Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
You’ve probably heard about SEO and know that it’s important, but what the heck is it? Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the techniques employed to increase organic awareness of your website on search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and more. Like it or not, Google is absolutely the most important search engine. When have you heard someone say, “Let me Yahoo! that” or “I Bing’ed it.” According to Statista, as of April 2019, Google had 88.47% market share; Bing is at 4.81%, and Yahoo at 3.13%. So keeping Google happy is the top priority, and the other search engines will fall in line.
As discussed in our Web Design process, our first step is a consultation meeting during which we’ll uncover the keyword phrases for which you want your website to come up in search results. These are the words and phrases that potential customers are search for—when they don’t know your name or who you are—but are looking for the products and services that you offer. If they know your name and search for it, sure, you’ll come up #1 on page 1. But the people who we most want to attract are those who don’t know you but want what you have to offer.
Hundreds of factors go into the algorithm that Google uses to determine the ranking of sites for keyword searches. The five factors over which you have the most control are Site Structure, Metadata and Permalinks, Content, Backlinks, and Domain Longevity.
The structure of your site can also be called the site map or the hierarchy. For maximum SEO effectiveness, you want the most important information on top, the secondary information next, and so on. Think of it as a pyramid of cascading information—the apex is the number one thing for which you want your website to be recognized.
Google recognizes your site structure in two ways. First, the navigation on your site, which it views when crawling your site. Navigation is also important for site visitors, who want to quickly and clearly find what they need on your site. Confused visitors will abandon the site; and worse, Google will not rank the site for the company’s main service offering, which is hypnosis.
The second way that Google recognizes a site structure is through XML site maps that are submitted through Google Search Console. These site maps are providing the physical hierarchy of your site in link format to Google.
When Hummingbird Marketing Services builds a website, the site structure is our first consideration.
Metadata and Permalinks
To be as clear as mud, metadata is data that describes other data. In English, it means the backend details about your site that affect SEO. The three biggest pieces of metadata include the page title (aka Meta Title), page description (aka Meta Description), and image description (aka Alt Text).
For the Meta Title and Description, you want to be clear, concise, and compelling—and ensure that you’re using the keyword phrase that identifies what the page is about. This text is what Google will display in search results, and it’s what encourages (or discourages) a potential customer from clicking on the link.
Alt Text is important for three reasons:
- This is the text that will appear if your image doesn’t load, which could happen for visitors on slower Internet connection speeds.
- Screen readers for the visually impaired use Alt Text to describe the image.
- Google crawls it because it can’t “read” an image.
Permalinks are the direct links to a specific page and can also be called a slug or URL. It’s important for these to be concise, free of “stop words” like “any” and “before,” and inclusive of focus keywords.
When building a website, Hummingbird Marketing Services focuses heavily on the metadata and permalinks to create a navigable site for both Google and potential customers.
Content is and always will be king. And with 25 years of writing and editing experience, we are experts at writing engaging content that attracts potential customers and incites them to take action. We write content that is for your target audience, not your peers. And we write content that is readable by human beings, not just a search engine that’s crawling your site.
We encourage all of our clients to feature a blog on their website. Blogging is so important for a number of reasons:
- It makes Google happy by providing new, relevant, cross-linked content to your site.
- It builds you as the expert for potential customers visiting the site.
- It gives you something to market by sharing your original content on social media and in your email newsletters—and all of it drives traffic back to your site.
If writing isn’t your thing, we get it. Not everyone wants to write! That’s why we offer blog-writing services based on topics that we’ve discussed. Andi Lucas, founder and owner of Hummingbird Marketing Services, started as a journalist and prides herself on being able to write about any topic. You help us with some of the details, we’ll turn it into content gold.
A backlink is a link from another site to yours. Although you don’t have as much control over these, backlinks are critical for SEO. And that’s because backlinks illustrate trust. If Company ABC is willing to take customers from its site to Company XYZ, then Company ABC must truly see Company XYZ as an authoritative source.
No pun intended here, but domain longevity takes time. Google gives more clout (i.e., higher ranking) to sites that have been online longer than others. For example, if two sites offer the same products and services, but the domain for Site A has been active for 10 years, and Site B just one year, Google will rank Site A higher. Although you can’t change the past, you can keep this in mind for the future, and be very mindful of ever changing your website’s domain.