Search engine optimization is important for the success of any online business. Every webmaster should understand what is SEO, how it works and the traffic potential it can generate for all website types.
In this SEO guide you will learn:
What is SEO?
SEO means Search engine optimization. It is a set of rules for optimizing your website so that it can achieve higher rankings in search engines’ organic results.
It is a great way to increase the quality of a web site by making it user-friendly, faster and easier to navigate.
SEO can be considered as a complete framework since the whole process has a number of rules (or guidelines), a number of stages and a set of controls.
Why is SEO important?
In today’s competitive market, SEO marketing is more important than ever.
Search engines serve millions of users per day looking for answers to their questions or for solutions to their problems.
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If you have a web site, blog or online store, SEO can help you get targeted free traffic from search engines.
Search engine optimization is important because:
- The majority of search engine users (more than 65% – see graph below) are more likely to click on one of the top 5 suggestions in the search engine results pages (SERPS). To take advantage of this and gain visitors to your web site or customers to your online store, your website needs to appear in one of the top positions.
- SEO is not only about search engines but good SEO practices improve the user experience and usability of a web site.
- Users trust search engines and having a presence in the top positions for the keywords the user is searching, increases the web site’s trust.
- SEO is good for the social promotion of your web site. People who find your web site by searching Google or Yahoo are more likely to promote it on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media channels.
- SEO is important for the smooth running of a big web site. Web sites with more than one author can benefit from SEO in a direct and indirect way. Their direct benefit is an increase in search engine traffic and their indirect benefit is having a common framework (checklists) to use before publishing content on the site.
- SEO can put you ahead of the competition. If two web sites are selling the same thing, the search engine optimized website is more likely to have more customers and make more sales.
An introduction to SEO for beginners
For beginners to SEO the above definition may sound complicated.
In simpler terms, Search Engine Optimization is a way to improve your website so that it will appear closer to the top positions in the search results of Google, Yahoo, Bing or other search engines.
When you perform a search on Google the order by which the returning results are displayed, is based on complex algorithms.
These algorithms (also known as search engine ranking factors) take a number of factors into account before they decide which web page will be shown in the first place, second place, etc.
Optimizing your website for search engines will give you an advantage over non-optimized sites and you increase your chances to rank higher.
Watch the short video below that explains in an easy to understand language what is SEO and how it works.
What are the main stages of the Search Engine Optimization process?
As I mentioned above, SEO is not a static process but rather a framework with rules and processes.
For simplicity though, SEO can be broken down into 3 main types:
Technical SEO: With technical SEO you can ensure that search engines can crawl and index your website without any issues.
On-site SEO: Rules to apply on your site and content to make it search engine friendly.
Off-site SEO: Ways to promote your website or blog so that it can rank higher in search results.
The first stage in the SEO process is called technical SEO. As the name implies, technical SEO has nothing to do with the actual content of a website or with website promotion methods.
It has to do with settings you need to configure to make the job of search engine crawlers easier. Usually, once you get your technical SEO correct, you may not have to deal with it again.
On the other hand, if you have problems with crawling and indexing, it can negatively impact your rankings.
To perform a technical SEO audit review and ensure that everything is working as expected, read our Technical SEO Guide.
The second stage is On-Page SEO. On-Page SEO has to do primarily with the content and other elements found on a page.
Unlike technical and off-page SEO, the main focus of on-page SEO is to provide search engine crawlers enough signals so that they can understand the meaning and context of your content.
Remember that search engines don’t read a page like a human so they are looking for signals to figure out what a page is all about.
It is at this stage that you will deal with website structure, SEO keywords, title optimizations, headings, internal links, image SEO, structured data markup and other techniques that can send the right signals to search engines.
If followed correctly, on-page SEO will also improve the usability and credibility of a website or blog.
Note that content optimization is part of on-page SEO but sometimes this is referred to as Content SEO.
Our On-Page SEO Guide explains the different on-page SEO techniques in detail.
The third stage is Off-Page SEO.
Besides the changes you can do to your website (on-site SEO) so that it ranks higher in the SERPs, the other way to improve your website’s ranking position is by using off-site SEO techniques.
Off-site SEO is generally known as link building but I prefer to use the term web site promotion since a proper way to promote a website involves many more methods and techniques than building links.
Why is off-page SEO important?
In general, when a user types a search query, search engine algorithms look into their index and try to find the best pages that can satisfy the intent of the user.
Pages that are good candidates appear to the first positions of the search results.
One of the factors to determine the position of a webpage in the results is the number of incoming links (backlinks).
Backlinks are a signal of trust and depending on where the links are coming, they can greatly affect your ranking position.
If the links are coming from well-known and trusted sites, your ranking will be positively affected.
If they are paid links, links in article directories, link farms or a result of an exchange, your ranking will be negatively affected.
Getting links this way is a violation of Google guidelines and most probably it will also result in a Google Penalty.
What can you do to get more links?
That’s a very good question and I am sure that if you search the Internet for that phrase you will get hundreds of different answers.
You can read this article on how to approach link building but your primary focus not be how to get links but how to create good quality content for your web site.
Good content will get you natural links which in turn will give you high rankings and traffic.
If you try to buy links or get them the easy way, you may have temporary success and then see your website disappearing from the top pages after the next Google update.
What is the best way to learn how SEO Works?
The best way to learn how SEO works is to practice SEO.
Besides learning the different concepts and theories, the only way to find out if what you’ve learned works, is to apply the various SEO techniques on a website and monitor your rankings.
If your rankings and organic traffic are increasing, then this means that you are in the right direction. If not, you will have to revise your SEO strategy and action plan.
The following resources can help you get started:
- How Search Engines Work – Before starting with SEO, it is important to understand how search engines work. At the end of the day, your goal with SEO is to influence search engines to ‘trust’ your website and knowing how they actually rank websites, will help you make better decisions.
- SEO Basics for Beginners – If you know nothing about SEO, start with the SEO starters guide, it is perfect for beginners.
- The Complete SEO Course – Our own SEO Course which covers all aspects of SEO with step-by-step examples and case studies.
- How to become an SEO Expert – A guide with a list of resources to stay informed about new developments in the SEO World.
- DIY SEO Tutorial – A tutorial on how to do SEO on your own. It covers both basic and advanced SEO Concepts.
- SEO Checklist – A handy checklist to check that you have optimized all elements.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide – A handy guide by Google for beginners to SEO.
What is the difference between SEO and Digital marketing?
Some people often ask me “Is SEO the same as Digital Marketing?” The simplest answer I can give is that SEO is one of the tools available in your Digital Marketing arsenal.
SEO can be part of your overall Digital Marketing campaign which normally includes other things like social media promotion, PPC, content strategy etc.
For more information read: Difference between SEO and SEM
Good content is still the most important success factor with or without SEO
Before closing this introduction to search engine optimization you must have very clear
in your mind that SEO cannot help you if you don’t have good content.
In other words, if you try to SEO a website with not very good content your chances of succeeding (in the long term) are minimum.
On the other hand, a website with good content can do well with or without SEO. SEO will just give the website an extra boost.
What is SEO?
SEO is a set of rules for optimizing your website so that it can achieve higher rankings in search engines’ organic results.
Why is SEO important?
The majority of search engine traffic goes to the top 5 results. With SEO your website can appear in one of the top positions for your target keywords and get visits to your website.
Can you do SEO yourself?
Yes, there are various SEO courses and online guides that can help you learn and do SEO on your own. Besides learning the theory, the best way to learn SEO is through practice.