Ever wonder how Google chooses which websites to rank first for any given search? Say you’re trying to decide where to go out for dinner. Italian sounds good, so you go to Google and search “Italian restaurants in Minneapolis.” Google produces countless results and you quickly find one towards the top of the list that sounds appealing.
Google uses a complex algorithm. When businesses want their site to rank well, they employ search engine optimization (SEO) to make their site attractive to the engine’s algorithm.
If you’ve invested in digital marketing for your Minneapolis business, you’ve probably heard of SEO. However, while SEO is a useful digital marketing strategy, it’s still largely misunderstood by business owners. Some believe it’s a magic trick that will rocket your site to number one on Google. Others may have the mistaken idea that SEO is only for Fortune 500 companies, and still others may be confused about the difference between SEO, SEM, PPC, and other digital marketing strategies. SEO can be complicated, but at MLT Group we specialize in helping demystify SEO and digital marketing.
WHO ARE WE?
The professionals at MLT Group have been helping businesses and organizations all across the country with digital marketing, SEO, website design and building, videography, and more. Over the years, we’ve significantly grown our SEO services, pioneering creative solutions to our clients’ needs, such as our full-service blog writing division. We only use white hat techniques, approved by Google, which ensures that your SEO is done effectively and ethically.
WHAT IS SEO?
While SEO can help your website rank well on search engines, it’s anything but magic. SEO is an ever-evolving set of strategies that make your website more appealing to search engines, such as Google, resulting in your site ranking higher for searches related to your products or services. The different strategies used to optimize your site are calculated, tailored to your industry and beneficial to your business’ goals.
Why All the Confusion?
Because search engines are always updating their algorithms to benefit users, SEO strategies are always changing to better meet the new standards. This means the strategies that worked yesterday may be obsolete or even detrimental today. That’s why it’s imperative that your SEO firm stays current on evolving trends.
Also, SEO is the culmination of a variety of strategies performed both on and off a business’ website. All of these strategies, when working together, produce the most impact. Utilizing only a few methods won’t garner the same results.
You may be asking yourself, what’s onsite vs. offsite SEO? What are the different strategies used to encourage positive rankings? Don’t worry, we’ll answer more questions below.
First, let’s dispel some of the common misconceptions about SEO.
4 Common Myths About SEO
“Results are instantaneous.”
You’re probably familiar with emails and calls from ‘Google Experts’ promising that they’ll get your site to rank #1 in a week. These communications are spammy and their promises aren’t realistic. With SEO you don’t just flip a switch and suddenly rank number one on Google. SEO consists of a variety of strategies all working together to improve your rankings, but it takes time. Google looks at a variety of ranking factors, such as relevant content, quality backlinks, and consistency. Utilizing a combination of good practices in each of these areas can effectively improve a site’s ranking over time.
“The more keywords I have, the higher I’ll rank.”
Long gone are the days of ‘keyword stuffing,’ where websites would dedicate pages of content to simply listing a variety of keywords in the hope of to improve their rankings. Now, keyword stuffing isn’t just ineffective, Google penalizes sites engaging in this and other spammy black hat practices. Instead, Google favors using long-tail keyphrases which are more highly targeted due to their length and detail. The search volume for long-tail keyphrases tend to be lower, however, because they are more specific, they garner better results. For example, the long-tail keyphrase “open-toe high heels for sale” may not have as high of a search volume as “shoes for sale,” but consumers searching for “open-toe high heels for sale” know what they want and are more likely to buy when finding that specific product. Determining the best long-tail keyphrases to use for your business depends on your target audience and what they are searching for. Utilizing long-tail keywords in your content is as much of an art as it is a science.
“SEO is one-and-done.”
While there are some elements of SEO you can set and leave, such as meta tags and alt tags, many SEO strategies require ongoing attention to be successful. For example, Google favors websites that are regularly updated with quality content. As we mentioned before, consistency is key! The best practices for SEO change as search engines update their algorithms. To be successful, it’s imperative that businesses in Minneapolis and the greater Twin Cities area stay at the forefront of the latest SEO strategies, and that means continuing to solicit quality backlinks, create quality content, and maintain positive reviews and citations.
“The only goal is to rank #1!”
While ranking number one is great, it shouldn’t be your only goal. Search engine algorithms try to provide users with the resources that best match their search. Your goal should be for your site to generate leads and sales by appealing to the most relevant searches by your target audience. This doesn’t always mean ranking number one; it could include ranking in the top 3 for a broader variety of high value search terms. Use your knowledge of your target audience and their needs to guide your SEO efforts so when they see your site in their search results, they’ll click, even if you’re not number one.
