What Is SEO and How Does SEO Work?

By Raghav Tayal

The reason you are here is probably that you searched for specific keywords related to what is SEO marketing or how it works. Don’t worry, you are on the right page because that is precisely what we will be discussing here in this article below.

Without further ado, let’s head straight to answering the most basic question – what is SEO in digital marketing and why is it becoming an indispensable part of every business strategy.

What is SEO in marketing?

By definition, SEO is search engine optimization, which is an organic digital marketing strategy that aims to help your website rank higher in search engine results, irrespective of the search engine. There are several search engines available today including Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Yandex, etc.

The main difference between SEO and paid advertising is that the former is completely organic. This means that instead of money, a well-thought strategy and a few tactical steps are involved in taking a website from the last page to the first page on the SERPs.

Websites need to work towards ranking higher (preferably on the first page).

Let us take an example. Suppose you own a garment business. If your retail store is standing in a prime location, it will be less challenging for you to attract customers. Now, if you have exactly what the customer wants, they would not look for a shop similar to yours. Instead, they will come to you again if you provide them with a good user experience.

Similar is the case with web-based businesses. The first page of the search results is the prime location. Every day you are not ranking on this page, you are losing out on customers and driving them towards your competitors.

This is where a good, well-planned SEO strategy becomes crucial and relevant.

To start with, there are two pillars of SEO – on-page SEO and off-page SEO. Let’s take a look at both below.

On-Page V/s Off-Page SEO

SEO is an integral part of every digital marketing strategy. As a marketer, it is important to understand how you can help a brand become more visible in front of its audience.

The algorithms keep evolving and digital marketers need to be in tune with these changing guidelines. However, the key principles always remain the same. The two principles that marketers should be familiar with are on-page SEO and off-page SEO.

On-Page SEO

In simple words, on-page SEO is the optimization that takes place ON your website. On-page optimization majorly circles the content that is displayed on your website. It could be the web pages, the blogs, or even the alt texts of the images that you have on your site.

For your on-page optimization to work, you need to create high-quality, keywords-enriched content that deploys value and knowledge to your readers.

You should also include meta descriptions, meta tags, URLs, and alt texts that are rich in keywords and precisely describe what your article is about.

Off-Page SEO

As the name suggests, off-page SEO is what happens outside your website. Generating backlinks, which is nothing but a link to your website that is placed by another blogger on their website, is one of the most commonly used off-page optimization strategies.

Off-page SEO can often get a little overwhelming because it requires you to communicate with others in your field of work and build strong relationships. However, it pays off well in the long run.

For your off-page SEO to work, you need to start creating content that others would like and would want to share with their audience.

Both on-page and off-page SEO are an integral part of every SEO strategy. You cannot leave one out just because one is more challenging/time-consuming than the other.

This concept of a certain element being challenging brings us to the next topic of discussion – black hat and white hat SEO.

Black Hat SEO V/s White Hat SEO

What many digital marketers fail to inform the businesses beforehand is that SEO is an ongoing and time-intensive process. Just like an entrepreneur’s journey, it takes its own sweet time to drive results.

Yet, certain individuals try to scout for quick ways to get done and dusted with SEO so that they can move on to the next task on their list.

These quick ways or shortcuts (or, dirty tricks, as they say) are all considered black hat SEO practices. Practices that come under the category of black hat SEO are stuffing the content with keywords with high search volume and link scraping in an attempt to rank quickly on the first page of the search results.

However, with the new and updated guidelines, websites with black hat SEO techniques might enjoy ranking on the SERPs for a short while, but they will soon be penalized by the search engine and might also get blacklisted for such practices.

One such black hat SEO technique is keyword stuffing. Take a look at this example below. “Design course in Connecticut” is the keyword that has been added to literally every sentence. Moreover, the content is just redundant, which indicates poor quality.

White hat SEO, on the other hand, is something that both search engine crawlers and the users applaud. White hat SEO tactics bring sustainability to online businesses. SEO internet marketing is a slow process and those who perform optimization with all the right practices know that.

With white hat SEO strategies in place, you can focus on your audience and treat them as humans. This means that you will be motivated to develop high-quality content that truly adds value to their lives and help them solve their problems.

Helping users find solutions will lead to them having a good user experience, that will ensure you rank better on the SERPs because search engines put users above everything else.

Letting your audience find your valuable content is just one of the many reasons why SEO should be on your priority list. Find the rest below.

Importance Of SEO

We know that SEO helps you rank higher on the search engines. But how does SEO work and help your business or your website? Let us answer that for you.

– Boosts web traffic

If you have an online business, your ultimate goal is to bring more traffic to your website. It’s similar to increasing footfall in your brick-and-mortar store. The more people you have visiting your store (be it online or offline), the more are the chances of you making a sale (if that is your intention).

Optimizing your website helps give a boost to your website traffic. When you have better organic search results, it not only help you witness a better website performance but is also a way to improve your engagement and conversion rates.

– Improves the overall user experience

Source

Google is the best performing search engine, enjoying 92.47 percent market share across the globe. Does that mean you stop taking other engines like Bing or Yahoo! into account? Certainly not.

However, it does make sense to optimize your website as per the guidelines of Google. The best thing about Google’s guidelines is that it is user-centric. It takes into account how useful, usable, and relevant a website is before it decides to index it.

