What is SEO “Search Engine Optimization” and Why does it matter for businesses ?
You wonder how to get clients or sell your products to prospects looking for similar products or services like yours ?
You probably heard of SEO and how it can help growing your business but you don’t really know how?
In this guide I will be explaining the main concepts of how search engines work and to optimize your website to get organic search traffic, leads and incredibly enhance your brand online presence.
I will start by the basic definition of SEO, you can think of Search engines “ Let’s take Google as example “ as a company that has clients “ The Searchers “ that’s searching for all types of information products, services, locations, etc…
And think of your website as an information provider that can help Google’s clients to get what they are looking for.
Since Google cares about it’s clients then it needs to make sure to connect each client “ Searcher “ to the best relevant provider “ Website “ for what the client “ Searcher “ is looking for.
Having that said I believe by now you already know why you need to optimize your website and provide content that does really add value to your website’s visitors.
What is SEO “Search Engine Optimization”, Why Does it matter for businesses ?
SEO ( Search Engine Optimization ) is the term that mostly explains how search engines like google works or how to make use of that properly to drive traffic to a website / webpage.
Importance of SEO is well known especially among professional marketers, CMO and Marketing managers, beside any owner of online entities from Blogs all the way to Company’s websites.
Claims that “ SEO is Dead “ can not be proven and I do not personally think it might even get proven in the future due to the way search engines evolve and how it even gets more involved with social media platforms as well.
The Core Purpose and Mission Of Search Engines
Search engines are mainly used by people whom looking for a set of information, Locations, services and products, what people might be looking for is totally unlimited.
Search engines mainly focus on serving the people querying for information and provide them with most relevant and useful results for them.
Once you search for something on a search engine using the “search box” your will get a SERP ( Search Engine Result Pages ) which can have multiple formats and structure according to your search query.
Basically, people use search engines to look for specific keywords or phrases which is known as “query”.
Search “ Query “ is basically what you type in the box and hit enter and the search engine replays to your query by a set of results relevant to what you have been searching for.
Since there are billions of search queries being done every month, SEO became a major channel for marketing, however, using it wrong or trying to manipulate search engines can cause your website to be flagged as “Spam”.
One of the main responsibilities of search engines is to keep the search results clean which is done by what’s generally called the “ webspam ” teams.
The search results are mainly refined according to the users intent, when you use a search engine to look for an information then you already has certain intent why you looking for that query in specific.
That’s totally different from surveying a website and that’s why search traffic is tremendously valuable for marketers when is it’s done right.
You can almost grantee the intent and interest of the user came across your website by searching in what your website is meant to market for.
Types of search queries
Classifying a user search query is not an easy job for the search engine as it needs to deliver the most relevant search results. sometimes the user intent becomes so vague or has multiple meanings, so here is the common user intents :
Navigational Query : when a user is looking for a destination which could be a place, store, beach or it can even be a restaurant, company, store or a bank.
SEO Socialists would optimize for that to get traffic for a local business for example.
Transnational Query : when a user is looking for a transnational query or a query with intent for an action to be taken, it doesn’t have to be credit card or financial related action as it can be registering an account for example.
As a digital marketer you can optimize for that to get subscribers, sell services or getting clients for certain services.
Informational Query : it’s the queries used when a user is looking for information to get things done, disease symptoms, training, advice, etc….
Most of the traffic coming through informational queries won’t convert well as the user is not looking to take action on your website, however educating your customers leads to conventions at the end, commercial keywords for example work better than information keyword due to the user intention to take action or conduct a transaction.
Search engines use sequences of history to adapt the search results according to what the user was searching for previously, however that type of adaptive search is done with care by the engines.
Search engines Algorithms, Ranking system, Crawling and indexing
If you asking yourself about how the whole searching thing works, How search engines know about the existence of website ? Or even how that Search Results pages are being displayed and ordered ?
Search engines use a system to crawl the web, as it’s a complex process it runs through a certain system using a software called “ Bots / Spiders / Crawlers “ that keep crawling or discovering the web and store that in a large database according to a certain criteria.
After the web pages get crawled the engines index them and get them stored according to a certain algorithms that describe the importance or the weight of these pages that will be used later to show them in the SERP.
