An interview with Marcus O’Dell, Walker360’s Digital Strategist.
SEO, aka search engine optimization, is certainly a buzzword these days. But what exactly is it? According to the Oxford dictionary, SEO is defined as the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine. Great, sign me up! But, how do you do SEO?
Understanding and navigating the waters of search engine marketing can be overwhelming. Fortunately, our very own Digital Strategist, Marcus O’Dell, explains the basics of SEO and breaks down everything from keywords to algorithms to meta tags.
Q: What is SEO and why is it important?
A: Simply put, SEO is making sure your site is found by the right search for the right people. The better your search engine optimization is, the higher you appear in a search results page. And the higher you appear, the easier it is for potential customers to find you. But it’s important to keep in mind that there isn’t a human being analyzing your site to determine what pages appear in a search. Search engines rely on indicators, like keywords, to determine how high you rank in searches. When you google something (or Bing it, no one’s judging) the search engine has to decide what results to show you and in what order. The practice of SEO is so important because it affects your searchability and visibility. If your site isn’t showing up in search engine results then chances are no one is going to your site.
Q: What are keywords?
A: At a base level, keywords are the simple words and phrases that define what your company does and what your customers are looking for. With the help of SEO, these keywords are what connect you to your customers. Search engines, like Google, use keywords from the content on your site to determine what your site is about and what it offers so that when someone searches for these words it can list your site on the results page.
Let’s say you need a moving truck in Alabama. If you don’t already know of a local moving company, you’re going to google it (or Yahoo it, now I’m judging a little). You’ll most likely search for phrases like “moving truck,” “moving truck in Alabama,” “moving in Alabama,” or something along those lines. These are the keywords Google is combing the internet for in order to deliver results that best match your search.
Q: What do you do with keywords?
A: Once you’ve determined your keywords you want to organically place them throughout your site. Keywords should appear in title tags (page titles), meta tags (page descriptions), body content, links, URLs, and even graphics. But it’s important to note that the point here is not to cram your keywords into every corner of your site. This can actually have the reverse effect and cause a page to be downgraded. Good SEO practices are about frequency, consistency, and quality. Keeping your site updated frequently with fresh content will establish you as a legitimate authoritative site which will increase your search result rankings. You can do this by creating authentic and high-quality content that focuses on your keywords, like a weekly blog post, and by regularly updating your pages.
Q: What are some other things that affect SEO?
A: Mobile searching is a major factor. Because mobile search accounts for over 50% of all searches now, Google has created two separate search algorithms – one just for mobile and one just for desktops. This means that the results can appear differently depending on where you’re searching from. If your site isn’t optimized for mobile viewing, it may affect your ranking on Google mobile search. Not to mention, most people won’t stay on a site if it isn’t mobile-friendly – it looks bad and it’s hard to navigate.
In addition to mobile searching, Google image searching has also grown in popularity. Another good use of your keywords is to include them in the alt text for each of your images. Alt text (alternative text) is a text description of an image that allows Google to properly index the image. Doing this will allow your site images to appear in both image and traditional search.
Q: How are search results determined and ranked?
A: Search engines do not have a person checking each site to see what’s related to what. Instead, they use algorithms, which are complex codes used to scan and retrieve large amounts of data and instantly deliver the best possible results. These algorithms read key data on a site to determine what the site is about and how trustworthy it is. Google uses this data to then determine what will appear and in what ranking on a search. Sites that have high-quality trustworthy content are more likely to appear first.
Q: Why do you need SEO services?
A: Google is constantly updating and changing its algorithms. These changes can significantly affect search results making it crucial to stay up to date with the best practices for optimizing the structure of your site. There are a lot of things to consider like keyword placement, post length, title length, and meta descriptions. And what you were doing five years ago or even last year isn’t necessarily the best practice anymore. The truth is, SEO is extremely time-consuming and even someone proficient in SEO has to stay on top of the ever-changing nature of search engine marketing. Here, at Walker 360, we are committed to constantly tracking changes and finding new ways to optimize our sites for Google Search. Taking the time to make your content as search-engine-friendly as possible is vital. In today’s hyper-connected world, if your site doesn’t rank well on Google, then it practically doesn’t exist.