Mar 30 2017
“SEO, And So Can You”
#1 – Demystifying SEO
+ 3 free & easy things you can do NOW to increase your website visibility.
by Johan Harvey, Director of Development at Harvey & Steel Co., a business growth agency in Athens, GA.
Originally aired live on March 29th, 2017.
In this introductory course, Johan addresses SEO (search engine optimization) for beginners, and some free, immediate steps you can take to improving your website’s SEO, regardless of your industry.
A must watch if you’ve ever asked these questions:
– “What is SEO?”
– “What do search engines look for to rank your site?”
– “I’m not a geek. How do I SEO thingy my website?”
– “What is Google Analytics and how do I use it?”
– “What are Webmaster Tools and what good can they do me?”
Below is Johan’s script, that he used as a guideline for this video course.
Hey everyone! I’m Johan Harvey, Director of Development for Harvey & Steele here in Athens GA, and I’m going to talk a little bit today about demystifying SEO, or search engine optimization. I’ve received many questions about SEO over the past few weeks and I’d like to address some of those today. I’d like to thank everyone that contributed their real SEO issues to me on Facebook, helping me to get this session together, and of course the The Rebel Society for hosting this. A fantastic educational platform and a fantastic community.
I’ll start with an unsurprisingly common question, “what is SEO?”
To many people, I’ve found, it’s an elusive and mysterious thing, kind of like playing drums to me, understood only by a elite few super-cool clairvoyant geeks, but everyone knows that it’s immensely important to get seen online. And that it can cost a lot of money for who knows what.
So here we go – search engine optimization is the process of optimizing your website, so that it can be seen by search engines. You already know this. And it’s come a long way since Altavista, which was one of the first web search engines, launched in 1994. Back then, getting on page 1 of search results for the search term “frogs” just meant typing the word FROGS hundreds of times over on a page.
Today, tons of research constantly goes into updating algorithms for search engines like Bing, Yahoo and of course Google, the #1 website in the world, which I’ll be talking the most about, and it can be difficult keeping up with what they look for in your website to rank it – that elusive holy grail of online visibility.
Suffice it to say, there is little merit in trying to TRICK Google or Bing into ranking your website, by say, plugging in your competitor’s names on a page to try and rank for their keywords too. That simply doesn’t work and in fact can be detrimental to your rankings today – if you type a bunch of keywords onto a page that don’t actually make sense, today, search engines will interpret this as meaningless content and this can harm your ranking. As far as how to rank against your competitors, that’ll be another talk.
So what do search engines look for to rank your site?
Glad you asked. And we’ll get to the meat and potatoes soon about some simple steps you can take for your website to help your SEO, whether you’re tech savvy or not. But today, teams and teams of people are constantly applying MLR (Machine Learning Research) to the artificial intelligence behind Google, and there are well over 200 attributes to any webpage that contribute to rank, and I’ll talk about just a few of the big ones you should be aware of.
Let me say this – understanding language is at the very heart of search engine machine learning. Google’s teams take specific interest in detecting syntax, context, sentiment analysis, conversation, question answering, summarization, discourse. So above all else, if your website contains real, genuine, meaningful, engaging content and context that is attracting visitors to hang out on your site for long periods of time, on multiple pages, SEO is something that will just happen.
Backlinks are links from other sites that lead to yours. As a pretty absolute rule, the more links you have that lead traffic to your site, the higher your site will rank, and there’s definitely value in WHICH sites are backlinking you – if popular and trusted websites publish links to your site, you’ll rank higher than if relatively less credible or newer sites do. Want to rank higher than your competitors? Get more and better backlinks from your industry’s leaders.
As of May 2016, Google implemented this, and what it means is that websites that are cross-platform friendly, that is, optimized for mobile devices and tablets as well as desktops and laptops, will rank significantly higher in search results. So much so that it’s safe to say, by the end of 2017, if your website is not mobile-ready, it’ll be pretty much invisible, so now is the time.
Very briefly, this is the name of Google’s machine learning algorithm. It’s pretty much the closest thing we have to SkyNET from the Terminator movies. Artificial Intelligence, all that scary stuff. If you really want to go deep, here’s a link to a great article on searchengineland.com about RankBrain that is enlightening just to breeze through. Go check it out.
I’m not a geek. How do I SEO thingy my website?
