Search Engine Optimization SEO: An Overview
In today’s competitive market, search engine optimization plays a crucial role in every businesses’ digital marketing strategies. Research shows that 68% of online experiences start with search engines. This is primarily due to the fact that people searching for any information are accustomed to use search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. With search engine optimization, businesses can appear at the top search results of relevant queries, which enables them to be easily seen by prospective clients and generate leads.
What is Search Engine Optimization or SEO?
Search engine optimization, otherwise known as SEO, is the process of enhancing a website or the actual pages on your site to boost its visibility and drive organic traffic from related inquiries on search engines.
There are many ways to approach SEO, and it consists of different components that help improve the website’s ranking in result pages.
Why is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Important?
Search engine optimization is important because sites and web pages with good SEO rank higher on search engine results pages, making them more visible to the target audience. The right seo strategies will give valuable results regardless of the type of business or work you have on the internet – whether you’re running a shop, crafting a blog post, publicizing your services or simply building your online presence.
Search Engine Optimization vs Search Engine Marketing
There are times when search engine optimization and search engine marketing are used interchangeably. It is however important to note that there is a difference between these two terms.
Search engine optimization (SEO), as mentioned earlier, is focused on improving a website in order to drive organic traffic and increase search rankings in search results. It is an organic search marketing tactic. On the other hand, Search Engine Marketing (SEM), is a paid search marketing strategy that enables you to be displayed as an advertisement on top of the search engine results page just like Google ads.
Despite their differences, SEO and SEM are both equally important for business growth. Both aim to drive more traffic to a website, reach a targeted audience and create more leads that are converted into sales.
Top Benefits of Search Engine Optimization
People who want to go into the digital world can take advantage of the benefits of search engine optimization in many ways – from increasing brand awareness to driving organic traffic and generating new leads.
Some of the advantages of SEO include:
- Quality Organic Traffic
Simply being on the first page of search engine results pages helps generate organic traffic, since it increases visibility and grabs the market’s attention simultaneously. Additionally, utilizing the right seo tools and implementing good seo strategies will help achieve quality traffic since the targeted audience is reached.
- Higher Conversion Rates
SEO enables your site to be easily seen by prospective customers by ranking well in search engines. As a result, your target market will know of your presence and conversion rates increases. Furthermore, focusing on Local SEO can also help you attract local clients. Being available to your local consumers can lead to repeat sales for your business. Moreover, providing them answers to local search queries can easily develop loyalty and trust between each other, thus enhancing the image of your brand.
- User-friendly Websites
A well-optimized website improves user experience. It loads faster, increases activity on your page and can generate sales. Giving valuable and properly crafted content helps retain your audience and keep their attention. Aside from this, well thought-out landing pages can boost clickthrough rates, kick-starting your sales process and customer journey.
- Long-Term Strategy
Search engine optimization can take time to produce results, but the long-term growth is worth the wait. Once you’ve mastered seo basics, learned how things work and landed at the top of the search engine results page, knocking you down isn’t easy. For this reason, it is important to invest in solid SEO strategies.
As a website owner, you need to be well-rounded about SEO. Although you do not have to do all the work – since you can easily hire an expert – it is important to understand how everything works together.
Here are three major types of SEO which are crucial for your overall SEO strategy:
On-page SEO, also referred to as On-site SEO, is the process of improving web pages and its content to rank higher on search engines and be easily reached by the target audience.
Some of the common onpage seo practices include:
- Publishing high-quality content
- Optimizing meta descriptions, title tags and alt attribute for images
- Creating internal links
- Integrating relevant keywords
Off-page SEO or Off-site SEO, are the activities done outside of the website to boost search rankings.
Here are a few common offpage SEO techniques:
- Joining in relevant forum discussions that offers do-follow links
- Partnering with influencers to leverage their authority
- Social bookmarking
Promoting on social media
Technical SEO, as its name implies, focuses on optimizing the technical elements of the website.
Technical SEO includes:
- Using SSL (Secure Sockets Layer)
- Creating a responsive website design (mobile-friendly)
- Improving the site’s loading time
- Creating an XML Sitemap
It takes continual effort to develop and implement an effective organic marketing strategy. Utilizing these three types of SEO all together will greatly help in boosting the search rankings of the website.
Optimizing your site can be a complicated process, which is why there’s few different ways to go about it. Depending on your business goals and values, these practices can be very effective. However, some are quite risky especially when dealing with the aftermath. Before committing to one technique, it is always best to sift through the pros and cons of each.
There are generally three different philosophies behind SEO:
White Hat SEO
White Hat SEO is the practice of improving websites to increase search rankings in result pages according to the terms and conditions of search engines. Since it adheres to the guidelines, this technique provides lasting results over time, with little-to-no-risk to your website. White Hat SEO focuses on a human audience and provides quality content in order to ensure that when search engines like Google crawl and index, the web pages are displayed on relevant search queries.
