Search engine optimization (SEO) is a phrase very well known in the business world. What was once considered an optional marketing tactic for technologically driven businesses is now a fundamental practice for any company attempting to reach new clients. Despite all this importance, though, many still fail to understand the nuts and bolts behind SEO and one important truth: not all SEO is created equal.

It’s easy to think of SEO in black of white — either your business is doing it or it’s not — but in reality, it is much more complex than that. There are discernable differences in the quality of SEO and many digital marketing companies take advantage of the fact that most individuals can’t make the distinction for themselves. The best way to combat this is to educate yourself on the key indicators of an SEO’s quality and how to best approach each indicator. Read below for a description of the three largest indicators:

On-Site Optimization

To put it simply, on-site optimization is setting up a website to ensure that search engines, like Google or Bing, are able to figure out key pieces of information about the company or organization behind the website. Specifically, those key pieces of information are what your company is, what it does and where it serves. Search engines pull this information from your website by using bots that go through your website’s code. The most effective parts of your website to focus on to provide this information to the search engines are your domain name/URL, the titles tags of your pages, the structured headlines on your pages and the diction used on each page.

Citations

Anytime your company’s name, phone number, address and website are listed together on a webpage, that’s considered a citation. Search engine bots use citations as a way to evaluate a business’s validity, as more consistent information across numerous platforms allows search engines to trust the information it collects. There are endless opportunities on the internet for your company’s citations to pop up on a webpage. The Facebook page for your company is a citation, the Yelp page of your company is a citation and even your company’s Chamber of Commerce listing is a citation.

Backlinks

Backlinks are best described as referrals on the internet. Every link displayed on the internet that sends a visitor to a page on your website is considered a backlink, and they provide the crucial role of bolstering the trust in your company and the services it provides. The more backlinks that send visitors to your website, the more trust your company has garnered and the more likely visitors are to refer to your services. Search engines rely on these backlinks to evaluate the level of trust that has been instilled in your company, so their role in SEO is essential.

Combined, these three factors are the most essential to any company’s SEO. If any one of these strategies are not being effectively used to their full potential, it is indicative of poor SEO that can be significantly improved. When looking for your next digital marketing agency, ensure that they touch on each of these core factors of SEO so you’re optimizing your website and its performance on every search engine.