Updated: Nov 7
What is SEO & why is it important?
SEO or “search engine optimization” is essentially the practice of acquiring digital traffic through “natural,” “organic,” and “free” search results on search engines such as Google or Bing. SEO is absolutely essential for the success of any business whether fully online or not and in today’s competitive market can make or break your company’s visibility on the net.
Chances are that you’ve already heard about SEO before. But do you know what it can do for your website, your company, and your business’ visibility on the net? What is “good” SEO versus “bad” SEO? What is the difference between off-page and on-page SEO? We answer these questions more in this SEO basics guide.
An introduction to SEO
SEO is important because of the sheer volume of people who search for products online. This traffic is especially essential for businesses not just because of how much there is but because a majority of it is high-intent – which means that whoever put in that query is more than likely looking to buy and not just browsing around. This provides you an opportunity to connect with the individuals looking to buy and provide them with quality content and service.
SEO helps you make that connection. Without it, you’re as good as invisible when it comes to searching online. Here’s how SEO works broken down into just a few simple steps:
Step 1. You publish your website page, article, post, etc. Step 2. Search engine “spiders” (aka computerized bots or crawlers) go through your site to get an understanding of what your content is about. From the information they gather, these spiders will construct an index to organize your content into its relevant categories. Step 3. Finally, your organized content is fed through an algorithm. When an individual enters a query into a search engine that matches with the topic or theme of your content, your website will be ranked accordingly on SERP (Search Engine Result Page).
This is just an elementary rundown. If you are truly looking to get serious about SEO then there’s a lot more to it than just the three basic steps.
Key SEO Terms
On-Page or On-Site SEO
On-page or on-site SEO is everything you do to do with inserting your keyword or keywords into your site’s content. (Your keyword or keyword phrase being that prospected term your audience is searching for.) Now this is a lot of where the idea of “bad” SEO comes in – you don’t want to stuff your pages with your keyword a million times over in the hopes that you’ll rank better on Google. The algorithm doesn’t work like that. When it comes to optimizing your content so that Google ranks you higher there are a few on-site factors you’ll need to look into:
Title Tag Google will only allow so many characters for your title tag so it’s a good idea to try and include your core keyword in as naturally as possible within the allotted space. If it doesn’t seem as natural, you can use related modifiers or secondary keywords. Remember that this title tag is what your searchers are going to be seeing when they scroll through the SERP. Put some thought into it – and it helps to make your title more “clickable” as well.
Meta Description A meta description, while not as effective in helping boost your ranking as your page’s title tag, acts as your site’s supplementary ad copy. Technically Google can take whichever snippet of your content it deems most valuable to display but if you have a useful description that people can use to get a grasp of what your page is about then that may be used to increase traffic.
Alt Tags If your page includes images, consider how you mark these up. Alt tags are an HTML element which can offer modified information for an image if a searcher cannot see the image. Sometimes things happen, links break, a file gets deleted, or a disruption in connection will not allow an image to appear. Your alt tag can provide a useful description, but it can also help any “spiders” crawling your page to further understand what your content is about.
Subheadings Without a doubt, your page’s H1 tag is the most important for ranking, but don’t forget about your H2s, H3s and H4s! These matter too. So long as it makes sense and adds value to your content you may want to consider including your keyword or even secondary keywords into your subheadings.
Off-Page or Off-Site SEO While a great deal of SEO happens within the content of your website there are certain SEO elements that can be manipulated off-page to improve your ranking. For the most part you will likely not have as much control over these variables as you would your on-site content but there are ways you can improve your odds of having these aspects work out accordingly. Some of the off-site SEO factors influencing your site’s search engine rankings include the following:
Backlinks A lot of the search engine algorithm is based on links and acquiring high-quality backlinks that lead to your site is super essential for directing traffic to you. Keep in mind that any links which are created artificially in order to manipulate your spot in a search engine’s rankings may result in backlash and consequently take you off the SERP altogether. Focus on developing and acquiring links by creating engaging, useful content that includes keywords you want to rank for. It can be a lengthy process but it’s worth it in the end.
Trust This should go without saying and ties in with the whole concept of “good” SEO versus “bad” SEO. People are only going to want to share content that they like and trust – so while good on-page SEO can take you a long way it certainly helps to have referrals from your satisfied customers.
SEO is incredibly important when it comes to directing organic, natural traffic to your website and when done the right way can be a huge advantage for you and your business. When it comes to SEO, it helps to be more informed about what you want to rank for, how you are going to do it, and you’ll want to have a means to track it. It might seem like a lot, but SEO is an immensely handy tool for getting more exposure for your business!