Search engine optimization is important for the success of any online business. Every webmaster should understand what is SEO, how it works and the traffic potential it can generate for all website types.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search engine optimization. It is a set of rules for optimizing your website so that it can achieve higher rankings in search engines’ organic results.
It is a great way to increase the quality of a web site by making it user-friendly, faster, and easier to navigate.
SEO can be considered as a complete framework since the whole process has a number of rules (or guidelines), a number of stages, and a set of controls.
Why is SEO important?
In today’s competitive market, SEO marketing is more important than ever.
Search engines serve millions of users per day looking for answers to their questions or for solutions to their problems.
If you have a web site, blog, or online store, SEO can help you get targeted free traffic from search engines.
Search engine optimization is important because:
For beginners to SEO the above definition may sound complicated.
In simpler terms, Search Engine Optimization is a way to improve your website so that it will appear closer to the top positions in the search results of Google, Yahoo, Bing, or other search engines.
When you perform a search on Google the order by which the returning results are displayed, is based on complex algorithms.
These algorithms (also known as search engine ranking factors) take a number of factors into account before they decide which web page will be shown in the first place, second place, etc.
As I mentioned above, SEO is not a static process but rather a framework with rules and processes.
For simplicity though, SEO can be broken down into 3 main types:
Technical SEO: With technical SEO you can ensure that search engines can crawl and index your website without any issues.
On-site SEO: Rules to apply on your site and content to make it search engine friendly.
Off-site SEO: Ways to promote your website or blog so that it can rank higher in search results.
The first stage in the SEO process is called technical SEO. As the name implies, technical SEO has nothing to do with the actual content of a website or with website promotion methods.
It has to do with settings you need to configure to make the job of search engine crawlers easier. Usually, once you get your technical SEO correct, you may not have to deal with it again.
On the other hand, if you have problems with crawling and indexing, it can negatively impact your rankings.
The second stage is On-Page SEO. On-Page SEO has to do primarily with the content and other elements found on a page.
Unlike technical and off-page SEO, the main focus of on-page SEO is to provide search engine crawlers enough signals so that they can understand the meaning and context of your content.
Remember that search engines don’t read a page like a human so they are looking for signals to figure out what a page is all about.
It is at this stage that you will deal with website structure, SEO keywords, title optimizations, headings, internal links, image SEO, structured data markup, and other techniques that can send the right signals to search engines.
If followed correctly, on-page SEO will also improve the usability and credibility of a website or blog.
Note that content optimization is part of on-page SEO but sometimes this is referred to as Content SEO.
The third stage is Off-Page SEO.
Besides the changes, you can do to your website (on-site SEO) so that it ranks higher in the SERPs, the other way to improve your website’s ranking position is by using off-site SEO techniques.
Why is off-page SEO important?
In general, when a user types a search query, search engine algorithms look into their index and try to find the best pages that can satisfy the intent of the user.
Pages that are good candidates appear to the first positions of the search results.
One of the factors to determine the position of a webpage in the results is the number of incoming links (backlinks).
Backlinks are a signal of trust and depending on where the links are coming, they can greatly affect your ranking position.
If the links are coming from well-known and trusted sites, your ranking will be positively affected.
If they are paid links, links in article directories, link farms, or a result of an exchange, your ranking will be negatively affected.
Getting links this way is a violation of Google guidelines and most probably it will also result in a Google Penalty.
What can you do to get more links?
That’s a very good question and I am sure that if you search the Internet for that phrase you will get hundreds of different answers.
You can read this article on how to approach link building but your primary focus not be how to get links but how to create good quality content for your web site.
Good content will get you natural links which in turn will give you high rankings and traffic.
If you try to buy links or get them the easy way, you may have temporary success and then see your website disappearing from the top pages after the next Google update.
The best way to learn how SEO works is to practice SEO.
Besides learning the different concepts and theories, the only way to find out if what you’ve learned works, is to apply the various SEO techniques on a website and monitor your rankings.
If your rankings and organic traffic are increasing, then this means that you are in the right direction. If not, you will have to revise your SEO strategy and action plan.
Resources to Learn More About SEO
Some people often ask me “Is SEO the same as Digital Marketing?” The simplest answer I can give is that SEO is one of the tools available in your Digital Marketing arsenal.
SEO can be part of your overall Digital Marketing campaign which normally includes other things like social media promotion, PPC, content strategy etc.
Good content is still the most important success factor with or without SEO
Before closing this introduction to search engine optimization you must have very clear in your mind that SEO cannot help you if you don’t have good content.
In other words, if you try to SEO a website with not very good content your chances of succeeding (in the long term) are minimum.
On the other hand, a website with good content can do well with or without SEO. SEO will just give the website an extra boost.