An Introduction to SEO In 2020
An Introduction to SEO In 2020
The SEO Value of Keyword Research for Content Development and Link Building
You’ve likely heard of the term SEO before, but other than the cookie-cutter definition, what exactly does it mean and why is it an absolute must for your business to understand and implement in 2020?
First, let’s be transparent, SEO is a complex subject with many nuances. In this article we aim to provide a comprehensive introduction to the world of SEO, why it is important, how search engines like Google function, and a simplified guide to Keyword Research, Content Creation, and Link Building.
What is SEO?
SEO or Search Engine Optimization is the process used to drive targeted traffic to a website through organic search engine results.
Let's break it down even further:
Quality of traffic: I know what you’re thinking, it's essential to drive as much traffic to the site as possible. While that’s absolutely a goal, the quality of that traffic is far more important. Along your journey to conquer SEO, you will learn the subject can be quite ambiguous, making it fairly easy to attract the wrong audience to your site. We’ll dive into that more later, but just know that 10 visitors that are actually interested in your product, service, or content, are far more valuable than 1000 visitors with little to zero interest. Higher quality traffic benefits the optimization of your site’s conversion rate too!
Quantity of traffic: More the merrier always seems to be the case, but with SEO it's important to focus on driving traffic truly interested in your product. Once you achieve higher quality traffic, then the focus can be shifted to increasing the quantity of visitors.
Organic search engine results: Search Engines have the ability to run many different paid advertisements, SEO however is strictly based on non-paid user search results.
Why is SEO Important?
Millions of people are using search engines at any given moment, and they are doing it with very specific intent. As the world continues to become more digital, search engine users are growing savvier, meaning a sound SEO strategy is a necessity in 2020.
Just think about how often you personally rely on search engines to help you find a solution to a problem or the answer to a question. In most cases, users of a search engine are there looking for something with specific intent. The user may not know exactly what they are looking for, yet these motives are still considered to be high intent traffic.
High intent traffic holds an incredible value. To put it in perspective, here is an example: Would you rather spend thousands of dollars on TV advertisements only to hope a viewer will be interested in your product or service? Or fully optimize your website to rank higher and appear more often on SERPs when a user provides an intent driven search query? Well, now that we understand the level of intent from searchers, fully optimizing your site’s SEO would probably be more effective for your business in 2020. Did we mention it's free?
How Do Search Engines Work?
The goal of every search engine is pretty straightforward. They want to make their users happy, and of course keep them coming back for more. To do so, search engines strive to provide the most relevant, accurate, truthful, and appropriate resources when queries are made. If your content is not up to par, search engines will recognize that and push your pages farther down on SERPs.
Crawlers and Indexes
Crawlers crawl across the web collecting information about ALL of the content they can find on the internet. As data is collected, indexes are built to store that information, each index is then run through the search engine’s algorithm so that it understands every search query and what resources would be most credible to help resolve the problem or question. The question becomes, how can marketers in conjunction with web developers provide the best output that will convince the algorithm that our solutions are the most credible for the searcher’s input?
What is a Search Query?
I’m sure most of you reading this have familiarity with the term “keywords”. This is a term that's been around since the inception of SEO back in 1997, but as the practice developed the meaning behind the term started to become a bit deceptive. The term Search Query was coined, and is defined as a combination of words (including keywords) structured in a way that states a problem or question.
This circles us right back to the initial intent from the user, and the importance of understanding how your audience is actually using Search Engines to find a solution like yours. Everyone has their own way of using a search engine, so there are absolutely times when singular keywords are being searched. Although using a singular keyword might not sound like a problem or question, it's important to keep in mind these types of searches are still expressing intent, just not in full clarity.
Getting Started with SEO
Now that we have gone over the fundamentals of SEO and how it works, let's talk about some things your business can start doing so that you can start ranking higher and more often on SERPs.
1. Keyword Research
Conducting keyword research is crucial within your company’s SEO journey due to its ability to provide a better understanding of your target market, and how they might be searching for your content, products, and/or services. We’ve mentioned user intent quite a bit now, but that is because it’s genuinely important especially within this phase.Keyword research is where many SEO strategies fall short before they even begin. It’s a lengthy process but it will allow you to answer important questions such as:
What keywords are people searching for?
You may have a general idea of some descriptive terms that would be relevant to your business. While these terms could likely be accurate, search engines care about how your target audience describes your product, service, or content. You might find some surprising results within the terminology searchers are using to describe your business.
How often are people searching for it?
This is where keywords can be a little tricky and somewhat counterintuitive. While it's great to use terms that yield high search volume per month, these terms are much more competitive and therefore much harder to rank for. Being completely transparent, ranking on the first SERP for highly searched keywords, requires some serious effort and can take years of work to begin approaching the top of these results pages.
On the other hand, using terms with low searches means you risk not drawing any searchers to your site at all. In most cases the best results come from using highly descriptive, low competition search terms, otherwise known as long-tail keywords.
Let’s walk through an example using a generic yet highly competitive keyword, “water”. If someone searched the term “water”, the intent from the searcher is ambiguous, making it difficult for search engines to know exactly what the searcher is looking for. Do they want nutritional facts about water? Are they seeking local bodies of water near them? This leaves the search engine with a very broad range of possibilities, but not enough info to provide the specific resources the searcher might have initially been looking for.
