Before we dive further into what SEO is all about, first let’s have a look into what Search Engines are for and why do they exist.
Why do People search?
Quite a few decades ago (When there was no internet) there used to be only one “SEARCH” engine and that was Human Brain.
We had to manually search for information from different sources like the library, Manuscripts, and so on.
But today due to the rise of Computers and Internet, Search tools like Google and Bing exist.
The information that used to take huge time to obtain now only takes a fraction of a second (and of course, time to write on Search Bar which depends on your TYPING speed.)
Almost every kind of information is available to someone with an Internet connection. Whether it be football news on El Classico (FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid) or be History of “Alexander the Great”, they are just a few clicks away from Search Bar.
While finding all these information comes in handy with the help of Search Tools like this, a new form of Industry (SEO Industry) has evolved because of the rise of these tools. (I would explain that in a while).
Before that, there is something more to learn about Why People search, and that is Searcher’s intent.
Searcher’s intent is basically what people are trying to accomplish when they search with their queries. According to Rand Fishkin in this Moz blog, there are 4 types of search queries:
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Although 80 % of all the searches are informational in nature, SEO professionals mostly deal with Commercial Investigation and Transactional queries as they deliver the most BUSINESS value.
Visit Backlinko Keyword Research guide to learn more about Searcher’s intent.
What is SEO and why is it Important?
According to Wikipedia, Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engine’s unpaid results — often referred to as “natural”, “organic”, or “earned” results. But what does that mean?
Simply put, SEO is about optimizing a website ( tweaking keywords, gaining backlinks, etc ) in order to rank it high in search engines like Google and Bing, and thus gaining more traffic.
You might be wondering, “OK Rajit! I understand SEO is about ranking a site high, But why should I care about it when I can gain traffic through Social Media sharing?”
In November 2014, Twitter announced that by refocusing on SEO, it increased the number of logged-out visitors coming to the site from 7.5 million to 75 million (Yes. That’s tenfold).
Normally what happens is more than 75% of the traffic that comes from Google is taken away by the first three results in the SERP (Search Engine Result Page).
As a result, even if you rank for certain keywords in Google, you do not get as much traffic as you should if you rank lower than the 5th result. And if the site is on the second page for that same keyword, it is visible only to the Engines (bots) and not to the Users (Consumers, call it whatever).
That being said, I want to make it clear that SEO is not a one-time effort and it takes time. ( YES! You heard it right. )
SEO takes time and continuous effort, however, it’s worth the effort in long-term as opposed to Social media promotion (Which tends to serve as an instant traffic generator).
Organic vs Inorganic leads
For a STARTUP or any new website, it seems to be a smart idea to drag traffic through inorganic (paid) results.
Nevertheless, it’s worth in longer period because nobody has the budget to pay more than a dollar for every traffic they get.
(And it’s not even sure whether that visitor converts into leads or not)
That being said, it’s not easy to rank high in Google as early as possible, so experimenting to gain Inorganic visitors for a certain period is a smart idea WITHOUT neglecting SEO.
White Hat SEO vs Black hat SEO
As the names suggest, white hat SEO is the term given for process of ranking which is approved and encouraged by Search Engines as opposed to Black hat SEO which the Search engines do not recommend.
In extreme cases, Web sites using black hat strategy can get penalized in Google and eventually may be removed from search engines.
It’s better not to do SEO than to apply those Black hat Tactics. But what exactly are those tactics that Google does not like?
These are Strategies such as Keyword stuffing, Using unrelated keywords solely to earn visitors, Cloaking and so on. (Search it on Google to learn more)
However, there are some core SEO strategies that are used by SEO professionals ever since the beginning of the Search era. These are the White hat strategies.Some of them Include:
- Using Relevant keywords in Title, meta tags, h1, bold, etc.
- Gaining natural backlinks through Inbound Promotion.
- User experience, Click Through Rate
And more …………
How do Search Engines work?
It is of utmost importance to know to any individual in SEO surrounding to know the basics of how search engines work.
(Nobody knows the internal workings of any Search engines by the way, apart from their Engineers and the Team).
However, the basics are the same and apply to every Search engines because every one of them shares one single goal that is: “Provide User with the information they want”.
This is what happens when you write a query in a search bar in Google and hit enter:
Google searches for every Web Pages related to that keyword in their database (not the entire web). It Indexes the pages for that keyword for future references and displays it to the user.
