SEO can be complex and sometimes overly-complex or even complication. There are hundreds of "ranking factors", so how do you figure it all out?
Searching Google for SEO ranking factors is surprisingly not helpful. You will get numerous differing answers and opinions based on which articles you read. The reality is that each website and each business situation is unique and different, there is no cookie cutter option to SEO.
In this article, I want to simplify things and outline the four cores of SEO.
Four cores of SEO
The four core areas of SEO that you need to understand are:
- Technical SEO: How well can your content can be crawled and indexed by search engines?
- Content: Is your content relevant and of quality?
- On-site SEO: The optimization of your content and HTML elements on the page.
- Off-site SEO: Build authority to help Google favor you.
Of course, these four cores have some complexity, but understanding what is relevant to you and where you can best spend your time is key.
1. Technical SEO
Technical SEO can seem intimidating, but what I'm talking about is ensuring that a search engine can analyze your content and explore your site. If you use a CMS, most of this will be easy to manage.
Technical SEO is one of the most important cores for quality SEO, thus why it's the first thing I will talk about.
The main areas to consider for your technical SEO are:
- Crawl - Can a search engine navigate your whole site?
- Index - Is it clear which pages the search engines should index?
- Mobile - Does your site adapt for mobile users?
- Speed - Fast load times are critical for search engines and visitors.
- Technology / CMS - Are you using search engine-friendly technology or CMS?
- Hierarchy - How is your content structured and categorized?
If you're using WordPress, technical SEO is something that can be very easily accomplished. If you have a more complex website or using a different CMS, then you might have to spend more time. We use WordPress exclusively because of the user friendliness and ease of management.
Maybe you remember that content is king or maybe you haven't learned that yet. I can't emphasize enough that quality and relevant content is extremely important. Your content tells visitors who you are, what you do, work you've already done and why visitors should choose you.
It’s important to realize that SEO is important for all kinds of content. Optimization is often forgotten when it comes to credibility content like reviews, testimonials and case studies.
Ensure you optimize all of your marketing content, including case studies, portfolio entries and testimonials — not just the obvious pages.
We still see many cookie cutter approaches to SEO, where local businesses are paying for blog posts that are not a good fit. Ensure that all of your content is optimized and that it's a good fit for your marketing tactics.
3. On-site SEO
Your website should be optimized as a whole and on individual page level. You have to start with a well-structured hierarchy for your site before you move to on-site SEO.
The main areas to focus for on-site SEO are:
- Keyword Research - Understand who your target audience is and what they want.
- Descriptive URLs - Ensure each URL is simple yet descriptive and not a long dynamic URL that doesn't make sense.
- Page Titles - Use keywords organically within the page title.
- Heading Tags - Use keywords appropriately within all of your heading tags (H1, H2, H3 etc)
- Meta Descriptions - Craft meta descriptions like they were the golden egg to your visitors.
- Content Optimization - Ethically use keywords with variations in your content.
- User Experience (UX) - Ensure your site is enjoyable and easy to navigate.
- Calls to Action - Make it simple and obvious for users to know what to do next.
When optimizing your site, consider your visitors perspective. If you are a local business, then local SEO is critically important, and your address, location and phone number become crucial optimization elements.
4. Off-site SEO
All SEO eventually arrives at off-site SEO, summarized as authority building. Building your authority takes time and involves the never ending tactic of link building.
You only want links from relevant sources. You need to create something that deserves links and have links where it makes sense. Sounds simple enough...
These kinds of natural links should be the backbone of your link-building strategy. You might have to revisit the content on your site and update it to be more valuable, but it's worth it.
SEO doesn't need to be overly complex. There are four cores of SEO that you need to focus on: technical SEO, quality and relevant content, on-page SEO and off-site SEO.
WordPress allows you to integrate and manage various plugins such as All In One SEO, Broken Link Checker, Redirection, Contact Forms 7, iThemes Security, W3 Total Cache, WP Smush, NextScripts and more. Utilizing WordPress as your CMS will make your SEO efforts much easier.