What is SEO, Explained

What is SEO?
10Jun, 2019
Reading Time: 13 minutes

The purpose of SEO

If you are trying to figure out what is SEO and having a lot of questions about it then you have come to the right place! Because here, we’ve made this simple guide for you to help you understand SEO better. And that sparked what we know as SEO.

The most common question we get from our clients here at SEO Rank SERP is SEO and how it works. Maybe you’re looking for reasons why you need SEO or need to understand a little bit to get your feet wet. It might be a little intimidating for newly starting businesses who are just starting out their websites and trying to optimize it. But having a little SEO knowledge under the belt can make life a lot easier.

What you do, how you write, what you write, why you write, how relevant the content is, it all equates the why SEO is super important.

You don’t always need an experienced in-house SEO associate to optimize and rank your website in the search engine. With a little research, you can improve your brand’s ranking in no time!

In this guide, we will cover some basics of SEO and try to answer all the common questions so you can understand how it affects your business and what you need to do to keep your brand in a good shape.

SEO office

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization, to help you optimize your websites to get organic traffics from the search engine results page, also known as SERP.

In other words, SEO helps your website to rank on top by bringing certain changes to the website’s content & designs so that it attracts genuine visits. It also makes your site more pickable to the search engine. Here’s a definition from one of Google’s Search and Webmaster Tools team:

There aren’t any quick magical tricks that an SEO will provide so that your site ranks number one. It’s important to note that any SEO potential is only as high as the quality of your business or website so successful SEO helps your website put your best foot forward.” Maile Ohye, Google 2017

How does SEO work?

Search engines primary goal is to dedicate themselves to providing the best relevant, intent, and service to their users. This is where ranking your website on the top of the search results becomes tricky. Every search engine gets thousands of results to choose from. But it carefully picks the best results to put in front of the users.

There’s a huge difference between typing the word “SEO agency” and “SEO agencies”. “SEO agency” might provide different SEO agency’s website or define the term, and “SEO agencies” might provide the best agencies or a list of agencies. An article “How to pick an SEO agency” might cater towards the term “SEO agency” versus “SEO agencies”. The user intent is based on how the search engine defines the term and what the users are searching for when they type in the words.

This is where SEO comes to play its part. It enhances the quality of your webpage, highlights the keyword which shows relevancy to the search engine and forces it to bring your page to the users.

Search engines also rank websites depending on various facts like readability score, trust worthiness, authoritative, bounce rates, user-friendly, speed, mobile-friendliness, etc. It compares & searches for a website that is relevant to the keyword, and search engine crawlers understand the content and is easy to navigate rewarding it with a higher ranking in the results page. Thus SEO helps to keep your website up to the mark.

The key thing here is to help search engine crawlers understand more about what you do. If you can explain the intent better than the others, then you might rank higher than them.

For example, suppose you have an article on your website regarding the online payment solutions. To get your article to the right audience, you would need to make the article SEO optimized so that the quality, relevancy, keyword, and the readability score remains just right to force the search engine to show it on the first page of the result page giving it exposure to the right audience. This is how you bring proper organic traffic to your website by using SEO. Now, if anyone searches for the keyword online payment solutions, your content will come at the top.

So it is clear by now that the improvement of SEO will expand the visibility of your brand on the search engine. This will help you get more targeted organic traffic and reach & engage with more potential customers at a low marketing cost. The main motive of using SEO is to improve your business.

Facts that impact SEO

As you know what is SEO and the other basics, It’s time to look at some other facts that can affect your search engine ranking. As we know, Google, the biggest search engine of all, uses a secret algorithm to rank webpages in its search results. Though Google keeps changing the algorithm, we do have a good understanding of some facts that impact the search rankings. These include both on and off page facts which we will discuss below.

Blogging

Content Marketing

Content is one of the most important facts of SEO. An effective Content can both attract the search engines and help your brand make connections with the visitors at the same time. Here’s what Google said about content:

“We were getting lots of complaints about low-quality content and they were right…. We were delivering a terrible user experience and turned out we weren’t measuring what we needed to so what we ended up doing was defining an explicit quality metric which got directly at the issue of quality it’s not the same as relevance …. and it enabled us to develop quality related signals separate from relevant signals and really improve them independently so when the metrics missed something what ranking engineers need to do is fix the rating guidelines… or develop new metrics.” SMX West 2016 – How Google Works: A Google Ranking Engineer’s Story (VIDEO)

high quality content is something I’d focus on. I see lots and lots of SEO blogs talking about user experience, which I think is a great thing to focus on as well. Because that essentially kind of focuses on what we are trying to look at as well. We want to rank content that is useful for (Google users) and if your content is really useful for them, then we want to rank it.” John Mueller, Google 2016

The more relevant & quality contents you have on your site, the higher your website will end up on the search engine results page. Publish contents that can make people engage in it. Engaging contents are effective as they can connect with people’s emotions and pitch them to impulsive actions.

