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Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Explained

Understanding SEO: Overview

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) refers to a broad spectrum of practices that are designed to enhance the searchability of your site and to improve site page ranking for different search engine queries. Successful SEO requires a strong understanding of how search engines robots (aka bots) index and evaluate your web design and content, how they determine its relevance, and how different platforms and technologies can help - or hinder - your site's visibility.

Types of Campaigns:
Organic SEO

Organic SEO techniques are specifically designed to leverage your content, website structural elements, and graphics for maximum ranking advantage. A well-executed SEO strategy will improve the volume and quality of traffic to the website through focused “organic” search results. Because organic search results are generated in the main body of the search engine page results, they have higher credibility and click rates than sponsored search listings (PPC). Organic SEO programs not only earn superior page ranking for organizations but also result in sharper targeting of audience demographics and market niches.

PPC (pay per click)

With a PPC account, a site competes for space along the top and side of the search engine’s pages among the sponsored listings. Google uses a formula based on keyword relevancy to a search to determine which ads will appear on the top of the site as opposed to the side. Your ad can appear many times without you ever paying anything for the listing. Aside from any initial set up and maintenance fees, you only pay when someone clicks on your ad into your site. This cost is referred to as the cost per click or CPC.

A CPC is assigned to the specific key words you choose to target. CPC’s are bids entered by you and your competitors when you create a PPC account. Major corporations and e-commerce sites use PPC to increase visibility quickly.

In competitive areas, a PPC campaign can easily cost hundreds of dollars per month and more.

Best Practices: Content

According to Google's SEO Guide, you do not need a major overhaul:

"Search engine optimization (SEO) is often about making small modifications to parts of your website. When viewed individually, these changes might seem like incremental improvements, but when combined with other optimizations, they could have a noticeable impact on your site's user experience and performance in organic search results. "

This is true - sort of - as long as you have sufficient content, i.e. ample amounts of well-written, authentic content, ESPECIALLY on the home page.

If you do not have enough content, then you may in fact have to rethink your website design and User Interface (UI). Some site owners resist the idea of content since they prefer website designs with minimal content and beautiful graphics. That's fine, however there are two factors that make that approach a poor choice:

  1. Most searches are performed on mobile devices
  2. Most mobile searches are specifically for information, i.e. for relevant content.

Someone who needs to find information on a smartphone or tablet will not care a whit about the flaming smokestacks and pop-up galleries.

How Much Content Works Best for SEO?

Google is rather coy about exactly how much content will help achieve good page ranking (they state that word count in not used to assesss ranking), HOWEVER, real-world experiences and recent studies confirm that more copy produces better search position. One study by ahrefs found that websites who rank #1 in various searches average 1,000 related keywords. That's a huge amount, and probably overkill for smaller businesses and non-profits.

In my experience with clients in a wide range of industries and services (healthcare, heavy manufacturing, rental properties, flooring, ethanol advocates, auto repair, non-profits of every type - and of course web development), I find that aiming for about 600-900 words on the home page works really well AND can be integrated into an eye-catching and pleasing design.