What is SEO?
Non-SEOs are the ones most likely to ask the question – along with SEOs starting out in 2020. What, exactly, is SEO? SEO is the primary means of using specific techniques to optimize your site for attaining high rankings on the SERPs (search engine results pages) on Google. These techniques include technical SEO, proper keyword research, on-page optimization, and off-page optimization (link earning).
Although you don’t have to know how to code to be successful in SEO, you should invest time in learning it because it will make you that much more competitive when you know how to use it. Which SEO would you want? The one who knows how to code from the ground up and can make changes on-the-fly, or someone who knows just enough to be dangerous but has to spend more time putting these together? Anyway, at its nuts-and-bolts:
SEO is the process of improving your website to increase web traffic. Eventually, when the quality and quantity of this traffic is good enough, it should turn into leads and ultimately conversions, increasing the website’s overall ROI, or return on investment. But, there are different objectives depending on the site and what its ultimate goal is. Rand Fishkin put it perfectly in this article he wrote on The 6 Goals of SEO.
Web traffic and website optimization are integral in search engine ranking. Crawlers or bots, like Google bots, scan digital content in order to rank your page in the search results. Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) are the listings displayed by Google, Bing, and Yahoo in response to a particular search query.
For example, an average Joe searches “The Avengers Movie” on Google. If your website has an article covering that topic, the web page containing that post will be added to the search results, assuming it is the most relevant, has the best content, and has quality links to support its popularity. The meta title and meta description of your article will be included in the listings too. Of course, the algorithmic process behind crawling, ranking, and indexing is not exactly that simple, but this explanation is written to be simple to understand.
However, if your article isn’t optimized for crawlers, your content may end up in the last pages of the SERPs, or not in the index at all. That’s the last thing that you would want to happen. If it does happen, not many people can view your page unless it’s linked to a website with good enough exposure through other types of digital marketing. The ultimate goal of SEO should be higher rankings, traffic, and leads. That is how businesses thrive. And that’s how you provide $$$ value.
Your pages should strive to be in the top 10 results of the SERPs, although being position-specific may vary in their results. Surveys show that sites appearing on Google’s 1st page receive approximately 95% of clicks. This study by Brian Dean of Backlinko shows the following:
“1. The #1 result in Google’s organic search results has an average CTR of 31.7%.
2. The #1 organic result is 10x more likely to receive a click compared to a page in #10 spot.
3. Organic CTR for positions 7-10 is virtually the same. Therefore moving up a few spots on the bottom of the first page may not result in more organic traffic.
4. On average, moving up 1 spot in the search results will increase CTR by 30.8%. However, this depends on where you’re moving from and to. Moving from position #3 to position #2 will usually result in a significant CTR boost. However, moving from #10 #9 doesn’t make a statistically significant difference.”
Clearly, SEO is a significant investment that can achieve great returns, assuming you spend your time doing the right things.
By targeting the right keywords that convert, optimizing your web pages, focusing on the correct silo website architecture, and ensuring that your site is completely crawlable and indexable by spiders, you can achieve this. High-quality links, content, and a high-quality sustainable SEO strategy is superior to achieving results that last.
Why white hat SEO? The philosophy behind white hat SEO involves following Google’s webmaster guidelines while remaining competitive in your on-site and off-site SEO choices. This is harder than it sounds, which is why having a professional in this field is a great investment. I think, however, SEO shouldn’t have labels behind white hat and black hat. It’s about applying techniques that get results. For example, what is considered white hat today could be black hat tomorrow. Google is always updating their algorithm, along with their webmaster guidelines, so this can change at a moment’s notice. There are some who believe that there are no hats, and they are simply labels.
I advocate strategies that are not against Google’s Guidelines, as these facilitate the most return on your investment, and can help your website sustain itself through most algorithm updates. Don’t fall prey to get-rich-quick schemes that promise you thousands of visitors overnight. This seldom happens, and only to a lucky few. Reset your expectations that SEO is going to take time to show results.
What, Exactly, Is SEO?
Firstly, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. As a set of rules for improving websites, this internet marketing strategy can improve your website’s quality of traffic.
SEO won’t only improve your site’s ranking, but also makes it user-friendly, easy-to-navigate, and intuitive. Even if your pages do end up in the top 10, but digital content loads slowly, visitors will leave your site. This causes a high bounce rate, resulting in Google’s perception of your site as being of low quality. This low quality can, but not always, translate to lower performance of your site in the SERPs.
