SEO for Solopreneurs – What You Need To Know

SEO for Solopreneurs – What You Need To Know

SEO Requires The Proper Mindset

First, SEO requires a certain mindset and knowledge about the players in the game. The two most important groups of players are the search engines (SEs) such as Bing, Google, Yahoo, Yandex, DuckDuckGo, etc. and the consumers - individuals and businesses searching for information.

The consumers, well, they consume.  Information is what they consume; in all different forms.  Written text, audio, video, images, and in all combinations. They ask for what they want by typing a search into the browser, and also by clicking on links that they think may supply the information they are looking for. Rejecting and consuming the information as they click to various pages on the internet provides more hints as to what they are looking for. 

The search engines listen to what the consumer requests, put an interpretation on it, and provide results they think the consumer will be happy with. The search engines don't know exactly what the consumer is looking for, so they must interpret. They interpret the actual search phrase entered by the consumer, and they also interpret the actions taken by the consumer.

There's virtually nothing you can do to force a consumer to like or agree with the content you provide, and there's little you can do to force search engines to show your content. The best you can do is be clear about what you offer, and to offer it in a manner that closely matches what the consumer is searching for.

SEO Requires The Proper Mindset

First, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) requires a certain mindset and knowledge about the players in the game. These players can be placed into three different groups.

  1. Consumers: Individuals and businesses who search the web looking for information, solutions, products, recommendations, entertainment, etc.
  2. Search Engines (SEs): These are web services such as Bing, Google, Yahoo, Yandex, DuckDuckGo, etc. These services try to steer you to information which the SE thinks is relevant to the search.
  3. Content Providers: Obvious examples are services such as news organizations, information sites, and entertainment sites. But millions of individual bloggers are also content providers as well as ecomm store owners.

The SEs listen to what the consumer requests, puts an interpretation on it, and provides results they think the consumer will be happy with. The search engines don't know exactly what the consumer is looking for, so they must interpret. They interpret the actual search phrase entered by the consumer, context in which the search is made, symantec meanings of words, and also the actions taken by the consumer.

There are many different types of content providers, each with their own niche, objective, and methods. Travel bloggers, self-help sites, news outlets, ecomm stores, and political commentary are all forms of content providers. Some may focus on written word to deliver the content, while others may focus on video or podcasts. But when publishing the content there is one primary goal - to get consumers to digest the content.

The consumers, well, they consume.  Information is what they consume; in all different forms.  Written text, audio, video, images, and in all combinations. They ask for what they want by typing a search into the browser, and also by clicking on links that they think may supply the information they are looking for. Rejecting and consuming the information as they click to various pages on the internet provides more hints as to what they are looking for. 

 

These three groups of players interact with, and depend on, each other in a revolving circle of demand, supply, and feedback. Each supplies a critical requirement to the relationship, and relies upon one or both of the other players to fullfil that requirement.

So how do content providers optimize this interaction? That is the role of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

The Two Ways That Sites Appear In Search Results

There are really only two ways that sites can appear in search results:

  • Paid advertising (e.g. PPC) to targeted at specific keywords or demographics.
  • Organic relevancy and recognition by search engines

In other words, links that are shown on a SERP (Search Engine Results Page) are there either because they paid to be there, or because the search engines think that the page may be relevant to what the user is searching for.

Someone may make an argument that the SEs are now showing information other than paid placements or organic results. This additional information shows up in information panels, usually in the right sidebar or inserted in the flow of traditional results.  However, these additional information panels are really just organic results that the SEs determine are important to show in a different format.

SEO Is The Art Of Content Getting Recognized

There's virtually nothing you can do to force a consumer to like or agree with the content you provide, and there's little you can do to force search engines to show your content. The best you can do is be clear about your content, and to offer it in a manner that closely matches what SE thinks the consumer is searching for.

To that purpose, SEO is a Content Creator activity.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is about authority, popularity, and recognition. That would be APR for those of you aching for an acronym. These work together in a feedback loop that, if done correctly, will greatly increase the chances of your content being presented high in the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).

There really isn't a starting point for this process as it's really a loop - just pick someplace to jump in. But, seeing that we have an acronym, I'll just start at the beginning of APR and then go into more details later in this article.

 

  • Authority: The measure of who you connect to, who connects to you, and what is the basis of your connection.
  • Popularity: How visible is your content. How much is it being talked about. How popular is the topic. How much competition is there.
  • Recognition: The consumers verdict based on the actions (votes) of consumers. 

Search Intent Defines Search Results

The search engines are getting really good - much of the time - at determining what the intent of a search phrase is. Search engines must take what is written in a search query and apply some AI bot machine logic and determine what they think the intent of the search is. And they are getting pretty good at the task, though not perfect.

Consider the following two searches typed into the browser search bar. When looking at the two searches the search engines have to make an interpretation of what was meant. As a human, I'll put my interpretation right below the phrase.

  • Books on raising goats
    My interpretation is the search is looking for a list of books, all about raising goats.
  • Where to buy books on raising goats
    My interpretation is the search is looking for various places that a book on raising goats can be purchased.

