How Does Search Engine Optimization Work: Getting Traffic & Rankings In A Nutshell
So how does SEO really work? What is involved? Okay, I’m sure there’re a million things involved, but at its heart – how does SEO work?
The first thing we need to understand is that Google’s goal is to deliver the best search results to users, for any given search query.
For example, if you type in tips on dog training, Google wants to provide you the absolute best article – and they do a pretty good job at it. The first page is Google’s interpretation of the #1 best; the second page is Google’s interpretation of the 2nd best, and so on.
So How Does Google Define The “Best” Search Results?
Search Engines judge the best web page, article, blog post, or whatever it is – by how well it pleases the individual searchers, based on their search query. They use a combination of signals and factors to judge the most relevant content and the most important content.
Relevancy of Content
SEO starts with content. Just remember, there is no such thing as SEO without content or value. Always remember that.
Relevancy of content is about how well you answer the searcher’s question, how much you quench their thirst for information, how much you deliver basically what it is they are looking for – whether it be a product, information, or entertainment.
The more relevant a specific web page is for a particular search query, the more likely it will be ranked highly in the organic search results. So the question of the hour is, How do you get relevant content?
How To Make Your Content Relevant
This notion of “Relevant content” can be challenging to produce. Your content needs to be relevant to, not only users but also to software programs. The software programs are Search engines, and the big daddy of them all is Google’s search engine. The Google “algorithm” is based on a set of algorithmic, mathematical equations.
So SEO is about finding that happy medium between pleasing a robot and a human. This is why SEO is often considered a science and art.
Optimizing For The User
Relevant content requires an investment in superb, quality content. It requires proper keyword research and consumer psychology to craft content that is in alignment with the customers needs.
- High-Quality Content: High-quality content encompasses many different aspects. For one, it must be written very clearly and without grammar mistakes or spelling errors. We use a combination of manual editing and Grammarly for that. It also must be completely original. It must pass Copyscape and any other Google test for unique content. This means you cannot copy another web page’s content.
- Clearly and Well Written
- Great Information
- Original Content
- Linking To Other Helpful Sources: Only do this if it is relevant or helps the users. You can link out to other helpful pages that assist in strengthening your argument or to supplement your material. This is something that often provides value to your users. Just be sure to make it, so it opens in a new window.
- Linking To Internal Pages: Linking to other blog articles or pages you have written can also help add value to your website visitors. If there is a relevant page to what you are talking about, throw in a link. Look how useful Wikipedia is when reading a page on any given topic. They place links to other articles throughout their pages.
In short, the content must match the users search query, and fulfill whatever need the searcher had intended.
Optimizing For The Search Engine Bots
- Good Website Architecture: This can get pretty technical, so the thing you just need to focus on is: how easily can people find your content. If they land on your homepage and have to click through 10 links to get to a page, this isn’t the best user experience, nor is as easy for Google’s bots to crawl (scan your web pages).
- Good User Experience (UX): This is very similar to the website architecture. However, there are many other things you can do to increase user experience. This mostly is implemented when doing the initial website design.
- Thematic Relevance: Google loves websites that are focused on a theme or topic. A site that has 100 pages of health articles vs a site that have 30 health articles 30 finance articles and 30 personal development articles will probably not do as well as the website that is focused on health, compared to the multiple subject website.
- Siloed Themes (If Multiple Themes): If a site does have many themes, a website architecture should be developed to organized the content into multiple categories. Basically, you are only linking pages to other similar pages. For example, say you have a website about Exercise and Nutrition. Idealy you link your exercise articles to each other, and you link the nutrition articles to each other, but not linking to exercise articles to nutrition articles.
- Keywords Throughout All Pages (or siloed pages): One way that Google can decipher what your website theme as a whole is, is by looking at all the keywords on all your pages, and how they relate to each other. Google is good at deciphering your entire theme, and thus Google may perceive a highly specialised website as an authority on that topic. This authority on your subject matter may help you rank higher fro any given article that is about that central theme.
- Optimize For The User First: Though you should optimize for search engine bots, you should focus on optimizing for the user first; refer to the above-bulleted list under user optimization.
- Keyword Placement: Keyword placement is an important signal to search engine algorithms. If you have your keyword in the very beginning of the page, spread throughout, and at the end, chances are your pages is about that keyword. An SEO will try naturally spread out the usage of the main keyword, and related keywords.
- Keyword Density: Keyword density is basically how many times you use the keyword throughout the text. For example, if your article has 1000 words and your main keyword shows up 10 times, you have a keyword density of 1% (10/1000*100). Keyword density is a somewhat of an old school SEO metric, and there is no single number. Just make sure to include your keywords throughout your pages.
- LSI Keywords: LSI keywords are just a fancy name for synonyms. There are several keywords for each keyword phrase that Google looks for. For example, if you had a page about “best dog training techniques”, the LSI keywords might be top dog training tips or best dog training tools.
- Length Of Content: Though the length of the content isn’t proven to increase rankings by itself, it is correlated with higher rankings. The reason is that naturally good, in-depth content tends to be longer.
Importance of Content
Ranking in Google also requires that the content is “important,” relative to other similar competing pages. To be important means that the website as a whole and the particular page is popular online. Meaning, other websites should be linking to your website and preferably the particular page you are trying to rank. Also, in the Social Media world, shares may also count as votes of popularity.
- Backlinks: Other third party websites linking to you
- Social Signals: Social shares, number of friends and followers, activity, etc
These are called backlinks, and they are no easy task. They also don’t always happen on their own, and it needs the SEO to promote the content and build relationships to get natural backlinks. Fantastic content coupled with lots of promotion is a white hat method of a link building.
This is the basis of content marketing, and can do wonders for an SEO campaign. There is some other white hat link building methods, but most other link building campaigns that people commonly implement are typically black or gray hat.
The True Job Of An SEO
The job of an SEO – or search engine optimizer, is not to optimize on-page and off-page elements. The actual job of an SEO (should be) to create or assist in the development of high quality, optimized content, to prove relevancy; Then their job is to promote that content to influence the websites’ and the web page’s popularity (authority).
In this sense, the job of an SEO is not to manipulate its rankings (as many people think), but to prove itself to Google through providing value and promoting that value.