Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of increasing your website’s visibility when people search for products or services online.
SEO is important because searching online on Google or Bing is the most widely used way for people to find what they are looking for. They look for quality and trust in search engine suggestions by going to the websites displayed at the top of search results.
What is SEO?
SEO includes improving the organic traffic of your website and your ranking on search engines results page. It requires the creation of high-quality content and monitoring the technical health of your website. SEO persuades search engines to recommend your content to users as the best solution for their searches.
Results in search engines are presented in an order where the higher you rank, the more traffic your site receives. Search engines like Google use algorithms to determine which pages to display on which rank for any query searched online. These complex algorithms take into account hundreds of factors. The optimization of your website based on these factors is called SEO and since it builds upon itself, SEO grows stronger over time fetching you long-term and long-lasting results.
It is important to note here that SEO deals with only organic or unpaid search results and sometimes on the sides of the organic search results section on a SERP and has nothing to do with the paid ads that you see below.
Think of SEO this way: Google and other search engines have access to all the information on the internet and work hard to organize or index it in an efficient manner. This is so that they can offer a user, relevant and useful search results whenever they have a search query. While Google’s search algorithm is highly classified, SEO experts have been observing certain trends and patterns in the way it goes about fetching the correct information for users. Add to this the various patents filed by the world’s top search engine and the announcements it has made about numerous updates to its search algorithm, and we have a pretty legitimate way of saying what will get your web pages to rank better.
Why is SEO Important in Digital Marketing?
SEO or Search Engine Optimization is the life force of websites across the globe. It is the practice of refining the technical elements of your website, along with conducting off-page activities, to help websites rank better on search engines.
SEO includes a plethora of activities, each holding its own relevance in the eyes of search engine algorithms. Some common tasks that go into SEO are keyword optimization, creating authoritative or high-quality content, building backlinks, and website audits.
SEO holds unparalleled importance for businesses online, as it is the main factor that affects your site’s rankings organically on search engines. Now that you know what is SEO, let us dive deep into what it entails and how it works.
Check out this video on what is SEO, you can also listen to our podcast to know more about how to create growth via SEO
Since now that you know what is SEO, this SEO guide for beginners will help you understand the following topics:
How Does Search Engines Work?
Search engines are essentially modernized versions of libraries, only digital. Instead of being a place for books and magazines, they store copies of webpages and trillions of bytes of data that comes within them.
Whenever a user types in a search query, search engines process their collection of webpages (called the index) and try to provide you with results that seem most fitting. This work is done by search engine algorithms. While there is no text that explains how search engine algorithms work exactly, Google has provided some clues as to how they work.
In Google’s words, their search engine algorithms assess a multitude of factors, including words in a search query, the relevance of web pages, the authority of webpages, location, personalized settings, and much more. How much each factor affects the decision to display web pages on search engine result pages (SERPs) varies based on the search query and other factors. For instance, if you search for current news, the freshness of the content is considered a major factor in determining if it shows up on SERPs.
While there are many other search engines apart from Google, the algorithms from the search engine giant are considered to be the strongest.
Check out this video of Google’s Matt Cutts to understand more about how does search work:
How SEO Works?
SEO is a process that works towards building up your website and content in the eyes of search engines. It demonstrates to search engines like Google that your content is relevant, authoritative, and the best match for search queries to rank high on SERPs.
Each search engine has its own ranking factors and algorithms, so we will focus on the most popular search engine in this section – Google.
Google has one goal with its search engine – providing the most suitable and best results to the users based on their search queries. To rank high on SERPs and gain organic traffic, you need to cater to the ranking factors of Google’s algorithm.
