What is the first thing you do when you’re looking for information or products? Guess what! We all do the same. Search for it online. Just like that! The vast majority of online experiences begin with search engines, especially when you don’t know where to go to get your answers. Optimizing your website for search engines is crucial for your website visibility in search engines results pages (SERP).
What is SEO: Simple Guide to SEO
Our aim in this article is to simplify the process of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), summarize the importance of SEO and guide website owners and bloggers through the main elements of SEO to get the best out of your website with search engines.
We will discuss the following main topics of Search Engines Optimization (SEO). Use the navigation below if you would like to read a specific topic:
One of the most frequent questions we get is How to increase website organic traffic? The answer is simply you should take your SEO strategy seriously and optimize each page for search engines. When done right, your SEO strategy will help improve your website pages rank for more visibility in search engines results pages (SERP) to increase website organic traffic.
What is SEO? How SEO Works? And Why SEO Matters? To answer these questions, we need to understand how search engines work in general.
What is SEO: Simple Guide to SEO [Search Engine Optimization]
1. How Search Engines Work? The Basics of Search Engines
Search engines work by reading website pages contents to be able to match the search query (search terms) with the indexed pages to provide the best results to that search query. When the user searches for a product, service, solution to a problem or answer to a question, search engines aim to provide users with the most relevant credible answer or solution to their search query.
Search Engines are secretive about the mechanisms they use for search results, but when you understand the basics of how search engines find, organize, and select results, it will be easier for you to optimize your website.
Search engines uses 3 main mechanisms to find, understand and rank your website pages and its content for a specific search term (search query):
Before we explain what is SEO, let’s have a closer look at each mechanism and see how search engines work?
Search engines rely on Crawlers (Search Engines Bots) to find, read and understand pages on the web. Crawlers are web robots (automated scripts) that continuously browse the web to find new pages to index them correctly. Crawlers look for hyperlinks in each page in order to index the destination page/pages as well.
Crawlers start with a list of websites. Search engines algorithms decide which website to crawl, number of pages and frequency of crawling. Crawlers have a time limit to crawl and index website pages, a Crawl Budget which is the number of pages search engine robot crawls and indexes within a given time frame. Keep this in mind, if search engines robots can’t crawl a webpage, they can’t index it.
To help search engines crawl and index your website, consider the following:
Website Hierarchy: Means the hierarchical arrangement of website pages. Optimize the flow between your home page (domain), categories and subcategories to make it easier for search engines to crawl your website within its crawl budget time. Having a logical website hierarchy will make it easier for website users to navigate your website as well.
Internal Linking: Means the links that connect pages and posts on your website. Search engines Crawlers need internal linking to move between pages. Pages without links are un-crawlable. Have a logical internal links between pages to help search engines crawl and index your pages and for better user experience and website usability.
XML site map: Site map is the list of your webpages and posts. XML site map tells search engines about your website pages and what pages to crawl. You can use plugins and tools to help you update your site map automatically when you add new pages or posts.
In short, if search engines can’t crawl a page in your website, it won’t show it in search results. We can say Crawlers (Search Engines Robots) is like eyes, it helps search engines see the contents of webpages.
How Search Engines Work: Website Crawling
When Crawlers find a website page, search engines robots fetch it and organize the content of this page into categories (Text, keyword, images, CSS and HTML, and other dynamic page contents). Every search engine has a giant database (index) that stores everything their robots crawl on webpages. The database has a catalog for every word on the indexed webpages. Website Indexing helps Crawlers understand what’s on the page and decide for which keywords (search query) the page is relevant.
You need to make sure that search engines see your website. Control which pages search engines are allowed to index to help Crawlers focus on the most important pages on your website within their crawl budget. The no-index tag in the head section of your pages is used to instruct search engines if they can or can’t consider a specific page for its search results.
Some search engines like Google and Bing have their own URL inspection tools to help you see what search engines crawl and index in your website. You can use these tools to also find out why Crawlers aren’t indexing pages on your website or to request indexing. If you have an account with Google or Bing, check out these tools:
Search engines index is like a book index, it contains a list of words or phrases and associated pointers to where the useful material related to that heading can be found in the book.
Now, let’s see how to instruct search engines not to crawl and index certain pages in your website.
What is robots.txt?
Robots.txt is a text file located in your web server root directory and is accessible by everyone. The file was created by a webmaster to instruct web robots on how to crawl the website pages.
You don’t want search engines Crawlers to index and show every page in your website. Use robots.txt file to restrict search engines robots from crawling the content you don’t need search engines to show in search results. This will allow search engines robots to crawl and index the most relevant user-centered content in your website within their crawl budget.
