Maybe you’ve heard the acronym SEO and know it has something to do with helping your site reach more people — if that’s the case, then you already know more than a lot of people regarding what is SEO! SEO can get pretty complex when it comes to understanding all the factors that affect a site’s ranking, but the basic concept is not that difficult to understand. In general, SEO involves making changes to your website design and website content to make it more attractive to a search engine so that your site appears higher on search engine results page.
How do you do this?
By the end of this blog post, you will be able to answer the question, What is SEO?, guaranteed.
In this blog post, you’ll learn:
What Does SEO Stand For?
SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” But, what is SEO? In a nutshell, SEO is the practice of using organic search results to increase the quantity and quality of traffic to your website. Said another way, SEO is the practice of optimizing your web pages to reach a higher position in Google’s (or other search engines’) search results by using organic (or unpaid) traffic from the search engine results page (SERP).
To beginners, this might sound confusing.
But it doesn’t have to be.
In the following section, we will break it down to help you understand what is SEO and how does SEO work.
How Does SEO Work?
The basic process of SEO is as follows: when you search for something in a search engine (e.g. Google, Bing, and Yahoo), the search engine’s job is to locate pages that are high quality, relevant to the searcher’s request, and of a high domain authority.
To do this, the search engine will crawl (i.e. scan) various websites to understand what the site is about, as well as its readability and how easy it is to navigate.
To truly understand what is SEO, it is important to understand how SEO works. In this section, we will address the question, how does SEO work?, and give definitions for the main components of SEO.
- Quality of Traffic. Quantity of traffic is good only if the visitors who are coming to your site are genuinely interested in what is on your site. For example, if visitors are being directed to your site because Google lists your site as a source for Apple products (e.g. Apple computers, iPhones, iPads and Apple watches), but really you are a farmer who sells apples, then you are not attracting quality traffic.
- Relevancy. Relevancy is how well the particular search results match what the searching is looking for. If a search result is relevant, a searcher is more likely to find the content useful and to return to the page at a later date.
- High Domain Authority (DA). Domain Authority is a metric that is used to predict a domain’s ranking ability. It is best used as a comparative metric (i.e. to compare a site’s DA score to its competitors).
- Search Engine Results Page (SERP). The page that appears after you perform a search in a search engine.
- Organic Search Results/Traffic. A search result that is earned, rather than a paid advertisement.
- Website Design. Website Design includes on-page SEO factors (explained in more depth below).
- Website Content. Website content refers to the use of SEO writing (explained in more depth below).
Google’s Algorithm: On-Page SEO VS. Off-Page SEO
To better understand what is SEO, it is helpful to understand the major factors that affect a site’s rank in a SERP. Though Google has not (and might not ever) give out the exact algorithm it uses to rank sites in a SERP, those well-versed in SEO have come to understand some of the major factors that impact the rankings on a SERP. These rankings are impacted by two overarching factors: on-page SEO features and off-page SEO features.
Website Design: What Is On-Page SEO?
On-page SEO features are those that you can influence from within your actual website (i.e. your website design). The design of your website includes your on-page SEO features, which you have complete control over and can work on to improve. These elements go beyond content marketing to include the technical aspects of your site (e.g. the quality of your HTML code and your site speed).
Crucial on-page SEO factors include:
- Title Tag. An HTML element that identifies the title of a web page. The title tag tells the search engines what the page is about. It should be 70 characters or less, including the keyword the content of the page focuses on.
- Meta Descriptions. An HTML element that describes the content of a page to a search engine. This should include your keyword for the page.
- Sub-Headings. Sub-headings make content easier to read. H1, H2, and H3 tags help search engines better understand what the content of the page is about. (For instance, the H1 of this page is “What Is SEO?”, one of the H2 headings is “Google’s Algorithm: On-Page SEO VS. Off-Page SEO”, and one of the H3 headings is “Website Design: What Is On-Page SEO?”.
- Internal Links. Links on your site that point to other pages within your site. These help search engines learn about your site. For example, if you write a post about the value of coordinates jewelry, you can then link to your coordinates jewelry product page to better help the search engines index your site.
- Image Name & ALT Tags. Including the keyword in your image name and ALT tags will help search engines better index your site and images.
What Is Off-Page SEO?
Off-page SEO are factors that affect your site’s or page’s ranking that are outside of your website and outside of your direct control. These include links from other websites to your site and social media attention. The basic idea behind off-page SEO is that your position in a SERP will be higher when you have lots of sites of high quality and relevancy linking back to your site.
- Backlinks. The goal with backlinks is to build relationships with other sites that create quality content and who will link back to your site within their content. If done incorrectly (e.g. spamming sites with your link), your site can actually be banned from search engines.