Onsite SEO Strategies
Onsite SEO strategies are those we implement directly to your site. These strategies can include:
SEO Friendly Coding
The engines return results ranked in order of their perceived value to the searcher when a user enters a search into Google. Search engines send out bots to crawl through websites, evaluating them for relevance. When we build a website, we utilize clean coding strategies, making it easier for bots to crawl your website and better understand what your site offers. This improves your site’s appeal to the search engine. Other elements that affect your ranking include load speeds, or how long it takes for a page on your website to load. Slow load speeds are a negative ranking factor for search engines, but also contribute to high bounce-rates on your site. That can mean users are visiting your site, becoming impatient with the slow load speed, and leaving. Our SEO friendly coding techniques make your website appealing to both search engines and users by making the site easy to understand and fast loading.
Original, Optimized Content
Search engines want to provide users with results that effectively and accurately answer their queries. This means the content on your website should be sufficient in length, include longtail keyphrases, and be regularly updated. It’s also imperative that the content on your site be both original and informative. After all, search engines recommend sites largely due to their perceived value as a good resource. A blog can be a useful tool for regularly updating your site. They are a great way to keep your site updated with fresh, optimized content and can expand your digital footprint over time, attracting attention from search engines.
Having your website mobile optimized isn’t just a positive ranking factor, it’s just good business sense. Since 2014 Google has reported more traffic from mobile devices than desktops. With an increasing number of consumers searching for goods and services on their mobile devices right when and where they need them, the importance of a mobile optimized site has never been greater. Non-optimized sites are suffering as Google gives ranking priority to mobile optimized sites for mobile searches.
Your content isn’t the only thing that can garner attention from search engines. If the images and video on your website are well optimized using alt tags and image descriptions, they will also help you rank for related searches.
Offsite SEO Strategies
Offsite SEO strategies enhance your web presence beyond your website. This includes elements such as:
Do you know if your online identity is correct and consistent? Online directories such as Google, Yelp, and Manta scrape together information for their listings from across the internet. Unfortunately, this means listings aren’t always correct as directories rely on user and owner feedback to correct them. If you haven’t claimed, corrected, and optimized the listings for your businesses, it’s likely they are incorrect, especially if you’ve moved or changed phone numbers within the last few years. Incorrect information in these online sources is bad for consumer confidence and can negatively affect Google rankings.
Having positive online reviews also benefits your rankings. This is especially true for local searches and map results on Google. Google is always trying to better understand their users to provide them with the results they’re looking for. When a user is searching for a local business, they’ll likely take reviews into account. Therefore, Google considers having positive online reviews as a potent ranking factor.
Backlinks are links from another site to yours. Receiving backlinks from high-authority sites essentially gives your site credibility and is a positive ranking factor on search engines. It’s as if one site with a good reputation is recommending yours to users. However, backlinks from low-authority, or irrelevant, poor quality sites can count as a negative ranking factor. For example, if you’re a sports equipment retailer and you receive a backlink from a floral company may appear spammy to search engines who may then penalize your site. How do you earn quality backlinks? Strategies include writing guest posts for related websites, who may then link back to your site. Also, you can monitor mentions of your business across the internet using a tool like Google Alerts. If your business is mentioned, you’ll receive a notification and, if the mention isn’t already linked to your website, you can request a backlink.
Which Strategy is Most Effective?
There is no one strategy that is most effective for improving your rankings. A successful SEO campaign should implement multiple strategies that all work together. Utilizing just one SEO technique isn’t enough to stay competitive.
What to Expect From SEO
So, you’ve optimized your website using all of the techniques we’ve talked about. Now your site will rocket to number one on Google, right? Not quite. It takes time for search engines to crawl through your site and evaluate it. They also want to see steady growth in the form of updated content and accumulating backlinks. Generally, we see SEO campaigns reach maturity in 12 months. However, that doesn’t mean you have to wait a year to get results. With the right SEO campaign, your site will begin building rank within the first 60 days, often achieving first page results for some searches within the first three months. Your site should continue to return improving results over each subsequent month. That doesn’t mean you stop after a year. Implementing ongoing SEO techniques will secure your rankings and keep you from backsliding.
MLT Group has proven to be an industry leader in digital marketing and SEO strategy, working with a variety of businesses in varied industries all across the country. We develop and implement well-rounded SEO campaign, utilizing white hat, onsite, and offsite techniques to help your website reach your target audiences. To compete in the Minneapolis and Twin Cities market, SEO is no longer optional for businesses. Schedule your FREE consultation today to learn more!