Search Engine Optimization is the process of boosting your site’s rankings in search engines over time.
Moving your site as close the first result as possible will translate into exponentially more organic traffic (i.e. potential customers). According to a 2013 (slightly dated, but the point remains) study by Chitika, 91.5% of all traffic goes to the first page of results, and of that 75.7% goes to the first 5 results.
The second page is essentially hidden. Beyond that is, for all intents and purposes, invisible.
Don’t be invisible.
Understanding a little more about how these search engines work will help you not be invisible.
What and Why?
Let’s take a step or two back and think about what a search engine is doing and why?
Google’s original mission statement was:
That’s a lofty goal so it’s worth breaking it up into two parts.
To Organize the World’s Information
To organize the world’s information, you have to know two things: 1) What is the information about? and 2) How is it related to other information?
What is this information?
To learn what the information is about Search Engines robots to crawl (that’s a funny image if it were literal) through every page they can find. They pay special attention to headings and images, but they are able to scan through the whole page.
The robots then take all that they saw and store it into a giant index that is regularly updated.
If it helps, you can imagine that these robots have a strange fascination with human culture. They deeply want to understand the page as a human would, but the index is their only option.
How does this relate to other information?
Search Engines place a lot of weight into the links that go between pages. Backlinks are basically a vote of confidence from another site. Having a lot of recommendations is a sign that you’re are a reliable resource. Of course, recommendations work both ways. If you have a lot of backlinks from unsavory sources, that may indicate you might by shady yourself.
Luckily, there is the option to disavow links if link spam is causing your site’s ranking to fall.
Building backlinks can take time, but it’s worth doing right. Links from social media don’t count, but you can still use social media to drive traffic to your site, which may eventually result in backlinks.
In search days of old, these robots were quite easy to trick by stuffing keywords or buying backlinks. Nowadays, such evil tactics could banish you to the land of the invisible or worse. Plain and simple, robots hate being tricked.
and Make it Universally Accessible and Useful (to Humans)
The other half of the mission is putting that information to work.
I should note here, do not write content for the robots. They prefer content written for humans. Humans prefer that as well.
Sneaking these robots human content targeted at them would offend their sensibilities and would incur a penalty. If you need to tell the robots something, use the robots.txt file.
It’s easy to think that you have to optimize all of your content for robots, but, in reality, all of your content needs to be optimized for real world people.
Headings are not important because robots fancy them- they are important because people like them.
Alternate text is not important for robots to understand images- it’s important for people with screen readers who can’t see or if the image, for whatever reason, doesn’t load.
Keywords are not a way to tell search engines what you’re about, but, rather a naturally occurring byproduct of good content about a specific topic.
Don’t worry about changes that Google makes to this or that algorithm. You only need to focus on creating useful, engaging, and timely content and experiences that answers what the user was looking for.
That’s plenty to focus on.
Fulfilling that goal will please every search engine, no matter the algorithm changes. Over time, creating this type of content will also generate backlinks as more and more people share your content.
It won’t happen overnight
Google uses about 200 (mostly secret) signals to determine the authority of your site. One of the factors is your domain’s age. This isn’t a large signal, but I mention it to show you that many signals just take time. Respect is built over time.
Focus on pleasing the humans and the robots will be happy too.
Building page authority is an investment, and it takes time to do right. It may be overwhelming at some points, but it’s best to make many small goals and measure them over time. Incremental improvement is a recipe for success.