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What is Search Engine Optimization?

What is the first thing you do when you need an idea? Or you need help with some information? Faced with a problem, challenge or even a choice, these days the answer to it all is – Google.

And so, it is a cold harsh truth that every business needs a presence on the internet to survive. And since there are a million of options, it is important that a business practices good SEO to be visible to its potential customers.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the most essential elements of Digital Marketing. It is the process of making your website visible to potential customers by making it appear high on search engine result pages.

Good SEO helps rank your website on the search results of a keyword and successful SEO aims at making your website rank as high as possible (at least the first page).

Years ago, it was easier to rate #1 on Google, but now, it takes a lot more effort. Currently, there are way more aspects involved in making use of SEO the right way. It has come to become a sort of mandatory marketing tactic if you want your website to be found through search engines like Google.

To begin with, let’s look at what a search engine is and how it works. In simple terms, search engines are nothing but an evolved form of ‘classifieds’.

When a user searches for something on a search engine, thousands of websites appear which are termed as relevant search results.

Other than these organic and natural results that appear due to good SEO practices, some other results appear as ads which are paid for by the business and are termed under Search Engine Marketing (SEM).

As of today, there are more than 330,000,000+ websites that are registered on the internet. About 90% of the internet users these days rely on search engines to find out what they want instead of directly going to a particular website.

There are various search engines available for use, but 83% of internet users rely on Google. It is important to note that 94% of the people click only on the websites viewed on the first page of the search results.

Also, that these people are crucial to businesses since they are actively looking for products or services that they offer. Hence, they are the ones that are most likely to visit our website and convert into our customers / subscribers.

That is why SEO is so important and sought after to help your website rank better. If your website does not appear on the first page of a search result, it’s alright to say that, to consumers, the website doesn’t exist.

So how do we make sure our website appears on the first page? It is essential for us to know how a search engine determines your position and what we can do to improve it. 

Previously, the correlation between keyword used for search and the keywords that are available on the website are what decided the page ranking. But in 1996, it was found that more keywords on a website did not have to mean more relevancies with the search terms.

What was more important was to see if these websites were cited more often than the other websites. That is, if they were backlinked or referred to by other websites. That is how Google was born.

Most available search engines today follow this model. They still look at the keywords available on your website but rank its relevance based on the number and quality of backlinks to it from other websites. So basically, keywords help Google ‘see’ your website and backlinks on the other hand, lets Google ‘trust’ it.

The search listings that we get to see constantly change based on what people do on the web and are hence called ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ results.

Other than these two search engine aspects of finding and ranking pages, there are two corresponding components to SEO; namely On-page SEO and Off-page SEO.

On-Page SEO is where in you ensure that your website is full of keywords that are relevant to what your site offers.

In Off-page SEO, you work to generate backlinks to your website that originate from other sources. Every time another website mentions and points their readers to your content, you gain a backlink to your site.

These backlinks can be created using articles, social media, blog posts, etc. It is important to note that the more influential or legitimate the website is that links back to you, the more affect the backlink from that site will have on your search result ranking.

Since almost everyone these days relies heavily on search engines to find anything online, SEO is the most effective way to send traffic to your website. Good SEO takes time. So, the sooner you start, the sooner you move up on the search results ladder.

# What is On-Page SEO?

On-Page SEO is basically signals sent by webmasters to search engines. These signals ensure not just quality of search results but also make sure they are relevant to the search terms used.

Hence, these signals along with various algorithms help search engines in ranking websites.

On-Page SEO is correlated more with relevancy than quality. This is because, as a website owner, we can make sure the webpage is relevant by using the right content and keywords but its quality can be assured stronger only through backlinks and other Off-page optimization methods.

Some On-page SEO factors include

  • Page load speed – How long your website takes to open once clicked. The higher the load speed, the better the SEO ranking.
  • Title tag – Title of website that appears on the browser bar must be relevant.
  • Meta description – The description that appears below URL on search results page of a search engine should have relevant keywords.
  • H1 & H2 heading tags – Title of the post that should be keyword enriched.
  • URL Keywords – URL should be rich in quality keywords to help improve CTR.
  • Content – Content on website should be rich in suitable and quality keywords that potential customers use while searching on search engines.
  • Latent Semantic Index – Include keywords relevant to main keyword in content.
  • Image ALT tag – Description and file name of images placed on the website.
  • Internal Links – Relevant and important links available within your website.
  • Content Length – Long form content performs better than short form content.