This makes the website owner work on the overall user experience of their site. If they want their page to rank, they need to work on the speed, content, ease of use, information architecture, equitability, accessibility, and more.

The better the user experience, the better the rank. It’s directly proportionate.

– Makes the brand look more credible and reliable

SEO internet marketing is a key to instilling trust among the audience. This means that when you have a website ranking on the first page of the search results in today’s time, it automatically makes the brand look more credible.

SEO helps build a strong foundation for your website. We have already covered the importance of ensuring your website provides a good user experience. This entails that your website will be neat to look at, without any spammy or unnatural links blocking the way for the user to reach from their current state to the desired one.

It adds to the credibility of the business overall.

Of course, it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of patience, determination, and a truly valuable product/service for brands to become trustworthy for their audience.

– Help understand consumer wants

One of the reasons why SEO is so important is that it helps you understand what your user wants. Till the time you are only working around assumptions, deriving desired results will always be a challenge.

With the help of SEO, you can generate data that can give you a clear-cut idea of the user behavior and the intent. This data can be then used to provide customers with what they want and when they want.

There are many ways for you to find such data. These include AI insights, analytics reports, SERP analysis, and search query data.

– Cost-effective method

For many brands, especially those who are just starting, marketing often takes a back seat, with the budget being the biggest culprit.

Not many have enough dollars in their pockets to advertise their brands on a large scale using OOH strategies or highway banners. This is where SEO becomes relevant.

We are not saying it is absolutely free, but it is relatively much less expensive and a cost-effective way to spread brand awareness. The ROI from SEO advertising is also much higher than other forms of advertising.

All that’s needed is patience and perseverance to keep going, and an excellent strategy will hold water for years to come.

– Helps a brand grow

Lastly, SEO is important to help your brand grow.

With organic search working in your favor, you will witness improved website traffic. This improved traffic would mean more and possibly better leads to your website.

The more leads you generate because of organic search, the higher are your chances to turn them into paying customers.

In short, a well-optimized website helps grow your business. Moreover, when you have more people buying your products/services, there is an increasing number of people sharing about your website on their social platforms, which helps expand your reach as well.

Basics Of SEO Marketing

We now know what does SEO do and why it is important. Before we move on to how SEO works, let us first cover the basics of SEO marketing.

You must understand that SEO is long-term. It is your tactful daily actions that will make the SEO work for you. There are a few elements that combine to create the core of SEO. Find them below.

On-Page SEO Basics

– Content

Content is THE most important part of search engine optimization. Content can make or break your SEO strategy.

There was a time when websites had the potential to rank on the SERPs even after sharing irrelevant, keywords-stuffed content. However, search engines have transformed. The guidelines have evolved.

Today, search engines are user-centric. This means that they put all their energy into providing the users with an answer that the engines think is the most relevant and suitable to the query shared by the user.

Hence, any website that is seen spamming or wasting time, so to say, of the user will be penalized to an extent that it can get blacklisted.

Search engines don’t only try to look for solutions that are easiest to find. They put their best foot forward to serve the users with precisely what they asked for.

This denotes that the first step core element of SEO is generating high-quality, highly valuable content. There are three pillars that search engines (especially Google) judge the content on. These are:

  • Freshness: Post new content and keep the old content updated.
  • Quality: Your content should be relevant and truly solve a user’s problem. It should help them find answers.
  • Intent: Before displaying search results, search engines try to understand the search intent. Are they looking for information, are they looking to purchase a product, or are they just doing some window shopping? You must understand this too and create content that will best match the search intent.

– Keywords

Keywords are what helps you make your content suitable for search engines. Keywords are certain key phrases (queries) that a user enters in the search bars, in the hopes of finding a solution.

Thorough, well-planned keyword research is what helps you define the kind of content that you should be sharing on your website. It also dictates how you can grow your organic presence when you are optimizing your website for the search engines.

One thing that you must keep in mind is that keyword research is not a one-time task. If you are redesigning your website or launching a marketing campaign, you cannot just keep updating your website for two weeks and let things be.

You need to continuously work on your keyword research if you wish to create content that is not only high-quality but is also something that the users are in search of.

There are three things to keep a check on when doing your keyword research and selecting the best ones out of them for your website. These are:

  • Search Intent

    Search intent is the bridge that can help you take from driving less website traffic to generating exemplary revenue.

    What most website owners do is just keep their focus limited to the keywords. You should go beyond that. Focus on what your users are searching for when they are on the web.

    Choose the keywords that match well with the search intent of the user. This is where you need a mix of keywords with low search volume and high search volume. Create content that revolves around both.

    This way, you will be able to provide solutions to very specific problems for your users.

  • Competitor Analysis

    Competitor Analysis is perhaps the most important, yet the most overlooked practice in search engine optimization.

    This should also be one of the first few steps you take when planning your strategy. Let us help you understand why. This will also help you get a better understanding of why you need a mix of low and high search volume keywords.

    We know it’s very easy to incline towards keywords with high search volumes. After all, it is something that can help you get more traffic, right? Wrong. What you need to identify is who you are up against for that certain keyword that has such high volume.

    Your competition often defines your rank on the website. If your competitor has been working on their website, they must have taken years and hundreds of backlinks to reach where they are today. It will be the same for you.

