SEO is the acronym in English for Search Engine Optimization (search engine optimization) and is a practice that consists of optimizing your web pages so that they are better positioned in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
SEO is an effective and inexpensive marketing strategy that helps drive traffic to a website and increase conversion rates.
To better understand what SEO is, this article will guide you through the basics of search engines and SEO, it will explain how search algorithms work and what factors influence the web positioning of your site.
At the end of the article, you will also find SEO best practices and comprehensive resources to expand your knowledge.
SEO vs. SEM: What’s the Difference?
We already saw what SEO (Search Engine Optimization) means.
Now we will briefly go over the difference between SEO and SEM.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) are marketing strategies that businesses use to reach their audiences through search results.
The key difference is that SEO focuses on optimizing pages to rank better through organic traffic.
This refers to users who come from search engines like Google or Bing.
For its part, SEM uses payment strategies to increase the visibility of a web page in search engines.
Visitors from paid traffic come from clicking on ads generated on Google Ads or other platforms.
While SEO takes some time to give consistent and long-lasting results, SEM offers almost instant results.
You’ll quickly see how many clicks and conversions your ads are generating on search engines.
Despite being different, SEO and SEM go hand in hand.
A good SEO foundation is necessary for a successful SEM strategy.
Optimizing your landing pages with keywords can improve your Google Quality Score and increase your site’s visibility.
What Factors Influence SEO and are the Most Important?
As the primary search engine, Google processes more than 6.5 billion searches a day.
Therefore, ranking high in Google results can drive significant traffic to your site.
For this reason, it is essential to pay close attention to Google’s web positioning factors.
These factors, which are constantly evolving along with Google’s search algorithms, help deliver the most relevant content for a better user experience.
From load time to page security, these are the most important SEO factors to know:
- Page speed. Defines the amount of time a web page takes to load. A page that loads quickly helps your site rank better in search engines. Regularly monitor your site’s performance and use speed analysis tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom’s speed test to get insight into your site’s performance.
- Compatibility with mobile devices. A responsive design automatically adjusts web page elements to accommodate different screen sizes, providing an optimal experience for users on all devices. Responsive and mobile-friendly site pages will appear higher in search engines. Check Google’s mobile-friendliness test to measure how easy your site is to use.
- High-quality content. It offers relevant and objective information to answer specific queries. Google evaluates content length, structure, relevant keywords, and information. Always create unique and original content to attract more users and increase the visibility of your site.
- Backlinks. Also known as inbound links, they are links to your website located on other sites, which serve as an indicator of the authority of your site. When a website or blog includes your link in its content, it marks your site as a relevant source. Pages with high-quality inbound links from credible sites may rank higher on search engine pages.
- User experience. Google measures user experience through various indicators, such as bounce rate and dwell time. When visitors arrive at a site and leave soon after, Google considers the site irrelevant. On the other hand, if visitors stay for a while, it is a sign that the site provides valuable information.
- Site security. It includes all the actions to protect a page and its visitors from cyberattacks. Thus, Google gives priority to sites protected by HTTPS. Meanwhile, a site without it is marked as unsafe and will most likely drive away visitors. Since security is a priority for all web users, it is essential to add an SSL certificate to your site.
How Does SEO Work?
Google and other search engines work to collect, organize, and display relevant information to answer user queries.
To do this, they carry out three main processes:
- trace. Search engines rely on a team of web crawlers, also known as web spiders or simply bots, who are tasked with finding up-to-date content on the web. Web crawlers help discover and collect the information needed to index a page.
- indexing. It refers to a process in which search engines store and organize collected web pages. Once web crawlers find information on a site, such as keywords and fresh content, they add the web page to the search index. When users search for relevant information, the search engine will retrieve the indexed web page.
- Positioning. The web pages in the index will be displayed in the search results from the most relevant content to the least relevant.
SEO improves your web presence by making your site more attractive to search engines.
In other words, it is used to determine how well your site goes through this series of steps, from crawling to web positioning.
For example, well-structured internal links on your pages make it easy for web crawlers to jump from one page to another.
This allows them to explore your website in-depth and index more content.
In addition, search engine algorithms also take other ranking factors into account, such as relevant keywords, the quality of internal links, and content freshness.
Therefore, optimizing your website content with these factors in mind can significantly increase your search rankings.
What are the Different Types of SEO?
Here’s a brief summary of the four main types of SEO along with their core elements.
- On-page SEO: Site content, keyword optimization, title tags, alternative text for images.
- Off-page SEO: Link building, influencer marketing, social networks, forums.
