What is SEO?

Even though we’ve already defined SEO, there’s more we can cover to better define SEO. Let’s break it down to three main sections:

On-Page SEO

This covers all activities performed on a website to improve the website’s ranking in Google. Here is an incomplete list of on page SEO activities:

  1. Title Tag – This is considered the most important element on a page. When Google makes a listing for the page, this usually becomes the blue link. It should contain the keywords you are targeting, be readable to users and somewhat compelling.
  2. Meta Description – Also important, but not for ranking. If relevant to the page, this description is the black text below the blue link in Google searches. If it is written well, users will want to click on your link over others on the search page.
  3. Meta Keywords – These used to be important, but Google has since said they are not. I have found that they make good placeholders to remind you what this particular page is trying to rank for.
  4. Schema – This is code on the page that provides structured data to search engines. For example: Your product page has Suggested Retail Price, Regular Price, Competitor Price and Sale Price. Placing code that indicates which price is correct will help Google know which one to display in search. Schema.org is one of the many standards Google has said it recognizes.
  5. Heading Tags – These are the headings that break up content and indicate what each section is about. You should have one primary header on the page (<h1>), with secondary (<h2>), tertiary(<h3>), etc., to better organize the content. No one wants to read a wall of text. Breaking it up in meaningful ways can help both the reader and the ranking.
  6. Content – If you want to rank for something, you need a page about that something. If your topic isn’t simple, you should have pages about the various aspects of that topic. The more unique, useful and relevant content on a site, the more likely you are to rank for your topic.
  7. Internal Linking – Once you have good content on your site you should place links in that content to pages that better explain portions of that page. If you have a page about SEO Hero, you should have a link to a page about SEO and/or Hero on it. Google has said they tend to ignore top menus and footer menus using them more as sitemaps for the site.
  8. External Linking – People who produce good content share. They will link to other content not on their site that supports their points and information. This helps buttress the authority of a page.
  9.  Images – People like pictures. Google knows this. Pages with unique, useful pictures will rank better than those that don’t. Plus, good useful pictures will rank in image search separately.
  10. Videos – Videos explain things in ways that reading cannot, plus people like videos (YouTube is a thing). A page with a video will rank better than one without a video.
  11. Interactive Elements – There are other ways to engage visitors on your website. These might include maps, games, surveys, etc. Pages that engage users keep them on the page longer and rank better.
  12. Forms – Another way to engage a user. If they are looking to contact you, engage in commerce or provide information, forms will be what they seek. Google wants to help them.

Off Page SEO

This includes all activities off site to improve ranking on search engines. Here is an incomplete list of off page SEO activities:

  1. Links – This used to be the primary measure of whether a site ranked on Google or not. People who thought they were SEO Heroes would game the system purchasing thousands of bad links. They ended up being SEO Zeroes when Google figured out how to detect this abuse of the system. Links are worth less than before, but are not worthless. A link to your website in the content of a website relevant for what you want to rank for can still make a difference in ranking. Seek these hard to find links.
  2. Social Media – How do we really know if users like your page? They’ll tell people about it. Engagement on social media is a strong indicator that you have what people are looking for. You can try to encourage this engagement by managing your pages on various social media properties. Engage with your audience and they might engage back. This will help your ranking.
  3. News Media – People and businesses view, share and link to news articles. There is a lot of value in attention from these sources. Whether they write an article about you, you write an op-ed piece for them or just get a link as a source, any attention is good attention.
  4. Press Releases – News outlets are always looking for subjects to write on. Posting your business activities on press release websites might get you some attention, or at least a weak link back to your website.
  5. Other Media – If it’s media and it’s on the Internet, it could be helpful for your ranking. Videos on video sites, audio on audio sites, games on gaming sites, etc.. If they point back to your website with a link your site ranking will improve.
  6. Articles – The blogosphere is a mess of useless ranting by people who will probably not be heard. However, if they’re talking about your industry the links they make are valuable to you. Reach out to them and see how you can help.
  7. Microsites – Companies used to make dozens of small websites focused on a single aspect of their business and then link back to their main site. Google would rank these pages as well as the main page to hopefully dominate the search page. The SEO world has shifted opinion on this and say that one site with a lot of content is better than dozens with very little. If you already have a large, useful, optimized site for your industry, this might be a viable option for you.
  8. Directories & Citations – There are many directory websites on the Internet. Some, like Yelp & Foursquare, overlap with social media and engagement. Being listed in these sites produces links back to your website and reviews there show engagement. If the information is accurate, these citations can increase Google’s confidence in your business information.

User Behavior

This includes things that are somewhat out of an SEO Hero’s control. User behavior includes, but is not limited to:

  1. Clicking – Clicks are recorded by analytics software. Whether it be the click on a link in search, link in a video, a tracking URL, social media or on your own site, there are statistics these clicks affect. If they show positive things about your site, it could improve your ranking.
  2. Reading – People’s time reading is also recorded in various ways. It could be the time they spend on your site or even the time before the click the back button to go back to their Google search. This time can help your ranking.
  3. Sharing – Google tracks information about your site across the Internet. If someone likes something, often they’ll share information about it. Make things people want to share and you could improve this statistic and your ranking.
  4. Copying – Google tracks the uniqueness of content. They know who’s copying who’s content. If your content shows up somewhere else, it could be beneficial for your site if Google knows you are the originator of the content.

This is by no means a complete list, but it should give any user information enough on how to become an SEO Hero.