    This is because search engines already have an idea of the quality of content that your competitors are providing, especially since they have been around for years now.

    They have already gained the trust of search engines over the years. You haven’t and thus, it will take time for you to reach your desired rank.

  • The Right Audience

    It is important to choose the keywords per your audience. If you add keywords that do not attract the audience you have been wanting to target or for whom your service/product was intended, it will dissolve the purpose of you optimizing your website.

    Let us take an example.

    Suppose you are a digital marketing coach. You have a course for which you charge $12,000 per year. Now, your intent here is to make money by selling that course to your audience. Your audience here would be someone willing to pay to learn.

    But if your website is ranking high for the keyword ‘free digital marketing tips’, the users that will click on your link will have a different intent, which is ‘free stuff’. Making them pay money for your course would be next to impossible.

    Hence, you need to be very careful when choosing the keywords you want to rank for.

– HTML

We know hearing the term ‘HTML’ can make SEO sound like it’s a strategy for tech-savvy people. But in reality, it is not.

HTML in SEO is about making sure you have proper tags in place with your content divided into proper headings and your piece is completed with a keyword-enriched description.

Such description and title are known as Meta Title and Meta Description. These help Google and the users understand what your content covers and why they should click on your link rather than that of your competitor’s.

You don’t need to learn high-end coding to optimize your website. It’s merely about working on the heading tags and title tags. Let us discuss these HTML elements in more detail below.

  • Meta Title

    Let’s clear one thing out. Meta title and H1 tag are two different things. Yes, both need to be keyword-rich but the location they are displayed varies.

    The meta title is the title that can be seen on the SERPs. It is the title that is specifically written for the search engine pages.

    H1 or Heading 1, on the other hand, is the title that is displayed on the page where you land when you click on the meta title. Heading 1 is also the ‘Blog Title’ as far as the articles are concerned.

    You should keep your meta title (as well as Heading 1) attractive and enriched with primary keywords to attract both readers and the search engines. Just make sure you are not overstuffing it with keywords.

    Also, keep the title tags limited to 70 characters as the search engines hide anything after the 70-characters limit.

  • Meta Description

    Just below the meta title, there are short paragraphs, describing what you should expect from the page.

    This description is known as meta description. Make sure you are summarizing your web page in under 160 characters and incorporating relevant keywords (preferably your primary keywords).

    Primary keywords are nothing but the keywords for which you want your web page to primarily rank.

  • Alt Text

    Not many know this, but you can also make use of the images to optimize your website not only for the users with visual impairment but for the search engines as well.

    Alt texts are the image descriptions that are added to describe what the image entails. This text is mainly useful for those users that are visually disabled as the screen readers read the alt text out loud.

    Apart from breaking down your image into a more precise narrative, you can also use it to incorporate and hide your keywords.

  • Schema

    Schema is often added to alter and improve the way your website is displayed on the SERPs.

    While there are very small changes that happen with the use of Schema, they can still help boost your optimization efforts.

    One example of what you can do with Schema is include your page’s Google ranking, right under the meta title on your indexed page. One thing to remember is that you should run a test on your add-ons before finalizing the same.

  • URL Slug

    A URL is a link to a website. The cleaner and easier it is to remember the URL, the better.

    The best way to write your URL is to include your primary keyword in it. This keyword will help both users and search engine crawlers understand what your page is all about.

– Site Architecture

The site architecture, in simple terms, is how you structure your entire website. It involves decisions regarding how the content is organized and how it will be unfolded/delivered to the audience.

The site architecture is what defines your website’s hierarchy that dictates how and where the users will find your content. Along with that, it is also a decision that is taken keeping in mind the technical aspect of SEO, which is how search engine crawlers will be able to best crawl your site.

There are a couple of things that must be considered when working on the site architecture. These include:

  • Speed Of The Webpage

    Page speed is one of the important factors that can help you optimize your website for both the users and the search engines.

    There’s a lot of focus that is now being put on how quickly your website loads. To compare, it should take less than 2 seconds for everything on the page to load completely.

    Anything more will signal Google and it can lead to penalization of your website and make it difficult for you to outrank others in your industry.

  • Duplicate Content

    Duplicate content is the content that is uploaded on the web more than once.

    Such content will not lead to your website getting penalized per se, but it does have the potential to hurt your search rankings.

    For instance, suppose you post the same article on Medium and your website. Google will rank the one on the Medium Blog because of its domain authority. This will not penalize your website but will certainly hurt your search rankings.

    Another thing you can do is syndicate your content. Content syndication is when your original content is shared or reposted by others. As long as all the permissions are taken and due credits are given, the websites won’t be penalized.

  • Crawlability

    When we say your website should be optimized for search engines, we mean it should be optimized for search engine crawlers. These crawlers should find it easy to go through every page on your website and identify the content that’s mentioned in the same.

    The easier the crawlers find it to index your website, the more positive the result reports will be.

    To ensure this happens, you should create a sitemap for your website beforehand. This will help you keep a check on the hierarchy of your site and make sure that all your pages are interlinked.

  • Mobile-Responsiveness

    Smartphones are running the world today. There is hardly any individual who can be seen without a mobile phone in their hands. This is one of the reasons why Google indexes websites that are mobile-first.

