Insight April 1, 2021

Digital Marketing 101: A beginner’s guide to search engine optimization

A quick note about Digital Marketing 101

Digital marketing can get complicated. The further you dive into digital marketing, the more technical it becomes. If you’re just getting started, you might feel a little overwhelmed – but don’t worry. Our Digital Marketing 101 series will take you through the basics of search engine optimization (SEO), paid search, and paid social. Arm yourself with this knowledge to drive more traffic to your website and keep growing your business.

What is digital marketing?

Digital marketing. Online marketing. Internet advertising. The process of marketing your company online goes by many names. Whatever you call it, digital marketing is just another way to connect with and influence potential customers.

Digital marketing encompasses any online marketing efforts or assets. Anything you do to promote your business online could be considered a digital marketing effort, but here are a few of the most common tactics marketers use:

  • SEO
  • Paid search
  • Paid social
  • Email marketing
  • Content marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Video marketing

Almost anything can be a digital marketing asset if you use it to market your business online. Here are just a few examples of common assets you may have at your disposal:

  • Company website
  • Branded assets (e.g., logos or icons)
  • Video content
  • Images (e.g., infographics or product photos)
  • Written content
  • Reviews or testimonials
  • Social media pages
  • Google My Business page

How does SEO help?

One of the most important digital marketing assets at your disposal is your website. If you want to convert potential customers, getting them to view and engage with the content on your website should be a top priority. But how do you help people find your website?

Chances are, when you are looking for a product or service and don’t already have a company in mind, you’ll turn to a search engine like Google.

Search engines (like Google and Bing) crawl websites to determine what they are about and use that information to match relevant websites to a user’s search query. The problem is that search engines speak a different language than we do – HTML. SEO allows your website to speak to search engines to help them understand, categorize, and index your content.

What do I need to do to optimize my website?

SEO has many components. It involves both on-page (front-end) and technical (back-end) elements of your website.

Front-end components are adjustments that can be made to help users, as well as bots, understand your website. Back-end optimization, on the other hand, can be seen only by search engines, crawlers, and bots. If search engines can’t understand the back-end of your website, then it doesn’t matter how good your website looks – it won’t rank well on search engine results pages.

As you start to optimize your website, there are several front-end and back-end adjustments that you should consider:

User experience (UX). Google cares about how easy it is for users to find what they’re looking for on your website. It makes sense if you think about it this way: Say you raved about a product or service to a friend, they took your recommendation, and they pursued additional information or even purchased that product or service. You would be disappointed or even embarrassed if that friend had a poor experience with the brand you recommended. Well, Google is doing the same thing.

Users are searching for content around particular items on Google’s search engine and, in return, Google is sending users to specific online stores/websites. If your website ensures a positive user experience, that encourages users to utilize Google’s search engine time and time again.

Therefore, website UX is important to Google – and becoming even more so in 2021. Google has created metrics called Core Web Vitals that include user-centered, real-world metrics to assign scores to different aspects of your web pages. This includes things like stability of content and load, interactivity, and load time – all items that pertain to the UX of your website.

Focus on improving page speed, bounce rate, time on page, page views per visit, and scrolls down the page. This will improve the user experience, satisfy Google’s Core Web Vitals, and move your organic ranking to the top of the Google search page.

Mobile optimization. Your website does not need to be mobile-friendly anymore; since 2019, it needs to be mobile-first. Meaning that Google defaults to indexing and ranking the mobile version of your website over desktop. If you want Google to take note of your website, you need a responsive web design.

Image optimization. There are some key reasons that image optimization is important:

  1. Compressing your images helps with page speed, which results in a quicker load time and is key for the UX.
  2. Utilizing alt text (i.e., the written copy that appears in place of an image on a web page if the image fails to load) to describe your images helps Google identify photos when it is crawling your website.
  3. Providing an image sitemap helps Google process images, since CSS images are not indexed.

Secure website update. From an SEO perspective, Google has publicly shared they will increase rankings on a secure website over one that is not encrypting. Purchasing and installing a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate can help you secure customer data by encrypting information you send between a browser and a web server, as well as increase your Google rankings. This not only increases your security, but also increases your customer’s confidence.

Keyword research. Due to the rise of mobile and voice search, Google’s new search algorithm is analyzing phrases instead of focusing on a single keyword. Long-tail keyword variations and keyword clusters are now recommended over single keywords to produce successful search results.

Low-volume keywords. It is easy to want more, but you must aim for balance. While long-tail keywords and keyword clusters may drive more traffic to your website, it is also important to use low-volume keywords that align with your products and services.

Video. Video has definite SEO benefits. If your website has a mixture of not only text but also high-quality visuals, like video, it shows search engines that your pages are varied as well as informative. It is expected that Google will continue to increase the ranking of video for SEO as consumers demand video in their search results. So, focusing on video will boost your rankings now with the anticipation of a rise in importance in the near future. Plus, you can cross-post your videos on YouTube, which is the second largest search engine in the world, to drive more traffic to your website.

Local rankings. The rise of mobile has increased the importance of optimizing for local searches. Approximately 50% of searches are seeking local information, and the user will drive to or call a local store from their smartphone within 24 hours. Google also claims that 18% of local searches will lead to a sale on that very day – more than double the 7% of sales from non-local searches.

You can localize your business by setting up Google My Business, creating local content and maps, and optimizing your social channels to help you earn reviews.

Meta descriptions. With meta descriptions, you can control what users will see when your website comes up on a search engine results page. Although they do not help with SEO and do not affect your Google ranking, meta descriptions can influence users to click on your page. They can also be copied over to shared content on Google and social media platforms, and can and will encourage click-throughs.

Meta descriptions should be under 160 characters and cut off at 120 on mobile. This can sometimes be deceiving because Google has allowed up to 220 characters in the past.

Pop-ups. Beware of intrusive pop-ups that disrupt the user’s ability to access content on the page – especially mobile devices. This can penalize your SEO ranking. If you are offering something valuable and relevant, you will most likely not want to sacrifice the user experience with pop-ups.

Final thoughts

It’s important to remember that while website traffic will increase organically from SEO, you need a variety of sources driving traffic to your website in order to be successful. It is crucial to your rankings to have referral, social, and other sources (such as publications outside of Google driving traffic). We’ll talk about another important web traffic driver, paid search, in our next Digital Marketing 101 post.

Are you ready to take your digital marketing to the next level? Let’s talk.

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