The invention of the internet and its impact on the way the world works has been nothing less than revolutionary. Take Google as an example. Today, we have become so dependent on the most popular search engine for finding the information that we need, that people use its name as a synonym for the word “search.”
Google receives 63,000 search queries per second, which translates to 5.6 Billion searches per day! Have you ever wondered how website links are prioritized on result pages when you search for anything on a search engine like Google?
Do you usually click the topmost links which appear on the first page of the search engine results? A lot of this makes a fundamental difference when it comes to businesses engaged in the selling of products and (or) services “online”.
Interestingly, 93% of all website traffic is majorly driven by search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo, etc. If we specifically talk about Google, 75% of people searching through the web start their searches on Google, and the first five results on Google get 67% of all clicks.
The higher your website link shows up on the search engine result pages (SERPs), the better it is! But how does one achieve the topmost rankings for their website? Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the obvious answer.
What is SEO?
SEO is a technique of optimizing one’s website to “rank” higher in the organic SERPs. It is the most effective method to generate organic (natural or free) traffic to your site.
The organic search results are those that appear directly below the top pay-per-click (PPC) adverts in Google, pre-fixed with Ad icon, and are most viable for the long-term. Such as highlighted below:
An Organic Search Result below the Pay Per Click Advertisement
SEO can improve visibility in various other search results sets as well, such as map listings, videos, the knowledge graph, and more.
The SEO industry is expected to reach $80 Billion by 2020, according to a report by Borrell Associates that produces advertising reports. The whopping number is for businesses in the U.S. alone.
Why is SEO Important?
Every website wants to reach its audience, but the internet is flooded with web pages. Search engines need to rank among pages to present the best result among the web pages.
SEO is the way to optimize your web page on the factors which are used by Search Engines for Ranking. If your web pages are not SEO friendly, then there are very fewer chances of your web page reaching your audience.
Creating good content is not only a critical factor but optimizing it is a crucial factor so that the search engine identifies it as a useful and relevant page.
Hence, SEO is very important if you want to reach your audience as there are very less chances that your audience will even scroll through the 2nd page of the result.
But the question is – how do you optimize your content for SEO and what “Ranking factors” actually matter?
To answer that, we first need to have a look at how search engines works.
How does SEO Work?
Search engines like Google use bots to crawl pages on the web, going from one site to another, gathering the information about the content on those pages, and putting them in a web index. This index is then fed through an algorithm that tries to match all that data with your query,taking into account hundreds of ranking factors, to determine the order pages should appear in the search results for a given query Google (or any other search engine) score their search results based mainly upon relevancy and authority of pages it has crawled and included – every detail it crawled through- in its web index. That index is fed through an algorithm that tries to match all that data with user queries to provide the best answer.
Google uses a cluster of ranking factors in its algorithm to score their search results and uses a hyperlink based algorithm, PageRank, to calculate the popularity and authority of a page. This is still a fundamental factor in ranking even though Google is far more sophisticated today. As a matter of fact, Google keeps updating its algorithm as the behaviour of people changes.
SEO further encompasses technical and creative activities to influence and improve some of those known ranking factors. SEO also includes actions to help improve the number and quality of “inbound links” to a website from other sites.
Relevant and renowned websites linking to a site is a strong signal to Google that it might be of interest to its users. This also signifies that the website having backlinks as ‘authoritative’ and can be trusted to appear in the search results for relevant queries.
How do Search Engines crawl through a web page?
The principal aim of a search engine is to show relevant content to the user, and it filters content based on relevancy. Every search engine has its own algorithm to find the most relevant page.
Every Search Engine performs a few main tasks:
1. Crawling– It is the first step that any search engine performs. In this, the page is read thoroughly by search engines, and the content is examined.
2. Indexing– After crawling a webpage, the search engine stores and parses data for its own use later on, the process of of indexing is identifying the words that best describe the page and assigning the page to particular keywords.
3. Processing – When a search request comes, the search engine processes it, i.e. it compares the search string in the search request with the indexed pages in the database.
4. Calculating Relevancy – More than one page likely contains the search string, so the search engine starts calculating the relevancy of each of the pages in its index to the search string.
5. Retrieving Results – The last step in search engine activities is retrieving the best-matched results. This is nothing more than simply displaying them in the browser.
6.Ranking – This is the process in which the search engine ranks data based on several SEO factors to put the most relevant content at the top.
For e.g., – a user searches for dog training on Google. So first, Google will crawl all the web pages related to Dog Training. Then it will Index the web pages in its directory based on their relevancy.
After Indexing, it will rank pages, and here is where SEO plays its part. The Web Page, which is SEO friendly has more chances of getting a higher rank than which are not.
What are the Activities involved in SEO?
SEO activities are often grouped into “Onsite SEO” and “Offsite SEO.” These two categories split practices that can be performed on a website and away from a site.
Onsite SEO, also known as On-Page SEO, refers to technical activities to improve organic visibility within the website. This broadly means optimizing the site and content itself to improve the relevancy, accessibility, and experience for users. These are the changes that are made on a website directly to get a higher ranking on a search engine. Some of the typical activities (though not the complete list) include –
1.Keyword – Keywords are words or phrases which are searched through search engines. Keywords are essential from an SEO perspective. It is an important ranking factor for any Web Page or Website. If the right keywords are used, your webpage can rank on the top of any search engine, but to do this, Keyword Research is a critical task. It helps to get insight into what our audience is looking for and what it wants. There are many Keyword Planner tools you can use to research your keywords online.
Keyword Planning is a very strategic task, and some factors should be kept in mind while doing Keyword Research such as Volume, Relevancy, and Competition.
While Using Keywords, one should be aware not to stuff the web page with unnecessary keywords otherwise search engines might spam that page.
