“S-E-O what?” my friend asked, as I tried to describe what I do for Forward Vision. She’s a techie and engineer for a B2B company, but even with those credentials, some people still don’t know what SEO means.
“SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization,” I explained. “It’s when you try to rank high on Google so you show up on the first page of results.”
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization or SEO is composed of two parts:
Oxford gives us the above definitions and when combined, search engine optimization means the process of making the best content so search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo can find it easily and present it when someone searches for it. This helps you connect with your audience organically without paying for ads.
Ahrefs compares search engines like Google to a library. Instead of books, Google stores copies of websites and web pages. When you use their search engine to look up a topic, Google will look through its collection and show you the most relevant results.
If you’re wondering why I specifically mentioned Google, there’s a good reason. Even though there are several search engines available to use, Google has the lion’s share of traffic. Statista shows Google has 87.76% of the worldwide desktop market share of search engines. Bing is a distant second with 5.56%, followed by Yahoo with 2.71%, and the rest shared by China’s Baidu and Russia’s Yandex. US mobile search engine market share shows a similar trend with Google leading the pack by a wide margin.
Google has dominated the search engine market for so long, the company’s name has become a verb. Not sure about a topic? “Let me google that…”
So, when we discuss SEO, what we’re really talking about is how to optimize for Google so we can rank on the first page of their Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
When determining the order of results, the Google algorithm looks at more than 200 ranking factors! And while there’s some debate as to if there are actually that many factors, SEO experts agree that these are some of the top-ranking factors.
While it’s true that content is king, the reality is that it’s the quality that matters. Studies show that longer content tends to rank higher on Google’s SERP.
According to HubSpot, the recommended length for a blog article ranges from 1300 words for What is…? posts to 4000 words for pillar pages that cover topics in great detail and depth.
To make matters more confusing, recommended word count may differ from industry to industry. For example, tech blogs featuring news-style articles fare better if they have a word count between 800-1000. Marketing and advertising have better luck with blogs that average 2500-3000 words.
However, before you get too fixated on the number of words you need to write, focus instead on how well you can answer a searcher’s query . If it only takes you 500 words to effectively answer a question, you don’t need to add fluff just to hit a 2500-word target.
Remember the days of dial-up when your modem made the most awful screeching and buzzing noise as it tried to connect to the Internet? While the process only took a few minutes, it usually felt like hours. And don’t even get me started on the frustration of getting disconnected and having to dial back again.
Today, we’re spoiled with the ability to access online information almost instantly. That means any extra seconds spent waiting for a page to load can make a huge difference in whether or not you stay on that site.
A 2017 Google study found that as page load times go from one to 10 seconds, the probability of a mobile site visitor abandoning your site increases by 123%! I can only imagine people’s expectations have gone higher since then.
Speed became even more critical to ranking when Google rolled out its Core Web Vitals, specifically the Large Contentful Paint (LCP) in June 2021.
To improve your SEO ranking, you must make load speed a priority. There are several tools you can use to test your website speed including the free tool PageSpeed Insights.
While your website’s desktop version might be flawless, your ranking can take a hit if your mobile version is not up to par. Google clearly stated that being mobile-friendly is part of the page experience. This tells us the mobile version of your site is taken into consideration when determining to rank results. In fact, Google actually implemented mobile-first indexing in March 2021.
What is domain authority? Domain authority looks at the quality, popularity, and backlinks of a domain or website.
Security has been an increasingly hot topic these days especially as the move to digital platforms has exponentially increased. HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) ensures data security between a user’s device and your website through encryption. Search engines like Google look for this HTTPS security measure and use it as a ranking signal.
How do you know if a website uses HTTPS? Look at the URL and check if it starts with https:// versus the older http://. For example, our website address looks like this:
Some browsers may also display a closed padlock on the URL like this:
Title and header tags
Keywords are a primary indicator that tells Google what your article is about. Search engines look at your title tags and header tags for clues. We’ll discuss SEO keyword tips in greater detail in part three of this blog series, but for now, let’s talk about long-tail keywords.
Long-tail keywords are easier to rank when you’re using a highly competitive keyword. They’re more specific and although they may have lower search volume, the competition may be less too and you’ll find it’s easier to rank.
Let’s look at the keyword b2b marketing. SEO tool Semrush shows this keyword was searched an average of 6,600 times each month for the past 12 months. It also has a keyword difficulty (KD) of 71. In other words, ranking for this keyword will be difficult.
However, if you scroll to the bottom of the list, you’ll find the more specific b2b digital marketing keyword. Though it has less search volume, it’s also less competitive meaning it might be easier to rank for.
When reviewing your site for rank, Google looks for backlinks to your website. Though they go by many names, including inbound links, incoming links, and external links, backlinks tell Google that your content is worthy and relevant. It has an even greater impact if the link comes from a credible site with high domain authority.
Looking for a vendor near you? Just type in the product or service you’re looking for and Google will provide you with results that feature local providers near the top. That’s why it’s important to make sure your Google My Business is properly set up.
Overwhelmed yet? With so many ranking factors to consider, it’s no wonder. Especially when Google changes its algorithm. SEO can feel like detective work at times – constantly looking for the clues that’ll land you the coveted page 1 ranking on Google.
The important thing is to always keep the user in mind. Whatever gives them the best user experience (UX) will most likely be the factor that lands you a higher rank on Google.
Now that you have a general understanding of what SEO means and how it works, we’ll explore why SEO is important for business in part 2 of our blog series. Then we’ll wrap up our SEO series by answering the most important question in part 3 – How do you get your website to rank higher on Google?
If you’re not sure where to start with SEO or digital marketing in general, a B2B marketing agency like Forward Vision can help. Just fill out our form and select free digital marketing audit. Or if you want to get started using SEO and Content Marketing to drive more traffic and leads to your website, check out which package fits your needs.