Ah, the mysterious world of search engine optimization (SEO). You’ve likely heard of this term, but what is it, exactly, and how can you find the key to cracking Google’s top-ranking codes?

In essence, good SEO helps your website page rank higher than competitors’ on Google and other search engines, driving more organic traffic to your site.

Let’s explore the SEO basics, rights and wrongs to help you fine-tune your current strategy.

What Is SEO, & Why Does It Matter?

When you search online, how often do you proceed to page two of results…or even three? If you said, “Practically never,” you’re in good company: 99.4% of web users never make it there, either.

Page 1 is where the magic happens, and that’s where SEO comes in. The goal is to match users’ keywords with quality content that answers their questions, which makes pages rank higher.

The Basics: 3 Elements of SEO

Many assume SEO is solely defined by having the right “keywords” or “keyphrases” on your webpage. In essence, these are the terms you strategically include in your website content that meet people’s search inquiries, based on how often they’re searched.

For example, a local pizza restaurant may have a keyphrase like “best pizza near me,” which they’d incorporate throughout the site to match Google’s search volume formula.

However, while keywords can improve your rankings as one of the most important SEO components, there are several additional elements that pertain to the big picture of your search-capturing success.

  • On-Page: Broadly, this includes keywords, meta descriptions, meta titles, header hierarchy, images, alt tags, URLs and overall content quality.
  • Off-Page: This includes backlinking (other sites linking to yours), guest posting and exposure through social media and all other media channels — all tying into your greater PR strategy.
  • Technical: Critical elements like your website load time, accessibility, mobile-friendliness and more could make-or-break an interested searcher into a passerby within milliseconds.

SEO Isn’t a One-and-Done Task with Instant Results

So, you’ve set up your site with all the above. Now what? It’s important to note SEO results don’t happen overnight. Google’s algorithm, user behaviors and competitor strategies are always changing, so it may take months of patience before it recognizes your content is truly valuable.

Keep these tips in mind — and know that when keeping up with the SEO Jones’s becomes overwhelming, we’re here to help.

  • SEO Is Dynamic: An SEO best practice six months ago may not be pertinent now, as algorithms practically evolve by the minute. It’s critical to analyze metrics and revise or remove underperforming keywords often.
  • SEO Takes Time: These tactics should all be part of a long-term strategy that weaves in content marketing (like blogs, whitepapers and infographics) and builds over time. In other words, Google typically needs to see fresh content, relevant keywords and a quality user experience (UX) before it shows your site the love it deserves.

More Keywords Better Outcomes

High-quality content is king. There’s a delicate balance between using too many keywords or not enough. Additionally, using shady tactics to sneak them in won’t look good in Google’s eyes. Too much emphasis could be perceived as “keyword stuffing,” and also seem unnatural to the reader. Too few could nullify your SEO efforts.

It’s best to focus on a few quality terms and distribute them well throughout the page.

Metadata Has Taken a Backseat — But Is Still Important

Metadata incorporates both meta titles and meta descriptions, which will appear on Google searches.

  • Meta titles are a short, snappy headline leveraging a top keyword — this doesn’t necessarily need to align exactly with the actual title of your blog.
  • Meta descriptions are an equally short and snappy summary of your post or page, also ideally including a top keyword.

These two components serve as the “preview” you see before clicking on a search link.

In the early days of SEO, metadata reigned supreme for determining rankings. Now Google focuses more on the genuine quality of the page and how effectively it answers users’ questions. However, these are two best practices that should never be skipped.

AI-Generated Content Probably Isn’t Helping

Frequent, fresh content on your site is important for SEO, but using AI tools like ChatGPT to simply crank out a bunch of blogs may not bring the results you seek.

Google gets smarter by the day in terms of detecting an actual writer versus AI, and it will go with an actual writer any chance it can — because human content with a writer’s touch is more likely to suit search intent and simply ranks higher.

Elevating Your SEO Strategy

Google Ads and SEO are not the same, but they can work together. SEO — not to be confused with paid search, A.K.A. Google Ads or pay-per-click (PPC) ads — helps organizations organically rank higher than their competitors.

The below image shows the big difference: The first link is PPC, noted by “Sponsored” to show its paid-ad status. The second link is the first organic result, which means the source’s excellent SEO made it land as the very first non-paid page. Distinguishing between these is the first step toward a strong strategy.

semrush sponsored and organic listings (1)

Your business may or may not require both tactics, but, if you want to leverage both, note that they won’t compete. Operating in separate verticals, SEO and PPC can collaborate to create a killer digital search campaign. Just note that keywords for each tactic may vary, just like their unique strategies do.

Longer Content Isn’t Always Better Content

No need to start your next blog or webpage with a certain word count in mind, as it’s better to let the content speak for itself. Length should depend on search intent and overall content value.

Write with the reader top of mind while keeping Google’s SEO intricacies back of mind, and ask yourself if the piece adequately speaks to what users actively search. In time, a mix of long-, medium- and short-form content will naturally occur. SEO is a tricky marketing concept that’s hard to execute well; but when you do, your site will perform like never before. Need assistance with SEO, paid search and everything in between when it comes to navigating a sound digital strategy? We’re here to help escalate your online efforts. Let’s chat!