Demystifying Search Engine Optimization (or SEO)

I’m going to share something with you that a lot of digital marketers in the field don’t want you to know.

Search engine optimization is EASY to do, and the only expense to you is TIME.

What does this mean? It means you don’t have to be out thousands of dollars because some firm has convinced you that they have unlocked the “secret” Google code. Sure there’s an algorithm that Google relies upon to categorize their search data. They tinker with it (Panda), and tinker with it (Penguin) and if past actions are any indicator, they will tinker with it again.

One thing that has never changed, and will never change, is Google’s driving principles and values. They care about the end user. They want their search engine to be the smartest, most comprehensive search engine in the modern age; this means continually cataloging and indexing millions of websites a day so that your search for “homemade body deodorant” yields the best information that exists on the web.

When optimizing your own website, there is no secret code. This isn’t rocket science (I do know a couple rocket scientists personally, and I can attest that what I do and what they do is mutually exclusive).

Let’s start with the basics. What is SEO? SEO simply refers to the process of tailoring your content (in a page, blog post, product listing etc.) to a specific keyword search term (or phrase), so that your website appears in a Google search listing.

I’ll give you an example.

First visit the Google Keyword Tool:

Type in your keyword (or keyword phrase), fill out the security captcha, and hit “Search.”

google-keyword-tool1

Now look to your left–do you see a menu that says “Match Types: Broad”? Uncheck “Broad” and it will give you a listing for other options. Select “[Exact]”.

google-keyword-tool-match-types

The [Exact] option will give you a more accurate estimate of the number of searches within the Google search engine, and not inflate your results with their Adsense network (which we’ll discuss another time).

Google will populate a list of keywords (and phrases), along with the estimated monthly searches for that term:

google-keyword-tool-searches

You’ll see that my keyword phrase [almond pulp muffins] is rather low; Google estimates only 28 monthly searches for that phrase. However, if we look at [almond pulp cookies], that number increases to 170; that means that Google estimates roughly 170 web searches for that keyword phrase, per month. Competition for both of these phrases is low, indicating that there aren’t many websites out there which are optimized for the phrase, or at least indexed for that phrase specifically.

For me, these phrases are what I call low-hanging fruit.

Even with no pagerank (seriously I’ve checked, and I’ve got nada), I still managed to get my blog post about almond pulp muffins to page 1, rank #3 on a Google search:

almond-pulp-muffin-rank

(In case you forgot where you were, my website is apieceofconversation.com.) My little blog post on almond pulp muffins has got me on page 1. Was that post intentional? You bet it was. If you’ve been studying and implementing SEO as long as I have, sometimes you just get a feeling for what keywords are good to target. In my case, I did a few searches of almond pulp recipes (because making almond milk yields a bit in pulp), and I was pretty unimpressed with what was out there.

When you aren’t finding websites that are giving you the information you’re looking for, you know competition is low.

Another SEO example is my blog post on the new brand of dog food, I and Love and You. They’re pretty new on the market, but I’ve been watching them the last 3 months and they’re making huge strides. It was the perfect opportunity to do a test and see if I could rank for their brand.

And I did.

I-and-love-and-you-google-search

It’s not page 1, but I’ll take page 2; I’m ranked #12. The Google Keyword Tool still indicates competition for this search term as “low,” but the number of monthly searches is at 140. Not too shabby.

In my two search examples, did you notice the bolded phrases? Those are the exact words that were used in the search term. A quick scan of your search results indicates which websites has more or less of those terms. Google also likes to rank importance from left to right, top to bottom. That means it’s better to put the keyword phrase you’re targeting closer to the left, and and towards the top of your page.

Finally, that blue text in my listing (and the description below it), didn’t just happen. That is what we call meta data. Meta data isn’t something you see when you visit the site, it’s in the code, working behind the scenes. The meta data is what Google and other search engines scan first, before proceeding to your title (which should be in an <H1> tag), your subtitle (<H2>) and finally the first couple of sentences of your paragraph.

I know it sounds overwhelming, but it’s just developing good consistency between your content-title-meta data.

Here’s a no-fail way to create good SEO:

  1. Find a keyword phrase with low competition but yields high search results
  2. Write your content, and include your keyword phrase (or slight variation of it) 2-3 times in the first paragraph
  3. Write your headline and subheadline, include your keyword phrase
  4. Copy your keyword-rich headline into your meta title field
  5. Copy your keyword-rich 2-3 intro sentences as your meta description
  6. Make a mojito

Ok maybe you don’t need a mojito, but I find that I perform better when there are incentives.

The objective isn’t necessarily to put all your eggs into a single search term. Instead, think of your posts branching out. If each post can drive even 50 visits a day to your site, you’ll watch traffic grow. And fast.

So there you go, SEO isn’t rocket science after all. What’s next? Luckily I do have a post lined up for some almond pulp cookies, so let’s see if I can start ranking there as well.

If at the end of this post you’re still unwavered and firmly believe there’s a secret code to SEO then please, then at least save a few bucks by perusing one of the several offerings about the subject on Amazon.

Good luck!