SEO is short for Search Engine Optimization, and it refers to the practice of improving the ranking of a website on search engines like Google and Bing.
In other words, it’s a way of making sure that your site appears as high up as possible in the list of results when people search for relevant terms. An example would be your site appearing on the first page when a user searches for terms like“dog toys”, “CRM software”, “best hiking boots”, or whatever else is relevant to your business.
The goal of SEO is to increase organic traffic to your webpage or blog post —without having to spend any money— ideally resulting in increased revenue for your project or business.
SEO can be divided into two categories: on-page SEO and off-page SEO.
On-page SEO includes optimizing your website’s code, content, images, and other elements to make your site more friendly for search engines.
Off-page SEO involves building hyperlinks from other websites to yours in order to improve your site’s authority in the eyes of major search engines. Backlinks are essentially “votes of confidence”, telling search engines that your website is valuable and worth showing in the search results.
With a strong off-page and on-page SEO strategy, businesses can maximize the chances that their website will be seen by potential customers when they’re searching for relevant products and services online.
“Search engine optimization can be a complex and time-consuming process, but it is one of the most effective ways to improve your website’s visibility and organic search results.”— Mihael D. Cacic
How does SEO work?
People use major search engines when they have a question and want to find an answer on the internet.
Search engines use algorithms to identify websites and determine which ones to rank for a given search query. To establish the rankings of their SERPs and provide the users with the best results possible, these search engine algorithms have evolved to be highly complicated: taking into account hundreds, if not thousands, of various ranking parameters.
Search engines work in three stages: Crawling, Indexing, and Ranking.
Crawlers, often known as bots or spiders, are used by search engines to collect information on all the online content they can find.
The crawler starts from one page, tracks inbound links on that site, and then also tracks external links to other sites’ pages. Thanks to the content on those pages and the context of the connections it followed, the crawler can understand what each page is about and how it’s connected to all of the other pages in the search engine’s enormous database, called an index.
After the crawling and indexing stages are completed, ranking can begin: your website is ready to be positioned among the search results on Google.
That’s the engineering side of things.
But how does SEO work from your perspective?
Essentially, it comes down to the following three key factors:
- keyword selection,
- on-page optimization,
- and off-page optimization.
Keyword selection is all about choosing relevant keywords to target.
These are the words or phrases that people are actually searching for when they use a search engine. Ideally, you want to choose keywords that are relevant to your site’s content and that have a good amount of organic search volume (the number of people searching for them each month).
Once you’ve selected your target keywords, it’s time to start optimizing your site for them.
On-page optimization makes sure that your keywords are present in key places on your page: such as in the title tag, meta description, header tags, and body content. This helps crawlers (see above) to make sense of what your page is about.
Off-page optimization, on the other hand, refers to activities that you do outside of your website to increase your ranking: such as link building and social media engagement.
Why is SEO important?
SEO is important for businesses because it helps them to appear higher in search engine results.
When customers search for products or services online, they typically only look at the first page of the results. So if a business doesn’t appear on the first page, they are likely to miss out on potential customers.
By investing in SEO, businesses can improve their chances of appearing on the first page and as a result, increase their organic traffic and sales.
SEO is an important marketing channel to invest in for three reasons:
- First, it’s cost-effective;
- Second, it’s evergreen (meaning that once you’ve achieved a high ranking, you’ll likely maintain it for a long time);
- Third, it allows you to target customers who are actively searching for what you have to offer.
While SEO can be a complex and time-consuming process—for most businesses—the long-term benefits are worth the investment.