What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and describes the effort of optimizing your website so that search engines can find your site and rank you as high as possible for search terms that are relevant to your website and business offering.
Google is all about being relevant, the most important requirement of a great search engine. When we google things, we find relevant content for the specific word or phrase we used to search (aka keywords). So it’s easy if you provide content on your site, that is relevant to the keywords people are using, then Google will rank your site higher in their search results vs another website that is less relevant to the search.
With nearly 12 billion searches per month, there’s a great opportunity, but you have lots of competition. Other people are trying to do the exact same thing with the exact same keywords. So how do you become the most relevant website for your key search terms? Some of the methods search engines use to determine relevance are:
- the content itself, of course: if a term is mentioned many times in your content, your content is very relevant
- how many website visitors you have (a high traffic site is more relevant than one with few visitors)
- how many people refer to your site (if somebody links to your site, you must be relevant)
That’s the basic idea, but it can get very complicated. To do it right you have to dedicate a good amount of time to SEO. You might not have to become an export on the subject but a basic understanding of SEO and a few key activities can go a long way.
5 key points for SEO:
- Google in their Shoes: Figure out what your clients would google in order to find your service. Let’s take Opus Design as an example. Our clients might google “graphic design,” “report design,” “logo design,” “brochure design,” “branding,” “infographics,” “graphic design for higher ed,” or “graphic design Boston,” if they want someone local.
Once you figure out what terms you would like to be found with, make a list of them. You will need them for your SEO activities.
Tip: focus on realistic search terms. A term like “graphic design” will be impossible for a boutique design studio like us to rank on the first page on google. Too many people worldwide compete for that. More realistic search terms for us are graphic design boston, powerpoint design, graphic design for higher ed, custom logo design, etc.
- Write keyword-rich content that is updated regularly: Write content for your website that mentions the keywords you identified as frequently as possible. Google cares how often new content is posted to your site. So a blog is a fabulous way to add content that is regularly updated. Get comfortable talking about yourself!
- Write keyword-rich meta descriptions and page titles: Meta descriptions are still very relevant. Use WordPress plugins like Yoast to help you write these descriptions. Yoast shows you the different items you have to write, how many characters you have available for an optimal post and gives you feedback on how good your descriptions are. Your descriptions should be just that — descriptive! And use the same keywords that you established in step 1 as much as possible. The phrases should be exact.
- Inbound and outbound links: Reference content from other websites on your own site as much as possible. Also, find ways to have other websites link to you. Social media is a great way to do that. Google ranks your website higher if you have lots of inbound and outbound links. Think of yourself as an expert resource. Inbound links are like people making referrals to you and outbound links are like you recommending important information. Both are very helpful and it all comes back to google’s determination of relevance.
- Build your online reputation: Use social media and online testimonials to get other people talking about you (using your key words please!). If social sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yelp, and google plus are talking about you, and your keywords, then that adds to relevance and google ranks you higher. It’s also important because it is outside content that is not necessarily created by you (from your own website) so it provides credibility. You can also visit forums and answer questions on your expert topic, then you can reference back to your own site. Make sure to give substantive, real answers.
- SEO Book
Use the keyword tool to help you identify which keywords are reasonable for you to target.
- Google analytics
Track your website traffic and much more.
- Google webmaster tools
Track the search terms people found your website with (and more)
- Beginner’s Guide
A pretty detailed description of how SEO works
We are a graphic design studio and we focus on website design. But website design is only one aspect of a successful web presence. You have to get the visitors to your site in the first place. But elements such as SEO, good content (of course), information architecture, branding, logo design, intuitive navigation, all have to come together to create an effective and memorable website.
Take a look at this cool infographic on SEO by the SEO Book.