Search engine optimization, or SEO, as 99.99% of people refer to it, a concept that didn’t exist up until a few years back is a must-have for building a sustainable and thriving online presence. Today, you find people asking ‘what is SEO and how it works’. SEO has become a household term for sure and it is about time that you comprehend it fully.
As Tom Pick puts it, Social may be sexy, but search still pays the bills. The growing popularity of social media and its status as a hub for marketing leads to the misconception that SEO is no longer relevant. But that is far from the case.
The constantly evolving nature of the beast means that it might be difficult for the non-experts to keep pace with the changes that come about. Not to mention, Google and other search engines like to update their algorithms from time to time.
In a nutshell, there are several factors to consider before you can delve headfirst into SEO. This guide will provide an insight into what is SEO and how it works.
What is SEO and How It Works: Understanding SEO – Where to Start
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Let’s answer the first part of the aforementioned question, i.e. What is SEO and How it Works.
Simply put, SEO is a process via which you generate free, organic, and natural results on Google and other search engines, that results in traffic to your website or any other online platform.
Every major search engine, including Google, Bing, and Yahoo, has a certain set of criteria and factors to evaluate the relevance of a webpage, video, or local listing to the search query a user enters.
For example, type “used car dealer in Dubai” in the search bar on Google and you are greeted by a list of results. The first page will show you the results Google considers most relevant. You are more likely to find a dealer that caters to your requirements the best on the first page.
You can use a wide range of white hat (read “fair and free”) tactics to boost your search engine rankings so that you appear on the top of the results.
This not only reflects the way SEO works but also shows how important SEO is. As the anonymous saying goes, “ The best place to hide a dead body is the second page of Google search.” A majority of online users today will not even bother heading to the second page, let alone beyond that.
The Importance of SEO
It won’t be an overstatement that every website needs SEO. To be more precise, every business needs SEO. Over 90% of online consumers use a search engine before making a purchase. The volume of online purchasing is constantly on the rise. If you want to attract potential customers to your online presence, you have to invest in SEO.
That said, often businesses find it difficult to master SEO. The more they understand it, the more they are willing to invest. The best place to start is having a clear idea of why SEO is important today:
Constant Evolution and Innovation
Contrary to common misconception, Google and the other search engines don’t drive SEO. The biggest factor influencing the innovation in SEO is user behavior. Online users are seeking a more informative and immersive user experience. The search engines are simply paying heed to the user demand and adapting accordingly.
Your website, regardless of how well you design it, will not find any love online unless you make it relevant to your target audience. At the same time, you have to focus on the right tactics and strategies to improve your search engine rankings and attract more visitors.
Lack of SEO Nous Makes Life Difficult
Ask any pro and they are likely to say that the constant chopping and changing by search engines is making SEO more difficult than ever. However, that is far from the truth. As mentioned, they are simply adapting to user behavior.
A major component of this, as has been recently observed, is that Google is trying to ‘trim the fat’. The pages on your site that don’t offer value to your visitors are dropped from indexation, while the important pages are crawled more.
For instance, for websites with a large number of pages, as is the case with ecommerce websites, there are several pages that are ‘weaker’ than others. Hence, it is better to have a few stronger pages as compared to increasing the number of pages on your site.
Lack of SEO nous, thus can throw your budget out of whack. You end up spending more on not just the design of your website but marketing as well. Needless to say, you cannot expect every page to be indexed.
Why Every Website Needs SEO or The Perils of Not Investing in SEO: Search Engines Won’t Find You!
As the saying goes, Google doesn’t love you till someone else does.
As far as websites go, you can build them but the search engines might not come. You have to actively engage in SEO in order for your websites to be ‘found’ by search engines.
Starting on the right foot is important, but being consistent is crucial. View SEO as an investment and not as an expense.
However, you might wonder what would happen if you don’t invest in SEO. Well, for starters
- Your site won’t rank well
- Your site would be hard to crawl
- Your site wouldn’t attract your target audience
In this day and age, not investing in SEO is akin to hara-kiri. In fact, you are better off abandoning the idea of building an online presence if you are not planning to work on SEO.
The bottom-line is that search engines won’t find you until and unless you inform them of your existence. And, that is only possible when you invest in SEO. Making SEO an integral component of your digital marketing strategy is more important than you might consider.
