Essent Webinars: Reaching the Roots of SEO: 10 Factors that Business People Hardly Have Time to Consider

From URL structure, to schema markup, to rich snippets and metadata, there's a whole hidden layer of SEO techniques that the average business person is unaware but needs to know about. This webinar highlights SEO factors, what they mean, how to leverage them, and perhaps most importantly: how to structure your web pages and what to ask from your web marketers so you can remain competitive.

Watch the Essent SEO Webinar

Slide 1: Reaching the Roots of SEO
Hello and welcome to the latest webinar from Essent. Today we’re going to highlight some of the technological factors involved in Search Engine Optimization.

Slide 2: Moderator: Douglas B. Brill
My name is Doug Brill. I’m the Essent marketing coordinator and I specialize in the promotional products industry. I’m also your moderator today.

Slide 3: About Essent
Before we begin, a very brief overview of Essent. Essent is the leader in providing Comprehensive business management solutions since 1981 Essent has been serving Distributors, Decorators, and Suppliers in the promotional products industry since the year 2000 $3 Billion in Commerce flows through Essent’s solutions each year

Slide 4: SEO is Complicated
Let’s just say this right off the bat: SEO is complicated.

Slide 5: SEO is Complicated (continued)
And there are a lot of things complicating it. For one, it’s hard to get complete answers about SEO. The search engine providers won’t fully reveal their ranking methods because they don’t want the other search engine providers to know. As a result, there is simply so much to SEO that search engine providers purposely never explain. Not only that, but the rules are constantly changing. Search engines are always evolving, optimizing themselves, to determine the most relevant content. So even to experienced online marketers, the ball is always moving. And SEO is becoming increasingly technological. 10 years ago SEO strategy was mostly placing a few important keywords in a few prominent locations. But search engines are becoming exponentially more sophisticated in deciding relevance, which means its becoming exponentially sophisticated to practice solid SEO.

Slide 6: Purposely Vague
So no one ever really told you all the rules.

Slide 7: Always Changing
Even if someone did tell you, the rules are always changing.

Slide 8: Increasingly Sophisticated
Every time the rules change, they get more complicated.

Slide 9: And You’re Busy Doing Business
And you’re supposed to keep up with all of this while you’re busy doing business.

Slide 10: Reaching the Roots of SEO
So today we’re going to take a look at 10 technological factors to consider in Search Engine Optimization, what they mean to search engines, what they mean to people, and what they mean for your website.

Slide 11: Presenter: William Austin
And with that, here to take you into greater detail is your presenter, Will Austin. Will is a business analyst for Essent, and he’s also a specialist in the promotional products industry. He’s here to take you through some of the technological roots of SEO.

Slide 12: Technological SEO Factors
Thank you very much, Doug. The SEO factors we’re going to look at today are …

Slide 13: Metadata
The first SEO factor we’re going to talk about today is metadata. Metadata, or meta tags, provide search engines information about a webpage or website that the search engine then can show in search results.

Slide 14: Metadata: Titles & Descriptions
Page Titles and Page Descriptions are the most critical pieces of metadata. They’re so fundamental that it’s hard to imagine a website even being found without them. The Page Title is very simply the clickable headline that shows up on search engine results. And the Page Description is the text that appears under the Page Title on search returns.

Slide 15: Metadata Titles
Page titles are a huge factor not just for robots but for people. Search engines crawl the titles to know what a page is about. So the title is a high-ranking cue for search engines to understand the page. Some SEO experts say the title metadata is the most important ranking factor besides the content that’s actually on the page. The title is a very high-ranking cue for people, too. It’s the first and often only thing people read before deciding to click on a search engine result Also of importance is that the Page Title is often displayed by default when someone links to it on social media.

Slide 16: Metadata Descriptions
Page Descriptions aren’t quite as important as Titles, but they definitely shouldn’t be ignored. Google announced in 2009 that it’s no longer using Page Descriptions as a ranking factor, so it’s automatically not as important as the Page Title. But it’s still a high-ranking cue to people, who read the descriptions to decide whether they should click. And also like Page Titles, Page Descriptions are often shown by default on social media links. It’s not a factor to search engines, but it’s a big factor to people.

Slide 17: Metadata: Keywords
A third piece of metadata that’s worth discussing is Keywords. These are simply words or phrases that describe a page. On this blog post, for example, the keywords are the names of the events that the post is about.

Slide 18: Metadata Keywords (continued)
Keywords have lost importance in recent years. Google announced that it has stopped using keywords metadata as a ranking factor. While other search engines may still be using keywords, it’s only minimally at best. The keywords aren’t visible in search returns, either, so in addition to not serving search engines they also don’t serve people, either. But one surefire way to get search engines to notice your keywords -- in a bad way -- is keyword stuffing. This is the black-hat practice of adding misleading keywords in the hopes of shooting up the rankings. If your keywords don’t match the content of the page, the page runs the risk of being penalized. Considering the lack of upside for keywords metadata, SEO practitioners should limit the time spent on it. The much better practice is to use the keywords in the content of the website.

