What is SEO?
‘SEO’ stands for search engine optimization and as the name suggests, it is the science and art of getting your web-pages to rank higher in SERPs (search engine results page). It is important to note here that SEO deals with only organic or unpaid search results and has nothing to do with the paid ads that you see below and sometimes on the sides of the organic search results section on a SERP.
Think of SEO this way: Google and other search engines have access to all the information on the internet and work hard to organize or index it in an efficient manner. This is so that they can offer you highly relevant and useful search results whenever you have a search query. While Google’s search algorithm is highly classified, SEO experts have been observing certain trends and patterns in the way it goes about fetching the correct information for users (and seems to get it right every single time). Add to this the various patents filed by the world’s top search engine and the announcements it has made about numerous updates to its search algorithm, and we have a pretty legitimate way of saying what will get your web-pages to rank better.
Types of SEO
White Hat SEO – This is the most legitimate & universally accepted method to boost traffic on your website. White Hat SEO includes improving user experience and following all the search engine rules & policies to attain a higher rank. White Hat SEO includes On-Page SEO, Off-Page SEO & Technical SEO
Black Hat SEO – Black Hat SEO is a method to improve websites page rank & traffic by violating rules & policies of search engines. “Negative SEO.” is another terminology used by SEO experts.
Grey Hat SEO – This is the most used technique in the modern world. Grey Hat SEO is a combination of both White Hat SEO & Black Hat SEO.
On-Page SEO – On-Page is a method of optimizing a particular webpage on our website to attain a higher ranking on SERPs and get more traffic. On-page is the most critical step while optimizing your website. Read more about On-page & On-page factors.
Off-Page SEO – Also called “Off-site SEO” refers to an action taken outside your website to gain better ranking on the search engines. One of the famous & most relevant examples of Off-Page SEO is Link Building.
Technical SEO – Technical SEO is a process to optimize your website for crawling & indexing purposes. In the modern world, Technical SEO is one of the essential aspects for ranking higher on search engines. Read more about the Technical SEO & Technical SEO Checklist.
Why does your website need SEO?
Google is the source of more than 60% of all the search traffic in the world – if you combine this with the pulling power of other search engines like Bing and even Yahoo, this figure goes up to 70%. Another important online search fact to consider is that the first or topmost organic search result on the first SERP of Google takes the lion’s share of web traffic, i.e. around 20% of total searchers who search for a specific keyword or phrase. That roughly translates into around 22,000 website visitors just from being the most relevant search result on Google. If you were to go the paid route and shell out money for these clicks, you would have to be ready to pay approximately Rs 15 to 100 for every user who clicks through to visit your site, depending on the industry you are in and how difficult it is to rank on Google for specific keywords, i.e. how fierce the competition is. This means that you would be bidding goodbye to around Rs 3,00,000 every month to have 22,000 users come to your website when you could have done it for free (or a fraction of the cost if you are hiring an SEO company to do this for you).
If you are a web developer, publisher or owner, you would like to draw attention to your labor of love and gain as much quality and quantity web traffic as possible. If you are wondering what quality and quantity web traffic are, let us break it down for you. If you own a website about low-calorie Indian breakfast recipes, you want people who are looking for exactly that (and not say, to purchase walking shoes) to land up on your site. And it is as much your job as Google’s to ensure that this happens with the right optimization techniques. This is known as aiming for quality web traffic. Once you are ranking highly for keywords of your choice (say ‘millet upma recipes’), you can focus on increasing the number of visitors to your site and garner quantity web traffic.
As much as you would want people to visit your website, it will not happen if you do not put it out there and let them know that it exists and what its USP (unique selling point) is, i.e. what makes it stand out from the rest of the websites in the same category. In short, you would not want to play dice with the marketing of your website and leave it up to random chance that both Google and subsequently, its users, find your website. This is why you need scientific, inexpensive and strategic methods to establish a clear brand voice and bolster website traffic, and hence the need for SEO.
Read more on History of SEO
Before You Start With SEO
While many may think that SEO is all you need to conquer the big bad world of the internet, we recommend that you focus on creating a genuinely superlative website that people will love visiting. Even if SEO is successful in getting the right kind of web traffic to you, it will not be able to sustain it if your website is not a value-add to the user as they will not link to your site or share its content. Simply put, we cannot emphasise the importance of a good user experience enough. And this can only happen if you know your end-user/customer well, so we suggest that you begin by building various customer personas or profiles to help you get your pet project off the ground.
