SEO focuses on driving “organic” traffic to your web pages. Organic traffic is any traffic that arrives at your website without the use of paid advertising from a search engine.
Search engines, such as Google and Bing, use crawlers to visit every website on the internet at regular intervals. These crawlers read the on-page content and HTML code of each web page, determine the meaning of the content on those pages, and ultimately decide what keywords to associate and rank those pages for.
Once crawled, the URLs and keywords for each web page are then stored in a database, which is known as the process of “indexing”. Search engine crawlers will re-index a website every one to four weeks, depending on the website traffic and frequency of content updates.
Over time, effective SEO practices will increase and improve the way your website communicates with search engines, in turn generating more website traffic. However, a comprehensive SEO program is vastly more complex than simply adding keywords to a website. We’ve boiled it down to 10 key components.
Simply put, website structure is determined by the way you organize your website’s content.
A website typically consists of pages, posts and sometimes an ecommerce platform - how you group, link, and present these items determines your website structure.
The number one objective of your website is to effectively communicate what your offer is to your potential customers. Useful content, simple website usability, pleasing aesthetics, and easy-to-interact with features all play a critical role in SEO, as well as user experience (UX). A well-structured website makes it easy for the visitor to quickly find what they’re looking for, which in turn leads to more conversions for your business. Plus, website structure tells search engines like Google which pages of your website are most important. This means that you can tell Google to prioritize certain pages of your website over others.
Search engines evaluate the website structure to determine the website’s usability, and understand what the website is offering.
Small websites with few offerings and just a handful of pages are relatively easy to structure, with out of the box website builders being widely available. However, a larger ecommerce site with hundreds of products and services may require expert UI/UX design. Maintaining an efficient structure over time can become difficult as your website grows with additional products and information.
When it comes to the different categories on your website, remember - search intent is key. Categories are tightly aligned with your keyword strategy, so each category should have its own set of keywords. These keywords can be determined by conducting a keyword analysis. Well talk more about keywords later.
An optimized internal linking structure helps Google find and understand your content, as well as which pages are the most important, in turn helping your overall SEO. Many internal links to a page will tell a search engine that that page is important.
Many simple changes can be handled by the website owner directly. If an extensive change is required, depending on the owner’s expertise, they may utilize a development team or hire a freelancer. Extensive changes to a website can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Getting your website structure optimized for your clients and aligned with your marketing strategy is well worth the investment.
A keyword analysis is a crucial part of your SEO strategy. Creating well-optimized website content can take a lot of resources. Choosing the wrong keywords would send your SEO investments down the drain. Conducting keyword research will tell you about a specific keyword’s ranking potential, essentially indicating the chances of that keyword ranking on the first page of Google.
There are a multitude of tools out there that can help you with keyword analysis.
These tools can help you find:
While keyword research tools are very powerful and can provide most of the data listed above, they are not a fully automated solution and require numerous user judgment calls in order to select which keywords to use. These include making decisions relative to your competition, product categories, website structure, search volumes, competitiveness of each keyword, SERP results and actual search intent.
For example, to examine search intent, you need to do a thorough SERP analysis for every keyword you want to rank for. SERP stands for “Search Engine Results Page”. A SERP analysis is the process of analyzing these pages, where there are at least 38 unique Google SERP features.
For instance, let’s say you want to rank for the key phrase, “Best dentists in San Francisco”.
To analyze the SERP results, you’d search it on Google and analyze the first-page results for its ranking potential.
To begin, you would ensure that the search results match the search intent. More specifically, do the search results match what your specific web page offers? Next examine the different types of SERP features. Ask why & how the top ranking pages are getting to the top of the search results, and whether you have a decent probability of competing with them.
Keyword analysis is not rocket science, but an experienced keyword specialist can save you a lot of time and in the long run and usually provide a much better ROI.
A semantic core is a list of keywords (otherwise known as a “keyword cluster”), used for a specific page on your website. Each page on your website should have its own semantic core.
