This is a Primer for what SEO is and what SEO isn’t. This is going to be an epic post so buckle in and let’s get started. (or you could go the audio route below)
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. What that means is that the content on your site is better suited to be shown on a SERP (that’s a Search Engine Results Page). That’s the thing that google displays when someone searches for a keyword or phrase. Read that slowly again. Make sure you understand what both of those terms refer to.
So if I searched Google for “Low Cost Insurance” I would end up on this SERP, right?
Ok, so let’s go back to SEO.
We know that the SEO of a particular site helps the site show up in a Google SERP for various keywords. That doesn’t mean SEO guarantees, or pushes the content to the front page of a SERP. It simply means that it helps.
On our sample SERP I hope we all recognize that the first three results in the left hand column and all of the results in the right hand column are ‘PAID‘ results. They are ads. They don’t have or need SEO to show up there, they only need money. Pay money to Google and you can get to the front page almost immediately. Does that make sense?
As a matter of fact, the only result in my example that ISN’T an ad is the one with the green arrow.
That green arrow points to the first ‘ORGANIC‘ result shown for the search phrase “low cost insurance’.
Still with me?
So now that we can identify and understand the difference between ‘PAID” and ‘ORGANIC‘ let’s talk about what it takes to get something to show up on the front page of Google for a search result, ok?
Let’s start with your website. Remember this is all about ‘ORGANIC‘ search engine results.
- Was your website properly built?
- Does it have a properly built robots.txt file?
- Have a proper sitemap as well?
- Are you using an SEO plugin? Are you using it properly?
- Are you creating fresh content on a regular basis?
- Does that content contain the terms you want to be ranked for?
- Are you using those keyword(s) in the title, the page url, the first paragraph of content and the description of the post?
- Have you submitted your sitemap to Google’s Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools)?
- Is your site Mobile Responsive?
- Is your site free from Malware?
- Has your site been banned by the Web of Trust, Norton, or McAfee?
- Did you hire an SEO company that promised to get you to the front page of Google?
- Did you, them, or someone else engage in ‘shady’ tricks to fool Google into ranking you higher?
- Do you know what your keyword density is? (this is actually a trick question – if you do, you might be guilty of #13)
- Images. Are you making sure all your images have alt descriptions? Do they all have your keywords too? (be careful, this could fall under #13 too)
- How fast (or slow) does your website load?
- Are their errors in your posts? (yes, I did that on porpoise)
- Are there bad links in your posts and site?
- Are you linking to other things within your website like past posts?
- Speaking of links, are you linking to sites that are bad? (see point #10 and 11 above)
- Are you indexed in Google at all?
- How long do readers stay on your site? Time on Site matters.
Let’s next talk about external items (not on or in your website)
- Are there other sites that link to you?
- If they do, do they link to you with quality and relevant anchor text? (as in “this is a great site for low cost insurance“)
- Are they on any of the bad lists? (see point #10 and 11 above)
- Have they engaged in any sketchy black hat SEO tactics in the past?
- From where they link to you – is it on a page that discusses your keyword or something similar? (An bad example would be a Bieber Fan Page talking about how wonderful his new album is going to be, and how I can’t believe how buff his abs are and oh hey! are you looking for low cost insurance?)
- I need a break. Don’t you? Here’s a cute picture of a kitten. ahhhhhhhhhhh……..
- Ok, that’s better. Ready to move on?
Finally, now let’s talk about the competition.
- How many other sites out there are competing for the same keyword? In the low cost insurance example there’s only 96 million results! That’s a huge amount.
- Do you know what a long tail keyword strategy is? The longer and more specific the search terms are, the lower the competition and the higher the chance your results will rank higher.
Now there’s a bunch more I haven’t even touched upon but I hope this gives you a little more insight into what goes into SEO.
BONUS: Now that you understand the difference between ORGANIC and PAID search results, the next time a fast talking telemarketer calls you (like everyday right?) you can just hang up on them. You know the ones, they typically start off with, “Hi this is Mike, We work with Google… We can get your website on Page 1, is that something you are interested in?” The truth is, we all ‘work with Google’, right?
They tend to toss out words like SEO knowing full well that people don’t understand what they are talking about. When you bite they’ll usually sell you on their plan which runs PAID ads on your behalf with a huge markup. They don’t tell you they’re running ads and you don’t care as long as you are getting leads, right? When the leads stop flowing in, they’ll offer to bump you up to their higher performing platinum package (this means that they’ll increase the Google ads spending they do). As soon as you stop paying them the ads stop and so does your appearance as a PAID result on Google.
Of course there’s the alternate version in which you create an advertising account for yourself, learn to run a proper campaign for your keywords and save a bunch of money doing it yourself.
Oh, and here’s a cool graphic I found online.
Click on it or go HERE for the expanded version.
BONUS BONUS: Here’s the Grateful Dead playing Estimated Prophet back in 1978 in Bakersfield.