SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is any activity aimed at improving your website’s visibility in the search engines. The goal of SEO is to land your website at the top of the first page of the search results when someone searches for keywords related to your website or to the products or services you sell.
The higher your website ranks, the more chances there are that people will visit your site. Stats show that websites which rank on the first page of the search engines get at least 75% of web traffic, leaving only a quarter of traffic for lower ranking sites. This is why SEO should be a top priority for any business that relies on online search traffic.
Ranking at the top of the search results takes continued effort and great content with keywords that Google will recognize as an authority on certain topics. In this article, we’ll give you more details on what SEO is and how it works.
SEO Terms You Should Know
Before you can understand how to optimize your site, you’ll need to know a few basic terms. Here is a quick rundown of the most common words you need to know if you’re new to search engine optimization.
- Traffic – How much visitors your pages get in a period of time (typically measured monthly). Traffic can be organic (visits coming from search engines) or paid (visits generated by paid ads). SEO is primarily associated with organic search traffic.
- Web content – The information you put on your website. They are topics, ideas, and other information presented in text or multimedia that you feel would interest your target market.
- Keywords – SEO keywords are words and phrases in your website’s content that mirror what people are searching for on the search engines.
- Linking – Links can be internal (one page connects to another page within your website), or external (connects pages from a different website). For SEO, the most important links are links that point toward pages of your website.
- Indexing – is a function of a search engine that allows it to continually collect and store data from the internet. It gathers information from new, as well as updated pages from websites and lists results whenever a search is performed.
- Crawling – A web crawler is program used by search engines to find new and updated pages to add to its database (indexing). Crawlers are also called web spiders or web bots.
- SERP (Search Engine Results Page) – This is the the first page of results returned by search engines like Google whenever someone uses it to look up certain keywords.
- Ranking – Website ranking refers to where websites are found in a search engine results page. These results are based from the search engine’s indexed information, which determines which websites are the most relevant to certain keywords. Generally, the goal is to rank on the first page of the search results.
- Featured Snippet – is a result of a search that’s extracted from a web page. It is displayed on top of a Google search engine result page.
Bonus: Download our free SEO Guide that will show you how to rank your business in the top 10 results on Google Search!
Importance of SEO to Business
Every marketer can give you a long list of benefits of search engine optimization for their inbound marketing strategy. While it varies to a certain degree depending on the size of your business and the types of products or services you’re selling, these 5 benefits are considered the top advantages in using SEO.
- Increased website traffic – When done correctly, SEO can significantly increase traffic to your website. The closer your website moves to the top rank, the more visible it becomes to search engine users.
- Brand awareness – Ranking higher in the search engine results means becoming more visible to online users. Even if not all of them will chose to click the link to your site, there is still an overall increase in brand awareness. Not only does it associate your brand to your target keywords, but it also builds trust and credibility within your target market.
- Improved cost effectiveness – With SEO, you can focus your marketing strategy on online users actively looking for your products. This means you are able to save money by being able to direct your marketing efforts on an audience with better chances of conversion as opposed to outbound strategies.
- Increased site usability – SEO requires a certain level of site structure and organization that makes the website easier to navigate for search engines. It will be easier for visitors of your website to find information and give an overall better browsing experience.
- Ease in determining ROI – The ultimate goal of SEO is conversion. In order to determine its effectivity, results need to be trackable and quantifiable. There are several tools, including some free ones, that let you track the amount of traffic coming to your site for different keywords.
3 Stages of SEO
Search engine optimization is a continuous, iterative process. For your website to rank highly in search results, you need to regularly update your content. Understand how search engines, particularly Google which accounts for the bulk of traffic, are indexing information and evaluating website authority.
To put it in the simplest terms, there are 3 basic stages involved in SEO:
1. Identify common search terms related to your business.
The idea is to collect the search terms that people interested in your product or service type in search engines when they surf the web. These search terms have been collected and can be found in a number of databases that can be accessed publicly. For example, you can use Google AdWords keyword planner for free to find out what terms people are searching for, and how many people are searching for different terms. There are other paid tools as well, such as Ahrefs, Moz, and SEMrush.
By identifying the most popular or common search terms within your target market, you’ll know how to optimize your content. This bring us to the next stage.
2. Optimize your content for those search terms.
The specific type of content to add depends mostly on your industry. You’ll want to have information that your target market is searching for. However, there are general strategies that you can apply in order to rank in searches. Here are some strategies that can help you optimize your website content:
- Develop in-depth relevant content using easy to understand language. Try to have a variety of types of content, such as long form blog posts, infographics, and videos.
- Make sure your keywords appear in the body of your content, as well as in title tags, meta description tags, and H1 tags.
- Layer your content using pillar pages that will contain an overview of your focus areas and a link to content of the same topic.
- Update your content regularly and repurpose low performing content when possible.
- Try to include high quality data or images in your content.
- As much as possible, use question keywords in your strategy (e.g. optimize for “What is SEO” instead of just “SEO”). A study by SEMrush shows questions generate a 480% increase in the percentage of keywords with high Google rankings.
3. Get links back to your web pages so search engines will recognize it as an authority
In SEO, getting links that point towards your website are very important. The more other websites link to your web pages, the more search engines recognize that your site is important and move it up the rankings. In a 2016 interview of Google’s Search Quality Senior Strategist Andrey Lipattsev, he identified high-quality content and link building as the two most important factors that Google uses in ranking websites.
Here are some tips on how to get good quality backlinks to your website.
- Write guest posts for reputable websites in your niche as this will help drive relevant traffic to your own website.
- Participate in niche forums to start building your authority on topics related to your product or service. For example, answer Quora or Reddit questions related to your industry and include a link to your website where people can learn more.
- Comment on blogs that post topics relevant to your niche, and build a relationship with those bloggers and publications. You could work on a joint post or infographic.
- The best content gets the most backlinks. Do an internet search on the topic and publish one that’s better in terms of readability and content.
As mentioned above, Google is the main search engine, accounting for 79% of web traffic. To understand and succeed at SEO, you need to understand how Google works. Read our in-depth guide on how to make your website rank on Google.
There are a range of factors that go into a search engine’s algorithm of website rankings and a variety of SEO rules and guidelines that have been developed in answer to it. Because more and more marketers are investing in SEO, competition for rankings is tougher than ever. However, there are so many benefits of a well optimized website that you can’t afford to ignore SEO.