5 Key Things to Know About Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
“I have heard of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) but what does it actually mean?”
“What are you actually going to do?”
“Why do I need SEO?”
These are questions that we receive from many clients when they explore our SEO and Marketing services. They try to understand what it is they are paying for and why it is important for them.
Unfortunately in the SEO market there are many people who claim that they can put companies at #1 on Google. The reality is: it is NOT that simple. No guarantees can be made. A track record backed up by data and research is the only real way to know if someone can help you with SEO. Still, it will take time.
When we look at the reasons why companies don’t involve themselves in SEO, three main reasons stand out:
- It seems too expensive;
- They have been disappointed before by someone promising everything and never seeing results;
- They just don’t understand why SEO is needed or important to them.
These are all legitimate concerns.
At Enspire we keep SEO in mind from the beginning, as it impacts everything we do from design to development and the optimization of the site. SEO is something that no one can ignore any longer.
Which is exactly why we want to clear things up about SEO. We will share simple yet important points to keep in mind when approaching this topic.
1. What is the difference between On-site SEO vs Off-site SEO?
We first need to understand the different pieces of SEO before we can look at the next steps.
As you might have figured out from the title, this is everything you control ON your website, it is also known as “on-page SEO”. This includes the content and functionality on your site and how it is optimized. To put it simply: this is how you optimize your website for focus keywords and appearing in the top results within search engines.
What it involves:
- setting up an SEO plugin (we recommend Yoast)
- reviewing page loading speed
- making sure that the content on the website is focused and clear
- setting up a sitemap with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools (Plus Yandex if you have a more global audience)
This is what we would call a basic setup for your website, to ensure the Search Engines can find, read, and understand your website. The focus keywords will be “indexed” along with all the pages/posts you may have on your site so that your website is sharing the most relevant information also known as the information you want Search Engines to know.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Things get a bit more complicated with off-site SEO, it is not nearly as straightforward as on-site SEO. With on-site SEO once you set it up you will have to maintain it but for the most part you don’t have to change things very often. Off-site SEO is always changing and is something you have to constantly keep up-to-date with.
Off-site SEO is really referring to backlinks to your website. This is the core of how Google measures your domain authority and trustworthiness. The more trustworthy and high authority domains link to your site, the better Google will view your site. While it might sound easy it is very hard to maintain consistent high quality backlinks to your site. The best way to do this is by creating high value content that people will share and repost.
Also included in off-site SEO is social media, guest blogging, influencer marketing and brand mentions.
To simplify and sum it up…
On-site SEO requires research, setup, and basic maintenance but once it is setup you have a nice foundation. Off-site SEO requires a full strategy for daily monitoring, creation of high quality content, social media sharing and finding opportunities to guest blog or submit a press release to news sites about something you are doing.
Phew… now let’s move on to the next point
2. How do we know what our focus keywords are?
This is another question that is very important and asked often by clients. The trick here is that most clients already know their focus keywords as they say them daily to clients and their colleagues. The process is collecting all the focus keywords, doing research on what your competitors are doing and then narrowing down the focus keywords to the most effective, relative to the industry or service you want to target.
There are some great resources and tools out there to help with this process such as Moz, ahrefs and Raven. Though many of these are for agencies (like ourselves) not for small businesses as the pricing is a bit steep (some offer free trials for a limited time). There are also the free options of using Google Analytics and Google Keyword Planner.
Say you have all the information collected and in front of you. What does it all mean? How do you know which is the best one for your company?
This is a process that takes time and having all the research and information is only the first step towards great keywords.
Put yourself into your customers’ shoes and think about what they would search for in Google. How would they look for your service or product? Start to make a list of whatever comes to mind as it is important to balance what you know about your company within your industry and what your clients might know as well as understand.
Now it is time to analyze the data, competitor research, internal research and perspective of the client to find the best focus keyword(s), these are the keywords that should not only be easy to search and find your website but are also naturally used in the content you have on your website.
