SEO Explained: What Is SEO and How Does SEO Work? A Step-by-Step Guide for 2021
There are many ways to market your brand or business, but making use of SEO to be easily found or rank highly on search engines like Google is one of the best ways to get more leads and sales.
In this article, I will break down for you everything. We are going to see what SEO really means, why it is important, and how it works.
Let’s dive into it!
What is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization, which is a digital marketing strategy that focuses on optimizing your website’s presence in search results on search engines like Google to acquire targeted traffic. In other words, SEO involves making changes or designing your website structure and content to make it attractive to search engines (SEO-friendly).
Search engines deliver search results that are only relevant to what the user is looking for. This is done by the search engine scanning or as they like to say ‘crawling’ through the website to better understand what the website is about. Search engines use ‘spiders’ to collect all kinds of information about your website including the pages. This enables them to easily determine whether to serve a user with a page on your website. They check the page speed, title tags, social signals, internal linking, backlinks, and so on. It also helps it deliver results that are as relevant as possible to certain topics or keywords. When your website is user friendly, that is, it is easier to navigate and read through, it will rank higher on the search engine results which in turn results in more clicks.
There are many ranking factors used by Google in their algorithm, as well as actions that can be taken to try to optimize a website. There are both on-page and off-page ranking factors that determine how well your site is optimized, and therefore how well it ranks.
Factors that impact your SEO Ranking
Content is very important in helping your brand connect with the website visitors as well as attracting the search engines. When you have engaging and effective content on your website, your visitors are likely to spend more time on your website. Similarly, the more the quality and relevance of your website are, the more likely the search engines will rank your website higher in the search results. The secret to good and engaging content that will attract both your website visitors and search engines is to have a variety of content types that are very relevant to what your audience may be looking for on your website.
Some of the content types you can use to improve the effectiveness and quality of the content on your website include:
- Blog articles
- Visual contents like images and infographics
- Videos and audio
- Social media content
- Tutorials or how-to guides
Another important thing to consider when developing content for your website is the use of keywords and key phrases. These are words that help the search engine deliver relevant search results to the users. Therefore, you should be able to predict key phrases that a user might type when looking for relevant information, service, or products related to what your business or brand offers. When your content is centered around these keywords, chances are that you will rank higher whenever these keywords are used on the search engine by users.
This is an SEO tactic done on your website giving you complete control and allowing you to adjust them over time to go in line with the best SEO practices at that time.
Here are some of the On-Page SEO factors that can help improve your SEO rankings:
- Title Tag – This tells the search engine what the web page is all about. We recommend 70 characters or less for the title. This includes your page title and keyword your page focuses on.
- Meta Description – This tells the search engines in detail what the web page is about. It can also be used by your website visitors to see the relevance of your content to what they are searching for. It should also include your keyword and also provide enough details for users to better understand your content.
- Sub-headings – They not only make content easier to read but also boosts your SEO. You can use H1, H2, and H3 tags.
- Internal Links – Having internal links, or as they are called hyperlinks, to other content on your website, can help search engines easily crawl your site and better understand it. For example, you can provide links to the inner pages from the home page.
- Image Name and ALT Tags – If you are using visual contents especially images on your website, it is recommended to include your keyword or phrase in the image name and alt tag. By doing this, you also provide your SEO definition that will help search engines better index your images, which may appear when users perform an image search for a certain keyword or phrase.
- Mobile-friendliness - More than half of all web traffic is coming from mobile devices, which means that more than half of your audience is also likely to be on their mobile phones. Without a mobile-friendly website design, you could be accidentally alienating half of your users. That is massive. A website with a high bounce rate due to not loading properly on a phone or tablet is going to send bad signals to Google, and your rankings could plummet.
- Easy-to-read design - Poor web design can make it impossible for users to read what they came to your website to do. Just like websites that aren’t mobile-friendly, websites with overlapping texts and images on any device or desktop are going to turn people away quickly.
- Website speed - This is one of the most important aspects of technical SEO, and it’s a primary deficiency for many websites. If your website does not rank well on search engines, it could be that your website takes too long to load and visitors are drawn away quickly. You, therefore, need to devote your time to speed up your site by optimizing your images, scripts, eliminating unnecessary plugins, allowing browser caching, and so on. The loading speed of your website affects Google’s ability to crawl it. If your page speed causes Google to crawl fewer pages, you won’t have as many pages getting indexed.
- Sitemaps - a crucial element to have in place if you want search engines to be smarter about how they crawl your website. The sitemap provides search engines with sort of a guide or wireframe of all the pages and content on your website. This enables you to tell the search engines the most important pages in your site. Sitemaps also aid in user navigation. A new visitor to your website can refer to your sitemap to browse through it. Sitemaps also contain important metadata about your web pages to give them a better chance of ranking highly.
These are SEO tactics done off your website. Some of the off-page SEO factors that affect your search engine rankings include:
- Trust – This is how search engines determine whether your website is legit and can be trusted by the visitors. One way to gain trust is by building backlinks from other websites that already have the authority or are trustworthy.
- Links – Just as I mentioned in the previous point, backlinks are very important to build off-page SEO. Build relationships with influencers and other writers who create quality content and will have a link to your website in their content. Spam sites with your links, however, may result in banning your website from search engines.
- Social – This includes likes and shares of your quality content from your website visitors which is a big boost to your SEO.
Given you have no direct control over what happens outside your website, having quality content that provides value to your website visitors is the way to go. The more compulsive and appropriate your content is, the more likely others will share it on social media.
SEO is best done in partnership with web design, and improving your web design doesn’t have to be difficult. In our next article on SEO, we will provide you with a complete guide to improve the SEO of your website.