What is Search Engine Optimization? A Beginners Guide
Search Engine Optimization or SEO is very important nowadays. The Internet is growing rapidly. At any given time, there are zillions of articles being posted online on the Internet. There are hundreds of articles on the Internet talking about how Search Engine Optimization is important. Just a single search on ‘SEO’ can produce an endless stream of results. Search results can lead to articles that are complicated as well as confusing to read and understand. Hence it is very important for marketers to take into consideration SEO factors when posting blogs or articles. The bottom line is SEO is crucial and important to maintain a healthy relationship between an article and search engines. It is beneficial in the long run and certainly helps brands/bloggers to drive organic traffic to their websites/blogs.
In this article, we will try to simplify search engine optimization as much as possible and try to explain it in layman’s terms.
What is Search Engine Optimization?
Search Engine Optimization or SEO, as defined by Wikipedia, is a scientific process that affects the online visibility of a website, blog post, or a web page in unpaid Search Engine results page (SERP). These search results are often termed as earned media, organic traffic or unpaid search results. Search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing etc. work on certain algorithms. SEO practice makes your website search engine optimized. The higher your website ranks on the search engines, the more SEO friendly is the website, which in turn attracts more visitors from the search engines. These visitors have the potential to get converted into customers. Hence, Search Engine Optimization is important to rank your website on search engines.
Why is SEO Important?
- Affects visibility of the brand
Appearing on the first page of search engines plays a very crucial role for a brand to attract more visitors to their website. Depending on the industry keywords, keyword competition and niche market organic listings receive an average of 90% clicks on the first page of search engines. Users don’t prefer to visit the 2nd or 3rd pages of search engines. To appear on the first page of search engine requires a lot of efforts and hard work. Marketers must implement good SEO techniques to get the first page organic listing of the brand. This leads to increase in brand visibility on the search engines.
- Edge over competitors
SEO is very important for a business to drive traffic to their websites. Brands have started to alter their SEO strategies in order to get better rankings in Search engines. Let us consider a scenario, Jack and Smith own a business which belongs to similar industry, has same prices and services and also caters to the similar target audience. Jack has a website that is in norms with search engine optimization guidelines. On the other hands, Smith has a website that not search engine optimized. It is not difficult to guess who will get more visitors to their website and generate more business.
- SEO is Permanent
SEO techniques work in the long run. Depending on the domain age and keywords used, search engine ranking isn’t affected for years. The traffic which appears on your website through PPC, Adwords campaign has an impact for the duration of the campaign. But if you organically get good search rankings, it has a long-lasting relationship with the search engines. Hence, it is important for marketers to consider SEO as an integral part of their digital marketing strategies.
We will be discussing Benefits and Importance of SEO in our upcoming posts.
Factors Affecting SEO
Search engines consider as many as 200 factors while ranking a website. That isn’t the official number though. That fact that search algorithms are governed by so many factors is unequivocally intimidating. Below is the pie chart that explains factors that build up to get a better search engine ranking.
The pie chart breaks down all the major factors that affect rankings. However, these factors certainly don’t guarantee a first page ranking for your website/blog. It is important to understand that SEO is a process, which requires detailed attention and efforts to achieve the objectives. Let us try to identify important techniques that build up a well-optimized website.
Techniques for an SEO-friendly website
The best SEO techniques are broadly classified into:
- On Page SEO
- Off Page SEO
Furthermore On Page SEO components are:
- Keyword Research
- Content Optimization
- Tags and Description
- URL structures
- Alt Text
- Link building
- Mobile first website
- Page Speed
Off Page SEO comprises of:
- Links pointing towards your website
- Authority of the link pointing towards your website
- Guest articles
- Forum posting
- Social bookmarking
- Social media marketing
Majority of components associated with Search Engine Optimization are linked to keywords. Keywords form a foundation on which your website is visible on the search engines. Hence, it is very crucial to identify keywords that are associated with your products/services and add them strategically to your web pages. Let us consider an example: Mark is an authorized seller of Apple products. He has a website that is fully functional and according to Mark, SEO friendly. But the problem is that Mark receives a lot of calls for availability of fresh and organic apples that are ready to eat. That’s the difference a keyword has. The difference here is ‘Authorized Apple Products Seller’ and ‘Fresh and Organic Apple producer.’
Once a keyword is set for your page, the next step involves the volume of the keyword. Earlier, it was considered that no of times a particular keyword is used is directly proportional to search engine rankings. But that is not the case anymore. Adding excess keywords can make your website look as spam or not trustworthy to the search engines. Ideally, there should by 5-7 keywords that a website should focus on. Use of focused keywords is very important. At the same time, focus keyword placement is also a crucial factor when implementing SEO strategies.
