SEO: Setting the Record Straight

SEO: Setting the Record Straight

When working with websites, one of the most misunderstood, misinterpreted and widely abused terms is “SEO”, which stands for “Search Engine Optimization”.  Just enter those 3 letters in a search window, either on search engines or Youtube, and you’ll get links by the thousands. Most of them sell courses or snake-oil miracle cures for getting your website on “top of search results pages”.

Problem is, the internet is not working the same way as in the late 1990s anymore and search engines are far more sophisticated than you might believe. In other words: don’t think you’ll going to trick them with mediocre content and successfully rank a poorly designed, slow loading and interest lacking website! Content is King, now more than ever, and the only way for your website to rank is to prove that it brings something valuable into the ocean of already published pages. In other words, your website needs to prove it has some authority in its own specific sector – before even thinking about keywords.

It is also important to note that parameters are completely different for e-commerce sites and corporate ones or blogs that are more focused on content than articles on sale. It will be much more challenging to rank when selling yet another “whitening lotion” worldwide than when offering “website design” services in a particular region, as this website does for instance.

We are specialized in corporate websites for businesses, and we are often asked the same questions when initiating the design process with new clients. Here are the basics.

🔎 Go to the source: Search Engines are your friends!

Your business website and search engines (ex. Google and Bing) have common interests: you want your potential clients and prospects to easily find your website when searching for something that relates to your business and search engines want to serve the public with the most accurate search results in relation to their query.

That’s why your best source of information will always be provided by search engines.
If you are new in this field start here with this Beginners SEO Guide provided by Google.
And then follow-up with this Advanced SEO Guide also by Google.

BING has also published some words of wisdom in several guides. Most of them were published many years ago and still remain fundamental when working with SEO as those statements are still valid today and will never change. You will find links to them further down this article and here are 3 of them to start with:

🔶  Why is My Site Not in the Index?

🔶  Is SEO The Future? No, And Here’s Why

🔶  10 SEO Myths Reviewed

This last one above is essential to understand as it lists the 10 main myths the whole SEO industry is built upon.

Once you understand the basics and your website is published online, just head directly to the recommendations that search engines provide to you for free – simply because it is in their best interest to make available to you their best recommendations – instead of listening to pseudo SEO gurus that will simply interpret those recommendations in order to sell you some killer solutions or online courses.

For example, let’s take the generic search “rent car” and enter it in Google’s search box.
Immediately, both Google and Bing will list some “predictions”, based on other similar and popular searches:

TIP: you can lots more predictions if you add an asterisk (*) at the end of your query or all letters of the alphabet, one after the other (ex. rent car *, rent car a, rent car b, etc…).

Then, if you now scroll down the first search results page, you’ll also get “related searches” both at Google and Bing that are what other visitors, at the same location as you, are using for similar queries:

Those are, in fact, the basic keywords (or keyphrases) your site should integrate somehow in your pages if you offer “car rental services in Phnom Penh, Cambodia”.

Many sites will try to sell “keyword ideas” for your website while this is freely available from search engines directly!
Go to the source and type your business keywords. You’ll immediately get all other keyword search combinations you need – for free!

🔎 How keywords work

There is a lot of confusion about keywords and misunderstandings about their usage for websites nowadays.

In the early days of the internet and search engines, websites were using a specific “meta tag” entry for keywords. Meta tags are information in different fields provided for search engines in order to help them understand what your site is all about, as a website description for instance, but also whether your site should be indexed or not. They are listed when you right-click on any website and select the option “View page source”. Keywords were supposed to somehow define the nature of a website and help search engines understand what the content is all about, in early days of the internet.

Meta tags with keywords can still be found in legacy websites such as Myspace for instance in this screenshot:

meta tag for keywords

Do they really think that Google robots still need to read those keywords in order to understand what Myspace is all about? The funny thing is that if you search with 2 of those main keyphrases together “creative community empowering expression” you won’t even get Myspace website in search results – at all!

Search engines became far more “intelligent” over the years and those meta tags relating to keywords have definitely been abandoned and search engines DO NOT TAKE THEM INTO ACCOUNT ANYMORE. Don’t waste your time filling in keywords tags for your website.  The reason has been 2-fold: on one hand website owners were adding pure nonsense in those keywords – ex. “the best X product/service” – and on the other hand search engine algorithms have greatly evolved – especially with AI – and can now easily understand what your website is all about without having to describe your content to them.