    Thus, it only makes sense for you to ensure your site architecture is meeting the requirements of a mobile user.

    If your website is not responsive, make sure you are taking measures to optimize your website for mobile. Otherwise, it will be challenging for you to index your website, let alone rank high.

Off-Page SEO Basics

– Link Building

Generating backlinks for the website is an important but challenging task. In simple terms, backlinks are the direct links to your website that are mentioned by other bloggers on their website.

Backlinks help make your website look more credible. The more backlinks you have, the more validity you get from those who are a part of your industry but are not your competitors directly.

Generating such backlinks is not easy, indeed. It takes a carefully planned strategy to get it right. Like every other SEO strategy, building backlinks is also a long-term, time-consuming process.

Here are a few key considerations to keep in mind when creating your link-building strategy.

  • Anchor Text

    An anchor text is a text to which your link gets hyperlinked. These are the words that will direct other bloggers’ readers to your website. Now, you don’t want to use ‘Click Here’ or ‘Learn More’ in the middle of your content.

    This will break the flow of your reader and instead of making sure the reader is taking an action, they might just turn their heads away.

    This is especially true when you reach out to other bloggers and discuss a mutual collaboration with them.

    The best practice to link your website/get your website linked is on a naturally placed keyword. This means that if you are selling leather bags, have your website linked to the keyword ‘leather bags’ and not a generic phrase.

    This will help set the expectations of the search engines and the users regarding what they should be expecting when they click on that keyword.

  • Sources Of The Links

    If you are generating backlinks, that’s great. But if you are not checking whether those links take a user to the right page or not, that’s ineffective.

    Indeed, getting a website link to your homepage, using your brand name is the desired way to get a backlink. But that’s not what always happens and it neither will.

    Most websites provide a link to the page or a post that they find valuable. What you need to make sure is that the context on that page and your link match. You really don’t want your terms and conditions page to be tagged in a place where there could have easily been your product page.

    Secondly, the sources where you get the links from matter, especially the relevance of the links. You want to get a link from the websites and landing pages that have the potential to convert. Otherwise, it will dissolve the purpose of building that link in the first place.

  • Quality Of The Links

    Just like the sources of the links matter, the domain authority of the website from where you are getting your backlink also matters.

    This dictates that you should be worried about quality over quantity. This is because search engines don’t care about the total number of links you have if they are of poor quality or are broken.

    The entire purpose of a link-building strategy is to expand your reach to your target audience, with the help of the right sources.

    Now, if you are not linked to a website that has an audience similar to yours, it won’t be helpful to you.

    You need to create content that relevant websites find valuable and provide a link to your website because of the content you share. Search engines applaud such an effort and award the websites with a better rank on the SERPs.

– Trust Building

This is perhaps the most overlooked basics of search engine optimization. One must understand that you are not creating a website for yourself but your audience.

This means that any spammy or unethical methods by websites will be punished by the search engines. Trust has become an important ranking factor today. There are tools like TrustRank that Google uses to identify if your website is truly valuable/legit.

Getting backlinks from websites with high domain authority (for example, websites ending with .gov or .edu domains) helps Google understand that your website is truly a good source of information for the users.

There are three ways that Google uses to judge whether your website is trustworthy or not. These include:

  • Bounce Rate

    Bounce rate is how many users are only spending a few seconds on one page of your website before they plan to leave your website. The lower the time spent, the higher your bounce rate.

    Different factors affect this rate. These include the information provided on the website, the usability of the website, speed, and also, the audience that was targeted with that page.

    It’s not as challenging to reduce your bounce rate. Simply provide great and valuable content, make your website easy to navigate, improve the site speed, and ensure that your website looks neat.

    You can use video content to decrease your bounce rate. But you need to be very careful with what you share. Your content needs to be outstanding and deliver what its description promises.

    If you use your content to provide your users with exactly what they are looking for, they will stick around for longer. This will help you reduce your bounce rate.

  • Authority

    There are two aspects that the most commonly used search engine, i.e. Google, used to determine your website’s authority.

    To begin with, Google determines how widespread and how renowned your domain name is. For example, apple.com is quite popular because almost everyone that uses the Internet knows about this company. This is known as Domain Authority.

    Additionally, it dictates the authority based on how authoritative the content on certain pages of your website is. This could include your on-site blog posts and articles.

    You can use tools like a Website Authority Checker to identify your website’s authority and work towards taking it to the desired level if it isn’t already.

  • Domain Age

    The older the website, the better? The answer is it depends. If there is a website that has been around for quite some time and has been producing exemplary content with all its SEO efforts directed towards the right path, search engines will rank it higher than others.

– Social Media

To many, using social media to boost SEO efforts might seem far-fetched. However, the truth of the matter is that social media platforms can help your website rank better in more ways than one.

Social signals are a great deal today. Social media signals are the total engagements (including total shares, likes, and comments) and the social media visibility a web page has received that is being perceived by the search engines.

Two factors influence the search signals. These are:

  • Total Shares

    The total number of shares has a major influence on where your website will rank. The key here is straightforward though. You simply need to create content that meets the reader’s expectations.

    You need to understand your audience before you choose your form of content even. If you have a website that runs on celebrity gossip, you might want to share snackable videos with exaggerating titles and less text.

