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SEO

What is SEO?

SEO is short for Search Engine Optimization. It is the practice of optimizing your web pages to secure a high rank in the organic search results.

The benefit of SEO is that it generates organic traffic. Websites featured higher on SERPs by appealing to search engine algorithms, unlike paid search results. 

To determine how a web page ranks, these algorithms take various factors into account, such as content relevance, website credibility, and user experience. 

Why is SEO important?

SEO is vital for acquiring organic traffic to your website and growing conversion rates.

As millions of people use search engines to look for information, there is a huge opportunity for online businesses and website owners to attract visitors. 

However, this can only be achieved if a website gets ranked on the first pages of search results.

With SEO, you can improve a website’s search ranking, increasing its exposure to potential leads, buyers, and readers.

Organic search traffic is also more likely to convert visitors into leads as this type of user already has a search intent when making a search query. 

If a website can satisfy visitors’ goals, they are more likely to be interested in the offers it presents.

Lastly, SEO marketing can be a very effective and budget-friendly strategy. Online businesses can get sustainable organic traffic by providing optimized content. 

How SEO works

What is a search engine and how do they work?

A search engine is online software that gathers all the visible web pages and organizes them in a database. 

When a user goes to the search engine to find information, it presents a collection of web pages relevant to their search query. 

A search engine works in the following stages:

  1. Crawling – the program sends bots called crawlers to look for new or updated content
  2. Indexing – after that, it collects and organizes the content into its database
  3. Ranking – when a user makes a search query, the search engine selects the most relevant pages and presents them on the SERP by performing a ranking algorithm

Today, there are many search engines available on the market, with the most popular one being Google. Other notable names include Bing, DuckDuckGo, and Yandex. 

As the go-to search engine, Google aims to present the most useful responses in the most user-friendly way. To do so, its algorithm takes various ranking factors into account. 

They can be broken down into three categories — on-site, off-site, and technical. 

On-site SEO

Also called on-page SEO, on-site ranking factors refer to elements within a web page that affect its position on SERPs. 

These elements include content, image alt texts, internal links, and meta tags. 

Content

Google’s algorithm mainly evaluates content based on two aspects – relevance and quality.

Relevance means whether the information is related to the user’s search query. 

This aspect can be assessed from the content’s keyword density or how often the primary keyword from the query is used on a web page.

That being said, Google warns against keyword stuffing. It’s a black hat SEO practice that attempts to manipulate the search engine rankings by inserting as many keywords as possible into a web page. 

As for quality, the content has to be:

  • Useful – it can fulfill users’ search intent 
  • Original – it presents a unique perspective and isn’t plagiarised
  • Comprehensive – it can help readers understand the topic as a whole without having to find other sources
  • Readable – the language, structure, and formatting is easy to read
  • Credible – it is trusted by people and reputable websites

Image alt texts

An image alt text is an HTML attribute that describes what an image is about. 

It is mainly used to improve site accessibility. Screen reading tools for visually-impaired users read the alt text aloud to explain the image’s content. 

For SEO purposes, alt texts help search engines understand the image’s relevance to the content. They can also increase the chances of ranking on a certain keyword. 

A good alt text is:

  • Relevant – the description fits the context and the search query
  • Descriptive – so that visually-impaired users can understand what the image looks like
  • Short – comprised of one to two sentences no longer than 125 words

Internal linking

Internal links redirect visitors to a different page on the same website, such as the links in a navigation menu. 

It helps search engines to crawl and index all the web pages to understand the website structure better and identify which pages have more authority.

For example, if several blog posts include the same internal link, Google’s algorithm will assume that the linked page has more authority, raising its chances of ranking. 

Internal linking can also direct visitors to other related content from a website, providing readers with more valuable information. 

That said, internal links are only used when necessary and relevant. 

Meta tags

Meta tags are HTML codes containing important information about a web page. Search engines use them to determine how to rank a web page on SERPs. 

