Search engine optimization is when you put in long-term efforts to have your website rank higher on search engines, like Google. It is an organic ranking strategy that does not involve any type of paid advertisements. You aren’t paying to have your website rank higher, you’re researching what keywords you want to or currently rank for and implementing those keywords into your websites’ content. Yes, there are pay-per-click ads that show at the top of the search engine results page, but you can’t pay to have your site rank higher, organically.

Ultimately, the goal is that when potential customers or clients search for a business like yours, you show up in the first few results of a search engine. For example, if a potential client is searching “digital marketing agency in Berks County, PA” we want to be in the top results of that page. Search engine optimization takes time, this is not a “get results quick” strategy. SEO is somewhat like a puzzle. You need to have all the right pieces in order to put it together. Assuming you’ve completed a puzzle, you know it takes time and consistency to find the right pieces.

How Do Search Engines Work?

Search engines use a complex process of algorithms to organize and rank content. There are many factors that go into determining how well a page will rank. All search engines’ goals are always to provide the most relevant information to users. Some of the factors that go into how well a website ranks includes keywords, website architecture, HTML headings, and valuable content.

Content

High-quality content is what helps Google determine that your content is relevant to a search inquiry. Google scans the web to show you on page one, what the best results are. They want to provide a satisfying user experience and find you the content you’re looking for. The content you’re posting should be helpful or bring value to the reader in some way. If it doesn’t provide anything of use to the reader, they will leave your website quickly. This tells Google your content isn’t helpful since readers are leaving quickly. 

Google also emphasizes the importance of intent within content. What a searcher types into the search suggests what their intent is. Maybe they have a question, are window shopping, or are ready to buy something right this minute. It is important to Google to know the intent, but it is also important for the writer so they know what keywords and intent to focus on. What does the reader want to accomplish when they land on your page? 

Lastly, break up the text in your article. Readers are adjusted to getting their answers quickly, and writing giant text boxes isn’t always the right choice during certain circumstances. Break up your text with headers and images!

Keyword Research

Keyword research is when you find valuable keywords based on keyword volume, difficulty, and what your competitors rank for. The keywords are relevant to your business, such as “digital marketing agency” or “web designers.” Think of keywords as what you would search to find a business. They help you determine what your target audience is searching for. Keyword research is helpful in a number of areas when building content for your website. Your keywords also help you rank on Google and are how you build link slugs. 

Using a keyword research tool helps you find an estimated number of searches each month, where your competitors rank, and the difficulty associated with your keywords. It will be much harder to rank for a keyword that has a high keyword difficulty. The higher difficulty score represents relevant content that oftentimes has hundreds of backlinks. You would need to build backlinks and Google’s trust before ranking on page one, which can take years depending on your business area. A keyword research tool is also able to help you decide how often to use a keyword within your content, and how you should prioritize them. 

This is the time to remind yourself of search intent, too. While choosing your keywords, you should be trying to identify what they’re searching for and their intent for what they’re searching. Learn the difference between what a buyer is searching for and a researcher is searching for as it is relevant to your business and keywords. 

Don’t spam your content with keywords. For example, in our own content we wouldn’t want to insert “digital marketing agency” 20 times into a blog. It is no longer necessary to include several of the same variations of the same keyword. Google will pick up your content if it is good. Engagement is a signal to Google on whether the content you have is good or not. If you have a high bounce rate for your site, it can be an indication that what the user found wasn’t helpful or relevant to their issue. Bounce rate is determined by how long or short a user is on your website or page. If users stay on your site, this tells Google that the information found was helpful and caused the reader to stay engaged. Other signals may be sharing the article, commenting, or liking it. 

Keep in mind that keyword research is not a once and done task. Using your keyword research tool, check your website every month or so to see how your rank is improving or declining. If your competitors are ranking higher, enter their website URL and see what they’re ranking for. Use the keyword gap tool to narrow down the differences between your keywords and theirs.

Parent categories (i.e. shoes) are often the most competitive keywords because they are head terms, so subcategory pages will be where you’ll probably get your first traction in terms of SEO wins. I will talk later about how the internal links play a role in site crawl and how they contribute to the siloed structure you can see the beginnings of in the menu (see the color differences in Figure 1).