Slide 19: Rich Snippets
Metadata is just one way of providing search engines information about your page. You can also use structured data markup to create Rich Snippets that are then included to enhance search returns.

Slide 20: Rich Snippets: Products
So what does that mean exactly? It’s better to show you. Have you ever seen products that get a little bit of special treatment in search returns and wondered why? Maybe the page gets displayed with a rating, like this. Or maybe it gets displayed with a photo, like this.

Slide 21: How Rich Snippets Work
These pages aren’t getting special treatment from Google. They’re getting special treatment from the companies creating the pages. What happens is the person creating the page adds code to it. Or, better yet, you have a platform that can automatically adds the code for you. This code is called structured data markup and it can communicate a lot of information to search engines. For product pages, it can include information like the rating and image we just saw plus other information including price, availability, and more. The search engine in turn can then show that information in search returns as a rich snippet. The rich snippet enhances your page in search results because it helps your page standout.

Slide 22: Rich Snippets: Reviews
Structured Markup Data works similarly for other types of Rich Snippets. For example, sometimes you see search engine returns that are a product review. That’s also a Rich Snippet at work. This one includes the rating as we saw before. Plus it includes part of the body of the review. It can also include the author and date of the review, an image of what’s being reviewed, and more information. structured markup data communicating a Product Review Rich Snippet to the search engine.

Slide 23: Rich Snippets: Video
And if you’ve seen a video displayed with a search return, the same thing is happening. Here the snippet is showing a thumbnail of the video. The name of the video. When it was uploaded and by whom. And a description of the video.

Slide 24: People Benefits of Rich Snippets
The benefits of rich snippets are clear. They simply enhance your search return. They give searchers more information. This means more quality traffic, because people will have a better idea of what’s on the page instead of clicking to potentially find out it’s not what they wanted. And they make the return stick out from the others, so it’s more likely to catch people’s attention.

Slide 25: Engine Benefits of Rich Snippets
Do rich snippets actually make your page rank higher? Some of the major search engines simply say no. But that should be taken with a grain of salt. The answer is probably that the existence of rich snippets itself doesn’t help rank. But providing the rich snippets is going to get you better traffic, a decreased bounce rate, more time spent on the site per visitor, and a host of other benefits related to quality traffic. So the rich snippets are ultimately improving pages for people. And that’s ultimately going to get the pages favored by search engines whose number one goal is to provide people the best pages.

Slide 26: Rich Snippets Supported by Google
So we’ve taken a look at three types of Rich Snippets that can enhance your search engine returns. We looked specifically at Products, Reviews, and Video because they’re the most relevant to ecommerce. It’s also worth noting that Google supports rich snippets for news, events, recipes, and software applications. The takeaway is that when a search return looks like it has special treatment, there’s a good chance rich snippets are at work. And you can give your pages that treatment as well.

Slide 27: Breadcrumb Paths
That brings us to Breadcrumb Paths. Google doesn’t classify a Breadcrumb Path as a Rich Snippet, but functionally it’s almost the same. You put structured markup data on your web page, and the result is an enhanced search engine return.

Slide 28: Breadcrumb Paths (continued)
Usually on a search return, you’ll see the URL displayed like this. It’s simply the URL to that single page. If the URL is long, you might also see it like this with a few dots along the way. It’s the same URL, just with a bit taken out to make it fit visually.

Slide 29: Breadcrumb Paths (continued)
But sometimes you’ll also see the URL turn out like this.

Slide 30: Breadcrumb Paths (continued)
It’s not a URL to a single page, but to multiple pages within the site. This is known as a Breadcrumb Path, and it illustrates the hierarchy and structure of a website. Pens is a sub category of Writing Instruments. That’s a subcategory of Office Supplies. And that’s a subcategory of the main site.

Slide 31: People Benefits of Breadcrumbs
Breadcrumb paths have a number of benefits. One is helping people better understand the site by presenting it in a clean, logical fashion. This helps visitors steer to other parts of the site more easily. And page views have the potential to go up because the site is easier to navigate.

Slide 32: Engine Benefits of Breadcrumbs
It’s beneficial for search engines, too. One big factor is that the Breadcrumb Path provides more links in the search return. If the searcher is interested in more than pens, now they have an easy way to click up a level to see more of what you have to offer. The breadcrumbs also help search engines crawl the site. Web crawlers are on a constant mission to understand how the world wide web fits together and what every single page is about. The breadcrumb path is a simple, straightforward cue to search engines about how your content fits in.

