As a full-service agency, Clique Studios has many teams that are involved at various stages in our projects working in partnership with our exciting clients. We have Marketers, Engineers, Designers, Strategists, and so many more creative individuals who work in sync to provide the best work for our clients. And within those teams, we have experts within individual fields who try to inform the rest of the organization whenever possible.
As the lead SEO here at Clique, I’ve made a point to try to educate not only our readership on the basics and more nuanced points of SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, but to also educate our teams so they can best utilize this important tool for our clients.
To this effort, I recently prepared a follow up to my “SEO 101” internal presentation, creatively titled “SEO 102: SEO and You,” where I talked about the various ways you can address and enhance SEO.
And while SEO 102 was intended as an internal document to optimize our practices, one of the core tenets of Clique Studios is “Be a Student and a Teacher.” So we wanted to share that knowledge. No matter what aspect of the digital experience you are responsible for, you have the ability to make a meaningful impact in your SEO performance, and we’re here to empower you to make that impact.
The Basics of SEO
SEO might be complex, but it’s not complicated if you know the basics. If you’re not an SEO professional, there’s no reason for you to know all the nuances of SEO, but if your whole team knows the basics, it can provide an overwhelming benefit to future projects.
While I’ve talked about SEO in our beginner’s guide, it’s always good to reiterate the essential basics of SEO before moving on to how to best optimize your approach.
First of all, if you aren’t familiar with SEO, don’t worry. This should have some information you’d find useful! Essentially, SEO refers to any practices and strategies that make your website more visible through relevant searches on search engines, like Google or Bing.
As I say to every client—the internet is a big place. SEO makes it smaller. At the end of the day, that’s the purpose of SEO, and it’s ultimate goal.
SEO comes down to three pillars or “buckets” that each involve different focuses and tactics, but when combined, help achieve this goal.
Anything on your webpage that you have direct influence over counts as your “On-Page” SEO. This is the most important area in all of SEO, because it focuses on the most important aspect of SEO—content.
“Content is king” is a term that most SEOs hear so often it makes them cringe, but it is true. Each subsequent algorithm update offered by Google and other search engines is focused on providing the best experience for their users, and that starts with the content they offer.
This content has to be relevant, of course. If Clique Studios (us), a web design agency focused on digital transformation, wrote an article about comets, that would not be particularly relevant to our users. That said, if our previous partners at the Adler Planetarium wrote that article, users with questions about comets would much prefer to read content from such an expert source.
There is a lot that goes into On-Page SEO outside of just content, like meta descriptions, image optimization, alt text, and URL structure, but at the end of the day, On-Page SEO is most valuable because it is the area that you have the most control over.
Ultimately, its value comes from a variety of factors, but the most important aspect of On-Page SEO, and SEO in general, is high-quality, useful content that a search engine would want to direct a user towards.
Just as On-Page SEO refers to ways to optimize your site’s visibility on search engines through what is on the page, Off-Page SEO involves everything that happens off your website that still signals to search engines that your website is an authority in its primary area.
This can involve brand-building areas, such as press releases, social media, and comment sections, though by far the most powerful tool in any Off-Page SEO strategy involves building backlinks.
A backlink refers to any time a different website links to your website. Outside of content, backlinks are currently the strongest way to improve your SEO value. A link from a high-authority site transfers some of that authority to your site, and can help raise its ranking on important keywords.
There are two types of backlinks: do-follow and no-follow links. The former have a code that tells search engines to follow that link to the source page—you’ll find this for most general links, like this one to the Clique homepage. These have the most Off-Page SEO value.
No-follow links have a special code that tells search engines to ignore the link. Recently, these have started to have some SEO value, because it still indicates an awareness of your website or brand. Most of these links come from social media sites like Twitter or Facebook, or from website comments sections.
Backlinks can be earned through direct outreach efforts (usually guest posting), but if your On-Page content is strong enough, you’ll manage to find passive backlinks from writers who cite your content for their own content.
Finally, the third “bucket” of SEO involves technical SEO, which speaks to the speed, structure, and crawl-ability of a website. User-experience increasingly is an important aspect of Technical SEO, as a slow or unresponsive website is more likely to be penalized by search engines who are looking to provide clean, uncluttered, and non-frustrating pages as their results.
