If your company has an online presence, you might have heard of search engine optimization. It’s defined as “the practice of increasing the quantity and the quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.” If none of that made sense to you, or you want to polish up your SEO skills, consider these first steps:
The bare bones
You’re probably familiar with the most popular search engines thanks to your daily life. When you need the answer to a question (officially called a query) or want to look up a local business, you typically type it into Google, Bing, Yahoo, or another search engine and get almost-instant results.
Because the search engines aim for fastest results, they don’t actually peek through the whole internet for every question. Instead they constantly have crawlers, sometimes called bots, collecting information about websites and topics. A crawler will file away what it locates in an index, which is actually what the search engines use to answer your question.
What that means for you
You might have created your website, but that doesn’t mean it is in the search engines’ indexes. To bring the crawlers to look at your site and add it to their virtual card catalog, Google and Bing recommend you submit a sitemap to be crawled. You usually do this using a search engine’s webmaster tools or search console platform, which basically sends the crawlers a personal invitation with directions attached to make sure they don’t get lost.
Just inviting the crawler to your site won’t guarantee you end up in the search engine index, though. The Google Search Quality team really drives home the point that their engine exists to help users have a good experience and find the best answers to their query. This means you have to bring your website up to each index’s standards. That sounds scary, but many of the things the search engines look for are also what users will want to see to get a good impression.
As the Google team says, “When viewed individually, these changes might seem like incremental improvements, but when combined with other optimizations, they could have a noticeable impact on your site's user experience and performance in organic search results.”
Find your resources
Learning all the ins and outs of SEO takes much more than reading a single article. Sites like Moz and HubSpot offer reputable courses and presentations to help you get a grip on what you need to do to make your site successful. From there, build a list of news sources to let you know the latest SEO trends and changes the search engines implement to improve their services, like Search Engine Land. Like many other technologies, the world of SEO is always developing, and you have to stay in the loop.
SEO is a lot to learn about, but it has the potential to raise your digital profile. If you’re not sure you can take it on, consider an SEO firm to help you out.