Search optimization or search engine optimization (SEO), is the practice of producing online content that search engine algorithms are “looking for”.
So it’s basically what Google likes: searches on Google far outnumber all the rest put together; hence the expression “Gimme a sec while I Google it.”
The time and money Google puts into research and development likewise far outweighs all the other time and money put into other search engines.
This article throws out a lot of things for you to consider as you produce online content, but use these bits and pieces to put together an overall image of what “Google” has in mind. In other words; SEO according to the Word of Google, or, “Google’s Vision”.
Quality SEO is the alternative to paying for top positions in search engine results.
Learning quality SEO takes time, and one of the best ways to learn this is to take advantage of the training offered by Wealthy Affiliate (WA).
The first 10 WA lessons are free, it’s the largest platform in the world that trains people in SEO skills, and there has been more time and money put into the research and development underpinning this training than anywhere similar.
WA: my Training and Host Platform
Wealthy Affiliate is the platform from which I work. The SEO training Wealthy Affiliate provided has enabled me to gain an average position/ranking that puts some of my articles on the front page of search engine results (see opposite).
Some WA training may be relatively peripheral – such as how to set up a studio for video content – but it’s ultimately aimed at helping people improve their SEO.
In this article, I’ll be looking at all the different indicators that Google uses when selecting content for its “telephone book”.
Wealthy Affiliate | Two features/benefits of joining
In this video, I give you a look inside Wealthy Affiliate.
I look at SEO training and the “Jaaxy” research tool.
SEO is not something you can master “overnight”, as it were, it takes practice, and it takes time to build search engine trust. Six months ago, the articles on this website had an average ranking greater than 100 – buried, in other words. As of today, my articles have an average position of 10.2.
When you see a search engine result listing that begins with Ad. www. etc.., you are seeing a listing with a position that has been paid for. An important part of WA training teaches you how to avoid topics that attract a high volume of these listings (to go for the low hanging fruit instead), which is very useful indeed for “young” websites.
SEO is the technique of providing search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo, with content, deemed most useful to their users as the best solution to their problem or query.
To get search engines to select your content, it needs to be:
- Strictly relevant
- Reasonably well written and researched
- Of sufficient length
- Formatted in the manner preferred by search engines
- On a website that is well designed, attractive, and loads its content with sufficient speed
Why is SEO important?
SEO is important because you need to be on the front page if you want to be noticed. You are looking to get free (organic) traffic, and most internet traffic does not reach beyond the first SERP (search engine results page), as you would know being a user yourself.
The first listings on a SERP are paid for, your goal is to slot in close behind these. The paid listings (with the Ad icon) pay for each visit they get, SEO listings do not.
How are Search Engines programmed?
When people use search engines they are looking for information or an answer to a question. Search engines are programmed with a set of criteria they consider to be most important, in order to provide the best possible solution to a query; the most helpful, relevant, and credible information.
Search engines initially “look” at your “keyword”
The title that heads a piece of online content is known as its keyword. The heading of your article automatically appears as an H1 heading. It needs to be the only H1 heading in the article. Search engines recognize your H1 heading as the keyword of your content.
Search engine results pages (SERPs) have listings in much the same way as the Yellow Pages (business phone directory) we used to use. The obvious difference is that they offer more detail. The extra detail is needed to pinpoint the information contained within the content. The first priority of a search engine is to match the users’ keywords with keywords created by content providers.
While the keywords used by people looking for information are often broad, sometimes only one word is used, the keywords created by content providers need to be niche-like and detailed.
How to discover what people searching for?
How can you know what people are looking for? The Wealthy Affiliate platform (WA) is a huge help in this regard.
Wealthy Affiliate provides you with access to the Jaaxy research tool.
Most people use Google’s search engine when looking for answers. Jaaxy “knows about” every search on Google.
Jaaxy can tell you
- The average number of searches that use a certain keyword each month – column 1
- The number of visits you can expect your article to receive if it’s on the first page – column 2
- The number of other websites offering information on the same keyword (your competition) – column 3
- The quality of your keyword: great, normal, or poor. This is based on the number of searches vs your competition – column 4
- The score out of 100 indicating keyword quality, the higher the better – column 5
The dominance of Google
In English, 88% of searches on desktops across the world are on Google.
From mobile phones, that figure is even higher at 95%.
Bing and Yahoo combined account for 1.5% of searches on mobile and 8% of searches on desktop.
Information about what happens on Google, therefore, is all you really need.
As a business that relies on internet traffic as a source of custom, you basically rely on Google.
Google’s view of your SEO is all that really matters at present, and having Google see that you have great SEO is mandatory if you wish to succeed.
Google says, “we are organizing the content of the web.” They can say this because, for the most part, they are “The only show in town”. Almost all of your clients will be using Google.
Google’s main considerations are:
- Relevancy – Keep to the point.
- Trustworthiness – Your aim is to develop a “brand” that is trusted by Google and Google users
- Consumablility – Aim to present your content in a way that leaves a lasting positive impression in the minds of people who see it. Google takes notice of how many return-visits a website attracts.
In short, you must strive to convince Google that your content is content that will best satisfy its users.
Google Algorithm Updates
Google is constantly making updates to its search algorithm. Major changes in the past were given names and have included Penguin (quality of content), Panda (quality of links), and Hummingbird (precision and speed).
- Most updates are small and don’t precipitate noticeable changes or significantly impact your ranking.
- Major changes, however, can impact your rankings quite drastically. You need to keep an eye out. As a member of Wealthy Affiliate, you’d be quick to hear about such things.
