Ever wonder how major search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo rank your website within their searches? Or how content such as videos or local listings are shown and ranked based on what the search engine considers most relevant to users? Welcome to the world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This course is the first within the SEO Specialization and it is intended to give you a taste of SEO. You will be introduced to the foundational elements of how search engines work, how the SEO landscape has changed and what you can expect in the future. You discuss core SEO strategies and tactics used to drive more organic search results to a specific website or set of websites, as well as tactics to avoid to prevent penalization from search engines. You will also discover how to position yourself for a successful career in SEO should this subject prove interesting to you. We hope this taste of SEO, will entice you to continue through the Specialization.
This can be broken down into three primary categories: ad hoc keyword research, ongoing search position monitoring, and crawling, which is when Google bots search through sites to determine which pages to index. In this roundup, we'll explain what each of those categories means for your business, the types of platforms and tools you can use to cover all of your SEO bases, and what to look for when investing in those tools.
The caveat in all of this is that, in one way or another, most of the data and the rules governing what ranks and what doesn't (often on a week-to-week basis) comes from Google. If you know where to find and how to use the free and freemium tools Google provides under the surface—AdWords, Google Analytics, and Google Search Console being the big three—you can do all of this manually. Much of the data that the ongoing position monitoring, keyword research, and crawler tools provide is extracted in one form or another from Google itself. Doing it yourself is a disjointed, meticulous process, but you can piece together all the SEO data you need to come up with an optimization strategy should you be so inclined.
The actual content of your page itself is, of course, very important. Different types of pages will have different “jobs” – your cornerstone content asset that you want lots of folks to link to needs to be very different than your support content that you want to make sure your users find and get an answer from quickly. That said, Google has been increasingly favoring certain types of content, and as you build out any of the pages on your site, there are a few things to keep in mind:
This relationship between rankings and clicks (and traffic) is strongest amongst the top 3 search results. However, changing layout of the search results pages is constantly changing, with the inclusion of Google’s Knowledge Graph data and the integration of Universal Search elements (SERP Features) like videos, maps and Google Shopping ads. These developments can mean that the top 3 organic rankings are no longer the 3 best positions on the SERP. This has been demonstrated in heatmap and eye-tracking tests.
For traditional SEO, this has meant some loss of key real estate. For SERP results pages that once had 10 positions, it's not uncommon now to see seven organic search results below a Featured Snippet or Quick Answer box. Rather than relying on PageRank algorithm for a specific keyword, Google search queries rely increasingly on ML algorithms and the Google Knowledge Graph to trigger a Quick Answer or pull a description into a snippet atop the SERP.
The last piece of the complicated SEO tool ecosystem is the enterprise tier. This roundup is geared toward SEO for small to midsize businesses (SMBs), for which these platforms are likely priced out of reach. But there's a handful of enterprise SEO software providers out there that essentially roll all of the self-service tools into one comprehensive platform. These platforms combine ongoing position monitoring, deep keyword research, and crawling with customizable reports andanalytics.
You may not want certain pages of your site crawled because they might not be useful to users if found in a search engine's search results. If you do want to prevent search engines from crawling your pages, Google Search Console has a friendly robots.txt generator to help you create this file. Note that if your site uses subdomains and you wish to have certain pages not crawled on a particular subdomain, you'll have to create a separate robots.txt file for that subdomain. For more information on robots.txt, we suggest this Webmaster Help Center guide on using robots.txt files13.
Over the past year or two, we've also seen Google begin to fundamentally alter how its search algorithm works. Google, as with many of the tech giants, has begun to bill itself as an artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) company rather than as a search company. AI tools will provide a way to spot anomalies in search results and collect insights. In essence, Google is changing what it considers its crown jewels. As the company builds ML into its entire product stack, its core search product has begun to behave a lot differently. This is heating up the cat-and-mouse game of SEO and sending the industry chasing after Google once again.
Everyone knows intent behind the search matters. In e-commerce, intent is somewhat easy to see. B2B or, better yet, healthcare, isn't quite as easy. Matching persona intent to keywords requires a bit more thought. In this video, we'll cover how to find intent modifiers during keyword research, how to organize those modifiers into the search funnel, and how to quickly find unique universal results at different levels of the search funnel to utilize.
An SEO technique is considered white hat if it conforms to the search engines' guidelines and involves no deception. As the search engine guidelines are not written as a series of rules or commandments, this is an important distinction to note. White hat SEO is not just about following guidelines but is about ensuring that the content a search engine indexes and subsequently ranks is the same content a user will see. White hat advice is generally summed up as creating content for users, not for search engines, and then making that content easily accessible to the online "spider" algorithms, rather than attempting to trick the algorithm from its intended purpose. White hat SEO is in many ways similar to web development that promotes accessibility, although the two are not identical.
You don’t want to “keyword stuff” and cram your core keyword and every possible variation of it into your alt attribute. In fact, if it doesn’t fit naturally into the description, don’t include your target keyword here at all. Just be sure not to skip the alt attribute, and try to give a thorough, accurate description of the image (imagine you’re describing it to someone who can’t see it – that’s what it’s there for!).
Companies that employ overly aggressive techniques can get their client websites banned from the search results. In 2005, the Wall Street Journal reported on a company, Traffic Power, which allegedly used high-risk techniques and failed to disclose those risks to its clients. Wired magazine reported that the same company sued blogger and SEO Aaron Wall for writing about the ban. Google's Matt Cutts later confirmed that Google did in fact ban Traffic Power and some of its clients.
Ranking refers to the process search engines use to determine where a particular piece of content should appear on a SERP. Search visibility refers to how prominently a piece of content is displayed in search engine results. Highly visible content (usually the content that ranks highest) may appear right at the top of organic search results or even in a featured snippet, while less-visible content may not appear until searchers click to page two and beyond