- Don’t use robots.txt file to hide information, as it’s publicly available and anyone can see the pages you don’t want web robots to crawl.
- Web robots are not required to follow robots.txt files instructions, but most well-written web robots and search engines robots follow the rules you define.
How Search Engines Work: Website Indexing [Google Search]
Ranking process and factors vary from search engine to another, so you won’t get the exact results when using different search engines because of their search algorithms and ranking factors.
What is search algorithm?
Search algorithm is a set of instructions, rules and procedures search engines follow in order to find and show the most relevant results to a search query. Search engines use multiple search algorithms to rank and retrive the most relevent webpages for a search query. PageRank is the first algorithm Google used to rank webpages, but it’s not the only one.
Search engines algorithms use numerous factors to evaluate webpages to determine where it should rank for a specific user query. Ranking factors include but not limited to the following factors:
- RContent, keywords and phrases relevance to search queries.
- RTitle tags and meta description.
- RWebsite design and architecture.
- RLink building.
- RLink authority.
- RBacklink quality.
- RPage is mobile friendly.
- RPage URL and the keywords in the URL.
- RPage quality and load speed.
- RFreshness of page content.
- RDomain authority.
- RPage engagement.
- RPage bounce rate.
- RSecurity (SSL Certificate).
- RCode quality.
Search engines ranking process can be compared to the way we compare multiple books and decide which one has more relevant and trusted information about certain topic.
Search engines like Google take thousands of signals into account when ranking pages to a specific search query. Optimize your website design, structure and content to send positive ranking signals to search engines.
What happens when we perform a search using search engines?
Crawling, indexing and ranking are the mechanism that search engines use to read, index and rank your pages for a specific search query, but are the results that different users get for the same search query similar? And how search engines answer a specific user search query?
The search results we get are highly specific and dynamic. User behavior, search history, language and interest might affect these results, which makes it impossible to predict what search results a specific user gets.
The results vary from user to another, and that goes to the steps search engines – like Google and Bing – follow to return the most relevant results to a specific user, not just for the specific search query the user performed! Search engines apply user personal and local factors, and they follow 3 steps to return its results for specific users:
- RAnalyze query intent.
- RMatch query intent.
- RApply user localized and personal factors.
2. What is SEO and How SEO Works?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization; in simple words, it means the process of improving your website pages and optimizing its content to increase its visibility in search engines results pages (SERP) for relevant search queries. In other words, it’s what you need to do to get more free organic visibility in search engines results for a specific keyword or search phrase.
The fact that results of the first page gets the highest percentage of all clicks makes SEO very important for business visibility in search results. Optimizing your website for search engines is one of the important elements of a good website.
How SEO Works? The process of Search Engine Optimization
What is SEO and How SEO Works? is one of the most popular questions we get. In this section, we’re going to talk about 3 main aspects of Search Engine Optimization (Technical, Content and Link Building) to improve your website pages chances of being recommended by search engines like Google and Bing as a relevant and helpful source of information to a search query (search term).
The main goal of technical SEO is to optimize the quality and infrastructure of your website. Technical SEO when done right, it will send positive ranking signals to search engines! Optimize the technical side of your website to ensure that your pages are accessible, crawlable and indexable.
We have covered the basics of how search engine ranks your webpages, and technical SEO is all about giving search engines the ability to access and understand your pages to be able to crawl, index and rank its content. Content management systems like WordPress make it easier for website owners to optimize the technical part of their website for search engines.
What are the top elements of technical SEO?
We’re going to briefly explain each element
Search engines rely on Crawlers (Search Engines Bots) to find, read and understand your website pages. It basically means that search engines can access and read your website pages.
You can find more information about this in the Website Crawling topic of How Search Engines Work? The Basics of Search Engines section of this article.
Search engines need to know if they can index and show a specific page in your website. Make sure that search engines can index the pages that you want them to show in its search results pages (SERP).
You can find more information about this in the Website Indexing topic of How Search Engines Work? The Basics of Search Engines section of this article.
Website Design and Architecture
Search engines are always looking to recommend websites that appeal to users both in design and ease of use. Your website design and architecture should make it easy for users and search engines to navigate your website with ease, understand what your pages are about and the relationships between these pages.
Schema Markup is a structured data (microdata) you can use to help search engines analyze and understand your website’s information more effectively. Schema markup explains your content to search engines like Google and Bing making it easier for them to digest and understand what is your content about. Google has its own testing tool (Google Structured Data Testing Tool).
