What Is SEO and How Does It Work?
Google’s mission is clear: “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” The way Google and other search engines decide which websites will top the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) is by analyzing which of them meet that criteria–and that’s where Search Engine Optimization (SEO) comes in. SEO involves ranking strategies that place websites in organic search results.
While most people only see SEO as a practice that puts websites first on SERPs, a higher ranking is the result of delivering great user experience to visitors. But before you start using any strategies on your own website, you first need to know why search engine rankings work the way they do.
Algorithms and Crawlers
How do search engines pick specific pages for the top results? Well, there are three things search engines (like Google) consist of: search engine algorithms, crawlers, and an index or database.
Algorithms are mostly secret and constantly updated, but they evaluate the factors that make for a website’s good “crawlability,” which is the ease to read its information and store it. Google’s algorithm not only analyzes standard ranking factors but also more specific elements with every new update. These elements include backlinks, mobile-friendliness, and overall site structure.
For search engines to recognize your website and index it in a large database, they first need to crawl it. The crawlers do it by following a link to your site from an already existing website (one they’ve already crawled). But crawling isn’t a one-time thing–crawlers will run through your page whenever you update it.
Everything you do on and off your website can affect your SEO, and thus affect your ranking on search engines. Delivering high-quality content will always be the best approach to great SEO, and you can do that by following important rules. Here’s a quick overview of the top ranking factors:
- Site speed
- Site structure/quality code
- Readable writing
- Number of links to your website
- Off-page SEO (e.g., social media marketing)
Keeping your content fresh, targeted, and informative is essentially what will get you more clicks, more backlinks, and a lower bounce rate. The better your knowledge about SEO best practices, the better and faster you’ll see results.
Keywords are the words or phrases you’d like your content to rank for. Some keywords are more competitive than others—for instance, “used car” is far more competitive than “how to buy a used car in Florida.” The latter is called a long-tail keyword, which is preferable when a site doesn’t have enough authority to face the “head” keywords (the less specific and more competitive ones).
Without the right keywords, your website or page will have a hard time ranking. That’s why learning how to select a target keyword, create a keyword list, and knowing where to place them in your text will give your page a better position.
Of course, not everyone has the time to learn how to do keyword research. Not everybody can grasp concepts and apply them as easily as SEO professionals. To make sure your hard work pays off, hiring professionals from organic SEO companies like SearchAtlas will be your best bet.
Beware of Spammy Tactics
Google works hard to combat spam. While search engines might not be as smart as a person, they can recognize deceptive practices like keyword stuffing, using broken links and skipping the work by buying links to appear on the first page.
Whatever content you write, it must sound like a person wrote it, not a robot. At first, it’s difficult to combine smooth writing to solid technique, but practice will get you there. You can try to rank by manipulating Google, but the benefits will be short-lived and the algorithm will penalize you for it.
Good knowledge of SEO will put your site higher on search engine rankings, generate organic traffic, and, in turn, increase your conversions. If you can’t become an SEO expert yourself, don’t hesitate to outsource–the pros will get you up there and help you scale with only the best strategies.