However, for now I will say that the subcategories will provide the link equity support in and through the internal links that I will suggest should be placed in the subcategory pages and should point to the category pages. You will want your link equity pool where it is most needed, i.e. at the category page level.

On-Page SEO vs. Off-Page SEO

On-page SEO revolves around building and optimizing content on your website to improve your search engine ranking. This is where keywords, blog posts, and optimizing metatags and titles come into play. These are areas you can control, unlike off-page SEO. 

Off-page SEO happens off your website. Off-page helps search engines and searchers to determine your site’s relevancy and if it’s trustworthy and authoritative. It is believed the most important of off-page SEO is link building. You can earn backlinks by networking within your industry and having others share your post. For example, you write a blog post on SEO tactics, if someone else references your article within their content, you now have a backlink. It is very important that when you build your off-page SEO, you follow search engine guidelines. If not, you risk your website being penalized and the possibility of ruining your search engine rankings. Unethical strategies are typically referred to as black-hat strategies.

HTML

Your site’s HTML is very important to optimize. It may sound scary, but for most websites you don’t need to understand code. The HTML areas revolve around proper tags, descriptions, and headers, usually as simple to change as copy and paste. Without optimizing this Google will have a difficult time deciphering why your content should rank and what it is about.

Title Tags

First, you want to optimize the title tag, not to be confused with the H1 tag. The title tag is the tag that displays on Google search results. Our’s is “Amity Digital – Web Design, SEO, and Digital Marketing.” This is a short description that includes some of your main keywords or services. It should interest people enough to click on your website.

web screenshot of amity digital and what their website looks like on google results page

Meta Description

The description below your title should also be optimized. This is your meta description. It should be no longer than 160 characters to ensure it fits on desktop and mobile screens. If it doesn’t you will see a “…” at the end to show it is too long. This is the space to tell searchers what your website or business is about. If you’re a local business, include your most popular or relevant area to optimize it for local searches. Ours is Berks County, PA.

Subheadings

Then you will move onto your subheadings. These are the titles that display on each webpage. The most prominent one is your H1 tag, the very first tag viewers will see, your web page heading. You can have H2, H3, and H4 tags as well. There are subheadings below your H1 heading, and make it easier to read through your page. It’s important to use your most important keyword here, but don’t keyword stuff the title! It should make the reader want to stay on your page and read your content, too.

Alt Text

Next, is the alt text. This is an area people often forget about. Alt text is used to visually describe the image for those with vision impairments. You can use keywords here, but this is another area you don’t want to stuff with keywords.

URL Slug

The URL slug is what tells Google what your page is about. Below you’ll see some of ours such as “web design” and “about us.” Use the most important keyword relevant to each page in this slug. Now Google will know what your pages are about, and your readers will know what to expect.

web screenshot of amity digital google search results

You will want to optimize all of the title tags, meta descriptions, and H1 tags for all of your pages. Using an SEO marketing tool will help you easily identify if you have errors, what suggested improvements you can make, and if you have any duplicate HTML headings. It is worth the investment to have these tools!

Website Architecture

Another important factor when looking at your website is user experience. You should have a website that is mobile friendly, has fast loading speeds, and a safe connection. Factors like this will make it easier for Google to find your website, in turn giving you better ranking possibilities.

Breadcrumb markup helps with click-through by adding more visual elements to your results in search engines, and it can help with navigating users to other relevant portions of your website by providing clickable nodes that look like these:

Crawling

You have probably heard others mention Google “crawls” websites. What is crawling? Google crawls websites to gather information about all of the content they can find on the internet. Crawling starts from a known webpage and follows the internal and external links within it. While crawling Google is able to identify your keywords, how it is connected to all other pages within the search engine’s massive database (index), and recognize issues with your site. It uses these factors to determine where you will rank. Hint: you want a good crawl result. 

You can create a sitemap that makes it easier for Google to crawl. If you are using WordPress there are simple plug-ins that allow Google’s spiders to scan through the links among your pages and determine keywords easier. The easier your site is to crawl, the better. If Google has a hard time figuring your website out, you will have difficulty ranking because the artificial intelligence won’t know your keywords.

