Getting your business or website seen online isn’t as easy as publishing it and hoping it gets spotted by the right people! While there are billions of Google searches rolling out every month, if content isn’t fully optimized to appear to certain people, it’s at risk of getting lost or buried in search page rankings.
It’s why search engine optimization – or SEO – has become a cornerstone of online marketing over the past few years. While the exact nature of Google’s algorithms for promoting websites in search rankings is still fairly mysterious, marketers and web design experts have a series of techniques and tools they can use to get web content seen.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at some of the best techniques and strategies marketing experts use to help SEO work to their advantage. While it’s easy to learn the basics of SEO in one’s own time, it can take years of trial and error and careful study to produce fantastic marketing results on each occasion.
If you’re studying online marketing and are interested in getting into SEO techniques, consider this an introductory guide to the wild world of optimization!
Why is SEO important for online marketing?
It’s easy to assume that you could simply place a few carefully chosen advertisements in search results and expect people to flock to a business website. While pay-per-click (or PPC) advertising has its merits, SEO supports the majority of website traffic.
That’s because most people heading to websites from Google and other engines do so through ‘organic’ searches. This means they’re clicking on results in search pages that appear naturally – less so than paid ads, for example.
SEO covers a series of techniques that ensures Google’s crawlers pick up on websites and that they’re promoted to the right people.
For example, if someone searches for “local dentists specializing in dentures”, they might find a list of optimized websites for dentists in their area pop up. The great news for the searcher is, of course, that these businesses also specialize in denture fittings.
Google’s algorithms revolve around the user experience. The search giant wants to ensure that every result that appears toward the top of search pages is relevant, informative, genuine and authoritative. To succeed in modern SEO, you must ensure content answers people’s questions.
That’s putting it as simply as possible, of course. SEO covers a lot of intricate ground – and one of the major benefits of online MBA degrees in a related field, such as through St. Bonaventure University, is that you’ll get to learn all about such techniques while trying them out for yourself. Flexible courses through St. Bonaventure are good choices for budding marketers as they’re easy to access from afar and on flexible timetables with a 100% online schedule. They can be completed within as little as 20 months and are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).
SEO is a concept that one can learn about from a distance, provided you have access to the internet – and particularly as you can practice your skills from almost any device.
How do marketers use SEO to support their clients?
As mentioned, SEO is an umbrella term that covers various techniques and tools that help marketers get websites and businesses seen online. Thanks to changing search behaviors over the years, and Google’s own algorithm shifts, the rules and techniques they rely on have evolved somewhat over time.
That means SEO experts – including marketing specialists – need to keep on their toes when it comes to the latest developments in optimization. There are a few techniques that always hold firm – but, with the advent of AI content and voice search for example, there are always new things to learn in SEO.
In this section, we’re going to explore some of the most reliable SEO techniques and standards that help business websites reach the right people. These are techniques that are proven to make a difference to SEO strategy – and are unlikely to lose their importance over time.
Of course, new techniques will come and go, and the following concepts, too, will evolve. However, let’s look at them at their base level and discuss how and why they make such a difference in online marketing.
Keyword research refers to the process of finding terms and phrases that websites want to target to pull in specific searchers. By targeting keywords, websites can appear more prominently in search results, meaning they are more likely to be clicked on and visited by specific audiences.
However, keyword research is more than just searching for phrases relevant to a website or business and assuming they will fit the bill. The research process typically involves using tools to find related terms and phrases that websites can use in their content to reach the right people.
To find the right keywords through research, SEO experts will consider search volumes, which show them how frequently people search for a phrase each month. The higher a phrase’s search volume, the more potential traffic they can expect over time.
However, there’s also keyword difficulty to keep in mind. Keyword difficulty data tells us how difficult it will be for a natural SEO strategy to compete against paid-per-click ads. Therefore, SEO experts will carefully consider whether the difficulty is worth balancing alongside the potential traffic.
Of course, it’s also worth looking into keyword relevance. Google hates keyword stuffing, where phrases appear in text en masse for no reason. They need to refer to the services that a website offers – and this benefits all parties, as irrelevant keywords can result in wasted trips for visitors and lower conversion rates for businesses.
Keyword research isn’t a one-and-done exercise. Industries, buying behaviors and search behaviors change over time. Therefore, a marketing specialist with SEO expertise will regularly monitor keyword performance and look for new phrases on a schedule.
Optimizing on-page elements
Many SEO techniques revolve around optimizing on-page content or data you control via your website.
For example, poor page loading speeds can affect where Google lists you in their search rankings, as can a lack of mobile support. Given that many people search through mobile devices now, it stands to reason that websites should be easy to read and navigate from smartphones, tablets and other devices.
Beyond this, Google also wants to ensure that the websites it ranks highly all have clear signposts through internal linking. An SEO specialist will consider whether or not a website is linked up clearly enough before pushing a sitemap to Google. Linking between web pages ensures no ‘orphans’ are left behind, and visitors can easily find their way around.
There’s also the matter of additional media. Video, audio and images can all help to improve the user experience. However, such content needs to be relevant and add value.
On-page checks, again, aren’t a one-and-done deal. SEO experts understand that there might be the need to tweak a website regularly to stay relevant to searchers over time.
Creating high-quality content
The phrase “content is king” probably gets overused somewhat, but it’s certainly true regarding the basics of SEO. Your web content refers to everything from page copy to blog posts, video content, reviews and contact details. It also refers to off-page content such as social media and email marketing.
In terms of on-page content, high-quality content on Google shows experience, expertise, authority and trustworthiness. It’s part of what the search engine refers to as its EEAT content policy. Therefore, a website’s content needs to establish that a company not only understands the topics it publishes about but that they do so with an air of authority and trustworthiness.
