Search Engine Optimization SEO Guide

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SEO for Business

There is no magic formula for SEO. We take a systematic, white hat, get-your-hands-dirty approach to SEO. Our step-by-step approach provides steady keyword ranking growth over time.

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Expert Search Engine Optimization

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Experience
Noble has been providing professional SEO and web services to its’ clients since 1999 and offers ethical methods and time proven strategies to optimize your web site.  With Google using more than 200 factors to establish their ranking system we work smart to give you the best chance to place well on the major search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing.

Results
Noble knows how to get search engine results.  You probably found us on a web search using keywords that are very competitive.  But you don’t want an SEO company that just gets results for themselves, you want one that gets results for their clients.  We have helped many local businesses improve their search rankings and increase their leads.  Please review our client results page to see for yourself.

SEO Web Design
We build or re-build websites with validated code according to the web standards established by the W3C.   We also make it our business to know the Google guidelines for Webmasters and their Policies for working with an SEO company.  Not because we have to but because we know this assures that your site will be search engine friendly and give you the best opportunity to rank well.  We also concentrate on the speed at which a web page loads which is a very important factor in Google’s ranking formula.  We create lean and clean code in the development of the website.   We host our sites on quality servers with fast, redundant connections to the internet.  Then with the use of a few other tricks of the trade we produce a very fast loading website.

Training
We never stop training or learning with SEO because Google never stops evolving its ranking formula.  We’ve taken continuing education classes locally at USF as well as participating in a variety of online training classes and webinars.  We also follow thought leaders in SEO to keep current as to what is happening in this ever-changing industry.

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Flexible Local SEO Services

Each SEO client has unique needs for their website and budget.  So, we start off with an analysis to determine what areas they are doing well at and what areas they need help with. From the analysis we work with the client to determine the best course of action to help improve rankings the fastest.  Here is a list of services we offer to help meet the needs of our clients.

  • Keyword Research & Content Planning
  • Onsite Keyword Setup
  • Onsite Technical Optimization
  • Google My Business Setup
  • Citation Listing Submissions (Local Review Directories)
  • Conversion Rate Optimization
  • Engagement Optimization
  • Content Development (Text, Image, Video, etc...)
  • Link Building
  • Social Media Setup & Management
  • Reputation Management (Reviews)
  • SEO Consulting

If you would like to learn more about our SEO services and what we can do to help improve your rankings and increase your leads, please contact us.  We are always happy to help answer any questions you may have.

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What Every Business Needs to Know about SEO to Achieve Success & Avoid Pitfalls

A primer to help business owners better understand SEO.

SEO Insights & info

While several tactics and strategies have transformed the digital marketing landscape in the last several years, nothing has changed the game as profoundly as search engines. Here are just some of the jaw-dropping statistics:

  • Using search engines is the second most common online activity after emailing. (Source: Search Engine Land)
  • People conduct over 2 trillion searches per year on Google, or more than 5 billion per day. (Source: Search Engine Land)
  • 93% of all website traffic comes via search engines. (Source: Search Engine Journal)
  • 82.6% percent of all internet users rely on search engines. (Source: B2B Social Media Guide)

What's more, there is no indication that search engine fatigue is setting in. On the contrary, the number of searches is growing year-over-year — especially local search — and the number of searchers overall is surging across all age groups, particularly among older adults and seniors.

As such, businesses that haven't yet reaped substantial search engine-driven rewards shouldn't worry that they've missed the opportunity of the century. Search engines like Google (please see note below) are here to stay, and as more people rely on them to buy everything from smartphones and home appliances to professional services and corporate software — and the list goes on and on — their dominance and importance will only increase.

Note: Google is by far the dominant search engine, with a staggering 91.65% of the global market. The remaining 8.35% belongs to Bing (2.71%), Yahoo! (1.94%), and a few others that most businesses and searchers have never heard of, such as Baidu, YANDEX RU, and Shenma. For simplicity and consistency, the remainder of this guide will only reference Google, with the understanding that Bing and Yahoo (which is actually not a search engine, but a directory that some people use as a search engine) also follow the same general on-site and off-site principles.

The Benefits of SEO

When it's implemented and managed properly, SEO is an incredibly effective and astonishingly affordable way for businesses to generate quality leads, and ultimately increase customers, sales and profits. What's more, the landscape isn't dominated by big businesses with huge budgets. Millions of small businesses rely on SEO to generate brand visibility and boost website traffic. Here are some of the impressive statistics:

  • 72% of people who perform a local search visit a store within 5 miles of their current location. (Source: Wordstream)
  • SEO-based leads have a 14.6% close rate, compared to 1.7% with conventional outbound marketing. (Source: HubSpot)
  • 39% of all customers come from search. (Source: B2B Social Media Guide)
  • Search is the #1 traffic driver to websites, beating social media by 300 percent. (Source: B2B Social Media Guide)
  • 57% of marketers say that SEO generates more leads than any other initiative. (Source: HubSpot)

However, to exploit this potential — and steer clear of pitfalls — it's essential for businesses to know what search engine optimization (SEO) is, why it's important, and how it works. Let's turn our attention towards these aspects now.