# What is Off-Page SEO

Off-Page SEO is any sort of optimization that is done outside of your website.

Such optimization is generally done by your users unlike in case of On-page SEO wherein relevancy signals are sent by webmasters.

Off-page SEO is correlated more with quality than relevancy. Very often, Off-page SEO happens by itself when your website has quality content that is read and shared and its users are taken care of.

Some basic Off-page SEO factors include

  • Backlinks – Hyperlink from another website to yours.
  • Social Shares – Your website content shared on social media and other blogs.
  • Brand Searches – When brand keywords are used to reach your website instead of organic search keywords that drive traffic to your website.
  • User Behavior – Time spent by user on your website, Bounce rate, Pages viewed, Session, etc.
  • Quality Backlinks – when your website is referred by other websites, it helps increase popularity of your website.

“If SEO were an Olympic sport, it would be race walking. Everyone is after that first place slot – but it’s a long, slow, and strategic path to getting there.”

SEO can sound tricky and hard, but even the most basic SEO practices can take you a long way.

It can help in avoiding all the clutter and to showcase your website among potential customers resulting in high visitors and in turn, conversions and sales.

# What is Technical SEO?

Technical SEO is the process of ensuring that a website meets
the technical requirements of modern search engines with the
goal of improved organic rankings.

Important elements of Technical SEO includes Crawling, Indexing, Rendering, and Website Architecture.

Google and other search engines need to be able to find, crawl, render and index the pages on your
website.

You need your site to be fully optimized for Technical SEO, your site’s pages need to be SECURE, MOBILE OPTIMIZED, FREE OF DUPLICATE CONTENT, FAST LOADING and a thousand other things
that go into Technical Optimization.

How Well Do You Know About SEO?

You know that SEO is one of the most important areas of Digital Marketing.

The ability to optimize a website for the search engines and rank high for the keywords is regarded as one of the top skills a digital marketer can have.

SEO experts are one of the highest paid consultants and employees in the world. Everyone who learns about SEO does it the wrong way.  And that’s one of the reasons why there are very less SEO experts in the country.

Most people who learn SEO learn about the tricks and tactics. They learn that one needs to build backlinks, one needs to do on-page SEO and so on.

They don’t think deeply about why they are doing that. Doing all the tactics would give some results in the short term. Sometimes it would work and sometimes it wouldn’t. The true SEO experts in the world are the people who think like search engines.

If you want to become good at SEO, then you need to think like a search engine. What would you do if you were designing the algorithm for the search engines? How would you rank the websites?

If you start thinking like that then you will be on your way to become an SEO expert. That’s what we are going to do today. We will learn how to think like a search engine. We will build our own search engine in our minds.

Let’s say you want to create a directory of all the websites in your city and you want to rank them for different keywords. And let’s assume that there are 100 websites in your city. First, your job will be to list all the possible websites available in your city that can be accessed in the public domain. (The surface web).

Sometimes, there will be websites you won’t know about. You can search about it anywhere? Since you are building your own search engine as a thought experiment, let’s assume there are no search engines in the world while you are doing this work.

How would you discover new websites to add it to your list? You would find out the links from one site to another. And you will follow the links.

And that way, you will land on new websites. And you will DISCOVER them. This will give you the list of websites. But this list of website URLs alone is not enough. If someone is searching for websites in your search engine, they would want to know more than the website URL.

You can write down the titles, the descriptions of the websites and your own understanding of what the website is about. Let’s say there are 10 websites about restaurants.

10 websites about educational institutions.

10 government websites and so on…

Now if someone searches for “Restaurants in “, you can list all the websites of the restaurants.

If you want to build a search engine for the whole world, you cannot visit all the websites manually. There are billions of websites in the web. Founders of Google knew that it is impossible to visit these websites manually.

So they built the “Crawler”. The crawler is a Robot that visits all the websites in the world. It discovers new websites through links. As one website links to another, the crawler will follow. If I search for “cameras”, then Google will show me websites which would be about cameras.

Let’s get back to building our search engine, when you are building your search engine, the first problem you are solving is the DISCOVERY. You discover websites from link to link. You have to discover all the websites that are available until there is nothing else to find and list down all the URLs.

So here you have solved the problem of DISCOVERY.

The next problem to solve is the RELEVANCY.

Because you are not a website directory listing all the websites in your website. You are a search engine. You have to give RELEVANT information based on the search queries of your users.

That’s why you need to collect more information apart from the website URL during the discovery phase, so you collect the title, description and keywords.

