Search Engine Optimization Guide: SEO Explained

Nov, 21 | 01 min read
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Have you ever experienced lower rankings in search results? Over time, did this lead to less organic traffic to your site and less visibility online? Did your rankings continue to decline? It is most likely happening because you’re not paying enough attention to SEO.

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SEO is the practice of getting targeted traffic to a website from a search engine’s organic rankings. In other words, it is all about improving a site’s rankings in the organic (non-paid) section of the search results.

In this article, we’re offering you a guide on SEO - what it is, why it’s important, and how to implement it. Let’s get started!

Table of Contents

What Is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. In simple terms, it means the process of improving your site to increase its visibility when people search for products or services related to your business in Google, Bing, and other search engines.

The better visibility your pages have in search results, the more likely you are to garner attention and attract prospective and existing customers to your business.

Core Elements Of SEO

When it comes to broader SEO, there are two equally important paths: on-page SEO and off-page SEO.

On-Page SEO

On-page SEO is about building content to improve your rankings. This comes down to incorporating keywords into your pages and content, writing high-quality content regularly, making sure your metatags and titles are keyword-rich and well-written, among other factors.

Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO is the optimization happening off of your website itself, such as earning backlinks. This part of the equation involves building relationships and creating content people want to share. Though it takes a lot of legwork, it’s integral to SEO success.

on-page vs off-page seo
Source: Wix Blog

How Does SEO Work?

Search engines such as Google use an algorithm or set of rules to determine what pages to show for any given query. These algorithms have evolved to be extremely complex, and take into account hundreds or even thousands of different ranking factors to determine the rankings of their SERPs.

However, there are three core components that search engines evaluate to determine the quality of a site and how it should rank.

Links

Links from other websites play a key role in determining the ranking of a site in Google and other search engines. The reason being that a link can be seen as a vote of quality from other websites, since website owners are unlikely to link to other sites that are of poor quality.

Sites that acquire links from many other sites gain authority (called "PageRank" in Google) in the eyes of search engines, especially if the sites that are linking to them are themselves authoritative.

Content

In addition to looking at links, search engines also analyze the content of a webpage to determine if it would be relevant for any given search query. A large part of SEO is in creating content that is targeted towards the keywords that search engines' users are searching for.

Page structure

The third core component of SEO is page structure. Because webpages are written in HTML, how the HTML code is structured can impact a search engine’s ability to evaluate a page.

Including relevant keywords in the title, URL, and headers of the page and making sure that a site is crawlable are actions that site owners can take to improve the SEO of their site.

The search engine optimization process involves optimizing each of these core components of search engine algorithms to rank higher in the search results.

Why Is SEO Important For Marketing?

SEO is a fundamental part of digital marketing because people conduct trillions of searches every year, often with commercial intent to find information about products and services.

Search is often the primary source of digital traffic for brands and complements other marketing channels. Greater visibility and ranking higher in search results than your competition can have a material impact on your bottom line.

However, the search results have been evolving over the past few years to give users more direct answers and information that is more likely to keep users on the results page instead of driving them to other websites.

Also note, features like rich results and Knowledge Panels in the search results can increase visibility and provide users more information about your company directly in the results.

In sum, SEO is the foundation of a holistic marketing ecosystem. When you understand what your website users want, you can then implement that knowledge across your campaigns (paid and organic), across your website, across your social media properties, and more.

How To Implement SEO Effectively

While this may sound obvious, it’s important to mention that the first step in implementing SEO best practices is creating an outstanding website.

Make sure that your website is easily navigable, provides a great user experience, and clearly presents the information that you want to convey. This ensures that you are starting on the right track to providing an excellent answer to searchers’ queries.

However, SEO is much more than just a professional-looking website. Here are a few of the most essential SEO tactics to take into account.

Focus on in-depth Keyword Research

Arguably one of the most important parts of understanding and implementing SEO is doing keyword research. Keyword research is the process of finding the best and most relevant words to use on your web pages.

By doing some investigating, and using professional keyword research tools, you can understand how people around the world tend to search for things related to your product or service.

Choosing to use the right words on your web pages can make a huge difference when it comes to how much traffic your site gets.

Have a good Content Marketing strategy

Once potential keywords are identified, content marketing comes into play. This can be updating existing content or creating brand new pieces of content.

Because Google and other search engines place a premium on high-quality content, it's important to research what content is already out there and create a compelling piece of content.

