SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, but what is meant by search engine? A search engine, in general, is a software algorithm that helps you to find the data you need as easily as possible. When talking about SEO, by search engines websites like Google, Bing, etc. are meant… Well, mainly Google 😉 Search Engine Optimization is understanding how these search algorithms work to optimize your website in a lot of different ways, so it will be ranked higher in the search results.
Now stay with me, we are going to dive deeper into SEO Search Engine Optimization.
What is organic traffic?
To make it clear what organic traffic is, maybe let’s start with an example of what it isn’t: If you have a Facebook site or an Instagram page (social media in general) and you post something on there to promote your website… will you get visitors to your site? Yes! Is it organic? No! But Why? Well, because if you don’t post anything, you won’t get traffic. Okay, let’s take another example: Let’s say you pay for ads on Google, is that organic traffic? No! Because if you don’t pay Google, you won’t have any visitors.
Now, organic traffic is like passive income: If done in the right way it won’t disappear just because you don’t do anything for a month. That’s the cool thing about SEO, it helps to grow the traffic to your site in an organic and sustainable way. SEO should be part of your digital marketing strategy!
What is important for traffic in general?
Targeted traffic means reaching the right audience. Let’s say you have a business that sells microphones online. Now imagine someone searches for “best gaming PC monitor” and lands on your website. Would you call that targeted traffic? Now! How about “best microphones for twitch streamers”: Do you think you would generate a sale from that targeted lead? The probability is much higher than with the first example. So, targeted traffic is very important, and with SEO that is possible by optimizing your website for the right keywords. Choosing the right keywords is key 😛
Quantity of traffic is of course also important. If you want to grow your business you need a larger audience and one way to achieve that is by getting more visitors to your website! With search engine optimization the quantity of traffic will grow slower but sustainable. But how do you do it? By getting your site ranked for more and more keywords (always keeping in mind the things mentioned before, you have to understand keyword intent).
Organic traffic generalized also means you don’t have to pay for it. The amount of traffic doesn’t depend on your budget with SEO, instead, it depends on how long and how well you optimized your site.
Search Engine Algorithms
Let’s dive a bit deeper into how search engines work. They have three primary functionalities:
- Crawling: Scrape through the internet for websites, their content, and code
- Indexing: Store content that was found during the crawling process. Once a website is indexed it means it has been found by a search engine like Google and will be displayed as a result.
- Ranking: Show the most relevant results for a specific search. The ranking is basically the order on how results are shown (most relevant to least relevant).
There are a lot of ranking factors, but here are 10 of the most important ones.
Having an easy and securely accessible website
As we already established, search engines like Google need to “crawl” your website. The easier it is for the algorithm the better. Here are three things your website should have:
- Well-coded website (can also be with good website builders, like WordPress)
- A robots.txt file
- A sitemap.xml file
Great User Experience
Search engines want to show the best websites as results in the end. A great website is also about creating an awesome user experience! Of course, Google doesn’t have employees that test every website and gives a rating. But there are a few indicators of what a good user experience looks like.
In the end, your website has to be appealing and present the content in an enjoyable way! Also, you want people to stay on your website and maybe look through multiple pages. SEO is not about making everything for a search engine, instead, it’s about understanding what we can do to get “extra points” from the search engine by optimization and trying to make the best experience possible for the site visitors.
This has become a big one! If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, then you have some work to do. In 2020 about 50% of the traffic generated by search engines is mobile (and I believe in the next years this number will grow). Just think about how often you use your phone on a daily basis to Google something? Optimize your website for mobile devices!
You could say having a mobile-friendly website is part of creating an awesome user experience.
Keyword research is key 😉 Keyword research is about finding out what people are searching for precisely on search engines like Google, for example, “SEO services”. But it doesn’t stop there. You, of course, want to know what’s the amount of searches and even more important how hard is the competition? Another aspect is to have search intent in mind. Let’s take my site as an example: I am offering SEO services. If someone searches for “SEO for beginners” they probably want to learn more about SEO, they are probably not looking for somebody to do SEO for them. What would be the better keyword? Maybe “SEO expert” or “SEO agency”. With these keywords it’s quite clear that they are searching for a company or an expert that will do SEO for them. So, when choosing keywords have keyword intent in mind and analyze the competition!
For keyword research, there are a lot of tools out there, but none of them can really tell you what the keyword intent is and if you will be able to rank for it. If you want to look into this, Google has a free keyword tool called Keyword Planner that will help you go a bit deeper into this topic.
Link building is also part of Search Engine Optimization. Link building means acquiring so-called backlinks from other websites. It literally just means that some other website has a link to yours. This, for example, is a backlink for the MOZ website: What is link building?
Now there is an entire science just around link building, but in the end, what matters is the quality of the backlink and the anchor text. The quality of the backlink is defined by how much the search engines trust the website and the anchor text in the link to the MOZ website is for example “What is link building?”.
By site architecture, I mean how your different sites, posts on your website are linked together. The ideal site architecture allows the users and because of that also the search engines to access content on your website easily and find what they are looking for in an efficient way.
But why is this part of an SEO strategy? Well, search engines are able to find all of your internal sites quicker, link juice will be send around your different internal sites and it is again part of creating a great UX (User Experience).
If you want your website to rank on search engines you will have to create content! If you have a skinny website without content, then Google won’t be able to know what your website is about. The easiest way to create a channel to publish content is by creating a blog like I did on this website. But that doesn’t have to be the case for everybody. Use tools for keyword research to generate ideas for the best content and publish it! (and don’t forget to market your content! content is king but promotion is queen)
Link building is part of off-page SEO, so what is on-page SEO? Well, if you do the step mentioned before, which is creating content, the question will come up: I want to rank for this specific keyword, but what do I do with it? On-page search engine optimization is exactly about that. Creating subheadings (H2), adding images, adding certain words and phrases into your content (like the keyword you want to rank for) …
On-page SEO back in the days was a lot easier because you could just “spam” the keyword in your content and you would be ranked. That is called keyword stuffing and doesn’t work anymore nowadays, instead, it will be considered spam and you will have no chance to get ranked. So actually on-page SEO has become more about not over-optimizing. There are still a few rules you should keep in mind when writing content though.
Title and meta description
This is something very important when talking about search engine optimization because this is basically the text that will be shown as a result of Google. You are familiar with it 😉 Now to make SEO even more complex, it is not just about bringing your website to page 1, but also to make people want to click on your result. That you can achieve by optimizing your title and meta description.
SEO: DIY or hire an expert?
Just because I offer SEO services I won’t say: of course hire an expert! The answer is, it depends. If you are just starting out with your website or you are a very small business and you can’t afford an SEO expert, of course, it doesn’t make sense. Even if you have the budget, you will also need some time to manage certain changes or plan and create new content. The answer is if you have time and no budget: learn it yourself. If you don’t have time but enough budget, make sure to assemble a digital marketing team.