SEO also alludes to the improvement of “unpaid results.” This includes organic or natural results and excludes paid placement and direct traffic. It targets a variety of searches, which include news, academic, video, and image search. The same protocols apply to industry-specific vertical search engines.
Website optimization may include the following processes:
- Increasing the number of backlinks,
- Increasing the quality of your backlinks,
- On-page optimization including keyword use and placement,
- Associated analysis and research for the correct keyword targeting,
- Website auditing and implementation of audit findings,
- Writing, and editing of digital content,
- Removing barriers for crawlers,
- Website architecture optimization for siloing,
- Anything else that may achieve the end results in a sustainable solution.
Simply put, an inbound link is a hyperlink from one site to another. Backlinking can also be used to promote web pages on the same website.
The relevance, quality, and quantity of hyperlinks for a page are some of the factors that crawlers evaluate. These factors play a major role in ranking web pages. Quality links will always be better than quantity. Just having a sheer number of backlinks is not always a guarantee that your site will rank well. On the flip side, it’s quality links that are almost always better than having a sheer number of junk links that don’t add anything.
PageRank (PR), an algorithm utilized by Google, calculates the score for your web pages. PR is based on how pages or websites are connected among themselves. Most recently, Google talked about PageRank in the context of the following. Obviously, it is still being used and one must pay attention to it, although it has since been pulled inside Google rather than made available for all to see. AHREFs states:
“Even before Google officially removed support for Toolbar Pagerank in 2016, they had already ceased to update it for many years. For this reason, some SEOs view PageRank as an outdated and irrelevant metric that has no place in modern-day SEO.
Here’s a comment I found on another article about PageRank that sums up this way of thinking:
Pretty brutal. But here’s the thing: PageRank still plays a vital role in Google’s ranking algorithm.
How do I know this? Google said so.
(Gary Illyes works for Google. So that tweet is straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.)”
Source: AHREFs.com Blog – Google PageRank is NOT Dead: Why it Still Matters
Backlinking is similar to a citation of an academic journal, scholarly paper, or book. Google uses backlinking to determine a site’s authority in its niche, including how popular it is. Now, it is preferred by most legitimate SEOs to have quality backlinks over the sheer quantity of backlinks. You can still win the first page of the SERPs if you have quality links over junk links.
Like hyperlinks, keywords are also utilized in Search Engine Optimization. SEO keywords range from complex phrases to singular words, to the co-occurrence of related phrases. Google’s latest BERT update added some complexities to keywords and their interpretation, as Dawn Anderson writes in this excellent article: A deep dive into BERT: How BERT launched a rocket into natural language understanding.
They integrated in website copy to attract web crawlers and organic search traffic. Proper keyword integration can satisfy search intent. SEO keywords serve as a channel for your target audience.
From a researcher’s perspective, keywords are the terms entered into a search engine. For crawlers, SEO keywords are the nearest words (or exact words) within text copy that are relevant to the query.
When you optimize to become least imperfect among your competitors, you are also examining their keyword use, and assessing how they are using keywords on their page that you are competing against.
From a backlink perspective, you are attempting to achieve the backlink behavior that Google is rewarding. Whether it’s better quality backlinks than your competition has, or their quantity. It depends on what the SERPs are rewarding and what your research reveals.
At its core, Search Engine Optimization is an internet marketing strategy. It considers the algorithms that dictate the behavior of bots, what people searched for, and how a particular search engine works.
How Does SEO Work?
Bing and Google base their search results on the authority and relevancy of web pages. When a page has been crawled and included in their index, the searcher can browse the most relevant results. Relevance and user intent are two factors that are worth optimizing for in today’s SEO.
The World Wide Web can be compared to an ever-growing library containing a myriad of books. Search engines use programs known as bots or crawlers to survey and discover available web pages.
Bots scan web pages that have relevant keywords. They also follow hyperlinks on those pages. They act like how you peruse a book or an article within a physical library. Except, the algorithms are much more advanced. What is important about hyperlinks – hyperlinks tell you about the page they are linking to. Not necessarily about the page you are on.
Other than the copy, you may also read similar write-ups that are connected to the main topic. Crawlers browse one link after another. As they do so, they send data to the search engine’s servers. The search engine’s servers process this data, and they return relevant results based on the query a user inputs into the search box.
Once a bot finds a relevant web page, the system renders the digital content from the page in question. The SERPs grab key parts of a page that tell users what the page is about, such as the page title and meta description. And, in some cases, if a meta description is not present Google will display a section of the article (usually the first words).
