What is SEO and How it Works? [Ultimate Guide 2021]
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a process of bringing organic traffic or visitors to your webpage or website by making them available in the top search results for a particular keyword searched by the user.
What is SEO?
In the present era, websites are on the stage of necessity. To create a blog or website of your own is an easy task, and it is even more flexible if you are making it on WordPress. What else do you think is essential apart from designing and setting up your website? The answer is Search Engine Optimization. You must be thinking about what is SEO and how it works?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the most important, or you can say the essential need for a website ranking. Hearing this might make you think of it as the toughest part. But the answer is NO. Nothing is impossible in this world if you have the right guidance.
I hope you guys are well aware of SEO meaning. In addition to the SEO definition, this article consists of everything you need to know about Search Engine Optimization starting from the basic SEO terminologies to the importance of SEO.
Importance of SEO
Let me tell you one surprising fact that SEO has searched for more than 100k+ times per month, which you also know is not at less count. You must be thinking about why people search so much about SEO, why everyone is in a race to learn SEO techniques. What is the importance of SEO? The answer to your question is in my most liked and shared article on the Importance of SEO, though 10% of the key points are mentioned here also.
Believe it or not, but SEO is the only way to take your website, blog, or online store to unreachable heights, ensuring a tremendous amount of traffic.
Search Engine Optimization is essential for many reasons:
- The majority of users prefer to go through the top 5 or top 10 search engine result pages (SERP) of a particular query. And to bring your web page or website in the top 5 or top 10 results, Search Engine Optimization indeed is necessary.
- If your competitor’s website is also performing well, in that case, the search engine optimized website can attract several visitors or customers.
- Google is considered the most trusted search engine, so does its search engine result page. Almost every internet user visits Google once a day, and there are billions of users. Therefore, SEO is the best way to appear in search results and increase organic traffic.
- Knowing the environment of the ever-changing World Wide Web is extremely important. Without SEO, you can never come to know about the hottest topics of your niche. Search Engine Optimization ensures that you are aware of the most searched keywords.
- Whatever tactics you use might make your website or blog famous, but not for very long. There is no better option than SEO to bring a long term effect.
- SEO lets you know about the working of your website on the search engine, its bounce rates, pros, cons, how many clicks your website can get, and many others.
- It offers an entirely different level of understanding to the audience or your customers.
- SEO offers ten times better opportunities for gaining traffic.
Basics of SEO
What do you think is it better to jump directly on the real-world SEO techniques of skipping the basic ones? The beginners who are in a hurry to achieve something might skip it. But you never know which step you are missing and how much importance does it holds.
Imagine what you would have done if, in your pre-primary class on your first day of school, you were given to write an essay. Of course, you wouldn’t be able to write even a single letter because you don’t your basics are not transparent nor you have studied the A, B, C, D. Now you understand how much importance the basics hold.
The same way SEO basics hold equal importance, just like the advanced SEO techniques. The basics of SEO includes-
1. Know Your Audience – You should know your target audience for better results. Whether you want to target the people of India, USA, UK, CA, AU, or any place in the world.
2. Know Your Competition – Keep track of your competition, what they are doing, and what they are offering. Winners are those who never underestimate their competitors.
3. Keyword Research – Make a list of the most searched keywords and try to use them around 4 to 5 times in your content, depending on content length. You can use various keyword research tools available online.
4. Site Structure – It means how your website is looking. It should look attractive and organized. In addition to this, it should be easy to navigate. Almost every page of your website should be linked with one or more web pages of your site and built, considering yourself as a user.
5. Title – Give an attractive and catchy title of a minimum of 45 characters and a maximum of 55 characters; don’t exceed the limits for getting better CTR (Click-through-rate).
6. Meta Description – It is a description of around 150 to 155 characters giving a sensible meaning. If your meta description is good, the chances of coming in the featured snippets increase.
Example: <meta name=”description” content=”Your Description here”/>
7. URL Structure – Make use of short and clean URLs to make them as simple as possible that makes them user-friendly.
8. Canonical URL – It is used to tell the search engine that a master URL of a page is represented by a specific URL so that the problems like duplicity in the content do not arise.
Example: <link rel=”canonical” href=”Master URL” />
9. Content Optimization – Create content such that a user stays on your web page for a longer time. Try to explain in simple and fewer words. Add compressed images (e.g., compress a 120kb image to 50kb or less) using the TinyPNG tool and ShortPixel plugin so that your website can take less time to load.
11. The Site should be mobile-friendly (Responsive) – Most internet users use their mobile phones for searching. Your website should be mobile-friendly.
12. Keep yourself up to date – Keep track of what’s new; what are the latest SEO techniques. What changes Google is doing in its algorithm and many others.
