Now, today, I want to talk about the things non-SEOs should know about SEO.
Frequently asked questions about SEO.
I’m going to take you on an SEO journey using common SEO questions. And at the end of this journey, you’ll have a better grasp of the channel so you can wield it to get you results.
After all, the more familiar you are with the channel, the less daunting it becomes, right? So, let’s get into it. From the very beginning.
What is SEO?
SEO is the process of improving a website so it ranks higher up in search engines when search queries are made. You can consider it to be the opposite of PPC.
However, unlike PPC, where websites pay to be listed on search engines, SEO listings are organic.
I.e. they are selected websites that search engines show to searchers, based on many factors.
For this reason, some people (outside of marketing) consider SEO to be free. However, we as marketers know this is far from true.
How does SEO work?
SEO works by making improvements to a website to benefit potential users, and by allowing search engines to see these improvements to determine where the site ranks.
There are many elements of a site that can be improved. SEOs typically categorise these elements into 3 pillars – On-Page SEO, Off-Page SEO and Technical SEO.
A lot of the elements to improve are those that search engines use in determining where a site ranks when search queries are made.
When a user searches on a search engine, the search engine shows a list of organic results, right? Websites.
These are ranked based on what it (the search engine) has determined is the most appropriate website based on the keywords the searcher uses in the query.
SEOs work to improve a website so that it is selected by the search engine to rank highly for the keywords used in the search.
What are keywords?
Keywords are important texts that surmise what a person is searching for within a search query. This can be a word, a phrase, or the entire search query itself.
For example, the keywords in a query such as ‘what TV should I buy’ can be ‘TV’, ‘buy TV’ or the entire phrase, ‘what TV should I buy?’
How do SEOs know what keywords people are searching with?
Similar with our PPC cousins, we use a tool (such as Google Keyword Planner), which shows an aggregate data of keywords used in search.
Using this type of tool, SEOs are able to strategically select keywords to target on a website, based on the business’s objectives, services, offerings, etc.
Once keywords are selected, the goal is to have the website ranking for the targeted keywords by way of optimising the website for the keywords.
How do SEOs get a site ranking for keywords?
This is a complex process that involves making improvements within the three SEO pillars I mentioned earlier – On-Page, Off-Page and Technical SEO.
We analyse the status of a site within these 3 pillars, and essentially, look to improve elements within each pillar, across the site.
The site does not target any keywords? This is an on-page issue. It needs improvement.
The site has important pages that are not being crawled? This is a technical issue. It needs improvement.
The site does not have any links? This is an off-page issue. This needs improvement.
What exactly are links?
Links are essentially website URLs. They’re referred to as links because when you click on them, you’re taken to the websites, directly. Links are a fundamental part of how the web works.
Search engines find URLs across the web with the help of links.
Now, with SEO, you may hear the term: internal links and external links.
Internal links are within one’s website. A page on one website that has a link to a page on the same website is an internal link.
When a page on one website has a link to a page that is to another website, we call this an external link.
Both internal and external links are important for SEO.
When it comes to Off-page SEO, the goal is to attain external links to one’s website.
This helps the website (being linked to) gain authority and popularity in the ‘eyes’ of search engines, which is one of the many, many, ranking factors.
What are ranking factors?
Ranking factors are considerations search engines use in part to determine the position a website should be listed in when keywords are queried.
Over the years and decades, SEOs have identified important ranking factors that search engines use.
Some of these factors are from signals. The URL of a page, for example, is a signal.
A page’s URL could be /123-drip-drip-drag-drag/.
However, we know that search engines read the text in a URL. This is why we recommend having keywords in a page’s URL, rather than gibberish numbers and letters.
Because the URL of a page is a ranking factor, we have keywords in the URL as a signal to search engines.
So, we have signals as ranking factors. And there are many types of signals.
Other types of ranking factors are Directives.
These are important information shown to search engines of how to crawl and/or index pages.
HTTP status codes – 200s, 300s, 400s – these are directives to search engines.
They have an impact on where a site ranks, if it ranks at all.
Speaking of rankings, a common question I get all the time is: why do rankings change?
The million dollars question, right?
Look at it from the point of view of search engines.