    However, if you have a digital marketing website and you are sharing ‘resources’ with your audience, you might want to share long-form content that will keep your readers hooked and make them want to share your content with others in their network.

  • Quality Of Content

    Apart from the total number of shares, the quality of your content should also be on your priority list.

    You must understand that search engines give preference to content that is being liked by the readers. The same can be seen based on the number of shares the content gets.

    The higher the quality of content, the more shares it will get. The more the shares, the more preference by the search engines, which results in higher ranks on the SERPs.

How Does SEO Work?

Now that we have covered the basics of internet marketing search engine optimization, let us understand how does SEO works and discuss the important steps of the same.

But before we begin, it’s vital to have a clear understanding of what exactly are search engine algorithms.

Search engine algorithms

Search engines are where the digital world resorts to when finding a solution to their query. For the same, they add certain key phrases that clearly describe what they are searching for in the search bar of the engines.

Then, the computer programs, which are the search engine algorithms, scan through the sites on the web and look for relevant clues to match content with the query entered by the user. There are three steps in which algorithms do the same. These are:

Step 1: Crawling

The first step that is undertaken by the search engine is crawling. During this step, the search engines send web crawlers (or spiders) to identify new web pages and take note of the information shared by them.

Apart from scouting for new pages on the web, crawlers also go through the websites that they have already discovered previously. This is done to check if there are any content changes or updates that have been made by the websites.

The content doesn’t necessarily have to be a blog post, it could be any form of content ranging from images to videos, or even PDFs.

But what you need to be aware of is that these pieces of content are discovered with the help of links. Initially, if it’s a new website, the bot fetches a small bunch of web pages. But after that, it is dependent on the links present in those pages to find new URLs. This is the reason why interlinking your web pages is suggested.

Step 2: Indexing

Once the spider has sneaked a peek into the content available on your website, the next step determines your website’s fate. This is the step where the crawlers decide on whether they are going to use your content or they are going to ignore it.

This is why, a lot of focus is put on creating not only high-quality content but also ensuring its relevance, value, uniqueness, and keeping it updated with the latest information.

If a web crawler considers your content suitable for your choice of keyword, your web page will be indexed on the search engines. An index is the total number of link options that you come across when you search for something on the web. This index then determines your ranking on the SERPs, hence, it is important to ensure your website gets indexed.

Here are a few reasons why crawlers might not go decide on indexing your content:

  • Your content is stuffed with keywords and is considered spammy.
  • Your content doesn’t offer any value or showcases no relevance to the user’s query.
  • Your content is plagiarised.
  • Your website wasn’t designed well enough to be crawled.
  • Those particular web pages weren’t accessible.

SEO working or not depends on a lot of factors, out of which making your content worthy is something that you will have to take into consideration.

Step 3: Ranking

The third step is ranking your website. This is the step towards which all your SEO efforts are directed.

Keep in mind that you will be able to reach step 3, only if and when your 1st and 2nd steps have been completed. How does a search engine sort out the ranks? With the help of search engine ranking signals, which are more than 200!

But the good news is that these signals can easily be categorized under three pillars, which are:

  • On-page SEO
  • Off-page SEO
  • Technical optimization

These signals range from adding keywords to your title tags and meta descriptions to improving the loading speed of your website. Search engine algorithms update their guidelines periodically for these signals. Hence, it is always advisable to keep a check on such changes.

SEO Best Practices

So, we now have an idea about how does search engine optimization work. But how would you make it work for you? We have compiled a list of best practices for you to follow and ensure your SEO efforts don’t go in vain.

– Be creative with your HTML assets

We have discussed above that your HTML assets are the titles, descriptions, and headers in your content. It is suggested that you be creative when writing these because search engines applaud those websites that avoid duplicate content at all costs.

Google, the most popular search engine, has suggested that you stay away from not only duplicate but even near-duplicate versions of content. And since your content does not only include the paragraphs filled with information but other aspects as well, you need to ensure that you are avoiding duplicity for your:

  • Title tags/SEO title tags
  • Landing pages
  • Image alt texts
  • Product pages for online store
  • Meta descriptions

This means that everything that gets published from your website should be unique. However, while it might not be as difficult for a small website with blogs, ensuring uniqueness for eCommerce stores is still a challenge.

After all, an eCommerce store has thousands of products, some of which might just be different in color. It is suggested that you write unique descriptions, but it is not always possible.

This is where canonical tags become relevant. Canonical tags signal the search engines that the URL with this tag “rel=canonical” is the original page, while the others are duplicates. This way, your original page might still get ranked, provided all the other SEO practices have been followed.

– Add your primary keywords correctly

A primary keyword is a keyword for which you want your website to rank. When incorporating this keyword into your content, make sure you are locating it early in your content.

The location of your primary keywords matters because Google focuses on the terms that are at the start of the content more.

Also, it is important to add your keywords a handful of times, if it wasn’t already known to you. If you are writing a 1000 word article, try to add keywords 0.5 times the total word count. So, no more than 5 to 6 keywords.

It should appear once in every 200 words. This way, your content will not look stuffed and will have keywords spread across your content, making SEO work for you.

– Choose your primary keywords carefully

Now that we know how many times and where we should add our keywords, what we still need to work on is how to choose our primary keywords.

The first thing to understand is that there is a lot of competition in every field. Some brands have turned into household names over the years. Hence, when researching for keywords, there are a couple of things that you need to consider.