Semantic core development refers to the process of structurally applying the results of your keyword analysis to specific web pages on your website.
To reiterate - to develop a semantic core, a keyword analysis is required.
Semantic core development is one of the most important aspects of any SEO program.
A keyword specialist develops and documents a semantic core for targeted pages on your website.
On-page SEO refers to the process of optimizing the elements on your webpages for search engine compatibility. In order for a search engine to be able to adequately crawl and index your web pages, there are a number of technical guidelines that you must adhere to. To figure out where your webpages are not in accordance with Google’s guidelines, you can run an on-page seo audit, which will determine the errors on your webpage. An automated on-page audit should be performed regularly, typically every 3 to 6 months or in concert with a keyword analysis, as well as the implementation of the semantic core. The audit report is broken down into critical errors, warnings, and notices. Critical errors may prevent a search engine crawler from indexing your website or certain pages. Examples of on-page errors include no H1 headers, low readability and not enough text on a page. There are dozens of on-page checks, which are performed by an automated crawler that also performs a technical SEO scan.
Technical SEO refers to the process of making sure a website meets all technical requirements of Google and other search engines. Think of on-page SEO from a front-end web development perspective, including on-page content and HTML meta data, and think of technical SEO from a backend web development perspective.
The job of a technical SEO expert is to make it easy for search engines to crawl, index, and rank your web pages. That’s mainly why technical SEO is so important. Even if you publish great content, if it can’t be crawled and indexed, then it won’t be listed by a search engine to users.
Here are some of the most important technical SEO checks you should know:
All of this can feel overwhelming to a business owner. More often than not, it takes multiple specialists to execute both on-page and technical SEO tasks. While a SEO keyword specialist has the front end skills to conduct a keyword analysis, develop and implement a semantic core, and optimize on-page SEO, it takes a webmaster to manage your robots.txt files, create an XML sitemap, and enable your SSL.
Every business could benefit from hiring a keyword specialist. Many businsses are not big enough to retain a keywrord specialist on staff, and are well served by hiring a freelancer. A rigours keyword analysis needs to be conducted before any SERP program is initiated. The keyword analysis then needs evalauted and adjusted every 3 to 6 monthsm depending on website size and frequency of updates.
Typically, there is an upfront expense of the keyword analysis, semantic core development & implementation, on-page and technical SEO optimizations, with much smaller expenses every 3 to 6 months for adjustments or content creation.
Google Page Experience is a set of signals from your website that Google reads to measure the experience of your website for visitors on desktop and mobile devices. The signals that Google uses for determining Page Experience are:
HTTPS: ensures the communication protocol is encrypted using Transport Layer Security or, formerly, Secure Sockets Layer. Esentially, Google is making sure your website is secure
Many on-page audit tools check each page for load time, readability, mobile friendliness, and https compliance. Cruxdata’s on-page audit tool covers these important points within the automated SEO audit. For a deeper dive, your backend web developer would utilize Google Developer tools to address the next level of performance of the core vitals.
The business directories that consumers use to find products, services and information about a company can play an important role in driving traffic to your website.
For local businesses, having an optimized Google Business Profile is a must. Make sure you claim your business, keep contact information and operation hours up to date, and make sure to upload high quality pictures.
With an up-to-date Business Profile, Google Maps will display more information about your business to users when they click your icon on Google Maps.
The other big map player is Apple Maps. claim your business on Apple Maps to ensure all the iPhone users can find your business.
While Google is the gorilla in the market, Bing has a fair amount of usage, and makes it super easy to claim your your business: https://www.bingplaces.com/
The top two most used business directories for local businesses are Yelp and Trip Adivsor. To claim your businesses on these directories takes only a few minutes, and can create yet another avenue for business owners to communicate with their potential customers. It is only a few simple steps set up or to claim your YELP business listing. Trip Advisor also makes it very eary to claim your business.