Mobile-Friendliness

Google indexes for mobile first, so it is very important that it can easily be crawled. Google Search Console provides useful information on what Google thinks of your site. You can explore areas like performance, broken links, user experience, web vitals, and many other useful categories. It is an easy way to find errors and fix them so Google can properly index your site.

Page Speed

Google can penalize websites that have web pages that load too slowly. Google Search Console is able to provide some insights as to what pages are performing slowly. If it is penalized, this will make it more difficult to rank or outrank your competitors. 

Having a faster site speed will also help decrease bounce rates. If your website loads too slow or what the reader lands on isn’t relevant to their search, they will leave your website quickly. Having a high bounce rate indicates users are not happy with what they found on your site.

Trust

Building trust on your website is another factor Google heavily considers. There are three parts to building trust: authority, domain age, and bounce rate. 

There are two ways to improve authority. Domain authority and page authority. Domain authority relates to how widespread your domain is. Many large brands have great domain authority like Nike, Coca-Cola, etc. Page authority relates to how authoritative a single page on your website, like a blog post. 

Domain age is how long your website has been around. The longer a website has been around posting consistently and having relevant content, the greater the domain age. An older domain that has been ranking well will always rank higher than a new website.

Link Building 

One of the most important SEO strategies is link building or backlinks. Backlinks improve your company’s trust and authority. Backlinking shows that other sources and companies trust your content. The higher the amount of backlinks your domain has, the more reliable your site appears to Google. It is important to internally link to other pages on a website so viewers can see everything they need, easily.

Referring back to black hat strategies, link building is one that can get messy. Link building is important, but it is important to keep quality over quantity in mind. Google has an algorithm called Penguin that’s sole purpose is to find spammy link profiles. If you link to a low-quality site just to get a backlink, Google will find it and not allow you to rank for it.  

How to build a good backlink profile: 

  • Create informative content within your niche 
  • Target the right keywords so your content is shown to the right audience 
  • Include assets that can be linked back to you like infographics, images, etc.

SEO & Social Media

SEO marketing and social media marketing work well together since the end goal is to show how great you are. This is one of the best off-page SEO tactics to gain exposure and brand awareness in your industry. If others are consistently sharing your content within their own content, this is a good indicator for Google. It shows you’re providing valuable content to your viewers! Social media is ideal for informing the public about your work culture, new products or services, and quickly responding to customers. 

Social media is a great service, but keep in mind that it does not directly impact your Google search ranking. Using social media is a great way to gain backlinks, which can help your ranking. To get quality shares, you need to be posting relevant, high-quality content for your audience. Creating helpful infographics, videos or images for your industry is one example.

Be consistent with your content. No algorithm will favor you if you post once every few months. Taking long breaks in between contents does not please readers, and when the readers go away, you no longer have an audience. If you have no one to read your posts, you won’t have anyone to share them either. 

The best part of social media? Creating accounts are completely free!

Once users click on any of these selections, they are taken to a page where they can browse the selection of products that that deal pertains to. These can become click magnets because they can trigger impulse buys. This demonstrates how UX, SEO, pricing psychology, and rhetoric can work together to up your conversion rates.

Importance of Local SEO

Local SEO is used to optimize a business’s online presence specific to local-inquiries. For example if you searched “web designers near me” or “web designers berks county” we have locally optimized our business to show up in Google’s first results page. This is a great tactic to use especially on social media! Users are always searching for local businesses and shops on social media platforms so make sure you’re localizing your content on there as well!

web screenshot of amity digital google search results

The profile you see for Amity Digital on Google, is our Google Business Profile, formerly known as Google My Business. This is an essential piece for local SEO results. It is important that your website, phone number, location, and business hours are accurate for your GBP. You can take a look at what your competitors have on their Google Business Profile to ensure you show within the same results they do. This is also where customers leave reviews for your business. Respond to any reviews you receive, positive or negative. The negative ones are important to reply to so you can clarify a situation and try to resolve any ongoing issues. For the positive reviews, include some keywords in your response, typically related to the service you performed for this customer. 

Conclusion

Now that you are overloaded with information, take a minute and let it settle! Search engine optimization is a long, time consuming task that is definitely worth your time. It may seem frustrating at first to not see results immediately, but give it time. Trust us, we’ve been there! If you have any questions or would like to learn more about our services, contact us!