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Search Engine Optimization: An Overview

Marcel Casella August 9, 2016

Search Engine Optimization: An Overview

Today, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is crucial to tackling the fierce competition between websites and thus having an actual chance of succeeding online. But, what is SEO exactly? Which parts of SEO are recommended and which should be avoided? Let’s begin with the basics.

What is Search Engine Optimization?

SEO is the continuous process of improving your website performance on specific search engines and for specific search terms. SEO comprises several techniques to position better in the search result pages (SERPs).

Why should you optimize your website?

The success of your website is tied with being at the top of the rankings. The first site in a SERP will get more visits than the one positioned second. Similarly, both of them will get several times more visits than anyone at the bottom of the first page, which in turn will receive many times more visits than results on page two, and so on.

The difference in traffic is so high, that the advantages and benefits of achieving a higher position in the SERPs surpass the costs and efforts that might be invested on it. This is particularly true for business and e-stores, for which a single rank can be the difference between success and bankruptcy. A good rule of thumb is aiming to sneak in the top five or ten results for a couple of specific search terms.

Understanding Search Engines

A successful SEO campaign can’t be conducted without a strategy. But there can’t be a strategy if we don’t know how search engines work. This information is crucial to differentiate useful tactics from useless ones. On a side note, when we talk about search engines we tend to refer to Google mainly. After all, Google dominates the market by a huge margin, hence it is considered a priority for many. However, the same SEO techniques can be somewhat suitable for both Bing and Yahoo.

The internet is enormous; it already holds over one billion websites. Finding specific information without the help of a search engine would be an impossible task. Search engines bring order into the chaos. To show you the most relevant pages for your queries, they build a gigantic index and modify it constantly as millions of websites are added, modified or enhanced on a daily basis. To accomplish such gargantuan task, search engines need tools to keep said index updated in real time, we are talking about automated programs called “crawlers”.

Crawlers travel around the web looking for specific information about websites that help them to include them in a specific category. They analyze text, images, videos and every single piece of code and then rank them using a positioning system based on relevance factors. If you can create your content taking into account those factors, your website will have better chances of getting high ranks.

Stablishing your SEO strategy

Reaching a place in the top page in the SERPs requires a lot of work if you aim to rank for broadly used keywords. It is generally advised to aim for more specific search terms, or even rank for more than one search term at once.

Choosing the right term to use as a keyword is perhaps the most important part of your SEO campaign. There are a lot of technical issues to consider (your target audience, word use trends, etc.). So you may want to get some help from agencies specialized in providing general SEO services and keyword research services to get started.

The next step is to start creating content taking into account the factors that are relevant for a website to position well in SERPs.

Search Engine Ranking Factors

The relevance of a given website is determined by lots of factors. Commenting on every single one would take a lot of time. However, the main reason we can’t do that is because we don’t know them all. Nonetheless, we can explain those who have proven to be crucial for a good positioning. They can be separated in two major groups:

On Page Factors

On page factors are a series of elements that the publisher of the content can manipulate and modify at will. Among these we can find:

  1. Content quality: Is perhaps the heaviest of all. Google algorithms are getting very good at detecting original, engaging and high-quality content that provides solutions to their users. So above all, you should focus on generating useful content if you want to rank in the SERPs. Otherwise, Google might flag your content as “thin” content without added value.
  2. Keywords use: We already talked about the best way to choose them. But a vital issue you must address when trying to rank is how you use your keywords. Once you find your right set of keywords, use them moderately; avoid deceptive practices like stuffing or hiding words using the colors or design of your website.
  3. Crawler friendliness: is your website easily scanned by search engines? Make sure to structure your pages in an orderly manner and avoid confusing configurations. Make use of tags to distinguish your titles and sub-titles from regular text. This is the best way to make bots understand better the topic of your website.

Additional on page Search Engine Optimization factors include: content freshness, content diversity (including images and videos), the presence of duplicate content (mostly from boilerplate content), mobile friendliness and speed.

Off Page Factors

This comprises all aspects that are influenced by your visitors, readers and the relationships with other sites. You can’t manipulate these directly, but if you apply the on page factors correctly, you have better chances that off page factors will act in your favor as a consequence. Among these we count:

  1. Authority: This factor measures how trustworthy your website. It usually combines other factors as links or social shares. But once you achieve some authority, every post you produce will have an additional weight over similar content with less authority.
  2. User Engagement: It refers to the amount of time the average user spends on your website. A related factor is called “bounce rate” and shows how frequently a user leaves your website shortly upon arrival.
  3. Links: Search engines favor those websites with a strong presence on the internet. If your website is referenced by many others using links, that will be a solid signal of the quality of your content. This factor only counts if the websites that include links to your content are respected and well-known.

Other off page factors include your site’s age (older = better, but this is not an absolute), website’s location, its presence in social networks, and number of shares.

Start practicing!

Search Engine Optimization can be challenging and overwhelming. It is because there are lots of different topics which in turn are in constant expansion. However, with a basic understanding of the core concepts you can improve your site´s performance very quickly. There are lots of free educative resources around the internet that you can use to upgrade your knowledge step by step. So keep reading and trying new things until you find what works best for your website. Good luck!