What is SEO ?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the science of improving a website to increase its visibility when people search for products or services. The more visibility a website has on search engines, the more likely it is that brand captures business.Website visibility is commonly measured by the placement or ranking of the site on search engine results pages (SERPs). And companies always vie for the first page, where they are most likely to garner the most attention.
How does SEO work?
While there is a way to maximize results, it is almost impossible to fully manipulate search algorithms. Businesses often look to the shortest path toward ideal results with the least amount of effort, but SEO requires a lot of action and time. There is no SEO strategy where something can be changed today with the expectation of clear results tomorrow. SEO is a long-term project, with daily action and constant activity.
Search engines use bots to crawl all website pages, downloading and storing that information into a collection known as an index. This index is like a library and when someone searches for something in it, the search engine acts as the librarian. The search engine pulls and displays relevant information from the search query and shows users content related to what they were looking for. Search engine algorithms analyze web pages in the index to determine the order those pages should be displayed on the SERP.
What algorithms evaluate for search engine optimization?
There are hundreds of factors that go into what content from the index gets displayed into a SERP. However, they bubble up into five key factors that help determine which results are returned for a search query.
- Meaning of the query. To return relevant results, the algorithm needs to first establish what information the user is searching for. This is known as intent. To understand intent, the algorithm is looking to understand language. Interpreting spelling mistakes, synonyms and that some words mean different things in different contexts all play into the algorithm understanding searcher intent. For example, search engines would need to be able to distinguish between “bass” as a fish and “bass” as an instrument. Intent would be based on additional search terms, historical search, location search and more to display the correct information.
- Relevance of web pages. The algorithm analyzes webpage content to assess whether the sites contain information relevant to what a user is looking for. This comes after intent is established. A basic signal for relevance would be if the webpage includes the keywords used in the search. This includes showing up in the body copy or page headings. But beyond keyword matching, search engines use aggregated interaction data to determine if the page is relevant to the search query. This looks at anonymized data from previous searches to match the page with the query.
- Quality of the content. Search engines’ aim is to prioritize the most reliable sources available. The intelligence built into the algorithms can identify which pages demonstrate expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness in relation to the intent.
- Usability of web pages. Web design and accessibility play a big part in search rankings. The algorithm looks for how the site appears in different browsers, if it’s designed for different device types — such as desktops, tablets and phones — and if the page loading times work well for users with slower internet connections.
- Context and settings. Search engines and their algorithms use information from past search history and search settings to help determine which results are most useful to a user at that moment. Country and location can be used to deliver content relevant to the area from which someone is searching. For example, someone searching for “football” in New England would get different results than someone entering for the same query in England.
Search engine optimization is an essential marketing activity to make a website or business visible on the web. But it also provides several other benefits to companies.
Builds trust and credibility
Sites that rank high on SERPs are considered to be of the highest quality and most trustworthy. Results shown on the first page are the most relevant, resulting in more credibility for the business or website. Having the right content on the site and a good user experience will help the website rank higher.
Provides a competitive advantage
When good SEO is deployed consistently, those that do it more and better will outrank the competition. Many businesses feel they cannot afford to not be on the first page of a search result. But if a team works toward that goal and shows ahead of the competition, they will have a competitive edge.
Reaches more people
SEO helps attract any user with intent at any time, regardless of phase of the customer journey that user is in. It relies on keywords and phrases to attract audiences to specific products and services. Businesses can create a list of keywords for which they would like to rank, then build content around those keywords.
Supports content marketing
By having a list of keywords to rank for and building content around those keywords, users are more likely to find the information they seek. Content and SEO work in harmony with each other. A site will rank better by creating useful, high-quality content that is optimized for those keywords. Ensuring the keywords are present in headings, meta descriptions and the body of the content will improve rankings for those terms.
Ranks better in local searches
The use of local searches are becoming more common, with users looking for products or services “near me.” To improve listings in these searches, a company can create a Google My Business account and optimize the listing for local searches. Along with that and the localized content on the website, a user will be more likely to see local search results in their queries.
To have an effective SEO strategy, companies need to invest in the time and resources to be effective. There are companies that can be hired as SEO experts to manage the strategies, but companies with the right team in place can do it themselves.
Get quantifiable results
There are tools and analytics data that can be tapped into to measure the effectiveness of SEO efforts. Google Analytics can provide comprehensive data around organic traffic. Data includes pages that customers engaged with and keywords used in search. That data can then be cross-referenced with intended actions taken to see how SEO played a role in customer engagement or acquisition.