Content – Optimization
Content is king. Internet works on Content. It’s a fact mentioned umpteen times. Still, it is true and correct. The more content you push on the Internet the better chances you have to improve search rankings. Although the content is king, not all content improves search visibility. It is important to push good quality content for SEO to work. Original, quality and regular content updates will help your website in the long run, with or without SEO.
So, how to differentiate between good and not so good content? A piece of content is considered good if it is relevant to the search query that people are looking for. People go on the Internet to look for an answer to their query. Quality content answers the question that people are looking for. Good quality content also helps people to understand what your website is all about. Hence, it is important to write content that is easy to understand and relevant. Along with the quality of the content, length of the content does matter a lot. In a nutshell, good and quality content should revolve around following guidelines:
- Relevant: Relevant content is a very important factor while considering on page SEO. Content that is relevant to a search query made by the user on the search engines.
- Always check for typos, spelling errors or Grammar errors before posting. I would recommend using Grammarly.
- Unique and user-friendly: The content posted should be unique and non-repetitive. Repetitive content can be labeled as spam by search engines. Also, content duplication should be avoided. Copy pasted content never helps in the long run. Also, users from all age groups should be able to read and understand the content.
- Source content from established research as much as possible. It helps search engines understand your content in a better way.
Tags and Description
Tags are basically your introduction to the search engines. They are the HTML Meta tags that appear between opening and closing of head tags on a website. These tags aren’t available directly for users to see on the web page but they hold multi-level functioning and each tag is equally important to get a better search ranking.
Title tag showcases a brief introduction about your web page to the search engines. A title tag should denote accurate account of what the product or service is about. Title tags are more important now than ever. Some points to consider while adding the title tag:
- Although there is no such character limit, an ideal title tag should comprise of 50-70 characters. Over and above these characters might get restricted in the search engines.
- Each page title tag should be different and unique.
- A title tag should be user-friendly.
- Avoid keyword spamming.
- Try to include the domain name in the title tag.
Meta description too forms an integral part of introducing your web page to the search engines. Description tag summarizes structured information about your web page. A meta description is usually the description that occurs below the clickable blue link when a user searches for a query on search engines. While adding a description tag is an always advisable, search engine sometimes generate auto description based on information available on your page related to user search query. Some points to consider while adding the description tag:
- Ideal length of the Meta description should be in between 160-320 characters.
- Meta description forms a great source of getting clicks from search engines. A meta description is a good way to advertise your webpage to the users and search engines. Hence the description should be the best of what your page is about.
- Avoid duplications.
- Avoid keyword spamming.
H1 Tag: Wrap your focus keyword around H1 tag.
H2 Tag: Use H2 tag for a subheading.
H3 Tag: Wrap other important components of your post around H3 tag.
A URL is a Uniform Resource Locator, commonly called as the web address or the permanent links. It gives users a clickable link for users based on their search query. A structured URL consists of a domain name and a path where the page is located. From an SEO perspective structured URL’s serve improve user experience, rankings and self-introductory links. Some guidelines to follow:
- Keep the URL structure simple and easy to understand.
- Keep the length of the URL under check. Avoid lengthy URL’s
- Use a hyphen to separate words.
E.g. of a structured URL:
E.g. of an unstructured URL:
Use of images is important on web pages. Images enhance user experiences on the web pages. Hence adding images to the web pages are a must. Search engines need to understand what you are trying to tell about the image. Image optimization or alt text is an appropriate way of doing the same. Alt text/attributes/descriptions/alt tags are used to describe the role and the context of the image on the webpage. From the SEO point of view, alt text helps search engines to identify the tag and improve search results of the specified search. However, over adding images can lead to increase in page load time and hamper user experience. Some points to consider:
- Be precise.
- Don’t overdo keywords.
- Don’t upload large size images. It affects page load time. Use optimized images.
SEO and link building go hand in hand. There is no escape from the fact that you need links to drive traffic to your webpage. Links help in building the credibility of your webpage. Links also help search engines to understand your content in a more structured way. In spite of knowing the importance of link building a lot of brands still don’t utilize this mechanism correctly. Link building is further classified into inbound and outbound links.
Inbound links are the links which redirect users within the same website. Suppose if I want a user of my website to visit a blog post to a contact us page that would be an inbound link. Inbound links facilitate navigation within the website and help search engines identify pages of the websites. This increases website rankings with the search engines. Below are some rules to follow to follow when creating inbound links:
- Create relevant links. For e.g.: if you want users to visit contact page, or a specific blog post, post the link to that particular article.
- The credibility of the links matter. Make sure appropriate references are mentioned in the article sourced.
