Over the last several years, search engine optimization (SEO) has been needed and used more and more, although it has been around for much longer than most people think.
With new development tools being used to create websites that are heavy on Java, Flash and images, it’s important to have something that the search engines can read. If the content can’t be read by search engines then they can’t index it, and if your site doesn’t get indexed then it won’t be found when people search for it on Google, Yahoo, MSN, or anywhere else.
This article will outline what SEO is, how it works, and some unethical SEO methods that you should avoid.
What is SEO?
SEO is a way of analyzing your site and modifying it to allow search engines to read and index it more easily. It is is all about maintaining and building websites that get ranked highly on the major search engines.
Search engine optimization is the art and science of persuading search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo, to recommend your content to their users as the best solution to their problem.
You see, when people use a search engine, they generally don’t look beyond the top 20 or so results. If you want to make any money from your website, you need to get ranked in the top 20 out of potentially hundreds of websites.
If you want search engines to offer your content in results, you need to do three things:
Ensure these search engines understand who you are and what you offer.
Convince them that you are the most credible option for their users.
Convince them that you are the most credible option for their users.
Make your content deliverable.
How high in the rankings and how often you appear is merit-based; these engines will show the results they consider to be the best fit for their users.
How Does SEO Work?
Search engines maintain a huge database containing information from individual websites. Most of the information search engines collect isn’t listed on their results pages, but it is taken into consideration when it comes to deciding those results’ rankings.
It is very important that you encourage the search engines to rank your website in a high position, and you can do this through the keywords that you use on your website, as well as when you submit it. If the keywords you use in your submission tool don’t match the ones on your site then you could harm your rankings – be sure to have all the keywords you want to use on the website itself before you submit it.
Most websites don’t focus on their topic well, and so keyword lists containing 50 or more phrases per page are recommended. By focusing some of the pages of your site on keywords, you will score higher with the search engines.
Why Is SEO Important?
Search Engine Optimization brings you the most precious traffic (also known as organic traffic), which is “free” — when a search engine shows your content to its users in the organic part of a SERP (Search Engine Results Page), you do not pay for the ranking. When the user clicks on the result and visits your site, you do not pay Google for a visit. And that briefly describes what is SEO used for.
On that same search engine page result, there are often paid results; they are identifiable by the ‘Ad’ icon to the left. When a user clicks on a paid result and visits the site, the advertiser pays the search engine for that visit.
So for ads, you pay to be the top, front, and center, and with organic search results (“SEO results”, if you prefer), you are top, front, and center through merit, and it is free.
The big advantage of SEO traffic is that, if chosen Search Engine Optimization strategy is effective (and we will look at how to make that happen below), then it is an ongoing source of free traffic.
Free Search Engines.
The major search engines on the Internet are still free, and it’s not hard to take advantage of this free advertising – you can do it in as little as an hour.
There are several companies that provide free SEO tools, or you can pay a professional to take care of it for you. Looking around on the web will turn up all sorts of useful resources.
How Search Engines Work?
The fundamental aim of search engines is to satisfy its users. They want to provide the best results when a user searches for something. When someone uses a search engine, such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo, they are looking for the solution to a problem or the answer to a question. These engines want to provide the most helpful, relevant, and credible answer or solution.
In SEO, we often refer to ‘keywords’ — this is slightly misleading. ‘Search queries’ is a much better term. We are not looking at individual words; we are looking at combinations of words that express a problem or a question.
Note: even when a user searches with just one word, they are still expressing a problem or question — they are just not being very clear!
What is your audience searching for?
To work effectively on your SEO, you need to figure out what your potential customers are searching for. Find the phrases that they use to search, and then create content that brings a clear, simple, and helpful solution to the problem that the user expressed. SEMrush offers a tool that allows you to find out based on your market and your competitors.
What is Unethical SEO?
Unethical search engine optimization techniques can be unlawful, unscrupulous, or just in bad taste. You’d be surprised how many people use these methods. A lot of what is now called unethical SEO used to be accepted, until people went overboard and it started to have a negative affect on the web as a whole.
Keyword stuffing is when your site consists of long lists of keywords and nothing else. Don’t do it. There are ways to put keywords and phrases on your site without running the risk of getting banned.
A doorway page is a page that isn’t designed for real people to see – it’s purely for the search engines and spiders, in an attempt to trick them into indexing the website in a higher position. This is a big no-no and should be avoided.
Even though unethical SEO is tempting, and does work, you shouldn’t do it. It’s annoying to users, it’s likely to get you banned from the search engines sooner or later. You sites’ search engine rankings just aren’t worth the risk. Use efficient SEO techniques to get your site ranked higher. Stay away from anything that even looks like unethical SEO.
SEO is a set of techniques used in order to attract visitors or prospective customers to your website. The goal of a search engine is to provide high quality content to the users of the Internet. These two objectives are not in opposition, if you do SEO the way it should be done.