The quality raters at Google
Google has people that rate content quality. They follow the criteria set out by Google in a long and detailed document. This document, therefore, is worth reading.
There are also plugins for your website that are based on these criteria and offer a way to check on how well your latest article conforms to these Google guidelines.
The guidelines are also updated frequently, so it’s probably easier to rely on the SEO plugin to notify you of updates.
Learning about plugins is also part of WA training.
Here is a brief overview of what Google raters are looking for to identify quality content (and by extension, this is an overview of what you should aim to achieve).
Credibility Criteria: “EAT”
Google uses the acronym “EAT”: Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
They apply these aspects to assess
- the page
- the author
- and the website.
The “EAT” adjectives and their variants appear over 200 times in Google’s guidelines.
- Expertise – Does the writer or the writer’s sources appear qualified to write on the topic?
- Authoritativeness – Are the author’s ideas well-respected? Are the writer’s sources referenced? Are the writer’s sources authoritative as opposed to hearsay? Is the author recommending a widely recognized brand or idea?
- Trustworthiness – Is the website trustworthy? Does it have a reputation for offering reliable content?
The impact your content has on viewers
Google also takes into account the sort of impact the content may have on a user’s well-being; emotionally and physically. Google certainly doesn’t want to recommend anything that might have a negative impact.
For Google, it’s all about a positive user experience (UX). The look at content length and quality, user-friendliness, and ease of navigation. Content that isn’t up to standard gets flagged.
Technical Search Engine Optimization
Google also assesses the technical side of your website:
- Speed – Your pages need to load quickly. Google will not recommend pages that frustrate uses with long load times. Make sure all your pages load quickly.
- Mobile-friendliness – As more people rely solely on mobile phones, how your content appears on these devices is becoming more important and will affect your rankings. Google’s index is now mobile-first.
- Code quality – Google “understands” some programming languages better than others. Languages like HTML are good.. Ensure that Google can access your content efficiently. There are plugins that will help you to do this.
- Security – Nobody wants to use a site that is not secure. A secure site is a safe site.
- Schema.org markup – Schema.org markup “explains” your content to Google in a Google-friendly format. Schema.org markup is a great help to Google, and it can boost your listing to the top of a SERP when it includes a Featured Snippet or Quick Answer.
Content extras for SEO
Put some jazz into your content
Increasingly, Google is looking for more than just reams of text. Here are some suggestions to help you jazz things up.
- Multimedia – You can use images, sound, video, or anything else you can think of to give your content a greater impact, thus providing users with a more interesting and enjoyable visit/experience. Software such as Toonly can add quite a lot of “jazz”. Just make sure your extras are “professional”, appropriate, and relevant.
- Internal linking – This can help Google identify which content on your site you consider most important,
- Updates – Regular updates to your content indicate up-to-date information. This ensures relevancy and gets “noticed” by Google.
- Outbound links – This helps authenticate your source references.
This is SEO gold. If you are fortunate enough to get other websites providing links to your work, it will boost your authoritative “score” big time, provided of course these links come from a credible website. Even if your “brand” is merely mentioned without a link, it will help you get better rankings.
Sharing your content on social media helps drive more traffic to your website. This is also something that Google “notices”. It is an indication of user appreciation among people that were not necessarily looking for information but happened to notice your work.
Keep your writing simple, clear, and focused. Keep sentences short, break the content into logical chunks, and stay on topic. Help readers get right to the solution to their problem. Organize your content so that the value it provides is easy to identify, understand, and engage with.
Bill Gates once said, “Content is king!”. This was a catchy turn of phrase but quite sensible when you think about it.
Use a conversational style rather than “hard sell”. Try to give your content some personality. “Friendly advice” is a good tone to take.
Using bullet points or lists is a good idea as it breaks up the overall style, making the general look of your content more interesting. Both Google and people love lists, provided they aren’t too long.
Other useful content devices
How-to guides – These are very good for providing a step-by-step approach to a specific query.
Tables – Tables of data or information on your pages are easy for Google to understand. Users find these very useful for process data quickly and easily.
Images – Google often includes images on SERPs
Videos – if these are also posted on Youtube it gives your content an added dimension of exposure, in much the same way that shared content on social media does. These too can also appear in SERPs.
Podcasts – These are audio-only content. Podcasts are becoming very popular. Like videos and images, Google shows them in normal search results.
Sometimes people do this in order to trick search engines into giving the content a higher ranking. The trainers at WA assure me that this gets picked up immediately, and is likely to have the opposite effect to the one intended. Users will certainly notice and won’t bother reading any further.
Wealthy Affiliate also provides training on how to go about producing webinars and ebooks.
How fast does SEO work?
Search Engine Optimization is a long term strategy. It requires consistent ongoing effort. The upside is that doing SEO well provides a solid foundation that lasts.
You get to build a business into a trusted brand for a relatively small financial outlay.
No one single thing will revolutionize the performance of your SEO strategy. All the elements I described above work together, and it is the combination of all the indicators Google takes into consideration that will get your “wheels rolling” and build momentum.
As things currently stand, SEO is still a viable, relevant, and reliable way of building an online presence for your website. Basically, SEO is a proven digital marketing strategy. It’s relatively cheap but requires time.
The harder you work the quicker you will get results. If you are willing to commit to, say, six hours a week to begin with you’ll be on your way.
Hang onto your day job until the money starts coming in.
I really hope you enjoyed this post. If you would like to participate by offering feedback or asking questions please do so in the comment section below.
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Thank you for reading.
Child of Vision