How Google and search engines See a Webpage
Google bots/spiders can see most of the webpage content, however it can’t see it the same way like the human eyes do.
Google can only see the code behind that page. The main elements that google see on the page are the page’s title and description which is called “ meta title ” and “ meta description “ tags.
Previously, a “ meta keywords “ was being used by google and other search engines but it’s no longer being used so it can be neglected while crafting your website.
Google doesn’t count the iframes as a content related to the crawled page, however it still extract some limited information from it, like the iframred link for example.
However, there are some elements google just can’t deal with it like Ajax or other scripts that run depending on an action taken by the user like Angular.js for example, generally this can happen with SPA “single page application” webpages as the content gets generated once the user takes a certain action or insert a certain input to the webpage through the browser.
How Google analyze the webpage ? How it can analyze the content quality and users engagement ?
Google starts by reading the page meta title, meta description and the heading tags then it gets to read and analyze the content itself and weights it by many factors.
The main factors that google uses to analyze a webpage are :
content structure and readability, content freshness, content uniqueness and semantic content.
“Hummingbird” update was released at 2013, due to that update google can now scan the webpage’s content and check for the semantic of words or phrases.
For example if the webpage is talking about “SEO” then it will mostly mention words like “SERP”, “Keywords”, “Content” and so on.
Google can check for the semantic content using a huge database and Information Retrieval methodologies (IR).
Google analyze the content quality by checking for multiple signs that can tell a lot about the webpage or a piece of content like :
Checking for grammatical and spelling errors, the level of readability and content uniqueness and freshness.
The level of engagement on your content can be also analyzed by the search engines, for example Google can measure the level of engagement on your website by the following metrics :
Time on page : the time that the user spent on one of your website’s page.
Bounce rate : checks If the user has left your website after landing on a page without visiting any other pages on your website and clicked the back button.
Pageviews : the amount of pages that a user visited on your website
Also the amount of returning and new visits counts, Google has multiple tools that websites typically use like google analytics for example, by which it can track the user’s activities on these websites.
How google Analyze the backlinks to your website ? And How the website’s reputation is measured by Google ?
When your website gets linked by the website it gets treated the same way as a word of mouth, the more websites linking to youra is exactly the same like the more people talking about your brand.
Backlinks means a website is linking back to yours, which is a major factor for how google is ranking your website, the link neighborhood means how likely your webpage/website was linked by set of webpages with the same niche or field that your webpage is being linked to.
The way that the pages linking to your website are being linked by other webpages linking back to them with the same topic is also counted when you get a backlink from those pages.
Also the way your webpage was linked will be counted, for example : a webpage is linking back to your website’s page with anchor text ( the text that’s holding the hyperlink to your webpage ) as exact match or partially the same keyword / Title of your webpage.
The number of domains, sub-domains and unique IPs are also counted, the amount of links you get from each domain linking back to yours is a major factor as well, also the pace of getting these backlinks is a major signal to detect whether or not you are using a spammy method to get those backlinks.
Inbound links and outbound links of your website
Google also analyze the inbound link ( your website’s pages linking to other pages on your own website and the links from external websites to yours ) that can transfer the page authority/weight of these page to the other page that’s linking to.
The anchor text of that link is also counted and using it wrong much can get your website penalized, so you can freely link to other pages on your websites whenever it’s really relevant to avoid falling in the spam trap.
External links or the links on your own website’s pages to external other website’s pages are also counted for google, the more you link to resources or websites with high authority or value can play a good role for ranking your website, however again, be careful and avoid overdoing it not to look like a spammy website for google.
Google and search engines are evolving real fast, all the attention are now focused on user experience and how relevant the search results delivered to the searcher are satisfying and answering the query.
The more value you add to your visitors the more google will rank you better.
The organic traffic coming to your website from google are actually Google’s clients, the more you treat them well, delivering value to them and making them have a good experience with your website the more Google will be happy to deliver more users/searchers to your website whenever it’s relevant.
Optimizing your website is a major step in your SEO marketing, next step is content which is the main reason why someone would visit your website, so treat content as the king of your website empire as actually it is.
The more relevant and legit websites linking back to yours the more google will consider you as a highly reputed website which I will discuss on the later chapter of backlinks and authoritative websites.