Understanding SEO (and How to Know if Your Digital Agency Does Too)

By William Glade, AVB Marketing

In the digital age there are hundreds of marketing channels through which to pitch one’s products and services.

One of the most inscrutable of these is search engine optimization, or SEO. This is due to the seemingly confusing, technical and frankly mystical nature of getting your website to rank high on search engines like Google.

But I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way. There are several key questions business owners can ask website providers, SEO agencies and anyone in between to shine a light on how strong their website’s organic footing really is.

Stripped down to the studs, SEO has three main components that impact your business’s website: technical, on-page and off-page SEO.

Technical SEO. Technical SEO is one of the basic components of what makes a website optimized for search engines. To verify whether your website’s technical SEO is on par, consider the following:

  1. Does my website follow web architecture best practices?Each page must have a title tag and meta description, one H1 header tag, and images with alt text to measure up.

2.   Is my website visible to Google?Be sure to ask your provider if your website is “crawlable for Googlebot.” What does that mean exactly? Well, in order for Google to “see” your website and add it to its search results, your site needs three important components:

  • A sitemap. The way to tell Google what pages are on your website.
  • Optimized robots.txt file. The way bots and web crawlers know what they are allowed to crawl on a website. All websites must have this file. Any SEO or web developer worth their muster will know how these files work. If they don’t, beware.
  • Canonical tags. Critical to ensuring the right content shows up on Google.

On-Page SEO. There are two main facets of this SEO pillar: keyword research and customized website content. Here’s what to ask your SEO consultants to assure they’re on top of both:

  1. Does each webpage on my site have a primary keyword?A good SEO consultant knows that you target the audience you want to reach by understanding the intent behind their searches. This can be achieved with tools showing how many people are typing certain keywords into search bars and what the top results are for each of those queries.
  2. Is the content on my website unique to my site and only my site?In most cases, your content should be customized for each page of your website. The text should be helpful, useful and purposeful, and of course contain the keyword you are targeting.

Off-Page SEO. To prevent fraud, Google has increased its ability to gauge the trustworthiness of a site, determine if it is an authority within its space, and whether its authors are true experts in their field. The biggest factor in determining this is the number and quality of links to your site (also called backlinks). Here are two questions to ask your SEO advisors:

  1. How many websites are linking to my website?Determining this will help gauge how much Domain Authority you have. Domain Authority is directly related to how many websites link to your site and how credible those sites are.
  2. How credible are those websites that are linking to me?In many cases, spammy websites will link to your site without your even knowing. This can have a negative effect on your ranking. Be sure to ask your SEO agency about the size and quality of your backlinks and whether they can help you grow quality links to your website.

There is so much that goes into optimizing a site for search engines. But this primer, and the questions I’ve included, should make you feel comfortable enough to begin the conversation with an agency or marketing department regarding how well optimized your site is for Google.

Whether you use our AVB Marketing services or run things in-house, we are happy to help you get started with SEO and optimize your site to reach that coveted spot atop the results page.

William Glade is SEO Manager at AVB Marketing, the marketing and e-commerce arm of YSN publisher AVB. For more information, visit avbmarketing.com/seo-packages/.