The Ins and Outs of SEO

Last Edited May 8, 2017 by Super User in Search Engine Optimization

SEO Ins and Outs

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of changing the visibility of a website or webpage within the unpaid portion of a search engine results page. This unpaid portion is sometimes referred to “organic”, “natural”, or “earned”. More often than not, the higher ranked on this search results page and the more frequently that the site occurs on the search results page, the more visitors that it will get from the users of the search engine. These visitors likely then become converted into customers. Search engine optimization can target several different searches like video search, image search, news search, academic search, and searches that are industry-specific. SEO is different from local search engine optimization, simply because local search engine optimization is focused on enhancing the online presence of a business so that search engines will display the pages when a user has entered a local search for the product or service.

Traditional SEO stays more focused on national searches. When used as a marketing strategy on the internet, SEO is based on how search engines work, what individuals are searching for, and the search terms or keywords that are being typed into search engines, along with which search engines are being used by the target audience. SEO can include things liked: editing content, HTML, and code to increase its relevancy to particular keywords and to remove barriers so that the site can be properly indexed by search engines. SEO can be something like increasing the number of backlinks or inbound links of a website. As time goes on, SEO strategies are changing, as now more searches are being performed on mobile devices than on desktops, so SEO for mobile websites is getting off of the ground. All of the major search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo) have their primary search results, so it is vital that a website be optimized to show up for any of these that show results based on what is relevant to the user's search query. All of these search engines crawl, index, and retrieve content in order to deliver what is most relevant.

Can Anyone Do SEO?

As a whole, SEO can get to a place of intense complexity, but many people find it quite easy to understand the basics. Even having just the slightest bit of knowledge will make a difference in the success of a website. There is a lot of free SEO education available on the internet, including a guide like this. It really depends on an individual's willingness to learn, time commitment, and the complexity of the website to determine if a novice can or should tackle the SEO. If looking for outside help, it is worth noting that SEO firms sometimes have broad approaches, while others may have a highly specialized focus.

Why is Search Engine Marketing Important?

One vital part of SEO is making a website easy for users use, and easy for search engine robots to understand. While search engines have become a bit more sophisticated, they are still not able to see and understand a website in the way that humans are able to. SEO will help the search engines to figure out what each of the pages is about and how it can be useful to website visitors. When you understand the capabilities and limitations that comes with search engines, you can then properly build, annotate, and format the content of a website in a way that search engines can process. Without SEO, a website will be invisible to search engines.

All of the major search engines operate with the same principles, with their bots crawling the web, following links, and indexing content into massive databases. This is done with artificial intelligence, but it still comes with some error from technical limitations.

Problems with crawling and indexing can exist because of certain online forms, duplicate pages, code blocking them from being crawled, a poor link structure, and non-test content like text within images and other files.

There may also be problems with matching a query to content because of things like uncommon terms, internationalization subtleties and language (favorite versus favourite), incongruous location targeting, and mixed contextual signals.

While ensuring that the technical details of search engine friendly content is important, the content must also then be marketed. The search engines alone have no way to objectively gauge the quality of the content—rather, search technology is reliant on the metrics of importance and relevance, which are measured by tracking what people do for each website. This would include what they discover, comment, react, and link to. It is not enough to build a beautiful website with amazing content that content will have to be shared and talked about among internet users so that it shows authenticity and authority.

How SEO Has Changed

Search marketing began in the middle of the 1990's when manual submission, keyword stuffing, and meta keyword tagging were all normal parts of working to get a website ranked well. In 2004, the practices changed to link bombing with anchor text, and taking part in inter-linking farms, and buying loads of links from blog comment spammers were used for getting traffic. In 2011, social media marketing and vertical search inclusion became the mainstream methods for SEO. Just at the SEO methods changed, search engines became wise to the tricks, so now if anyone dared to try keyword stuffing today, they would likely see punishment of some form. While what to expect is only the unknown, change is a necessary constant in the world of SEO and balancing it with a quality website.

On-Page Factors

This is what the website visitor will see, and it goes beyond text and graphics. It includes the content, architecture, and the HTML.