Two important meta tags are title tags and meta descriptions. 

Title tags show the web page title, which will be featured on search results as a clickable headline. 

Meta descriptions, on the other hand, are short snippets placed under the page title on search results containing a brief summary of the content.

Since they are shown on SERPs, these tags have to be inviting, easy to understand, and concise to attract potential visitors. 

Off-site or off-page SEO are practices performed outside of your website that affect your web page’s position on SERPs.

Since you have no direct influence on these factors, you have to rely on other sources to increase your page’s ranking.

Off-site SEO mainly evaluates an entity’s reputation and credibility through the website’s backlinks. 

Backlinks are external links on other websites that direct visitors to your web pages. 

Google sees them as signs that the web page’s content is worth referring to and valued by others. The more a page is linked to by other websites, the higher its authority will be, and the higher it will rank.

Backlinks have to come from high-quality sources that are:

  • Experts – well-known for being knowledgeable and credible in their industry
  • Authoritative – other websites cite their content as references
  • Trustworthy – the site indicates that their entity is secure and legitimate

To override this aspect, some people resort to making low-quality websites that will link to their primary site, which is another black hat SEO practice frowned upon by Google. 

Other off-site SEO factors

While these factors do not have as much influence as backlinks, they may still affect SEO:

  • Geography Google prioritizes web pages from entities closer to a user by location or written in the same language
  • Social media shares – though they are easily manipulated, they can still provide exposure to your content and generate backlinks
  • Users’ browsing history – which websites a user opens before making the search query will have an impact on your search ranking

Technical SEO

Technical SEO revolves around optimizing your website’s technical aspects. It includes, but is not limited to, website architecture, URL structure, load speed, mobile-first design, and SSL certificate.

Website architecture

Website architecture refers to the organization and hierarchy of your web pages. 

A search engine-friendly website architecture follows the criteria below:

  • Clear structure – visitors can easily navigate the site and search engines can crawl, index, and rank it
  • Three-click rule – all pages are accessible within three clicks from the home page
  • Logical system – the relationship and hierarchy between one page and another should make sense

URL structure

A URL is the web address that leads visitors to specific content on the internet, such as a web page or file.

When a new page is published, most website building platforms will generate a URL that uses a numerical identifier, like http://example.com/?p=12345.

However, Google prefers a simple URL structure that users can easily read and hints at the content. 

For instance, https://www.zyro.com/templates will redirect you to Zyro’s template collection.

It is also a good practice to indicate where the page is located on the website’s structure. If you use categories to organize your pages, the URL structure can be http://example.com/category-name/page-name.

An SEO-friendly URL uses hyphens as word separators and is free of function words. 

Website speed

Site speed refers to how long a website takes to load its content. It’s a key factor in user experience as people expect a fast loading website. 

One element that affects loading time is the website’s hosting provider. A fast web host would guarantee high-performing services with a minimum of 99% uptime. 

The web host should be able to support the website’s needs, such as:

  • Visitor volume – large sites require more server resources to support high traffic, especially during peak hours
  • Amount and type of content – without sufficient bandwidth and storage space, websites with large multimedia files will take much longer to load 

The HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files that make up the website may also affect its speed. A website with a messy structure and redundant scripts will take longer to load. 

Mobile-first design

Mobile-first design is a strategy that prioritizes the mobile user experience when creating a website. 

The term appeared after Google switched to using the mobile version of websites for indexing and ranking. It is a prevalent practice as mobile users dominate internet traffic.

One way to cater to mobile-first indexing is by using responsive website design, which adapts to all screen sizes.

SSL certificate

Short for Secure Sockets Layer, SSL certificates secure a website by encrypting the data transmitted between the server and the visitor.

Today, all websites are recommended to have one to protect sensitive data from potential hackers. 

If a website doesn’t have an SSL certificate, Google will warn the user upon opening its web page. Websites that enable SSL protocol will have a padlock symbol next to their URL. 

