Search engine optimization is nowadays more important than ever and it is necessary for every webmaster to understand the true meaning of SEO as well as the potential it creates for every business.
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization or SEO in short, is a set of rules for optimizing you website for search engines and improve your search engine rankings.
In addition, it is a great way to increase the quality of your web site by making it user- friendly, faster and easier to navigate.
SEO can also be considered as a framework since the whole process has a number of rules (or guidelines), a number of stages and a set of controls.
Why is SEO important?
In today’s competitive market, SEO marketing is more important than ever.
Search engines serve millions of users per day looking for answers to their questions or for solutions to their problems.
If you have a web site, blog or online store, SEO can help your business grow and meet the business objectives.
Search engine optimization is important because:
- The majority of search engines users are more likely to click on one of the top 5 suggestions in the results pages (Mosbing). To take advantage of this and gain visitors to your web site or customers to your online store, your website needs to appear in one of the top positions.
- SEO is not only about search engines but good SEO practices improve the user experience and usability of a web site.
- Users trust search engines and having a presence in the top positions for the keywords the user is searching, increases the web site’s trust.
- SEO is good for the social promotion of your web site. People who find your web site by searching Google or Yahoo are more likely to promote it on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or other social media channels.
- SEO is important for the smooth running of a big web site. Web sites with more than one author can benefit from SEO in a direct and indirect way. Their direct benefit is increase in search engine traffic and their indirect benefit is having a common framework (checklists) to use before publishing content on the site.
- SEO can put you ahead of the competition. If two web sites are selling the same thing, the search engine optimized web site is more likely to have more customers and make more sales.
An introduction to SEO for beginners
For beginners to SEO the above definition may sound complicated.
In simpler terms, Search Engine Optimization is a way to improve your website so that it will appear closer to the top positions in the search results of Google, Yahoo, Bing or other search engines.
When you perform a search on Google the order by which the returning results are displayed, is based on complex algorithms.
These algorithms (also known as search engine ranking algorithms), take a number of factors into account before they decide which web page will be shown in the first place, second place etc.
Optimizing your website for search engines will give you an advantage over non-optimized sites and you increase your chances to rank higher.
What are the main stages of the Search Engine Optimization process?
As I mentioned above, SEO is not a static process but rather a framework with rules and processes.
For simplicity though, SEO can be broken down into 3 main stages:
Technical SEO: With technical SEO you can ensure that search engines can crawl and index your website with out any issues.
On-site SEO: Rules to apply on your site and content to make it search engine friendly.
Off-site SEO: Ways to promote your website or blog so that it can rank higher in search results.
The first stage in the SEO process is called technical SEO. As the name implies, technical SEO has nothing to do with the actual content of a website or with website promotion methods.
It has to do with settings you need to configure to make the job of search engine crawlers easier. Usually, once you get your technical SEO correct, you may not have to deal with it again.
On the other hand, if you have problems with crawling and indexing, it can negatively impact on your rankings.
To perform a technical SEO audit review and ensure that everything is working as expected, read our Technical SEO Guide.
The second stage is On-Page SEO. On-Page SEO has to do primarily with the content and other elements found on a page.
Unlike technical and off-page SEO, the main focus of on-page SEO is to provide search engine crawlers enough signals so that they can understand the meaning and context of your content.
Remember that search engines don’t read a page like a human so they are looking for signals to figure out what a page is all about.
It is at this stage that you will deal with website structure, keywords, title optimizations, headings, internal links, image SEO, structured data markup and other techniques that can send the right signals to search engines.
If followed correctly, on-page SEO will also improve the usability and credibility of a website or blog.
Note that content optimization is part of on-page SEO but sometimes this is referred to as Content SEO.
Our On-Page SEO Guide explains the different on-page SEO techniques in detail.
The third stage is Off-Page SEO.
Besides the changes you can do to your website (on-site SEO) so that it ranks higher in the SERPs, the other way to improve your website’s ranking position is by using off-site SEO techniques.
Off-site SEO is generally known as link building but I prefer to use the term web site promotion since a proper way to promote a website involves much more methods and techniques than building links.
Why is off-page SEO important?
In general, when a user types a search query, search engine algorithms look into their index and try to find the best pages that can satisfy the intent of the user.
Pages that are good candidates appear to the first positions of the search results.
One of the factors to determine the position a webpage in the results, is the number of incoming links (backlinks).
Backlinks are a signal of trust and depending from where the links are coming, they can greatly affect your ranking position.
If the links are coming from well-known and trusted sites, your ranking will be positively affected.
If they are paid links, links in article directories, link farms or a result of an exchange, your ranking will be negatively affected.
Getting links this way, is a violation of Google guidelines and most probably it will also result in a Google Penalty.
What can you do to get more links?
That’s a very good question and I am sure that if you search the Internet for that phrase you will get hundreds of different answers.
You can read this article on how to approach link building but your primary focus not be how to get links but how to create good quality content for your web site.
Good content will get you natural links which in turn will give you high rankings and traffic.
If you try to buy links or get them the easy way, you may have temporary success and then see your website disappearing from the top pages after the next Google update.
What is the best way to start learning SEO?
The best way to learn SEO is to practice SEO.
Besides learning the different concepts and theories, the only way to find out if what you’ve learned works, it to apply the various techniques on a website and monitor your rankings.
The following resources can help you get started:
What is the difference of SEO and Internet marketing?
Some people often ask me “Is SEO the same as Internet Marketing?” The simplest answer I can give is that SEO is one of the tools available in your Internet Marketing arsenal.
It is not Internet Marketing as such but it can be part of your overall Internet Marketing campaign which normally includes other things like social media promotion, content strategy etc.
Good content is still the most important success factor with or without SEO
Before closing this introduction to search engine optimization you must have very clear in your mind that SEO cannot help you if you don’t have good content.
In other words, if you try to SEO a website with not very good content your chances of succeeding (in the long term) are minimum.
On the other hand, a website with good content can do well with or without SEO. SEO will just give the web site an extra boost.
SEO is a must for every web property
To sum it up, Search engine optimization or SEO is a way to optimize your website so that search engines will understand it better and give you higher rankings.
It is important since a good SEO approach can drive more traffic to your website, blog or on-line store and gain more customers, make sales and fulfill your business objectives.