jumbo about citations, and present the information in a way that leaves customers unsure of what they are paying for as they cross their fingers and hope that the magic SEO wizard will somehow get their exciting website to land on the first page of Google.
In fact, there is no magical wizard, no one perfect formula and very few guarantees when it comes to SEO and overall page ranking. There are, however, some basic guidelines that do not require a marketing genius to implement. SEO requires ongoing effort, constant review of your keyword strategy and obtainable goals for the market you are trying to reach. Though this may seem hard to grasp initially, there are few relevant strategies that will set you up for success and help get your website well on its way to the first page of Google in your area.
SEO basically has three broad categories:
On-Page SEO – Successful on-page SEO starts from the moment you purchase your domain and includes factors like site security, mobile friendly performance, page titles, page headings, photo titles, in-bound links, content length, readability and site speed.
Off-Page SEO –This includes steps that are taken around the internet via search engines and local directories to improve overall ranking. A large part of this work includes updating directory listings, improving Name, Address, Phone (NAP) consistency, building external links back to the website, and social media links.
Content Marketing –This requires constant development of new, high-quality information to keep your site relevant and trustworthy according to Google Search Engines.
Since Google changes algorithm frequently, SEO experts often disagree on which factors are the most important for SEO success; however, it is our experience, and the opinion of many industry experts, that the key ranking factors currently include these nine categories.
9 SEO Key Ranking Factors –
- Quality/relevancy of content and content length –It is worth noting that the average first-page result on Google contains 1,890 words. The perception of Google is that longer content is more authoritative and relevant to the user than generic, short content. This may seem counterintuitive to some who like to make their point quickly and keep their message short, but adding additional details, providing specifications and additional quality content keeps the user on the page longer and is more often shared than shorter content that is under 1,000 words.
- Fresh Content –A survey conducted by MOZ Local indicated that SEO experts perceive fresh content as one of the most important factors in overall site ranking. Search engine crawlers frequently look for new, up to date content and provide a boost to websites that keep their site active and relevant. This boost combined with increased social media shares and traffic to new content can increase your page ranking and overall site ranking by as much as 70%.
- Site Security/HTTPS link –A few years back, Google implemented penalties for all sites that did not have an installed secure sockets layer (SSL certificate). As a result, sites that have a domain http: instead of https: have lost significant ranking and are often blocked by various browsers for being unsecure for visitors. The installation of an SSL certificate is no longer optional and should be installed from the moment you buy your hosting package. If your website does not have an https prefix, this is a number one priority!
- Mobile Responsiveness –60% of searches are now performed on a mobile device. This means that if your site isn’t mobile friendly, you are losing valuable web traffic. Luckily, Google provides Mobile-Friendly Test tool to check your site for mobile responsiveness and review what factors may be causing issues on your website. This is of primary importance for any website that wants to be found on any search engine. To check your websites responsiveness, use this Google mobile friendly tool: https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly
- Bounce Rate –This measures engagement and site relevancy by tracking how often people visit your website and leave after only visiting one page. Though bounce rates vary by industry and type of content, it is a good rule of thumb to try to maintain a bounce rate under 50%. If your site has a bounce rate over 50%, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad site, but perhaps some extra information, more engaging content and internal linking structures would improve this score and help visitors find more useful content on your website.
- Total Backlinks –Of all the off-page marketing efforts you can work on, backlinks from quality, trustworthy sites have the largest impact on overall site ranking. MOZ Local gave backlinks a combined SEO influence factor of 40.09%, indicating that links from sites with high trust scores will generate the greatest SEO ranking improvement. Sites with high trust scores usually include government sites, sites of Nationally branded organizations and non-profit .org sites. These are typically higher in ranking and considered valuable links in marketing.
- Site/Page Load Speed –Pages and images that take a long time to load will immediately penalize your site ranking. All page speeds and images should load in under two seconds. One major factor that can negatively affect load time is image optimization. Images for web should not be high resolution and should be reduced in file size and optimized for web content. Usually, producing a web optimized jpeg is preferable. Gifs and PNGs will typically lower the overall quality in order to reduce file size. Programs like Photoshop, Gimp or Canva will provide an easy way to produce web optimized jpegs for your website.
- Topic Authority –Topic authority comes when a site has multiple pages and articles about the same general topic. Utilizing long-tail keywords and variations of the same keyword tells search engine crawlers that this site is an authority on this topic and increases the ranking for every page associated with that topic. Be sure to upload a site-map to Google Search Console that includes pages, blogs and photos, all properly titled with the topics you want to rank for. This will help your page index for relevant keywords and increase topic authority. Sharing these links and maintaining traffic around this topic will also create long term results.
- Consistent Business Information – This is what I like to call the “low hanging fruit.” By now, most businesses understand the importance of claiming their Google my Business page. (If you have not done this, do it immediately! Here is the link to Google instructions: https://www.google.com/business.) If you have completed this step and your business is active on Google search and Google maps, that does not mean you are finished! Search engines are looking for consistency. If your business address is listed as 123 Music Lane on Bing and 123 Music Ln. on Yahoo, this negatively impacts your business search rankings. If your address is completely different, this impacts your business even more. When a business moves and does not clean up its online presence, the overall SEO score of the website will decrease. Fixing these issues will increase directory backlinks and the overall SEO of your business site. This is especially important for businesses targeting a specific local area and is essential for achieving a presence in the top Google “3 Pack” that shows on the top for most searches.
SEO Facts and Statistics
90% of web traffic does not click to the second page of Google. According to a Net Market Share study in 2019, Google accounts for over 79% of all Global web searches, followed by Bing at 7.27%. Google may not be the only player in the game, but it is certainly the biggest and the perfect starting place for a business that wants to become more competitive in the market place. 57% of B2B marketers stated that SEO generates more leads than any other marketing initiative and has a higher conversion rate than other forms of sales. With that being noted, it might be time for your business to take a deeper look into your SEO strategies and develop a tactical plan to improve organic search in your area.
If you are considering reviewing your current optimization efforts, or beginning your business’s first SEO plan, you don’t have to wonder about the wizard behind the curtain anymore. Instead, ensure your SEO strategies include the above tactics and address each category with competitive research and a plan. If you need a little outside help, contact us at Ryan Sawyer Marketing for a free consultation and online review. We might not be wizards, but we are highly-experienced at SEO magic!