Slide 33: URL Structure
Now let’s move on to URL structure. Sound URL structure has many of the benefits of a sound Breadcrumb Path. A clean, logical URL structure makes it easier for both people and search engines to understand the site.

Slide 34: URL Structure (continued)
Let’s take a look at two possible URLs for the same page. The first has the kind of tidiness we liked in the Breadcrumb Path. The site organization and hierarchy is reflected. It’s easy for people and search engines to understand. People and search engines alike don’t need to expend much processing power to know that it’s a product page for the ErgoGrip N22 pen . The second URL says very little about the page. People need to click and hope it’s what they’re looking for. Search engines have to spend extra processing power combing through the contents of the page. All that a person or search engine can really infer is that there’s a product for sale and it has an identification number.

Slide 35: Image Alt Text and File Names
Up next is Image Alt Text and File Names. Everyone knows images makes a web page or any publication more appealing to readers. But what about search engines that can’t see the images in the literal sense that people see them?

Slide 36: Image Alt Text
That’s where image alt text and file names comes in. As a web surfer, you most often see image alt text when an image doesn’t load. It looks something like this, and the text tells you what’s in the photo. For you as a person, that might not do much. But to a search engine, that’s essentially how every image looks. The image alt text gives the search engine an idea of what the image shows even though it can’t see the image.

Slide 37: Image File Name
The file name you give to your image definitely shouldn’t be arbitrary. Again, search engines don’t see photos in the literal sense, so every morsel of information you can provide about the photo is important. This first file name is a typical default name that a camera will assign to a new photo. It really doesn’t say anything at all. Once you put it on your website, people will be able to see what it is. But how will a search engine know? Now take a look at this second file name. A search engine can crawl those words and very quickly know what it’s a picture of. The more detailed, the better. The same thing goes for other types of files you may upload, like PDFs or vidoes. You want to give the search engine as much context as possible.

Slide 38: Image Alt Text and File Names
So to recap, search engines don’t see images in the literal sense. They rely on context to understand what the image shows. And Alt Text and Image Files are among the few ways to provide search engines that context.

Slide 39: Mobile-Friendliness
Mobile-friendliness is an increasingly important SEO factor, with mobile now supplying a majority of web traffic, even for ecommerce.

Slide 40: Mobile-Friendliness: ‘Mobilegeddon’
In 2015 you might have heard about Google’s so-called Mobilegeddon. That’s when Google changed its algorithms to penalize sites and pages that weren’t mobile friendly. It was more of a tweak than Mobilegeddon, because non-mobile sites weren’t very sharply punished. But they did see their rankings fall a few pegs in searches performed on mobile devices. Still, the event shouldn’t be taken lightly. With mobile traffic continually rising, Google will certainly begin to squeeze tighter on websites that aren’t mobile friendly. Mobilegeddon was just the first step.

Slide 41: Mobile-Friendliness
The good news is that it’s not too hard to set up a site to be responsive to mobile devices. The first thing to do is check if your website is mobile friendly. Google Webmasters is free and will tell you which pages on your site are not considered mobile-friendly and why. You might be surprised by how many pages are mobile friendly already. Website providers are starting to automatically build in mobile-friendliness, even retroactively in some cases. If there are pages that are not mobile friendly, the next step is to fix them. That’s easier said then done, of course. It’s going to require developers, and not every business has developers. But website providers know the need for mobile friendliness and any good one should be able to make your website mobile friendly.

Slide 42: Technological SEO Factors
We’ve just taken a look at 10 technological SEO Factors that business people rarely have time to consider while they’re trying to do business. All of these contribute in some part to making your website friendlier to search engines and people alike.

Slide 43: Moderator: Douglas B. Brill
And with that I’ll turn it back over to Doug, who’s going to tell you how to learn more.

Slide 44: Automated SEO from Essent
Thank you very much, Will. Essent supports all the SEO features and functionality discussed today with the Essent SiteBuilder Ecommerce Platform. We have an automated approach to Search Engine Optimization that eliminates much of the complication. The idea is to automate SEO just by running your back office.

Slide 45: Automated SEO from Essent (continued)
And very briefly, this is how it works. Built into SiteBuilder websites are SEO best practices that account for everything we discussed today. SiteBuilder can integrate with a Business Management System or ERP, so it knows what’s going on in the back office. As products are added or changed in the back office, SiteBuilder automatically generates product pages with SEO best practices built in.

Slide 46: SEO Made Simple
To learn more about how Essent automates SEO, you can visit There you’ll find a detailed look at how to automate SEO just by running the back office, plus how to get in touch with Essent for a free consultation. Again, that’s for the next steps. Thanks again to everyone for attending today’s webinar.