by Kevin Kennedy
Every week I talk to small businesses about digital marketing, lead and traffic generation to their websites and search engine optimization, and how each apply to their organizations. Many business owners aren’t marketing experts, juggling responsibilities from finances, to operations, to sales and marketing, so they often only have a basic understanding of site optimization and how it works. During those discussions, I often try to give a quick overview of what SEO is and how to think about it. Today, I’ll provide a very high level, simplified explanation of search engine optimization and some of the main factors that can positively impact an organization’s SEO results.
In its simplest form, search engine optimization is anything done to improve the ranking of a website on search engine results pages (SERPs). The goal for most businesses is to increase their website visibility or traffic and ranking high for targeted search terms or phrases on search engines like Google and Bing will do just that.
For a slightly more thorough definition, Webopedia defines SEO as “a methodology of strategies, techniques and tactics used to increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining a high ranking placement in the search results page of a search engine (SERP) – including Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines.”
Regardless of the exact definition you prefer, if you have a website and want people to find and see it, you should care about optimizing your site. Which leads me to the next basic question I usually discuss with business owners.
A detailed or long answer to this question could take hours to answer, as there are literally hundreds of factors that impact search results. Google’s search algorithm is very complex, changes frequently, and is not completely known to the public. In future posts, I will delve deeper into some of the main factors that impact search optimization, but for now I'll just start with my simplistic overview of the key components of SEO success.
In the strictest sense, keyword or key phrase research isn’t a success factor as much as it is a prerequisite. Before you worry about whether your website is optimized, you first need to know what you’d like it to be optimized for. The initial step in ranking or prioritizing keywords or phrases is to understand how your target audience searches for your products or services. Once you do some basic research related to how and how often your audience uses various search terms, you can then prioritize terms you’d like your website to show up for in search engine results. Once you know what you are targeting, you can then start to worry about how to optimize your site for those terms.
A simple way to understand factors that impact how well your website is optimized, is to consider tactics that are done on or are a part of your website vs. tactics that occur somewhere else (off-site optimization). In my opinion, on-site or on-page SEO factors can have the greatest impact for most small organizations, and should be your first priority. If you haven’t done the basic on-site tactics well, off-site strategies will have less impact. While there are many, many components to successful on-site optimization, I’ll break them down into four main success factors:
Off-site (or off-page) optimization refers to all the strategies or tactics that are executed somewhere besides your own website, but that positively impact your website’s search engine rankings. As I mentioned above, I’d suggest first getting your on-site ducks in a row, as that foundation will support better results for your off-page efforts. Once you have that baseline established off-site tactics can help take your site to the next level.
Keep an eye out for future blog posts, diving deeper into specific SEO topics. And if you have questions, please contact me and let me know how I can help.
Kevin Kennedy, Marketpath’s VP Marketing and Professional Services, has been working on business strategy, digital marketing, and website technology for over 20 years. Prior to joining Marketpath in 2009, Kevin worked for Delta Faucet Company, including roles as Director of E-Business, where he led the company's technology strategy, and Director of Interactive Marketing.
Kevin graduated with a B.B.A. in Finance from the University of Notre Dame and received his M.B.A. from Eastern Michigan University. In his free time, Kevin enjoys spending time with his wife, Bridget, and their five children, travel, and various sports activities, while also participating on the non-profit boards for The Children's TherAplay Foundation and Juega Como Campeon.