What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

According to Dictionary.com, search engine optimization, or SEO, as it is more commonly known, is defined as “the methods used to boost ranking or frequency of a website in results returned by a search engine.”

In today’s installment, I will attempt to explain SEO in the simplest means possible. I’ve also created an exercise which you can use to check the SEO quality of your WordPress website. The steps outlined in that exercise will be part of the roadmap for our D22 Tech Team, which I wrote about last month.

Understanding the Search Engine Results Page (SERP)

The Google algorithm is a mathematical formula used to calculate where your site will show up on a search engine results page (SERP) when someone enters a specific word (keyword) or phrase (keyphrase) into the search box on their browser. To help you understand this better, view the example below:

Example of Google Search Results

In the search box at the top you’ll see the words “volunteer opportunities”. According to Google, this is actually a “keyword” and not a “keyphrase.” Phrases have to be made up of three words or more. This is an important point. Once you start writing content, you may want to use certain phrases or what they call “long tail keywords”.

The results surrounded by a red border at the top of the page and in the sidebar are not search results calculated by the Google algorithm. They are paid advertisements. The results under the red box on the left are the ones you’re looking for when you “optimize” your website, those “Page One” listings.

Content Creation and Keyword Density

The next line after the Dictionary.com definition for SEO is “The first step in SEO is to generate keywords that are relevant to your site’s content.” When I first learned that over ten years ago, my inner writer stood up and took notice. Of all the variables in the Google algorithm, content is by far the most important.

Another variable to keep in mind is “keyword density”. This term is a descriptor for the number of times a keyword or keyphrase appears in your page or post. It is generally displayed as a percentage and there are a number of theories on what that percentage should be. I usually try to keep it right around 1%.

Why are we only talking about Google?

When I write about SEO, I generally use the Google algorithm as a reference point. Why Google? They dominate the search market in every country in the world except China, which has Baidu. Check out the graphic below:

Search Engine Market Share

As you can see, Google leads by a wide margin in both Desktop and Mobile search, so any SEO you do should be geared towards satisfying their requirements. That seems pretty simple, right? Unfortunately, it can appear daunting when you take into account the number of variables (over 200) in the Google algorithm. Luckily, there are only a few you need to focus on.

SEO has Employed Good Guys and Bad Guys

Quality, relevant content has always been the number one factor in attaining high page rank on the SERP’s. Ten years ago, back in the “Wild West” days of SEO, unscrupulous marketers would attempt to fool the search engines by masking poor content with false metadata. These same marketers would often populate their sites with content plagiarized from others and fill the page up with ads.

In 2011, Google made a major change to its algorithm called Google Panda. Named after Google engineer Navneet Panda, the modification was designed to detect duplicate and poor quality content and penalize sites with too many ads and not enough substance. The change affected twelve percent of all websites on the internet, proving there was a vital need for it.

Google Panda dealt a major blow to those practicing “Black Hat SEO“, an SEO process that is geared towards machine readers (search bots) and not human eyes. Black Hat is even more difficult to do now because Google employs an AI (artificial intelligence) process called “Semantic Search“, a method that goes beyond keywords and looks for the meaning of the page or post content.

Link Building and HTML Coding Tips

Another important variable in the Google algorithm is backlinks. If you’be been following the Hiram’s Edge program, you’ve already started creating backlinks. Pay no attention to all of the “can’t-miss” backlink-building programs you see on the web. If you write quality content and use WordPress auto-posting to get it out there, you’ll organically build plenty of quality backlinks to your site.

Finally, let’s talk about coding. Personally, I love to code and would spend all day building sites from scratch if I had the time, but I don’t. That’s one of the main reasons why I use WordPress. I can type in normal text and WordPress will do the HTML formatting for things like lists, bullet points, and numbers for me. It even sets my titles with H1 tags and adds accurate metadata.

The link tool is useful to me too. I incorporate a lot of links in my content and I know from studying SEO techniques to try to use more exact word links and less “Click Here” links. I’ve also learned, from that same studying, to use “alt text” and “title text” when I add images on WordPress. The video below explains that in detail:

SEO Exercise for Your Lodge

And now for a short exercise to see if you paid attention. Try the following:

  1. Do an on page keyword search (Control+F on PC, Command+F on Mac) for the following words:
    • Name of your town
    • The words “Freemason”, “Mason”, and “Masonic”
    • Name of your lodge
  2. Check all page images for alt text and title text
  3. Do an online Google search for “Your Town” Freemasons

The ideal result should be 1% keyword density, all images tagged with alt text, and your lodge in the top five on Page One of the SERP. If you did not get these results, you have your work cut out for you. Read this article again to understand what you need to do. Email me if you need assistance. Kevin@HiramsEdge.com


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