What is Search Engine Optimization?

What is Search Engine Optimization?

Benefits & Techniques

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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.

How does SEO work?

Search engines such as Google and Bing use bots to crawl pages on the web, going from site to site, collecting information about those pages and putting them in an index. Think of the index like a giant library where a librarian can pull up a book (or a web page) to help you find exactly what you’re looking for at the time.

Next, algorithms analyze pages in the index, taking into account hundreds of ranking factors or signals, to determine the order pages should appear in the search results for a given query. In our library analogy, the librarian has read every single book in the library and can tell you exactly which one will have the answers to your questions.

Our SEO success factors can be considered proxies for aspects of the user experience. It’s how search bots estimate exactly how well a website or web page can give the searcher what they’re searching for.

Unlike paid search ads, you can’t pay search engines to get higher organic search rankings, which means SEO experts have to put in the work. That’s where we come in.

Our Periodic Table of SEO Factors organizes the factors into six main categories and weights each based on its overall importance to SEO. For example, content quality and keyword research are key factors of content optimization, and crawlability and speed are important site architecture factors.

The newly updated SEO Periodic Table also includes a list of Toxins that detract from SEO best practices. These are shortcuts or tricks that may have been sufficient to guarantee a high ranking back in the day when the engines’ methods were much less sophisticated. And, they might even work for a short time now — at least until you’re caught.

We’ve also got a brand new Niches section that deep-dives into the SEO success factors behind three key niches: Local SEO, News/Publishing, and Ecommerce SEO. While our overall SEO Periodic Table will help you with the best practices, knowing the nuances of SEO for each of these Niches can help you succeed in search results for your small business, recipe blog, and/or online store.

The search algorithms are designed to surface relevant, authoritative pages and provide users with an efficient search experience. Optimizing your site and content with these factors in mind can help your pages 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.

What algorithms evaluate for search engine optimization?

There are hundreds of factors that go into what content from the index gets displayed into a SERP. However, they bubble up into five key factors that help determine which results are returned for a search query.

a. Meaning of the query

. To return relevant results, the algorithm needs to first establish what information the user is searching for. This is known as intent. To understand intent, the algorithm is looking to understand language. Interpreting spelling mistakes, synonyms and that some words mean different things in different contexts all play into the algorithm understanding searcher intent. For example, search engines would need to be able to distinguish between "bass" as a fish and "bass" as an instrument. Intent would be based on additional search terms, historical search, location search and more to display the correct information.

b. Relevance of webpages

. The algorithm analyzes webpage content to assess whether the sites contain information relevant to what a user is looking for. This comes after intent is established. A basic signal for relevance would be if the webpage includes the keywords used in the search. This includes showing up in the body copy or page headings. But beyond keyword matching, search engines use aggregated interaction data to determine if the page is relevant to the search query. This looks at anonymized data from previous searches to match the page with the query.

c. Quality of the content

. Search engines' aim is to prioritize the most reliable sources available. The intelligence built into the algorithms can identify which pages demonstrate expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness in relation to the intent.

d. Usability of webpages

. Web design and accessibility play a big part in search rankings. The algorithm looks for how the site appears in different browsers, if it's designed for different device types -- such as desktops, tablets and phones -- and if the page loading times work well for users with slower internet connections.

e. Context and settings

. Search engines and their algorithms use information from past search history and search settings to help determine which results are most useful to a user at that moment. Country and location can be used to deliver content relevant to the area from which someone is searching. For example, someone searching for "football" in New England would get different results than someone entering for the same query in England.

SEO benefits

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Search engine optimization is an essential marketing activity to make a website or business visible on the web. But it also provides several other benefits to companies.

Builds trust and credibility

Sites that rank high on SERPs are considered to be of the highest quality and most trustworthy. Results shown on the first page are the most relevant, resulting in more credibility for the business or website. Having the right content on the site and a good user experience will help the website rank higher.

Provides a competitive advantage

When good SEO is deployed consistently, those that do it more and better will outrank the competition. Many businesses feel they cannot afford to not be on the first page of a search result. But if a team works toward that goal and shows ahead of the competition, they will have a competitive edge.

Reaches more people

SEO helps attract any user with intent at any time, regardless of phase of the customer journey that user is in. It relies on keywords and phrases to attract audiences to specific products and services. Businesses can create a list of keywords for which they would like to rank, then build content around those keywords.

Supports content marketing

By having a list of keywords to rank for and building content around those keywords, users are more likely to find the information they seek. Content and SEO work in harmony with each other. A site will rank better by creating useful, high-quality content that is optimized for those keywords. Ensuring the keywords are present in headings, meta descriptions and the body of the content will improve rankings for those terms.

Ranks better in local searches

The use of local searches are becoming more common, with users looking for products or services "near me." To improve listings in these searches, a company can create a Google My Business account and optimize the listing for local searches. Along with that and the localized content on the website, a user will be more likely to see local search results in their queries.

Understand web environment

Users that stay up to date on the everchanging internet will be better able to execute the ongoing SEO needs for a website. By staying up to date, businesses can better understand how search works and make more informed decisions on how to change and adapt their strat0egies.

Relatively inexpensive

To have an effective SEO strategy, companies need to invest in the time and resources to be effective. There are companies that can be hired as SEO experts to manage the strategies, but companies with the right team in place can do it themselves.

Get quantifiable results

There are tools and analytics data that can be tapped into to measure the effectiveness of SEO efforts. Google Analytics can provide comprehensive data around organic traffic. Data includes pages that customers engaged with and keywords used in search. That data can then be cross-referenced with intended actions taken to see how SEO played a role in customer engagement or acquisition.

SEO techniques

image.png There are three main components -- or pillars -- to SEO that go into building effective SEO strategies:

1.Technical optimization . This is the process of completing activities when building or maintaining a website to improve SEO. It often has nothing to do with the content that is on the page itself. Some ways to manipulate technical optimization include having an XML sitemap, structuring content in a way that is intuitive to user experience and improving site performance -- such as page load times, correct image sizing and hosting environment.

2.On-page optimization . This is the process for ensuring the content on a website is relevant to the users. This content includes the right keywords or phrases in the headings and body of the copy; and ensuring that each page includes meta descriptions, internal links within the site and external links to other reputable sites, and a good URL with the focus keyword. Website administrators use content management systems (CMS) to maintain on-page content.

3.Off-page optimization . This technique is deployed to enhance a site's rankings through activities outside of the website. This type of activity is driven largely by backlinks. Businesses can generate these from partnerships, social media marketing and guest blogging on other sites.

Written By: Deepshikha Niyogi

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