Google uses over 200 ranking factors in its algorithms but only some of these factors are known. Additionally, Google ranks web pages, not websites. To understand how SEO works, it is imperative to know about Google’s ranking factors. Some of these factors include:
- Page Speed
- Search Intent
- Content Quality
Your SEO Team or your SEO Service provider should always follow SEO best practices if they need your website to rank higher on SERPs. Search engine optimization takes care of your on-page SEO elements such as adding relevant content, title & meta description, URLs and various other factors. SEO also takes care of off-page activities such as building links from related and high-quality domains. Both these methods when combined with a proper SEO strategy, helps Google to understand your webpage which ultimately leads to a higher ranking on SERPs
Why Does Your Website Need SEO?
Google is the source of more than 60% of all the search traffic in the world – if you combine this with the pulling power of other search engines like Bing and even Yahoo, this figure goes up to 70%. Another essential online search fact to consider is that if your website is ranking on the #1 position, there is a good 40% chance that the user will click on your website to solve its query. For example, if 100 users search for a specific query, there is a strong case that 40 users would land on your website if you are ranking on the #1 position. Imagine 40 users with an investment of almost zero rupees. This is why SEO is essential for your website/business. Although SEO takes time and effort, it is a gift that keeps on giving. Here are a few of the most significant benefits of SEO:
- SEO is the largest source of the site of traffic
- SEO helps in higher ROI (Return On Investment) and conversions
- SEO is a long term game. i.e. your investment on your website’s SEO would lead to better results in future
- SEO builds brand credibility and trust
- SEO improves your website’s user experience (UX)
- No need to spend on paid Ads
So if you are willing to increase your website’s organic traffic, build an SEO team in-house or onboard a professional SEO Company.
Types of SEO
SEO is broadly divided into 7 types. The below infographic is representing different Types of SEO.
Important factors of SEO: On-page SEO and Off-page SEO
On-Page and Off-Page SEO are two of the most important factors of SEO. Let us find out what each entails.
This aspect of SEO works on ensuring that Google’s algorithms can easily find and crawl through your webpages to be indexed and ranked on SERPs. It includes a multitude of factors like having useful content, having search phrases or keywords you want to rank for, authoritative content, and much more.
There are many ways in which you can optimize the on-page SEO for your web pages. For instance, you should use your target keywords in your title and meta tags. The structure of your content also plays a major role in this, where your target keywords or search phrases should be organically used across the body and headings or subheadings.
Off-Page SEO, also referred to as link building, is another important aspect of SEO.
Getting mentions on other websites and signalling the algorithms that you have domain authority is an important aspect of SEO strategies. While all off-site links do not hold the same value, it is still an important practice.
To optimize your off-page SEO, you must ensure that you have link authority, get links from authoritative and relevant websites, and do not overstuff links from low-quality websites like directory websites.
SEO Strategies: White hat SEO vs Black hat SEO
In SEO, there are two types of approaches you can take in order to gain results – White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO.
Generating quick gains through sneaky tactics that can lead to being penalized by Google is called black hat SEO. People who use this approach employ various techniques to get past Google’s algorithms like link scraping and keyword stuffing to gain SERP rankings quickly. While this approach can get you fast results in terms of rankings and traffic, it is a poor approach for the long term. It might take the algorithms a while, but when they catch anyone using black hat SEO tactics, Google penalizes the website and can even blacklist it from ranking ever again.
White hat SEO, on the other hand, is the best approach to SEO. It uses techniques that are sustainable for businesses in the long run. The main focus of white hat SEO is to target and focus on the human audience, as opposed to sneaking around Google’s algorithms. Playing along with the rules and regulations of search engines while offering the best content to your audience can sustain your online business in the long run effectively.
Here are a few things that are considered black hat SEO, which you should avoid:
- Duplicating Content – To rank higher than competitors, some websites duplicate their content and stuff keywords in it.
- Invisible texts – Some websites use texts the same colour as the page’s background in order to hide text, which includes keywords at the bottom of their content. This can get you blacklisted by Google very quickly.
- Poor Link Building – Going to a supplier to purchase 1000 links for your website in 24 hours is one way of getting blacklisted. Make sure your link building involves relevant websites in your own niche.