The next set of business listings are your social media business accounts. While traditionally not thought of as business listings, many potential customers will look for your business on a social media platform for more information.
If you have not already, create a Facebook Business Page. Include all the pertinent information that you include in your Google BusinessProfile. This includes, hours, location, and contact information.
An Instagram Professional Account is also a must. You can edit your business information directly from the Instagram app. Make sure to connect your Instagram Professional Account with your Facebook Business Page, as this enables your business to show up on Instagram Maps as well as allows you to easily share content between the platforms.
Do the same with any other social media accounts that you may use, ensuring that your business information is up to date.
Voice Searches are performed using Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant and Microsoft’s Cortana, with each service having about equal parts market share. Each of these services utilize existing business directories. Read more from the Local Marketing Institute, as they explain the voice search ecosystem in detail.
There are companies are there selling service to ensure your business is listed in voice searches, a monthly fee none the less. If you claim and optimize your business listings in the major search engines and yelp you will be well covered.
A data aggregator is business that collects data from multiple sources and processes the data in order to provide structured data for their clients. There are data aggregators that provide local business listings to variety of companies that create their own listings, maps and other services. Any data aggregator that is compiling a directory of local businesses would certainly include claimed Google Business Profiles and Yelp listings.Two of the largest data aggregators allow local businesses to create and/or claim their business listings - Foursquare and Data-Axle. Like with other listings, make sure your business information is consistent and up to date.
Almost every industry will have it’s own industry-specific business listings. For niche businesses, these can be even more important than general business listings. Define your industry, and do your research to make sure that your business is listed in every industry-specific directory that applies. These can be a great source of new business.
Citations are mentions of your business that may or may not have a link to your website. The mention of your business may be in an article or blog post. If there is no link, contact the author and ask for one.
Historically, there was a thought that having your company name, address and phone number listed in as many web directories as possible increased local SEO results. In fact, there are a number of businesses that sell services to list and manage your business information across hundreds of directories. The claim and value these businesses sell is that having hundreds of mentions of company name, address, and phone number listed, even with no links, will increase your SEO rankings. We at Cruxdata are skeptical of this, and can not find any data studies from an organization that does not sell the service. Richman SEO Training published an interesting article that walks through these claims, as well as Google’s position on citations; read The Crap That is Nap.
If you have to pay for a link or listing, you are going against Google’s webmaster guidelines. Why would Google and Microsoft, leaders in AI, rely on web directories with a declining user base to base their own rankings of businesses that are their dynamic busienss directories.
In summary, getting your basic business listings optimized and filled out for the key search engines, maps, social media platforms, and industry specific listings is well worth your time and necessary for SEO. Even if you were going to have your business listed in the web 2.0 directories, there would be no need to pay a recurring fee, one and done would suffice.
Backlinks are links from external web sources to web pages on your website. For instance, when someone mentions your business and inserts a link to your website, they’re giving you a backlink.
Backlinks are a crucial part of any SEO strategy, whether it be local, national, or global.
Backlinks help you improve your website’s authority, which in turn, helps you rank higher on Google. However, when it comes to link-building, more isn’t always better.
You only want backlinks from relevant, high-authority websites. For instance, if you have a medical blog, a backlink from a digital marketing blog won’t do much good.
And, a backlink from a high-authority domain is more powerful than one from a low-authority website. Although “Authority” is a fairly vague metric, metrics like Moz DA (Domain authority) can give you a good idea as to waht authority means.
DA is a number from zero to 100; a backlink from a DA-70 site tends to be more valuable than a backlink from a DA-30 website.
Simply put, create content other website owners will want to link to. This will be content that their audience will find interesting. Creating content that other websites will want to link to is a great way to earn high quality backlinks/
Well researched and well written blogs/articles are some of the best pieces of content you can create for SEO. You can also create diagrams, infographics, videos, lists, quizzes, etc.
Securing a backlink has several basic steps.