The secret behind creating contents which can intrigue both the search engines and website visitors is to bring variety and relevancy in the topics. The contents should also be well written and it should have the proper readability score. It should also maintain keyword consistency. Keyword stuffing might flag your website which might eventually lead to demoting your website’s ranking. Keyword density no longer applies, based on a few mentions from Googles webmaster team:

“Keyword density, in general, is something I wouldn’t focus on. Search engines have kind of moved on from there.”—John Mueller of Google, 2014.

“Google reserves the right to do what we think is best to maintain the relevance of our search results, and that includes taking action on keyword stuffing.”—Matt Cutts, SEO tip: Avoid keyword stuffing

 

Here are just a few types of contents you can focus on to help improve your search engine rankings:

  • Blog posts and articles
  • Social media content
  • E-books and white papers
  • How-To Guides and Tutorials
  • Videos and audio recordings
  • Infographics or other visual content

The other important thing to consider while creating content for your website is the proper usage of keywords and phrases. These keywords are words that a search engine user might type in while searching for answers to their questions or relevant products and services. When you create content where these keywords and phrases are included naturally, you improve your chances of ranking higher for these keywords on the search engine results page.

Yet another factor that can affect your content and your search engine ranking is the freshness of your content. Freshness mostly refers to the fact that how frequently new contents are published on the website. However, creating new content is not the only way to keep your content fresh and active. You can also freshen up your contents by updating them, rewriting them for making them more effective, or adding new information and statistics over time.

Though creating quality content might take time and resources, it is more likely to pay of in the end. Search engines love fresh content and the consumers need quality content to understand and connect with the brand or business. Start off by creating a few blog posts and work hard to build a following on social media. Once you have a group of loyal fans and followers, your brand can work to create different posts to attract and generate new leads.

On-Page SEO

The on-page SEO facts are the things that happen inside your website. These are the things you have complete control over. In other words, these are the things on which you can work on improving over time by following the rules of SEO. This isn’t just about the contents. This is about the whole buildup of the website.

Here are just a few of the on-page SEO facts that can help you improve your ranking:

Title Tag

Google did claim that the title tag is a ranking factor:

We do use it for ranking, but it’s not the most critical part of a page. So it’s not worthwhile filling it with keywords to hope that it works that way. In general, we try to recognize when a title tag is stuffed with keywords because that’s also a bad user experience for users in the search results. If they’re looking to understand what these pages are about and they just see a jumble of keywords, then that doesn’t really help.” John Mueller, Google 2016

The title tag on each page determines the search engines what the page is about. This should be in between 70 characters. It should include both your business name and the keyword.

Meta Description

The meta description on your website gives the search engines a little bit more detailed information about what each page is about. This is also used by your website visitors so that they can better understand the page and easily navigate through. The meta description should also have a relevant keyword.

“[Meta Tags] can affect the way that users see your site in the search results and whether or not they actually click through to your site. John Mueller 2017

Heading Tag

Sub-headings not only make your content easier for visitors to read but also improves your readability score. You can use H1, H2, and H3 tags to organize your content properly and help search engines better understand what your content is about.

“We do use H tags to understand the structure of the text on a page better” John Mueller, Google 2015

Internal Links

Building internal links inside a website is called hyperlinks. It is used to help the visitors roam inside the website easily. This way, the visitor gets to know more about the website. As an example, if you are writing a post about the value of a specific product, you can put a link to the product or service page in your blog post. Think of Wikipedia when you’re trying to build an internal linking structure, will the link help explain the phrase or sentence better? Or are you just adding internal links for the sake of targeting keywords? Relevance is key, however, most people are starting to stuff internal linking versus providing the best user experience.

 “How important is the anchor text for internal links? Should that be keyword rich? Is it a ranking signal? We do use internal links to better understand the context of content on your site so if we see a link that’s saying like red car is pointing to a page about red cars that helps us to better understand that but it’s not something that you need to keyword stuff in any way because what generally happens when people start kind of focusing too much on the internal links is that they have a collection of internal links that all say have like four or five words in them and then suddenly when we look at that page we see this big collection of links on the page and essentially that’s also text on a page so it’s looking like keyword stuff text so I try to just link naturally within your website and make sure that you kind of have that organic structure that gives us a little bit of context but not that your keyword stuffing every every anchor text there.” John Mueller, Google 2015

Image Title and Alt Text

If you are using pictures on your website or within your blog post, then it would be better if you include your keyword or phrase in the image name and alt tag. This way, it will help the search engines better index your images, which may appear when the users do an image search for a certain keyword or phrase. You might also attach links to the picture.

“alt attribute should be used to describe the image. So if you have an image of a big blue pineapple chair you should use the alt tag that best describes it, which is alt=”big blue pineapple chair.” title attribute should be used when the image is a hyperlink to a specific page. The title attribute should contain information about what will happen when you click on the image. For example, if the image will get larger, it should read something like, title=”View a larger version of the big blue pineapple chair image.” John Mueller, Google 2017

Image that is not relevant to the content of the page won’t help with your ranking. Text that surrounds the image also plays an important role in deciding how to describe the image.

