How 2 Understand SEO
Kerri Koncius ’01 is the Founder & CEO of Koncius Digital Marketing, LLC, a Massachusetts-based firm that develops digital marketing strategies for clients across industries. Kerri visited the Blank Center to host a How 2 Tuesday dedicated to helping Babson entrepreneurs develop their search engine optimization (SEO) strategies, specifically for Google.
Benefits of SEO: Google processes 40,000 queries per second and 3.5 billion every day, underscoring the importance of optimizing your website for SEO. Your goal is to get in front of these users, regardless of your industry. Visibility leads to traffic, conversions, and ultimately, ROI. When a customer searches for a product or service, they demonstrate interest and possible intent to purchase. They are highly engaged and actively looking for information. SEO traffic and demand will continue to grow over time, and it is free and measurable traffic compared to paid advertisements.
How SEO Works: Google sends out “spiders” every 6-8 weeks to crawl through websites. They index the text on your website to obtain search results. When a Google user enters a search query, Google searches through its database for the most relevant pages. The order of organic website results is based on performance against a merit-based algorithm. Google’s overarching goal is to provide the best user experience possible.
Main elements of SEO: Google’s ranking algorithm consists of over 200 factors that can be categorized into these main areas:
Content: Content is more than just the text on your webpage. Google looks for freshness- old content will not rank as high because people want to see the most up-to-date information. Keyword themes are also important. Kerri’s rule of thumb is to write content for the user first and the search engine second. Use keywords that your customer will use. Being the top-ranked website for keywords that nobody looks for will not help you. She compared this to putting up a great billboard in the woods- you might be proud of it, but it probably won’t increase your sales! To help in selecting the best keywords to target, Kerri recommends using the Moz Keyword Explorer tool. Uniqueness is another factor that Google looks for. Although you should avoid doing this anyway, do not simply copy content from another website. Another factor is content formats- provide content types other than text, such as images and videos.
Credibility: Credibility is influenced by the quality and quantity of external links that direct traffic to your website, as well as internal links within your site. Social signals, such as likes and shares, are also helpful. History is also a factor- it helps if your site has been around for a long time.
Crawlability: Even if you have great content, it won’t matter if your site isn’t crawlable by the spiders. Spend time making your site accessible to spiders. Make your URLs clean and simple. Site architecture should allow the spiders to easily scan the website without hitting a roadblock, such as a “404 Error” page. These pages are left when you take a page down. To ensure that a 404 Error page will not be an obstacle to the spiders, redirect to another page on your site or create a custom “404 Error” page that has a short message and links to other pages on your website. When a spider comes across a custom 404 Error page of this type, they are able to keep moving past it. Additionally, page speed, mobility, and security have become increasingly important because Google wants to provide a great user experience. If your website takes too long to load, the customer will become frustrated and leave. Your website should operate well on mobile for the same reason. Security is important, so HTTPS sites are now preferred over HTTP ones.
RankBrain: Launched in 2015, RankBrain is a machine-learning AI system and is the third-strongest SEO ranking factor. RankBrain helps Google process search results, refine queries, and rank web pages. It measures how users interact with search results, such as dwell time (how long they look at results before choosing a website) and expected click-through rate (CTR). If your website beats the expected CTR of your position, your ranking will be positively impacted. For example, increasing your CTR by 3% can lead to a one-position lift of your ranking. To optimize RankBrain, use emotional triggers and a call to action in your website information to entice users to click on your site.
Content guidelines: Google recommends creating a useful, information-rich site, with pages that clearly and accurately describe your content. Think about the words that users would search to find your pages, and be sure to include these words in your site. While the copy should be optimized for search, it should first and foremost be written for the purposes of the user.
Each piece of copy, whether it be a webpage or social media post, should have a clear theme that spiders can understand. Conflicting themes can confuse both the spiders and the user. Incorporate keywords to demonstrate your theme, but avoid overuse of keywords (also known as “keyword stuffing”).
General Content Do’s & Don’ts
Do: Identify topic clusters; have a clear theme in mind for each page/post; use keyword synonyms and derivatives to reinforce the theme; incorporate your unique value proposition into pages designed to sell (emphasize not only your features but also the benefits provided by those features); include clear calls to action on page that contain conversion events; emphasize your brand & voice; be original and take risks.
Don’t: Make your copy sound artificial or “spammy;” rely on a strict ratio of keywords to general copy; force keywords where they don’t belong; have more than two pages targeting the same keyword theme; let non-primary keywords dominate the page/post; create low-quality content in an effort to bulk up pages.
We are so grateful to Kerri for returning to campus to share her insights on search engine optimization and digital content strategies. We hope that you use this information to get your website get in front of a wide audience!