Before we dive into the depths of Search Engine Optimization, we must first be able to understand what a search engine is, how it works, and why it needs to be optimized, etc.
What is a Search Engine?
A search engine’s job is no different than that of a tourist guide in an unknown land. The Internet is like an exotic island you’ve never been to and thus, have no sense of direction; every street looks like the one you just walked out of, every building looks like the one you just passed by natives speak a language you’ve even heard of.
In such depressing circumstances, what would you do without a guide who speaks the same language as you as well as the one spoken by the natives and knows his way around the island? Search Engine is the tourist guide here. You need a search engine to navigate through the strange and complex world of the internet. A search engine is what helps you find the content, pictures, videos or text files you’re interested in. All you need to do is enter the information you are looking for in the search bar and hit enter. The search engine will go through every single bit of the data on the internet to provide you with information which is the closest to the words you entered in the search bar. Some of the most popular search engines are:
How does a search engine work?
The inner workings of a search engine consist of three phases:
Crawling or spidering refers to the process of conducting a thorough scan of the entire website by having every part of it, including but not limited to, hyperlinks, keywords, content, images, videos, headings, and sections, etc. crawled by thousands, if not millions, of tiny bots called crawlers. These crawlers will not rest until they’ve crawled through every single bit of data available. They can detect hypertexts pointing to other websites and end up deciphering the entire site repeatedly trying to get more links. They also keep the data up to date by crawling through the internet frequently.
After crawling, comes the indexing phase. The index can be defined as a never-ending log in which all the websites in the world are recorded. This phase involves the listing of the website on the index. This phase can take up to a maximum of ten days to complete and every time there is a change in the website or its content, the crawlers will scan it again and update its status and position on the index. Unless the changes in the website are updated in the index, it won’t be able to show up in the search engines.
iii. Retrieving the search results:
This is the phase where the search engine thoroughly sifts through every bit of information available on the index using a wide range of algorithms to provide you with search results that are relevant to and match the queries you entered in its search bar.
Types of Search Queries:
There are three major types of search queries a user might submit:
- Navigational Queries: These are meant to look for specific websites, blogs, or brands, etc.
- Informational Queries: Informational query is made when a user is merely looking for information, guidance or answers, etc.
- Transactional Queries: A transactional query is submitted when the user is interested in buying something and decides to look for suggestions online.
SERP (Search Engine Result Page) is a page that pops up on your screen with relevant and matching search results when you submit a query through your search bar.
A SERP feature can be defined as a non-traditional organic result. Some of the most popular SERP features are:
- Featured snippet;
- Answer box;
- Related questions;
- Image pack;
- Local Teaser Pack
- Sponsored features (Google Ads, flights, shop on Google);
- Knowledge panel and knowledge card;
- In-depth article;
- Top stories;
- Sitelinks; and
- Tweet etc.
SEO and its Importance:
There are more 1.7 billion websites on the internet and around 380 websites are created every minute. But why is it that we can only name a few? With such an incredible pace, the struggle to survive on the internet is already too intense for the websites. They have to fight to stay at the top of search results so people can find and visit them. Otherwise, they’d sink deep into the depths of the bottomless pit called the internet.
Ever since the first website was launched back in the early nineties, webmasters and other IT experts have been looking for ways or techniques for websites to stay at the top of their game, have a steady flow of visitors, and be remembered by search engines. This is where SEO, also known as Search Engine Optimization, comes in. The concept has been out there for more than two decades but with different names. However, the techniques have improved to a great extent over the past few years.
SEO can be defined as a digital marketing strategy whose key objects include maintaining your website visibility in the search results of different search engines, as well as providing your website with higher traffic volumes by boosting your ranking on SERPs. SEO aims at helping users find the most relevant results to their search queries while allowing websites to be accessible to their target audience at the same time.
How SEO Works:
Now that we have an idea of search engines, their process, and the importance of search engine optimization, we can move on to the next and the most important question, i.e., how SEO works.