13. Stay away from Black Hat SEO – It’s a short term risky technique and more likely to get you in trouble. You should stay away from Black Hat SEO.
14. Follow Google Webmaster Guidelines – You might not be sure that what you are doing is right or wrong. So please follow Google Webmaster guidelines before doing anything.
15. Monitor your website from time to time – You might not know if your SEO strategy is valid, whether your site can generate more leads or more sales. For all these things, you need to keep measuring your results from time to time.
16. Active on Social Media – Social Media Marketing is the best way to reach out and know the interest of your customers.
Basic SEO Terms
Before reading more about Search Engine Optimization, you people need to understand the basic SEO terminology, which helps you know SEO meaning in a much better way. SEO consists of more than 200 essential terms out of these the most common Search Engine Optimization terms given below.
1. 301 Redirect – It is the permanent server redirection from your old URL to the new URL without any “Not found” error. 301 redirect is a way of telling the search engine that the URL of the web page URL is changed.
2. The Alt Tag – It is the attribute of the HTML image tag. The alt tag is the text which is displayed when an image takes time or does not load.
3. Anchor Text – It is the text on which the link to another page is there. In simple words, it is a text that works as a link to some other page.
4. Backlink – It is a link that has been placed on someone else’s web page or website, which points back to your web page or website. The process of creating backlinks is called link building. There are two types of backlinks: Dofollow and Nofollow.
5. Black Hat SEO – It is an unethical or unfair SEO technique that is against Google’s guidelines.
6. Canonical URL – It is a master URL of your webpage that tells the search engine to get it as a master or main URL (From 4 domain versions: www, non-www, http, https), which you want your visitors to see in SERP’s.
7. Crawling – It is the process by which search engines find new or updated content (web page, image, video, and many others.
8. CTR (Click-through Rate) – It is the ratio of several clicks to the number of users visiting that particular web page on which that link is present.
9. De-indexed – It means that your web page or website has been removed from the search engine index, and therefore, it does not show up in the search results.
10. Do-follow – These are the links from one site to another, which gives SEO credit. In simple words, it provides a do-follow backlink to other websites.
11. Domain Authority (DA) – It is a search engine ranking score by the third-party tools that define how well a website ranks.
12. External Links – These links point to another domain other than the area on which they are present.
13. Feature Snippets – Also known as rich snippets, is the organic search box that appears on the top of the search results after you perform a search.
14. Google Search Console – It is a free program provided by Google, using which site owners can check how their website is working in search.
15. Heading – It is the text which has been placed in the HTML heading tags that are H1, H2, H3, H4, and H5 tags.
16. Inbound link – It is a link from another site to your site and is considered one of the best ways of boosting the rank of your website.
17. Index – An index is the database where all the data of the search engine is stored. If a page is indexed, it appears in the search results for a particular keyword.
18. Indexing – It is the process of collecting and storing the data for future use by the search engine.
19. Internal links – Internal links are those links that point one page to the other pages of your website.
20. Keywords – It is any word entered by the user in the search box. It is the most searched word.
21. Keyword Density – It is the percentage or the number of times a keyword appears on a web page.
22. Link Building – It is the process of getting more and more inbound links for your website to gain traffic.
23. Meta Tag – It tells the search engine what your post or website is about in a couple of words. It consists of a Meta description and Meta keyword.
24. Nofollow – It is a link from one site to another, which does not give SEO credit to the other website. In simple words, it’s a no vote or no link for search engine index to notice.
25. On-page SEO – It is the SEO that you do on your page to improve its ranking. For example, internal linking, improving keyword density, and a few others.
26. Off-page SEO – It is the SEO that you do outside your page to improve its ranking — for example, link building.
27. Organic results – Apart from the advertisements, the results that appear for a particular query are the organic results.
28. Organic search – Enter any word in the search box, click on the search button. It is an organic search.
29. Organic traffic – The visits to your website, apart from the unpaid or natural search result, are referred to as organic traffic.
30. Page Rank (PR) – It is an algorithm used by Google to rank the web pages, which defines the importance of that webpage on a ranking factor.
31. Page Authority (PA) – It is a search engine ranking score that defines how well a web page ranks on search results.
32. Page View – Each time a visitor visits a website, it is known as a page view.
33. PPC (Pay-Per-Click) – PPC is also known as CPC (Cost-Per-Click), is an online advertisement clicking on which the advertisers pay the user.
34. RankBrain – It is the present updated algorithm of Google, which processes the relevant search results.
35. Sitemap – A sitemap is the list of all the pages available on your website.
36. SERP – Stands for Search Engine Result Page. It is the result pages that you see after searching.
37. Spider (crawler, bot, robot) – Search engine spider checks for the data like new sites, new content and report it back, so that it can be indexed and ranked by the search engine.
