What is SEO: An introduction to SEO for dummies

What is SEO

 

Imagine that after months of planning, your trekking trip is finally happening. All you need is the proper gear now. It’s a weekend and you don’t want to spend it in a crowded mall. So you go online and look for trekking shoes. However, all you see are party shoes. Even if the shoes are irresistibly pretty, would you be pleased? Chances are that you are already bracing yourself for spending a day at the mall.

To avoid such agony for its users, each search engine uses a set of rules called an algorithm to find the most useful results for a query. If you want your webpage to appear among the top results for free, you need to optimize it according to the algorithm. This process of letting a search engine know that you have crafted the perfect answer for a particular query is called search engine optimization (SEO).

Why is SEO important?
We are all guilty of searching for absurd queries on Google that would probably raise eyebrows in real life. Like Hermione, it seems to have an answer for just about anything. Every day, Google handles over 3.5 billion searches. For each search, it returns around 10 results on the first page, and only 0.78% of users take the road less travelled by which is the second page of results. As you can imagine, webpages vie for a place on the first page which is achieved through search engine optimization.

Although you can increase the number of visitors on a website through old-school paid advertising, SEO marketing should still be a part of every digital marketing strategy because it brings organic traffic. Unlike advertising, it does not need continuous funding and draws visitors over a longer duration as long as the topic is being searched for. However, the objective is to not only increase the amount of traffic but also the quality of traffic. You want to make sure that the visitors coming to your website are interested in what you are offering. For example, if you sell all things coffee, you don’t want to attract visitors who are ardent tea lovers. Even if these people come to your website, the chances of them buying anything are next to nothing.

Now that you know why it’s important, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of the SEO process. Before delving into how to do SEO part, let’s learn how search engines work.

How do search engines work?
Each search engine has an index that it mines through to give you an answer. While all search engines have different ways of doing this, Google’s way is the most popular because of its reliability.

Google has a huge database called Search Index to organize information about all the web pages that it finds using computer programs called crawlers or spiders. These crawlers are constantly moving around the internet to find new information. Some pages are discovered when a crawler visits existing pages in its Index and finds new links to follow. Other pages are crawled when a website owner submits a sitemap to Google. This process of crawling webpages and adding information about them to the Index is called crawling and indexing.

When a user enters a query, Google uses an algorithm to find results in its index and ranks them using over 200 factors. While most of them are a well-kept secret, Google has given insights into a few such as –

1. Meaning of the query
Like a best friend who understands every nuance of your utterance, Google uses its linguistic superpowers to understand the meaning of your query. It interprets the words entered by you, including spelling mistakes and synonyms, to understand what you are looking for and in which format. For example, if you search for ‘best chocolate cake recipes’, it will show you results from cooking related pages. However, if your query is ‘best chocolate cake near me’, it will display the nearest bakeries. Although the two queries use similar keywords, Google looks for more than just exact keywords. It assesses the page for related keywords and synonyms to check how relevant it will be for a user.

2. Usability of webpages
Besides relevance, Google gives precedence to webpages that are easy to use in terms of page speed, mobile friendliness, and user design. 

3. Quality of content
Google looks for results from most reliable sources. To determine the credibility of a source, it uses a concept called PageRank which is the total number of links that a website has from other sites. The more number of links a website has from reputed sources, the higher its PageRank. This smarter than average search engine is so committed to user experience that it even uses spam algorithms to detect any links that try to rig the system.

4. Context and settings
Search results vary for each individual according to their location, past search history, search settings, and recent search history.

Although Google updates its algorithm frequently, the above-mentioned factors have stood the test of time.

Now that we know how Google works, let’s get to the how-to do SEO part.

How does SEO work?
SEO can be broadly categorized into two types: on-page and off-page.

1. On-page SEO
The practise of optimizing your webpage content and structure according to the ranking factors. Here’s how you can do it —

I. Do a keyword research: When you are optimizing your content for SEO, you need to think about what your audience is looking for, and the words they are using to search (keywords). You can do this with the help of keyword research tools like Google Keyword Planner, Ubersuggest, etc. You can type in a word or a phrase that you think your audience might be interested in, and see the keyword suggestions for that. An important thing to note is the search volume which indicates the average number of people searching using those keywords. If you choose a keyword with a low search volume, your webpage will not be seen by a lot of people.

keyword research

You can also start your keyword research by analysing the top-ranking pages for a common query in your industry. You can see the keywords they are using by entering their URL in a keyword research tool. Then you can choose the keywords that would be most relevant for your website.

Once you have selected your keywords, you should use them a few times throughout your webpage to establish relevance. However, do not overdo it as keyword stuffing is penalised by Google. You should also avoid using the same keywords all over the page. Instead, you could use synonyms and keywords that are related to your topic. These are called secondary keywords and help Google in recognizing that your content is meaningful.

Since keyword research can be tricky especially for beginners, it’s imperative that you spend time learning about it. You can refer to this guide on Moz to learn more about doing keyword research.

II. Optimize HTML code:

– Title tags: This is the title that appears in search engines when a webpage is displayed as a result. It indicates what your page is about and can influence the number of clicks. Although a title tag can be as long as 600 characters, you should keep it short and sweet so that the search engine does not cut it off.

– Heading tags: Informative headings enhance the readability of your content by breaking your content in interrelated parts. You can use synonyms and related keywords in headings to add more relevance to your article.

– URL: The URL is the address of your page on world wide web. A relevant URL is a concise description of your page and can increase the page visibility in search engines.

– Meta description: This is a summary of a webpage’s content that is displayed when it shows up as a result. It highlights the keywords matching a user’s query and communicates what to expect. Although it does not contribute directly to your SEO, it can increase the clickability of your webpage.

 

– Alt text for images: If a page fails to load an image, this is the text that helps your audience in understanding what the image is about and helps them make sense of your content as a whole. This is also a way for Google to read your images and show it for related queries which can bring more traffic to the page.

III. Make sure your site is accessible: Once you create your content, you also want to ascertain that Google is able to crawl your page to add it to its Search Index. You can do this in various ways like submitting your page URL or sitemap to Google Search Console, internal linking, etc.

IV. Maintain content quality: Your content should provide quality information. Make it as informative and helpful as possible including external links that the user may find helpful. You also need to ensure that your content is up to date especially if it relates to an industry that’s constantly evolving.

2. Off-page SEO
As the name suggests, this refers to all the activities that are not directly done on your webpages but have an impact on their rankings. It includes link building, reviews, social media, etc and helps in establishing the credibility of your site.

I. Link building: Link building is the most important aspect of off page SEO and can be done in various ways like backlinking, internal linking, creating visual assets, etc.

– Backlinking: A backlink is a link to your webpage from another website. The total number of backlinks that a webpage has is called PageRank. Links from well-reputed sites get your page more brownie points and contribute to your E-A-T (expert, authority, and trust) score.

– Internal linking: You can use the high authority pages on your website to link to the lower ones. Internal links must be contextual and relevant.

– Creating visual assets: Due to their ease of sharing, visual assets like infographics, charts, and diagrams are a great way to build links, according to Backlinko. They can also help with your on-page SEO as 65% of people are visual learners.

These were the key elements of search engine optimization. However, Google is constantly improving its algorithm to provide an unparalleled user experience. To stay on top of your SEO game, it’s necessary to keep up with the developments.

If you have relinquished your dummy status, and yearn to know more, you can check out Internshala’s digital marketing training!

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