Although Google uses more than 200 ranking factors to rank pages, it all comes down to two building blocks and those are Relevance and Popularity.
Relevance: Do the webpage indexed provide the information that their users are looking for?
Popularity: The more popular a site or a page, the more its content is trustworthy to Google. This is the reason why blogs from sites like Entrpreneur.com and Forbes tend to rank higher than a newly formed site.
Despite these facts, let me make it clear for you, these are just the basics and the real-world SEO is very much complicated today (as Search Engine’s algorithm has gotten more complex as well.)
SEO Specialists take into account many factors such as:
On Page SEO,
Technical SEO, …………………………..
But here are a few that anybody trying to rank should absolutely care about:
Keeping it simple, these are the core components of SEO:
Any tactics that we use within our website to rank it higher falls under On-site Optimization (Don’t confuse it with on-page optimization which just tends to cover one webpage within a site.)
These strategies usually cover Keyword Optimization, Internal Linking, User Experience, and so on.
These techniques usually cover writing Keywords in certain parts of the site in order to make it clear for both Users and Search Engine’s bot (spider) that the page is created focusing on those keywords.
These are also sometimes referred to as Classic SEO. In most of the cases, Targeted Keywords should be in the following places:
- Tags of the Page like Meta Title and Meta Description.
- Heading Tags like H1, H2, ….. H7
- Keywords inside a paragraph should normally be in Bold Format.
- ‘Alt’ Keywords for relevant images.
While most of the people in SEO focus heavily on Backlinks (these are important signals, though!!!), they tend to forget one of the important aspects of optimizing a site around and that is Internal Linking.
This makes Google easily crawl different pages of the site. It is not only a Signal for Google to crawl another page but also a smart strategy to get the visitor to the other page within a site as well.
The User experience has been an important ranking signal to Google these days.
As search engines are invented to serve the user, what user experiences within a site plays a significant role for that site to rank high in Google.
In the superficial level, User experience includes Page load speed (should be decreased), Use of rich media like Flash and Java plug-ins (try to avoid them), bounce rate (lower the better), etc.
These are the techniques that go beyond the coding of the website.
Off-site is as important as on-site SEO and should not be ignored.
No doubt, Backlinks are the backbone of the SERPs. It has been a defining signal for Google to rank the sites since its Inception.
The only thing that has changed is quality and relevance of the links.
Backlinks are almost seen as a vote for a site to rank it better, however not all the links count as same as the other.
Backlinks from high authority sites like Forbes, Wikipedia, or .edu sites are way better than tons of backlinks from a blog that is merely a year old.
With that being said, relevance matters too. Even if you get a link from a year-old blog, Google may view it as a vote if the context within the site matches for the audience.
For instance, if you are a Digital Marketing blog and get a link from SEO Consultant’s website, that’s a relevant backlink. But there’s no reason to get any sorts of links from a Food recipe blog or that in a sports niche.
There are other Off-site factors which are important ranking signals especially these days:
Social media are also the ranking signals for Google to rank these days.
That’s the reason why it prefers a strong Brand Presence in Social media.
Social media engagement is also a way for search engines to know that people like those content. Had they not liked those Blog posts or Web sites, why even bother sharing it?
Other ways of improving ranks through off-site tactics include Reviews, Youtube Videos, Guest Posting, and on and on.
Keywords are at the core of SEO. No keywords, no searches.
Keyword research is an integral part of a successful SEO campaign. Even if you write a world-class content for a blog post and try to rank for extremely competitive keywords like “Insurance”.
Big brands are spending millions of dollars for these keywords, it’s not likely that results from these efforts will be fruitful.
It’s always a good idea to target long tail keywords, which are often ignored by big Brands.
Try not to rank for Head Keywords especially in the beginning. It takes more time and effort to rank for head keywords.
But, there is always a sweet spot between head keywords and long tails. That will satisfy your traffic demand and time it takes to rank for those keywords.
Therefore, do keyword research before starting any of the on-site or off-site efforts. This always keeps you ahead of your competitors.
SEO is really a complicated game.
In spite of that, applying the basic strategies can bring a lot of value of to your organization. Get rid of all black hat tricks.
Get rid of all those tricks that search engines don’t favour. That’s just an invitation to the detriment of the website.
In the SEO world, there is no such thing as certainty. Being aware of the trends, helping users in need and providing relevant content always keeps you ahead in the game and brings fruitful results in the long-term.