38. URL (permalinks) – Uniform Resource Locator is the address of a particular web page.
39. White Hat SEO – It is a type of ethical SEO technique that follows Google’s guidelines.
If you want a deep understanding of these SEO terms, you can refer to my article on SEO terminologies.
How SEO Works?
The main aim of a search engine is to provide the user with high-quality content and the best services that can fulfill a user’s search motive. You can achieve this only by optimizing the web pages by Search Engine Optimization. I know that Search Engine Optimization sounds like a complicated process, but to be honest, it’s not that complex.
The questions that might be running in all of your minds must be How SEO works? How can the search engine identify the pages that are relevant to their search? How can the search engine identify the best content and rank the web pages? Allow me to answer your query.
To know exactly how SEO works, you need to be clear with the basics of SEO. Once you have applied all the essential SEO techniques, your job is over, and it’s time for the search engine to start working.
The search engine scans all the websites present on the internet to know about your site, and then it continues the work.
The search engine follows three steps to identify the relevant & best content is Crawling, Indexing, and Ranking.
- Crawling – It is the first step in which the search engine sends out its team of robots like a crawler, spider, or bot to find what’s new on the internet and which content is updated. Content not only includes an article, but it can vary from an image, video, pdf to audio content.
- Indexing – Whatever the crawlers, spiders, or bots collect the information from the search engine, it gets stored in the search engine database. Keep this in mind that not all the web pages that crawled are indexed as well. You need to make your content good enough to be indexed.
- Ranking – The ordering of the results (10 Blue links) from the best result to the least result is known as ranking. In other words, you can say that the results populate in a sequence from the best to the poor.
Types of SEO
There are three main types of SEO. If you want your website to be ranked well, you need to perform all three types of SEO:
1. On-page SEO
It is the SEO that you do on your webpage or website to improve its ranking. On-page SEO is the most basic type of SEO that you need to understand, because when the on-page SEO of your webpage isn’t correct, how can you expect the other SEO techniques to make your site top the charts?
The foremost thing that you need to do under On-page SEO is proper keyword research. Look for the most searched keywords and add them to your content. In addition to the keyword research, it also includes Meta tags, Meta descriptions, text formatting, faster page loading, mobile-friendly ages, and the other most crucial technique under On-page SEO is internal linking.
You need to work extremely hard on your content because it is the only thing that attracts visitors. Create a masterpiece content with a catchy title.
You need to make the beginning of the content to be excellent; you only have 10-12 seconds to influence a visitor to stay on your page for long. Google keeps count of the time a visitor stays on your website. Therefore, the longer a visitor stays on your website can give the better ranking on the search engine.
2. Off-page SEO
Off-page SEO is the technique that you implement outside your site after performing the On-page SEO. Most of the beginners often confuse themselves with the fact that Off-page SEO only includes link building. But this is not the truth; it is not only limited to link building. It deals with Backlinks, Guest blogging, Social Media Marketing, Social Bookmarking, and a few others.
3. Technical SEO
If your technical SEO isn’t right, then there are chances that your whole SEO hard work can go in vain. It deals with the website’s crawling and indexing. It provides a good user experience, which helps in making the search engine understand the quality of the website.
Once you have done the right technical SEO, you don’t have to repeat it again and again. Instead, you only have to check on regular SEO audits.
Types of SEO Techniques
There are mainly two types of Search Engine Optimization techniques:
1. White Hat SEO
Google webmaster provides some SEO guidelines that a website owner needs to follow. A white hat SEO technique is the most ethical way of doing Search Engine Optimization because it follows the Google webmaster guidelines and maintains the integrity of the website. It refers to the techniques that help in improving the ranking of the website.
Although it takes more time and money, White hat SEO is the most used and long term SEO technique with fewer chances of risk. Some of the basic techniques under white hat SEO include quality content, faster site loading time, link building, backlink, easy to navigate the website, good keyword density, and few others.
People using white hat SEO techniques are more successful than the people who use some other SEO technique.
2. Black Hat SEO
If you are looking for a way to gain popularity faster, you can use the Black Hat SEO technique. But let me remind you, you are using it at your own risk. I am saying so because Black Hat SEO techniques are unethical, they do not follow Google Webmaster guidelines, they violate them. It is cost-efficient, so maybe you can save your money, but not for long. Because it is a short term technique, and the risk is more.
There might be times when your web page or website can ban from the search results because of violating the search engine guidelines. Your website might end in a penalty from the search engine.