Their goal is to organise information and present it to users. Quickly.
For every topic, there is an unlimited amount of websites suggesting their information on the topic is the best!
Because of this, search engines are always on a quest to ensure they show THE best pages, or, rather, most appropriate pages, to users. Based on the search query.
As a result, you, as a website owner, need to continuously show you have the best information that your site is about.
As such, when search engine algorithms change, your site must adjust!
What are algorithm changes?
Algorithm changes refer to the method, or methods (because there are several algorithms) that search engines use to rank websites.
Why do search engines change their algorithms?
They do so to better serve their customers – searchers. In so doing, they better meet their business objective – to organise the world’s information and make it accessible. Quickly!
How do SEOs know when search algorithms change?
Historically, this was known through discussions in the SEO community.
When an SEO sees a big jump in rankings, an investigation begins!
Part of the investigation is to determine what type of event caused the drastic change in rankings.
This involves seeing if other SEOs have seen a drastic change in the site they work on.
And by way of deduction, conclude that the drastic change in rankings is the cause of an algorithm change, or an update.
These days, communication between SEOs and search engines is a lot better.
An algorithm change these days is publicly announced prior to it taking place. It’s also typically rolled out over the course of a couple of days, with a public announcement when the rollout is completed.
These days, prior to, during, and after an algorithm change, SEOs pay careful attention to visibility and rankings, at hand to address ‘best practices’.
What is ‘best practice’ SEO?
Best practice SEO refers to improving elements on a website so they meet a minimum level in order to compete in the SERPs.
It’s best practice that a site has an optimised metadata.
It’s best practice that a site has an XML sitemap.
It’s best practice that a site has canonical tags.
These are typical things a site needs as a base in order to compete in the SERPs.
How long does it take for SEO to work?
The industry standard response is that it takes 3-6 months for SEO to work. However, the reality is it depends. On many factors.
If your organisation is familiar with SEO, and are optimising from an already established base, then, yes, 3-6 months is feasible.
However, if you’re in a position where SEO is new to your organisation, it’s not unrealistic to only see results 12 months after you begin optimisation.
Listen, SEO is long term. If you’re counting months with SEO, your time frame may be too short.
SEO is an investment. You want to be counting years.
How long before you see dividends really depends on many, many factors.
You could see the benefits within a few months. Or, within a couple of years.
Realistically, you could spend an entire year benchmarking.
Year 2 could be spent implementing, with year 3 being the first year you see results shown in channel revenue.
Realistically, it depends on the state of SEO in your organisation.
How can I speed up SEO?
Speeding up SEO highly depends on how long you’ve had SEO active in your organisation.
When you commit to SEO, knowing the state of SEO on your site is the first priority.
This leads to an SEO strategy being created, with the intent to implement it.
At this point, at this crucial point, your success in implementing SEO, depends on the status of the channel across your organisation.
What do I mean by this…?
A huge part of SEO requires getting people on-board.
I’m not talking about just getting the business on-board. It’s also getting buy-in on the operational level. Getting people to give a damn about implementing SEO.
This is why evangelising SEO is a crucial part of the success of it in your organisation.
What is evangelising SEO?
Evangelising SEO is the process of familiarising departments across your organisation with SEO so that the implementation becomes more streamlined.
For example, you can have a great technical SEO strategy.
However, if you do not have the Dev team interested in SEO, you’ll consistently get push-backs so that they can work on other projects that they like.
Evangelising SEO helps to lift barriers in your organisation. And, it is required for every department that has a touchpoint with your website.
How do I evangelise SEO in my organisation?
To evangelise SEO, you need to have an ongoing process where you spread the awareness of SEO, making it appropriate for departments.
You’ll need to have a process of showing what SEO is, why it matters, and how it impacts their department.
A great approach to this is to have SEO training across your organisation, on a monthly basis, for example.
I can assure you, this will be a big hit in your organisation.
I can assure you, it’ll have SEO better integrated in your organisation.
I can assure you, it will make SEO implementations streamlined.
Have a look at the brands you’re competing with in SEO.
I can assure you, they perform well because they have SEO evangelised across their organisation.
You want to improve your SEO? You’ve got to optimise from within!