This has been widely reported over the years in specialized websites and the SEO of Yoast, the most used SEO plugin for WordPress, explained everything very clearly a couple of years ago in this article that is a must-read before you move forward with keywords. And his conclusion says it all and also perfectly summarizes this current article:

No worries, because today, SEO consists of many other tactics that do have an impact. Because the reality is, that if you’re trying to rank for any term that’s even only a little competitive, meta keywords won’t help. You should write engaging, meaningful content on a technically well-optimized platform and get good links and social engagement. That’s what builds great rankings, meta keywords have nothing to do with it.

But keywords are nothing more than words or phrases that best describe or relate to your business and the services/products you are selling. If your pages do this job correctly those keywords will be automatically found by search engines. But you are probably not alone offering the same services and probably also not the only one in the same region!

That’s why you need to carefully search all keyphrases that may be used in search queries by visitors that will result in your website being listed in Search Engine Result Pages (SERP) and then carefully and wisely use them inside your pages, static and dynamic.

Don’t think that using the phrase “best XXX in Phnom Penh” all over your website will help! In fact, this is called “keyword stuffing” and will result in negative ranking because your site will be blacklisted. You need to prove that you are the best in this field or, at least, that your offer corresponds to what most people are searching for. And this can be achieved only by creating valuable content that corresponds to what visitors are searching on the internet and that will help build authority in your specific field.

🔎 Content, content and even more content!

Content is King and more content is better – but not always!
Because only quality content will help build your site’s authority (see below).

Usually, and especially for corporate businesses, websites are built with two sorts of content: static and dynamic.

Static pages are those that describe your business and offer references about your address and the way for visitors to get in touch: Homepage, Services and/or Products, About us, Contact us, etc.
Dynamic pages are mainly those found in your News or Blog section: periodic news articles that relate to your business that will help you stay in touch with your customers, reach new ones and mainly build authority in the sector you are active in.

Income School is a group of people specialized in creating successful blogs based on quality content and they are also running the course called Project 24. They are regularly publishing videos that are based on their research and results, like this one:

The more content you publish, the better. But not “any” content. Articles that relate to your business sector, your own activities and special timely opportunities and offers for instance. As Income School describes in this video, there are essentially 2 sorts of articles you’ll have to publish for a successful “Content Mix”:

Long content doesn’t always win, but good content usually does. Great content means well optimized for your target keywords AND useful to your audience. Long forms of content are helpful in ranking and should be part of every SEO strategy but should not be the core of it. Therefore it’s important to focus mainly on user concerns. In other words: meaningful content is more important than the number of words.

🔎 Building authority

When other websites link to your own, it becomes a positive vote of confidence and it is called backlinks. This is because it showcases to search engines that websites that link to you trust your business and your information. This is one of the easiest ways that Google evaluates the reputation of a business.  The variety, quality – based on the respective reputation level of each external website – and the number of backlinks that are targeted to a website allow search engines to interpret how well websites are being optimized and the type of information the site is about, and whether the user will find the information useful translating to bad or good bounce rates.

Authority is a qualitative measure that strengthens the overall ranking and visibility of a website. One of the core tactics of SEO professionals is to establish and boost authority. Other aspects of authority are informative content and building high-quality and effective links. However, you should remember that authority alone cannot guarantee search visibility. Authority is founded on two factors namely page authority and domain authority.

  • Page Authority: This is basically a metric that predicts how well web pages rank on the SERPs or search engine results pages. Higher page authority tends to increase the ranking potential of a prospective web page.
  • Domain Authority: This is a search engine ranking factor that is based on the size, age, and popularity of the domain. The domain authority of all the pages in a website is usually the same.

This means that there is a difference between ranking well “overall” with your website and getting good results for specific dynamic posts or static pages.

How do Search Engines determine trust and authority?

dictionary page with word businessSearch engines will determine how trustworthy your website is based on the number of backlinks that your website content has. If your website or specific pages of your website are linked from authoritative and credible websites, then the search engines will conclude that your site is also authoritative. Additionally, they will gauge trust based on how established the website is. Generally, the older your site is, the higher the authority.

Building relationship with prominent leaders in your niche industry usually takes time. This is true, especially for the type of valuable relationships that you require to earn links from their websites. Furthermore, it takes lots of time to prove that you can offer accurate and trustworthy information that is valuable linking to. High authority websites never give out links without cautious consideration and thought. Therefore, you must invest serious amounts of time reaching out to editors before they agree to link to your website.

Usually, when your website reaches a high authority level it will automatically create backlinks.

