Mastering SEO Practices
Mastering SEO can seem like an overwhelming responsibility but for those who own small businesses and freelance their skills, having a website and online presence with good SEO practices is more crucial than ever. Having effective SEO can do a wide range of positives for a company; it can boost the credibility of a business/brand, doesn’t have to cost anything (or very much), supports already established marketing strategies, and can help increase local and specific audience bases more strategically.
For those looking for long term business development and growth, an online presence is increasingly important to stay updated and consistent with.
SEO practices help businesses do just that.
What is SEO?
Search engines, like Google, Bing, and Yahoo!, exist to provide a way to find the most relevant site for the user from thousands of search results. Using mathematical algorithms, search engines are designed to comb and crawl through every inch of every page of every website that is on the internet. As noted by the International Trade Administration, “searchbots are created to collect page information,” and the process of SEO is essentially “nothing more than making their job of indexing your website date for search results easier.” Searchbots and web crawlers, no matter what you want to call them, crawl (explore, find, and download) and index (analyzes, categorizes, and stores) information in large databases such as Google. When a user searches for a question, a product, or a business, “Google returns information relevant to the user’s query.These searchbots and web crawlers use keywords, alternative text, and metadata (page titles and heading tags) to locate information about a website and its pages; a website that lacks the use of these locators is a website that searchbots and web crawlers don’t find value in.
Since almost all of online traffic is driven by search engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is vital for business websites to be ranked higher organically (and sometimes paid) and for users to find the best result of their searches. SEO enables businesses to create helpful, reliable, people-first content. In Google’s SEO Starter Guide, it’s noted early on that “Google’s automated ranking systems are designed to present helpful, reliable information that’s primarily created to benefit people, not to gain search engine rankings, in the top Search results.” With practical and effective SEO practices, businesses can aim to do the same with the information they present on their sites.
Some of the most effective SEO practices include:
- Repeated use of specific keywords/phrases: Keywords and phrases are what users use to type in their search engines and are also the foundation of a website’s content. In order for a website who is offering what is being searched to rank higher in a user’s search results, the keywords and phrases need to be a similar match. For a deeper dive into the world of keywords, check out this 13 minute read posted by Semrush: What Are Keywords? Types of Keywords, Explained.
- Paying attention to Metadata: Metadata (think what you see as the search result for a website…page title, featured image with alternative text, meta description that provides a brief page description) is important to stay on top of when updating pages or making any new page on a website. This information “is meant to give the user an idea of the content that exists within the page and how it relates to their search query,” according to MOZ.
- Clear understanding of target audience and their search intent: Yoast, the leading SEO software, describes search intent as a “term used to describe the purpose of an online search.” As a business looking to capture a larger number of their target audience, it is crucial to understand and implement the search intent of this audience. With four types of search intent (informational, navigational, transactional, and commercial investigation), knowing how, why, and for what reasons a target audience is looking online for what their business can provide is crucial to business growth and success.
- Focus on (UX) User Experience: Due to an increased use of technology in personal and professional spheres, rapid technological advancements, and growing competition for online market share among businesses, a focus on user experience is quickly becoming essential. We dived into why that is and how businesses can focus on this important design element in another blog post: UX Design: The Skill Quickly Becoming Essential.
Importance of SEO for Small Businesses, Freelancers, & Their Websites
Optimizing a business’s website content is to make the site interesting and useful for the users that come across its pages, both for new and returning users. Both content and visuals need to be designed with the user in mind at all times and that user is expecting what they want is given to them. For small business owners competing against larger companies and brands in the digital market share, it is vital to continue to evolve websites and pages as targeted audiences and their intentions might change over time. According to Google’s SEO Guide, some of the ways to optimize your content is acting in a way that cultivates user trust and makes expertise clear. On the more backend side of SEO, it is vital for small business websites to pay attention to alternative text on images so they can pop up in search results as well, making a site mobile friendly, and planting breadcrumbs throughout webpages for easy navigation. With effective SEO practices and strategies, the pay off can show up as positive brand recognition and loyalty among targeted audiences.
On a related note, while social media might not be a direct correlation to SEO practices, it can be a major player in the traffic that is driven to the pages of a site. That might include gaining an audience that is more likely to search for a specific brand/company after seeing it on social media, build an understanding of the overall audience base that the business has and can tap into, and can overall help increase the reach of a business’s brand and expertise. This can be especially important for professionals who consider themselves to be freelancers and are hired on a case to case basis. Having a strong SEO strategy implemented into a freelancer’s website is crucial but so is promoting that website in other ways, like on social media pages where targeted audiences might be scrolling through.
Career Opportunities in SEO
Businesses often hire out SEO specialists to implement and keep a SEO strategy up to date for their online presence. For those already skilled in SEO practices and are searching for career opportunities, the industries that are in need of SEO specialists are endless; any business, brand, or service that has an online presence, should be implementing SEO practices. Those who have mastered them can see opportunities in being hired on to improve a business’s online market share and overall recognition among target audiences.
Learning Best SEO Practices
Learning the best SEO practices can be done through a series of articles, videos, and how-to guides across the internet. Or, it can be done through professional and educational development opportunities like certificate programs. The digital marketing certificate at DWC provides a space for students to explore best practices of Search Engine Optimization, track progress and ROI with Google Analytics and reporting tools, understand Customer Engagement and Retention, and so much more. Those interested in mastering SEO practices can begin the process with us at DWC.