Google has been focusing more and more on Technical SEO, starting with their introduction of the Core Web Vitals during their Page Experience update of 2021. These vitals measure how fast a page “feels” and how stable a page is, in order to best provide a better experience. Between these web vitals, and general site structure found in sitemaps and robots.txt files, while Technical SEO has less impact than content and backlinks, it still is an essential focal point for any website.
How Every Digital Team Impacts SEO
Depending on your role in the development or maintenance of a website, you might find yourself more or less involved with any of these buckets. It’s important to know that content has a large impact, and backlinks can drive your page’s authority, but you might not be directly involved in certain aspects of your website.
Each of our teams impacts a website’s SEO performance in different, and important ways, and by empowering them with the knowledge of areas they can directly affect, we can make sure all of our teams work in concert to maximize SEO results.
SEO for Developers and Engineers
When building a website, developers and engineers are largely responsible for Technical SEO. Their largest focus is ensuring the site is free of bugs and glitches, is fast and user-friendly, and can pass Google’s Core Web Vitals.
Google has a free PageSpeed Insights tool that “scores” any website’s mobile and desktop experience, while also determining its performance in the Core Web Vitals. It also provides suggestions for development teams to improve their scores, which tend to focus on cleaning up excess code and optimizing page speed.
For more information on how to best optimize the Core Web Vitals, Google has provided these three guides that can help address any question you might have.
There are other areas in Technical SEO that engineers should focus on, like securing a site through an SSL certificate or applying rel=canonical tags.
Engineers impact more than just Technical SEO, however. With On-Page SEO, they should make sure to place H1s, H2s, and H3s that emphasize important content. (In this article, “The Basics of SEO” is an H2, “SEO for Developers and Engineers” is an H3, and our title is our H1. All are important to send signals to Google on what this article is about, and who it serves).
Additionally, engineering teams can help by optimizing image size—too many images that take up too much space can slow down a website, and there are many easy ways to minimize the size of an image while keeping its integrity. This is an easy “win” for SEO that our engineers make a point to optimize in order to provide the best page performance possible.
But a complete website benefits from more than just having a development team behind it. We also have Strategists and Designers, both of whom can make a direct impact on a site’s performance.
SEO for Strategists
When we launch a project to build a website, part of the Discovery process involves our Strategists planning out page structure and templates. While this is essential for maximizing a website’s user experience, it also, as a result, has real implications when it comes to Technical and On-Page SEO. A logical, easy-to-crawl site structure is an essential component for SEO, which also happens to make the site easier to navigate for the user.
Our Strategists also ensure each site we build has an XML Sitemap (usually created automatically by Yoast) and when the site launches we use that sitemap to create a robots.txt file (basically an “instruction guide” for how search engines should crawl your site). And once a site goes live, we tie the page to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools, submitting our new sitemap to make sure the new site is recognized by search engines as soon as possible.
But the biggest role our Strategists have to play in SEO performance comes from the content side of things. We offer a variety of options to clients, ranging from content advisory services to complete content creation, but we make sure that the pages built, and the content behind those pages, are built with SEO in mind.
That means a focus on service or product page structure and content, as well as recommendations for news or blog sections where it would benefit the client.
We also make sure to educate our clients on how to optimize On-Page SEO for their site. Before handing the site fully to the client, we make sure they know the importance of alt text, meta descriptions, and image optimization, and educate them on how to make sure every page they create is fully primed for top SEO performance.
SEO for Designers
Our Designers help make beautiful websites that empower our clients to share their story the way they want it to be shared. But just because they are not writing content or building code doesn’t mean they have no impact on a website’s SEO performance. In fact, their involvement is crucial.
The appearance of a page also affects its ability to rank. Cramped, messy pages are increasingly less likely to rank, simply because they provide a bad experience for the user. Ultimately, search engines are businesses, and the results they suggest are their “product.” They want to make sure their customers get the “best” product, instead of messy pages with thin content or little value.
Our clean, SEO-driven approach for Inspire11
As a result, a focus on clean and intentional design is a key part of the website design process, and carries just as much weight as the work Strategists do on content and what Engineers do for speed and Technical SEO.
Good SEO Takes a Village
Ultimately, SEO is one of the most valuable tools you can use to drive business. It’s a way to bring in new clients or customers, and it can increase your visibility in important areas. When it’s done well, it pays incredible dividends, but it requires intentionality and persistence.
By making sure everyone on your team knows how and where they can help improve your SEO digital footprint, you can empower them to help drive traffic, keywords, and business to the most important marketing tool you have—your website.