Google Ranking Factors
There is innate beauty in the way Google or other search engines work as they help millions of users around the world find the information they seek in a matter of mere seconds (or milliseconds). All this while having gone through or crawled millions of webpages to bring them the most relevant and useful search results. But don’t you wonder how it all happens? Here are a few key factors that Google swears by to sort, organise, crawl and retrieve information from the enormous beast that is the internet:
- Organic search results are ranked purely based on how well they cater to/answer users’ search queries. The foremost parameter on which Google judges if your webpage is relevant is the content that it contains. If it feels that your webpage is closely linked or relevant to the keyword or phrase the user is searching for, then you are automatically moved up through the ranks of other webpages and put in a special ‘can be ranked at the top’ category. However, since there are so many other webpages that could also be relevant to the search query, this is not the only factor that Google uses to determine search ranking.
- If your webpage/website has been linked to by other legitimate websites, then you are considered to be having a good authority or being a trustworthy source of information by Google. There are two kinds of authority to consider here. Firstly, page authority, wherein a specific webpage itself has been linked to numerous (but not suspiciously high) times by other websites who are of the opinion that it has good information. Secondly, even though a webpage is not linked to too many times, the domain or website as a whole may have many websites referring to it through links. In this case, the domain/website is said to have high domain authority. But don’t jump the gun yet – Google has a way of telling which links are coming from top-quality, high-authority websites/webpages that are from the same domain or industry as you.
What all this means is that if you are a website about healthy Indian breakfast recipes, you would be better placed if you were to be linked to from other popular websites in the category (say, XYZ’s Kitchen) and not something as relatively obscure as a website on car sales (even though this might have more domain authority than XYZ’s Kitchen). The bottom line: Google plays into the adage ‘if many are talking about you, then you must be important’ while grading webpages. However, let us caution you: many SEO experts have, in the past, tried to get link-to’s from websites that they may have built for this sole purpose. Google caught on to this and can now very easily differentiate between legitimate websites linking to you and bogus ones that bring no value. In fact, this technique can get a website blacklisted and is best avoided like the plague.
- You can put out the most information-packed content on your site but if it does not appeal to visitors, then they will stop navigating to you. Thus, pay utmost attention to the usefulness of your website/webpage and its content that tells the user what you have to offer them. For e.g., if you are a nutritionist cum culinary expert and have poured your heart into a particular article about the goodness of local, seasonal produce but have failed to generate much web traffic, it may be due to a lack of good presentation. The key here lies in knowing your reader demographics and tailoring your content based on their preferences and needs. In this case, long-winding paragraphs laden with hard-to-grasp scientific jargon may be a put-off while simple, crisp paragraphs with bulleted lists and infographics may be your best bet.
- Other factors like personalization or localization of content, content being current/up-to-date, relevant HTML title tags, easily crawlable site architecture, avoiding intrusive interstitials or pop-ups, webpage content being shared on popular social media, and so many others also decide the way Google sees your website.
How to Optimise Your Website via SEO
Although there are numerous factors that affect your site ranking, there is no need to feel at odds while attempting to optimise your site for better web traffic. Whatever your SEO skill level, make sure to run through the following list of to-dos while assessing your site’s health and making an effort to better it:
This is the very foundation SEO is based on as it gives you invaluable insights as to what your customers search for, need or desire. You may simply use Google Autocomplete to gauge what users are searching for in relation to your main focus keywords or phrases. Google Keyword Planner and Answer the Public are other critical tools that will help you do this while also helping in coming up with fresh, useful content ideas. However, it is also important to know about the different types of keywords, namely product keywords, informational keywords and LSI keywords. While product keywords are directly linked to your product or service offering, informational keywords, as the name suggests, provide general information on a subject. For e.g. if you own a fashion e-commerce website, ‘Adidas shoes’ would be a product keywords while ‘shoes sizing guide’ can be a possible information keyword. Latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords are those that revolve around your focus/primary keywords, for e.g. if you are writing a blog post on ‘styling a denim jacket’, ‘what pants to wear with a jean jacket’ would qualify as an LSI keyword.
Although there are many other types of keywords, including navigational keywords, transactional keywords and the likes, the afore-mentioned ones are the most basic and important kinds. We recommend that after you have conducted a thorough keyword research, you pick those which have the highest search volume and optimize your website around them. Choosing to tackle long-tail keywords first will prove to be a wise move as these long search phrases involve less competition for ranking in the top SERPs. You can then make your way to highly competitive, short-tail keywords which often include just one search word.