🔎 Where and how to find content ideas

Publishing regular news articles (aka blogging) is a perfect way for businesses to attract new clients to their websites. However, you need fresh and informative content if you want a successful marketing strategy. The best business blog is one that does not sell but shows consumers why they should choose your business rather than the competition.

Blog posts are quite beneficial to businesses since they can help to showcase the personal side of their organization that many clients do not see. You can help consumers know what the organization stands for, its mission and vision, and the best takeaways that clients get when they engage with your company.  You can also use blog posts to create value for both new and existing clients by thinking about what your audience what to know and creating informational content for your blogs.

Additionally, news articles and blog posts allow businesses to learn more about their clients and convert them into valuable leads. You can use them to communicate with clients and discover the topics that really interest them. You can also use blog posts to generate leads and boost your sales by building email lists for your email marketing campaigns.  Here are ideas of articles that can help to bring new visitors to your website and enable you to build solid customer relationships.

  • “How to” articles or tutorials
  • Interviews
  • Share your company story
  • Dos and Don’ts
  • Reviews
  • A comprehensive series regarding your products or services
  • Listicles
  • FAQ posts
  • Compare and contrast posts
  • About the local region
  • Myths and misconceptions regarding your industry (ex. this present article!)
  • Customer testimonials or success stories
  • Behind the scenes or a day in the life of your business
  • Current industry projections and trends
  • Informative case studies
  • Pros and cons
  • Interesting statistics related to your industry
  • Invite guest posts from a loyal customer or employee
  • A free checklist, tips list, or template

Today, consumers are no longer swayed by traditional ads. Instead, most internet users tend to interact with businesses through custom content on specially curated blogs or social media sites. Blog content now provide an opportunity for businesses to connect with their target audience, offer information regarding new products or services, and give lots of giveaways. With valuable articles, an organization can drive an impact regardless of its niche industry.

Finding topics related to your sector is not an easy task and requires some investigation. Search what your competition is doing and what sort of articles or news posts they are publishing. Otherwise, search at content aggregators in a particular thematic. For instance, if your business is about “car rental”, just head to QUORA and search this term like in this example.

In Google, just use their search engine to show you what other people are searching for a given topic. Just modify your query to be a question, like for the example above “rent a car” just type this instead “how to rent a car in Cambodia” and you’ll get a new section called “People also ask” that suggest several topic ideas for your new articles:

And one well-kept secret about a particular type of articles that rank high is finally revealed in this video, again by Income School:

We have experienced exactly the same sort of results here at this website: to date, we have only a single article that is a result of specific research and it is, by far, the best ranking in organic search at our website. It’s an article about the Surprising Desktop vs Mobile Internet Usage Growth in Cambodia, published last year.

🔎 Do not confuse visibility with ranking high or gaining traffic!

SEO is about ranking in search results and this does not directly relate to traffic. You can artificially get lots of traffic and still poorly rank in search results.

For instance, there are many different services on the internet where you can buy social signals for your website or social fan pages, which will drive additional traffic to your site. This does not bring any kind of long-term effect, but it can help you to increase your site rankings for a short time.

In fact, the main reason why the majority of people are getting involved in SEO is visibility. There are even many companies that offer SEO services, which is completely misleading because it’s not what search engine optimization is all about. The goal of good SEO implementation is to be found by customers who need your service or product. If you’re trying to get thousands or millions of customers who are looking for things that you don’t offer, you’ll fail.

Visibility with a perfectly designed website and gaining traffic or ranking in search are two sides of the same coin. However, they consist of different actions and they are related to different marketing aspects. In some situations, these terms are used together when referring to a similar set of activities and this can be quite confusing especially for individuals who are not familiar with them.

man holding 2 laser beam to the sky

What is better website visibility?

Better visibility is a major part of digital marketing strategy and knowledge of it is crucial regardless of the area of online marketing you specialize in. To enhance visibility on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) or organic traffic, businesses must invest in search engine optimization. This means that it is important for businesses to optimize their website to ensure that it becomes highly visible for relevant search engine searches.

What is website ranking on SRPs and gaining traffic?

Website ranking is a perfect way for businesses to reach their target audience. This mainly involves paid techniques to boost the visibility of the website. The most commonly used tool is advertising. To boost traffic or ranking of the business website, selected keywords are targeted. When users search for the keywords, then the website is pushed by putting an ad on it. Different strategies can be used to increase traffic on a website, for example, PPC or Pay-Per-Click. Ads can be used to promote your business website if the site is competing with well-established sites.

