What Is SEO and How Does It Work?
SEO or search engine optimization refers to the process of optimizing your web pages to rank higher on Google and other search engines for relevant and popular search queries. And, therefore, it helps you attract more clicks and website visits.
The more traffic you want to attract, the higher you should get your site ranked. Because the first five organic search results get 67.60% of all clicks.
How can you make sure that your site ranks in the top 5 results?
You’ll need to optimize your website for:
- Relevant keywords
- Technical aspects
- Content quality and relevance
- User experience
Optimizing your website for these parameters comes under the practice of search engine optimization. It can help improve the visibility of your web pages in the search results on all major search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
Are you ready to rank higher in search engine results to get more organic traffic, leads, and sales?
Then, keep reading this post. Be sure to implement the best SEO practices mentioned below for your own website.
Table of Contents
Why Is SEO Important?
SEO is important because it helps you rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs) and get more visibility.
When done right, search engine optimization (SEO) will help you:
- Improve search rankings. Leveraging the best SEO practices can help your web pages get more exposure on search engines. The higher you rank, the greater your chances to get found by your target audience will be.
- Increase organic search traffic. Ranking well in the SERPs will help you get more clicks and traffic.
- Gain trust and authority. When Google and other search engines recommend your content to users, it will help you gain their trust. People will start seeing you as an expert in the field and will likely look to you for advice, tips, and products/services.
In all, doing SEO right will directly benefit the overall growth of your business.
SEO has helped me make it easier for search engines to discover my content and get 155K+ monthly organic search traffic to my website.
How Do Search Engines Work?
When a user searches for any term, search engines like Google look for web pages that can provide the best answers to the user’s query.
Search engine algorithms crawl countless websites and list web pages considering their relevance and authority among other ranking factors.
When you search “grow vegetables at home,” Google shows you videos and articles related to gardening tips, types of vegetables you can grow at home, etc.
Whereas, if you search “best laptops 2021,” Google will show you laptop reviews, comparison posts, and shoppable links.
What does this suggest?
Google and major search engines try to understand user intent and deliver the most relevant results to satisfy their query.
If you want to learn how to do something, Google will show you educational videos, articles, and guides. However, if you want to buy a product, the search engine will show you product reviews and comparisons, and direct you to ecommerce sites.
All of this to make a searcher’s life easier!
What does this mean for business owners, professionals, and anyone who wants to rank in the SERPs?
You need to invest in search engine optimization to ensure that Google shows your web pages to their searchers.
How Does SEO Work?
When ranking web pages in search results, Google uses over 200 parameters to decide which websites offer the most relevant and satisfactory information.
SEO or search engine optimization helps you meet those parameters to tell search engines that your content is the best result for a particular topic.
Once search engines trust your website, they’ll show your web pages on their search results pages. After all, the end goal of every search algorithm is to deliver the best and most relevant results to their users.
My site is currently ranking for 3,699 keywords in the top 3 search results.
Wondering what these parameters are?
I’ll cover them in the coming sections of this SEO guide.
Types of SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) can be broadly divided into two categories: on-page SEO and off-page SEO.
Let’s take a look at the key differences between the two and the parameters that each of them covers.
On-page SEO refers to the process of optimizing elements that are available on your website, including your website content and technical aspects. The factors that affect on-page SEO include but are not limited to:
- Title tags
- Meta descriptions
- URL structures
- Web pages copy
- Blog posts content
- Image alt tags
- Page load speed
- Mobile friendliness
- Schema markups
Off-page SEO refers to the process of optimizing elements outside of your own website to improve your search rankings. These include but are not limited to:
- Social reach and mentions
- Brand mentions on authoritative websites
- Business directory listings and citations
SEO Strategies That Can Help You Rank on Google and Other Search Engines
Let’s take a look at a few SEO strategies that can help you optimize your site for both on-page and off-page SEO parameters.
On-Page SEO Strategies
Some of the most popular and useful on-page SEO strategies include:
Optimize Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
Every page on your site should have a title tag and meta description, which includes the main keyword.
Title tags are ideally 50-60 characters long while meta descriptions are 150-160 characters long (including spaces).
You can see these on search results pages.
Optimize Internal Linking
Google and other search engines use internal links to crawl all of the pages of your site. So, if you want search engines to discover your content, be sure to link to relevant posts and pages on your website.
Optimize Your Site for Page Speed
Page speed refers to how fast your site loads on desktop and mobile devices.
