What is SEO? Key tips to Make your Strategy Shine.
What is SEO?
SEO is a digital marketing strategy and it stands for “search engine optimization”.
As the name suggests, we are talking about search engines here. In essence, SEO is the practice of optimizing websites for search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuck Go, etc.
The aim of search engine optimization is to increase the visibility of your web pages by climbing to the top of Google’s search results page (SERP).
This is done by enhancing the content of your pages, which increases the chance of finding the perfect match between the users’ search intention and your content.
To do that it is important to know how search engines like Google operate.
“Crawling” is the term used to describe the process when search engines scan your web pages to analyze your information.
More specifically, Google captures the most important data and stores it in its website database, also called their “index”. There, every web page is categorized by Google. You can look at it like being a big library of information, stored on the internet.
Every time when people search for a topic related to your content, Google retrieves the most relevant information regarding the users’ search intent.
SEO helps you to control for which search terms your content gets shown. At the same time, it can improve the positioning of your page on the search engine results page (SERP).
Benefits of having a great SEO strategy
Optimizing your web pages improves your chances of gaining more visitors to your website. As a result, your web pages will rank higher on Google thus attracting your target in bigger numbers.
Some statistics claim that the first five organic results account for 67.60% of all the clicks on Google. This shows that ranking consistently on the first page can give you a huge amount of free clicks.
Furthermore, by developing content that matches the users' search terms, you will be one step closer to bring the right audience to your organization’s website. This means that the people visiting your website are more likely to convert into customers.
The more work you put into optimizing your web pages the better your results will be in the long term. A great SEO strategy ensures a continuous stream of website traffic in a much cheaper way than advertising.
Once you have a solid foundation you can implement paid search tactics (SEM) to further bring traffic to your website: SEO vs SEM:
Which one should you use?
How does SEO ranking work?
In general, Google aims to place the most relevant information based on the users' search query on the first page of their SERP. It is estimated that Google uses more than 200 factors to rank every website.
There are 2 categories all ranking factors fall into, “On-page” SEO and “Off-page” SEO.
On-page SEO is related to all the information that is present on your website. This includes the headlines, the content of your pages as well as the page structure and other background data using the HTML code.
The goal is to ensure a smooth user experience and to improve your website. In short, these are the factors you can control and directly change to improve your SERP rank.
Off-page SEO includes all the ranking factors that you cannot directly control. Those efforts happen outside of your website property. They mainly consist of getting references from other websites to promote your company.
These factors include the number of web links referring back to you as well as social media shares to name a few.
It is essential to have a great on-page SEO foundation. Only then you can complement it with a well-planned off-page SEO strategy.
Beware of these 4 factors to reach the first page on Google
Ensuring that your website is easy to scan for Google is important to make sure your information gets displayed at all.
When crawling your website, Google uses internal links to discover new pages. This means that you should correctly link every page on your website to make sure your content gets discovered by Google and indexed correctly.
2) Loading Speed
Google knows that people get easily frustrated when a website takes too long to load.
Not only that but your customers are also more likely to abandon their shopping process or account sign-up when they have to wait too long for every page to load.
Google strives to promote user-friendliness by rewarding quick and snappy website navigation.
Avoid using too many high-resolution pictures or switch to a faster web host are only some examples of how to increase your page speed. Tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights can tell you what your loading speed is and how you can improve it.
Since 2016, there have been more people browsing on mobile phones and tablets than via desktop computers. This is why Google announced that they would make mobile-friendliness an important factor for SEO in 2018.
The consequence is that even if your page is performing flawlessly on the desktop, the ranking factor could still suffer when the mobile version is not optimized. Therefore, we recommend checking out Google’s tool to measure your mobile-friendliness score and how you can improve it.
4) Meta Description
This is the information that is displayed at the SERP that describes the content of your website or a specific page.
Together with the headline, this is the first information that people usually see. Use your keywords to make it clear what your page is about and entice the user to click on it by writing an attractive description with a call-to-action.
Add snippets to your meta description to provide more useful information like user-generated reviews, your organization's phone number, and more.
SEO is more than good content
It is important to understand what makes good content for SEO as it is more than just providing high-quality information.
In the following paragraphs, we will explain the key tips to produce the best content from an SEO perspective in order to increase your chances to rank high on search engines.
First write for people, then for Google
You can easily get carried away by the thought that your content gets assessed and placed by an algorithm.
Even though that is true, these algorithms are based on user-centric delivery. Search engines like Google aim to match the most relevant information related to the users' search query.
However, in the end, it is the users themselves who decide if they want to click on your website or not.
Therefore, you need to start focusing on the users’ search intent. This means you should analyze which words and phrases people are using to describe what they are looking for.
This involves researching your audience and the keywords you should include matching their search queries. Pay attention to the keywords that have a high search volume per month and have a relatively low competition to be able to rank high for them. Having well-optimized web pages with relevant content is key to achieve a higher rank on Google.
Your content should revolve around one or two keywords per page. Additionally, Google is also looking at secondary keywords to match the users’ search intent. Avoid abusing the number of keywords that you use per page and having too many sentences repeating the same keyword.
This can negatively influence your search ranking because Google notices when your content is not designed with a clear user-friendly approach.
Try to include your keywords in a smart and natural way that matches the flow of the content.
The aim is to optimize your page from a clear UX (user experience) perspective and to provide value to the user around a specific topic.
This is where content marketing comes into play. Content marketing focuses on improving the content of your website to make it more user-centric.
For a more detailed explanation about content marketing and why it is important for your SEO ranking, read this article: King Content: What is content marketing & 5 reasons why you need it.
Don’t fall into the trap of black-hat SEO
SEO is a mid to long-term strategy. Don’t fool yourself expecting to be on the first page of Google overnight. This would simply not happen. It takes months to outrank a site that has been there for a long time. Unlike paid search results, you can’t pay to get ranked higher for your organic results.
There is an approach to SEO that some marketers use to gain a quick boost in their page ranking. These techniques are called black-hat SEO. This type of SEO strictly focuses on bending the rules of search engines to improve your ranking position faster than usual.
By implementing those practices on your website, you are adding no value for the consumers. You even risk getting your website shut down because of going against search engine policies.
Furthermore, any progress your website could have made in terms of search results will be eliminated by search engines due to their constant monitoring of technical implementations.
White-hat SEO is the recommended approach for optimizing your content.
This approach focuses on bringing value to the user and on producing high-quality content. This will improve your ranking without using unlawful practices.
In short, there is no shortcut when it comes to putting effort and time into your SEO strategy to ensure stable and long-term growth.
You can find more information about specific Black hat SEO practices like keyword stuffing, invisible text, and more in this article: The truth behind Black Hat SEO - Why you should not join the dark side
Patience is key
There’s no fixed period of time until you start seeing the results of your SEO strategy as this can vary greatly, from a few weeks to almost a year.
However, once you have put enough work into optimizing your pages for Google (or other search engines) you will see the results in the form of web traffic and conversions.
After some weeks, your pages will start to rank and as a result, they will appear on the search engine results page. After some months you will be able to validate if the keyword selection was the appropriate one or if you need to optimize your strategy. That’s the moment when you should analyze what went well and what could be improved.
SEO is an ongoing process and therefore you should regularly monitor the performance and make the necessary changes to keep your content relevant.
Google’s algorithm is constantly getting smarter and new ranking rules are being introduced or changed. It is important to keep up with the latest SEO practices in order to avoid losing places on the results page.