Now look the SERP results in the image below. For the search phrase "books on raising goats" notice that the first five results are links to Amazon books.  While for the search phrase "where to buy books on raising goats" the top two results are links to Amazon, but the remaining four links are to other sites.

Not what I expected.

Which brings me to an interesting point. It doesn't matter what you think the search means - what matters is what the SE thinks. So here's a tip for you:

When composing content, first run some searches and look at the results.

Do the search results show content similar to what you are planning to write?  If yes, then you can do further research to model what is returned. But if the search results aren't close to what you are planning, then you need to either adjust your content or adjust 

SERP Comparison Raise Goats

Links Help Determine Search Engine Authority

Authority for a website is built over time and has multiple components.  Just like the authority of a person, it requires subject matter expertise, connections to people and information, and recognition by others.

SEs assess the inbound, outbound, and internal links to a site, and to the individual pages on that site. They use that assesment as one component of authority. Another term for authority might be trust factor.  It is a metric that attempts to rate how authoritative (trustworthy) a webpage is. SEs have a preference - though not an absolute rule - for showing content from a page with high authority.

There are multiple factors that are compiled together to generate this authority. Of particular interest is the role that links play.  There are generally three types of links:

  • Outbound: Links from a webpage out to another site that is on a different domain. Linking out to high authority sites can improve your site authority.
  • Inbound: Links from an external website to a page on your website. Links from high authority sites can help your authority. Likewise, links from very low authority sites can hurt your authority.
  • Internal: Links from a page on your website to another location on your website (either a different page, or a different location on the same page.) The internal linking isn't a direct authority factor, but it does help the SE relate information on your site and the structure of your site, which in turn, can improve your site authority.

 

Keyword Research May Provide Misleading Results

Keywords are often the subject of SEO advice. Traditional SEO places tremendous focus and effort into finding the correct keywords to optimize your content for. There are multiple tools to assist with researching keywords, including the oft-mentioned Google keyword tool (now part of Google Adwords.)  

However, keyword research can lead to some very misleading results if the role of the SE is not taken into account.  I'll demonstrate this with a simple example of a business called L's Leather Products. It's pretty safe to assume by the name of the business that L's Leather Products has, um, leather products.  And of course they would like to rank high on the SE SERP for leather products.

A quick Google Keyword Planner research was done for the keyword "leather product" which returned the following results filtered for medium to low competition (see image.) Without doing any other research it would seem that "textured leather" would be a good keyword to optimize for as it has relatively high search volume and low competition.

 

However, take a look at the search results for the keyword "textured leather". You will notice that there are over 48 million pages and the top results are very unfocused. The SE doesn't know what the context of the search is, and therefore returns poor results that are very unfocused. This emphasises the fact that you must consider the intent of your content and align it with the context of what a SE thinks the search is about.

Search Results for Textured Leather

Keywords Tell You What Your Article Is About

Keywords are often the subject of SEO advice. Traditional SEO places tremendous focus and effort into finding the correct keywords to optimize your content for. There are multiple tools to assist with researching keywords, including the oft-mentioned Google keyword tool (now part of Google Adwords.)  

However, keyword research can lead to some very misleading results if the role of the SE is not taken into account.  I'll demonstrate this with a simple example of a business called L's Leather Products. It's pretty safe to assume by the name of the business that L's Leather Products has, um, leather products.  And of course they would like to rank high on the SE SERP for leather products.

A quick Google Keyword Planner research was done for the keyword "leather product" which returned the following results (filtered for medium to low competition.) Without doing any other research it would seem that "textured leather" would be a good keyword to optimize for as it has relatively high search volume and low competition.

 

But I'm of the opinion that search engines will tell you what your keywords are, and not the other way around.

Use Headings To Structure Your Content

Headings provide hints of the structure of your content to the search engines.

If you time-warp back to your writing classes in high-school you will no doubt have memories of putting together an outline and structuring your impresive thesis.

Headings in a web page are somewhat similar to your high-school writing experience.  They help to tell your reader what you think is important and let them skim to the section which is of interest to them. Without the headings your teacher, or readers, would be able to figure out what your article is about, but having headings provides hints as to what you think the article is about.

Read that last phrase again... having headings provides hints as to what you think the article is about.

And further, you can focus in on ...hints as to what you think...

Search engines, like readers, will be the judge of what the article is actually about and how relevant it is to what they are looking for.  Headings don't absolutely tell search engines or readers what the article is about, but if they are congruent and logical they help tremendously. 

Consider the following paragraph:

While headers are not going to have as large an impact on your SEO as a backlink from an authoritative site, search engines still look at them to gather context for your page.

And then consider the following two headings that could go with the previous paragraph.  Heading number one is clearly more relevant and congruent to the content of the paragraph and would be a much better choice.

1. Use Headers to Provide Structured Context

2. Use Headers to Break Up Text

Resources

  •  Keyword Research: https://www.wordstream.com/keywords
  • Screamingfrog: https://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/