“One site visitor who needs exactly what you offer is worth more than any number of visitors who don’t.”
Before SEO (search engine optimization) and SEO services were truly necessary for most business sites, the website industry looked much different than it does in 2020. Just ‘having a site’ could put your company way ahead of the competition, but not so today.
A website was little more than a digital brochure, referenced from offline sources like marketing brochures and business cards primarily.
Search engine ranking value was often overlooked completely because so much of the communication was offline in those early days. In fact, much of the traffic on company sites came from sales people sending customers there directly to review product or service details.
It was well known that websites were very costly to build, so ‘just having a professional looking site’ sent a signal that your business was successful enough to hire that pricey web design firm downtown perhaps.
Today, there is no competitive advantage in ‘just having a website’. While it’s true that the all seeing ‘Google Eye’ will eventually find your site, but that doesn’t mean Google will rank it for anyone else to see without some planning, optimization and value for every stage of your target buyer’s cycle.
Trusted SEO service partners are in demand today because clients know that SEO done well, produces results. Those results include more search visibility, more traffic, more leads, more revenue.
Like many other industries, the SEO industry is full misinformation and bad actors. They confuse site owners with unsolicited emails full of unobtainable promises like “guaranteed” rankings.
A sound strategy and well executed SEO plan does take time, but it works best when the process instills trust. At the highest level, SEO focuses on three general areas we call the SEO Trifecta.
The SEO Trifecta
The SEO Trifecta is a simple triangle visual that I created to help clients understand the three high level areas of focus. Any effective SEO plan involves and ongoing strategy to address, monitor and regularly improve these areas over time.
- Most people relate to traditional SEO as the optimization of a page (On-Page) or pages on the site to rank better with search engines.
- However, building and maintaining link profiles not actually on the page (Off-Page) can be even more important for competitive keywords.
- The last piece of the trifecta has become a much bigger focus than in the past, and that is the (Technical) piece. Google continues to stress the importance of websites that are fast and secure.
When most people think about search engine optimization, the thought of ‘manipulation’ comes to mind. The truth is today that what you can do to optimize pages directly is just one third of the SEO Trifecta. It’s important today, but it used to be EVERYTHING to rank websites until it was brutally abused by marketers stuffing pages with keywords on the page.
Today, search engines are smart and the ranking algorithms are sophisticated. Keyword stuffing is ineffective, obvious to readers as well as search engines, and will get your site ignored if not banned or penalized. We DO NOT abuse on-page practices now, it’s just not worth the risk. I’ve even had clients come to me with sites that ‘used to rank’ for this or that keyword because a former web designer had stuffed keywords in the copy that made it almost unreadable. Just don’t stuff, it’s an easy rule to follow for on-page SEO these days.
We DO want to use our pages to educate our readers while at the same time, treating on-page SEO as an opportunity to ‘inform’ search engines what a page is about. In short, I like to think of each website page as fitting strategically within an overall content outline. We want to ‘over time’, cover each topic and sub-topic related to the information visitors are searching within the industry that website is in.
If we created educational value for our target audience FIRST, we can use on-page SEO to optimize pages for search as well, much like labeling folders in a drawer for a third party peeking into your file cabinet.
Off-page SEO is the ‘boring’ part of SEO that most business site owners either knowingly skip or just ignore all together. It’s all about building and maintaining what we call a ‘link profile’ which in simple terms is a list of websites that link to the home page of our site or to the individual pages within our site.
An easy way to think about is that if on-page SEO is what YOU say your page is about, it would follow that off-page SEO is what OTHERS confirm or agree your page is about. It’s simply third party confirmation that your information about topic ‘xyz’ is more valued among industry sites than your competitor’s site (so you’ll rank higher for that page.)
So, let’s pretend that YOU are a search engine. It’s your job to rank two pages (from two different websites) for a particular keyword.
In this very over-simplified fictional example, both sites have a comparable amount of optimized content on that keyword’s topic in terms of images and words on that page so it’s obvious that each is about the same specific topic.
Assuming both sites are clean, fast and secure (technical SEO we will cover next) and both are roughly the same age (not a fly by-night marketing site), which do you rank higher?
This is where off-page efforts can help make the decision.
Let’s say that the site ‘A’ page has no other sites linking to it, no ‘good links’ coming in. It’s as if no other site owner has seen, read or recommended the page to anyone.
The only links you see (with your exploratory crawler) linking to it are in fact spammy, malicious websites that are promoting Viagra. These ‘bad links’ might in fact lead you to believe the site was hacked at some point….do you want to send your search customers there? Your reputation as a search engine is on the line!
The other website, site ‘B’ is linked to by well established industry titan sites, established news sites and even an educational site that lists it as a trusted source on the topic. There are no ‘bad links’ pointing to this web page either, it’s clean as a whistle aside from all the praise it seems to get from the reputable industry sites linking to it and referencing what it has to say on the topic at hand.
Which site would you rank higher?
The truth is, some small amount of links (good and bad) can materialize over time on their own. However, regular off-page SEO efforts to build and maintain a clean and robust link profile for our website can help increase the good links, decrease the bad links, and boost the authoritative ranking capabilities of the content we promote from our pages.
Is your site fast? Is it secure? Is it mobile friendly? These are just a few of the general areas we dive into when we optimize a website and send it to Google for ranking. In short, these are all factors that go into a good user experience for our site’s visitors.
It’s very logical that no search engine wants to rank pages that annoy its customers or delivers a frustrating search result. After all, search engine ‘customers’ are the very people relying on its ranking rules to return the best sites possible for each and every keyword.
Is your Site FAST enough?
So much has changed since the early days of the web. Sites used to be pretty plain before videos, giant image backgrounds and animations to engage users. Back then, HTML pages were made of text and some images.
As more sites came online, the competition for eyeballs drove site owners to demand more from HTML and web technologies. It’s understandable, but it’s also costly in terms of how fast our sites load today.
Think of it this way. Every time you click a link for a new web page, your browser has to download the page and everything that makes up the contents of that page. In Google’s eyes, the faster the page, the better the experience for the user. That makes sense, but it truly is a balancing act for every single web site and the pages within.
That is, Apple’s website promotes products and is very visual in nature. Google’s website is a white page with a logo and a search field. Naturally, we have to be logical about the nature of the website and do the best we can given the type of content that needs to be presented to our customers.
Here is a quick list of things we want to consider when it comes to optimizing site speed:
- The more images in a page, the longer it could take to download.
- All images need to be compressed to make them as small as possible without losing visual quality.
- The scripts that we load to define colors in our style sheet definitions must be considered.
- The version of server side code (PHP 7+ is faster than PHP 5+) must be up to date for the fastest code execution.
- The version of the CMS software we use (WordPress for instance) must be the latest and fastest.
- Sites using CDN (content distribution network like CloudFlare) platforms will deliver copies of pages from the closes server location.
- Web server plans can be upgraded for more memory and processing speed just like your personal computer.
Slower connections on mobile devices has made it even more critical that sites offer a slimmed down version of pages that will load in mobile. If they don’t, people will move on to another site in just a few seconds.