3. Why is SEO so expensive?
SEO can become expensive but it really depends on resources and how big of a reach you would like to have.
The question you will need to ask yourself: how much are you willing to invest? Keeping in mind that there is an initial investment upfront to get some things setup.
What it includes:
- the setup fee for optimizing your site for SEO
- installing plugins
- setting up or refreshing Google Search Console
- Schema markup
These are things that don’t need to be done all the time but it is important to set them up correctly and maintain them to ensure there are no errors or problems impacting performance. This is of course refering to on-site SEO. In terms of how much you spend on research of key focus words and off-site SEO that can really add up quickly.
If you don’t have the time or resources, then the most important part of the process is the research / finding the current focus keywords. If you don’t start with the right keywords then everything else you do won’t be as effective.
Off-site SEO would be the area that you would want to invest in last because the other two need to be setup correctly before your off-site SEO can be effective.
This is also the part where you can “leave it” (but still maintain it) to grow organically over time, or invest in a blog, videos, infographics, white-papers and other high quality content along with a strategy to develop some serious backlinks. Which in return would give you stronger rankings, trustworthiness and domain authority. Either way it is going to take some time but it is the best practice and the correct (no black-hat techniques) way to improve your SEO.
Think of it this way. You need to make sure you know where you are going (focus keywords) and have a good base (on-site SEO) before making a large leap (off-site SEO) as without the previous two the last would land quite badly.
4. Can I do this myself? Or should I hire someone?
Yes, you can! Though it would take time for you to learn what needs to be done and it also would require technical skills to make tweaks to your site.
Many of the clients that we work with at Enspire are interested in learning more about SEO and what it means and how they can do it better, which is important!
We love it when clients are researching, learning and asking great questions during our conversations. We believe the best combination for a company (especially smaller companies) is to gain an awareness of what SEO is and how you can use it at your company. It will enhance your SEO strategy and will bring up the question “How will this help our SEO?” more often, which is always good!
Do note that it would be more effective if you have an agency that specializes in SEO work with you. Especially when it comes to doing focus keyword research, setting up the on-site SEO and creating an off-site SEO strategy. The more you know about SEO the better because it will help facilitate conversations and develop a better overall impact.
Look at the trade-off of hiring someone or doing it yourself. You are going to spend a lot of time learning and setting things up yourself. How much is your time worth? Compared to hiring someone to do it for you?
The combination of the company working with an SEO expert is a winning combination. You are balancing the technical skills and understanding with the knowledge of the industry / company. Great things will happen with this combo!
5. What are some other factors that impact SEO?
There are a ton of factors that impact your SEO and we are not going to cover all of them in this article but we would like to highlight a few that are very important to know and understand the implications.
WEBSITE PAGE LOAD SPEED
This is becoming more and more important in SEO rankings. While not the MOST important, it is a factor that will gain in significance. As SEO is not just about the quality of information and authority, it also takes into consideration the user experience and the site that offers the better experience is going to win. This means that if your page takes longer than 3 seconds to load you are offering a poor user experience.
At Enspire our goal is to have all of the websites we create load in less than 3 seconds, with the ultimate goal to have them load in 1 second.
If you don’t have an SSL certificate it will start to impact your rankings, as your website will be viewed as not as safe compared to a website that has one. Not a huge factor at the moment but it does have an impact.
Also this impacts how people perceive your website, how professional it looks.
Incredibly popular but Google is starting to penalize websites that have them. Especially if they are full page and hard to close (aka impacting the user experience). Honestly, almost everyone we know hates these and will sometimes even leave the website if they get a pop-up message to subscribe.
These are just a few other factors to think about with your website and note them as you talk about SEO with an agency or your own company.
It is important to stay up-to-date with the latest trends of SEO and factors involved. Things are changing fast, but at the end of the day if you offer great value and user experience on your website you are on the right track.
Then the question is: “How can you harness that to get your website working for you?”
Let us know if this article was helpful and please reach out if you have any questions or would like to talk more about our SEO services.