Speed and Load Time
Typical users expect your website pages to load in 3-6 seconds. No one like to wait a long time for your webpages to load. Having a slow load time will affect user experience, and search engines know that. Google has its own speed testing tools (Google Page Speed Insight).
Mobile Friendliness and Optimization
Website users should have the best possible experience when they access your website from mobile devices with any screen size. Search engines take this into consideration when evaluating and ranking your website. Google has its own mobile friendliness test (Google Mobile Friendly Test).
Security (SSL Certificate)
Search engines prefer to show its users the most secure pages to a search query for better security and user experience. Follow good security practices and install SSL certificate to show the green lock icon that both user and search engines trust.
How SEO works? Technical SEO main elements
On-Page SEO (Content & Internal Linking)
On-Page SEO refers to the elements that you should optimize on your webpages, which include content, HTML source code and internal linking between your webpages and content. On-Page SEO elements should all be tackled as they’re in your own hands, and it will make a huge difference in how search engines understand and rank your webpages.
What are the main elements of On-Page SEO?
URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is a human readable text, which was designed to replace website IP address (also Known as a web address). Like your visitors, search engines read a URL to get information about your page and what it is about.
What to consider when optimizing webpage URL?
- RUse readable URLs only.
- RCreate keyword rich URLs.
- RKeep URL short.
- RUse hyphens (-) is URL instead of using underscore (_).
Title Tags Optimization
Title Tag (SEO Title) is an HTML element that specifies the title of a web page. Title Tag Optimization is one of the most important elements of SEO that tells search engines and their users what your page is about! Search engines display title tags as clickable links to their users; hence title tags should accurately describe your page content.
What to consider when optimizing webpage Title Tags?
- RInclude the keyword (Phrase) at the beginning of the Title.
- RHave a unique and appealing Title Tag for each page.
- R Don’t exceed the recommended length 50-60 character.
- RTitle Tags for local business pages can include location information after the keyword (Neighborhood, Zip Code and Area).
Meta Description Optimization
A Meta Description (Snippet) is an HTML element that summarizes a webpage content in about 160 Characters or under, and it appears under your page Title Tag in search engines results page (SERP). Meta Descriptions Optimization can impact a webpage CTR (click-through-rate), which can increase a page’s ability to rank.
What to consider when optimizing webpage Meta Description:
- RInclude the keyword (Phrase) in it.
- RShow your value proposition.
- R Keep it under 160 characters.
Title Tags and Meta Description are essentially sales copy that attract search engines users to your webpage (product), and also help search engines better understand the content and purpose of each page. Get your Title Tags and Meta Description right to improve your SEO ranking and increase page click-through rate (CTR).
Heading Tags & Content Optimization
Heading Tags (H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, H6) are important SEO ranking factors, and you should use them in effective manner for both SEO and Usability.
How to use Heading Tags?
H1 Tag: You can use only one of these to highlight the title of your page (include your most important keyword here.)
H2 Tag: You can use it to highlight the important sections of your page (use your keyword but use moderately.)
H3 Tag: You can use it to point out big topics, tools or ideas.
H4, H5, H6: You can use it for any reason. They’re not that important for ranking and can be used for styling.
H1, H2 and H3 Tags are important for SEO as search engines also look at these heading tags to help determine a page topic, and it is good for usability as it helps organizing your page content.
What to consider when optimizing webpage Heading Tags and Content?
- RPlace your important Keyword (Phrase) in H1, H2, H3 Tags.
- RYour post should have 2000+ words.
- RUse you keyword (Phrase) 3-5 Times.
- R Drop your Keyword in the first 100 words.
- R Bold and italicize or underline your keyword
Optimize your website images to help search engines understand your images and index them for the right keywords. Images are another clue about what you have in your page, and when optimized, your images will rank and appear in search engines (Like Google) image results. Image optimization can increase your page load time as well.
What to consider when optimizing webpage Images?
- RMake sure your images are related to the content.
- RCompress and resize images without affecting the quality.
- RHave a descriptive Alt Text (Alternative Text) and File Name.
- R Include your keyword (Phrase) in Alt Text and File Name.
Social Sharing Buttons
Social sharing and social signals are not a huge factor in SEO, but it’s a growing one. It gives you a social proof, and it helps users to share your content on social platforms. Social sharing can also make it easier for social media users to link to your website if the content is being shared on social media platforms, which will increase your website traffic as well.
Internal Links Optimization
Internal links between your pages are important for SEO ranking, user experience and time spent on your website. Internal Links Optimization helps search engines like Google find, index and understand your website pages. Crawlers use internal links to discover and find new content on your website.
