SEO stands for search engine optimization. SEO is the process of taking steps to help a website or piece of content rank higher on Google.
The key difference between SEO and paid advertising is that SEO involves “organic” ranking, which means you don’t pay to be in that space. To make it a bit simpler, search engine optimization means taking a piece of online content and optimizing it so search engines like Google show it towards the top of the page when someone searches for something.
To better understand what is SEO, this article will walk you through the search engine and SEO basics, explain how search algorithms work, and what factors influence your site’s ranking.
At the end of the article, you will also find the best SEO practices and comprehensive resources to expand your SEO knowledge.
What Factors Influence SEO and Are Most Important?
As the go-to search engine, Google processes more than 6.5 billion searches per day. Thus, ranking higher on Google search results has the potential to drive significant traffic to your site.
From page load time to website security, here are the most important ranking factors you need to know:
- Page speed : It defines the time it takes for a web page to load. A fast loading page can help your site rank higher in search results. Monitor your site’s performance regularly and use speed-analysis tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom Speed Test to get an idea of how well your site is performing.
- Mobile-friendliness: A responsive design automatically adjusts website elements to fit different screen sizes, providing an optimal experience for visitors across devices. Pages from responsive, mobile-friendly sites will appear higher on the search results. Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to measure your site’s usability.
- Backlinks: Also known as inbound links, they are links to your website on other sites, which act as an indicator of your site’s authority. When a website includes your link in their content, they mark your site as a relevant source. Pages with high-quality backlinks from trusted sites can rank higher on search engine result pages.
High-quality content: Provide relevant and factual information to answer specific queries. Google evaluates content’s length, structure, relevant keywords, and information. Always create unique and original content to attract more visitors and increase your site’s visibility.
How Does SEO Work?
Google and other search engines work to collect, organize, and display relevant information to answer user questions. To do this, they go through three primary processes, including:
- Crawling: Search engines rely on a team of web crawlers, also known as spiderbots or simply bots, to find updated content on the web. Web crawlers help to find and collect the information needed to index a page.
- Indexing: It refers to the process where search engines store and organize aggregated web pages. Once web crawlers find information such as keywords and fresh content on a site, they will add the web page to the search index. When users look for relevant information, search engines will bring up the indexed website.
- Ranking. Web pages in the search index will then be displayed on search results from most to least relevant content.
SEO improves your web presence by making your site more attractive to search engines. In other words, it serves to determine how well your site is going through this series of steps, from crawling to ranking.
In addition, the search engine’s algorithms will also consider broader ranking factors, such as relevant keywords, backlink quality, and freshness of the content.
Thus, optimizing your website content keeping these factors in mind can lead to a significant increase in your search results.
What Are the Different Types of SEO?
To give you a better understanding of SEO, the following sections will highlight the definition of each type, how they work, and their implementation.
On-page SEO refers to the optimization process of individual pages from a site in order to increase their ranking on organic search results.
This type of SEO focuses on both the page content and the HTML source code, including title tags, header tags, and meta descriptions, so that it can attract web users and search engine crawlers.
To guide you through on-page SEO optimization, we’ve gathered some key exercises you need to know:
- Research your keywords – Determine the terms and phrases that you want to rank for on search engines. Do some keyword research on which terms have high relevance and search volume, but also consider choosing terms with less competition. Once you’ve determined the right keywords, be sure you let your writing team know to optimize the page content to include them as them write.
- Optimize metadata – Metadata tells Google, and searchers, about the content of a page. Make sure your meta titles and meta descriptions include relevant content and your keyword phrases so you have a better chance at ranking higher. It’s important to note that Google also sometimes rewrites our metadata with other copy on the page, which makes it important to ensure your whole page is optimized.
- Perform internal linking – Internal links are URLs that link to other pages on your website. Often, you will attach these to anchored text. Insert links on targeted keywords in your copy and link to high-authority pages to better help Google read your site, and to make it more user friendly.
Incorporating on-page SEO into your marketing efforts is helpful for search engines to understand the content on your site. And once Google understands your website, it can reward you by displaying your site for search queries it deems relevant.
Off-page SEO is pretty much everything that does not happen on your website. Off-page SEO is all about creating exposure and trust for your company, which ultimately can result in more visitors and sales.
Most off-page SEO work is focused on link building. If you’re unaware, link building is the practice of getting other reputable websites to link back to your site.
Some quality link building tactics include:
- Pitching articles – There are many blogs and online publications will accept and publish posts you pitch to them. Make sure the site is relevant to your work and include a link back to your company, but also make sure that you do accept or exchange money in order to do so.
- Competitor research – Check out the backlink profile of your largest competitors. Find out where they are acquiring links and which sites will allow a hyperlink. This guide can provide some pointers on how to start competitor research.
- Helping reporters – There are a variety of online services, such as HARO, where journalists request insights from certain industry experts. This is where you come in! Offer up a quote or information on your area of expertise and they will most likely link back to your website in the article.
Make sure that your acquired links are earned, come from authoritative sources, bring qualified traffic, are “follow” links, and are from relevant sites!
Technical SEO refers to the actions performed to help search engines crawl your website and enhance user experience (UX). As search engines and their algorithms become more complex, these requirements change which means that this type of SEO is always evolving.
In order to make sure there are not any problems with crawability and UX, your technical SEO efforts must be efficient.
Technical SEO efforts to be addressed should include:
- Website speed – A faster website speed is always better, and recently, Google has further included a variety of load time variables to be ranking factors. Be sure to make your template simple, limit redirects, and optimize your visuals.
- Mobile friendliness – Many users are moving from desktop to mobile to perform an array of searches for products and services. Check your site on a mobile device to ensure that it’s easy to navigate for any visitors coming via mobile.
- Site structure – Use the HTTPS hypertext, a user-friendly and consistent URL structure, a clean navigation hierarchy, and consistent internal links to help make your site structure concise.
Local SEO is an activity of improving local businesses’ visibility on the search results. It gives more exposure and allows businesses to promote their brands, products, and services to local communities.
When people search for “doctors near me” or “pet stores near me”, search engines will identify their locations through their IP addresses and present relevant results accordingly. To get a spot on local search results, it is necessary to optimize your local SEO.
The benefits of local SEO include:
- It’s highly targeted
- It’s free
- There is a greater opportunity to rank locally since only 44% of businesses claim their GMB listing
Some ways you can improve your local SEO include writing tailored local landing pages, optimizing your local profiles, submitting spam on Google Maps, building local links, and more.