May 3, 2024

What is SEO: Cracking the Search Engine Code

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What is SEO: Cracking the Search Engine Code

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the foundation upon which your digital marketing architecture is built. In no uncertain terms - any business not actively employing an intentional SEO strategy will struggle to succeed in 2024. Now, while that might sound scary, the opposite effect is absolutely true of businesses who lean into a Market-Optimized SEO strategy. Those who invest in a properly constructed SEO strategy will not only see improvements in their website’s search engine ranking but, arguably more importantly, they will also see an increase in organic traffic, lead conversions, and revenue.

So, let’s dig in!

SEO is a website-driven endeavor that is designed to give your business the greatest reach possible. Effective SEO involves optimizing various website elements that align with the algorithms used by popular search engines (think Google, Bing, etc). These algorithms are designed to crawl, index, and rank content based on criteria such as relevance, authority and performance; they even score your written content on proprietary scales, like Google’s “EEAT” ranking (Expertise, Experience, Authority, Trustworthiness). 

So how do these algorithms work? 

The truth is that nobody knows exactly. 

In the ‘not so olden days’, SEO masterminds would put together several test sites with competing strategies. A few websites would have the same keyword 100 times on each page, some would have a million links, and others yet would consist of 90% images. They would monitor these sites and see which site earned the highest ranking with the applied strategy. 

It was the wild, wild west - and it was an era and exercise that has become largely irrelevant.

With no one knowing how SEO algorithms work exactly, we are left with focusing on tidbits passed to us in Google’s changelogs and the tried-and-true primary categories of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Here are those three primary SEO categories:

  1. On-Page SEO: On-Page SEO involves optimizing individual web pages to rank higher and earn more relevant traffic. It includes the strategic use of keywords, content quality, and meta tags.
  2. Off-Page SEO: Off-Page SEO focuses on external ranking factors, like social media, guest blogging, and backlinks. Off-page SEO focuses on the strategies you use to show search engines that your brand has traction and that they should direct people to you.
  3. Technical SEO: Technical SEO addresses the technical aspects of a website that affect its rankings, such as how quickly the site loads and how well the site architecture is mapped.  Other important factors of the website are mobile-friendliness, indexing, and crawlability.

Using the right strategies for each avenue of SEO is the only means of getting not only more leads, but more visibility for your site. Employing SEO strategies has become the standard approach businesses take to make their website more appealing to search engines with the ultimate goal of attracting more high-quality traffic

It is a long-term strategy that is built up with consistent effort, analytics, and a prepared mindset to adapt to today’s ever-changing digital landscape. 

And, when done correctly, the rewards can be significant.

Why is SEO important?

In 2024, SEO must be considered as a business-critical function. 

Businesses are pushing harder and harder to hone in on, and reach, their target demographic. If you’re looking to succeed in increasing your leads, you’re going to need to use SEO in the same manner. If you are wondering why that is, the answer is because without SEO… you may never be found by your target customers.

See, keeping a business successful requires being seen. Being seen requires spending several critical hours EACH WEEK performing the SEO work that gets content appearing in relevant search results. It’s a hard pursuit, but it is the only pursuit that is proven to increase the number of genuinely interested visitors who will definitely engage with your products or services.

Let’s go through an example to really drive the idea of SEO home.

This example will tie a bit of “what is SEO” and “why is it important” at the same time. 

The Physical Store Example

Let’s start off with thinking about your website. 

Think about your website as if it were a physical store on a street - but in this analogy your store (i.e. your website) is only the things on the inside of your business. It does not include signage or posters outside. It does not include numbers in a phone book or listings on google maps. It is simply everything you see when you walk into the store and the door shuts behind you. 

For the first few days of opening your business, your mind will likely be consumed with all of the things on the inside of your business. A restaurant might focus on whether it has polished the silverware well enough to earn a Michelin Star or if the kitchen is running efficiently enough for their expected covers. A tire company may look to see whether they have a good selection of tires on display in the customer-facing section and a well-oiled shop in the back. 

In SEO terms, this is the same thing we experience with business owners - that is, as they start their SEO journey, they typically focus on just the “On-Page SEO” portion. Just as with their store, they are looking at whether their website is visually appealing, and whether what’s inside speaks to their audience. 

There’s nothing wrong with that and, in fact, that’s typically where we start in the SEO world. We look at not only the visuals of a site, and whether it speaks to customers, but also whether it’s speaking the language of SEO algorithms. That is, we look at sites and discover if they are going to climb the ranks or fall down below your more attractive competitors - which is one of the primary important reasons to do SEO…

SEO gets you AHEAD of your competitors. 