White hat SEO is the best way to go for your online business. Employing black hat techniques is a very risky approach, which can gain you short-term results, but hurt your website in the long run.
Periodic Table for SEO Success
Like Chemistry, SEO to has its periodic table. This SEO Periodic Table would help you to understand the essential factors that Google considers before ranking a website higher on Google SERPs. Keep in mind the Toxins elements should not be implemented on your website. Implementation of toxins elements would result in a drop in rankings for your website.
Organic Vs Paid Results
The results displayed on SERPs are divided up into two sections – Paid results and Organic results.
SEO delves into generating organic results on the web. Organic search results, as their name suggests, occur naturally based on 100% SEO merit. Google cannot rank any organic result higher by receiving any payments.
PPC or Pay Per Click provides paid search results, which appear either on the top of organic results, or under them. These search results are ranked by how much the advertisers are willing to bid or pay for each click from a search result.
While both SEO and PPC have their merits, it is always a good approach to gain results organically, as it is much more fruitful for businesses in the long run.
Search results are broadly divided into two sections: organic (unpaid) and paid results. Below SERP screenshot shows the example of both organic and paid results
Many business owners these days use the combination of both SEO & PPC to attain more traffic on their website. Check our post on SEO vs PPC to understand the difference between both the channels and when to use them.
Basics of SEO?
Now that you know about what is SEO and how it works, let us look at the next step. SEO strategy and marketing are the two essential elements of taking your website to the next level. Both require effort, time, and action. Let us take a look at what actions you need to take to make the best SEO strategy for your website.
The phrase “Content is King” has been propagated through the internet millions of times. And it is with a good reason. A user walks away happy when they find the most suitable content that suits their query in the best way possible.
For instance, if you search for “guide to SEO”, the search engine works hard in delivering the most suitable result that can answer your query. If you get the top results that are a guide to SEO and teach you the basics, you will walk away with what you were looking for and be satisfied with your journey. Google tries to give you exactly what you have searched. It does not throw out results on its SERPs which provide you the definition of SEO or some other thing related to it for this particular search term.
This makes content one of the most essential elements of SEO. For any SEO strategy to succeed, good quality content that ticks off all the boxes in Google’s eyes is crucial. So, what makes content good? Let us find out.
Important factors of content
Content online is far better than it used to be a decade ago. Coming up with good quality content is not an easy task, but it is necessary. The good news is that there are a colossal number of authoritative sources on the web that you can piggyback on for creating relevant and good-quality content.
If your content solves a problem and provides the users with a reliable solution to their query, then you have achieved this goal. If it is not able to achieve this milestone, chances are that the users will bounce away from your website and look elsewhere for the content they need. This tells Google’s algorithms that your content quality is not up to par with other websites, which reduces your SERP rankings.
User intent is something Google focuses on while determining the results, so it can offer the best possible matches for the user’s search term. For creating good content, it is imperative that you understand that your content serves the user’s intent.
For instance, you cannot create an article about “tennis shoes” and target the phrase “best shoes for men” as the primary keyword. If a user is searching for tennis shoes, they want exactly that. Showing them other types of shoes, and that too, for men, would not provide them with the results they are looking for. The search term “tennis shoes” is gender-neutral, and not very specific. The bottom line is, your content should complement the keywords you are targeting.
According to a recent study by HubSpot, posting content regularly can help with your rankings. Posting new content is just one way in which you can signal to Google that your content is fresh. There are other ways in which you can send this signal too.
Going through your old content and refreshing it with new information, updating outdated facts, increasing content’s accuracy, and replacing old data with new data can also send a positive signal to Google. This shows Google that your old web pages are still relevant, and worthy of still being ranked on SERPs.
2. Keyword research
Keywords are the main ingredient of determining the intent, as well as the domain of your website. Keywords are used by SEO professionals to target a particular demographic or niche and gain organic traffic from the users in those demographics.
Keywords can also determine how and where you conduct your link-building activities. For instance, anchor texts with keywords of relevance can be used to build links on off-pa