Everything you need to know about SEO in 2023 if you don’t want to know about it.
The topic of SEO is complex for most to get their head around. What is the point of SEO? Who benefits from it? What does it do? Can an online presence work without SEO? Since our clients often receive offers from SEO consultants and can not assess the advertised services and prices, we turn to the topic in this article and try to bring some light to the matter.
What is SEO?
The abbreviation SEO stands for search engine optimisation. SEO describes the practice of getting the best possible, i.e. early ranked, position in a Google search query. The front places are particularly coveted here. These guarantees to land on the first page of the Google search query. Why is this important? Because people who use search engines are not willing to click through endless search results. We want it fast, and we want it now! People want information about offers to be given immediately and without wasting time.
How does a search engine know if a website is relevant to a search query?
Google Search Console
This is not witchcraft. The Google algorithm checks several factors and decides which websites are displayed. However, to link to a website, the Google crawler must first be aware of the website. This is guaranteed if the website is submitted to Google Search Console. Search Console is Google’s platform to measure the performance of the website in Google ranking and fix problems.
However, this is not enough for a good ranking. Submission to Google Search does not yet result in a top ranking for the search query; it only establishes that the algorithm is aware of the website.
Keywords and content, headlines and description.
Even though a website is a visual medium, for the Google crawler, it consists primarily of text. Therefore, the crawler searches text elements for keywords and decides whether a website is relevant to a search query or not.
Searched locations include the website URL, headings, paragraphs, lists, meta descriptions and alt texts. The textual content of a website should therefore be designed and structured so that keywords are strategically placed and thus occupy topic areas.
In addition to textual content, the algorithm checks the relevance of a website by determining how many other websites link to it.
If there is a more significant number of so-called backlinks, the algorithm interprets the website as more relevant for a user’s search query on a topic. The more backlinks a website has, the more critical the algorithm considers it to be. This is a mechanism that puts quantity before quality. However, backlinks are also evaluated in terms of their quality. According to Google, they are rated higher if they come from other relevant resources.
Page speed and design
In addition to content-related semantic factors and backlinks, the algorithm evaluates the relevance of a website via its loading speed and design.
If the loading time is too long, this leads to a downgrade in the search ranking. Google evaluates long loading times as a “bad experience” for users because users are not willing to wait.
Furthermore, the design of a website influences the ranking. If too many scripts are loaded, if their data volume is too high or if they come from different locations, Google will penalize this. If visual content shifts in the display on a website’s mobile devices or even leaves the screen, this leads to a downgrade. Google, as the monopolist of Internet search, leads a strict regime.
Other Google offers that increase ranking.
In addition to Google Search, the company offers various other services. When used, your ranking in the search increases. Why is that? Because Google wants as many users as possible to spend time with their products and leave information there. Google’s success is your data.
With Google Business, companies can list their offer in the search engine without having a dedicated company website. The company profile contains contact, pictures, reviews, opening hours, addresses and offers. Google also uses this information in search queries and can increase the ranking of a website.
Fact sheet SEO: What to consider?
- use keywords in the title and meta description
- use keywords and consistent headings (H tags)
- use keywords in descriptions of images (alt-texts)
- use responsive web designs
- use optimised loading speed for CMS and page builders
- or use an individually programmed website
- and use Google Business, and other Google offers
The good news: State of the art in a new website.
The offer of a web or design agency should always include the above points about SEO in the context of a new website. If this is not the case, it is necessary to inform clients about the topic. Correct SEO work goes far beyond the task of creating a visual website design and coding it. It means working on the content and the story itself, and this work is crucial. This often leads to frustration among customers, as the total cost of a website can be higher than initially expected due to these services not being perceived in advance.
If providers do not inform about the importance of SEO or integrate it into their offer, it is necessary to find a new provider who combines content, design, programming and content creation because the best website is useless if no one sees it.
The bad news: even if everything is done right, it doesn’t necessarily rock Google Search rankings.
Imagine you are the hair salon owner in Vienna’s sixth district. You create a new website and do everything right. You have an engaging story and address your target groups in an appealing and informative way. Yet you’re not on page 1 of Google searches for “hair salon 1060 Vienna”. You realise your competition is high, with 40 other hair salon stores vying for the attention of searchers in the space. Furthermore, the four front places of the search query are occupied by paid search results via Google Ads. So you are left with only four spots on the first page of Google Search. However, your website will not be displayed there despite your efforts. So what to do?
Content, content, content. We need more CONTENT, damn it.
Like social media platforms, Google feeds on the willingness of users to make content available free of charge. Those who do not participate are punished with poor visibility and fewer contacts.
A website without a blog, glossary, without updates of images, videos and podcasts, i.e. without constant activity, will hardly achieve reach. The logic of online providers follows the idea that activity equals relevance. Liking, updating, and sharing are the keys to increased visibility. For Google and Co., only those who constantly produce relevant results for users deliver. It’s about quantity, quantity, quantity.
Google insists on quality in quantity. High-quality content is the key word. Google means with it:
- structured in an easily readable and consumable manner,
- grammatically correct,
- without spelling mistakes,
- with calls to action,
- shareable online,
- with links to helpful resources,
- unique or so not seen before,
- provided with appealing pictures and graphics
- and, of course, with added value.
(… a content dictatorship)
Why is SEO Content Marketing.