The content of the website should be well written and of great quality. The time should be taken to research the keywords that people may be using to find this content so that they can be incorporated into the content in a natural way. The content being produced should be what is considered “hot topics” and “fresh”; while it is okay to use older content, it should be updated to reflect what is relevant today. Are you providing vertical content like news, images, videos, or local? Content should be published in a way so that it is a direct answer within the search results, but it should not be considered thin or shallow.

Within the architecture of the website, a search engine should be able to easily crawl the pages. The architecture should also ensure that there is not duplicate content on the website, and if there is that it can be easily handled. The site should be able to load quickly, and also be optimized for mobile users. The URLs should contain meaningful keywords that are related to the web page's topic, and the HTTP should be HTTPS to provide a secure connection to users when necessary. Also, it is vital that the website does not cloak pages, meaning that it shows different pages to humans and search engines. That is a terrible practice and is cause for legal action.

Regarding HTML, the title tags should contain keywords that are relevant to the page topics, the meta description tags should accurately describe what the page contains, the pages should use structured data to enhance the listing, the headings and subheads should use tags that have relevant keywords. You should not be using keywords excessively and out of place, as this is a practice known as stuffing and is not advised to do. Also, never use colors or designs to hide keywords. These types of deception are not okay.

Off-Page Factors

These factors are what is influenced by visitors, readers, and other publishers. This includes trust, links, personal, and social components.

To gain the trust of the readers, you should be providing links and shares of other trusted authorities, and conversely, is your site being shared by those who are trusted in the community? If it is being shared by spam accounts, it is likely that it will then appear as spam as well, even if the content is authentic and truthful. You will also need to observe the time that users are on the site—do they stay and browse or do they “bounce” away? The history that the site has can play a major role, has it been around for a while operating the same way or is it new? Trusted websites will also take the measures necessary to verify the owner(s) identity as well as the identities of its authors. A trusted site will also never be flagged for hosting pirated content, and it will have a normal amount of advertisements with nothing too outrageous.

The links within the content will be from respected, trusted, and quality websites and will lead to the pages indicated via the text provided. Is there a significant number of backlinks for your website from trusted sources? This is a great way to build trust and be found. A few bad practices regarding links are purchasing links in order to get better rankings, and spamming blogs and forums with your links in hopes to attract visitors.

Other personal factors that can affect a website's SEO is the country that the site and visitor is located in, are they they same? Does the website need to be constructed in order to reflect that the goods or services are exclusive to one location? Regular visits to a site and socially favoring it can be great for being discovered.

In the social media aspect, those who share the content and site should be respected on social networks, and having a lot of shares on social network in general can have a positive impact on SEO as well.

Myths and Misconceptions About Search Engines

When SEO first came about, search engines contained a submission form that was part of optimization. Website owners and webmasters would tag their pages and sites with the keyword information and then submit it to the search engine. Soon after this, a bot would crawl the site and include it in their index. This process failed, and submission hasn't been required since about 2001 and now it is almost useless.

Measuring and Tracking Success

Each month, you should be keeping track of the: direct navigation, referral traffic, and search traffic. When you know the exact numbers of these, you will be able to identify any weaknesses and you will be able to have a basis for comparison over time.

Next, you will need to know your search engine referrals are working. The 3 main search engines make up about 95% of the search traffic, and knowing the contribution of search traffic from each of the search engines is useful so that you can compare performance and market share, get insight into potential drops, and discover strategic value. You will also see that each visit has been referred by a specific search term and/or phrase. This will help keep track of trends in keywords to ensure that the content you are producing will stay relevant. Additionally, you will be able to see the conversion rate by search query term or phrase. This thought is simple—it will give you the keywords that are continually bringing visitors that are converted into paying customers. Lastly, you will see the number of pages that are getting at least a single visit from search engines. This is so important for tracking SEO.

All Things Considered

SEO does have the potential to generate a satisfactory return on investment, but search engines are not paid for the organic search traffic; the algorithms change and there is not a guarantee of continued referrals. Because of this, a site that depends mostly on search engine traffic may experience loss if the search engine stops sending traffic. It is considered best practice to utilize SEO with all of the suggested factors so that there is nothing stopping the website from showing up in the search engine results pages organically.

Author: Super User

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