- Technical SEO: Site speed, schema markup, internal links, SSL certificate.
- Local SEO: Local keywords, business profile, customer reviews, local content.
To give you a better understanding of SEO, the following sections will reveal the definitions of each type, how it works, and how it applies.
On-page SEO refers to the process of optimizing the individual pages of a site to increase its position in organic search engine results.
This type of SEO focuses on both the page content and the HTML source code, including title tags, header tags, and meta descriptions.
Thus, the page will be attractive to web users and search engine crawlers.
On-page SEO also helps to organize your page so that web crawlers can easily analyze the content and index it for relevant searches.
To guide you in on-page SEO optimization, we have put together some of the main practices that you should know:
- Site content. Google uses a framework known as EAT (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness) to assess the quality of content, pages, and sites. Favor high-quality content from trusted authors and trusted pages. Therefore, to rank higher in search results, you need to make sure that your page meets these criteria.
- Keyword Optimization. Including keywords in your content helps the search algorithm to identify the type of information you are providing. Conduct keyword research with SEO tools like Ahrefs Keywords Explorer or Google Keyword Planner to find a target keyword and build your content around it. Of course, make sure that the distribution of the keywords is natural to avoid Google’s penalty for keyword stuffing.
- Title tag. Also known as a page title, it appears as a clickable link that people see on search engine results pages. Determines the relevance of the page to the user’s search intent. A well-written headline will generate more clicks and drive more traffic to the page. In addition, concise titles that contain keywords are favored and ranked higher by search engines like Google.
- Header tags. Breaking content into pieces with header tags provides a better user experience and makes it easier for web crawlers to index the page. When users type their search terms, the search engine will search for any relevant information using these tags as a guide. In this way, the chances of your page appearing higher in search engines increase.
- Alternative text of the image. Alternative text is an attribute that describes a specific image that the site can’t display and is useful for visually impaired users. Screen readers use the alt text information to describe the image. This text informs the search engine that the image is a valuable piece of your content. This provides additional organic ranking opportunities for your page, as it can appear in Google image search results.
- Meta description. Refers to the short description of pages in the SERPs, which appear as snippets along with the page title and URL. Meta descriptions include keywords and accurately describe the information the page offers. A good meta description can drive more clicks and lower bounce rates if the content meets the user’s intent.
Off-page SEO refers to any action taken outside the site to improve its position in search results.
It allows the search engine to know how the public perceives a site, a company, or a product.
As a result, a well-constructed off-page SEO strategy can help your website increase its page authority and rank higher in search engines.
These are some factors of this type of SEO that must be taken into account:
- Link building. It refers to the process of acquiring links from other websites to your site. The Google algorithm relies heavily on links. Every link you receive serves as a vote of confidence for your site. However, you should always prioritize quantity over quality and make sure you only get quality links from trusted sites.
- Marketing in social networks. Building a strong social media presence is important to your business. It is a resource for users to check their reputation. Posting engaging content on social media helps reach a larger audience. Also, if your content manages to get traffic from different parts of the world, the search engine will see that your site is trustworthy.
- Influencer Marketing. Building relationships with brands or influencers is a great way to build brand awareness. Done right, influencer marketing can help support your brand and drive new audiences to your site. In this way, you can get more traffic and recognition.
- Forums. Forum pages like Quora, Reddit, and Stack Overflow are excellent opportunities to promote your website. There, you can participate in real conversations between users by answering questions, which allows you to show your expertise and credibility. Additionally, you can add a link to a page on your site and drive organic search traffic.
Although link building is the central aspect of this strategy, all activities that take place outside of a site are considered off-page SEO and should not be overlooked.
Technical SEO is the process of optimizing the technical aspects of your website to ensure that it meets the criteria of a search engine algorithm.
This includes optimization for speed, compatibility with mobile devices, and the architecture of the page.
Technical SEO optimization will guide a search engine like Google to easily detect and index your pages.
Thus, it will reward a well-optimized technical SEO website with a higher position in search results.
Technical SEO not only helps improve your search engine rankings but also influences the user experience.
Users and search engines prefer a well-structured site with fast loading time and high security, which are all essential factors of technical SEO.
There are several aspects of technical SEO that you should take into account when optimizing your website:
- Page load speed. A website with pages that take too long to load will have a higher bounce rate and worse web positioning. Measures like caching, image compression, and reducing page redirects are some of the effective ways to optimize speed. Also, you can use tools like GTmetrix and PageSpeed Insights to find out which components you should optimize.
