Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the systematic process of adjusting your website, both on-page and off-page, to obtain better competitive visibility and to generate traffic free-of-charge by appearing higher in organic search results.
Google delivers search results to you as either paid ads, maps or organic results. Paid ads, also known as Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertisements, most often appear at the top of search engine results pages. Directly below paid results, Google shows you map listings for local intent searches, then displays organic listings.
Search engines show about 10 organic listings on each page, and 33% of people will click on the result that appears in the first position. 15% will click on a result in the second position; only 9% will click on the third result. The results drop off considerably after about the 5th position, stats that point out why ranking highly is so important. At minimum, 75% of clicks go to the first page of search results. So, if you rank in the top spot for one of your keyword targets that’s searched 1,000 times, you can expect around 300 clicks to your website.
As you can see from the chart below, the lion’s share of the clicks are awarded to the top five search results. It’s easy to see how SEO can drive traffic to your site, which translates into revenue for your business.
How does SEO work?
Search engines like Google, Yahoo! and Bing have crawlers that constantly review websites and all information they can find on the internet. When you search, the engines instantaneously look through the online universe of information they’ve stored, then show you the best match as an answer. It all happens within a millisecond in order to provide the highest quality, most relative search result possible. It’s also where search algorithms come into play.
According to Google:
You want the answer, not billions of web pages, so Google ranking systems sort through the hundreds of billions of web pages in our search index to give you useful and relevant results in a fraction of a second.
These ranking systems are made up of a series of algorithms that analyze what you are looking for and what information to return to you. And as we’ve evolved search to make it more useful, we’ve refined our algorithms to assess your searches and the results in finer detail to make our services work better for you.
Search engine algorithms are constantly updated to provide better search results. As a result, website owners must remain aware of all of the changes to keep their site clear of any penalties. That’s a lot of work for a business owner, and the very reason many contract with an experienced SEO agency with a knowledgeable team to properly develop a winning strategy.
Changes to a website by optimizing content and updating HTML source codes are the basis of all on-page SEO. It’s changed quite a bit over the years, though. In the past, a site owner could easily get by with simply adding keywords to the content and to get decent rankings locally. However, in today’s search environment, the competition is fierce and the algorithms are more sophisticated than ever, so it’s critically important to play by the rules set by the search engines, or suffer the consequences. It’s well explained in this infographic from Backlinko.
Off-page SEO covers all techniques to increase search engine rankings that doesn’t happen on your actual site, shocker. Unlike on-page SEO, which covers your website’s structure, speed and content creation, off-page SEO is all about link building, social media and other channels such as YouTube. Knowing Google uses more than 200 factors to rank a web page, which are the most important? Virtually all SEO experts agree on this: The number and quality of links coming into your site should be near the top of the list.
Getting another high-authority website to link back to your site sends search engines a signal that other well- respected sites trust you enough to give you a “vote”. The more authority a site has, the better. Think of it like the references for your character and skills you’re asked to provide when you apply for a job. Having a CEO listed as a reference will have a greater impact than a non C-Level executive. In the same way, if ESPN links back to an article or product you have on your site (this would be huge), it carries more weight in the eyes of the algorithm gods than a link from a local sports store that went out of business 3 months ago.
Social media has been at the forefront of daily conversations for some time now, and it’s not going anywhere any time soon. In fact, social media signals (links from social media channels to your site) are now part of the Google algorithm and are considered to be an important part of your link building strategy. We’ll cover that subject in a future Insights post.
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Musick is a digital marketing strategist and SEO practitioner for Corporate Marketing. Holding a master’s degree in Internet Marketing and Business, Musick is the previous owner of two digital marketing agencies and has the expertise to successfully run any campaign of any size.