Crawlers consider key signals, such as keywords and content freshness. They keep track of data in the system’s search index. For example, one query entered on Google generates hundreds of billions of relevant pages. To sift through these pages, search engines must differentiate between the pages in some way, otherwise, an index could be random every time. Not a great look for someone looking to get trustworthy results.
That’s where ranking factors like technical SEO, links, content, keywords, and others come into play. They help differentiate the top results from the others within the index, i.e. pages that no one would ever care about. This is why, once again, it is important to get and stay at the top of page 1 of the search results. Anything less, and no one will care about you. Although some clicks can register every once in a while.
How to Use SEO
Search Engine Optimization involves creative and technical activities. These activities are grouped into “Offsite SEO” and “Onsite SEO.”
Onsite SEO, in particular, involves processes for improving organic traffic. This includes optimizing your website structure and adding fresh and SEO-friendly content. Page speed, mobile optimization, and optimizing for user experience are all tasks that may be applicable to your SEO efforts.
One of the best methods for achieving organic search ranking includes becoming the least imperfect among your competitors. The term “least imperfect” may sound confusing, but in reality, it’s very powerful. First, let’s discuss Google. They claim to have close to 300 ranking factors. These could all be weighted at 0.01% as far as ranking factors go. If you’re trying to beat the algorithm, you would have to know about all 300 in order to effectively monitor and tweak site changes to compensate for any algorithmic adjustments, and then you have to perform external SEO tasks to get to the number 1 spot.
But, if a page becomes least imperfect, you can change maybe 10 or 15 factors to match what Google’s rewarding on the first page of those results. By matching these attributes, it’s possible to become least imperfect among your competitors and achieve top organic rankings in this way. Make no mistake, however – on-page optimization and off-site ranking factors are still important to achieving these results. But, they are simply performed among a smaller sample of factors and at a scale big enough to compete.
As a beginner, you can start by researching keywords. You must know the words that are frequently used by your customers in finding your product. To do this, you may utilize free keyword researching tools, like Google’s Keyword Planner.
Viable keywords, in our experience, are those with a minimum of 100 visitors/mo search volume, at least some CPC (cost per click) value, and satisfy the user intent of the page that’s being optimized. You can have zero search volume keywords and some CPC. But, having some CPC value is desirable because this means that the keyword itself is being bid on by competitors, which plays into that value.
If there is zero search volume, zero CPC, and other metrics do not show value, it would be a waste of time spending a lot of time on that keyword phrase. These metrics are detached from specific industry considerations, which may also vary and play a part in keyword selection.
This process involves optimizing your website as a whole. Make sure that your website is easy to be crawled, is free from errors and UX barriers, loads quickly, and is coded in such a way to facilitate fast page speed.
Aside from technical auditing, you should also improve the structure of your website and its pages. In addition, do upgrade your site’s page alignment and internal navigation and your articles’ relevancy. This helps in targeting relevant keywords and prioritizing key areas. Siloing is a key area many websites lack significant strategic value. Addressing key weaknesses in structure and creating a proper silo for your keywords and topics goes a long way to achieving higher rankings in accordance with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
User Experience (UX)
Make sure that your web pages load fast and are intuitive. Your web copies must be high-quality, relevant, and trust-worthy. Lastly, don’t forget to insert links to academic studies and related content to support any claims made in your area of expertise.
SEO Puts You in Touch With Buyers
What is SEO? In essence, Search Engine Optimization is an internet marketing strategy. You can use it to improve your website’s sales, web traffic, and rankings in the SERPs. It isn’t difficult to implement, but it is a challenge getting better results against more difficult competitors. To get started, you can research relevant keywords first. Next, write an article based on those keywords and insert internal links to relevant pages for your users. Make sure to create a catchy page title and a comprehensive meta description. After that, optimize your website for web crawlers.
Then, you will want to create a comprehensive backlink strategy. These are backlinks from other sites who find your content useful. You build your authority by earning quality links from authoritative sources in your industry. Then you optimize your internal linking from pages with authority and link to boost pages without such authority. And you rinse and repeat. Inbound external backlinks is how a site achieves and maintains growth in the search engines. By achieving a consistent, steady flow of these links, it’s possible to achieve a steady improvement of organic traffic over time. In case you were wondering how SEO plays into overall organic traffic growth, this is how.
This is why SEO is important, and SEO considerations must be discussed for any website from the very beginning. If you add SEO after-the-fact, it can work. But in most cases, it is much more effective if you start your project with SEO in mind. This is why enlisting the services of a competent SEO professional is so important.