SEO 101: A brief moment in introductory SEO
At a company meeting, there was a brief introduction to SEO so the entire company has a birds of eye of what SEO is, and what we are doing. Basically, to put a long story short, employees at company X were told SEO was necessary to increase online presence, we accomplish this through “ABC’s” which are: architecture, backlinks, and content. After a brief explanation on those three topics, many of the people still had very confused and “why do we need this” mentality’s. I thought a re-visit to SEO 101 would be a great way to explain this to people during meetings with the various departments. This way I can give them explain to them how it will help them, give them detailed answers to their questions, create a positive mentality around SEO. Here is what I came up with to give them further understandings, and a resource of what SEO is, and how I can relate it to a large-scale company website.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization. It is the process of increasing a websites traffic through “natural” or “organic” listings in multiple search engines. Google, Bing and Yahoo remain the top contenders for the search engine market. Specialists achieve this through complex digital marketing strategies and finding opportunities for their company to succeed. These strategies are built around 3 major SEO factors – site architecture, Content, and link building. These 3 main factors must be planned before execution – and also have certain “rules” to prevent being penalized (the rules are to prevent
black-hat practices which I will write at article about soon after). If these rules are violated your SEO campaign may produce a negative result. Let’s begin.
What is site architecture?
I posted a page about hierarchy here if you’d like background on that topic. Site architecture is important because of how it influences both the user and website crawler. For the user, experience is a large part of a website. Users enjoy the fastest, and easiest way of finding their intended topic, or item in a matter of minutes or even seconds. As well as a visually appealing quality that gives a website a certain distinguishable feel compared to others. Very simply stated, we want to be wowed, in the most simple way.
This is an example of bad architecture, a vertical format. Not only does it confuse the user and disinterest them, crawlers find webpages deeper in website hierarchy’s to be less important that the top pages. The lower the tiered page means the harder it is for users to find, and thus search engines to deem relevant.
This is an example of good architecture, a horizontal format. Creating a site hierarchy like this is much easier for users to find what they are looking for. It also makes spreading link opportunities much better throughout your website. Building a website in this format also provides for easier internal linking and organization for editing purposes – especially for Ecommerce companies.
Creating a better site structure means focusing on a horizontal format for your website. Stay away from diving too deep into one category, and spread it out into multiple categories. Great site structure means building a website that is easy to navigate for human users, as well as structured for search engine crawlers to determine its relevance in Company X’s market. After focusing on user experience, SEO helps designers and developers structure the website for crawl-friendly access, and higher page rank.
Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz gives a great video on Site Architecture here. I embedded his work below.
[vimeo 3873783 w=500 h=376]
My website is Ecommerce, what’s so important about content?
Content is what gives crawlers where to place Company X’s website. For example someone with a dog training website wouldn’t want content about cats would they? No. They wouldn’t. because cats are evil.
Anyways, producing relevant content towards your target market is a great way for crawlers to gain a better understanding of what your site is about. First and foremost the website should be written entirely for user experience. I tend to follow 3 simple rules when writing. I try to make it informational, educational, and interesting. Although humor seems to be creeping up and molding itself onto those 3 words.
I see content in two different sections. There is site content, and content tags. Site content is your basic writings that humans can read and learn more about what your site has to offer. People are attracted to facts, give them facts in short bursts, while grabbing their attention with your products can lead to high conversion rates, and retention. Zappos.com does a great job giving the users images, information, similar items, and about the brand.
Zappos also has a lot of user-generated content to help their website gain further relevance in search engines. Reviews have been more frequently topping the search pages when people are surfing the internet for more information on popular topics, I will elaborate more on this in later posts.
Here is an example of Zappos layout:
The other kind of content is very basic and while it has lost relevance over the years, I believe it still plays a part in search quality. My own website can provide a great example of how content tags can affect your page ranks.
In Ecommerce, content can be the difference between you and your competitor. It’s a known fact that the selling point for people is if they receive key information:
- Compelling images
- User Reviews
- Comparative Pricing
- Product information
Since most of you have already been disgusted by the length this post is gathering I’ll only focus on product information. This is where content wins. If you can provide the most useful content for your ecommerce website, you can satisfy both the user and the crawler. That would be the most ideal situation, and yet a majority of these businesses lack great content. Review your products, then give people what they want.
Outside of the ecommerce-ness talk. I use this site to play around with the search engines. I’ll explain.
[Beware, boring story about me coming up]
I built this website sometime around April 12′ when I took a deeper dive into SEO. I wanted to brand my own name and was originally going to blog about random thoughts. After entering this field I figured why not help myself grow in the field by experimenting with different practices on my own blog, what do I have to lose? I organized it in the a simple format then wrote a couple posts about SEO. And re-titled it “SEO Specialist Chicago” aiming for that specific key phrase. About a month later I checked my rankings to find that I was ranked on page two, with pretty much no link juice. Yay!
I wanted to see how far I could take it before Google finally shut me down. I started spamming anchor texts toward internal pages with SEO Marketing, SEO specialist, SEO Chicago, SEO, SEO, SEO!
Not only did I get penalized a couple days later. I found myself beyond page 10 and that wasn’t even my home page. After noticing these changes, I experimented with taking the spammy links off and making them natural. Slowly I climbed the ranks for “SEO Specialist Chicago” and eventually got to the top page (I hope I have to double check that right now – so far I should be ranked 3rd).
Well that would’ve been embarassing, there is not much competition or volume for this keyword so it was relatively easy. I accomplished this by utilizing an unsaturated phrase and input it into specific places in my blogs code. For more information on tags and SEO-friendly coding here is a great resource. ( HTML in wordpress.com sites is nearly impossible, so I found ways around it through the free management system they provided)
This little anecdote [you were warned] was meant to provide two things for you, how coding influences being indexed, and how bad practices can lead to de-indexing. To keep it simple, make sure all your tags are created to appeal to users, and not over-optimizing them to appeal to robots (I’m also in the midst of another exploration and am documenting it for another story here). Stop anchor text spamming. Make the links natural and you won’t have to deal with being penalized.
What is linkbuilding?
Linkbuilding is the process of outside websites sending a link back to your company’s website. This is a large part of the SEO practice, and will take up a majority of your time, regardless of the recent updates Google has made links are still a large part of better indexation. There are many factors that influence linkbuilding, both positive and negative. This topic is actually so big I wrote a separate post on it here. I’m already annoyed by the length of this post so I decided to give you the fast version.
- Get them naturally (great site to refer to for ideas), hard work and an opportunistic approach is the best solution.
- The dark side (link is to some bad practices), you see that cat above here? that has nothing to do with linkbuilding but everyone still hates you.
SEO remains a very cost-effective form of marketing. It make have its bumps and bruises, and now some large scars to get through but it will always be there as long as search engines exist. The three key elements that SEO hovers around and builds are architecture, content, and linkbuilding. Remember these rules the next time you sign up with someone that wears all black with a cape and has a serious case of asthma.
Oh, he also chokes people with his LIES.