Page authority and PageRank of a certain page will be passed onto the pages that link to it. Strategical use of internal linking can boast your page discoverability, rank and user experience.
What to consider when optimizing webpage Internal Links?
- RAdd 2-6 rich links to your post when you publish it.
- R Links should be relevant to the content of the page.
Outbound Links Optimization
Outbound links are the links that point to external websites from your website. Outbound links to relevant authority sites are good for SEO and can increase organic traffic, build trust and sometimes facilitate the relationships with other businesses.
What to consider when optimizing webpage outbound Links?
- RUse outbound links to verify facts or sources.
- RLink to authority site within your niche.
- RDon’t link to competitors’ websites.
- RYour outbound links should be related to the content.
- R Add 3-6 outgoing links to authority related websites.
On-Page SEO is essential for any website SEO strategy success. On-Page SEO when done right will make a huge difference in how search engines understand and rank your pages. Optimize your website content, URL, inbound and outbound links to help search engines understand what your webpages are about and recommend them in search results pages (SERPs) to increase website organic traffic.
How SEO works? On-Page SEO main elements
Off-Page SEO (Link Building)
Off-Page SEO is all about your website reputation and what others think of your website and content. The tactics of Off-Page SEO rely on human behavior and focus on link building, branding and reputation to send positive ranking signals to search engines.
Search engines look at the links (Backlinks) your page gets from websites relevant to your niche and content. Unlike On-Page SEO, Off-Page SEO isn’t something you can fully control its results. Make sure technical and on-page SEO are done right, and take your time working on your brand and Off-Page SEO factors.
Links from external website are important for your Off-Page SEO strategy success and are considered one of the essential elements for your Off-Page SEO strategy success.
What are the main elements of Off-Page SEO?
Google and other search engines love to recommend trusted websites and pages to their users. We’re going to highlight 3 main elements you need to address to increase your website and pages trust with search engines:
Website and Pages Authority
Authority websites are high-quality websites that is respected by the people in their niche and industry. Authority websites content is trusted by search engines and website users.
Search engines like Google determine the overall authority of a website by using two kind of authorities:
Refers to the strength of the domain and how known it is.
Refers to how authoritative and trustworthy page content is.
Encourage authority and high-quality websites to link to your content to increase your website authority.
Pages Bounce Rate
Bounce rate represents the percentage of single-page sessions, which means the percentage of how many visitors entered and left a page on your website without interacting with it.
Bounce rate tells search engines something about your page, and it’s not good. Increase in bounce rate might affect your rank, and search engines like Google won’t hesitate to drop it from the top search engines results pages (SERPs).
What factors affect bounce rate? What to do to minimize webpages bounce rate?
The main factors that affect bounce rate can be summarized in the below points:
- RContent Relevancy.
- RContent Quality.
- RLoad Time.
- RDesign and Usability.
- RAttracting the Right Audience.
Your Personal Brand (Identity)
Your brand name or personal brand is a huge trust signals for search engines like Google, but it takes time to build. You don’t have to worry about this from the beginning, but you should take the time and consider building your brand as it’s both helpful for your business and search engines ranking.
The quality of backlinks your webpages get is one of the ranking and trust signals that search engines look at when ranking your webpages for specific search query.
Backlinks can be described as links placed within the body of the content of other websites pages appointing to a specific page in your website. Backlinks indicate that the destination of the link is a trusted resource of information.
What are the links (backlinks) that really matter for Off-Page SEO link building?
- RLinks from trusted and authority websites.
- RLinks from webpages relevant to your niche.
- RLinks from mainstream media websites.
- RLinks with effective Anchor Text
What makes a good backlink?
Consider the following factors when trying to get backlinks:
- RBacklink Quality (Authority).
- REffective Anchor Text Backlinks.
- RNumber of Quality Backlinks.
- RSource and Destination of Backlinks.
Backlinks quality is more important than quantity! An increase in the number of quality backlinks makes a difference in how search engines think about your website and content. Thinking about the number of backlinks and ignoring quality is a huge mistake
Effective use of Anchor Text increases the quality of the backlinks you get. Contextual backlinks are links that are embedded within content and it attracts search engines to your content. The more natural the link, the better! Links from authoritative websites like Wikipedia can boast your content or website trust with search engines.
Search engines might ignore most of low quality and spammy backlinks your website get, and they also value the links your website gets from new websites more than repeated links from existing websites.
Backlinks should be contextually relevant to your page content. Backlinks should come from webpages with related content and you need to ensure that the right resources are linking to the right pages.
