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If you have spent a lot of time online, which many of us have, you have probably come across the term Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Despite the prevalence of the term, particularly in internet marketing circles, many people have little to no understanding of what it is or how it works. The following is an in-depth guide to the subject perfect for those new to the topic.
SEO and Its Importance
The first step is to understand what SEO is. The simplest way to define search engine optimization is as the process of affecting the visibility of a website or webpage on search engine results. People predominantly use search engines to search for information using their devices. Therefore, SEO is not only about the search engines but also about the people who use them.
Search engines are essentially answering machines that scour the world wide web for answers to queries. There are literally thousands of factors that determine where content appears on search engine results.
Search engine results can either be paid for or free. Organic search engine results are those that are free.
Search engine result pages (SERPs) include both paid and organic results. There are many search engine features that can be affected by SEO and just as many that can’t. SEO is important because it is the main source of online traffic for websites. Though paid advertising and other avenues can generate traffic, search engine results are more credible, cover more ground, and receive more clicks than any other avenue.
How Do Search Engines Work?
The main function of search engines is to discover, comprehend, and organize information on the internet to provide the most accurate results to queries asked through them. The content of any site needs to first be visible to appear on SERPs. To be more elaborate, a search engine has three main functions. These are crawling, indexing, and ranking online content. We will look at these functions individually in more depth.
Crawling is the process through which search engines find content on the internet. They do so using robots (crawlers) whose function is to scour the internet for new and updated information. There are all types of content online including text, audio, visual, pages, and PDFs among others. However, all crawlers discover content using links. Once the content is found, the next step is to index it. Indexing is the process of storing and organizing the content the robots find. Content has to be indexed for it to appear on SERPs. The index is a very large database of information that is constantly growing as long as crawlers function.
The final step will be to rank the indexed information based on the searches conducted on the engine. Results are ranked based on relevance with the most relevant being the highest ranked and the least relevant being the lowest-ranked.
Keyword Research & Targeting
The initial step in SEO is to define what it is exactly you are optimizing for which are the keywords people use to search for information. Keyword research & targeting involves understanding what your audience desires to find.
The keywords that people use are what the search engine will use to link a website to search engine results. The key to keyword research is comprehending what your target audience is searching for and the specific terms they use. As far as keywords are concerned, there are several main factors to take into consideration.
The first one is search volume which refers to the number of people searching, or total searches, for a particular keyword. The higher the search volume, the bigger the potential audience.
The second factor to consider is relevance. Relevance refers to how closely a keyword matches with content on your site. Regardless of how many searches a keyword has, it means nothing if it is not relevant. The third factor to consider as it pertains to keywords is competition. There are millions of websites and thousands with similar content to yours. The less competition there is for a certain keyword, the higher your chances of high ranking on SERPs.
The next aspect of SEO is applying keyword research and targeting to your content. On-page SEO refers to the process of creating web pages that answer search engine questions.
It provides you with the opportunity to create content that your audience will find useful and enjoyable. When writing content about a topic, keyword grouping will significantly affect the type and format of your content.
On-page SEO will depend on the nature of your website and the audience to which it caters which can be local or international. SEO experts at AdInfusion are some of the best at doing local SEO. On-page SEO is mainly concerned with crafting your content geared towards what other people want. There are many elements to on-page SEO and will affect how you drive search engine traffic to your website.
On-page SEO elements include title tags, meta descriptions, schema & markup alt attributes, and URL structure among others. The content on your page is the most important element of on-page SEO. There are many issues about page content that affects SEO including duplicate content, keyword stuffing, and cloaking. However, content should not be created just to rank high on SERPs but also to most effectively answer search engine queries.
The next aspect of SEO after creating content and webpages meant for humans is to ensure that it is readable and visible to search engines as well. Technical SEO is the process of optimizing your site for search engines. The most important aspect of SEO, to learn for successful communication with developers. Unless you are a very skilled web developer, you will have to get the help of a developer to optimize your site.
Technical SEO will essentially cover three aspects: how websites work, how search engines understand them, and how users interact with them. Search Engine Optimizers need to understand what they are optimizing for SEO to be successful. That will include fathoming how websites work. A crucial component of every website’s SEO journey is the critical rendering path which refers to how a browser turns a website’s code into a viewable page. There are many other technical aspects that can affect your website’s SEO journey such as load time and appearance.
The process by which search engine crawlers understand websites is quite complex. A schema markup is a tool that allows you to give search engines more specific criteria for classifying information on your site. As far as the way people interact with websites, user experience is by far the most crucial point. User experience will include load speed, site responsiveness, and use of images among others.
After creating content that answers people’s queries and is understood by search engines, it does not mean that your webpages will rank high on SERPs. You need to establish some authority on the internet.
The main ways to do so is by earning links on authoritative websites, establishing your brand, and developing a loyal audience. Google states that links and quality content are two out of three of the most important factors in SEO.
However, it is important to understand the process of link building. An inbound or external link is one that points to one website from another. On the other hand, internal links are those that link to web pages of the same domain. Search engines utilize algorithms to examine websites and pages based on their links.
The three main characteristics that search engines use to evaluate links are expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. Your ranking on search engine results will ultimately depend on the above factors. You can hence see why it is important to have links on authoritative pages as the more weight a link carries, the more important it is considered to be by search engines.
However, for search engine optimization, these links not only have to be present, but they also need to be followed. For that reason, it is incredibly necessary to develop your link profile. Your link profile is the total evaluation of how many inbound links your website or webpage has earned. It includes the total number, their quality, diversity among other features.
Tracking and Measuring SEO Success
In many areas of life, measurement is the key to improvement and the same goes for SEO. Measuring the results of your SEO efforts is vital to refining them and getting better results.
Though there are many metrics to measure SEO success, you should have a primary goal of your SEO efforts. It will be the benchmark by which all other metrics can be judged. It is crucial that the goal is specific and measurable. Once you set up a primary goal, you can add certain metrics which will help your site achieve its ultimate goal.
Metrics most professional SEOs will use to measure success include conversion rate, time people spent on your web pages, number of page visits, how many pages did each visitor view, bounce rate, scroll depth, and search traffic among others. Google Analytics is the best tool to track and measure SEO success. It will also vastly help you improve other aspects of your site.
Search Engine Optimization is important for the success of every website. As you can see there are many qualities to search engine optimization. The above elements should give you a cursory understanding of what SEO is and how it works. Though you might not be perfect at SEO, it will undoubtedly be one of the most important metrics to measure the health of your site.