If you are looking for website visitors then you’ve probably heard of SEO. That’s because SEO is one of the fundamental ways to drive organic search engine traffic to your website or landing page.
SEO is the acronym for Search Engine Optimization. Does that term already have you thinking that the topic of SEO is too complicated or unnecessary for your business?
On this page, we will break down what SEO means for your website, and how to use SEO to increase your revenue and profit for any business seeking success in today’s digital age. Let’s start by defining SEO.
Table of Contents
What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
Search engine optimization is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic that search engines like Google and Bing send to your website related to your products or services.
By improving your visibility and positioning in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), you will net more qualified leads and customers for your business or organization.
Organic search is the most prominent way for people to discover and access content online. That’s why SEO has become synonymous with digital marketing success.
Why is SEO Important?
To understand SEO, you need to understand the basics of how search engines work and produce search results.
Most of the time when talking about search engines, people focus on Google. That’s because Google is far and above the largest search engine. According to Statista, As of December 2021, online search engine Bing accounted for over 7 percent of the global search market, while market leader Google had a market share of 86.19 percent. Meanwhile, Yahoo’s market share was 2.77 percent.
There are three main factors in organic search engine traffic. They are the organic search results, quality of organic traffic, and quantity of organic traffic.
Organic traffic is traffic generated from search engines without paying any marketing or advertising fees. These results usually appear on a SERP after paid ads on the top of the page.
Organic Search Results
Organic search results are the results you get after typing a word or phrase into a search engine search bar. These words and phrases are called keywords. These results go on for pages, but most searchers only look at the first and maybe the second page.
Quality of Organic Traffic
Like with traditional marketing and sales, the organic traffic that is sent to your website can be of any quality. SEO practices are used to improve the quality of your traffic.
Quality means your traffic is coming from high commercial intent searchers. They are looking for a product or service and are ready to purchase. These keywords are associated with higher CPC (cost per click) values and typically a higher difficulty to obtain ranking.
These keywords are company specific based on your goals. One of QCKBOT’s competitive advantages is utilizing AI and extensive data to identify these terms.
Quantity of Organic Traffic
Again like traditional marketing, the quantity of organic search traffic depends on where you appear in SERPs. The first page gives you the most traffic. If your results are in the top one or two listings on the first page, you get a high percentage of the traffic. And ultimately, high traffic leads to more qualified leads, prospects, and customers.
If you align the right keywords with your products and services, your organic traffic will improve in both quantity and quality.
SEO is a Marketing Strategy
Whether you have a brick-and-mortar business, or only do business online, SEO is the marketing strategy you should use to drive the right traffic to your website.
SEO is a marketing strategy for the internet and it is used along with other marketing methods so you will get the traffic, revenue, and profit you need to be successful in your business.
SEO starts the marketing journey or marketing funnel which turns website visitors into leads, and into customers.
Traditional or Outbound Marketing
Traditional marketing or outbound marketing, like radio, television, print, and billboard ads, started long before the internet came into being. These ads are designed to attract a target demographic and are delivered to the audience anywhere a marketer thinks that audience resides.
A good example was seen during Saturday morning cartoons. These were shows for children, and the commercials that ran during those shows were designed to tempt children to ask their parents for toys, food, or anything else advertised.
Outbound marketing sent a message out to audiences and hoped that some of that audience was interested. While marketers could get a general idea of what kids wanted, they never knew exactly what behavior the marketing generated.
Another aspect of traditional marketing is that it is expensive, so much so, that most advertisers are large corporations, because small mom and pop businesses can’t afford it.
Inbound marketing came into being when the internet started becoming popular. When search engines were born, marketers realized that they could change the way they reached out to clients.
Instead of just throwing a creative marketing campaign idea out to the market without knowing if their audience would respond to it, marketers could invite visitors to their website. As internet and search technology developed, this new way of search engine marketing, inbound marketing, became more sophisticated and successful.
Marketers create a buyer persona(s) of their ideal customer, a detailed description of this person including their age, where they work, what they like and dislike, and how they think. Using this technique, marketers can hone in on their niche market, and direct marketing strategies to reach that persona.
Best of all, internet marketing can track the behavior of the people who choose to visit your website. Using that tracking, marketers can fine-tune campaigns even more and test different ad language and visuals to see which one gives them the best search rankings and return on investment (ROI).
SEO is one piece of a larger whole that is inbound marketing which creates a highly effective lead machine.
How Do Search Engines Work?
Here is Google’s definition:
Google is a fully automated search engine that uses software known as web crawlers that explore the web on a regular basis to find sites to add to our index. In fact, the vast majority of sites listed in our results aren’t manually submitted for inclusion, but are found and added automatically when our web crawlers crawl the web.
Unless you’re well-versed in computer software and engineering, it’s tough to really understand how search rankings work. However, you can create an analogy to help you better visualize how search engines work.
