Search engine optimization (SEO) is vitally important for brands that want to reach the right audience online. But implementing and improving SEO can be a frustrating and mysterious process.
That’s because SEO isn’t something with a prescribed formula or exact timeline that works for everyone. It’s an intricate discipline with many moving parts, and it requires both an effective strategy and skilled tactical execution.
At Hawke Media, we break SEO down for our clients into two categories: technical and content-based SEO. These two approaches work together, each at its own pace, but require very different approaches and skills.
WHAT IS TECHNICAL SEO?
Technical SEO addresses the parts and pieces that make up a website, making sure the site is built using best practices so that search engines can easily read, understand, and index the site’s pages. Search engines tend to reward sites that play by their rules and meet a user’s search intent, and technical SEO is all about the first half: making sure your site is built, organized, and optimized in the ways that Google, Bing, and others require.
There are all sorts of factors that contribute to a site’s technical SEO. Google tells us directly what some of them are, while SEO-focused resources like Yoast and Semrush make educated (sometimes data-driven) guesses about others.
- Image optimization: lowering file size while maintaining acceptable quality helps to lower page size and is among other image best practices that improve SEO.
- Page speed: visitors don’t like slow-loading pages, so search engines reward pages that load quicker. Image optimization is usually a big part of page speed.
- Mobile-first indexing: Google often prioritizes the way your site appears on mobile, so make sure the content is roughly the same and your mobile site works well and loads well.
- Alt text: this hidden text included in your site’s source code makes the content of an image clearer to Google’s robots, increasing your likelihood of landing in image results.
- Page structure (headers, titles, etc.): While most search engines are smart enough to understand content via natural language processing, logical page structure still tells the search engine something about your page’s quality (and it helps your human readers, too).
- Audits for redirects and dead links: links that don’t resolve hurt usability and crawlability and are likely to be punished. The same can be true with excessive redirects.
- Metadata: search engines pull this data to populate portions of search entries. Well-written and correct metadata improves the search experience and thus rewards site rankings.
- URL structures: with few exceptions (Amazon, for one), search engines prefer clear, legible URL structures (ones that humans can scan and have a decent idea what the content will be about).
Most SEO experts and marketing agencies offering SEO services start with technical SEO. That’s because technical fixes can often be implemented on a short timeline, and these changes start generating small results relatively quickly.
That said, for maximum benefit, organizations can’t stop after fixing the technical elements of their site. Content SEO is the other leg, so to speak: before you can start really moving forward, you need both legs in place and fully operational.
WHAT IS CONTENT SEO?
Content-based SEO is the strategy of building content that helps draw people to your site and stay on your site. It’s what most people think of first when they hear the term “SEO,” and it makes an even bigger impact over time — though that impact can be hampered by poor technical SEO.
There are two types of content-based SEO: on-page SEO and off-page SEO.
On-page SEO is the content that goes on your brand’s site pages, bringing in search audiences by delivering quality answers to their searches.
It can take several forms:
- Blog content: this is engaging, informative content that answers searchers’ questions and solves their problems. Google “how to…” just about anything, and the first organic text-based result will almost always be a blog post.
- Keyword optimization: this is the discipline of building keywords with high search volume into your blog content, site pages, and other on-site content.
- Product descriptions: these short blurbs of text do more than just describe the item; they provide another place for keyword optimization and can rank highly for the right search terms.
- Site page content: the textual content on your primary site pages should also factor into your content and keyword strategy.
Think of it this way: nearly any area on your site that could provide value to searchers, from features pages to product pages to informational content and more, can be a part of your on-page SEO strategy.
Off-page SEO is any content-related SEO efforts that exist somewhere besides your website. Content is king and (nearly) all traffic is good traffic, so brands engage in off-page efforts that build the brand or drive traffic to the website.
Here are a few examples:
- Backlink strategy: search engines measure brand authority and reward highly authoritative and trustworthy brands with higher search placement. One measure of authority is the number and quality of backlinks (links on other sites to yours). Large, reputable sites typically link only to other high-quality content, so if you can capture those links, you’ll improve your authority and thus your ranking.
- Brand mentions: other sites mentioning, rather than linking to, your brand may create a small SEO bump (the evidence is mixed) but at minimum increase brand awareness among prospects.
- Social media: both organic and paid social traffic from social posts increase site visits, which increases authority.
Both on-page and off-page content SEO can make an outsized impact on your search engine rankings placement (SERP), but they won’t do so overnight. Content SEO takes time, both to implement and to start seeing results. It’s slower to build, the search engines take their time in crawling it (which is essentially discovering that it exists and starting to include it in search results).
But once a brand has the technical SEO elements in place and its content SEO efforts running full-steam, brand authority will grow and organic traffic and warm leads tend to skyrocket.
HAWKE MEDIA: YOUR PARTNER FOR ALL TYPES OF SEO
Running through this guide is a consistent theme: nearly every element of SEO bleeds into different categories. SEO techniques are neither tidy nor consistent, and the rules keep changing as the whims and priorities of Google and others change. Even more confounding for many brands, any single piece likely won’t deliver outsized results. Only when all parts (technical and content SEO, including on- and off-page) are consistently delivering quality will brands see maximum results.
When SEO can is so unwieldy, isn’t it best to bring in the experts? Hawke Media has been delivering massive results for some of the world’s biggest brands, including huge ROI: 403% Adwords ROI is our average result.
Don’t leave your SEO results to chance or keep burning money on SEO that doesn’t deliver results.
Instead, get an SEO audit from a Hawke Media expert to see the opportunities for the fastest — and the greatest — improvements in search optimization for your site.