In layman’s terms, Search Engine Optimization or SEO is the practice of optimizing your content in a way that it can be discovered through a search engine’s organic search results. This is often defined as SERP for Search Engine Results Pages. The goal is to be as high in the results as possible to get noticed.
For businesses that are just starting out, SEO can feel a bit intimidating. It is free, and both individuals and organizations can do it quite easily. However, there are a lot of things that need to be considered. Hence the million-dollar question is, how do you optimize your content for Search Engine Optimization? And what are the factors that impact SEO?
To answer that, we first need to understand what SEO actually is and how it works. So, let’s dig deeper.
Definition of SEO
SEO or Search Engine Optimization is a process of optimizing your content in a way that your website can get organic or un-paid traffic from Google or any search engine results page.
In other words, SEO consists of some practices that involve making changes to your website and its content so it can rank higher in the search engine results. Businesses buy SEO services from digital marketing companies in hopes that they can see their websites on the first page on the search engine results page.
How Do Search Engines Work?
Google and Bing are two top search engines that are used by people all over the world to process their queries and get relevant results. In simple words, search engines are libraries for the digital age that, instead of storing books, store web copies.
When you type a query into the search bar of a search engine, it looks through all the pages in its index to find the most relevant results and display them in front of you. To do this, it uses a set of certain instructions called an algorithm. These algorithms are continuously updated regularly, so nobody except Google knows how these algorithms work, but we do have a clue.
How SEO Works?
You know how search engines work, now let’s discuss how SEO works. SEO works by showing the search engines that your content is the best result against the typed query by the user. And because all the search engines have the same goal: to show the best, most relevant results – your content will be shown on top results if it is well optimized for the topic at hand.
However, it also comes down to the search engine you are optimizing for. For example, if you want to get more organic traffic to your website, then you need to have a better understanding of Google’s regularly changing algorithm. If you want more views on your videos, then you need to understand YouTube’s algorithm.
Since every search engine has its own way of going through the content and showing you the top results, it is virtually impossible to cover all of them in this guide. Therefore, we will focus on the biggest search engine of all: Google.
Top Benefits of SEO
1. SEO Leads to Enhanced User Experience
A search engine is looking for the most relevant results – the websites that get more clicks, more leads, higher conversion rates, and has optimized content, etc. are the best match. Hence, for the sake of SEO, you will have to improve your website and maximize user experience. This includes providing your users with easy to navigate web pages, easy to read content, relevant information, related photos/videos to support text, and a mobile-friendly website configuration.
This is what a search engine is already looking for; thus, it will improve your search ranking as well.
2. More Leads
The biggest advantage of SEO is that it is an inbound marketing strategy, which is the most effective and successful source of leads among NGOs, B2B, and B2C. Inbound marketing includes social media marketing, content marketing, referrals, search engine optimization, and so on.
On top of everything, SEO is completely free – you don’t have to break the bank in order to get more clicks and leads.
3. Higher Conversion Rate
If your website has a good ranking on a search engine, it can guarantee you higher conversion rates. All you have to do is maintain your top position, and your target market will become more aware of you. As customers are becoming more familiar with what you are offering (product or services), there is a great possibility for them to close a deal with you.
4. Helps Establish Brand Awareness
In today’s world, where everything is getting online, people tend to search for a brand on the internet before trusting its products or services. SEO is the best way to establish brand awareness. It will make your product or service appear on top in search results through regular and organic search. Once you maintain the top positions, people will be able to see and recognize you.
5. Helps You Gain More Followers on Social Media
By the time you maintain top ranking on a search engine, more and more people will know about you. Just a little push in the right direction can move the users from your website to your social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.)
If they like your content on your website and social media, they will eventually follow you and might even become a hot lead.
Factors That Impact SEO
Now that you know how search engines work and what SEO actually is, now you might be wondering, “what are the factors that can impact SEO?”
So, let’s take a look at some of the factors that can impact your online presence on search engines.
Before Google even considers your content and rank it on its results page, it first needs to know where it exists. Although Google uses several methods to locate a web page, the primary method is known as crawling. In simple words, crawling is a process in which Googlebot finds new and updated web pages to be added to the Google index.
Let’s assume that your website’s homepage has a backlink from a website that is already added in Google’s index. So the next time Googlebot crawls that site, it will follow that backlink, and end up crawling different links on your homepage and find other pages on your site as well.
However, some things can block Google’s crawlers from discovering and going through your web pages, and they are:
- Poor Internal Linking
As already mentioned above, Google relies on internal links or backlinks to crawl various pages on your site. Therefore, without internal linking, it won’t get crawled, and the chances are that other pages won’t be added into Google index.
- Noindexed Pages
Your web pages can be excluded from Google’s index by using noindex Meta tag or HTTP header. If other web pages on your site have internal links from only noindexed pages, then there are high chances that Google won’t be able to discover them.
- Nofollowed Internal Links
If your pages have internal links with nofollow tags, then it won’t be crawled by Google.
- Blocks in robots.txt
Robots.txt is a special file of your website that tells the crawler where it can crawl and where it cannot. If some of your pages are blocked in this file, it won’t crawl them.
According to Statista, 63% of Google searches are done from mobile phones. And with time, the number is increasing. Due to these statistics, Google announced in 2016 that it would give a ranking boost to the mobile-friendly websites in its mobile search results.
