Search engine optimization (or “SEO”) is one of the most important concepts in modern digital marketing. The idea is simple: you want your online presence to be as friendly as attractive and as accessible as possible to search engines like Google and Bing. That’s because Google and Bing act as gatekeepers and traffic cops on the web, making your target audience aware of your existence and directing that traffic to you.
In the early days of search engines, SEO wasn’t all that complicated. Google’s early algorithms placed a lot of importance on linking, making link-swapping schemes the simplest way to improve site rankings.
Today, of course, things are a bit more complicated which is why SEO experts have to work so hard to stay on top of the latest research and techniques. Understanding modern SEO means understanding a lot of complex concepts and jargon. Here are a few next-level SEO concepts that you should be familiar with.
“Metadata” is a term that means data about data. When we talk about metadata in relation to websites, we’re usually talking about certain tags and descriptions that can be placed in the HTML code that makes up a website.
A website’s metadata serves a purpose for internet users. It’s what determines things like the title that appears in the tab a site is open in, or the words that are read to a blind user to describe an image file. Search engines use metadata, too, for things like populating a site’s description on a search engine results page (SERP) and, in fact, for determining how worthy a website is for inclusion on the SERP in the first place.
For these reasons, SEO pros need to know how to use metadata properly. From image tags to title tags, SEO pros need to balance the needs of the user (and search engines’ distaste for transparent SEO schemes) and the affinity that search engines have for certain types of smart keyword use in metadata entries.
Search engines use computer programs called “spiders” to “crawl” the web, following links and reading code in order to find and catalog new websites and the latest versions of sites that the search engine has already seen. Robots.txt is a file that webmasters put together in order to speak directly to those search engine robots, telling them what to look at and what not to.
In SEO, what the spiders don’t see can matter as much as what they do. Managing the way your website looks to search engine robots is important, and the Robots.txt file has a big role to play there. Good SEO pros will use tools like a robots txt validator to check and double-check their important work.
Search engine spiders crawl through websites aiming to figure out what those websites are discussing and how trustworthy the website is. The spiders want to know where links to and from a given website are going, but they also want to know how the website itself is organized. What are the important pages? How are posts sorted and categorized, and what might that mean for the site’s expertise and focus?
Good SEO means having a website that is organized and makes it clear where its focus and expertise lies. A well-organized site is easier for search engines to catalog and appreciate. But once your site is well-organized, there’s a way to make things even easier on search engines. You can create a site map, which lays out all of this organization for the search engines so that they can easily understand how everything is connected.
If all of this sounds a little complicated, that’s because it might be. But that’s why SEO experts work so hard to study their craft and learn the latest things about how to best use these key concepts. When it comes time to find SEO solutions for yourself or your business, your best bet is to turn to the experts.