So, link authority, source and destination of these links are important factors of your backlinks building strategy.
How to earn backlinks?
Links can be earned in 2 main ways:
- RNatural Link building.
- RManual Outreach.
How natural link building works?
The ideal way of attracting links to your website is by building something that genuinely worth linking to. It not simple as it sounds. It’s not easy to reach people just by posting something in your website these days, especially if you don’t have clients or followers base to promote or create awareness about your products, services, or content through them.
The competition is high and website owners are using all the possible tools to reach people. Optimizing your website for search engines, having a social presence and paid ads are all used by online business owners to increase their reach and influence.
How manual outreach works?
As we said earning links naturally can take time as it’s not easy to get traffic naturally these days due to the high competition online. To speed up the process, consider the following when possible:
- RE-mail bloggers and webmasters for links.
- RCreate value proposition and explain why those backlinks are beneficial.
- RCreate and develop a way to draw attention to your content.
Backlink building is really beneficial to your Off-Page SEO strategy, but you still don’t have that much control about the results of your efforts like Technical and On-Page SEO ranking factors.
Target Audience (Personal Factors)
Search engines usually recommend results to their users based on their language, location and search history. If you’re running a business or writing content that can be beneficial to people regardless of their location and preferred language, you can improve your website traffic by targeting different locations and languages to expand your audience and followers base; hence multilingual website can help you reach different audience.
Search and visit history also affect the results. Search engines might recommend your products or services if they are related to a specific search query to those users who visited your website before.
As we said earlier, social sharing and social signals are not a huge ranking factors, but it affects SEO indirectly. It’s good for your brand to have social presence online as it creates awareness about your brand and it will also send positive social signals that might affect search engines rank.
Important facts about social signals:
- RSocial shares, tweets or likes are not considered as backlinks.
- R Links posted directly on social media are no-follow by default.
- RSocial signals are not major ranking factor.
What social signals that might have positive affect with Search Engines?
- RNumber of quality URL shares.
- RNumber of people that like your brand.
- RNumber of social media shares.
- RNumber and quality of Followers.
Why social signals and links still important for your brand?
Social presence and links in social platforms create awareness about your brand, products and services (Don’t need to be clicked just seen is good to create awareness). Social links can create more links and awareness (People share what they like, so create something worth sharing), which leads to more engagement and when people are engaged, your chances of conversion get higher.
Social media presence is important to your marketing and branding efforts. Social media is one of the main elements of any digital marketing strategy. It’s one of the tools that can help in building your reputation, brand and audience online.
Unlike Technical and On-Page SEO, you don’t have much control over Off-Page SEO elements, so don’t stress out about it and just do what you can to improve it.
How SEO works? Off-Page SEO main elements
3. Why SEO matters? The importance of SEO.
The majority of online experiences start with search engines. We use search engines to find answers, services and products, and search engines return the most relevant and trusted results to specific user search query.
I’m positive after reading the article, you already know the importance of SEO and why SEO matters! In short, we can summarize direct and indirect benefit of SEO in the below points:
- ROrganize your website and enhance user experience.
- RSend strong and positive ranking signals to Search Engines.
- REnhance your website rank and visibility on search results.
- RIncrease your click through rate (CTR).
- RDrive organic and free traffic to your website and content.
- RReduce pages bounce rate and increase conversion rate.
Why SEO Matters: Direct and Indirect Results of SEO
4. White Hat vs Black Hat SEO
We have covered all the main elements of SEO, and all are White Hat SEO elements that consider content relevancy, user and search engines needs at the same time. With White Hat SEO, you will be able to build sustainable online business!
Black Hat SEO focuses on content and paid backlinks for better ranking without considering content relevancy, human and search engine’s needs.
We don’t encourage the use of Black Hat SEO, but you need to know the difference to do the right thing and protect your website from being penalized or banned by search engines.
Black Hat SEO uses the following strategies:
- RDuplicate content.
- RKeyword stuffing.
- RInvisible keywords.
- RIrrelevant links from the sites.
- RRe-directing users to another pages.
- RArticle Spinning.
The results are usually spammy pages stuffed with keywords that often get banned very fast by search engines like Google, Bing and DuckDuckGo.
Website owners should optimize their content for both user expierience and search engines. With the right content in place, your Web Design Team or the Web Design Agency you hire should work to optimize both Technical and On-Page SEO elements.
We hope that we have simplified how search engines work, what is SEO and how to optimize the main elements of SEO (Search Engines Optimization) to get the best out of your website content with Search Engines.
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