To summarize, generic highly competitive keywords can be leveraged successfully, but in most cases the searcher is just poking around. Targeting long-tail keywords will allow you to better capture individuals who are searching the web with more intent.
What format best suits the searcher’s intent?
Remember ‘search query’? Well, this is where that term becomes more relevant. Finding keywords that identify with your brand is one thing, but now we need to dig a bit deeper to see how searchers are combining keywords to formulate their query. Determining ways products, services, or information is searched for will provide insight into how the search engine displays the results.
This draws back to search engines’ main priority, satisfying the user. The SERPs and the format these pages hold is catered directly to the users search query.
There are millions of possible query combinations that float through search engines daily, however there are 3 major categories commonly used.
- Informational Query
- Navigational Query
- Transactional Query
Informational Queries: These searchers are looking for information. In many cases this query is structured as a direct question which generally yields an exact answer. An example of this can be seen below. That said, informational queries may also be a broad keyword with very high search volume which the user may use to start their discovery journey. An example could be simply, "$100 bill". This query will deliver broad information which the user can use to further refine their search query to better suit their intent as they move through the journey of discovery.
Oftentimes the search engine knows this type of query doesn’t go beyond the searcher simply looking for an answer or even a tutorial, and so the search engine provides the best answer in the most consumable way possible.
Navigational Queries: The searcher is looking to visit a specific place on the web. The intent here is far more clear than any other query because the searcher has already committed to visiting a specific site, just with a little help from a search engine as opposed to using the full URL. There’s no better navigation query example than the most popular terms searched on Google, “FaceBook” and “YouTube”.
Transactional Queries: The searcher is looking to complete a transaction or make a purchase. These queries have somewhat of a broad range, as the searcher could identify brands and/or product names (i.e. “Nike Shoes For Sale”), or be more generic in their approach so they can survey the market and see what might be available (i.e. “Shoes For Sale”). Both will drive different results, but still provide an output displaying the most relevant options for the searcher to buy.
2. Putting Research Into Action With On-Page SEO
Now that you have discovered ways searchers are looking for you, it's time to put the knowledge into action. This is usually where things can start getting a bit more technical, but let's not get into the complicated nuances of SEO just yet. Here’s a simplified guide to help you master content creation that will drive intent-filled organic traffic.
Group Similar Keywords: There will be many keywords effective for your site, so start by grouping these terms in categories that make sense. These groups should contain a common theme to which pages on your site should be created to represent, this way you are not creating pages for every keyword variant (doing this could also negatively affect your merit).
Study Pages that Rank Highly for your Keywords: Take a look at the pages ranking highly for keywords you plan to use, and study how the content is structured and composed. Asking yourself basic questions like: Was the content text-heavy or more concise? Were there picture or video visuals if any at all? Was the content structured in a way that is easily digestible?
Create Better Content: I know, easier said than done. As you study high ranking content and the qualities that make them great, question constantly how YOU might be able to improve that content to get more out of your own SEO.
Don’t Throw Out What You’ve Already Created: If you have already created content for your site, don’t think of SEO and the steps above as starting over. SEO will be an on-going journey of trial and error, and pre-existing content can always be optimized and re-optimized if needed.
Search engines like Google use over 200 factors in order to rank their SERPs appropriately, arguably the most influential factor within ranking is known as backlinking.
What is a Backlink?
Simply put, a Backlink is created when one website references another website.
(Note: We’ve created backlinks to three other sites just in this article alone). The idea behind backlinking is that when another site mentions your site, search engines like Google treat those backlinks as “votes” toward your site being credible. Your website's domain authority and therefore it's potential to rank well for targeted keywords and phrases, will increase with more backlinks to your site. With that in mind, we know there are three main focal points for search engines within backlinking: number of backlinks, relevancy of those sites, and a high domain authority.
Number of Backlinks
This one is a given right? Get as many backlinks as possible. While yes, of course we want as many web sites to link back to our site, we can’t forget about the quality. Search engines pay close attention to the quality of backlinks to your site. For example, it would be much more effective for a site like The New York Times to link to you over a site like Steve’s Sneaker Repair Shop.
Relevancy of the Site
The relevancy of backlink to your site is essential. We know The New York Times would be a great site to get a backlink from, but if you're a sneaker company, a backlink from Steve’s Sneaker Repair Shop could be more effective due to its higher relevance to your brand.
High Domain Authority
On the flip side, it's important to research and target sites with High Domain Authority or Domain Rating. These metrics were created by Moz and Ahrefs, in order to replicate an algorithmic scale used by Google to help measure the backlinking profile of a website. The scale goes from 0-100, 100 being the highest rank, sites like Facebook and YouTube hold the highest domain rating at 100. Improving your own website authority and potential organic search performance, will require your business to generate citations or links from high authority and topically relevant websites continuously over time.
Congratulations if you’ve made it this far because you have officially been introduced to the wonderful world of SEO. While this article is only the tip of the SEO iceberg, you’ve now been exposed to the foundation and have actionable items to start making a real impact to the rankings and domain authority of your site.
Before we go, here are the important takeaways to remember:
- Quality of traffic is more important than quantity.
- Conduct thorough Keyword Research and understand how your target uses them.
- Don’t overcomplicate the content creation process.
- Link building is an essential factor in improving your sites ranking.