According to Google, people around the globe searched trillions of times in 2014 (Trillions! With a T!). Google is a verb in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, and we use it all the time when someone asks us a question or brings up a topic (“Google it”). Search is a fundamental part of our online experience, helping us navigate the web and providing us with useful information in less than a second. Marketers and businesses simply cannot take it lightly, and adding search engine optimization to their toolboxes means they can not only show up when people around the world are Googling, but also creates a more user-friendly site and helps them gain valuable leads very easily. Many companies specialize in SEO, and Moz is one of them.
Moz is a kick-ass company based in Seattle that provides software not only for search (what we’re talking about now), but also links (what I’ll be talking about soon), social and brand. Their focus and number one skill is inbound marketing, and they’re all about transparency, authenticity, generosity, being fun, empathetic, and exceptional (or TAGFEE). What makes them different from other inbound and SEO companies is focusing on the top part of the sales funnel. Moz sets themselves apart by thinking about where leads are before they get to your site. Their CEO holds the position as Wizard of Moz, and there’s other positions such as Code Wookie and Head of Team Happiness. Their uniqueness and transparency is obvious, and makes them even better at what they do. I’ve gathered the content I’m sharing with you today from two sources of theirs: their Beginner’s Guide to SEO, and their Guide to Link Building.
Search engine optimization (SEO), is the practice of improving and promoting a website to increase the number of visitors a site receives from search engines. The majority of a website’s traffic is driven by search, regardless of what type of site it may be. That means regardless of whatever services you may be offering online, it is absolutely necessary to make sure your site is optimized for search in order to survive. It’s also important to note that SEO isn’t only about search engines: it’s about people. Making users the priority will better optimize your site than creating one that is only friendly for search engines. According to Moz, the best kinds of pages and sites are:
- Easy to use
- Provide relevant and direct information in relation to the query
- Deliver credible and legitimate content.
Notice how all these are directly related to the human user?
Think of all the sites that pop up every time you Google something, and usually have the answer you’re looking for. Rand Fishkin, Wizard of Moz gave a quick list of sites with great SEO: Wikipedia, imdb, and Urbanspoon all are user-friendly and give searchers the information they want. Hubspot and Moz both have great SEO as well, which I think proves they’re really good at what they do.
A search engine’s primary responsibility is to serve relevant and useful information to a user very quickly, and to do this, they use crawlers (automated robots, sometimes referred to as spiders) to browse the web to find what a searcher may be looking for. Once search engines find these relevant pages, they index these in giant databases all over the globe for future searches for quick and easy recall. Links and link-building are key to helping crawlers navigate your site efficiently, but I’ll touch on this later.
But how do they find your site? Keywords are fundamental to search, and using them successfully is pretty easy: use them in titles, text, and metadata. They should be relevant to the content you’re delivering, and not overly-specific. Don’t abuse them either, or you can get banned from Google. Scary, huh? Popular search terms actually only make up about 30% of what’s actually searched on the web. The other 70% are less popular, but more important in terms of SEO: these “long-tail” keywords have higher conversion rates, and catch people later on in the buying process. Like the rest of inbound marketing strategies, SEO comes down to content.
We know content is probably the biggest part of inbound and digital marketing. Delivering the right content to the right user at the optimal time is what will set a business apart from its competitors. Well, SEO and content go hand in hand. When a search engine hunts online, it determines relevance to the user’s query (via complex algorithms), and ranks based off the site’s popularity. Google and other search engines assume that popularity equals validity, and the more popular a site is, the better its information must be. Which is why good content is such a necessity: providing great content and valuable information means users will like (and share) your site more, which in turn makes the site more popular and ups its ranking. Social media has increased massively in popularity over the past few years, and it is powerful for SEO too: while social shares aren’t considered as important as links, they do establish a lot of credibility, especially when the share is from someone influential. Google also serves personalized information to users who are logged in to their social sites, which makes for more convenient searching. Google+ may be the butt of many jokes, but it is a highly useful tool for SEO and helps businesses (especially B2B ones) rank higher in searches. Besides content, ranking in search engines is determined by the number of links pointing to a site.
As I mentioned earlier, crawlers navigate websites by means of links. Creating crawlable structures online makes it easy for crawlers to search your site and provide the right information to potential leads. The more people linking to your site, the more popular it is. Link building is the process of acquiring hyperlinks from other sites to your own. A hyperlink (or link) is how users navigate between pages online. Search engines use links to discover new web pages, and help determine how high a site should rank. If a business gets high-quality sites to link or “point to” theirs, they’ll rank higher. Building relationships with leaders in your industry is not only useful for establishing credibility with your audience – it means these people might link to your site and promote your content, and improve your SEO. Through link building, other relevant websites will send relevant leads your way, improving your reach and probably your sales. This is actually one of the three types of links, editorial links.
- Editoral links are given by other website owners (such as bloggers), and are more efficient than asking someone to link you. They’re highly ranked on Google, and the best kind of links for SEO.
- Manual or outreach links are the most common types of links, and involve manually contacting website owners to link to your content.
- Self-created, non-editorial links are usually considered spammy and are often penalized by Google. They trick search engines into thinking you have valuable content, when in reality you actually don’t. Don’t use these, you’re better than this. If you’re lying to Google, you’re probably lying to your audience, and that is NOT okay.
It’s important to link to specialized resources, which aren’t always homepages: they could be landing pages, your blog, or more. Just make sure it’s providing the right content to the right people. Remember this, “all link building campaigns should start with something worth linking to“. In creating a link building campaign (actively trying to increase links to your site combined with an overarching marketing objective), set realistic and measurable goals that directly relate to those of your business. What are you using to attract and earn your links, and who’s your audience as well as linking audience? Building links will increase reach, and help optimize your site for search engines and increase your website’s traffic.