How to do SEO for a website

If you want to optimize your website for search engines, here are the steps to follow:

Firstly, check for any major problems that could affect your website’s ranking. 

You can do so using an SEO tool like Google Search Console, which will analyze your website and show potential issues to solve. 

Common on-page and technical SEO problems you may encounter include:

  • Crawlability – issues that affect crawling, such as poor structure, broken links, and invisible pages
  • Duplicate content – make sure all your pages or posts have unique content
  • Missing elements – check whether each page has a title tag, meta description, and image alt texts
  • Unreadable URLs – visitors and search engines should be able to understand what a page is about by looking at its URL
  • Slow performance – compress large-sized multimedia files for faster load speed

To detect off-site SEO issues, use tools that have a backlink checker feature. It can reveal the number of backlinks, your website’s authority, and list of domains that refer to your pages. 

2. Create an SEO plan to tackle the issues

Once you know your pain points, set up a strategy to solve these problems. 

Make a priority list of elements to optimize. Focus on issues that impact your website the most or blockages that obstruct you from achieving your goals.

Be sure to also set up a new strategy for optimizing your content. 

How to create SEO-friendly content

Follow these SEO writing guidelines to optimize your content:

  • Perform keyword research – find out what topics your target audience is interested in and do keyword research based on them
  • Use long-tail keywords – those which have lower competition but moderate to high search volume are easier to rank for
  • Pick the right content format – some common options to consider include listicles, tutorials, and glossary articles
  • Focus on the search intent – this is the key value that searchers will get from your web page
  • Use headings and subheadings – not only can they improve readability, but Google uses them to create featured snippets of your content
  • Write in simple and straightforward language – allow more visitors to consume your content easily
  • Break up your paragraphs – large chunks of text prevent readers from scanning for information quickly
  • Include media files when appropriate – it can make for ` richer and more dynamic user experience
  • Create a content calendar – use it as a guide to keep you on track with building your content consistently
  • Update your content regularly – adapt it to new yet relevant search queries and keywords
  • Craft a link-building strategy – promote your content to influencers in relevant industries or reach out to other websites for guest blogging opportunities

3. Measure and track your SEO efforts

Keep track of any changes happening on your website to make sure that your SEO strategies are impactful.

SEO tools like Google Search Console and Ahrefs can help you perform this practice. Generally, they can reveal important metrics to use as key performance indicators, such as:

  • Organic search traffic – the number of visitors that come from SERPs
  • Keyword rankings – your pages’ position on target keyword search results
  • Click-through rates –  the percentage of users that come from SERPs out of the total search volume
  • Time on page – the amount of time a visitor spends on your web page
  • Pages per visit – how many pages a user accesses after visiting the first page
  • Conversion rates – the percentage of visitors that have performed your desired goals
  • Exit pages – which pages visitors open before leaving your website
  • Bounce rates – the percentage of people leaving a page without taking any action or visit another page within the same site

What is local SEO?

Local SEO is an optimization practice that focuses on ranking on local searches.

For example, if a florist business in New York wants to find potential customers from its area, it can optimize its website for search terms like “florists in New York.”

To rank in a local map pack, you need to submit your business on the search engine’s business listing first, such as Google My Business.

Your business listing has details about your business, such as the company name, address, phone number, opening hours, and photos. Once submitted, it will be visible to potential customers.

For local SEO, there are certain ranking factors to pay attention to:

  • Relevance – how your business listing matches a user’s search query
  • Proximity – the distance between the user’s and your business’s location

Reputation – made up of online mentions of your business on other websites, customer reviews, and ratings

Written by

Author avatar

Olivia

Olivia is a writer for Zyro and an eCommerce know-it-all. Having spent many years as a retail buyer, she loves writing about trend forecasting, brand building, and teaching others how to optimize online stores for success. She lives in London and spends a lot of time exploring the city’s parks with her whippet.

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