What You Need to Know About SEO
SEO is complex.
Before we get into that, we need to define what SEO is. SEO, or search engine optimization, is a process designed to position your web properties in front of anybody who may be searching for your products or services within search engines.
Although we say search engines as a general term, we primarily focus on Google as Google controls the largest share of search volume in the world. A quick look at some statistics gives a clearer picture as to why we focus primarily on Google.
- As of April 2019, Google held over 88% of all desktop searches throughout the world. (Statista)
- 60% of all Google searches are done on mobile devices. (Statista)
- Google holds 95% of the mobile search market in the US (Statista)
Achieving page 1 and even top 3 rankings is a process that takes time. Unfortunately, we are no longer in the ‘wild west’ days of SEO where you could rank a brand new site within a week. Today, it can take months or even a year or more to hit page 1. There are many factors that determine how long it takes, but keep in mind there is no defined answer as to how long it takes to get a web page to rank.
Some of the factors to keep in mind when considering length of time to rank your site include:
- Age of domain – When was your domain purchased? Google likes to ‘sandbox’ new domains (and even older domains now) by preventing them from ranking for anything until they’ve built up some authority in the eyes of Google. The longer a domain has been registered, the less likely you are to run into being sandboxed.
- Current authority level of domain – Google uses a rating system known as Page Rank. Although Page Rank is no longer a public metric, there are third party metrics available to help give you a general idea as to how authoritative your site is in the eyes of Google. The most common are ahrefs, Majestic, and Moz. The metrics provided by these sites are to be used as a guideline only.
- Geographic target – The larger your city, the more difficult it will be to rank. Larger populations tend to have more businesses vying for the same page 1 results. Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago are going to take much longer to rank than Augusta, Maine, Montpelier, Vermont, and Helena, Montana based on city population alone.
- Difficulty of keywords targeted – Some keywords are perceived to be more valuable than others. The more targeted the keyword, the easier it should be to rank for. For instance, ranking for ‘realtors’ is much more difficult than ranking for ’10 tips on how to sell your house fast in Nashville, Tennessee’. Of course, this can work in your favor. The more targeted your keywords, the more likely you are to get in front of people searching for your business.
- Competition level – Generally, competition level is arbitrary. It’s a combination of geographic target difficulty, keyword difficulty, the authority metrics of the pages already on page 1 of Google, and more.
This is barely scratching the surface, but it’s a good starting point for understanding how long it may take for your site to rank.
What does it take to rank your site?
Depending on who you ask, you’ll hear a variety of answers as to how many factors Google uses to determine a site’s ranking. If you’re looking for a brief list, you can check out Google’s 200 Ranking Factors: The Complete List (2019). For most, it boils down to two main components: on-site and off-site.
On-site SEO is where it all starts. This is where Google learns about your site and what keywords and searches it should rank for. Google will crawl your site repeatedly to determine what pages should be indexed and what those pages should rank for.
The pages of your site should reflect your business, your services, and your geographical location(s). This will help Google piece together who you are, what you offer, and where you offer it.
Off-site SEO, as the name implies, deals with everything else. When it comes to getting your site to rank, the biggest factor is (and likely always will be) links coming from other sites. Every time a site links to your site, it’s essentially giving your site the thumbs up to Google suggesting that your site is considered valuable to the originating site. There is a catch, though. Quality far outweighs quantity when it comes to links.
Obtaining a link from Entrepreneur has far more value than a link (or even one hundred links) from random blogs with no authority, value, or traffic. Those links have their place for sure, but they will never have the pulling power as an authority link from a major website.
It’s also important to keep in mind that there are many types of links. They all have their places and purposes, so you don’t want to shrug them all off because they may not seem to hold the same level of value as a high-authority link. Some of these important links include:
- Business Directories – Though they won’t help you rank directly, it’s important to have your business listed in many directories such as yellowpages.com. They provide alternative avenues of potential traffic as well as what is known as a citation for Google Maps rankings.
- Web2.0 – These are links from free blogs on several major blogging platforms such as Tumblr. You shouldn’t go out and get hundreds of links from these blogs but having a blog on each of these platforms is natural and can help build your brand in Google’s eyes.
- Blog Comments – Another link type that shouldn’t be abused. However, it’s a great benefit to interact with other blogs and sites that are related to your niche. Google looks at this as providing expertise in your field as well as helping to build a community.
- Contextual Links – These are the bread and butter of what it takes to rank a site. A contextual link is any link within the main content of a page. These will often appear on a blog or article and will direct a link back to your site. As mentioned above, quality is vastly more important than quantity when it comes to contextual links. Be careful, though, too many links from poor sites, hacked sites, or anything Google has removed from its index could sink your site or worse.
Again, what is SEO and is it worth it?
SEO is complex. To rank on page 1, it takes a perfect storm of on-site perfection with quality off-site linking strategies. It could take months to hit page 1 depending on many factors. At the end of the day, though, hitting page 1, and more precisely number 1, could provide your business with traffic to your site and numerous leads and customers.