What Is SEO ( Search Engine Optimisation) & How Does It Work?
In this digital age of high-speed internet and social media, search engines and especially Google has become one of the most important aspects of our daily lives.
Nowadays, there are more than 3.5 billion Google searches being made every day. Meaning, if you don’t optimize your business’s presence on the search engines—through SEO—, you are missing out on a huge chunk of potential prospects.
Yet, many businesses still hesitate to invest in SEO because they simply don’t understand the concept and importance.
That is why, here we will discuss the basics of SEO, its importance, and the implementation of SEO.
What Actually Is SEO?
SEO (stands for Search Engine Optimization), is as the name suggests, optimization—or a series of optimizations— implemented on a website. SEO has two main objectives that are deeply related to each other:
- Getting ranked higher on Google’s or other search engines’ SERP (Search Engine Results Page)
- Getting more organic traffic to that high-ranking page.
The main idea of SEO is to rank higher for your target queries (keywords or key phrases), in the search engines’ results—especially Google’s—. So, more people will notice and click your website.
Importance of SEO
SEO and content marketing are widely regarded as one of the most cost-effective marketing channels with the highest ROI, and here are some of the important facts why:
Studies have suggested that the majority of clicks on the SERP are going to the pages that are ranking in the top 6 positions, and 95% of users won’t go past the first page of Google search.
Another study by Search Engine Watch implied that the #1 spot on search results get 32.5% of the traffic, with the #2 and 3# get 17.6% and 11.4%, respectively.
From the same report, we can see that the CTR (click-through-rate) drops by a lot for the #4 spot and above. The #10 spot only gets a mere 2.4%, less than one-thirteenth of the number one spot.
How SEO Is Implemented
Now that we understood the idea and importance of SEO, how does SEO actually work? We have discussed how SEO is just’ a series of optimizations to your website, so how is it implemented?
Here is an overview of the SEO process, in general:
Step 1:Keyword Research
This step is about finding the right keywords—or keyphrases— that you want to rank for.
Most of us are familiar with how a Google search works: we type in a search query, and Google will display back a SERP (Search Engine Results Page).
Now, the idea of keyword research is finding the queries your ideal audience is searching for, with three main principles:
- The keyword or keyphrase must be relevant to your ideal audience/target market. This is mainly signified by a high enough monthly search volume (how many times the phrase is searched for in any given month, can be measured by various keyword research tools).
- The keyword must be relevant to our business. Pretty self-explanatory, not all queries that are often searched by your audience are relevant to your business. If you are targeting teenagers, for example, the keyword “Fortnite” might have a massive search volume, but is it related to your brand?
- The competition for your keyword must be manageable, according to your available time and resources. The more popular the query is, the tighter the competition. Some keyword research tools might display metrics like keyword difficulty (KD) or similar ones to measure this aspect.
Fortunately, there are various keyword research tools that can help in this process. Google’s Keyword Planner, for example, is a popular and free keyword research tool we can use right away.
Simply register for a Google Ads account, and enter possible keywords or keyphrases. Keyword Planner will show the search volume for the keyword/keyphrase and also related keywords (ant their respective search volumes).
Being a free tool, and originally designed for Google Ads (formerly Adwords) advertising purposes, Keyword Planner is fairly limited especially for long-tail keywords and keywords with really low search volumes.
Other keyword research tools you can use include:
- Moz Pro
- KW Finder
Read our article on the top 30 SEO tools to discover more fantastic tools to assist with SEO.
Once we’ve decided on the keyword(s), it’s time to develop a content strategy to target these keywords.
Step 2: Content Development, Content Promotion, On-Page Optimization.
The center of any SEO strategy is content. It’s a very common misconception that SEO is about “cheating” the search engine’s algorithm to rank higher. It couldn’t be further from the truth.
On the other hand, SEO is about aligning our website with the search engines’ —and especially Google’s— objective, which according to Google’s mission statement is to deliver the most relevant and reliable information for its human users.
This is done by producing relevant, high-quality content. It’s important to focus on delivering value for the human audience, rather than “pleasing” the search engine algorithm.
While content marketing is a very broad subject to discuss, here are some important pointers to focus on:
- Do a quick Google search for your target keywords, and see the content currently ranking for these keywords. The result might be (very) different than what you expected, so this will give you a better picture.
- You have two choices: you can create something better than these top-ranking content pieces, or you can take a different angle and create something different/unique.
- The main focus is to provide the best possible value for the human audience, but we also need to optimize the content to be easily indexed by the search engines:
- Include keywords sparingly and naturally, maintain readability for human readers
- Optimize title tag, heading tags, and meta description
- Make sure your site loads quickly, and is mobile responsive
- Make sure your site can be crawled and indexed properly
Step 3: Off-Page Optimization: Link Building
Promoting your content is just as—if not even more important—than the content development process.
When your content is relevant and valuable, people will “vote” for it by giving backlinks. Backlinks, especially from authoritative sites are one of the most important SEO ranking factors.
The thing is, nowadays the quality of the backlinks is even more important than quantity. A link from authoritative websites that are also related to your industry worth a lot more than 20 low-quality links.
For example, if you are a digital marketing website, a backlink coming from HubSpot is regarded as a high-quality backlink, but a link coming from, say, Abercombie.com, might not be accounted as high quality.
In fact, getting too many low-quality backlinks at any given time can get you penalized by Google.
We only need to focus on getting two to three high-quality, relevant backlinks every single month.
Step 4: Evaluation, Monitoring, and Re-Optimization
SEO by nature is a long-term game, and it will take months (on average, 6-12 months) before your site climbs to the first page of SERP.
Thus, although the implementation of SEO is fairly simple and is not rocket science, the key here is maintaining consistency.
It’s important to continuously evaluate and monitor SEO progress—not only the search engine ranking—but many other metrics from technical (page speed, indexability, etc.) and user experience (bounce rate, readability, etc.).
Above are just a few factors that will (significantly) affect search engine rankings, and certainly is not an exhaustive list.
The most important principle to understand and implement is that SEO is about providing more value and relevance for the human audience, both in technical and non-technical factors.