- Avoid duplication of links.
- Links should be created using either full keyword or anchor text.
- Links should not be created for search engines but the core objective of creating an inbound link should be better user navigation.
Outbound links are created with an objective of letting users navigate to web pages outside of the current webpage. These links are important as they give credibility to your article. Some rules to follow:
- Make sure your links are pointing towards credible sources.
- Don’t confuse users by re-directing towards a spam link.
- Don’t post broken links.
- Verify link authority before creating any outbound links.
Mobile First Websites
Over the last couple of years, there has been a significant increase in the searches conducted on a mobile device. More and more people prefer mobile to search their queries, as it is easy to access, user-friendly and just a thumb away. Nowadays, brands prefer fully responsive website. A mobile-friendly website increases the number of visitors as it gives them access to information that they are looking. This helps in increasing their ranks in the search engines. However, there is a difference between a mobile-friendly website and an app. Brands often get confused between the two and end up overlapping them both. It is advisable to use design your website as fully responsive or choose a theme that is fully responsive. If you already have your website ready, use Google Mobile Friendly test to check the mobile-friendliness of your website.
Page speed is also an important aspect of search engine optimization. Google has already claimed that page speed definitely accounts to search rankings of your website. An ideal page loading time should be not more than 5 secs. Low page loading time increases visits on the websites, increases conversions and more visits per users. Use Google Tool to check your website speed and recommendations. Below are few ways through which you can reduce website load time:
- Minimize CSS, HTML files.
- Optimize images.
- Lesser redirects.
- Focus on server load time response.
Robots.txt is a text file that allows or disallows web robots how to crawl pages on their websites. It is a standard web command that wants the search engine to give permission to robots with the access to the website. The standard format is given below:
The user agent applies to all the web robots. Disallow applies to sections that you don’t want the robot to visit.
Off Page Search Engine Optimization
Just as on page search engine optimization refers to activities that happen on your webpage, similarly, off page search engine optimization means the activities that don’t happen on your page but eventually lead a user to your webpage. Off-page SEO is as important as On Page SEO. Off-page, activities are important because the activities have taken outside your own website to increase trustworthiness, credibility, awareness, and reach of your website. With the search engine’s ever-changing factors for ranking a website, it is equally important for brands to optimize their websites for both on a page and off page SEO. Off-page search engine optimization is mainly made up of three link components:
- Organic Links: These are the most genuine links. These links are obtained without any collaborations or efforts. Suppose someone is writing a post about electronics and they find Apple products to be genuine, hence that person would include the link for Apple products on their post.
- Earned Links: A simple give and take formula. It might involve collaborations and associations.
- Manual Links: These are the links that are created through forum commenting, blog posting, guest articles etc.
Having mentioned link components, let us take a look at factors affecting off page search engine optimization.
Links pointing towards your website
Just creating links and pointing them towards your website doesn’t optimize your site for the search engines. The source through which the visitor has come on your website also matters a lot. If a spam web page is pointing a link towards your webpage then the search engines too will consider your website to be a spam.
Apart from the source of links, its authority also plays a crucial role in optimizing your website. The author’s credibility, the authenticity of the link and relevance of the content are certain factors on which link authority is dependent upon. For e.g.: If a portal like Facebook or Twitter allows your links to be posted on their portal, it is considered as the high authority source.
Writing guest articles is a great way to reach a larger audience. Guest articles are simply put articles that you can write for products/services that are similar or related to what you have to offer. To generate more traffic from guest articles, reach out to a webpage that has a credible online presence and has a good following. While writing guest articles try to add 2-3 relevant outbound links reaching out to your own webpage.
Social bookmarking is a great way to attract new users to your webpage/blog post. These websites help in creating backlinks for your website and also help it improve search engine rankings. Some of the popular social bookmarking websites include StumbleUpon, Reddit, Scoop.it, Pearltrees etc.
Social Media Marketing
We have discussed the importance of Social Media Marketing in creating awareness about your webpage and generating traffic to your website through various social media channels.
Search Engine Optimization – Final Thoughts
In conclusion, both on page and off page Search Engine Optimization is important. If you want to rank your website higher in search engines, the above tools and techniques are important guidelines you need to follow. Since it is difficult to single out a technique for best search engine optimization practices, the combination of multiple techniques can surely get you higher rankings in the search engines ranking page (SERP). However, all these techniques are secondary. The primary technique is your content. Irrespective of you doing or not doing SEO, if your content is unique, you can still get the top rank in search engines. So always focus on creating unique and quality content.
Through this post, I have summarized and tried to answer what is search engine optimization in as simple terms as possible. If you still have any queries, you can reach out to us.