The two minute introduction to SEO

You want to get your company found in Google, and you’ve heard that “SEO” — “Search Engine Optimization”, is the way to do it. So you do some research to find out what it is, but it gets complicated quickly. There’s many guides out there, but they’re complicated, so this is an Executive Summary of what you need to know about SEO.

“Getting found in Google” means getting found for specific phrases, like “small business recruiting software”. When someone types a search into Google, Google provides a list of sites that rank highest for this phrase. How does Google decide which sites to show first? There are a number of factors, and the formula Google uses is secret, but these are the big ones:

Backlinks – One of the most important SEO factors is which sites link to you. A link or “backlink” is like a vote, where another site is telling Google that you are a good source of information about the topic they’re linking. So if they link to you for “small business recruiting software”, then Google thinks you are more important for that phrase. But you don’t want links from just any site. You want links from sites with high “Domain Authority”: sites that many other sites have linked to, that have been around for a long time. Then Google boosts your site in search results for the title of the backlink. For example, getting a backlink to your blog from the SF Chronicle where the link text is “What to do in the Mission” will help you show up higher in Google results when people search that phrase. This part of SEO depends on researching news and blog sites that have high authority in your niche, and reaching out to them when you have high-value content of interest to their readers. My agency does this research and outreach.

High Value, Specialized Content – Producing content that provides high value to your target audience. Some sources of high value include proprietary data analysis, interviews with people who are experts in your field, and aggregating data that is hard to find such as pricing information or specialized job opportunities. Content can also include tools like cost calculators.

On-Page SEO – Making sure that your page’s meta tags match what people are looking for on your site. For example, if people come to your site to find “Small Business Recruiting Software”, make sure that is also in the title of the site.
Researching your site data to understand which keywords are most likely to cause customers to convert, and then optimizing your pages and site for those keywords, and tracking on an ongoing basis how your site appears in search results for those keywords relative to your competitors.

Technical SEO – Making sure that the tecnical aspects of your site comply with Google’s SEO best practices, so that Google shows your site in search. For example, making sure that each page clearly describes its purpose to Google with metadata, and that the site overall is easy for Google to crawl.

SEO Page Buildout – Making sure that the pages of your site match common queries that users search for. For example, if you search “Best Chinese Restaurants Nob Hill”, a Yelp page surfaces for result 1, titled “The Best 10 Chinese Restaurants near Nob Hill, San Francisco, CA”. This buildout process can be done at scale with software.

There you go, a short guide to some SEO basics. Hopefully this demystifies SEO a bit for you, and helps you understand how to evaluate SEO consultants.