That is a real question I’ve been asked on multiple occasions. I don’t feel I really need to answer it here however, I think this is a great platform to explain what Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is, what it isn’t and why you need it for your website.
Why can’t you just call Google and tell them you want to be #1 for your search term?
I like to use the analogy of a race car when talking about why you need Search Engine Optimization. Imagine you and your competitor each have a brand new finely tuned race car.
The race starts and for the first few laps you are neck and neck. Then car #1 hits the pit stop, they fill the gas, change the tires and tweak the performance settings. Car #2 skips their pit stop and gains a lead. But then, after a few more laps Car #1 starts to catch up and eventually pulls a head. After a few more pit stops and fine tuning Car #1 eventually gets so far ahead it can stop for a tune-up and still maintain it’s lead. Eventually Car #2 breaks down or runs out of gas and disappears from the race. Search Engine Optimization is the process of keeping your website ahead of the competition.
Obviously I am suggesting that Car #1 is the website that is being optimized. It is constantly being updated and fine tuned. If your competition isn’t doing the same you will eventually pass them but it in a long term and consistent manner. Yes there are tricks you can use to get a quick bump in the ranks but in time they end up causing more harm than good.
So what is SEO?
SEO is really about three main things:
- Fast, Efficient & Error Free Website – It seems like an obvious statement and yet we websites all the time running on so called “affordable” hosting providers that are slow, full of errors behind the scenes and believe it or not we still see many that are not mobile friendly! We used to say being mobile friendly as it’s own requirement but the internet has moved so far passed that it that we consider not being mobile friendly an error.
- Content – Videos & Images are important but without words and proper formatting and design of those words the search engines will not know what your page is about. Images and Videos should include all the “Behind” the scenes tags, alt tages, title tags etc. and the filenames and descriptions should also be optimized to reflect your content. Finally your content needs to be properly structured, identified and optimized for both substance and readability. It is NOT a matter of just dropping search terms into the words as much as possible. In fact do not do that, your site ranking could suffer.
- Links – The more high quality websites that link to you and your content the more credible your content is in the eyes of a search engine.
What about web hosting?
Yes web hosting matters. Think of web hosting like you would compare buying a steak at the butcher or a steak at Wal-Mart. Sure one probably be more expensive but the quality will be worth it.
Some things you should take into account when you are selecting a web hosting company are:
- What is included? Email? Back-ups? Security? FTP? Databases? All these items are important and you will find many of the so called affordable hosting companies charge additional fees for all of these items.
- How many other sites are on the server? This is something you can easily check by entering your domain on this page https://viewdns.info/reverseip/ Ideally you do not want more than a few hundred. Think about this, if there are over 5,000 other websites on the same server as yours, what are they doing? Are sending spam? Viruses or worse? The reputation of the IP Address of the server is important.
- Support – It’s great some hosts have online chat support but when you go for help and you are 37th inline there goes your afternoon. Phone support is key and if you use a local company can you go and visit them? When it comes to our hosting, if you are having a challenge setting up your email on your new phone or laptop you can just bring it by and we will do it for you. Try that with companies that advertise during the Super Bowl 😉
- Secure Socket Layer – Otherwise known as an SSL or that little padlock in your browser url. This is important to have now as Google Chrome is actively labeling websites without them as “un-secure”. While you may not be transmitting sensitive data seeing “un-secure” in the browser while visiting your website can turn some people off. Find out if the host provides or sells SSL certificates and more importantly will they install it for you and make sure your site works with the https extension.
If you are using WordPress there are a number of plugins you can use to help you optimize your website. Remember these don’t actually do it for you they are tools.
- YOAST – https://yoast.com/
- Humming Bird by WPMUDEV – https://premium.wpmudev.org/project/wp-hummingbird/
- WP Smush Pro by WPMUDEV – https://premium.wpmudev.org/project/wp-smush-pro/
- JetPack – https://jetpack.com/
- Broken Link Checker – https://en-ca.wordpress.org/plugins/broken-link-checker/
Still not sold on getting an SSL certificate? Note all the SEO plugins listed above use them!