Website visibility and ranking or traffic basically refer to different advertising approaches. Website ranking and traffic mainly involves paid advertising while website visibility refers to acquiring, monitoring, and analyzing unpaid or organic traffic patterns.  If your website is new, it is best that you prioritize your PPC campaigns first since it will take time for your SEO rankings to be established. However, this does not mean that you completely ignore SEO during the initial stages of your website since both are important and complement each other.

🔎 The quest for Ranking First on search engine results is no longer important

For years, business owners have been battling to achieve the NUMBER 1 rankings on the search engines.

The problem here and today is that this notion of “rank first” doesn’t mean anything anymore as it is fully dependent on several other factors that you, the website owner, have no control over them.

Especially:
– what query will people use?
– from where, which country or location, will visitors connect to the search engine?
– what is the search history of the browser they are using?

Although there are many benefits of ranking number one on Google or other search engines, there are other essential things that businesses should focus on. There is too much competition for this spot and this means that you will spend lots of time, resources, and energy trying to beat the competition.

Unlike the past, organic rankings today are no longer the most noticeable on search engine result pages. New search entries such as Google’s knowledge graph box, rich answers, and searchers are now more eye-catching and will get more clicks compared to number one rankings on SERPs.

In addition, targeting keywords is now more difficult than it was before. This means that you must find a keywords selection that has lots of traffic and very little competition, which is difficult in today’s world. Furthermore, SEO has also changed and Google focuses on the most relevant content rather than exact matches. This means that you need to constantly update your SEO strategy.

Any organization wants to get more leads and boost their sales. Therefore, you need to stop thinking about short term goals such as ranking number one on Google. You should be focusing more on long-term goals like getting more customers and building solid relationships with them. You must ensure that your marketing efforts maximize your return on investment and the amount of cash that you are getting from search results. This is why you must employ strategies that will enable you to show up on Google and other areas of the internet as often as possible to acquire more leads and new clients.

Some businesses can rank number one on Google without spending lots of cash or other resources and this is great. However, you should never stress yourself or spend lots of cash just to get a first rank on Google. There are many other marketing strategies that will give you value for money and will yield better results.

laptop on table with coffe cup and smartphone

🔎 Main reasons why search engine results never look the same

Most people get confused about the different results that Google returns for each user using the same search queries and keywords. You can expect keywords to be different for users in different regions and counties. However, search results can be quite different from users in the same room. Search engine results can be affected by the following.

Location

Based on your location, the local version of Google results will be different. Your search may rank first in Google.us but may not be seen on Google.com. Website users must focus on more than just ranking first on SERPs because google detects the geographical locations of its users and offers customized results. This means that a user in New York will see different results from one in London.

Relevance on SERPs

Google strives to display content that is relevant to its users. Search engines determines whether your website content is relevant or not by looking at the keywords you have used and the topics that your website covers. You need to keep your web content relevant for your target audience by using keyword searches to find applicable topics that are valuable for your audience.

Algorithm Changes

Search engine algorithms are constantly changing to keep up with the changes to the web and how people search it. Major updates like Penguin and Panda will take place after every few months, but there are small tweaks made continuously. Therefore, those people who are using a version of Google where some algorithm changes have been made may see different results from those will a different version.

Personalization

The search results from search engines are personalized based on the previous searches of the users. The search history is stored for up to 180 days. Google will learn your habits and will prioritize these websites whenever it delivers future results. Although this boosts the user experience, website owners must understand the implications when it comes to the placement of their website in the search rankings.

It is important for website owners to know the factors that affect why users get different search results. However, there are limitations to what website owners can do about them. It is always best to focus on factors that you have control of and be aware that ranking in Google and other search engines will always vary between users. Therefore, focus on more than just trying to rank first on the SERPs.

In a Wrap

The number one position on search engines results (SERP) has always been a treasured possession. However, this should not be where most of your business resources are channelled owing to the complexity of the algorithms of major search engines. Today, there are many other avenues that also promise better and higher conversations. For example, Facebook has now become the leading social media traffic referring source on the World Wide Web today.

This simply means that businesses need to diversify their traffic sources and move beyond the search engines. Email marketing and social media marketing are now quite promising for those that desire huge customer engagement, fewer bounce rates, and more sales.

To summarize, Monster Insights listed here the 10 main ranking factors they found:

Additional SEO resources are compiled at this section of our website:

 

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There is More to Ranking Than Just Struggling to Rank First on the Search Results

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