SEO: What is it and how does it work?

Nowadays there are more and more websites being created, making it harder for your target audience to find your site easily, but this is why Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is important. Thankfully search engines have become so accurate that more than 90% of us use them to find what we want instead of just browsing around. We all know that, depending on the keywords we type, search engines return a list of sites sorted by relevance. Now, 89% of us only click results displayed on the 1st page. If what we are looking for is not there, we just readjust the keywords to perform a new search. Even more interesting, 77% of clicks happen on the top 3 results (usually, right before the page fold and not taking any ads into account). Another curious stat? The 1st result will get clicked on over 53% of the time. Impressive, huh?

So, what exactly is SEO?

SEO helps search engines (think Google, Yahoo, Bing) determine what a site is all about. It defines the rank any website gets when competing with other sites and, those who use the available techniques the best, receive the benefit of visibility and quality traffic. Keep in mind, although each search engine has its own top secret algorithm that changes constantly, the concepts below apply to them all.

What are the ranking factors?

In order to list the sites by relevance, search engines use ranking factors to establish their preferred sites. These determine which site is displayed before the rest. And no page will rank high if it doesn’t have several SEO techniques in place. Sure, the content might be amazing, but if it hasn’t been updated in ages chances are it’ll be at the bottom of the list.

Onsite Offsite
Onsite are those that happen on the site itself and can therefore be controlled entirely. Offsite are those that are not directly related to the site and thus are outside the websites admin’s control.
  • Ensuring the proper keywords are employed.
  • Updating the site regularly with relevant content.
  • Adding new pages with the targeted keywords.
  • Adding internal links (within the site itself).
  • Optimising the HTML code.
  • Removing barriers to the indexing activities of search engines.
  • Working to create backlinks from other established and relevant sites.
  • Building social media profiles.
  • Optimising video posts.
  • Posting answers on Q&A forums.
  • Commenting on related sites and blogs.

Commonly used techniques in detail

Keywords are the key

For any page to rank, the right keywords must be used in the content and HTML. This is how search engines can deliver web traffic to suitable pages. And we are not just talking quantity but, more importantly, quality.

SEO chartWhat boosts page ranking?
Having quality content, using the right keywords, adding more pages, optimising your HTML code, getting backlinks and being an active member of social media sites. Source
Content is king

Although it might sound obvious, the SEO foundation is good and relevant content. If all other factors are in place but people are not interested in the shared content, all efforts are in vain. By producing quality content and adding real value, people are inclined to remain on pages and not jump to other sites. This is what makes a site useful and unique.

Fresh content

Content is crucial but keeping it updated is just as important. Search engines can pick up any changes made to a website. So, if these changes are frequent, involve the creation of new pages or impact important areas of the site, these are likely to improve site visibility.

HTML code optimisation

Search engines read the underlying HTML code on all websites to determine the site structure . Although this is not an extensive list, here are some of them:

  • Title tag: Descriptive page titles are search engine favorites, specially if they are heavily related to the content of the page and the keywords.
  • Header tags: When content has the right structure it is most likely to be picked up by a search engine. This is where headers (h1, h2, etc.) come in place. This helps search engines understand the key sections of a web page.
  • Image alt attribute: Search engines can’t see images as we do, so the words used within this attribute should be text equivalent of what the image is trying to convey.
Breadcrumbs

Sure, breadcrumbs allow users to navigate the site easily, but they also help search engines to determine the structure of a site.

XML sitemaps

These sitemaps provide the URLs of the pages the make the structure of the site. These are favourites among search engines since they are a standard machine readable format.

Short page links

Most pages use friendly URLs not only to appeal to users but also because of SEO. Search engines are more likely to go for pages with shorter and descriptive URLs over other relevant results with longer and less descriptive links.

Backlinks

Important people are measured by the amount of people who look up to them, right? Well, search engines apply this concept by counting the links to a website from other sites to establish the trustworthiness of it. Yet, not all links are counted equally. If a backlink comes from a respected site then it’s considered better and thus gives more points to the website getting that link back.

Social media

Just as it happens with links, getting shares in social media sites improves SEO. This is why any site should consider having a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a LinkedIn profile or even better, all of them. And just as I mentioned before, freshness matters. It’s not just setting up a profile, it’s the interaction with others that improve visibility.

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Written by

Analytical by nature, Mora is always on the lookout for new tech trends and releases. Bridging the gap between IT and businesses is how this avid reader enjoys the best of both worlds. Her curiosity and dedication have earned her the EmpireOne's Business Systems Analyst role.