Look for keywords that people are at least searching for. Anything that falls in 0-10 search volume shouldn’t be a primary keyword.

But, don’t just keep your research limited to the search volume. This is because not every keyword with high search volume will have a powerful number of monthly visits. Sometimes, it can so happen that a page that might be ranking for a keyword with a lower volume might get more visitors because it is a part of a broader topic in general.

Hence, whenever you are selecting your primary keyword, make sure that apart from the search volume, you are also checking out the estimated traffic.

Additionally, it is also advisable to find the primary keywords for which your competitors, that are already popular, are not ranking. This is because the chances of your website over ranking theirs are very low.

– Improve the website loading speed

Your website speed is one of the most crucial signals that help search engines determine your rank.

Ideally, the acceptable duration for a web page to load is less than 2 seconds. Understand that the world today is running at a different pace than it did years ago. If your website doesn’t fully load within the user’s anticipated time, they won’t think twice before heading to the next link available at their disposal.

Thus, it is best to ensure that your website loads at a good speed. This is especially true for mobiles and tablets. Here’s how you can do the same:

  • Use a tool like PageSpeed Insights to identify where you currently stand. The report from this tool will give you details on everything that you can improve.
  • Choose a theme carefully. Often, bulky themes can affect the website speed, making them load slower. Hence, it is best to choose a theme that is light in weight.
  • Compress your images and optimize them for the web. There are ways and tools you can use to compress/size down your images, without letting it affect the quality.
  • You can also consider using lazy loading but keep in mind that it affects the user experience. Lazy loading is when the speed improves by 50 percent, however, the images only show up when the users scroll down.

– Link your website internally

Internal linking is an excellent way to make it easier for the crawler to reach every page that exists on your website.

Internal linking is done when you add a link on one of your web pages to other pages on your website. These links are relevant to the topic that is being covered on that page.

Internal links help users get a thorough understanding of the topic they are reading. It helps improve the overall user experience, which can work in your favor.

Make sure you are focusing on adding only relevant links. Irrelevant links are nothing different than no links at all. Here are two things you can do:

  • Use keyword-rich anchor text. For instance, if you have a travel website and you are working on a guide, say “Christmas In London”. Now, under this topic, you can cover ‘places to visit in London during Christmas’ and ‘things to do in London during Christmas’.

    Now, if you already have blogs where you have covered these, you can add a link to those blogs and use the ‘places to visit in London during Christmas’ keyword as your anchor text.

  • Additionally, you can interlink those pages that have less or no authority at all. When you send readers to those pages, it can help send a signal to search engines that will eventually help boost the rankings.

Just don’t think too much about this step. Interlink the pages that are fitting naturally. Don’t force it.

– Optimize your web page’s title tag

You already know that you need to keep your title tag unique and creative. What you should also know is that your title tag should be keyword-rich. Using high-quality titles that are keyword-enriched is the key to your on-page SEO.

Here’s how you can do the same:

  • Just add one keyword (preferably your primary keyword) to each of your title tags. Do not stuff your title with random keywords. It would do you more harm than good.
  • Try to add your keyword towards the starting of your title. This is because more emphasis is placed on the terms that appear first. But if you are not able to add your keyword towards the front, you can let it be. Don’t try to force it or it will make it less meaningful for your readers.
  • Add keywords but make your titles compelling and shareable. It will help improve the traffic.

– Optimize images for SEO

Your images play a crucial role on your website. Not only do the high-quality images have the capability to make your website visually attractive, but they can also help boost your SEO ranking when optimized.

You can use your website images to rank on the ‘Google Images’ by optimizing them.

The good thing about this practice is that it is comparatively extremely easy to do. It only requires you to keep these things in mind:

  • Add alt text to all the images on your website. Adding alt texts does take an additional effort, but it pays off. Not only can you add your keywords to the text but also make your website inclusive for those with visual impairment that use screen readers to go through your site.
  • Understand that Google cannot really ‘see’ your image. For Google, your image is just a bunch of HTML codes and pixel sizes. Hence, it pays to name your images descriptively. Use names that can describe what the image is about in fewer words.

– Use tools to keep measuring your website performance

There are plenty of benefits that the digital revolution has brought to our lives. The introduction of several digital tools is among the best ones.

One such tool is Google Search Console. Google Search Console is a blessing in disguise for your SEO. It is with the help of this digital tool that you can keep a track of how your website is performing on the search engine page results.

This report will help you identify if your efforts are helping you reap the fruits of your efforts or are they all going in vain.

While there are plenty of features that Google Search Console provides, there are three most promising ones:

  • Coverage: This feature helps you learn about how many and what all pages have been indexed by Google. The feature also shows if any errors are disabling crawlers to go through your website thoroughly.
  • Performance: This is the feature that helps you identify the total number of people seeing and clicking on your website on the SERPs. You can also narrow down the keywords that your audience is using when they click on your content and where does that page rank.
  • Enhancement: This helps you determine if your website is ready for mobile phones or not.

– Generate backlinks

When we talked about off-page SEO in the section above, we covered that backlinks help make your website look more credible. Backlinks even help you ensure that your domain authority is leveling up with every piece of content that you publish. They are also directly proportional to higher rankings on Google.