Search engines use sophisticated software they call bots to crawl the internet. You can picture them like bees being sent out from the hive to visit all the flowers to pollinate them. When bees come back to the hive they bring back pollen. When search engine bots come back they bring back awareness of content that matches a searcher’s keyword entry.
In other words, search engines take the word or words you type into the search bar, the keyword, and look for the best matches they can find for search queries. Search channels are continually developing and have spread to image and voice search which work essentially the same way search engines discover text or written results.
Note: While a keyword sounds like it is one word, in fact, it is usually a phrase. Typing in one word usually isn’t small enough of a topic to get the search results page desired.
The relevant results you get from your search query appear on SERPs in the order the search engine thinks matches your keyword the best. So, the first item is the best return, the second is the second best, etc.
These decisions are made using search engine algorithms designed to filter the results of search queries to best match your keyword. However, even algorithms aren’t perfect, and as technology changes, algorithms are tweaked, updated, added, and subtracted from the search engine.
The algorithm updates are made so search engines discover the best results they can.
This only works some of the time due to incorrect keywords or poor keyword research, or not enough guidance with the search engine algorithms.
How Does Google Work?
Google doesn’t have the entire search market but they have a big chunk, way more than anyone else. This means they often lead developments in search engine technology, practices, and monitoring. According to Google, they work in three stages:
- The first stage is crawling.
- Crawling: Google searches the web with automated programs called crawlers, looking for pages that are new or updated. Google stores those page addresses (or page URLs) in a big list to look at later.
Google finds URLs primarily by following links from known pages.
- The next stage is indexing.
- Indexing: Google visits the pages that it has learned about by crawling, and tries to analyze what each page is about. Google analyzes the content, images, and video files in the page, trying to understand what the page is about. This information is stored in the Google index, a huge database that is stored on many computers.
You know your page is indexed if you can find it on Google. Just put your URL in the Google search bar and see if it comes up.
- The final step is delivering Google’s search results to a search.
- Serving search results: When a user searches on Google, Google tries to determine the highest quality results. The “best” results have many factors, including things such as the user’s location, language, device (desktop or phone), and previous queries. For example, searching for “bicycle repair shops” would show different answers to a user in Paris than it would to a user in Hong Kong.
- Google doesn’t accept payment to rank pages higher, and ranking is done algorithmically.
Google uses algorithms to filter all of the data collected when sites are crawled. It’s important to know that the search engine doesn’t just use one algorithm to perform the way Google engineers want it to. Instead, it’s a collection of numerous algorithms doing the work.
For a deep dive into how Google rates content, go here.
Google announces when there is a major change coming, but the company makes minor changes constantly which can affect where your web pages appear in results.
In the old days of search technology, it was fairly easy to game the system to get your blog post to appear on the first page of SERPs. It was sort of like the Old West, with good guys and bad guys, and sometimes the bad guys won.
During this time, there were “content farms” that used what are now “black hat” techniques to rise in SERPs. In 2011, Google made a huge algorithm change, called Panda, that affected 12% of results. That was the beginning of the end for content farms. Subsequent algorithms have filled in the cracks and if you use “black hat” techniques to rise in the SERPs, Google will penalize you.
Penalties can vary, and some can be permanent. However, Google often allows you to recover after fixing what they find wrong with your site. Penalties appear on your Google Search Console. Google offers this tutorial to follow if you find a penalty on your Google Search Console.
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The History of SEO
Webmasters started optimizing their sites for early search engines in the 1990s when the internet was new. At the beginning, content providers would submit their URLs to each search engine. Then the search engine “spiders” would crawl the submitted page, note any outgoing links, and index the page.
People discovered the value of high visibility in SERPs which led to both white hat and black hat SEO specialists. The term “search engine optimization” likely was born during this era.
The first search algorithms used information provided by webmasters like the meta description tag, title tag, or sometimes the index files. Metadata proved to be unreliable because keywords weren’t always accurate when describing the actual website’s content. In addition, some websites manipulated the HTML code to rank higher in SERPs.
By 1997, search engineers took note of webmaster manipulation of search engine rankings with the use of keyword stuffing. The search engines of the time, such as Altavista, made algorithm adjustments to prevent this manipulation.
Because early search engines used ranking factors like keyword density (which was easy to game) to rank a web page, ranking manipulation continued. This resulted in changes in how search engines ranked web pages, starting with less reliance on keyword density and the addition of using semantic signals instead. Naturally, search engines wanted to provide the best results to their customers, or the users would move to a more accurate search engine.
This led to the development of more complex algorithms which looked for factors difficult for website owners to manipulate.
Since that time, search engines have become partners with the SEO industry, working together to make the search engines work for everyone. You can find guidelines and help for website owners for Google and the other search engines.
In 2015, Google began developing and promoting a mobile version of their search engine, so mobile device users could get the same experience they loved on desktops, on their mobile phones, and tablets.
How Did Google Start?
Two graduate students at Stanford University, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, created a search engine called Backrub. This used a mathematical algorithm to calculate PageRank which was based on the quality of inbound links.
