With the Internet growing at an exponential rate, understanding how search engines like Google find and show your website is more important than ever. In this new interview series, we’re diving into questions about Search Engine Optimization from an SEO amateur (our PM Regina O’Toole) for our in-house SEO expert, Jeremy Walker. Read on to learn more about what advanced SEO tactics you can handle yourself, and when to give the experts a call.DIY SEOAnalytics dashboards are not easy to understand. Can we demystify them?Analytics dashboards are meant to quickly and clearly show your website’s performance – the problem is, sometimes more data isn’t always easily digestible. The first data point to review in any dashboard is traffic. You’ll want to determine how much traffic is coming to your website each month and what percent of the total is from organic. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, organic search should be your number one channel for website traffic. You’ll also want to look at trends month over month and year over year to catch any improvements (or decreases) in performance due to changes to the site or your marketing strategy. The second data point to review is how much of the traffic is being driven from branded vs. unbranded keywords. In the case of brand traffic, the result is a function of brand awareness. Unbranded content is a function of whether a site has the content and the authority to make it one of Google’s trusted partners. To gather this top-level perspective, you need to create an analytics dashboard and filter the results. When faced with an overwhelming amount of data, focus on the traffic sources and keyword phrases.What are the simplest ways that I can improve my website, on my own, without the help of experts?Start with the 4 basic SEO rules from Part 1 of this series. After that, there are simple tools you can use that allow you to crawl the website to learn how many meta tags are missing and how many description tags are missing. By taking the temperature of your website in this fashion, your web development team can continually improve on your site’s appearance in search results and optimize for target keywords. Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) is a great place to start to review your site. It gives you an inventory of your website issues, which allows you to create a list of what to work on and where to go to make fixes.What are the most common mistakes DIYers can avoid?Mistake #1 The biggest mistake is improperly setting up the robot.txt file, which informs search engines how to crawl specific pages or folders. A single error can make it impossible for spiders and bots to read your web pages, and basically erase your site from search results until it gets fixed.Mistake #2 With so much attention being paid to keyword searches, it is common to have issues with local search queries and Google My Business profiles. Oftentimes, a business will have the wrong address and phone number information appear on Google, making it difficult for users to get what they need, and search engines to provide a strong user experience.What are the great SEO blogs to source for SEO wisdom?What’s the difference between organic search and paid traffic? What should I pay more attention to?A lot of things have changed recently with paid search. Previously, an organic listing might have been enough to dominate above the fold content, but now that is no longer the case. Organic results drive the majority of traffic, but paid search is a vital supporting player, filling in the gaps and augmenting even high-ranking pages. Progressive Insurance, for example, for one quarter, stopped buying the term “auto insurance” because they were ranked number 1 organically. They lost a third of their leads because they did that. In a competitive environment you can’t afford not to buy keywords, even when you are ranking well organically.One of the most important things with branded search that we are doing for our clients is to review the most popular products and services that they sell and which should be appearing that don’t appear. It’s a great way to test how their advertising is working. If they’re promoting certain things, are people typing those into search or not? You want to have an optimized website, but you need paid search and organic search working together. You can’t use just one tool to reach your goals in such a competitive environment online.Explain Google Search Console. How do we use it, and for what? How important is mobile-friendliness to SEO success?The most powerful tools that Google Search Console provides for web teams and SEO experts you are all the analytics, like which keywords drive traffic to specific landing pages. The second set of information it provides is crawl status. Crawl status is literally what pages are being indexed by Google, which pages have errors, and if there is some clear miscommunication between the content you’re trying to index and what Google is actually indexing. Basically, you’ll be able to see if the new pages you are creating are performing correctly in search, or if you’ve made an error and Google hasn’t discovered this valuable content. There’s also a new feature, the “mobile-friendliness” tool. Within Google Search Console, it calls out which pages have issues on mobile devices, giving you the information you need to adjust this in a timely manner. Mobile searches now outpace desktop searches, so mobile performance is huge for Google’s rankings.What’s next and how frequently do the rules change with SEO?The rules are changing constantly with SEO, almost every month. Google is diligent at providing the best experience, so they conduct two major experiments every day. There are about 700 major tests per year. They test different layouts and different approaches on a daily basis. So there are major changes happening all the time. One of the biggest advances is voice-assisted search. With Siri and Alexa gaining popularity, searches are spoken out and therefore keywords are longer and more conversational than the short, choppy phrases users tend to type. This may require updates to how websites are targeting and writing content to better adhere to a user’s needs.Need expert SEO help? Contact Primacy.