Google’s “Helpful Content Update” in 2022 established that, to scale the heights of website rankings, content writers needed to focus on people first, and search engines second. This algorithm update established that website content now needs to answer genuine questions and provide more than just a sales pitch.
It’s part of Google’s continued commitment to its searchers. They want to ensure their users only ever find the most useful content at the top of search results pages. That means, while keywords are still important to SEO, marketers must focus on producing content that appeals to specific audiences and their needs.
Otherwise, there’s a risk of Google penalizing websites by casting them down the search rankings – something which can seriously harm their visibility over time.
High-quality content is, to some extent, also unique – in that the best content tries to make fresh points without treading through the same ideas other bloggers and site owners have over time and time again.
Online marketers don’t always write and produce content themselves. In many cases, they work alongside professional copywriters and content planners to ensure websites are authoritative and informative.
Building robust backlinks
In many ways, backlinks are the lifeblood of great SEO. They’re links that websites receive from other authority sites and blogs in their niche. For example, an accountancy business might look for strong backlinks from consumer finance guides with thousands of visitors each week.
Backlinks help fresh traffic flow through to websites – and they help show Google’s web crawlers that they’re legitimate and authoritative.
Google’s web crawlers analyze and index websites to ensure they list them appropriately in relevant positions in search results. They dig deep into the most technical aspects of websites and build scores based on how authoritative they appear.
Building backlinks can take time and effort, which is why it’s a major focus for marketing experts taking on SEO. To build backlinks naturally, they can work with writers to produce genuinely insightful content that targets the right keywords and which links out to other authorities to help them get noticed.
Alternatively, a proven route for sourcing backlinks is to create guest posts on other websites. Guest posts are articles that marketers arrange for publication elsewhere, but with links to their client website to help boost traffic and authority scores.
Various tools can help marketers and SEO experts find appropriate sites to reach out to for guest posting. Much of the time, they will prioritize searching for websites with high domain authority scores, which tell Google that they’re to be trusted.
Backlinks, much like the other aspects of SEO we’ve covered thus far, require regular maintenance and research. Again, this is often thanks to changing tastes, search behaviors and Google’s own algorithms.
However, there’s also the fact that you can’t expect the same backlinks to deliver traffic levels consistently over time. As blog posts and articles age, they risk falling down the rankings. It’s why the highest authority content you’ll see online is frequently updated.
Optimizing for local search
Local SEO refers to content pitched to people searching for specific services in their local areas. For example, someone might search for “department store in Albany”, or search for a department store while physically in Albany, and with location services switched on.
Regardless of how they search for local services, an SEO expert will think carefully about how to optimize a website for local searchers based on market research and where a given business is based.
Pitching to local searchers helps businesses appear at the very top of search results – thanks to Google Business Profiles (GBPs). A GBP is a snapshot of any business – it shows its name, its industry, photo, opening hours, and reviews from legitimate users and visitors.
This is a useful snapshot for searchers who are simply looking for different services to compare – and by using local keywords and updating a GBP, an online marketer can increase a business’s chance of getting to the top of search rankings.
GBPs appear above organic results, which means alongside a strong SEO campaign, keeping these profiles updated and relevant boosts a company’s chances of getting seen.
Local SEO is a huge driver of traffic for small businesses with nearby bases – consider physical storefronts and merchants, for example, who don’t necessarily get most of their trade through e-commerce.
Making websites mobile-friendly
As mentioned briefly above, mobile friendliness is a must in the modern age. With so many of us browsing the web via smartphones and tablets, it’s only reasonable to expect that the websites we visit should be easy to use across all devices. Otherwise, we risk spending too much time pinching, zooming and getting frustrated.
Experienced online marketers and SEO experts understand that optimizing mobile responsiveness is key. They can do this through built-in settings through platforms such as WordPress, for example, and by ensuring their menus and content are easy to navigate.
If anything, SEO experts typically recommend going mobile-first with web design – meaning that, while there will always be people searching and browsing via a desktop, it’s more likely they will reach mobile users first. So, why not prioritize them?
Tracking and measuring results
SEO is a long-term investment. While it’s certainly possible to set optimization in motion with a couple of quick tweaks here and there, true results are measurable over the long term. That means an SEO expert or a marketing professional should always keep tabs on a website’s performance through analytics.
An expert will need to track keywords for their relevance, keep tabs on website loading speeds, and even keep up to date on news and events affecting their client’s industry. The most experienced and best-qualified marketers understand that getting the perfect SEO strategy down pat is a trial-and-error affair.
They work closely with content specialists and website owners to develop flexible long-term strategies that evolve with needs and technology. As mentioned, SEO strategies evolve over time simply because searchers, and Google itself, ensure that the rules adapt. It’s all about continuing to make sure a website still appeals to people and that it prioritizes the user experience.
That said, there’s also a need for SEO experts to track the performance of off-page media and techniques. For instance, they will regularly check social media profiles and ensure that businesses they work with list themselves in relevant directories.
Measuring results isn’t always simple. SEO experts will use tools such as Google Search Console to analyze performance over time – but the most experienced marketers will use a variety of other tools to ensure they’re pursuing the right strategies.
Therefore, the best SEO firms and professionals understand that one of the biggest tools of the trade they can use is an open mind. It can be frustrating to develop and maintain a website for a year or more only to fall down the rankings because of algorithm changes.
Is SEO still important?
Yes! Regardless of any doom and gloom news articles that might pop up thanks to the emergence of AI or changes to Google’s algorithms, there’s always going to be a need for SEO – however, it’s always going to change over time. With an experienced SEO marketer on standby, businesses can weather the changes to come. The most successful online marketing professionals are those who are always willing to try new strategies – and who are genuinely excited about SEO! SEO is fast-paced and always vital to keeping websites in the headlines – don’t discount it just yet.