Google Versus the Rest of the Search Engines
Google dominates search in most countries across the globe, almost to the point of being a monopoly, particularly in English. In English, worldwide, 88% of searches on desktop are on Google. On mobile, that figure is a whopping 96%. Bing and Yahoo combined account for 1.5% of searches on mobile and 8% of searches on desktop. That makes Google vastly dominant. And by far, the most important search engine you should be focusing on.
So, as a business with a website, your reliance on Google is pretty much a given. Great SEO is not an option. It is a necessity.
How Google Works
Google says, “we are organizing the content of the web.” That is a lovely way of putting it. Google organizes the content of the web to be able to deliver to its users the best answer to their question or solution to their problem. You can look at this as Google being a reference system for all the information on the web. It keeps references to every page (and the information it contains), and then when someone asks for specific information, Google can point them to the content that best supplies the answer or solution.
It is very helpful to approach SEO from the perspective that you are providing solutions to Google’s users, and you are asking it to recommend your solution.
The word “algorithm” can seem scary, but it is simply a computer code that understands the question and evaluates the relative merits of the answers. In SEO, we are mostly focused on the second part. We aim to send the right signals to Google’s algorithm to convince it that our answer is the best, most useful, and most appropriate for the question it has understood.
- Google is constantly updating its algorithm on a daily basis. But most of these updates are small and won’t lead to noticeable changes in ranking or traffic for individual brands like yours.
- From time to time, Google implements major updates. These can affect your site’s rankings and traffic quite drastically.
- Some updates in the past were specifically aimed at reducing the impact of cheating by some brands and websites. It gave these updates names — Panda (related to the quality of content) and Penguin (about quality of links) are famous examples.
- Today, Google announces most major updates, and you can find those announcements on Twitter via @searchliaison.
Machine Learning in Google’s Algorithm
As the name suggests, “Machine learning is functionality that helps software perform a task without explicit programming or rules.” Google gives some examples of tasks machine learning may perform:
- Personalize product recommendations based on customer behavior
- Look for keywords in massive numbers of text documents
- Enable software to accurately respond to voice commands
Machine Learning at Google
RankBrain and BERT are the most famous machine learning updates. Rank Brain is a machine-learning artificial intelligence system Google uses to help sort through its search results. BERT is a neural network-based technique for natural language processing (NLP), and it stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. It is used to understand the nuances and context of words within searches, and it helps provide better matches to the queries with more relevant results.
How Social Media Helps SEO
Is social media part of SEO?
Whether social media activity, including likes, replies, comments, and shares directly help with ranking is not clear. For most major platforms, we know that Google crawls a great deal of the content. However, there is so much content being generated; Google cannot catch all of it. For example, according to The Social Skinny, there are 510,000 comments, 293,000 status updates, and 136,000 photos added on Facebook every minute. But Google is crawling and indexing these sites and large amounts of their content. So we can safely assume that a healthy presence with ongoing engagement from a relevant audience helps SEO.
Social media is vital to your marketing efforts beyond just SEO. Having a well-thought-out social media strategy is an essential aspect of your digital marketing strategy. Social media activity helps enormously with building your reputation, brand awareness, and your audience.
Over time it is a great channel for maintaining contact with your existing audience. You expanding your reach, and distribute the content you create.
How fast does SEO work?
Search Engine Optimization is a long term strategy. As we saw earlier, SEO has three main pillars — technical, content, and backlinks. For your strategy to bear fruit, all three need to be solid, and that doesn’t happen overnight.
Some of your efforts will pay-off in the short term after they are implemented. Changing meta titles, headings, or improving the content on a few pages are typical examples.
Other efforts, such as implementing Schema.org markup across a number of pages, creating a substantial volume of informative content, building links, or attracting positive reviews, take time and will pay off in the long term.
No one single thing will revolutionize the performance of your SEO strategy. All the elements I described above work together, and it is the combination of all the signals Google reads that will make the needle move for you.
Understanding, credibility, and deliverability.
Understanding – You want Google to recommend your content as the most suitable solution to their user’s problem? Make it understand clearly and precisely what it is you are offering. Actions such as clear copywriting, adding schema markup, relevant inbound links serve the purpose. They help Google understand and be confident it has correctly understood what it is you are offering.
Credibility – If Google has understood that multiple pieces of content offer a solution that brings a similar level of value to the user, then it will recommend the one it perceives as the most credible. Actions such as improving E-A-T, link building, linking out to relevant sources all help with your credibility and the credibility of your content.
Deliverability – Google wants to recommend content that provides a great user experience. Fast, attractive, great quality, and in the most appropriate format according to the user’s specific needs. Actions such as mobile-friendliness, download speed, using videos, and text in your content all help to ensure Google considers your content deliverable.
Every SEO action you take will serve one of these pillars.