2.URL’s– An SEO friendly URL structure is a significant factor in On-Page SEO Ranking. Try to incorporate your Keywords in Your URL also for better Ranking. Your URL should be relevant to your services offered and should be easy to read for Search Engines.
3.Structuring of the Website and Technical Aspects- A website is the representation of any business. People are likely to judge a company based on their Website. The Structure of a website is a very Important SEO Ranking Factor. It usually takes a user 4 seconds to judge a website. A good website should be the right combination of a user’s needs and the company’s services.
Ensuring the website can be crawled and indexed and is free from errors or user experience barriers.
4.Headings – Headings are the key elements of a structured website. Headings help the search engine to crawl more easily and tells the search engine what a page is about.
People also prefer to read a web page that has proper headings as it is easier to navigate and easy to understand.
5.Image Optimization – Images are an essential aspect of a website. Images help to make web pages attractive and give a more precise layout. But just putting a relevant image is not enough.
One also needs to optimize the URL of the image and the size of the image. Images which are too big take time to load and lowers the ranking on SERPs
6.Tags and Meta description – Meta tags and title tags help a search engine know about your web page. These tags will not be visible on the web page. These tags will be visible on the code of the page. These tags give search engines more insight to a web page and help to determine whether the page is relevant to the user search or not. Meta descriptions and titles are important ones. The search engine uses these to form the search engine results. Therefore they are very important.
The title is the result that is shown, and the meta descriptions are the lines that follow. A proper meta description is usually 2-3 lines, which contain the keyword or the phrase of the title also. An appropriate meta description can also have a call to action.
7.Internal Links – Internal links are links to a website within. Internal links help the users to navigate better and more efficiently within the site. Links carry a lot of weight. The more internally linked your website is, the more the search engine can determine the rank and read the keywords. By including internal links, search engines crawl better and update the ranks accordingly.
8.Content Optimization – We have heard that content is the king, and it is right. Without good content, you cannot engage your users on your web page. You content should demonstrate data that establishes subject expertise, authority, and trust, and ultimately provides an excellent user experience.
Always remember that the content is for the users and write content keeping their intent and perspective in mind. Don’t stuff technical jargon and try to explain things in a simple manner.
Use Primary and Secondary Keywords in your content, keeping in attention the placement of keywords and keywords density. Your content is the ultimate deciding factor of whether a user will stay on your page or leave it.
9.Mobile Responsiveness – Make sure that your website loads fast and with the proper layout on mobile phones as well. More and more mobile users are using their phones to search for a query, and you need to ensure that your site loads fast and with proper UI on mobile as well.
There are many tools you can use to see whether your website loads the same on mobile or not.
Offsite SEO, also known as Off-Page SEO, refers to creative activities carried outside of a website to improve organic visibility. This aims to increase the number of reputable links from other domains hence often mentioned as ‘link building,’ as search engines use them as scoring for trustworthiness.
Quality links from websites and pages with more trust, popularity, and relevancy pass more value to another domain than an unknown poor webpage that isn’t trusted by search engines.
Some of the typical activities include –
1.Digital PR– Strong PR provides reasons for other websites to talk and link to your domain. This might be internal news flow, writing for external publications, original research, expert interviews, quotes, and much more.
2. Outreach & Promotion– This involves communicating with key journalists, influencers, bloggers, or webmasters about a brand, resource, or content to gain coverage and ultimately earn links to a website
3.Building Links- The web pages which have a good number of links from websites having competent domain authority and trust have more SEO score and are likely to rank higher on SERP’s. The more quality, relevant sites that link to your website, the higher your position in search engine results will be. If the site won’t send any visitors, or the audience is entirely irrelevant and unrelated, then it might not be a link that’s worth pursuing.
4.Social Bookmarking- Social Bookmarking is an excellent way to share content and build domain authority. Bookmarking on sites with good domain authority can increase your SEO score and give more traffic to your website as well.
5.Social Media Marketing- Social Media Marketing has become a marketing essential. Social media presents immense potential to reach the audience and grow as a brand. It is one of the best mediums to generate leads and gain visitors to your website.
These are some of the factors of Off-Site SEO, but the list has more elements in it.
Before we conclude, let’s quickly look at different approaches for SEO- black hat and white hat.
White-Hat SEO, Black-Hat SEO, and Gray-Hat SEO
There are two significant approaches to SEO – White-Hat SEO (the ‘good’ kind), and Black-Hat SEO (the ‘shady’ kind). There are, of course, differing opinions about the nature of each of these SEO approaches.
It’s essential to remember link schemes such as buying links, exchanging links excessively, or low-quality articles that aim to manipulate rankings- falls into the category of Black-Hat SEO. These are against Google’s guidelines, and strict action can be taken by penalizing a website.
The best and most sustainable approach is White-Hat SEO. The best way to improve the inbound links to your website is by earning them rather than buying them. This can be achieved by providing genuine and compelling reasons for sites to cite and link to your brand for who you are, the service or product you offer, or the content you create.
There is another SEO practice called Gray-hat SEO, which is riskier than White-Hat SEO, but may or may not result in your site being banned from the search engine(s). This may involve tactics that are ill-defined and could improve your site’s ranking without negative consequences.
But it’s not wise to get on Google’s wrong side, and if you aren’t sure whether a given method violates Google’s guidelines or not, it’s best to avoid that tactic.
Investing in SEO can return an exceptional ROI compared to other types of marketing and promotion. However, it takes three to six months of an ongoing effort for results to come through and requires continuous analytics monitoring.
SEO activities require expertise to carry them though they can also be learned. The other option is to hire professional SEO experts (like Netilly) to help you out.
If you’d like to discuss how SEO can help your business or brand, then please drop us an email or leave your contact details and we will be happy to schedule a free consultation with one of our SEO Specialists.