What you need to understand is that generating backlinks is not a piece of cake. If anything, it is more challenging than any other SEO marketing practice that you will ever come across.

The main reason for this is that the competition in the world today is too high. Several people are publishing exemplary content, either by themselves or with the help of an in-house/outsourced team.

Apart from creating highly valuable content, there are a few other ways that can be used to generate high-quality backlinks. These are:

  • Focus on the format of certain content pieces that are getting the attention of the readers. This can be done by analyzing the data of your published content. You can narrow down the themes of the posts that are being preferred by the audience and continue sticking to that particular theme.

    For instance, you might find out that the posts with videos and infographics are getting more preference. Of course, this doesn’t mean that your content will always get a link, but it will certainly improve the chances of the same happening.

  • Moreover, you can create content that has a ‘hook’ in it. This hook is a certain fact, statistical data, a perspective, or maybe a controversial statement that would make others provide a link back to you.
  • Additionally, you can scout for websites that allow guest posting. While this isn’t a method that Google favors, it can still do wonders. You can reach out to the bloggers over mail and share your content pieces that they can use on their website.

– Publish high-quality content

Content is what search engine optimization revolves around, especially on-page SEO. You need to find the right keywords, incorporate them properly, and give proper titles to what? To your content pieces.

If you are creating content, you have an aim of ensuring that it ranks and that too higher on the SERPs. This is something that every other person who has a content marketing and digital marketing team is set out to do.

So what will make you a better option? What will make others choose you over your competitors? It is the quality and uniqueness of your content.

Publishing content that provides a direct, sure-shot answer to the reader’s query will help your SEO perform better than what you can imagine.

Your content should be relevant, highly valuable, and highly informative. Try to serve a solution to the audience that is written in the language that they understand and has every follow-up question answered in that section.

Suppose if you are adding certain words that you know many of your readers wouldn’t know, try adding a glossary section towards the bottom or on the side that the readers can refer to. Also, always keep your content in simple language. You don’t want your readers referring to the dictionary every time they visit your website.

Another thing to keep in mind is that when you are incorporating your keywords, do not make it sound forceful. That spoils the flow and the reading experience.

Add your keywords in a manner that fits the content naturally.

– Consider search intent

Search intent is the intention or the primary goal of the user when they are searching for a query on the search engine.

The search intent is often aligned with where they are in their consumer journey. You need to consider search intent when looking for keywords and creating content for your website.

For instance, when someone is searching the web for ‘how to make polymer clay earrings’, they are looking for content that could help them learn. They do not have any intention of buying those earrings, so product pages here wouldn’t help anyone out.

Google promotes a good user experience and thus, only shows the blogs or videos that can help the user learn how to make the earrings, rather than product pages.

If you have a keyword in hand, you can go through the content of the top results on Google for the same and take inspiration from them as to what kind of content you should be creating.

Read the information that they are providing and identify if you can offer something more. Also, keep a check on the kind of format that is being used – whether it’s a guide, a listicle, or a photoblog, and follow the same suit.

Establishing SEO Objectives

When you started your own business, you must have had a plan in place. This plan must have also included your ultimate goals and objectives. Why did you decide to do that? Perhaps because it helps give your actions a direction.

This is the same case with your search engine optimization. If you don’t have your objectives in place, if you don’t know what you want to achieve, deciding on the steps will be challenging.

Moreover, if you have stakeholders, establishing your objectives will make it easier to get their buy-in.

There are certain things that you can measure for your search engine optimization efforts. Keeping a track of these elements mentioned below will help you measure your progress and make the changes to your SEO strategy as and when needed. These elements are:

  • Level of your brand awareness
  • The reputation of your website
  • Quality and quantity of your leads
  • Keyword performance
  • Bounce rate
  • Website traffic

These are the elements that will help you understand how far you are from your goals. It can act as a foundation based on which you can tailor your tactics and strategies to achieve the desired results.

Search Engine Guidelines

While Google is the most commonly used engine, it doesn’t mean you have to only focus on that. You should also be aware of the guidelines that are provided by other search engines.

Let us take a look at the guidelines or principles that are provided by the top three search engines across the world, namely Google, Bing, and Yahoo!

Google

  • Keep your pages user-centric. Everything ranging from the site architecture to the content on the website should be created primarily for the users, not the search engines.
  • Avoid using tricks or quick hacks to rank quickly. This would make your web page less useful for the users and more search engine-centric. It can get your website penalized.
  • Make the content engaging, valuable, and different from what is already available.
  • Try to generate backlinks naturally. Do not be a part of link schemes.
  • Do not upload plagiarized content on your website.
  • Make your content easy to find and thorough.
  • Grow your links organically.
  • Both quality and quantity of social shares can affect the rank on Bing. The more shares you get, the better.
  • Add alt texts to all your images and make them readable by the search engines.
  • Pages that redirect users to other pages or are filled with affiliate links have no chances of ranking.
  • For URLs, keep them away from non-alphabet characters and shorten them up.
  • Yahoo!

    • Add a clear, relevant, and apt title on every page.
    • Do not encode text in web graphics or image maps, it can prevent the search engine to follow the links from one webpage to another.
    • Ensure the backlinks are meaningful. Focus on quality over quantity.
    • URLs should clearly describe what the web page is all about. Avoid adding any numeric or cryptic URLs.
    • Make sure the meta description is clear, accurate, and matches the content that is to be found on the web page.