The process of Search engine optimization involves the implementation of several SEO principles and techniques as well as the use of SEO tools, specifically designed for the said purpose, on the website to make it search-engine friendly.
Getting Started with SEO:
The first step to search engine optimization of your website content is to use certain web hosting tools such as Meta tags, HTTPS, and anchor texts, etc. Another key requirement for SEO, in addition to several others, is the availability of a well-ranked domain name, an excellent domain service, and an efficient, reliable, and responsive web host.
Another major step in how to SEO process is the creation of a sitemap. A sitemap is one of the most fundamental components of search engine optimization. It is somewhat like an outline of the website’s structure providing users with an idea about the website’s different sections and pages and how to access them.
The reason why a website needs to be SEO-friendly is so that the bots, also known as spiders or crawlers, can easily decide if the data available on your website or any page of your website is relevant to the queries of a certain user, whether it should be shown in the search results and what its rank should be on the SERP.
Types of SEO:
There are two major categories of search engine optimization, namely:
1) On-Page SEO (on-site):
On-page SEO, as the name suggests, refers to the implementation of SEO principles and techniques as well as SEO tools on the website. Every aspect of the website and its content optimized for search engines. On-page SEO is further classified into the following categories:
Ø Meta tags: Meta tags are components of the HTML code and provide the information called metadata describing the contents of a website to the search engines. Two of the most important Meta tags are:
i. Meta descriptions that offer summarized version of the content of a webpage and;
ii. Meta titles or title tags which are responsible for defining titles of every page on a website.
Ø Headings: Structure your text or content with the help of H1, H2, and H3 heading tags.
Ø URL structure: Clean and healthy URLs can boost your website’s appearance search results. Try not to use auto-generated URLs containing numbers and characters.
Ø Image SEO: Make it a point to optimize the images you use on any of your website’s pages by optimizing filename, ALT text, and file size, etc., as it will help search engines understand what the images represent.
Ø Content SEO: Its main concern is the quality of the information and content present on your website. Content SEO is one of the key success factors in boosting your search engine rankings. Ensure that the content you post is not only of the finest quality and loved by users but also easy for search engines to decipher.
Ø Schemas: Using schema and structured data can help you highlight important parts of your content to the search engines.
Ø Page Layout: Design your page layout in such a way that it’s easy for visitors to navigate through its sections not only for users but also for search engine crawlers.
Ø Website size and speed: Your website’s speed should not be slow neither should it hang while a user is scrolling through. Too many ads and plugins will slow it down.
Ø Technical SEO: As the name suggests, technical SEO deals with the technical aspects of the website that may affect its presence and position in search engines. It helps make it easier for crawlers to crawl through the website’s code and perform indexing procedures without any hindrance.
2) Off-page SEO (off-site):
While On-page SEO is concerned with making the website’s infrastructure and content user and search engine friendly, Off-page SEO takes the marketing approach and uses different techniques to help you promote your website on the internet. Some of the fundamental off-page SEO techniques include:
Ø Email outreach: Reaching out to potential visitors and customers through email is another way of website promotion.
Ø Link building: Getting backlinks or hypertext links from other reputable websites can serve as a vote of confidence and trust increasing the authority and credibility of your website.
Ø Guest blogging: Posting content as a guest blogger on popular and high ranking websites will improve your website’s overall repute in the internet circles.
Ø Social media efforts: Maintaining a social presence for your business or website can help you boost your website’s popularity.
Ø Cooperation with influencers: Social media influencers have millions of followers and you can use that to your advantage by collaborating with some of the well-reputed and popular ones.
Ø Writing valuable content: High-quality content with grammatical accuracy can prove to be very enticing to users.