- Social Media. Likes and shares from influencers on social media can help boost traffic to your site. The more quality content you publish on social media, the more likely you’ll be to get people to interact with your content and share it with others.
- Site Legitimacy & Trust. Within Google’s algorithm, trust is becoming an important factor that is used to determine the legitimacy of your site. One way to build trust is by building quality backlinks from websites that have a high domain authority.
Website Content: What Is SEO Writing?
Not sure what is included in website content? Want to know what is SEO writing? Basically, SEO writing is writing that intends to get the attention of search engines using specific, targeted words or phrases (called keywords) to drive traffic to your site. High quality website content includes the following features:
- Keyword Phrases/Keyword Research. The keywords you choose must be relevant to the topic you are writing on. Certain keyword research tools, such as SEMRush or Ahrefs, help to identify useful keywords to be used in your website content. For each post or page on your website, there should be one primary or target keyword, as well as a few other secondary keywords. The length of your post/page will determine how many secondary keywords you have and how frequently you use your primary and secondary keywords. (Keyword density will be addressed below.) There are two important considerations when choosing your keywords:
- How much competition there is for that keyword (i.e. keyword difficulty)
- How frequently that keyword is searched a month (i.e. volume)
Ideally, you want to locate keywords with high volume (e.g. above 5,000 searches a month), and with a low keyword difficulty (e.g. 50 and below). Depending on the topic you’re writing on, this can be relatively easy or pretty difficult.
For instance, if your topic is anniversaries and anniversary gifts, the majority of keywords relating to anniversary gifts are high volume, but also high keyword difficulty, making it difficult to rank for these keywords. On the other hand, if your topic is on pest control, the volume for these keywords tend to be a little lower than, say, anniversary gifts, but the keyword difficulty is also lower, making it easier to rank for them on a SERP.
- Organization & Scannable Headers. As mentioned before, H1, H2, and H3 headers help make your SEO writing and website content easy to scan, read, and get the gist of what is being discussed in the article or post.
- Error-Free. Errors imply thoughtlessness, and serve to drive traffic away from your site. Always make sure to proofread and edit your content before you post it online.
- Length of Content & Keyword Density. SEO experts online all have their own ideas regarding the appropriate length of content and the appropriate percentage for keyword density. There is no tried-and-true formula, though there are basic pointers to keep in mind. For instance, if you are writing a short blurb (e.g. 200 – 500 words), you will want to use approximately 5 keywords with your target keyword used more frequently (i.e. no more than 10 times) and your secondary keywords used less frequently (i.e. 5 times). For a longer post (e.g. 1,500 – 2,000 words), you’ll want to still have at least 5 keywords, but you could include as many as 10, with your primary keyword used around 20 times and your secondary keywords used 5 – 10 times. Overall, the idea is to keep it natural: do not excessively overuse your keyword (AKA: keyword stuffing), but also be sure to use it enough. (For more information on keyword density, watch the YouTube video above!)
- Write For The Humans, Not The Computer (AKA Intent). Though the primary intention of SEO writing is to communicate with a search engine so that it can connect your site with a searcher, ultimately it will be the searcher who visits and reads the content on the site. So, while you want to use keywords appropriately to drive traffic, you also want to write content that answers your searcher’s question. For instance, if a searcher is looking for how to layer necklaces, and your blog post features a lot of images of necklaces and related keywords to necklace layering, but does not actually answer the question, how do you layer necklaces?, then the searcher will most likely leave your site in search for a site that can answer the question.
- Engagement To Accompany Written Content. High quality content that is error-free, readable, long length, and has appropriate density is all necessary, but you also have to keep in mind other features that will keep visitors on your page. Features that allow your readers to interact with your content will add value to your page, break up all the words, and lead to visitors staying on your page for a longer amount of time. This includes relevant images, explanatory YouTube videos, comments, graphics, gifs, and the organization of your content (e.g. navigation list at the top, lists, and charts).
White Hat Vs. Black Hat
Black Hat and White Hat SEO are two methods used to bring visitors to your site. The video above provides a clear and concise explanation of each. The main points of each are summarized below.
What Is White Hat SEO?
What Is Black Hat SEO?
White Hat SEO includes creating quality content by real people (versus programs); It takes longer to do, but pays off in higher organic traffic down the line. It includes:
Black Hat SEO includes tricking search engines into giving your site higher rankings in the short-term. It includes:
It can be difficult to grasp what is SEO, but we hope you feel you’ve understood the basics of SEO! Also, keep in mind that search engine algorithms constantly evolve, causing SEO tactics to respond to those changes.
If you think you might need help with your on-page SEO or SEO content, get in touch with us today!