When searchers click on web pages that take too long to load, they are likely to get annoyed and bounce off. Google values user experience and satisfaction the most.
If you want search engines to keep ranking your web pages well, you should optimize your site for page speed.
Just use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to test your page speed.
It will list site issues that might cause your site to load slower and opportunities to improve the speed further.
Leverage those suggestions to fix your website issues. You’ll be able to improve your page speed and user experience.
Add Structured Data
Adding structured data to your web pages can help search engines understand what your content is all about more easily and quickly.
It can increase your chances of getting featured in rich snippets, which give more information to the user.
For example, if you search for “italian pasta recipe,” rich snippets offer details like cooking time, ingredients, and user ratings.
Getting featured in rich snippets can help you get more clicks and search traffic. All you need to do is add structured data to every page on your website.
Off-Page SEO Strategies
Some of the most popular and useful off-page SEO strategies include:
Claim Your Business Listings
Every business that wants to attract local prospects should claim their Google My Business (GMB) listing.
Here’s the information you’ll need to provide to create your business listings:
- NAP information or the name, address, phone number of your business
- Your business hours
- Business description – I recommend that you include relevant keywords in the description
- Your business website URL
- Photos related to your business, store, products, etc.
By claiming your business listing, you’ll be able to rank your business in local business snippets on Google.
In addition to claiming your GMB listing, you should also list your business on Yelp and other online business directories and citation sites.
This practice will help you get local search engine traffic and build more links.
Don’t forget to leverage other useful local SEO strategies that can help people in your region find your business.
You should write guest posts for relevant, high DA (domain authority) websites and ask them to link back to relevant posts and pages on your website.
This off-page SEO practice will help you:
- Earn quality backlinks.
- Build readership.
- Drive referral traffic to your website.
- Increase trust and authority.
I frequently guest post on top publications like Forbes, Inc.com, HubSpot, CMI, Mention.com, Social Media Today, Search Engine Journal, and more.
Regularly contributing to other websites as a guest blogger and participating in expert roundups has helped me build 284K backlinks from over 8,000 domains.
Check out my list of 2100+ guest posting sites to get started.
Do Social Media Promotions
Promote your content and products/services on multiple social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Social mentions and shares also contribute to link building and, thereby, help you improve your search rankings.
One of the easiest and fastest ways to earn backlinks is to create shareable infographics.
Most sites readily agree to syndicate infographics with a unique introduction of 250-400 words. In exchange, you can get a backlink to your website and also increase your readership and authority in the long run.
I usually create infographics on topics related to digital marketing, social media, SEO, content marketing, and influencer marketing. And, let other sites embed them on relevant posts on their sites.
Black Hat vs. White Hat SEO
White hat SEO refers to the practice of using the correct, ethical way to optimize your site. It refers to using SEO strategies that:
- Follow search engine guidelines.
- Focus on providing users the best possible results.
- Focus on a long-term approach to generate lasting results.
On the other hand, black hat SEO refers to using the easy but unethical way to improve your search rankings. It includes using strategies that:
- Violate search engine guidelines.
- Rely on manipulative tactics to improve rankings.
- Focus on quick wins.
How to Do Search Engine Optimization (SEO) the Right Way
Let me guide you through the process of optimizing your website for search engine algorithms.
Conduct an SEO Audit
First things first, it is important to understand the current positioning of your website on search engine results pages.
You should use a platform like Semrush or Ahrefs to conduct a thorough website audit to test the overall site health.
Semrush’s site audit feature makes it easier to identify and fix issues that can be preventing your site from ranking well in search results.
You just need to resolve the issues one by one to improve your search engine marketing results.
Do Extensive Keyword Research
Performing keyword research will help you understand how your target audience looks for information and products/services. You can then create content targeting the most relevant and popular keywords for your business.
You can use free tools like Google Keyword Planner and Ubersuggest to do basic keyword research. However, for advanced searches, I recommend using tools like Semrush or Serpstat.
Semrush has a database of over 21 billion keywords to search from. You can get details related to any particular keyword, which include:
- Search volume
- Keyword difficulty score – how difficult it would be to rank for it
- Keyword variations
- Related keywords
- SERP results
Follow my extensive guide on how to do keyword research to find the right keywords to target. You should also research competitive keywords to identify keywords that your competitors are targeting and ranking for.