In 1998, they founded Google. Google was popular due to its simple design. Google used PageRank, link analysis, keyword frequency, meta description tag, headings, and site structure to avoid manipulation. However, some webmasters found ways to game this system with link-building tools. Sites cropped up to sell links on a large scale in order to beat the algorithms and to create sites for link spamming.
Google began using more factors to rank sites and kept some of them secret to make it harder for link spammers. Over the next several years, ranking algorithms were added or changed to improve search results and keep link spammers below high-quality content pages in SERPs. You can learn more about individual updates here.
Ultimately, Google has continued to Improve their search engine rankings to this day, by offering more timely results and deleting or downgrading low-quality sites that still continue to use manipulative black hat SEO techniques. Google also continues to develop more sophisticated technology to run the search engine and eliminate bad actors. Recently, Google has incorporated artificial intelligence (AI) to develop better language comprehension skills so search engines understand high-quality content better and return relevant content to queries.
The most recent update in November and December of 2021 is called the Vicinity Update. This update changed local search algorithms so that smaller businesses nearby the searcher come up in SERPs first, and larger businesses that used to dominate search engine space come up related to their location, not their size or market percentage.
Authority and Trust (E-A-T)
In 2019, Google started using a concept called E-A-T, an acronym standing for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
In essence, this E-A-T concept introduced these high-quality standard ranking factors within Google’s algorithm. It is designed to require websites to illustrate their beneficial purpose clearly and create content without tricks or cheats.
- Expertise – Demonstrate their level of expertise to their audience.
- Authoritativeness – Proove authoritativeness through knowledge and competence.
- Trustworthiness – Use reviews and other customer feedback as social proof, other customers share their experiences with the public.
All of these changes to how Google works have been made with the goal of improving the websites that rise in the search result pages and appear on Google, therefore providing searchers with excellent, authoritative, and trustworthy content.
Your Money or Your Life (YMYL)
Google has set an even higher quality standard for content on websites deemed Your Money or Your Life (YMYL). According to SEMRush:
“Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) content is the type of information that, if presented inaccurately, untruthfully, or deceptively, could directly impact the reader’s happiness, health, safety, or financial stability.”
In other words, the stakes are high for this type of content. If you create a YMYL page with bad advice or bad information, it could affect people’s lives and livelihood.
Google takes this content very, very seriously. Experts with relevant expertise need to write YMYL content.
What sites are considered YMYL content?
- News and current events related to science, business, technology, and politics.
- Civics-related topics including government, law, voting, legal issues, and voting.
- Financial advice on any topic
- Shopping information
- Medical subjects including advice, drug information, emergency services, and hospitals.
- Demographic and ethnicity information including religion, race, sexuality, and nationality.
Important SEO Concepts to Learn
Indexing is when your page is listed on Google, comes up in a Google search, or another major search engine. Google can’t index every page, generally due to problems with crawling or not understanding what the page is about.
Note: Indexing means the web page is listed in Google’s search results. It doesn’t mean it appears on the first two pages of results.
Crawlability is the ability of a search engine to access and crawl content on a page. Broken links and dead ends can impact crawlability. Other crawlability issues can be caused by:
Website architecture is the structure of the site content. For instance, linking from one page to another on your website shows that the web pages are related and have relevant content to the other page. Search engines note these links when crawling a page.
Why do people search for topics? This is user search intent. Do they want information or are they looking to spend money? Where does their search fit into your marketing funnel?
Any or all subject material on the internet including text content, image content, video content posted online and used to satisfy a search query. Blog posts, articles, whitepapers, images, gifs, interactive images, videos, etc.
SEO techniques that are used on the page or within content like headings, meta, title, URL, image tags, etc. are considered on-page SEO.
Any or all SEO techniques used outside of your content to draw people to that content from search engines like backlinks, content marketing, influencer marketing, etc. are considered off-page factors.
White Hat vs. Black Hat SEO Techniques
How Can I Learn SEO?
Anyone can learn SEO even though it is a complex subject. There are many free resources to get you started that you can access easily.
You can learn a lot from free resources before you need to consider paid resources.
- Search for free SEO information and keyword research tools on a search engine.
- Use YouTube’s vast library of how-to videos.
- Read case studies to better understand SEO and keyword research in action.
- Create a website to practice your new skills.
SEO is an Investment
SEO is a complex, layered undertaking that takes time to reap rewards. It’s tough to rank #1 or even appear on the first page of SERPs. When you do rank highly in the SERPs it’s because of hard work and learning how to manage your website’s keyword research, on-page, and off-page SEO.
A good rule of thumb when working to rank your pages at the top of the SERPs is to spend at least 6-months effort to get there. You may get there sooner, but don’t be discouraged if getting there takes time. The reward for your hard work will be evident by your website traffic and growth in conversions, revenue, and profit.
Want to Learn More about What SEO is?
To find out more about how you can use keyword research and SEO for your own website, contact us.