If you’ve started your own blog chances are you would have come across the term search engine optimization or SEO. That’s what everyone is talking about these days when it comes to ranking on the first page of Google.
But what exactly is SEO?
To put it in simple terms, search engine optimization is the art of letting Google know what your post or website is about so that they can show them to the correct people. Technically you are influencing search engines to display your page first for any given query or search term ( the words you type in Google Search ).
Let’s kick it off with an example.
Let’s say you’ve wrote a page about dog training. Naturally you would want people who are interested in dog training to stumble on your page. Google wants this exact same thing as well.
The goal of Google ( or Bing and Yahoo ) as a search engine is to provide it’s users with the most relevant results for their search term.
But how does Google know that your page is about dog training?
This is where SEO comes in. You have to “tell” Google what your blog post is about. An obvious way to do this is by using keywords, which are the search terms that you want to target. The gist of it is to have these keywords appear often enough so that when Google sees your keywords it serves as an indicator as to what your page is about.
Sadly, being relevant isn’t enough to get you to rank 1.
I mean, sure your post can be relevant to a particular search term, but the next part of the puzzle is making it useful. Your page isn’t the only dog training page out there, there are tons. Google will now have to sort all the dog training pages and determine the most relevant, useful and informative ones to rank at the top.
In essences this is SEO, you’re making sure that your post is relevant to your desired search term ( in this case dog training ) and of better quality than other pages to outrank them.
Of course Google’s algorithm is much more complicated than this and there are hundreds of factors that will affect your rankings but this is generally how I would sum it up in a few lines.
The 2 kinds of SEO
On page SEO
On page SEO refers to the things that you can do on your post or page itself to improve your search rankings. These include your actual post itself which is your content and also your source code for that page.
One example was already stated above, which is keywords. Other factors include header tags, site loading speed, the use of images and videos and a lot of other factors. On page SEO focuses on user experience, site usability, good content as well as readability.
On page SEO would be the bulk of your efforts when trying to climb up in rankings because your on page optimization efforts will be shown to your users as well.
Makes sense doesn’t it? The page that you’re displaying is a direct result of your content and code. If we take a look at the factors listed above each of them can be tied to improving user experience. Header tags help to break down your content, making it more readable. A page that loads fast won’t keep your viewers waiting and images or videos are just more eye-catching and enjoyable to look at compared to text in general.
This is also how you ensure that your content is useful to your readers. It doesn’t matter if you have the best article in the world for dog training if your page takes 1 days to load.
Off page SEO
Off page SEO refers to factors outside of your website that can influence your rankings. One of the most popular off page SEO factor is back-links, which are just links coming in from another website. When someone else links to your post, it sort of tells Google that your content is of good quality since they found it useful.
Sadly there were a lot of people who abused back-links to “trick” Google in the past, by buying or exchanging a huge amount of links. This method won’t work today since Google looks at the site linking back to you as well. Having a trusted and relevant site linking back to you will boost your rankings while dodgy and non-trusted sites will only do more harm.
Another way to improve your off page SEO is by using social media. It works in a very similar principal to link building as it also tells Google that it can trust you.
A post that has a lot of likes and shares on social media would send a signal to Google telling it that people enjoyed your content. Naturally just like link building, this aspect can be abused as well which is why Google has optimized their algorithm to take into account the people sharing and liking your content.
Why do you need SEO?
There are 2 different categories of traffic, free traffic and paid traffic. SEO falls into the free traffic category because you aren’t advertising or spending any money.
To be honest if you want to succeed online you should aim to master both free and paid traffic. Paid traffic will give you immediate results but it will cost money while free traffic will take some time before showing results and is more of a long term investment.
If done correctly, SEO can help you reach a lot of potential viewers, very targeted viewers. If you keep fine-tuning your site it will eventually get you more traffic than your advertisements. Most of us searching online will pay more attention to the websites that have gotten ranked organically compared to ads.
To put it into perspective, a large chunk of users searching on Google won’t even care about the ads displayed ( I’m one of them ).
It makes sense doesn’t it?
Anyone with money can simply pay to have their sites on the first page, but those ranking there organically are in a way “certified” by Google. They have stood through the test of time and have proven themselves to be useful.
Do note that even if your site gets ranked on the first page, if people start leaving your site as soon as they enter it Google will think your post is irrelevant and will proceed to drop your rankings. Also, we all trust Google don’t we?