Key Terms You Need to Know
When you are new to SEO, you will come across a few terms that require an explanation. Here, we will focus on the most important ones:
What is On-Page and Off-Page SEO
SEO falls into two main categories, i.e. on-page and off-page.
- On-page SEO is the actions you take ‘on page’, i.e. the different pages of your website, with a view to influencing your search engine rankings. These include adding keywords in the content you post on your site, enhancing the loading speed, and offering an overall superior user experience as compared to other sites in your niche.
- Off-page SEO, on the other hand, is the set of tactics that you use to enhance the authority of your website. The main tactic as far as off-page-SEO is concerned is adding links to and from websites that are considered influencers in your niche.
There is a difference in the way that search engines perceive your SEO efforts in the context of the two categories. On-page SEO is more relevant to explaining the ‘meaning’ of your website and what it is all about. Off-page SEO is mainly for increasing the authority and popularity of your website.
Recommend Reading: http://www.digitalthirdcoast.net/blog/on-page-off-page-seo-difference
What Are Keywords
Content is the king, when it comes to online marketing. Content is the backbone of an effective SEO strategy.
However, content, on its own, does not work. You need to use keywords that are relevant to your niche, interspersing them throughout the content, for enhancing your chances at SEO success.
The ‘keywords’ that you feel your target audience will search for when searching for a site in your niche are the ‘keywords’ you should focus on.
For example, if you want to purchase a used car in Dubai, you can simply type in ‘Used Car in Dubai’ on Google and you will see a list of results. You can refine your search by adding ‘dealers’ to the keyword.
There are several tools available for you to search for relevant keywords online and incorporate them in your content. Using the right keywords can help you define the content you post on your website.
This part is where we address the latter part of our main question, i.e. What is SEO and How It Works. It is a conscious decision to refer to SEO as a constantly evolving beast. This reason is why it is a step into a realm unknown for the uninitiated. Here, we will attempt to break down the process and help you understand how SEO works.
While it’s true that SEO changes constantly, the process you have to follow remains fairly standard. You can, in fact, follow a series of steps that lead you from point A to point B. Let’s delve into the steps:
Identifying the Keywords
The first part of the SEO process is defining the keywords you will be use for your strategy. The reason for this is two-pronged: you have to incorporate the keywords in the content and also check the level of competition in your niche for each keyword.
As mentioned, you can use several tools for performing keyword research. The tools provide a comprehensive analysis of each keyword you plan to use for your SEO strategy.
Analyzing the Competition
The aforementioned SEO tools will provide you a clear idea of your competitors. You can research your competitors’ sites and analyze the different factors that go into making them successful. You can analyze the keywords they use, the marketing methods they use, and also the sources from which they are generating their traffic.
Auditing Your Website
Thanks to online tools, you can easily perform an SEO audit of your website. An audit will uncover the areas of your site that require improvement in terms of SEO, and also identify the strong points. You can hire a professional for performing the SEO audit, which gives you a comprehensive insight into how you can improve things.
Performing On-Page and Off-Page Optimization
You have to create the ideal mix of SEO strategies and tactics that you will apply to boost your rankings. The ideal approach is to have your SEO expert determine the different on-page and off-page optimization methods you should be using to increase your chances of success.
Measuring the Performance
Measuring the results of your SEO efforts is perhaps as, if not more, important than the tactics and methods you deploy. Lack of effective measurement and tracking can make it difficult for you to determine whether or not the investment is bearing fruit for you.
Following these steps will give you a clear pathway for your SEO efforts, from the time you create your website.
What SEO Is Not
Given the main question we are trying to answer here (What is SEO and How it Works), it is also important to uncover a few myths and misconceptions about SEO. There are a few things that SEO is not, including
You cannot get away with stuffing keywords in your content anymore. The keywords have to be incorporated naturally and should not disrupt the flow of your content. Google values quality over quantity, and hence Say No to Stuffing.
Paid is Superior to SEO
This myth also gets passed on the grapevine, but it’s not factual. You cannot boost the results you generate from organic SEO by investing in paid ads. Also, you cannot fool Google. Trying to use paid marketing as a means of enhancing SEO doesn’t work.
Like keywords, links also should add value to your website. Any page you link to and any page that links to your website has to be strong. The idea behind linking is to bolster the authority of your website. Otherwise, you won’t get the results you desire.
So, there you have it, a cursory glance at what is SEO and how it works. Do note that the topic is vast and we could write endlessly, but the information presented here should prove a good starting point.