What is SEO?

SEO is a process that helps businesses increase relevant visibility in organic search engine results, in order to drive quality traffic to a website, landing page or other digital property, and ultimately increase sales.

To simplify and clarify things even more, let's unpack the above description by looking at each element:

"SEO is a process …."

The first and most important thing to understand is that SEO is a process, which means that it involves a series of strategic and tactical steps that are executed over time. Using the right technology is also essential, both for choosing keywords, and for tracking various metrics and analytics.

"…that helps business increase relevant visibility…"

The critical word above is relevant. Merely increasing visibility isn't enough — in fact, it can be counterproductive. The visibility has to be relevant in order to be beneficial, and ultimately, profitable.

Take for example a business that sells project management software, and wants to improve its search engine visibility among prospective customers. Fast forward six months, and the business is ranking high (i.e. showing up on page one of Google) for the keyword phrase "project management research".

What's the problem here? It's that the overwhelming number of people searching for "project management research" aren't prospective customers: they're students writing papers or studying for exams. They have no intention of ever becoming a customer, or even influencing potential customers. As a result, they're coming to the website, quickly determining that they aren't going to find the research they want, and then bouncing away.

The moral to this cautionary tale is clear: SEO has to target relevant visibility, and not just visibility in general. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of thousands — it could be millions — of businesses around the world, from small firms to large enterprises, who have been ensnared by this pitfall; usually because they were misled by SEO firms that made impossible — and sometimes illegal — guarantees.

"…in organic search engine results…"

Organic search results are free, and they appear in the main body of the search engine results page (i.e. the page that appears after a searcher enters a search term and clicks/taps "search").

Paid search results are those that appear above and/or below the organic search engine results and are marked as such. Businesses bid via a kind of automated, dynamic auction to have their ad display for various search terms (i.e. keywords). Each time their ad is clicked, businesses pay a certain amount, from a few cents to in some cases $20 or more. 

In light of the above, it's easy to grasp why businesses love SEO: it's the customer acquisition gift that keeps on giving! Businesses never pay a cent when a searcher clicks on any of their organic links. It's like having a virtual volunteer sales force that works 24/7/365 to help businesses add quality prospects to their pipeline.

"…in order to drive quality traffic to a website, landing page or other digital property…"

It's important to note that, contrary to what some businesses believe, there is no obligation or rule that forces them to send all search engine traffic to their corporate website. Of course, this is usually the case simply because it's what most businesses want. But it's just as possible — and often strategically smart — to also drive traffic to landing pages and other digital properties, such as social media pages.

"…and ultimately increase sales."

This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. The point of SEO, and what determines whether the investment is rewarding or regrettable, is whether it ultimately increases sales and/or maintains sales while measurably reducing pre-SEO advertising and marketing costs.

With this being said, it's extremely important to keep in mind that SEO on its own rarely "makes sales happen" — and in B2B sales, this is almost never the case (the exception is if the purchase is an inexpensive low-risk item, like a box of printer paper or a laptop case). Rather, the function of SEO is to populate the pipeline with more quality traffic, so that prospects can be engaged by the sales team and ushered forward along the buyer's journey. 

Now that we've covered the basic definition of SEO — and unpacked its elements to clarify important points and avoid common misunderstandings — the next piece of the puzzle is exploring the factors that improve SEO. There are two sides of this coin: on-site factors, and off-site factors. We'll start with the former, and then switch over to the latter.

On-Site SEO Factors

On-site SEO (sometimes referred to as on-page SEO) refers to the various elements of a website — or to be technical, a web page — that Google looks at in order to grasp what a business does, and subsequently why, whether, and when it should show up in search engine results relative to other businesses.

Another way to look at this — and a simpler way to remember it — is to think of on-site SEO as a special behind-the-scenes message from a business to Google that says: "Hi there, thanks for checking us out! Here is what we do, and who we do it for. We'd really appreciate it if you'd show our website to a potential customer who is using your lovely search engine to solve their problems or achieve their goals. You can trust that we'll definitely help them out!"

Of course, Google — or more specifically, their ultra-complex search engine algorithm that is updated about 600 times a year — doesn't care much for flattery. Frankly, all it cares about is data, data and more data. And so, when it comes to on-site SEO, here are some of Google's favorites things:

