An Intro to SEO – AKA, Making Google love your site

At Echo-Factory, we build websites.  But what many business owners don’t understand is that often, launching a website is just the beginning of a process.  Let’s start with an example.

Say you’re a business that sells nose hair trimmers.  You’re ready to start selling them online, so you build a website, launch it, and wait for the customers to start rolling in.  The problem is, they don’t.  So you head over to Google and type in “Nose Hair Trimmers,” only to find that your site doesn’t come up anywhere in the search results.  Quelle horreur. 

This is where Search Engine Optimization, SEO, comes in.  At its most basic level, SEO is the process of convincing Google that your site is worth returning in searches related to your site. 

On-Page SEO

At Echo-Factory, we separate our SEO services into two areas, on-page SEO and off-page SEO.  On-page SEO refers to things that we can do on your site.  Things like making sure you have keywords worked in to your pages that will be relevant to what people are searching for, formatting and arranging things in ways that make it easy for Google to understand and index those keywords.  We think of this as the foundation of SEO.  Like in construction, evereything else we’re going to build depends on this foundation being solid, so we want to make sure we get it right.

Off-Page SEO

Once we’ve completed our initial on-page SEO optimization, we move on to off-page SEO. Beyond on-page optimization, the way that Google tells how valuable your site is, is by looking at what other sites link to yours. 

So, if you put your nose hair trimmer site online, and zero other sites link to it, Google thinks, “Well, nobody’s linking to this new site, so it’s probably not very valuable.” 

But the solution isn’t just as simple as getting a bunch of links.  The quality and type of the links you get matters as well.  Google assigns a ranking to every single page on the internet.  They call it a pagerank. The higher your pagerank, the more valuable Google thinks you are.  Sites like Wikipedia have a very high pagerank.  Sites that Google thinks are spammy or useless have a very low pagerank.  If you want to improve your chances of coming up in searches for your target terms, you need links from sites that Google thinks are valuable, sites with a higher page rank.

Of course, this just scratches the surface.  There are plenty of other variables that affect what sites come up for any given search. But the underlying principle remains the same.  If you can get a respected site to link to you, it will help your search rankings.

What It Looks Like

When we take on an SEO project, we start with on-page content, building the foundation for what we’re doing next.  When that’s done, we move on to off-page SEO.  Practically, this means creating reasons for other sites to link to our clients, and convincing them to do just that. 

In practice, SEO is hard work.  It takes time to create good content, and to approach other webmasters and bloggers, develop relationships with them and convince them to link to our client’s site.  But when it’s done properly, it pays off.

The Payoff

The reason we often encourage our clients to invest in SEO is that it often pays off in big ways.  The obvious alternative to SEO is paid online advertising.  While paid online advertising can be effective, long term, good SEO campaigns can give a far higher return on investment. 

With paid online advertising, you generally pay per visit to your website.  Say the keywords you’re targeting cost $1.50 per click.  That means that bringing 5,000 visitors to your site will cost $7,500, and once you’ve spent that money, the ads stop running and the visitors stop coming.

If you invested that same $7,500 in SEO, you might not get 5,000 visitors immediately, but you’ll likely get far more than 5,000 visitors in the long run.  And unlike paid advertising, the benefits of SEO can keep bringing visitors to your site long after the campaign has ended.

Pitfalls

The world of SEO is filled with less than honest providers. The truth is that good SEO takes hard work, and if anyone promises you great SEO results for incredibly low prices, watch out. 

We’ve worked with a few clients who have fallen prey to SEO schemes.  These schemes will promise things like “1000 links for $50” – and while they technically deliver these links by throwing up thousands of junk links on a network of spam sites, they do more harm than good. 

In the cases where we’ve taken on sites that have fallen prey to these schemes, we’ve had to spend several months simply undoing the damage that’s already been done. 

Learn More

If you’re ready to learn more about SEO, Wikipedia is a great place to start.  If you’re interested in trying it on your own, our favorite tools are Google Analytics and Mint for tracking your site’s traffic, SEOMoz for some of the best SEO analysis and tracking tools on the internet, and Scribe for monitoring the SEO potential of any article or blog post. 

And of course, if you’re interested in Echo-Factory taking on your site’s SEO, let us know.  We’d love to hear from you.