What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization, otherwise known as SEO, is the process of optimizing your website and its pages to get more organic traffic from search engines like Google and Bing.
Whether you’re starting a new web page, or trying to figure out how to improve your old ones; understanding how SEO works can make drastic changes to the traffic your web pages generate.
Why is it important?
There are almost 2 billion websites on the internet, meaning that there are even more web pages.
Research shows that there are approximately 380 websites being created every minute.
Other studies even show that of these billions of pages, only 9% actually receive website traffic.
Regardless of how useful the content of your article may be, the competition among web pages today almost guarantees that you will generate little to no web traffic, and get lost among the other 91%.
This is due to the complex algorithm with which search engines work.
When a query is made by a user, the search engine uses a series of specifications to present the user with Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs).
The content on these pages is ranked according to relevance, which is why we rarely find ourselves having to move on to the 2nd SERP page when we search for something.
Search engines have become so advanced, that all it usually takes is the first few links to get what we need.
Thus, your rank has great influence over your exposure, and therefore, understanding the process of SEO is vital to generate more web traffic.
How SEO works
When a user enters their query into the search bar, the Search Engine scans through all the web pages containing those keywords and phrases within their content, or anything that is closely related to it.
Keywords can be broken into 2 sections:
- Short-tail Keywords
- Long-tail Keywords
Short tail keywords are straight and to the point; they are the main topic that the entire query revolves around.
For example, when searching for “Guitar tutorials”, you’ll be met by a plethora of tutorials on a variety of songs.
Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, help narrow down the searches; they provide the specifications in the query.
In the same context as before, this would be “Guitar tutorials for Taylor Swift songs”- almost immediately cutting down the number of results that could be presented to you, and giving you a more definitive result.
Throughout the flow of content, the search engine will prioritize content with the short-tail keywords, and then the long-tail keywords- finally ensuring that the results presented are those that are the most relevant to the query made by the user.
However, excessively using keywords in your content will not give you a higher ranking- as keywords aren’t the only determinant.
In fact, spamming your content with these keywords unnecessarily could even get your page penalized by the search engine.
Besides that, search engines also often rank these pages according to how users regularly interact with them via the comment section, options to like it etc.
For example, Google uses their new software called “Rank Brain”; which measures how users interact with your web page, and then decides whether your position on the rank should rise or fall.
There are different types of links that affect your ranking on the search results; the first one being a back link.
Backlinks are created when a website links your site in one of its pages, thus directing their audience towards your post.
By referring other users to you, your article becomes more popular, and is more likely to be searched for.
The search engine gathers this information, and boosts your ranking.
Next, we have internal links.
This is when you link other pages of yours to one specific page, redirecting the readers from each of them to one common place.
Upon seeing these connections, the search engine gathers that this destination page is of some importance, and thus boosts its ranking.
The last type would be external links; these are the links that you use in your own page that direct the audience to a different domain.
Research shows that pages that use external links outrank the ones that don’t.
Although you may have the optimal amount of keywords and are backed by endless links, Google’s most recent of its many updates to its search engine, BERT, prioritizes quality over all else.
This means that no matter how you decorate the cake, if it doesn’t taste great- it’s not going on display.
Sub-par content just won’t do.
Google has an abbreviation for the qualities it looks for when determining quality: EAT.
Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness.
This is mostly relevant for financial, legal and medical websites as it could affect the well-being of your readers.
These are the credentials that prove the legitimacy of your expertise, and your content thereof.
This is also determined based on your “Bounce Rate”; the measure of how many people clicked on your web page, but then returned to the initial search results; showing that readers found your content dissatisfying, deeming it illegitimate or irrelevant.
The higher your bounce rate, the lower your ranking, and vice versa.
These are the indicators proving to your readers and the search engine that you are in a position of authority- this being any references from other trustworthy sources that the search engine can find.
This can be anything from the backlinks aforementioned to news articles, reviews, references and other content from credible sources.
Similar to authority, this determinant is based on the word of others; be it reviews or articles or the other sources aforementioned.
In addition to that, it is also based on the security of your own website- the search engine prioritizes the safety of its users, seeing that they tend to avoid sites that have not been secured- especially if your site requires that potential customers grant you access to their information.
This complex algorithm is what almost always ensures that we never have to go on to the second page of search results to find what we want.
Thus, if you’re ranking is low, users are not going to be able to find your content- meaning that you won’t be able to generate any web traffic.
This is where SEO comes in.
By understanding how search engines work, creators can format their content to increase their chances of getting a higher ranking, and thus improve the probability of people visiting their pages, and staying on it.