- Structured data. It refers to the tags that you can add to your HTML code to help a search engine better identify your content. Adding structured data will improve your page snippets in search results. For example, you can add ratings or reviews along with the meta description to make the page more attractive. This can drive more traffic and improve your site’s click-through rate.
- Internal links. It is the process of including hyperlinks that point to other pages on the same website. By placing internal links, search engine crawlers will find and index more pages on your site. When implemented correctly, internal links can also improve page authority, enhance the browsing experience, and increase your page dwell time.
- XML sitemaps. Simply put, an XML sitemap is a collection of the URLs of your pages. It serves as a road map and allows crawlers to get to the important pages of your website more quickly. The Yoast SEO plugin offers an easy way to build an XML sitemap for WordPress sites. You can also use free generators like InSpyder or Screaming Frog.
- Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). This web framework generates lightweight pages that optimize load time for mobile users. By enabling AMP, Google will serve your web pages via a designated cache, allowing your page to load faster, if not instantly. Also, Google gives priority to AMP sites, making this framework a tie-breaker among high-quality sites.
- SSL certificate. A website with an SSL certificate will enable HTTPS on its URL. This indicates that all information transferred between a website and its users is secured and encrypted. Since Google uses HTTPS as one of its web positioning factors, activating it makes your web page reach better search positions. If your web host plan comes with an SSL certificate, make sure to activate it.
Local SEO is a practice to improve the visibility of local businesses in search results.
It provides greater exposure and allows companies to promote their brands, products, and services in local communities.
When people search for “nearby doctors” or “nearby pet stores,” search engines identify their locations through their IP addresses and present relevant results accordingly.
To get a place in search engines locally, you need to optimize your local SEO.
In this type of search, Google presents a map followed by three organic results.
For example, when users search for “restaurants in Madrid”, the SERP will present three local businesses first along with a snippet of their locations on Google Maps.
If you want your business to appear in these positions, pay close attention to the different aspects of local SEO:
- Google My Business (GMB) profile. The map that appears in the first results of Google local search comes from the GMB profiles. You must first create an account. Be sure to fill in accurate and complete information, such as your name, address, and phone number, as this information will serve as a web positioning factor. Additionally, Google also ranks a GMB profile based on its distance, prominence, and relevance to a search.
- Local keyword research. Done right, including local keywords on your pages can give your SERP rankings a boost. Make a list of keywords that describe your products or services, and then add location-based modifiers. An SEO tool like Ahrefs can help you identify keyword performance based on search volume and difficulty.
- Localized content. By targeting a specific demographic, localized content can help improve the visibility of your business website. Create locally relevant content that meets the demand of your target audience. From blog posts and guides to case studies and recommendations, be sure to choose the ones that fit your business niche.
- Customer Reviews. Reviews show that customers trust your business and Google will notice this. Therefore, start encouraging your customers to leave their comments. You can do this by sending them an email or by providing a review page. Since Google also takes into account the opinions of third parties, be sure to monitor your opinions online.
SEO Best Practices: Ways to Improve Google Rankings
With so many factors influencing your website’s search engine rankings, it’s crucial to implement SEO best practices.
The application of wrong and obsolete strategies will not only harm your web positioning but can also affect your traffic and conversions.
We have prepared a list of best practices to improve SEO and stay ahead of the competition.
Target Long-Tail Keywords
Keyword research is essential for SEO optimization.
It shows you everything from what people are searching for to the terms your competitors are ranking for.
Therefore, it is important to know what SEO keyword research is and to perform it efficiently.
First of all, you need to understand the different types of SEO keywords:
- Seeds. They are the keywords that define your niche and act as the foundation for expanding your content. The keyword can be as simple as “coffee” or “what is SEO”.
- Synonyms. Keywords with the same meaning but composed differently attract similar search results. For example, “how to fix broken headphones” can be changed to “how to fix broken headphones.”
- Long-Tail (long-tail). Longer, more particular phrases that answer a specific search query. They usually have three or more keywords, like “gluten-free chocolate chip cookie recipe.”
- Semantically Related. These keywords are conceptually related to each other. For example, “visit Los Angeles” is semantically related to “plane tickets to Los Angeles” and “best destinations in Los Angeles.”
The key to optimizing SEO with keyword research is to target a topic relevant to your industry that has good traffic potential based on metrics like:
- Search Volume. It determines how many people search for a specific query in a certain time and is usually measured with data at the national level.
- Keyword difficulty. Also known as keyword competition, this metric measures how difficult it is to rank for a keyword in Google’s organic search results.
Fortunately, SEO tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, and Google Keyword Planner can easily identify these metrics.