Interestingly, in 2018, Google shifted to mobile-first indexing – means that now they will use the mobile version of your website/page for both indexing and ranking.
As the name suggests, this terms means how fast your web page loads on the user end. It is a great ranking factor on mobile and desktop. This step is done because Google doesn’t want to promote sites that are too slow as they want to keep their users satisfied.
If you want to check your website’s page speed, you can use Google’s Pagespeed Insights tool.
4. Content Marketing
Content marketing is considered one of the most important factors that can impact your website’s SEO. It can make it or break it. Quality content is effective in both attracting search engines to boost your ranking and impressing your visitors.
The more high-quality content your site has, the more likely Google will rank your pages higher on the search results page.
Similarly, the more interesting content you have on your site, the more time the user will spend reading it. Hence, Google will notice this and display your website on top the next time other users are trying to find the same thing.
The best way to ensure that your content is optimized for both the search engines and your human site visitors is to provide a variety, in the form of:
- Social media content
- Videos and audio recordings
- Blog posts and articles
- How-To Guides and Tutorials
- Infographics or other visual content
- E-books and whitepapers
Another major thing to consider when creating content for your site is SEO keywords and phrases. When you create content, based on certain keywords that are ranking higher on Google and have low competition, you improve your chances of ranking higher on the search engine results page.
Another factor that matters a lot in content marketing is how fresh your content is. This doesn’t mean that you have to create brand new content to keep it fresh. Instead, you can update your posts, rewrite content, and add new information and stats over time.
Although creating high-quality content takes more time, it will definitely pay off in the end. Search engines love highly optimized, quality content, and so do the users.
5. On-Page SEO
In easy words, on-page SEO is a practice to optimize individual web pages on your site in order to rank your website higher in search results and earn more relevant web traffic in search engines. In this type of SEO, you can optimize both the content and HTML source code of a webpage. Hence, you have complete control over everything.
Following are the key elements of on-page SEO that can help improve your search engine rankings:
- Meta Description
The small text you see on the search results page under every web page’s URL is called its Meta description. This tells search engines a little bit more about what your webpage is about. This is also used by human visitors to have a sneak peek of the complete article before deciding if they should click or not.
- Title Tag
Title tags tell are small texts that tell search engines what your content is about. This should be less than 70 characters, preferably.
Subheadings don’t just make your content more readable but also help improve your SEO. Use header tags such as H1, H2, and H3 to help search engines understand what your content is all about.
- Internal Links
One of the best on-page SEO practices is interlinking your content. You can hyperlink a certain keyword or phrase in your blog to another article in your site. This can help search engines learn more about your site.
- Image Name and ALT Tags
If you are using images within your content, it is best to give every image a name and use alt tags. Doing this step will allow search engines to index your images as well, which may appear when users perform an image search for the keyword or tag that you have given to the image.
6. Off-Page SEO
Unlike On-page SEO, where you have complete control over certain elements, Off-page SEO is all about things that don’t happen directly on your website. It consists of things like local SEO, social media, link building, etc.
Following are the key elements of Off-page SEO that can help improve your search engine rankings:
- Link Building
One of the best ways to make your website look trustworthy is by building a good amount of backlinks from sites that have authority. However, don’t go too extreme that Google bans your site from search engines, considering it spam.
- Social Media
Social media is your best friend when it comes to boosting your SEO. You should look for quality shares from influencers. They will refer your sites and will link back to your site in their own content.
Black Hat vs. White Hat SEO
This one is itself a very long topic, but we will try explaining to you the difference concisely.
When we are talking about SEO, there are two different approaches that organizations can take to optimize their sites for search engine rankings: Black Hat SEO and White Hat SEO.
Some organizations are only looking to rank their content on search engines quickly so they can earn some quick money in the short-term. Black Hat SEO is used for this purpose as it consists of tactics that focus on optimizing your content only for the search engines.
This means that those organizations aren’t considering the quality of content and the human visitors that will read and navigate their site content. All they want is to improve their site rankings quickly to make a quick buck.
Although such websites get ranked higher in search results, they may end up looking spam and are often difficult for people to read. However, these sites are penalized or banned by search engines for breaking the rules.
On the other hand, there is White Hat SEO. The best of the best. A slow but effective approach to optimize your content for search engines. This approach mainly revolves around enhancing the experience of human visitors who will be clicking on and reading the site’s content.
The aim of this type of SEO is to produce the highest quality content that has the potential to generate higher conversion rates – all organically.
In short, you may get your website to the highest search engine ranking using Black Hat SEO, but eventually, Google will figure out what you are trying to do and penalize your site. Your website may not be able to come back online, depending on the severity of the offenses. Therefore, the only way to build a sustainable online presence is to bring in more organic traffic by producing high-quality content that your visitors and search engines find valuable.
After learning all the major points regarding SEO and how it works, you can now make amends on your site in order to improve your SEO, hence search rankings. Remember that there are a lot of factors working side by side when it comes to ranking your content. Therefore, you should be consistent in quality and providing highly valuable content that your visitors will love. Cheers!
Bonus Tip: It may take days, weeks, or months to enjoy the results of your hard work. So, don’t lose hope and always focus on SEO’s best practices to build a sustainable online presence that will help bring in new organic site traffic for years to come.