Once the inside of your store is in great working order and gives all the value it needs… there's so much more to be done. 

We need a Logo, we need business cards, we need to be screaming to the world that there’s something inside of this store (physical or otherwise) and people need to come in and see it. We need people to remember us, to engage with us, and to be able to trust and rely on us. 

To do this we need Branding, Messaging, and Outreach that gets people into our business.

In SEO terms, this is your Off-Page Strategy.

Let’s continue the analogy and say that our store needs the above-mentioned items: logos and business cards. It also needs to have a social media presence to let people currently out of reach know that we are here and that they should visit. We need pamphlets and brochures for people nearby and we need to have signs telling them that “Our Wing Day has ½ Price Wings!” (I know you’ve seen the posters). Your business may even participate in local panels or discussions on topics that you can provide value towards. 

Let’s turn those actions into Off-Page SEO, excluding logos and business cards. 

Social Media is part of your Off-Page strategy. It uses engaging posts that will connect with audiences and redirect them to your website. Same thing with pamphlets and brochures, except these are often Google Search Ads that help you target the people looking for your services and give them quick guidance on why they should choose you (like those ½ Price Wings). As for participating in panels and discussions, you can look at this as guest blogging or writing articles on topics that link back to your website.

Once all of these actions are performed, the stage is set for not only people, but search engines to find you. You are officially open for business (actually, though). 

So what comes next? 

Technical SEO and Marketing. 

Technical SEO will evaluate your strategies and look for ongoing errors or opportunities. Marketing will come up with brand new angles and avenues to widen your net in ways that still catch the right fish. 

Navigating the SEO Landscape: Common Pitfalls to Avoid

Search Engine Optimization can improve your business, helping increase traffic and conversions. But, if it is not handled properly, it can have the opposite effect and be extremely detrimental.  Here are some common SEO mistakes that can hinder your website's performance and how they can be avoided:

  1. Neglecting Keyword Research: One of the foundational elements of SEO is keyword research. It is essential to understand your audience and what they are searching for, and also to create content that properly aligns with those terms. Without this, you risk being invisible to your target market.

  1. Ignoring Search Intent: Search engines aim to provide users with the most relevant results. If your content doesn't match the intent behind the search query, it is unlikely to rank highly. Ensure your content addresses the specific needs and questions of your target audience.

  1. Overlooking Mobile Optimization: With the increasing prevalence of mobile browsing, having a mobile-friendly website is no longer optional. Google's mobile-first indexing means that your site's mobile version is the starting point for what Google includes in their index.

  1. Forgetting About User Experience (UX): UX plays a significant role in SEO. A site that's difficult to navigate or slow to load can drive users away, increasing bounce rates and reducing the chances of ranking well.

  1. Overusing Keywords: While keywords are important, stuffing them unnaturally into your content can harm your SEO. It's crucial to use keywords thoughtfully and ensure they fit naturally within your content.

  1. Neglecting Internal Linking: Internal links help search engines understand the structure of your site and the relevance of your pages. They also keep users engaged and moving through your site, which can improve site metrics.

  1. Failing to Monitor Performance: SEO isn't a set-it-and-forget-it task. Regularly monitoring your site's performance using tools like Google Analytics is vital to understand what's working and what isn't.

  1. Disregarding Local SEO: For businesses serving specific geographic areas, local SEO is crucial. Ensure your business is listed in local directories and that your site includes location-specific keywords.

  1. Ignoring Technical SEO: Technical SEO covers aspects like site speed, security, and crawlability. Neglecting these can lead to a poor user experience and hinder your site's ability to rank well.

  1. Inadequate Content Quality: High-quality, valuable content is at the heart of good SEO. Content that doesn't provide value to the user won't perform well in search rankings.

By avoiding these common mistakes and focusing on creating a user-friendly, content-rich, and well-optimized website, you can improve your SEO efforts and increase your online visibility. Remember, SEO is an ongoing process that requires attention and adaptation to the ever-changing online landscape. 

So, keep learning, keep optimizing, and stay ahead of the competition with great SEO.

Arek Kornecki

Head of Strategic Initiatives

The Bear Cloud Studios
Honesty  Policy

Some of our articles are written using the assistance of generative AI. At Bear Cloud Studios, we make a commitment to always inform you of the use of AI, and to never allow AI-generated content to be published without being verified and edited by us. We stand by everything we publish, whether or not we use AI to help us write it.

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