A high search volume keyword attracts more organic search traffic but is also more competitive.
Targeting high-volume keywords means competing with high-quality sites that have higher authority.
On the other hand, long-tail keywords have less competition and allow you to create highly relevant content for your audience.
Start by improving your website traffic using long-tail keywords and build your SEO keyword strategy from there.
Match Your Content to Search Intent
Search engine algorithms help present specific results to users based on the purpose of their search.
For example, Google not only provides users with relevant search results but is able to determine their specific search intent.
When a user searches for “how to connect a JBL Bluetooth speaker,” Google will present pages or videos that contain instructions of some kind.
Instead, when a user searches for “buy a JBL Bluetooth speaker,” Google instantly shows e-commerce pages in the top results.
This is because search algorithms can detect the top four search intents and act accordingly.
- Informative. It refers to users who want to know or learn about something. Searches for this intent include, but are not limited to, phrases with “how”, “who is”, and “what is”.
- Navigation. Users with this intent seek to visit specific sites. Instead of typing the URL in the address bar, users choose to browse through Google. Some examples of searches with this intent are “Access to Reddit”, “Facebook”, and “Spotify”.
- Commercial. Users often perform this search before making a purchase. They research and compare various brands, products, or services to find the best option. A common query for this search intent looks like “gaming laptops 2021” or “best restaurants near me”.
- Transactional. These search engines target a specific product or service to purchase. Searches often include brand names, such as “Buy Samsung Galaxy S20” or “Air Jordan Retro for sale.”
For example, to rank for a keyword like “natural facial cleansers,” you need to craft your content with informational intent.
Focus on answering possible questions related to the sector, write about the benefits of natural products, tips for healthy skin, or natural products for the face.
But it’s different when you want to position yourself for the “best webcams for streaming”.
Users with this intention simply want to compare the best streaming webcams.
Therefore, this belongs to commercial intent.
With this in mind, SEO’s best practice is to align your content to suit different types of intent.
In short, identify what your users want and give them an answer.
Include the Target Keyword in the Title Tags
The title tag is essential for your website. It gives users insight into your content and helps them see why it’s relevant to their searches.
Users want to find web pages that display keywords relevant to their queries.
That’s why Google recommends that you create effective titles and snippets for search results.
When you optimize a title tag with a target keyword, you give the search engine more opportunities to discover your website and rank better for it.
For example, the first few results for “how to increase productivity at work” contain a specific target keyword.
The fundamental thing is to place the main keyword at the beginning of the title.
Not only can it grab the attention of users, but it also helps search engines determine what the page is about.
However, make sure the keyword placement sounds natural and avoid using unnecessary words.
In addition to optimizing your title tags, it’s also important to craft your meta descriptions.
This allows you to reflect on what the content is about and attract users to click on the page.
Some SEO tips to keep in mind are to keep descriptions to around 150 characters, use active voice, and keep them practical.
If you use WordPress, the Yoast SEO plugin offers suggestions for title and description tags, along with a snippet editor that lets you preview how your page will look on Google.
Get Authorized Backlinks
Authoritative backlinks are links that come from reputable websites.
Google’s algorithm sees backlinks as proof of trust in your site and considers the authority of the source domain to validate them.
The right amount of authorized backlinks will bring more benefits than having an excess of links from spam sites.
High-quality backlinks help your SEO rankings, while low-quality ones can hurt your site’s credibility.
Here are some SEO tips to build quality backlinks to your site:
- Generate quality content. It is essential to offer complete and informative content on your site. This helps other sites judge your authority and determine if your page is worth linking to.
- Write on a blog as a guest. It is about writing an entry for another website or blog. In return, they allow you to add backlinks in the post or in the author bio section. Plus, you get brand recognition and exposure to a larger audience, which drives more organic traffic to your site.
- Analyze the backlinks of the competition. Keeping an eye on the competition allows you to identify websites that might link to yours. Tools like Monitor Backlinks and Ahrefs Link Intersect will allow you to monitor backlink opportunities. Once you’ve made a list of sites that link to your competitor, contact the site owners and send them your proposal.
- Link building with broken links. This technique involves finding HTML 404 errors on a web page and notifying the site owner. This allows you to suggest your page as an alternative to replace the broken link. You can use Ahrefs to explore and identify broken links on a website.
Get Ready for the New Algorithm
Google introduced a new search algorithm called page experience.
It consists of a set of signals that measure the user experience when interacting with a web page.
Pages experience includes existing SEO factors such as mobile-friendliness, website security, and page speed.