The placement of the keywords is really important and relate to the content itself so it does not confuse the search engine what the image is about or why it belongs there. It should be placed naturally so that it does not hamper the readability score. The keyword consistency should also be in between 0.5-2.5%. Any more than that might lead Google and other search engines penalizing your page.

In addition, make sure that every content focuses on just one or two keywords. This will help you ensure that your content is specific and relevant. Using too many keywords in the same article might negatively impact your search engine optimization.

While website contents play vital roles in your search engine rankings, it’s important to check your site’s structure and buildup. You should always choose a website design that will make it easy for search engines to scan your pages and contents. Using hyperlinks between your pages and creating a site map can both help improve your site’s navigation and give your search engines a better understanding of your contents.

The other important thing you need to keep in mind is that your website has to be mobile friendly. Nowadays, people mostly do their research on mobile devices. Even they are more into online shopping. You need to make sure that these users have the best experience and can view, read, and navigate through your website from their mobile devices easily. It affects your SEO too.

Off-Page SEO

Unlike on-page SEO, you don’t have any control over off page SEO. But it is a key factor to boost your website’s ranking. Though you don’t have any direct control over off-page SEO, you can still use some techniques which will help you pitch and tweak it and have it in your favor. (We will talk more about that later)

Here are a few of the different off-page SEO facts that can improve your search engine rankings:

Trust

Trust is an important fact for both the website and its visitors. This is how Google determines if your website is legitimate or not. It also makes visitors feel safe surfing through the website. The best way to improve a site’s trust is by building quality backlinks from sites that have proper authority.

link building

Links

The most popular way to build off-page SEO is through backlinks. You will have to be careful here as spamming websites with links is a quick and easy way to get your website banned from the search engines. Instead, take the time to build relationships with influencers who can create quality content and will link back to your website on their own articles. Search engines love to crawl each URL and index them. While they are searching through your guest post from a different site, they might end up on your site and see your site and start crawling again and again. The more links you have, the more crawlers will go to your site and see the importance of it.

Social

Another important off-page SEO factor is social engagement proofs like likes, shares & comments. When it comes to boosting SEO, look for quality shares from influencers. The more quality and fresh content you publish, the more likely you are to get people to share your content through social media. This will drive more organic traffic to your website.

 

This is how you can use off-page SEO in your favor even if you don’t have the total control over it. Simply by building trust, making interesting and relevant content and backlinking will increase your chances of improving the Website’s ranking.

According to Searchmetrics’ 2016 Rebooting Ranking Factors White Paper:

“The correlation between social signals and ranking position is extremely high, and the number of social signals per landing page has remained constant when compared to with the values from last year’s whitepaper. … The top-ranked websites in Google’s rankings displays vastly more social signals than all other pages…. This is primarily due to the overlap between brand websites performing strongly in social networks and being allocated top positions by Google.”

Black Hat SEO vs. White Hat SEO

There are two different approaches that businesses take for optimizing their websites.

Some businesses only use SEO for optimizing their websites quickly and making money in the short-term. The Black Hat SEO helps you do that. But we do not recommend this technique. The black hat SEO might get you on top of the search engine quickly, but it will put your website and business at risk. This technique will make the contents of your website look like spams which will be quite unreadable for your visitors. But some businesses will bend or break the rules just to improve their site rankings to make a quick buck.

Though you might think using this method might rank your site quickly than those that are optimized properly, you will also have to keep in mind that these methods will often lead your website to penalization or banning by search engines rather quickly. Overall, this get-rich-quick approach to SEO ruins the chance for the brand to make a sustainable business on the internet. Proper changes don’t come overnight. You have to keep trying.

On the other hand, White Hat SEO is an effective approach to optimizing your website for search engines and building a sustainable business online. The goal of this SEO is to produce the best content possible so that it is easy for the visitors to read and navigate through the website easily while also following the search engine’s rules for optimization.

It’s important to note that through Black Hat SEO tactics, the search engines will eventually figure out what you are doing and penalize your website. But with White Hat SEO tactics, you will be able to build a sustainable online business that will bring in more organic traffic over time. This might sound like a lengthy process, but trust me, it’s worth the wait.

In Conclusion

So by learning what is SEO and how it works, you can now work to bring changes to your website and improve your SEO skills to boost your rankings on the search engine results page. Remember, the most important thing is to make your content attractive, engaging and relevant to your targeted audience.

As I said before, search engine optimization takes time to show its magic. Be patient. Changes won’t come overnight. In fact, it may take months to enjoy the results of your hard work. However, following the white hat SEO rules, you will be able to bring in organic traffic to your website and keep your visitors engaged and build a long-term business around them.

Need help building your SEO? If having trouble with your search engine rankings, it may be the time to call in an SEO company. You can check out our article to prepare you for what you need to know before you hire an SEO agency. Our talented team at SEO Rank SERP will provide the best SEO services that will help you improve your search engine rankings and bring in more relevant and organic traffic to your website. Contact Us Today

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