Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a set of strategies designed to improve a web page’s ranking in search engine results, thus driving more organic traffic to that page.

Organic traffic contrasts with the views that come via paid ads. While SEO is a process that can take time, paid ads yield instant results.

However, research shows that viewers are far more likely to click on organic search results and tend to ignore ads. Thus, SEO should be a key component of any business’s marketing strategy.

To understand what is SEO and use it to one’s advantage, it is helpful to first understand how search engines work.

The Secrets Of Search Engines

Search engines like Google and Bing have been compared to librarians who manage an infinite library. To manage all that content, the search engine makes an index of all the websites it finds.

When any indexed site links to a new site, the new site is automatically added. Site owners can also submit websites to be indexed. When a search engine receives a query from a user, it begins crawling its indexed sites looking for matches, and it determines best matches by using an algorithm that really is a secret.

Search algorithms are guarded carefully, and they are constantly being updated. However, they tend to contain a stable set of factors that website owners can use to optimize their page ranking in search results. These factors can be described as internal and external.

Internal Factors

Content: Search engines look for and prioritize sites that have lots of fresh, high-quality content. Articles should be substantial in length and communicate something of value to the reader. Shallow, meaningless content is penalized by search engines, as is content duplicated from other websites.

When search engines crawl, they’re looking for keywords from the search query, so websites need to feature the right keywords in their content by using them naturally. Search engines evaluate the quality of content by looking at the length of time viewers spend on the site and how many different pages they view.

HTML And Metainformation:

Although this type of information is visible to users, it is written for the benefit of search engines, and it includes the page title tag; the meta description, which shows up under search results; headers within the content; and structured data. All of these should incorporate keyword targets in a natural and relevant way.

Website creators should avoid stuffing a page with keywords or, worse yet, hiding keywords in the background of a page. Search engines are wise to these tactics and will penalize them.</p>

Site Architecture:

Search engines like sites that have well-organized and accurate sitemaps, that have no broken links, and that load quickly. They also prefer URLs that are simple and easy to read with a length of fewer than 255 characters. An ideal URL will incorporate a keyword phrase. Finally, a site needs to be optimized for mobile users.

External Factors Links:

When other websites link to a site, it’s called backlinking. Each link from another website is a vote of confidence in the eyes of a search engine, but links from authoritative sources have more weight than less reputable websites. The number of inbound links is relevant but the quality of the links even more so. Links are also more effective when they utilize keywords. Search engines can recognize when links have been purchased or automatically generated, and these links are penalized.

Reputation:

A website can establish a reputation by receiving links from other trusted websites, as mentioned above. In addition, having a well-established domain name contributes to this factor, and having a verifiable identity is also very important. Search engines can recognize sites that engage in piracy and will de-rank those sites in results.

Location:

Nowadays, search engines are prioritizing local results, so a site that is in the same country, state, and city as its viewer will automatically receive a higher rank.

Understanding what is SEO and how it works can help a business strengthen its content marketing. SEO will typically begin with a site audit, which involves evaluating each of the above factors and determining where a website’s weaknesses are.

-Terry Moncada