First, let’s tackle the question, “What is SEO?” “SEO is the practice of increasing the quality and quantity of a website’s traffic by increasing the visibility of a website or webpage to users of a web search engine.”
What Goes Into SEO?
I started performing SEO in 1999 when I took over a website for a car dealership. SEO was still very basic and not a lot of people knew what they were doing. I found my way to a few forums that had some advanced users sharing techniques. Fast forward to 2020 and the process is so much more complicated. Since most of our clients feel like SEO is foreign to them, I want to take a few seconds to share what exactly goes into it and what makes us successful in doing it.
First of all, we spend 99% of our time on Google because Google maintains about 85% market share of searches. In my early days, Google would perform updates annually, then more frequently like twice a year, then monthly. Now the algorithm updates constantly using machine learning. This means it’s much more difficult to test and find results because the algorithm can be slightly different based on user, geolocation, and even industry.
The changeability of SEO also causes us to spend a lot of money on education courses, networking, and following people who have the resources to do big studies and comparisons. This year alone, I plan to attend multiple conferences and classes to further my education. Even though I know what I’m doing, I pick up little things along the way to improve because industry leaders have great insight into SEO advancements. To be a great SEO Agency, I know we have to invest in constantly improving our understanding through hours a week of research and testing.
There are two major types of SEO: Onsite SEO vs Offsite SEO. Onsite SEO involves making the content and programming for a website search engine friendly so that Google will highly rank it. Offsite SEO is about building links to your website in order to create credibility and also networking in terms of social media. Both are equally important in the big picture, but Onsite SEO is the foundation. You also have local SEO which is very different from national or international SEO.
Once you have an understanding of the basic properties of SEO, you then have to understand how to implement it on a specific website. It goes beyond how, though; it also depends on when and how much at one time. Google is known for changing things and even reversing them. It’s an ongoing joke that everything Google does is in Beta. Just when you feel confident with the system, they change it. That’s why we spend about $400 monthly on tools to track positions and audit websites in order to help find new ways to optimize websites. However, an experienced SEO also needs to know when not to trust the software because not everything is determined by one round of statistics.
SEO In Practice
I’ll give you an example. Recently I lost 1st-page rank on about 15 of my pages. Why? Google changed its algorithm so that sites with featured snippet positions got dropped. The week before, it was great if you can hold the featured snippet position and page one, but now, without notice, they changed it. Knowing this, I’d rather be in organic page one, so I’m making adjustments to give up my featured snippet on pages where I can rank #1 or #2. However, waiting to see how Google will make further changes can be just as valuable as possibly giving up the featured snippet position. It’s also good to note that my incoming calls have slowed a bit, but I’m not in a panic. I know it’s only a matter of time before Google goes back to the old way or improves the featured snippet to be more prominent.
I think that example is important for you to hear because it’s a great representation of what we work with every day. So much more goes into SEO than title tags, descriptions, and anchor text.
The best way for me to describe how much goes into SEO is to compare the difference between a handyman working on a garage door and a professional IDEA certified technician. Just because you can install a garage door doesn’t mean that you can do it with the expertise of a certified installer. The same applies to a person doing SEO on their own versus our company working on it with years of experience.