Striving to be the top dog: The basics of SEO

The goal of any website, blog, or app is to provide information or a service to visitors. The key is making sure that the right consumer is finding your page; this is where SEO (search engine optimization) plays a role. Often the concept of driving traffic becomes an afterthought but the topic needs to be addressed from the early stages of web development.


What is SEO and why do you need it?

Search engine optimization or SEO is the process of categorizing and titling the content of a website for the best results in search engine inquiries. Why is this important? Because when an individual uses a search engine, such as Google, they want to find exactly what they are looking for quickly. Search engines use mathematical algorithms that scan web page content to provide a quick search response. Ok, so you have the concept but how do you get your web page to have a great ranking?

This is where the “optimization” part comes in. Defined by Merriam-Webster, optimization is the process of making something as perfect, functional, or effective as possible. As marketers we effectively want to target and keep the right person on our page. Search engines want to quickly and effectively provide the correct response to users. Effectively crafted content, good key word coding, good links, and proving to be a reputable site increase the chance for a high ranking site.

Search Engine Land has an excellent video explaining these basics.

The search engine not only takes into consideration matching words, links, and reputation but also statistically how long visitors with the same search query have stayed on a matched site. Weebly Forums explains that although using the wrong key words may increase site traffic, having a high number of bounce offs (very short visits) decreases ranking. The point being is that finding the right key words is always a work in progress. Industry changes can affect shifts in search queries and monitoring rankings can give insight into trends or a need to adjust key words.


Considerations when designing for SEO

You may be thinking, where and how are these key words placed? How do I know what key words to implement? Behind the scenes, all websites are based on coding. If you have no idea what coding is open your web browser, go to any web page, on your browser click the view tab, select source. You will then see the coded form of that web page. The coding includes titles, meta tags and body copy which help describe the content of the page.

Now that you know where these key words reside, you need to figure out what key words should be used. In an article by Jenny Halasz on Search Engine Land suggests considering the audience and industry. What search words will the audience use to find your information? What are there intentions? Also correlating page content with key words can help search engines narrow results rather than base a query on a broad topic.


Search Engine Land's Periodic Table of SEO

A visual of the important elements to consider for SEO

Special considerations

 Because search engines scan words and codes several design elements can limit feedback in a search.  Images, videos, and flash components do little to add to search results because imbedded content cannot be scanned. For this reason many sites have discontinued full flash content.  While words in an image, video, or flash element cannot be scanned, there are several ways to optimize these page elements.

Derek Halpern explains that using an alt text code to place a description on an image is one option. He also explains that page load time matters in SEO ranking; make the image file size as small as possible without losing the quality. Web files typically should be 72 dpi (dots per inch) at 100% of the desired size.  It is suggested to not let a browser resize your image, this can be solved by editing the file before uploading.

Have you ever just uploaded a picture or image without changing the file name?  It ends up being read as the picture numbers or something only you understand.  The best practice for optimizing these files is to use descriptive titles that can contribute to the content.  For example, instead of uploading your dog’s picture and labeling it “fluffy” use a descriptor such as “dog-with-red-bow”. 

Image captions are also very important.  Why? Because people don’t tend to read content word for word, they scan content.  Images provide an element of focus when individuals scan the content. Adding captions that describe the correlating content helps emphasize the piece and helps decrease the bounce rate during search inquiries.


As a believer of “knowledge is power”, knowing how SEO works and what to look for in implementation can only improve the success of your business.  Good luck!


2 responses to “Striving to be the top dog: The basics of SEO

  1. Great post Megan! I learned so much! I’ll admit I still struggle to understand the technical aspect of SEO but I feel like I understand a lot more about what I can do to help myself now. For example, I had no idea labeling your pictures with descriptive words rather than a file name could improve your SEO. But it makes a lot of sense and I understand a lot more about how I come up with some really weird things when I’m Googling that are seemingly unrelated.
    So do you have to add the key words in the code? I can’t even find a view button when I’m on a webpage.


    • Teresa, what a great question. Halpern gives the example of how to write the html. You will have to go to my link in order to view the example since WordPress is actually trying to make the example an image instead of text. Typically if you are using visual web design software it will give you the option to add alternate text. The problem is that many times people do not understand the purpose of using the alternate text!

      If you want to take a look at some coding. Open your browser (Explorer or other brand), under where the web address is shown you should have a bar that says file/edit/view/….,click view, scroll down to the source option and click. OR right click on the background of any webpage and select the option View Source. BAM! You’ll be amazed 🙂 Here is a video if you are more visual like me.

      Thank you for the response!


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