Common White Hat SEO Techniques:
- Content: In modern day SEO, quality content is king. Providing quality content will keep your audience interested and will likely drive organic traffic over time. Aside from this, good content marketing can help build credibility and generate leads for your business.
- Keyword Research: Keyword Research involves identifying relevant terms and phrases your target audience types into search engines, and then utilizing them accordingly. It helps create content that can rank higher on related search results and be more visible to the market. In addition to writing good content, adding keywords to title tags and meta tags will also boost a site’s search engine ranking.
- Mobile First: Since Google stated that pages that are not accessible from the mobile search results may not rank as high, responsive web pages become all the more necessary. An effective way to get started is by using accelerated mobile pages, also referred to as AMP. It is an open source framework by Google that enables mobile pages to load faster than a regular HTML. This helps improve user experience overall.
- Link Building: otherwise known as link sculpting, has been around since the beginning of the Internet. It is an essential part of getting organic traffic for your website by getting other sites linked back to yours. A website with effective link building strategy simply tells Google that it is a quality resource, thereby enabling it to rank higher on search engines. Link building is a major ranking factor in how Google ranks web pages.
- Schema markup is an online computer classification system, which makes it easier for search engines to provide users with helpful search results. It creates a description that is also referred to as rich snippets. The crawling indexing activity of search engines on web pages makes it possible to identify what the data means and present better information to the user.
Black Hat SEO
Black Hat SEO delivers faster results; however, it is a manipulative SEO technique that can be extremely risky when done incorrectly. Basically, Black Hat SEO is the opposite of traditional White Hat SEO. It lives along the edges of what is acceptable to Google’s terms of service guidelines to give the search engine more of what it wants, while simultaneously delivering web visitors and value to clients. Although results may be seen more quickly, they may only last a short time if not done correctly. As a matter of fact, the worst-case scenario is to be blacklisted from search engine results pages. This, too, can be reversed, but it’s better not to make the mistakes which lead to a Google penalty in the first place. Truly effective black hats can take any vanilla version of schema, link building, content generation, or other common SEO tools and use them in ways not intended or imagined, in order to game the search engines and provide clients with an unfair ranking advantage.
Common Black Hat SEO Strategies:
- Cloaking is a tactic used by black hats to trick search engines by providing different pieces of content to their crawlers and another to their users. Google considers it a violation of Google Webmaster Guidelines because it brings people irrelevant results that are of poor quality.
- Keyword Stuffing is the excessive use of keywords in content to rank higher in search engine results pages. In most cases, it hurts the reputation and quality of the site as the content does not look credible anymore. Keyword stuffing doesn’t work in the long run since search engines like Google can easily detect it. This is against Google’s guidelines and sites that practice it will eventually go down in rankings.
- Spam Comments on a blog post or site is a black hat tactic. In most instances, these are irrelevant comments intended to build links. Spam comments can ruin a site’s value and ruin their impression on visitors. Today there are tools that can do this automatically, which is why it’s more important to monitor and control the comments section of the site.
- Hidden Text is similar to keyword stuffing, but just hidden. The texts are colored in the same shade as the background in order to make it invisible. The site is added with relevant terms and phrases in order to improve its ranking in search engines. While large search engines might be unable to completely prevent these activities, they can still detect and index them, penalizing the site and potentially removing it from the result pages.
- Negative SEO is considered a form of Black Hat SEO because of its malicious practices, except that it targets on sabotaging the competitor’s website and its search engine ranking. Major search engines like Google have been stepping up their efforts to protect sites and search rankings from such SEO tactics. Negative SEO can be difficult to identify, but some of the tactics associated with it are link farming, duplicated content and malware attacks.
Gray Hat SEO
Gray Hat comprises of techniques which are in between Black Hat and White Hat SEO. It does not abide nor breach the terms and conditions of search engines, thereby making it difficult to employ since its consequences are uncertain in the long run. Gray Hat SEO changes from time to time and at any moment, certain tactics can be classified as white hat or worse, black hat. For this reason, search marketers who opt for this approach must be up-to-date with the latest classification on SEO strategies.
While this is not an ultimate guide to SEO, it’s a pretty decent overview. Search engine optimization is a vast subject. It is important to identify the business’s current needs regarding SEO, and work towards achieving them. Keep in mind that there’s no perfect website and we always gotta start somewhere. Prioritizing and tackling one area at a time will benefit you in the long run. After all… there’s no reason to rush–unless you’re losing potential money and/or clients… at which point I would highly recommend hiring an SEO expert.