It is important to have an SEO plan or strategy. If you do not have this step, you may overlook an important element to good SEO. Many of these can be fixed at a later date, but it is most efficient, for both time and expense, to implement a strategy start to finish. If you have an existing online presence, an SEO plan will review what practices you are already using, how you are using them, and if they are being used effectively. This review will also expose any elements that may have been overlooked. Once the strengths and weaknesses of a site have been determined, a proposal for optimization can be developed. Depending on the site, and goals, search engine optimization can range from expanding/editing content, to fixing backend technical problems, to a complete redesign and relaunch of the site. This plan will also tell you what is needed, what is recommended, and an estimate on the cost and time requirements for each phase of optimization.
An SEO strategy can be broken down into three categories. Each area has a unique role within the website, and are only related to each other in that they affect the sites overall SEO. While all of these tasks fall under the SEO Marketing umbrella, sometimes it is easier to think of them as separate jobs as they take completely different sets of skills to complete.
The first category of an SEO strategy is the Foundation. This is the technical aspects that build a site. Using a metaphor of a home, the foundational SEO would be the layout of the rooms, the walls, floors, doorways that create the routes we use to move about the building. Just as we want our homes to be practical in their layouts, with easy/quick access to the rooms(pages), doors that lock to keep us safe(secure), and a comfortable setting(design), we want these qualities in our websites as well. Having a solidly built house has a hugely beneficial effect on the overall home. Plus once it is built, a little maintenance is all that is needed. Foundational SEO elements, using best practices, give websites an automatic boost to search engine rankings. These practices can include:
- Mobile Ready - Google has shipted to a Mobile First strategy, meaning websites that perform well on mobile will see improvesment, while those that do not are quickly being pushed down in the rankings.
- Encryption - Google wants to see a more secure and safter web, and has leveraged their search engine to accomplish this. To that end they rewards websites that employ encryption through the HTTPS protocol.
- Proper Tag and Schema Usage - A website is structured data, proper useage of HTML tags and Schema elements to correctly define content helps the search engines understand what the page and the site are.
- Security - A poorly secured website, or a website running on an outdated Content Management System (CMS) are more easily hacked. When Google or Bing detect that a website has been hacked, this site's ranking will plummit and might even be removed. While this is correctable, it takes time fix. After cleaning up a compromised website it can take many more months to return to the same rankings as before the hack.
In the early days of search engines everything relied on keywords. The higher the keyword density on a page, the better it performed in the search rankings. As we learned, this was not a good way to best identify websites the user would find useful. Many factors started to evolve to better decide what content to display for a users query, but it all came back to keywords. Moving forward we are seeing Google and Bing not utilizing their advanced neural network artificial intelligence (AI) to better determine what content is useful and relevant to a users search. This is moving us into a golden age for website content, as we are no longer shackled with writing content with a focus on keyword density. We will not be rewarded for well written and meaningful content. As these AI systems advance, they better understand the difference between good and back content. Quality content matters.
When determining rank for a specific search query, the search engines are really trying to determine the most reputable content to display. One way to determine reputation is to look at who links to a website, these are called backlinks. Not long ago it was easy to give a website a boost in the rankings by linking to it from anywhere and everywhere. This gave rise to services that did nothing but sell links. Just like we've seen where content has moved from keyword focusing to actual context, backlinks are seeing a simular change. Search engines are now using the incoming links to help determine the context of the website. For example, a dentist having a link from the American Dential Association will help the search engine understand that this is a dental site and, once the content of the website is seen to match the backlink then this site will be rewarded with an improved ranking. On the other hand, if this same website has 100 links from places that have no relevance then, regardless of the quantity of the link there will not be any improvement on the sites ranking. Quality backlinks matter.
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