Understandably, website owners want to see their websites show up in Google searches on page one for all the relevant keywords and phrases pertaining to their niche. After all, a lot of time and money was spent developing them and it's time to reap the benefits of having them.
The goal of getting to page one and even number one in a Google search is absolutely achievable, but much time and energy must be expended to get there as it involves a tedious continuous effort.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of getting a website prepared for its upward movement in organic search results. Although most website designers and developers would have some knowledge of SEO, it would not necessarily be their specialty. In any event, there is a limit to what they can do as SEO requires both on-page and off-page elements working together in harmony to achieve any kind of results.
That is where SEO experts come into play. They have in-depth knowledge of how Google works and the shifting landscape of their algorithms.
Google is highly secretive about their algorithms and how they work, and to compound this, they are constantly changing. They sometimes let you know when they are implementing new ones, modifying old ones or just hint at what webmasters should be doing. The bottom line is that Google wants you to follow web standards, add unique quality content to your website, and give users a good experience regardless of what device they are using to view your website.
An example of Google's cryptic hints.
Most SEO experts agree that there are 200+ Google algorithms and have even speculated what they are.
My reference to Google throughout this article is not accidental. While there are many search engines, Google has pretty much set the gold standard, and once you rank high in Google, it is almost certain that you will rank high in the others.
Planting a tree
Think of an SEO project as planting a little tree. A lot of effort and attention goes into the process up front. You must ensure that the soil is fertile, water it daily, remove any weeds from around it that might rob the plant of its nutrients, make sure that it gets adequate sunlight, etc. As the plant grows over time, it continuously requires less and less help from you as it takes on a life of its own.
In many ways, your website SEO project is similar to growing a tree. The fertile soil that I referred to is akin to developing your website using web standards. Constantly adding new content and updating older pages is the equivalent of watering the plant. Updating your website and removing anything that slows down the website or make it vulnerable is like removing the weeds from around the plant.
While you do not have to water a mature tree, websites still need attention throughout its life, but the heavy emphasis on SEO upfront is much greater as you attempt to get backlinks, register your website in as many directories as you can and connect your website to social media accounts.
What SEO entails
Earlier I mentioned that there are two elements to SEO, on-page and off-page, but for good measure we can add a third: site-level, as this speaks to the overall website rather than specific pages.
Site-level SEO includes but not limited to the following:
- the age of the domain name,
- the use of a sitemap,
- site architecture,
- site updates,
- site uptime,
- server location,
- SSL certificate,
- mobile optimized, and
- site usability.
On-page SEO includes but not limited to the following:
- user friendly layout
- the use of relevant keywords and phrases on your webpages,
- using appropriate titles,
- using appropriate URLs,
- using appropriate image file name, alt text, title, description and caption,
- proper use of H1 – H6 title tags,
- internal page links,
- constantly adding unique content,
- editing and updating existing content, and
- the quantity and quality of outbound links.
How Google search evolved from 1998 - 2018.
Off-page SEO includes but not limited to the following:
- the quantity and quality of backlinks,
- linking domain age,
- number of linking root domains,
- number of linking pages,
- backlink anchor text,
- alt tag (for image links),
- links from .edu or .gov domains,
- authority of linking page,
- authority of linking domain,
- links from competitors,
- social shares, and
- user reviews.
The aforementioned elements of SEO represents a thin slice of factors that Google takes into account when ranking a website. While some of these can be addressed in a short amount of time, others like link building, social shares and user reviews takes time and is also a continuous process.
While all of this is going on, the SEO expert has to continuously assess what is working for your website and what is not, then take action to put the site on a path to climb ranking in the search engine results.
Keep in mind that your website is competing with others in your niche, so while you are trying to get your website to number 1, others are also trying to do the same. Those already at the top of the list are trying to maintain their positions, so it's easy to appreciate that the efforts must be constant and consistent. If your website is new to the scene, imagine having to compete with others that have been there for years or even decades.
Google's stated commitment.
In the end, the websites that will fare well, are those that constantly add unique content, become authoritative in its niche, and generally give users a good experience every time they visit the website.
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