Each type of backlink opportunity not only requires research to find, but also initial and continuous outreach. The demands of the continuous outreach can be overwhelming to many business owners. While outsourcing is a great option, you must be very careful. First, be realistic on how much it will cost for a high domain authority site, it may take a specialist up to a month -resulting in many hours of a specialist’s time. The cost of a backlink is affected by the domain authority of the site - sites with DA (domain authority) of 10 to 30 can cost between $50 and $250 per back link, and sites of DA 50 and greater can cost $250 to $1000 per backlink. You are paying for someone's expertise and relationships that can secure backlink at a highly sought after websites.
There are several ways to build backlinks, but you need to be extra cautious, as some backlinks can work against you.
Paying for a link is against Google’s webmaster Guidelines. However, paying a freelancer or an agency to pitch your content is not, and is a great way to leverage expertise and save time.
To avoid getting docked by Google, you’ll want to avoid using unnatural and shady link-building strategies like:
Any type of link building that can be automated should be avoided. Bulk purchases of links are are generally also a red flag. Spend your time on developing quality content and outreach, or hire a expert in link building. Brian Dean authored a great article on link building for SEO.
One of the most powerful SEO tactics is content creation. Creating content that is engaging, easily distributable, works well and mobile and utilizes multiple forms of content should be an essential part of your SEO strategy.
The first, and arguably the most important step in creating an article, is understanding which keyword you want your website to rank better for. After conducting your keyword research, developing your semantic core, and considering the competitiveness and search volume, you can identify a keyword or keywords you want to craft your article around.
Your topic should be relevant to your business or industry, and should support the need for your business, product, or service. It shouldn't be a flat out product pitch - more so a resource for an issue that your product or service resolves. For example, if you offer therapeutic massages, you may choose a blog topic on eastern medicine and massage origins. Educate, entertain and help your current and prospective customers. Blogs and articles are the most common types of publishings, with lists, surveys results, online tools like calculators, and infographics also being great content forms to mix into your publishing.
When creating an outline, the first thing to note is your main keyword, and the keyword cluster associated with the main keyword.
Use these specific objectives:
Keep in mind where your keywords for this article will be used, specifically the URL and meta data for the page. Keep in mind;
Use a fair number of sub headings. This makes the content more readable for both the user, and the search engines. Sub heading should be descriptive and clear to understand.
Write an in depth article around the outline. Or, use your outline and take the hybrid approach by hiring a freelance writer.
If you are utilizing a freelance writer, make sure to select a writer familiar with writing for SEO. Provide them the guidelines from your outline.
Once you post your content, promote it via your social media channels, your backlink outreach channels, and your newsletters.
First metric to observe when measuring your SEO is simply the number of visitors to your website from search engines. You can configure Google Analytics to track visitors from search engines, or connect your Google Analytics to an SEO dashboard. Analyze visitors over 3 month time frames, and compare to previous time frames to analyze growth. Keep in mind, it will take 3 to 6 months for any impact from each SEO change.
When analyzing your website traffic from search engines, compare their engagement rate to visitors from other channels such as paid advertising, social media, and direct. Note the difference between sources on how long they are on your site, number of pages they viewed, and what actions they have taken to get a good idea as to which channels are performing best.
Measure the ranking of your website for each main keyword and each keyword in your keyword cluster. A keyword strategy would adjust keywords based on performance over time. New keywords may be added, and keywords that do not produce any results may be removed.
An integrated SEO dashboard is a great tool for a busy owner or manager, regardless if they are conducting their own SEO, outsourcing it, or using a hybrid model. Having an integrated SEO dashboard ensures that you always have access to your data, and allows you to make decisions on your own, manage freelancers, and view historical data. See how Cruxdata can help you leverage your data to create a powerful SEO plan. Sign up for free and receive a free SEO audit.
While many parts of SEO can be done with little to no experience, there are some tasks that require technical expertise and professional services. If you're thinking about hiring an SEO professional, checkout our blog How to Hire an SEO Agency or Freelancer.