Also, check out:
- Keyword suggestion tools
- Google Keyword tool alternatives
- Semrush alternatives
Publish High-Quality Content
When creating content for SEO, you should:
- Understand search intent by checking out the top-ranking posts on a particular keyword.
- Figure out what type of content will satisfy the user – blog posts, product pages, landing pages, or something else.
- When writing on informational topics, analyze what type of posts are ranking on Google – how-to guides, listicles, or something else.
You should use tools such as Surfer to analyze the key terms included in top-ranking posts on the topic and their frequency. This content optimization tool can also help you identify the right word count for your article.
The content you write should be:
- Well researched
- Easily readable
- Structured properly with headings and subheadings
- Visually rich with screenshots, examples, graphs, etc.
- Plagiarism free
- Optimized for the target keyword and its variations
Optimize Your Site for Technical SEO Parameters
Optimizing your content is not enough. You also need to ensure that your site’s technical aspects are up to the mark if you want to improve your search engine rankings.
Here are a few tips for doing technical SEO right:
- Set up the title tag and meta description of each blog post and page on your website. You can install the Yoast plugin to do this easily on your WordPress site.
- Optimize your images by using descriptive image file names and alt text.
- Verify your site with the Google Search Console.
- Use SEO-friendly URL structures.
- Optimize your site for page speed using a free tool like Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.
- Get an SSL certificate for your site security. 98.5% of top-ranking sites are secured with HTTPS encryption.
- Set up an organized site structure using categories, subcategories, single product/blog post pages, etc.
- Add internal links on keyword-rich anchor text.
- Ensure that your website is mobile-friendly. You can test it using Google’s free tool – Mobile-Friendly Test.
Build High-Quality Links
Backlinks help Google understand the reliability, trustworthiness, and authoritativeness of your website in your niche. This will increase your chances of ranking well in search results.
For link building, you need to:
- Identify relevant, high DA websites that are likely to link back to your website.
- Once you’ve selected a few sites, reach out to publishers or site editors for guest posting topic ideas.
- Write high-quality content for the site owners who show interest in collaboration.
- Include a link back to a relevant blog post or resource on your site.
- Submit the article for publishing.
- Earn backlinks.
From time to time, you should also audit your link profile.
Here’s my backlink analysis report by Semrush:
Semrush’s link building tool also enables you to identify the best link building opportunities. You can get a list of domains that will most likely link back to your web pages.
1. What is SEO? And how it works.
SEO (search engine optimization) refers to the process of optimizing your web pages to rank higher on search engine results pages.
When a user searches for any keyword, Google and other search engines look for web pages that provide the most relevant information about the topic. And, it lists those pages on search results pages, ranking them based on their relevance and authority.
By using SEO tactics, you can help search engines trust your content for its reliability and, thereby, increase your chances of ranking well in search results.
That’s how SEO works.
2. How do you properly do SEO?
You can properly do SEO by:
- Conducting site audits.
- Researching the most relevant keywords for your niche.
- Publishing high-quality content.
- Optimizing your title tags, meta descriptions, URL structures, page speed, and other technical aspects.
- Building backlinks from relevant, high DA sites.
3. How long does it take for SEO to work?
SEO is a long-term marketing tactic. So, you shouldn’t look for a quick win. It can take up to 6 months before you can start seeing the results of your SEO efforts.
However, you’ll get many long-term benefits in the form of increased authority, brand awareness, website traffic, and popularity.
4. How do I know if SEO is working for me?
You should use tools such as Google Analytics and Semrush to track metrics like:
- Organic search traffic
- Number of pages ranking on Google
- Domain authority (DA)
- Number of backlinks
- Number of referring domains
- Page authority (PA)
- Number of brand mentions
5. Can I do SEO on my own?
Yes, you can do SEO on your own by following the practices and processes discussed above. However, it’s always better to have an expert do it for you.
Now that we’ve discussed what SEO is, why it is important, and how to do it, it’s time to take actions. So, start optimizing your website to help search engines discover your content.
Here’s what you should do next:
- Sign up for a 30-day FREE Semrush PRO trial.
- Conduct a thorough website audit to understand the current positioning of your site and identify major SEO issues that might be pulling you down.
- Start fixing SEO issues using the strategies, tools, and processes we’ve discussed in this post.
- Check out other powerful SEO tools that might help.
Do you have questions about search engine optimization? Or, do you want to hire experts to do SEO for you? Reach out to my team of SEO experts here to get started.