Content, content, and more content
Second only to customer and keyword research is knowing the type of content that will have the most impact on your site visitors. While there are many kinds of content you can opt for, you must understand that detailed, blog-like content is not always the answer to all your content problems. Short write-ups quickly outlining the standout aspects of your product or services must usually grace your product or services page. Complete lists can include brief pointers about anything and everything, including comprehensive recipes, different things, ways to do something, etc. A how-to guide or step-by-step article is used to describe a task in great detail so that the reader does not have to visit other webpages while seeking out additional information. Original research pieces with irrefutable data and details about the method used to obtain it are also a big hit with the general public these days.
Although there are many other types of content, there is one that deserves special mentioning – visually rich, image or video content. You must do your homework before deciding to dive in here, including researching image and video search keywords, optimising file names and descriptions, alt text and video transcripts, etc. And remember, while multiple mentions throughout various content is a sure-fire way of indicating to Google that your webpage is about a certain topic/keyword, you must not stuff them into your write-up. Not only will this render your content unnatural or fake-seeming, but it will also raise a big red flag to Google.
Optimize for mobile
Earlier, optimising a site for mobile could be put on the backburner along with other non-priority SEO tasks. However, the Google search algorithm has undergone a major change and is now indexing websites mobile-first. What this means for website owners is that even though they may have an amazing desktop version of their website, if it is not responsive enough on mobile, Google will not pay it much heed. Registering your website on the Google Search Console is an important step in having it crawled and indexed, and now, it can also be used to analyse how you are doing on mobile, along with pinpointing any mobile usability issues. Other pro tips include ensuring that your website has no annoying pop-ups and loads quickly on mobile. You may also explore Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool to see how easy it is for a user to use your mobile website.
On-page and off-page SEO activities
The main difference between on-page and off-page activities is that while the former is a means of influencing search rankings by the way you mould your website and its contents, the latter is all that you do outside of it and mainly pertains to link-building. On-page activities include authoring highly in-demand, impactful, relevant and useful website content which is also SEO-friendly. If your website is built on WordPress, we recommend that you install the Yoast SEO plugin to gain access to a ton of features that will help you optimize your site. That’s not all – there are countless other tiny but extremely useful things that you can do to catapult your webpage to the top of Google’s SERPs. Use your target keyword in your title tag as a clear signal to Google about the contents of your page. Include keywords in your anchor text and link to pages that are a higher priority within your website. Having an uncluttered URL structure (preferably with the target keyword) along with efficiently categorized pages is another plus. Also make sure that your meta descriptions, which are more for humans rather than search bots, are short but indicative of what awaits visitors. Using a search keyword in the meta description will lead to Google highlighting it within your meta description in bold, thereby drawing the user’s attention.
The intent of search is everything
Sometimes, the user is not able to articulate what they need in their search query. This is where Google user’s previous search history and preferences, and user location to make an intelligent and intuitive guess as to what they are looking for. We can divide search intent into four broad categories, including the commercial, informational, navigational and transactional types. For instance, if you are looking to buy shoes online, your search intent is transactional. If it is to zone in on information for your child’s school project, it is informational. If you are trying to find your favorite celebrity’s website online, it is navigational. And if it is to read up on the best, most economical DSLR cameras so you can buy them later, it is commercial.
What you as a website owner must ensure is that the search intent matches the content on your webpage. For e.g., if a user has landed on your website in the quest for specific information, you cannot lead him to a products/services page instead. This will score very lowly on the user experience meter and your reputation will suffer. We also recommend gauging user reaction or interaction with your site by constantly analyzing Google Analytics metrics like bounce rate, conversion rate, etc. to see where your website stands.
More About SEO
Google releases periodic updates to its search algorithm to stay many steps ahead of even the most seasoned digital marketers. This also helps maintain a level playing ground while weeding out any spoil-sports who resort to questionable black or grey hat SEO tactics like paying off threadbare websites to link to them so that they look like an authority on a specific subject. While there are many aspects of technical SEO that you must focus on to further your SEO goals, your most crucial responsibility as a website owner is to create the most offbeat, relevant and helpful website that you possibly can. If you want to stay in the know about all the latest happenings in the world of SEO, there is no better place to be than right here – do keep checking in with us for SEO Blogs and SEO News.
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