Now here you are, you’re a small to medium business owner, or a solo-preneur, a freelancer, or a CEO and you want me me tell you how to get started with SEO for YOUR website. Fantastic. That’s why I’m here too. If you’re already running your own website, these are some easy, essential and FREE steps you can take RIGHT NOW to increase your rank, regardless of your industry.
-SIGN UP FOR GOOGLE ANALYTICS, OR SIMILAR.
At the soul of SEO is being able to measure and analyze your website traffic. There are a few tools out there to do this, and in my opinion the best free, well freemium option is Google Analytics. And it’s easy. First, you need a Gmail account. From there, when you’re signed in, you can click Access Google Analytics and immediately get going. You’re asked for a few details, namely your website address, data sharing options, and it generates an instant TRACKING ID, along with easy instructions on how to plug that ID into your webpages – it’s a small snippet of code that sends tracking data back to Google. I know I said “code” and some of you probably cringed, but if you follow the instructions provided, it’s a walk in the park. If you run a WordPress site it’s even easier, there’s a fantastic free plugin out there that’ll do it all for you called Google Analytics Dashboard for WP.
Once you’ve done that you’ll be able to see measurements come in over the next few days – awesome data like HOW users arrived at your site, their demographics, their interests, how they navigate your site, and more… SUCH valuable data, me just saying this should be making you open a new tab and get you some Google Analytics if you haven’t already!! It will let you see definitively what works on your site and where weaknesses lie and it the start of any strategy you want to take moving forward. Go do it.
–HELP SEARCH ENGINES HELP YOU.
– Structure Your Site Content. What I mean by this is, if you’ve ever used a word processor, or written a blog, you’re probably familiar with different types of text – paragraph text, title text, and specifically for web, Heading 1, Heading 2, all through Heading 6. USE THESE when writing your webpage content. Search engines read these and use them to understand the context of what you’re trying to say and will greatly increase your rankings.
– Write page descriptions. Whatever website builder you’re using, there’s a fair chance that you have the ability to edit your page descriptions. If you’re a WordPress user like I am, there’s an amazing free plugin called Yoast SEO, which makes this really easy. Link in the comments. Not only do search engines read these, but they are what show up in the search engine results as descriptions of your page. The more concise and meaningful, the more likely a user will click and visit. If you don’t set these, search engines default it to the first 160 characters of text on the page followed by “…” – not always making it clear to a user what is actually on that page.
– Use image ALT-tags. Follow me here. If you’ve built a website, you’ll know that when you upload an image to your site, there are some tags you can set. Name, description, caption – and one of those is the ALT tag. It primarily is the alternative text that shows up on a webpage for screen readers, instead of the image, to help them get around. But importantly for SEO – this is exactly what search engines read to understand what an image is. Search engines don’t understand images, they can’t read them and say, oh a dog. Yes, there’s image recognition software out there, but it doesn’t apply to search engines trying to understand your site content. If you write alt tags for every image on your site – company logo, products, team member names, your storefront, services – it will boost your rankings in a huge way.
– USE WEBMASTER TOOLS.
– Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster Tools, Alexa, Yandex. I’ve provided links to each of these and they work just like Google Analytics – sign up, follow the simple instructions, plug in a snippet of code to your site, and you’re empowered. Again if you’re using WordPress, Yoast makes this incredibly easy too. And don’t just implement one of these, do them all, it takes about 5 minutes each. Don’t skip on Bing – Bing fuels all of Siri’s searches, which requires no elaboration.
So do it, and here’s what you’re rewarded with – you’re able to send something called a sitemap to them, which is a tiny “XML” file that tells the search engines about the content that you have on your site and how often it’s updated.
– Social page integration. Using these webmaster tools, you can simply set a bunch of descriptors about your site. Among these is the ability to link your social media pages to your website, and from here, search engines will take the organic content happening on your social pages and use them to organically affect your website ranking. It’s absolutely essential.
– BONUS TIP – USE MORE VIDEO.
Search engines love video, and it’s the rising and undisputed leading medium for digital marketing now in for the foreseeable future.
Great info about RankBrain, Google’s Search Algorithm:
Google Analytics Dashboard, a great free WordPress plugin.
Yoast, a great freemium SEO WordPress plugin.
Google Search Console:
Bing Webmaster Tools: