Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a cornerstone of how the internet operates today.
The basic premise is that, by optimally structuring your website’s content, you can direct more Internet traffic to your domain. In addition to this, a complete SEO strategy will have content on other websites – ‘off-page’ – linking to your domain.
How does this work? Well, most Internet search queries are handled by search engines, like Google or Bing. These companies want to show the most relevant content to users on their results pages (SERPs). As such, they have complex algorithms and criteria to ‘rank’ websites higher or lower on their SERPs. You get the picture – pages that show up at the top of results pages get a higher volume of visitors.
Harnessing the power of SEO can be a powerful tool for businesses. For starters, having higher site impressions means a wider pool of potential customers. That’s why in the US alone, businesses spend an estimated $80 billion a year on SEO services.
Are you new to SEO or looking to brush up on your knowledge? Well, this article will explain the building blocks that make up a solid SEO strategy. We will discuss the differences between on-page and off-page SEO, and why you need both to achieve that coveted #1 spot on Google.
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As we touched on at the start of this article, on-page SEO is all about structuring your website’s content in a way that’s better for search engines.
Anyone that owns a domain can fill their site with topic-relevant content, but if they aren’t considering elements of on-page SEO, then they’re more likely to be relegated to the back pages of Google.
To make the most of their on-page SEO advice and strategy, website owners can associate their site with relevant target keywords. You want Internet users to be directed to your site first when they search that topic keyword. There are a few more on-page considerations you can implement to really stand out from the crowd.
A page’s title tag is what you see as the clickable link on a search results page. The most effective tags are about 50-60 characters long, so they are readable on every device.
You must incorporate keywords into your title tags, as it is a primary SEO indicator used by search engines.
A meta description is the couple of lines underneath the title tag on a results page. You should write a brief sentence describing the page’s content, limited between 155-160 characters.
These descriptions should be short and punchy. Search engines do consider keywords here, but the main aim is convincing the human person behind the search query to click on that link.
For example, a page about a cloud contact center should explain the ‘why’ of the article; in this case, it argues why you should incorporate self-service into your customer journey.
Another important SEO indicator is having a relevant URL (the address at the top of your browser).
Generally, you will want to keep URLs as short as possible, whilst incorporating the main keyword into the start of the address line. You should also use hyphens rather than underscores, which are not always recognized as ‘word separators’ by search engines.
A page’s content is the bread and butter of your website. If it’s not relevant material, you can forget SEO – as your customers will simply close the page!
Before writing the copy for your website, it’s worthwhile to carry out a little keyword research into your page’s subject area. You can do this using free tools like Google Analytics. Once you’ve found the best keywords, take the time to integrate them into your page’s copy.
Within a webpage, the content can be split into headings (H1, H2, H3 etc.) and body text.
Search engines give page headings more weight than the rest of a page’s content. Primary headings are assumed to be more relevant and viewed with special importance. Therefore, you should include topical keywords in your H1 headings, opting for secondary keywords in H2 and H3 headings.
Simply writing relevant content is not enough – you also need to consider the structure of your website. This aspect of SEO is often referred to as sitemap optimization.
Essentially, you want to organize your website in a way that is easy for search engines and humans to navigate. You can achieve this by creating ‘pillar pages’ for important topic areas – a pillar page tells the users all the basic info about a topic, with links to subpages explaining aspects in further detail. The clickable text (called an ‘anchor’) should always be a keyword for that topic.
By structuring your site like this, search engines view that cluster of pages as having more topical authority. However, take care with your internal links. You should integrate them into the content of the page, without going overboard! If you use too many, their value will be diluted.
Mobile users now account for the majority of internet traffic. As such, search engines will prioritize sites that are accessible for both mobile and PC browsers. Make sure you don’t overlook this important aspect of website design!
Finally, you want to make sure that your website has speedy load times. You can optimize this through efforts such as minimizing HTTP requests, keeping image file sizes under 100kb, and enabling compression. You may also want to check that your domain provider’s servers have adequate response times.
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So that’s the basics of on-page SEO covered, but what is off-page SEO? Well, it’s all to do with factors external to your website that impact your search engine rankings. For example, links to your domain from other sites will help push your page to the top of Google.
You might be wondering why off-page SEO matters? It’s simple – search engines need a way of proving that your website is trustworthy and authoritative. Just as a professor would not accept an academic essay with zero references to external sources, search engines will view disconnected websites more cautiously.
The most influential factor in off-page SEO is backlinking. This is when an external website links to your domain, building the authority of your site.
Several factors affect the strength of backlinking:
- How many sites link to yours? (A good number to aim for is 20)
- Are those links from a diverse range of websites?
- What is the domain authority of those websites?
For example, an article linking to your page on software quality attributes will be worth much more coming from a source like BBC Technology than a minor media outlet.
You may want to promote backlinks by writing guest posts, hosting press releases, or creating linkable assets like infographics.
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You can think of domain authority as a measure of how authoritative your site is, on a scale of 0 to 100. Everything mentioned in this article contributes to domain strength, but some additional considerations include:
- Diversity of backlinks
- Age of your domain
- Overall site traffic
- How long the average visitor stays for
Social media should certainly be harnessed as part of your off-page SEO strategy. For starters, creating business profiles on major platforms provides you with an easy opportunity for backlinking.
Not only that, but you can also share your posts with a wider audience, increasing your domain traffic and natural visibility.
As a domain owner, you should be striving to combine elements of on-page and off-page SEO as part of your digital strategy. Our list is by no means exhaustive, but it should set you on the right track.
We advise you to start with the basics of on-page elements since as a domain owner, this is what you will have more control over. Focus on keyword research and site structure (titles, headings, meta tags) to instantly boost site visitors.
Once that base is covered, you can turn to improve off-page elements, such as acquiring backlinks from authoritative domains. You might want to create a shared workspace (such as a whiteboard with Dialpad) to coordinate this effort, especially if working in a hybrid team.
If you want to reach the #1 spot on Google, you will need both on-page and off-page elements in our SEO strategy. Whether you do this yourself or hire a third-party SEO agency to drive up traffic is up to you and your company’s specific needs. Whatever the case, having sound knowledge of SEO is an essential skill for all internet citizens and should be valued in high regard.