This technique only degrades your website quality and lowers its ranking. Black hat SEO techniques include unnatural links, paid links, cloaking, keyword stuffing, sneaky redirects, blog comment spam, abundant snippet markup spam, and few others.
3. Grey Hat SEO
Grey hat SEO is the technique that falls between the other two SEO techniques. It neither violates the Google Webmaster guidelines nor does it follow them.
And to let you know, this does not mean that the technique under Grey Hat SEO is all ethical. Although, it would not result in your site being ban from the search engines. Still, it is not considered the safest path to follow this technique. Instead, it is risky.
Grey Hat SEO techniques include link buying, duplicate content, purchasing old domains, purchasing social media followers, content swapping, link farming, unethical redirects, and few others.
As a piece of advice, it’s better not to use those SEO techniques that violate the Google Webmaster guidelines.
Benefits of SEO
I know you won’t be using SEO until you are unaware of its benefits. Here are some of the benefits of SEO that everyone needs to know-
- The main aim of SEO is to target quality traffic or, in other words, to target organic traffic.
- SEO maintains the architecture of the website and makes it easy to navigate for your users. Not only this, it even makes it easier for the search engines to crawl.
- The reason why website owners go for SEO is that it is an inbound marketing strategy. That is, it is a customer-centric approach to gaining traffic.
- Website and the quality content web pages in it.
- SEO is cost-efficient. You don’t need to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on advertisements.
- You don’t need to invest much; you only have to spend the right amount of your time, though the content that you want to publish needs to be of high quality.
- You might have heard about the PPC (Pay-per-Click) ads. But you might not have heard about the fact that SEO is more efficient and faster than them. It ensures 80% more clicks than the PPC ads.
- SEO includes techniques like link building, keyword research, which ensures organic traffic and is a long term strategy.
- SEO helps you move ahead of your competition.
- It offers a higher Click-through Rate.
- For the ones who own an e-commerce website, SEO helps in increasing sales and leads.
- It helps you to keep track of your weaker areas and your ups & downs.
- SEO in integration with other marketing strategies enhance the ranking of the website.
Let’s stop here because SEO offers so many benefits that it can take your whole day reading it, and still, some might be remaining.
How Has SEO Changed Over the Years?
- Quality of content – Earlier, Google didn’t focus so much on content quality, but now the main focus has come to the quality of content. If the content isn’t right, Google doesn’t consider any other thing.
- Quality over quantity – Earlier, the amount was considered over quality, but now everything is changed. Quality is a priority for Google. It doesn’t matter if you have few pages, but they should be rich in variety because one right web page is better than a hundred useless web pages.
- More focus on link building – In the past decade, Google counts the number of internal and external links irrespective of whether they are present on the relevant content or not. But now, as a change, the relationships that are pointing to irrelevant content are discounted.
- User experience – For Google user is everything; if you can make your users happy, no doubt, Google count you in.
- Keyword accuracy competition – Earlier, there was not much competition for the same keywords. Still, now the game for keyword accuracy has arisen so much that Google is considering many things to rank the web page.
- Google UI changes – Features snippets, voice search, podcast, site structure data, and the new user interface changes are some of the few things that play an essential role in attracting traffic from Google.
- Link attributes – Earlier, there was only one attribute of rel-tag that is rel=”nofollow” for all the paid, sponsored, UGC, and untrusted links. But now there are three attributes of red tag that is rel=”nofollow,” rel=” sponsored,” rel=”ugc.”
- Mobile prioritization – This era is an era of mobile phones; almost 65% of the traffic comes from mobile phones. Google is focusing more on the optimization of websites for mobile phones. Therefore, every website owner keeps this thing in mind and makes a mobile-friendly website.
- Google Search Console (GSC) – There is a specific advancement has done in the Google Search Console, or you can say that its pattern has changed from what it was a few years ago.
Why you need SEO?
Everyone who owns a website blog or who has started an online business needs SEO. Without SEO coming in the top results is no doubt impossible. Even if you offer the best content and best products, you still need SEO to top the search results. Because the truth is, your competitors are already using it and beating you. If you want to compete, you need to take the help of SEO. User intent matters the most but you can’t depend on that alone. You need the right keywords to rank and this can only be achieved by SEO.
Call it a revolution or a demand of the era, but SEO is what you need the most if you want to see your website ranked in hundreds. In a nutshell, if you wish to get views in thousands, you can’t be only dependent on your content; you need to do the right SEO.
Without Search Engine Optimization, you can’t get the desired results. At last but not least, you need to be real with the fact that if you are not on the first page of SERP, you are no good.
I hope you guys found this article informative. Which SEO strategy you think is the best? Do share your views in the comments.
Originally published Mar 11, 2019, and updated Feb 3, 2021