It also uses Core Web Vitals, a set of metrics that measure load, interactivity, and visual stability.
These metrics include:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – Reports the amount of time it takes for the largest component of the page to load, including images and videos. The ideal charging time is 2.5 seconds.
- First Input Delay (FID) – Measures the time from when a user first interacts with a page, such as clicking a link or pressing a button, until the browser processes that request. The suggested FID is below 100 milliseconds.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – Counts the total number of unexpected layout shifts on a page during the load phase. Prevent visitors from clicking on items that have suddenly changed position. For a better user experience, a website should have a CLS score of less than 0.1.
Now that you know the components involved in the next search algorithm update, here are some tips you can follow to prepare your site for the new update:
- Detect and correct usability problems. Usability refers to the ease of use of a website. Use website heat mappings tools like Crazy Egg and Hotjar to understand how users are interacting with your site. The tool highlights which parts get the most attention and where visitors are likely to get stuck, allowing you to improve your page structure and deliver a better user experience.
- Enable safe browsing. Google removes potentially harmful sites from its search results. Thus, it steers users away from malicious and misleading content. Access the security issue report in Google Search Console to make sure your pages don’t have any security issues. Helps detect pirated content, malware, and phishing attacks.
- Optimize for mobile devices. A responsive design automatically adjusts web page elements to fit different screen sizes. Provide an optimal visitor experience on all devices, from desktops to smartphones. A good practice is to use a flexible layout and remove pop-ups that open new windows.
Why is SEO Important?
Organic search, which drives around 53.3% of all web traffic, has become a crucial part of digital marketing.
Organic traffic has a high chance of converting users into buyers or members of your business.
However, driving organic traffic to your site is not easy, and this is where SEO comes into play.
With SEO, you can optimize different parts of your website and page to match the different criteria of ever-changing search algorithms.
SEO provides a set of strategies that focus on increasing the visibility of a website in search engines.
The higher your search engine rankings, the more traffic your site will receive.
Especially for businesses, SEO optimization of your site can give your brand more exposure and increase your sales and revenue.
Additionally, Google’s algorithm takes numerous SEO factors into account when ranking websites in their results.
If your website manages to rank high on the search engine results pages, it will help you establish the trust and credibility of your brand or business.
Where to Learn More About SEO?
Learning about SEO from scratch requires a lot of time and patience.
In addition to understanding the basics of SEO, you’ll need resources to learn the basics of digital marketing and how search engines work.
To help you get started, we’ve rounded up some of the best SEO learning resources available:
- Google Search Center Blog. This blog keeps you up to date on Google’s ever-changing algorithm. Provides documentation on the latest SEO factors, trends, SEO practices, new Google search features, and core updates.
- Ahrefs. The Ahrefs blog offers a wide selection of guides and articles on SEO and marketing. It features up-to-date and relevant content written by SEO experts and marketing professionals.
- MOZ. In addition to SEO software and tools, Moz has a comprehensive English blog and learning center. It offers all kinds of information, from expert SEO advice to recent market data and information to improve your marketing skills.
- Search Engine Journal. This online platform presents the latest SEO news, analysis, and guides from marketing and SEO experts. The content ranges from SEO tips for beginners to advanced strategies and practices. Additionally, the website provides various resources such as eBooks, podcasts, and webinars.
- Search Engine Roundtable. This website collects the most interesting threads from SEO forums and provides more details about them. It allows users to access information from different forums on recent SEO topics in one place.
- Backlinko. With training in SEO and link-building strategies, Backlinko is a popular marketing blog run by an SEO expert that helps grow business online. The content revolves around SEO tips, techniques, and case studies.
Working on search engine optimization involves numerous factors and practices.
SEO strategies are constantly evolving to keep up with dynamic search engine algorithms.
A site with well-implemented SEO has a great chance to appear in the first search results and get a traffic boost.
To make sure you apply SEO best practices, let’s recap the four main types of SEO we talked about above:
- On-page SEO – Focuses on the content-related elements of your web pages, including the alt-text tag, title, and meta description.
- Off-page SEO – involves activities outside of your website, such as link building, outreach marketing, and guest posting.
- Technical SEO – Includes technical aspects of SEO to optimize your website for speed, compatibility, security, and usability.
- Local SEO – SEO strategies to increase your website’s visibility in local searches and gain more local traffic.
With all this, we hope that you have a clearer vision of how to improve the optimization of your website.
Remember that SEO is an ongoing process.
To reap visible long-term benefits, you need to constantly adjust your SEO strategy and adopt the latest SEO factors and practices.
Thanks for reading.