This is the first article in a series about SEO for Career Colleges. We will be discussing the general concept of SEO, debunking myths around the “Magic” behind it, and covering the basics of do-it-yourself SEO.
Since Google remains the most used search engine in the world, we will use them as a continuous example throughout this series.
Before you can begin optimizing your site for search engines, it’s important to understand what SEO really is.
When a person searches for a phrase on Google, a large number of results are returned. These results all have some relevancy to the phrase searched for, but the extent of that relevancy varies from webpage to webpage.
For example, if we search for “Career Colleges”, Google returns about 4 million results:
Now, after Google retrieves these results, it needs to decide in what order they will all be listed in. They have indicated that there are over 200 factors used in their ranking algorithm, but these factors don’t each carry the same value or weight. Since there has been no official release of these factors and their individual values, we will focus on what experts speculate are the most important factors in ranking.
Many SEOers break the process of optimizing a site down into two sections. The first of these include factors on your website that you can control. This is referred to as “On Page SEO”.
On Page SEO includes the visible content and invisible “meta data” on each of your websites pages. These are items that you can control, and should be used to help the search engines determine what your content is about. Some of the factors search engines will review are page titles, meta descriptions, header tags, internal linking and code validation. Each of these factors will be discussed in more detail later in this series.
While your pages content will help the search engines determine the relevancy of your site’s content to the phrase being searched for, this can easily be manipulated to adjust rankings. Therefore, Google uses other outside factors that are difficult to manufacture to help determine your site’s “worthiness” which will help it determine your ranking.
There are a lot of things included in this area, but one of the most prominent can described by the concept of Trust and Authority.
Google wants to know that your individual pages (in addition to your site as a whole) are trustworthy, informative and useful to the end user. One of the easiest (though not the only) factors in determining this is the number of backlinks your site has pointing to it.
A Backlink is simply a link on another web site pointing towards your own. Google views this as a vote of confidence, and adds these links up from all around the web and provides you with a score based on the quality and quantity of these links. Not every website has the same voting power, so it’s much more than a game of numbers.
While we will discuss backlinks at a later time in this series, understanding the concept will help you understand the ranking process.
Now that Google has identified the relevant results of our search (4 million), it takes these on page and off page factors into consideration before sorting the results by order of importance. Once the results are sorted, 100 pages of results are available to browse through, which is roughly a thousand individual web page listings.
According to Google’s algorithm, the most relevant, useful, trustworthy and authoritative individual web page on the internet for the search phrase “Career Colleges” is from careercolleges.com:
And for every first place finish, there’s always a dead last position. In this case, Google decided that the least relevant of the 1000 pages selected to be listed for the search term “Career Colleges” was from search4careercolleges.com:
Once a person understands the basic factors involved in the search engine evaluation process, they may begin optimizing their site’s content, and working with other website owners to increase the number of relevant and quality backlinks pointing to their site.
There is no magic pixie dust you can sprinkle on your site to make it rank well. There’s no company in the world that can provide you with instant, first page results for your most valuable keywords. The process of SEO requires you to analyze your rankings, compare other sites to your own, follow best practices in optimizing your on page content, and work aggressively (but ethically) to improve the off page factors affecting your rankings.
If you would like to learn more about how we can help you formulate an effective strategy for growing your website’s traffic through organic search listings, please feel free to contact us here or call us at 800-800-9204.