In the constant creation of content now begins the real work on SEO. Because SEO is much more than the optimization of already existing content. SEO ensures that topics or keywords for search queries are occupied in the long term compared to the competition by constantly generating new content, shared and picked up by other websites and influencers in the sense of back-linking.
A dark spiral? Yes, that’s right! A constantly re-firing system that will perish without a subsidy of energy and money. A great product. Much like capitalism itself.
In this game, websites with a small number of pages, generic content or alternative-oriented narrative forms have hardly any chance from the outset of advancing to the front ranking in search queries. This is only possible via paid insertions, and these can be ordered from Google via Google Ads.
According to SE Ranking, the keyword “hairdresser” has a search volume of 110,000 queries per month throughout Austria. Therefore, not a good idea to start an attempt to advance to the top ranks of the search query through SEO here. On the other hand, the keyword “hairdresser Vienna 1060” shows a search volume of 100 queries monthly, so it is much less contested. Since your hair salon is located in the 6th district and you want to address customers directly on-site, this seems a promising starting point for working on SEO. Combining content marketing and your keywords, you can start to position yourself by generating more and more content to publish on your website. Or you can buy ads on Google Ads and engage in a price battle for clicks.
(admittedly, all a bit simplified, but you get my drift).
Why SEO is not for everyone.
Before starting the costly and time-consuming work on SEO, two questions should be answered – this brings us to the communication strategy aspect of the topic.
- Which sales channels are currently being used?
- Where do customers make purchasing decisions?
- What are the strategic goals?
Which sales channels are used?
Not every offer or product is suitable for being sold digitally. It is worth analyzing the benefits of the services in advance and checking whether they can be communicated in the best possible way via impersonal communication on the Internet. For example, if it is a great hat that can be purchased in an online store, then SEO is essential. The sales channel, product and purchase decision all work in one place. But if it is a complex service or a complicated technical production process, it is only possible to generate attention for the service; it will certainly not be bought via a website.
Where do customers make purchasing decisions?
It is also worth considering how potential customers use Google to search for topics. After all, most people visit Google to satisfy their private consumption needs. Accordingly, “consumer products” purchased by individuals or households for personal use are better suited for digital sales channels than complex services or very specific products.
The importance of Google Search is also increasing in the professional context due to an increase in digitally affine employees in companies. However, personal contact and the trust and sympathy associated with it still play an essential role in purchasing and awarding contracts. This is especially true for traditional services in the B2B sector in rural structures that are often not very well established digitally. In short, it is crucial to realize where customers make purchasing decisions. If this is directly possible digitally, SEO pays off. However, if this is not possible, and customers can only obtain information about a service in advance on a digital channel, it is reasonable to consider investing the resources for SEO differently.
A question of strategy.
Ultimately, the decision to SEO boils down to developing existing or future sales channels. If the goal of a company is to establish a website as an impersonal sales channel or to generate leads from it, then the topic of SEO will become necessary. If the goal is to acquire customers through personal sales and to use a website in the context of existing contacts, a budget for SEO will probably be lower.
In summary, SEO and content marketing are long-term and costly and should be started only when they are thought through strategically and budget-wise. Expecting quick results and miracles from SEO will lead to disappointment. Therefore, spending on SEO should always be in proportion to other measures in communication.
So for whom does SEO pay off?
- Brands with consumer-oriented product portfolios,
- Online-Shops mit großem Produktportfolio
- online stores with an extensive product portfolio
localised and specialised services.
- For whom SEO does not pay off.
- B2B service provider in a conservative environment,
- online stores with a small product portfolio,
What does SEO cost? And why not use Google Ads?
Google Ads offers the possibility to intervene in the ranking through SEO by selling the first places of the search queries to the highest bidder of Google. This content can be focused on target groups and localised.
Advocates of SEO argue native search results, meaning unpaid search queries are preferable. They provide more excellent added value because they are long-lasting. Well, that is probably true. It should be added that content created in content marketing can also be used in other channels if strategically well planned.
On the other hand, advertising advocates via Google Ads argue that paid advertisements have an immediate effect, entail transparent costs, and can be controlled and presented analytically. This is not wrong either. But if the advertising budget is exhausted, there is no lasting success in the visibility of an offer via Google Search. The entry disappears.
A combination between SEO and Google Ads is, of course, conceivable. A common variant is to use Google Ads for lead generation. Here, the focus is on a selection of keywords, which examines the search behaviour and interest of customers concerning keywords, and the most successful topics are covered via content marketing.
Is it possible to do SEO yourself?
In short, yes, if it is an individual or a small company where SEO plays a minor role. No, if SEO is to act and function in unison with different communication channels for a larger company.
Nevertheless, it makes sense to educate yourself regarding SEO. After all, knowing about SEO is nothing less than knowing the mechanics of how people come across content online and the power of using these mechanics correctly.
Identity Lab is not an SEO agency. However, we dedicated ourselves to the topic because we could not find a neutral and informative article about working with SEO online in the context of communication strategy.
Useful SEO tools?
Provides insight into what people search for online in the context of topics, products and brands. (free of charge)
Checks the content of a website for its uniqueness on the Internet. (free of charge)
Helps identify sources of website errors and indexes a website in Google Search. (free of charge)
Analyses the SEO performance of the website as well as the websites of competitors. (fee required)
“How to” SEO in English. (free of charge)
“How to” SEO in German. (free of charge)
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