  • Title Tags, which are an HTML element that specifies the title of a web page. 
  • URLs, which should be short and keyword-rich.
  • Title Modifiers, which help increase visibility for long-versions of target keywords (often by adding "guide", "best", "top", and so on).
  • Text, which can either be an article (like this one), or the introduction to a piece of non-textual content like a video or infographic. It's important to use the primary keyword within the first 100 words of text, and then achieve a natural (read: non-irritating or awkward) keyword density of about 3-5% throughout. It's also important to use LSI (latent semantic indexing) keywords, which are semantically related to the primary keyword. These should be sprinkled throughout the content.
  • H1 Tag, which is the headline tag and as such tells Google what a piece of content is about (e.g. blog post, video, infographic, etc.).
  • H2 Tag, which is the sub-headline tag, and should typically contain at least one (but sometimes several) instances of the target keyword.
  • Multimedia, such as images, videos, tables and other visual elements. These increase time-on-site and visitor interaction, which are critical ranking factors.
  • Responsive design, which is critical because since 2015, Google has been rewarding mobile-friendly websites that show up quickly and properly on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets), and penalizing websites that don't.
  • Outbound links, which are links to credible, relevant websites that enhance visitor experience. For example, in the paragraph above this bullet list, there is an outbound link to a page on Moz.com that explores Google's search engine algorithm updates over the last several years.
  • Internal links, which are links to other pages on the same website that enhance visitor experience. For example, in the bullet "Responsive design" there is a link to a page on the Noble Webworks' website that covers mobile-friendly web design.  
  • Site speed, visitors (i.e. prospective customers) aren't the only people who have a need for speed. Google also pays close attention to loading times, and sees it as a big part of overall visitor experience.
  • Image optimization, which means putting the primary keyword in an image's filename, as well as placing it in the Alt Text. 
  • Content, which should be fresh, original, keyword optimized (as noted above both primary and LSI), lengthy and published in an ongoing manner vs. big blasts once in a while. Google likes to see a minimum of 500 words per article or blog post, and especially loves long-form content in the 1500-4000 word range. To learn more, read the Noble Webworks free on-demand content marketing guide.

Now that we have covered the most important on-site SEO factors, let's look at the other side of the coin: off-site SEO.

Off-Site SEO Factors

Many years ago in the early days of SEO, Google (and the rest of the search engines) didn't care that much about off-site SEO. All that really mattered was on-site SEO, which made some businesses extremely happy. To keep winning the SEO game, all they had to do was use the on-site bullet list above as a checklist.

However, Google slowly but surely realized that many of these businesses — not most of them, but enough of them — were publishing low quality websites, and basically gaming the system. For example, they would create a website with terrible content and that delivered a lousy user experience, purchase a bunch of back links from websites (called "link farms"), and within weeks, if not sometimes within days, they were ranking very high for competitive keywords.

This development didn't just worry Google: it freaked them out! That's because they wisely understood that if people started to equate "lousy websites" with the word "Google", then it was only a matter of time before people would stop using Google as their search engine of choice. Sure, old habits die hard and Google wasn't circling the drain. But history is loaded with examples of massive businesses that eased up on quality standards and paid the ultimate price: they disappeared.

To avoid that tragic fate, Google implemented a major change to its algorithm that dramatically increased the importance of off-site SEO factors. Specifically, it started focusing on four things related to inbound links (a.k.a. backlinks), which are links from other websites:

  • The number of inbound links: how many of them are in the ecosystem?
  • The quality of inbound links: are they coming from credible and authoritative websites?
  • The frequency at which inbound links are added: did 100 appear overnight or have they naturally grown over time?
  • The engagement or lack thereof of visitors who reach a website through inbound links: are they interacting with the website and remaining on the site, or quickly bouncing away?

In this sense, while on-site SEO is something that a business invests in, off-site SEO is something that it earns. They are both important and necessary, yet involve very different strategies and tactics. For example, here are some of the ways that businesses generate (i.e. earn) a strong off-site SEO profile:

  • Citations: Ensuring that their business is accurately listed in all relevant directories, listings and platforms (e.g. Google My Business).
  • Expertise: Authoring quality "thought leadership" articles on authoritative websites. For example, firms in the cyber security space publish articles on websites like SecurityWeek.com, consulting organizations publish articles on Entrepreneur, and just about any business can publish articles on LinkedIn Pulse.
  • Social Content: Publishing videos, infographics and other content that can be shared across social media, and which can generate a large volume of inbound links.
  • Press Releases: Launching press releases that feature a legitimately newsworthy announcement, and that use a credible, paid distribution service like PRWeb, PRNewswire, MarketWired, and so on.
  • Tools: Launching interactive tools like web apps, which many other businesses will link to. For example, an accounting firm can create a handy online calculator that helps people figure out how much money they can save by switching a loan from monthly to bi-weekly payments. This kind of tool is likely to be featured (and therefore linked to) on various websites in the personal finance space.

The common thread that ties all of these off-page SEO factors together is that businesses must earn inbound links by creating great content, and then pushing that content out through the appropriate channels. If they do this the right way, then over time Google will deem that they have a strong and impressive inbound link profile, which will translate into higher rankings.

Next Steps

We hope that this guide helps your business understand SEO: what it is, why it works, and how to improve your visibility — and ultimately your sales — through on-page and off-page factors. We invite you to contact us to share your feedback and experiences.  

We would also be pleased to help if you need SEO advice and guidance for your in-house team, or you want to partner with an experienced digital marketing agency that cares as much about your success and happiness as you do!

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