You need to ensure that it provides a positive user experience and has a chance of ranking higher in the search engine results. Good content also has a greater chance of being shared on social media and attracting links.

Ensure Mobile-Friendliness

Another essential element of SEO is ensuring that all searchers can reach your site and have a positive user experience. In today’s world, around 56.75% of all traffic comes from mobile devices. That means that it is well worth your while to ensure that your site is mobile-friendly.

Not only will this boost your business and ensure that people searching from their phones can use your site, but it is also important to Google.

The search engine often employs mobile-first indexing, which essentially means that it crawls the mobile version of your site to determine how it should rank amongst its results. That’s why the mobile version of your site deserves your undivided attention.

Optimize Page Speed

One of the factors that Google takes into consideration is page speed or loading times. How fast your website loads is an important factor for user experience.

A slow website can make users turn away from your site before they even see what it has to offer. It is therefore essential that you pay close attention to this and make sure to optimize your website speed.

Some of the easiest ways to ensure that your site loads quickly include not overloading it with media or features, optimizing your image sizes, and sticking to one or two fonts throughout. These will make your site look cleaner and feel more professional, as well as help keep your loading time down.

Build your Authority

An important element in gaining trust from both people and Google alike is proving your authority. We tend to trust the experts and we, therefore, seek out advice from people who are particularly knowledgeable in their field.

Google does the same thing. It determines what sites have the most information and qualifications to report on a given topic, then prioritizes them by presenting them to searchers.

Emphasize on linking

Links can be of two types: external and internal links.

External Linking

External linking, or backlinks, is when other sites link to your site. This is an important SEO tactic as it drives up the authority of your site. It also lets more potential users reach your pages and learn more about your product or service.

External links are best when they are genuine and natural. What happens when another platform has noticed you and has decided that your site can add value to their content. They, therefore, link to your site as a way to help their own readers or users.

The more authoritative or important the other site, the more valuable their link is. While there’s no shortcut for gaining genuine external links, the best way is to strive to consistently create good quality content.

Internal Linking

Internal linking indicates linking between pages within your own website. This helps drive traffic between your website pages, bringing attention to all of your assets.

It also provides user value as it helps make your site more navigable and ensures that your users can easily find what they are looking for.

Internal linking also helps boost site authority. By linking lesser visited pages to stronger pages within your own site, you are sending Google a signal that both pages are important.

Don’t forget about Metadata

Metadata refers to the information that you provide Google to describe what your web page contains.

When you conduct a search on a search engine, each result that you see is presented with a headline and description letting you know what kind of content you’ll find on the page.

These headlines and descriptions are called metadata. You can provide Google with that information to help both users and Google understand the most important parts of your web page.

Add relevant Alt Text to your images

Alt text, or alternative text, is the small description that you give to the images on your site. It is embedded into your site’s HTML and is an important SEO asset. Bots that crawl web pages can’t interpret images, so they need alt text to register what the images depict.

Alt text makes your images more likely to appear on Google searches, both in the Google images section, but also increasingly at the top of regular search result pages. Images are becoming more and more of a standard across Google searches, and the better your alt text, the more likely your image will rank.

Of course the more you rank, the more exposure your site gets and the more traffic you are likely to gain. Google also perceives web pages that utilize alt text to be more generally optimized.

Optimize Site Architecture

You can improve a site's SEO by making sure key pages are being linked to and that relevant anchor text is being used in those links to help improve a page's relevance for specific terms. Creating an XML sitemap can also be a good way for larger pages to help search engines discover and crawl all of the site's pages.

Add Semantic Markup

Another SEO strategy that SEO experts utilize is optimizing a website's semantic markup. Semantic markup is used to describe the meaning behind the content on a page, such as helping to identify who the author of a piece of content is or the topic and type of content on a page.

Using semantic markup can help with getting rich snippets displayed on the search results page, such as extra text, review stars, and even images. Rich snippets in the SERPs don’t have an impact on search rankings but can improve CTR from search, increasing organic traffic.

Final Thoughts

Now you know a lot of information about how search engines rank websites and about how you can position your own site and business to generate more search traffic from search engines like Google. What should you do next?

Prioritize. No site does a perfect job of executing against every single aspect of search engine optimization.

Think about the things you do well, have budget and resources for, and that will give your business the best return for your investment – this will be at least slightly different for every business and site.

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