Search Engine Optimization: What it is and Why it is Important
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the activity of increasing your webpage’s exposure through internet search engines. It may surprise you, but the same communication principles that we learn through Toastmasters apply to managing a website.
When you think about human communication, the last thing that comes to mind is a lifeless computer. However, technology is a tool for human action. Modeled after human behaviour, technology is in fact an extension of us. With this in mind, internet search engines operate based on basic principles of communication.
When we hop on our computer to look for information on the internet, we use search engines like Google and Bing. Typing words into a search box to request information, it is not much different than asking a person a question. Today, people even speak directly to their smartphones, and ask them questions as if they were their own personal librarians. In response to these requests, search engines crawl the web like an army of spiders and search for the best responses based on the relevance, quality and authority of each webpage.
Now flip this around and imagine that you are creating a webpage with a specific purpose in mind. Perhaps you would like to inform an audience or sell a product. The most effective way to reach your audience is to ensure that the search engines will rank your page as high as possible in your audience’s search results. This is the purpose of SEO. Some technical aspects exist, but the good news is that basic communication is by far the most important aspect of SEO. For that reason, we can use the same principles that we apply to Public Speaking.
Know Your Audience
First of all, we need to consider the relevance to our audience. What are they interested in? What need are you fulfilling for your audience? How can you best communicate this message?
Each webpage should have a specific purpose that addresses a need of your audience. If they are looking for a specific product like red shoes, then create a specific page on your website for red shoes. Also use the same language as your audience. Think about specific words or phrases that they would use to search for your webpage. If your audience uses the term sneakers rather than shoes, you should use the term sneakers. Make sure to use these keywords in your titles, headlines and throughout your content.
Quality and Quantity of Content
Repetition helps people to understand and remember a message. This also works in SEO. Make sure to use the important keywords often, but only when and where it makes sense. If I simply repeated the term search engine over and over again, it would not only get annoying, but it would also fail to communicate this message to our audience. Search engines think the same way and are regularly updated to punish websites that try to use tricks and loop holes.
While an abundance of information is positive, the quality trumps quantity. Who wants to hear or read a bunch of useless information? Conversely, there needs to be a sufficient amount of information to be useful as well.
Search engines rank webpages lowest if the content is unhelpful. This includes content that is:
- Misleading, meaningless or poorly written
- Out of date
- Lacks detail
- Redundant or duplicated from elsewhere
Whether you give a speech or produce a webpage, you want unique, up-to-date and thorough content. Make sure that it helps and serves the needs of your audience. Regularly review and maintain your website to make sure that information is up-to-date.
Lastly, it is important in communication to establish credibility. Your website should demonstrate enough Expertise to establish Authority and Trustworthiness. What kind of experience, credentials or reputation do you have regarding the subject matter?
When delivering a presentation, it helps to provide this information through an introduction. It is also useful to provide this information with handouts, business cards or posted on a slide. Similarly, this should be posted on your website. Make sure to include an About Us page and Contact page. If you lack credentials, you can quote, reference and link to experts on the subject matter.
A reference from someone else establishes a higher level of credibility. This includes:
- Other websites referencing and linking to your webpage
- People sharing your webpage on social media
- Positive reviews online
The sources of these references also count. Reputable organizations, government agencies and consumer services like the Better Business Bureau are all valuable sources to increase trust. Google takes these considerations more seriously if your webpage can have a significant impact on someone’s life. If you influence important life decisions, such as finances or personal health, authority and trustworthiness become extremely important. Regardless of the topic, it always helps to post your credentials, demonstrate expertise and to have strong reviews and references.
Key Takeaways for your Web Content
Creating a webpage is like public speaking. The same basic rules of communication that we learn in Toastmasters apply to Search Engine Optimization. Whether you write a speech, deliver a presentation or build a website, keep the following in mind:
- Know your audience. Make sure that you address a specific need and use their language.
- Create high quality content. Make sure that your content is helpful and repeat important concepts and keywords when and where it makes sense.
- Provide expertise that establishes authority and trustworthiness. In addition to the quality of your content, back it up by establishing your own credibility or referencing other experts. Links, Social Media shares and Reviews all help.
In Google’s own words, they rate content higher “…when it is created with a high degree of time and effort, and in particular, expertise, talent, and skill.” With this in mind, when you are managing a website, remember that you are communicating with humans. You can apply what we learn here through Toastmasters to get the best SEO results.
For more detailed information on how Google rates webpages, see Google Quality Rater’s Guidelines & Handbook
VP Public Relations
New Entrepreneurs Toastmasters