What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
Picture yourself the morning before Thanksgiving. You wake up in a great mood and are ready to catch a flight back to your hometown to visit your family for the holidays. You hail a cab and head to the airport with plenty of time to spare. Making your way through security, suddenly, an announcement hisses over the airport's intercom. The voice on the other end sneers that they overbooked your flight, and only one seat is left. You look up, and to your despair, you see a horde of people running towards your gate.
But you are still stuck at security. It's over. You missed your flight and will now have to spend Thanksgiving with your in-laws.
The above scenario is extreme but can be directly contrasted with SEO. In the scenario, you are competing with an airport full of people to be first in a race against time. With SEO, you compete against countless other websites and social media platforms to be first in line in someone's search results.
SEO is the process of affecting a website's visibility and rankings in a search. Having a solid knowledge of search engine tools like Google can help your site move higher in the rankings resulting in more people coming to your website or social media platform for information. Essentially, SEO is all about the strategies and techniques used to increase the number of visitors to a website by appearing within the top range of search results.
For example, if the term 'PAVILION' is searched via the search engine Google, you would get about 388,000,000 results. The search results will be anything from developing pavilion architecture to businesses and concert centers. It is an insurmountable task to go through all the search results, and most people would give up after the first page or two or may begin a new search by adding different keywords. When a search is performed using the keywords "DINFOS PAVILION," there are about 60,000 results, and the DINFOS-hosted website would be among the top results.
Why is SEO important?
It is a common misconception that government agencies do not have clients like private businesses. This idea could not be further from the truth as ALL people in the United States are the government's clients, as the point of government services is to serve the public. In this instance, the federal government competes with other public and private businesses and organizations to be the highest on search engine results. Therefore, federal government agencies must implement best practices and industry standards regarding SEO.
SEO is all about generating traffic to your website or social media site. Showing up higher in search engine results means more people will see the website and social media sites, which in return means there is a higher likelihood of them viewing the content and increasing the time spent on your sites. And the more time spent, the better.
How can you implement SEO successfully?
Implementing the following techniques and tools can help websites and social media sites populate higher in search results, giving you a better chance of reaching a larger demographic of people and disseminating your message to more and more people.
Know the Target
Think like your audience! Research how your targeted audiences are querying their searches and create content that answers their questions and piques their interest. The best research for search queries comes from surveying your targeted audience and finding out what they really want. For example, in a military environment, targeted audiences will tend to search for military-related terms, such as the formal names of the services or military training exercises, like 'Marines', 'Army' and 'training' to name just a few.
Be Relevant and Follow Trends
One of the best and most productive ways to help search engines prioritize your content is to use purposeful and targeted language to maximize the number of visitors to a particular website or social media page. Ensuring that you have quality content targeted to a specific audience can increase traffic to your social media page or post, improving your platforms' overall health and increasing your relevance. For example, Facebook has an insights tab that allows you to track things like your audience's demographic data and reach. Twitter has an analytics tab that enables tracking of items such as impressions, engagements and engagement rate. Google Trends can also be used to discover what your targeted audience demographic is searching for and their overall interests. This will help you find out what your local audience wants to know so you can adapt your content accordingly. It's important to remember that you must balance relevance and impact with the need to communicate responsibly. Trendiness should never compromise the mission or cost a unit its reputation.
Focus on specific details. What about your content sets it apart from information on other websites? No one wants to visit websites or social media sites that are the same or redundant. Ensure the information you are displaying is distinctive and appealing.
When using search engines such as Google, use proper nouns. Be as specific as possible when using people's names, places, and other things to distinguish between proper and common nouns.
Practice proactive SEO! Nothing is worse than developing a great website or social media site, populating the content and then forgetting about it. Stale content and lack of updates can be detrimental to your optimization. Make sure you keep content updated and information fresh.
Use Keywords and Be Information Rich
Keywords are common words and phrases used to describe the subject of your website or post. For help finding the appropriate keywords, use open systems like Google Keyword Planner and Google Analytics to assist you. Avoid wordiness, do not use puns, indirect references or obscure words. Unless the website or social media post is clearly run by your commander and is attributable to them, never use “I.” Use only “we.” The more rich information your website or social media post has, the more likely someone may spend their valuable time viewing it. Make your website or social media post helpful and include searchable keywords on important parts of the page, including in the headlines and the captions accompanied by images.
There are ways to enhance SEO through paid outreach and refinement, however, those can run afoul of legal and ethical guidelines. It's a good idea to contact your legal team before implementing any SEO tools and techniques to ensure compliance. And remember: units should never pay to increase reach.