What is search engine optimization (SEO) and how does it work?

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is something you’re bound to hear a lot about if you run a website, or do any kind of research on building and maintaining one. As such, it is very easy to get lost in all the terms and complexities of it. The fundamental principle of SEO is having content that organically appears for search engine indexing.

For those who don’t know technical terms, it means what you have written on your site makes the search engine recognize that your content is relevant in a search. At a basic level, this means your buzzwords in the actual content, or the keywords attached to the page, are chosen to display a certain relevance to any topic that you cover. However, it isn’t exactly that simple. There are many other factors that go into your visibility, and what happens after you draw someone into your site is just as important as getting them there. The following tips should help in an attempt to build a successful SEO strategy.

Keywords

keywords
In the past, SEO was truly all about the buzzwords of the content on a page. However, as indexing and other search engine algorithms have gotten more complex, the buzzwords have taken a backseat to actual page keywords. These keywords can be both more and less subjective to the actual content. Think of hashtags on social media. For example, this article is on SEO itself. Now, if I want to get larger exposure, I’ll add in page keywords relating to individual search engines, other forms of attracting views, and even our proprietary coding and tools for website building. So, on the chance that you’ve found this article based on an indirect search, this point is effectively proven.

Value of content

value of content
People aren’t going to read an article about something they don’t care about. You may not read a news article about foreign affairs, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a value in that for others. Understanding your audience is a big part of SEO in any instance. I’ll again turn to this article for an example. I know that I may not get a huge following of people that are interested in the technical nature of web design and development. However, I do know that there are a lot of people who do design, develop, and maintain websites. That is my audience, and if I don’t get huge numbers in web traffic, I know that the readers I do get are interested in the topic. While I take a more patient approach to the content generated here, relevance for news, pop culture, and sportswriters is much more important to stay at the top of their game.

Substance of content

quality of content
Not only does it matter what you write about, but it’s also about what that writing conveys. If 100 people write about the same topic and all say the same thing, why have 100 articles? Be original and informative. The articles written for Minerva are all meant to set us apart from the basic how-to articles that are all over the internet. Yes, some of those may be used as research, but they’re used more for inspiration for content, rather than the substance in the articles. We try to generate as many original ideas as possible and ground them in real research.

Editing

editing content
This is where things become about what happens after people are drawn to your site. Just like in any form of writing or content generation, you want things to be as crisp and clean as possible. However, with SEO, this isn’t just about making sure you chose the right form of your/you’re. Yes, that does matter, because it gives you a form of legitimacy. But it doesn’t end there. You have to make sure your buzzwords and keywords are present, and that they line up with what you want to convey. For an article written for Minerva, we care about what we say, how we say it, and how it lines up in the principal task at hand. We try to make our articles as informative, as they are enticing to the reader and the search engines. It takes a whole different skill set to edit for SEO than it does for regular writing. At least, it takes a more trained eye, and it’s something that is constantly worked on as more and more articles are written. All the technical knowledge of algorithms, indexing, and embedding content in the world will only get you so far. Knowing how to create your content with a purpose is important, and making sure you’ve covered your bases on both information and wording is a whole other skill that can only come with practice.

Analytics

analytics are important
Watch your numbers! You can’t just “fire and forget” your content. Use a tracker to see how your pages are performing. After you draw people in, the name of the game is the conversion rate vs. the bounce rate. Your conversion rate is how many people click through your site after the initial page, and your bounce rate is how many left from just the page they landed on. If your bounce rate is high, it may be that you have inappropriate keywords on the page and people aren’t getting the information they were looking for. It could also be that your information was right, but that it wasn’t original enough or didn’t give a different outlook on the topic. If you think either is causing the issue, go back and edit. Change your keywords to something more direct and relevant. Add new insights or more information to what you already presented. Once you do that, let it sit and watch the numbers again. It’s also important to keep in mind that you may have a niche audience and they just aren’t biting. In that case, it never hurts to completely scrap an idea and try again, or just leave it be for a time while you continue to build.

Site performance

website performance
You may have the best content around and have a lot of people tell you what you created is amazing when you show it to them in person, but if your site’s visitors can’t access it quickly, it doesn’t matter. Many visitors will abandon a website that doesn’t load within a few seconds, and a majority of people will never return to that site after whether they stay or not. Optimizing pages, compressing images, and limiting in page plugins are all easy ways to make your site perform faster. That is in addition to making sure your site is responsive. The ability to quickly navigate and having information readily available are essential to increasing your conversion rate. Minerva’s sites are incredibly responsive and generally load in under a second, and the conversion rates on those sites are much higher than the bounce rates. Taking time to tune up your site is just as important as the content it holds.

SEO is an incredibly complex element of any website. Just like anything, mastering it takes time. However, following these tips and continuing to do more for your site can make all the difference in your web traffic and your search engine performance. If all else fails, there are trained professionals that you can call on to fill in the gaps.