If you have learned SEO before, you would have heard of this term meta-title, meta-description and meta-keywords.

What is meta anyway?

According to Wikipedia, the definition of Meta is: “a set of data that describes and gives information about other data.” You are collecting the meta data as well… additional data about the primary data (website URLs). When someone searches for “restaurants in ” you can display all the restaurant websites with Title and Description.

When the data matches with the keywords, you have solved the problem of RELEVANCY. As a search engine, you have to show relevant results to your users based on what they are searching for.

If someone is searching for “restaurants in ” you cannot show “schools in “. You are solving that problem with meta data information.

RELEVANCY is usually determined by on-page information. If a restaurant website should have keywords related to food. School websites will have keywords related to education. Based on this keyword matching, you can show relevant results to your search users.

If you become the number one search engine in your city, you can also give guidelines to all the people who have websites and create new websites. You would tell them to use the correct keywords so that you can solve the problem of RELEVANCY for your users and send them the right customers.

A search engine like Google, issues guidelines to webmasters to submit their content in the Search Console (Webmaster Tools). RELEVANCY is usually solved by on-page information: using the right content on the website with the right keywords. Optimizing the on-page data and information is what we call as on-page optimization.

What about the QUALITY of the resultsThe 2nd biggest problem that you will face as a search engine owner is the problem of QUALITY. Let’s say some searches for “restaurants in “. You list 10 restaurants. What if you list the worst restaurants on the top and the best restaurants in the bottom? People will stop using your search engine if your recommendations are not of good QUALITY. So it is not enough if the search results are of good RELEVANCY.

You also have to take care of QUALITY – and here it means sorting it from the best to worst. To solve the problem of QUALITY, you cannot collect data from the restaurant owners who own these websites. Because every restaurant would say that they are the best. Every restaurant’s title would be “The best restaurant in this city!”.

We know how the world works, everyone calls themselves the No.1. So to determine QUALITY data has to be collected from the people who visit these restaurants. Let’s say apart from 100 websites, there are a lot of bloggers and social media users in your city. You can try to guess which is the best restaurant based on user data.

You can find out how many times a restaurant is mentioned on social media. How many times bloggers link to the restaurant websites. If there is a restaurant that has no links or no mentions, you can assume that this restaurant is not popular. You can rank it last.

If there is a restaurant which people keep mentioning on social media, and if bloggers are linking to it, then you can rank this restaurant on the top. When you are giving high rankings to the restaurant websites that are TRULY and honestly popular among people, then your search engine users will love you because you are making the right recommendations.

That’s how you solve the problem of QUALITY. And this is what we call Off-page SEO. A big search engine like Google has to make the right recommendations. They do it by collecting user data.

Like mentions, backlinks, brand searches, reviews, time spent on site… and 100s of other factors. As a default rule, off-page SEO is supposed to be done by the users, not the webmasters.

That’s why Google is not happy if someone goes out and builds backlinks to their websites. Because you cannot vote for yourself.

Webmasters are only supposed to solve the problem of on-page SEO by giving correct information to the search engines and using the right keywords on the websites. The users of a website will do the off-page SEO. User’s behaviour will give insights for the search engines to find out which website is better and they will rank it better.

I make good quality content, distribute it using social media, and increase my brand awareness using ads. I don’t build backlinks. I earn backlinks. I build brand-awareness and content. 

That’s why Google keeps getting smarter every day and makes sure that people do not fake their quality. Faking the quality signals of your website is what is called as Black-Hat SEO. That doesn’t work in the long term. The only SEO that works is to make good quality content and distribute it. Make good quality products and services and make customers happy. It is the responsibility of the search engine to make sure that they discover that you are the best. Create good content. Create good products. Earn good feedback. 

Search engine crawlers discover websites – make sure your site is up so that it can be discovered. Search engine crawlers read your meta data and scan your site data for keywords – make sure that your site is about one specific topic, has the right titles and descriptions. And it should have the right content for your users. This helps the search engine to rank RELEVANT websites on their results.

Search engine crawlers look at social media mentions, backlinks, user’s behaviour such as time spent, bounce rate, pages/session and 100s of other factors to determine the quality of your website. This helps them sort the websites on their results according to QUALITY.

On-page SEO is for RELEVANCY. Off-page SEO is for QUALITY. Webmasters do on-page SEO. Users do off-page SEO. And this understanding is important for you to become an SEO expert.

If you fail to understand this fundamental concept… you cannot become an SEO expert with all the tools, tricks, and tactics.

Good Luck For Next Module.

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