    While this was an introduction to basic SEO, there is one particular part of search engine optimization that is thriving and that’s ‘Local SEO’.

    Introduction To Local SEO

    As the name suggests, Local SEO is done to help the users find local businesses near their location. While basic/traditional SEO was more focused on ranking the website for every individual, irrespective of where they are, local SEO is all about helping the businesses drive profits by selling to the local shoppers.

    This is especially a beneficial trend for local brick-and-mortar businesses. It not only helps them improve traffic on their website but also helps them boost the footfall in their physical stores.

    In Local SEO, specific keywords that are industry-based, as well as industry-based keywords combined with the location, are often targeted. For instance, wedding photographers near me, local wedding photographers, and wedding photography in Warrington.

    Local SEO mainly leverages features that the basic SEO doesn’t. These are GoogleMyBusiness posts or local web-based directories.

    If you have a store in a local area and are willing to attract a local audience, here are a few best practices that you can follow to work on your Local SEO.

    Local SEO Best Practices

    Just like traditional SEO, local SEO is not an easy or one-time game. It requires you to be active, persistent, and focused. Below are a few practices that you should follow to make sure your Local SEO efforts are proving to be successful.

    – Analyze competitors

    Just like every other marketing strategy, even Local SEO starts from the other side of the field, i.e. from the competitor’s perspective. The first step that you need to take is to analyze what your competitors are doing.

    This will help you understand where your audience is looking, what is it that grabs their attention, and also, what is trending in the industry.

    Check out their marketing tactics, identify if they have any programs, rewards, or discounts in place, and try to provide better offers.

    – Leverage social media

    We have already discussed that social media can be of great help for traditional SEO. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be limited to that.

    Social media has proven to be an effective and excellent way to attract more leads or increase the store footfall. When you spread awareness about your brand on social media, it will attract the attention of locals.

    When locals visit you and they like what they see/services they get, they often tend to share this experience with their social network. As a result, it gives you an entry into the social world of the audience that just visited you.

    Social media can help you expand your reach, both locally and globally. And who doesn’t want that?

    But you need to be very clever and creative with the content you post on social media. You can add some BTS, some customer stories, reviews, employee statements, and more.

    – Get reviews

    Getting online reviews is one of the best practices to see local SEO work. This is especially true if you can garner high-quality photos and excellent reviews on different platforms including Google My Business page, Facebook, or Yelp if you are on it.

    These reviews help make your brand look more professional, credible, and reliable. For those who have not tried your products or services yet, these reviews are great to act as validity for them. This is mostly enough for them to at least come and try.

    – Be responsive towards the reviews

    Now, it’s true that positive reviews offer some great benefits. However, you should also understand that your brand might not be everyone’s cup of tea. There will be individuals who might not be fans. They are also not your target audience then.

    This perception can often attract negative reviews. Does that mean you should delete these reviews or ignore them altogether? No. If anything, you should reply to them and ask for their opinion on how you can improve.
    This will show your target customers that you care about your customers and their opinions. It further adds to your credibility.

    – Be consistent with citations

    When you are getting your business online, you will be adding some information related to your brand. It will most likely include your business name, address, and phone number.

    Now, there are chances that you will be adding such information to different websites or web directories on the internet. What you need to be careful about is ensuring that the information is correct and consistent everywhere it’s written.

    If you have multiple phone numbers, addresses, or spellings across the internet, it will lower your credibility. It will confuse your audience which can lead to frustration. The chances of them choosing you over other brands will diminish and how.

    – Use specific categories on GoogleMyBusiness

    One of the best features of GoogleMyBusiness is that it helps you categorize your business website. Now, one major problem that many businesses make is that they select a little too many categories.

    Instead, it is best to keep your categories as precise, relevant, and intentional as possible. This will help your audience get a fair idea of what industry your business belongs to and if that’s what they were looking for.

    – Don’t just stick to GoogleMyBusiness

    You have your GoogleMyBusiness site all set and launched, you are adding keyword-rich posts to this profile every month, and that’s great. But does that mean this would be enough? Certainly not.

    You should not just depend on GoogleMyBusiness posts to help you with your Local SEO. Link your website to other data sources.

    There are plenty of online directories where you can get your business linked. Most customers rely on such websites to gauge the authenticity of a brand, and thus it should be an indispensable part of your marketing strategy.

    Conclusion

    To conclude, we can say that SEO has come a long way from where it started.

    There was a time when black-hat SEO practices, such as keyword stuffing, were helpful to brands. These practices could help rank a website. But today, with so many alterations and additions to the algorithm guidelines, search engines are more user-centric.

    To make SEO work for you, it is important to focus on users first and then, search engines. Your content should be relevant, published with keywords that are placed naturally.

    Additionally, optimize your website speed, images, and title tags to ensure your SEO is working. Getting backlinks from other websites is another great way to rank higher on the SERPs.

    If you have a local business, apart from the traditional SEO practices, it is also important to incorporate local SEO practices. These are listing on GoogleMyBusiness, getting linked to local directories, and garnering reviews from existing customers.

    It’s true SEO, both basic and local, are ongoing and time-consuming, but they are worth every second spent on them.