Major Types of SEO techniques:
1. White Hat SEO:
White hat SEO involves the implementation of such SEO techniques why comply with the Search Engine Guidelines. This approach of optimization is purely focused on user satisfaction. It strives to work in the best interests of users and search engines. It does not use unhanded techniques just to gain some extra traffic or a higher ranking. This technique is the saint of all the SEO techniques. A white hat SEO technique offers:
Ø Quality and relevant content;
Ø Overall website optimization; and
Ø Helps in link building based on outreach.
2. Black Hat SEO:
Black hat SEO is the complete opposite of white hat SEO. It is mainly concerned with getting higher search rankings for the websites by manipulation of the search engine algorithms. It is not concerned with the quality of the content or websites and user satisfaction. Some examples of Black hat SEO are:
- Use of automated tools for creating backlinks to websites;
- Keyword stuffing;
- Link cloaking;
- Use of hidden texts and auto-generated content; and
- Sneaky redirects etc.
This type of optimization is very short-lived since websites using this approach are bound to be penalized by Google and other search engines and removed from the search results sooner or later.
3. Gray Hat SEO:
Grey hat SEO can be defined as the fine line between White Hat and Black Hat SEOs. It’s neither as out of line and underhanded as Black hat SEO nor is it as moral and saintly as White hat SEO. However, it is better to pick a side and stick with the safest bet, i.e., White Hat SEO. Because there is no gray area when it comes to the law, it’s always black and white.
4. Negative SEO:
Negative SEO refers to the malicious practice of using Black Hat SEO’s techniques against one’s competitor. These attacks could come in any shape or form such a sabotaging a competitor’s rankings on SERP to hacking or attaching millions of spam links to their websites etc.
Further classification of SEO Techniques:
a. Keyword Research:
Incorporating important keywords into your web content is one of the most important SEO measures. Keyword research will help you find keywords that are the most suited to your website and its content and can be used to improve your organic search rankings. There are nine types of keywords, each with its own set of pros and cons, that you can use in your content to boost your website’s traffic.
- LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords; and
- Short-tail keywords;
- Long-tale keywords;
- Short-term fresh keywords;
- Long-term evergreen keywords;
- Customer defining keywords
- Product defining keywords;
- Geo-targeting keywords;
- Intent targeting keywords.
b. Local SEO:
Local search engine optimization is meant for local businesses only. Don’t forget to list your business information such as the name of the business, address, office timings, and contact details on every page of your website. In addition to this, consider taking the following steps:
- Adding Local Business Schema to your business;
- Creating a google my business account; and
- Getting your business registered with trusted directories like Yelp, Foursquare, and Yahoo small business, etc. as well as promoting your website on local directories, and websites.
c. Mobile SEO:
Mobile SEO is a sub-category of Mobile-specific search engine optimization. Over sixty percent of Google searches are made through mobile devices which is why Google introduced the Mobile-First index for indexing mobile-friendly versions of websites.
d. eCommerce SEO:
Optimization of an eCommerce website is perhaps one of the most complicated processes ever. Because of an incredibly large number of webpages, it’s a lengthy and strenuous process, and promoting an eCommerce website is even more difficult.
Best SEO Tools
- Google Analytics;
- Google Search Console;
- SEOWorkers’ Analysis Tool;
- Neil Patel SEO Analyzer; and
- Heat Maps.
Optimizing for Google:
Google’s Ranking Factors:
Although the exact calculation of a search engine algorithm is kept confidential, some of the many SEO ranking factors are as under:
- HTTPS link relevance;
- Keyword intent;
- Topical authority;
- Website security and accessibility;
- User experience;
- Social signals;
- Technical SEO;
- Domain age, authority, and URL;
- Content structure and optimization;
- Google Algorithm; and
- Backlink profile, etc.
SEO has a vast universe of its own. One post or article is not enough to cover all of its areas. However, we have covered most of the search engine optimization in this article. And how SEO works is no longer a tricky question anymore. Now that you know how to SEO and it’s different tools, the next step is to do further research and apply it to your website and content. Search Engine Optimization is the way for a website or blog to survive on the internet.