A good infographic uses something familiar, something you understand, to help you grasp something new or confusing. So why in blazes did Search Engine Land decide to use Chemistry (which most people don’t understand) to help people grasp Search Engine Optimization (which most people also don’t understand)? Smh.
Realistically, though, certain subjects, like SEO, can only be boiled down so far. And the categories this graphic gives are golden. Let me walk you through it.
What the Colors Mean
To start, note the color groupings. As marked, the blue columns are “On-the-page” SEO factors. Basically, these elements have everything to do with your website – how it’s built and what content you fill it with. You have direct control over these factors. The green columns by contrast are the “Off-the-page” SEO factors. You don’t have direct, immediate control of these. But your choices and strategy have everything to do with influencing them. For instance, with the penalty for spammy links to your site increasingly severe, links must now be earned rather than bought, farmed, or stolen. How? Write helpful stuff and earn the respect of other professionals through networking. Oh, and you don’t have to choose between these. You should do both.
But what about the red boxes under each column? Those are negative factors – things that hurt you. We’ll come back to them as we look at each column.
As a side note, the difference in color tone also reinforces the value each factor has. Darker colors = More important.
What Each Column Means
On-the-page SEO factors are grouped in three columns: Content, Architecture, & HTML. Off-the-page factors are grouped in four: Trust, Links, Personal, & Social. We’ll walk through each.
The quick and skinny is your website should have fresh, quality content stemming from competent research and expressed using the keywords your clients will be using to find you. In contrast, “thin” content, which may penalize you, contributes nothing to the web. It’s like when you got that F on that college research paper because you just stacked block quotes out of one book.
This groups is unavoidably technical. Essentially, when the Google bot comes to call (or “crawl”), it needs to be able to find your pages and see all your content, even on mobile – and it wants it reasonably fast. Ideally, each page will be unique and its URL will reflect the content somewhat. Bonus points if your site is secure (https://). Never build your site to display differently to bots and humans. That’s called “cloaking”. It’s bad. It will hurt you.
Believe it or not, this is less technical than that last one. A good web agency (ahem) will make it easy for you to set your page titles and descriptions and will build your site with thought to what your header tags communicate about each page. But it’s probably going to be up to you to write up these relevant titles and useful descriptions. Things to avoid are keyword stuffing and hiding text.
Search engines want to know if people trust you, if you are considered an authority in your field. Though we can’t say exactly what contributes to Google’s ascription of authority, it probably includes solid linkage from within your field, social mentions, site engagement (e.g. “How much time did the user spend on my page?”), site history, and the identity of your authors. Negatively, a history of piracy complaints and too many ads cluttering the content may undermine trust in a site.
Many people know links help your SEO. Here are a few things you might not know:
- It matters who is linking. Links from within your industry, especially from leaders, are worth more.
- The text of the link matters. It’s the linker’s way of saying “This website is the place to go for ____”.
- Quantity still matters, but the number of sites linking is more important than the number of links on a site.
- Some links can hurt you. Avoid trying to buy links or spamming other blogs with links to your site.
This column focuses on the individual. Is your site relevant to the country and locale they are in? Do they or their friends have a history of using your website or sharing it on social media?
While Google+ has been the only social media source directly factored into search rankings, SEO experts widely recognize the value in building a following on Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites and getting them to share your links. The more people sharing your stuff, the more people coming to your site – that’s good SEO and that’s good business.
If you are new to SEO, this is just enough to get your toes wet. For more details, check out Search Engine Land’s full guide or Moz’s Beginner Guide to SEO.