SEO Basics

Search Engine Optimization is an Internet marketing strategy that focuses on creating and increasing the visibility of a website or webpage in unpaid search engine results. SEO is intended to improve both the relevance and popularity of a site’s content in relation to a search query.The discipline of SEO is both creative and technical, and is made up of many elements that help both search engines and people navigate your site.

Organic Search vs. Paid Search

To understand SEO, it is important to first understand the difference between organic advertising and paid advertising. Paid advertising, also known as sponsored search, is the process of paying a search engine or other site to display a prescribed advertisement. On the other hand, organic search, also known as Search Engine Optimization, is algorithmic.  Organic search results receive around 90% of the clicks on an SERPSearch Engine Results Page, whereas paid search results receive a mere 10%.Therefore, it is wise to invest the time into properly optimizing your site for search engines, in order to earn organic search results and gain visibility and website traffic.

How Search Engines Operate

To understand the importance of SEO, it is necessary to understand how search engines operate. Search engines, such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing have two major functions: crawling and indexing, and providing results. Search engines use automated robots – called crawlers or spiders – to “crawl” the Internet through links, and decipher the links’ code for content. Key information from this code is then stored in massive datacenters to be accessed at a later time – when a user enters a search query into a search engine.

SEO Technicalities 

Search engines return results based on the relevance and popularity of sites’ content to the search query. After a user enters a query, the search engine kicks into action, using customized algorithms to filter through the databases of stored code and rank its content in terms of quality. Those sites that are deemed of highest popularity and relevance to the search query are subsequently ranked higher on search engine results, and are displayed closer to the top of the results page. So, what factors contribute to high search engine position?

Enhancing Organic Search Visibility

SEO is important because it helps your website and web content get discovered. It effects the placement of your web content on organic search results, and assists search engine robots in matching your content with consumers’ search queries. Typically, there is a positive correlation between search query position and website traffic, indicating that strong SEO can significantly impact the level of visitors arriving to your site.

Click Through Rates

In simple terms, a click through rate refers to the percentage of people who click on a link that is displayed. A CTR is calculated by dividing the the number of clicks on a link by the number of people exposed to the link. It is a useful metric for several digital marketing efforts, as discussed throughout the Analytics Learning Topic. However, in reference to SEO, the CTR is highly correlated with the organic search page ranking a link earns on a SERP.

SEO Tips & Tricks

While the exact algorithm behind Search Engine Optimization is unknown and often changes, there are several recommended best to help improve your sites’ rankings on search engines.   Each search engine employs its own algorithm to determine site rankings, though several of the recommendations remain consistent. The following list outlines some insight into SEO best practices from search engines Google and Bing.

  • Users before Search Engines

One of the most important recommendations Google offers for SEO is to build a website primarily for the users rather than the search engines. While it is important to build a search engine friendly site, the content within the site must be of value to the users, as they are who demand the content in the first place. Do not deceive your users by providing them with irrelevant content or content that differs from what is fed to the search engines.

  • Site Hierarchy

Construct a clear, well-defined site hierarchy to structure your site. Every page that you would like users to visit should be reachable from at least one direct link provided within the site. A fluid, well-structured site hierarchy will not only offer the user a better user experience, but will help achieve search excellence throughout SERPs as well. A strong site hierarchy will create site links on SERPs, enhance site crawling and improve your site’s navigability for both search engines ad users.

  • Insightful, information-filled content

Users rely on search engines to return an accurate, reliable answer to their search query. Therefore, once the search engine has done its job and matched the query with the most relevant results, it is up to the website’s content to satisfy the users’ request. It is crucial to fill your website with insightful, informative content that matches the keywords from their query. This will ensure a satisfied user and will also be impact the perceived relevance of your site’s content in reference to the query.

  • Descriptive and accurate <title> tags and ALT attributes

Providing descriptive and accurate title tags and ALT attributes throughout your website will help the search engine crawlers determine the content on your site. They will also enhance the user experience by providing organization and structure to your site.

  • Clean, descriptive URLS with keywords

Descriptive, human-friendly URLS are key to effective SEO. The URL for each page should inform the user of the content on the destination page. A search friendly URL includes a single domain, a shallow folder structure with relevant words, and keywords within the page, separated by hyphens. On the other hand, an un-friendly URL may include a subdomain and a string of random characters that do not reference keywords.

  • Do not bury content inside rich media

A SERP refers to a Search Engine Results Page. A Search Engine Results Page is the page that is displayed after a user has entered a query into a search engine such as Google, Yahoo or Bing.

A search query is a query, or request that a user enters into a search engine in search of information. There are three main types of search queries: informational, navigational, and transactional. Informational search queries return informational results based on an entered subject matter, such as “digital marketing”. Navigational query results return the domain link for a single webpage or website, such as “Marketing in the Digital Age”. Transactional search queries return information that facilitates a user completing a particular action such as “take an online digital marketing course”.

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In simple terms, metadata is data that describes other data. In terms of website optimization, a Meta Description can be used to further describe a website or webpage, and appears as the line below your title tag on the search engine results page. The Meta Description helps both users and robots quickly understand the content of your webpage, influencing content relevancy.

Anchor text is one of the technical aspects of SEO. It refers to the clickable, visible text that is displayed as a hyperlink linking to another document, image, or page.

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Site links refer to a website’s subpages, and appear indented underneath the website’s main listing on Google. The presence of site links is considered to be an indication of a website’s credibility. SEO experts presume that site links are determined by the behavior of the users, for example, the traffic volume to each subpage of the master site.