What is SEO and How Does It Work?

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What is seo and how does it work

Whether you’re a small business owner or a marketer at a large corporation, search engine optimization (SEO) plays a critical role in your success. It’s how you connect with customers and prospects online and ensure that your content is visible and easy to find. This, in turn, helps drive traffic, leads, and sales.

But what exactly is SEO, and how can you make it work for you? In this guide, we’ll answer those questions and more.

We’ll start with the basics of search engine optimization so that you can better understand how it works and why it’s important. Then, we’ll look at some of the key strategies and techniques that will enable you to achieve a successful SEO strategy. Let’s get started.

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

Search engine optimization is the practice of improving your website’s ranking on search engines such as Google. The goal of SEO is to earn higher rankings in the organic (or unpaid) section of search engine results pages (SERPs). This is important because organic searches drive an estimated 53% of all web traffic.

Search channel share visual

Source: brightedge

Therefore, optimizing your SEO strategy can increase your visibility, drive more traffic to your site, and improve your bottom line.

How Does Search Engines Work?

To understand how SEO works, you need to know how search engines (like Google) work.

When you look something up on Google, its algorithms scour the internet and find the best organic results. To do this, it relies on a number of ranking factors. These are the criteria that Google uses to decide whether your content is relevant and valuable enough to rank for a given query.

How do search engines work

This Process Can Be Broken Down into Three Main Stages:

1. Crawling: Google’s bots scour the internet to find new or updated content. It then adds these pages to its index, a database of all the web pages it knows about.

2. Indexing: Once a page is in Google’s index, it analyzes the content to see how it could be relevant to searchers. This includes looking at the title, headings, and body text.

3. Ranking: Based on its analysis, Google ranks each page according to how relevant and valuable it believes the page is to a searcher’s query.

Google’s search algorithms are constantly evolving and include over 200 ranking factors. However, at its core, Google will rank your website in its organic search results based on quality, trustworthiness, and overall performance. A successful SEO strategy will focus on the ranking factors that hold the most weight in these areas.

You will learn more about which ranking factors matter most later in this guide. For now, let’s dive a little deeper into the basics of SEO marketing.

Similarities and Differences Between Paid and Organic Search

Organic vs paid search

Source: ahrefs

To fully understand how SEO works, we need to look at the differences and similarities between paid vs. organic search.

The key similarity between paid and organic search is that they’re both driven by keywords. When a user enters a query into Google, the search engine looks at all of the pages in its index to see which ones are most relevant. However, the way that these results are determined is quite different.

Organic search results are determined by Google’s algorithms and depend on the quality and reliability of your website. Paid results, on the other hand, are essentially advertisements displayed at the top of SERPs for specific queries. Every time someone clicks on one of these listings, the advertiser pays Google a fee.

SEO Marketing Strategies to Boost Traffic and Ranking

On-Page SEO

Onpage seo factors

On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing your website’s content and structure to earn higher organic search rankings. This means making sure that your pages are relevant, valuable, and easy to find for Google’s algorithms.

Many factors fall under on-page SEO, but some of the most important include:

1. Title tags: These are the tags that appear at the top of your web page. It’s what tells Google (and searchers) what your page is about. Therefore, your title tags should be descriptive and include relevant keywords.

2. Meta descriptions: These are brief descriptions of your web page that appear below your title tag in search results. Your meta description should be around 155 characters long and provide a brief overview of your page’s content. They should be catchy and include relevant keywords.

3. Headings: Use headings to break up your content and make it easy to read. Heading tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.) help Google understand the structure of your content and give it an idea of what each section is about. You should use plenty of headings throughout your content and include relevant keywords in them where appropriate.

4. Image File Type: Google uses images to understand what your content is about. You should use descriptive file names and include relevant keywords in your alt text (the text that appears when an image can’t be displayed).

5. E-A-T / High-Quality Content: Google looks for signs of E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness). You can improve your website’s E-A-T by publishing high-quality content written by experts.

6. Structured Data or Schema Markup: This is code that you can add to your website to help search engines understand what your content is about. It’s often used to display rich snippets (additional information about your listing in search results).

7. URL structure: Your URLs should be short, descriptive, and include relevant keywords. Avoid using numbers and special characters in your URLs.

Off-Page SEO

Offpage seo factors

Off-page SEO is the practice of optimizing your website to earn higher organic search rankings by building links and other outside signals.

Some of the most important factors for off-page SEO include:

Link building: This is the process of earning links from other relevant websites. Google sees links as endorsements and will boost your website’s search rankings if you have plenty of high-quality links.

Social media: Social signals (shares, likes, etc.) from popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter can help improve your organic search rankings.

 Domain authority: This metric measures how popular and trusted your website is. The higher your domain authority (DA) the easier it will be to rank in organic search results.

Technical SEO

Technical SEO is the practice of optimizing your website’s technical aspects to improve your organic search rankings. This includes factors like site speed, mobile-friendliness, indexation, and crawl-ability. These will be explored further later in this guide.

Local SEO

Local SEO is the practice of optimizing your website to earn higher organic search rankings in local search results. This means making sure that your website is relevant, valuable, and easy to find for searchers in your area. You’ll learn more about local SEO later in this guide.

Black Hat vs White Hat SEO

Black hat vs white hat seo 1

Black-Hat SEO

A black-hat SEO strategy uses “shady” techniques that go against Google’s guidelines. Such practices may include:

  • keyword stuffing
  • copying content from other sites
  • purchasing backlinks
  • cloaking
  • using private link networks
  • page swapping

While black-hat SEO strategies can help you rank higher in the short term, they will eventually get your website penalized by Google. This can lead to your site being completely removed from their SERPs altogether.

White-Hat SEO

A white-hat SEO strategy focuses on optimizing your website for human users while following all the rules and guidelines set by search engines. This includes tactics such as:

  • creating high-quality content
  • improving your website’s user experience
  • building links from authoritative websites
  • using relevant, natural keywords

Although it takes more time and effort to execute a white-hat SEO strategy, it will pay off in the long run. It’s the only sustainable way to build your online presence and earn higher SERP rankings.

Why is SEO Marketing Important?

There are several reasons why SEO marketing is important for your business. Here are a few of the most impactful benefits of SEO:

It’s Cost-Effective

Compared to other marketing channels like paid advertising, SEO is relatively inexpensive. Although it takes time and effort to execute a successful strategy, you won’t have to keep shelling out money to maintain your rankings (as you do with paid ads).

It Helps You Connect with Your Target Audience

Search engine optimization is one of the most effective ways to connect with your target audience online. This is because people who are actively searching for your products or services are more likely than others to become your customers.

It Increases Your Visibility and Traffic

A successful SEO strategy will increase your visibility on SERPs, leading to more traffic to your website. This is because higher rankings usually equate to more clicks. In fact, an estimated 75% of people never scroll past the first page of search results.

It Offers Long-Term Benefits

SEO is an ongoing process, which means it can take months or even years to see the full benefits. However, once you achieve a high ranking, you’re likely to maintain it for an extended period if you continue to follow best practices.

SEO Ranking Factors

Which Ranking Factors Can You Improve to Appear Higher in Google’s Search Results?

Now that we’ve covered the basics of SEO marketing, let’s look at some of the most important ranking factors you should focus on. You can increase your chances of ranking higher in SERPs by improving these elements of your website:

Seo ranking factors you can improve to rank higher in google

Content Quality

One of the most important ranking factors is content quality. Google wants to show users the best possible results, so it will favor websites with high-quality, well-written content.

The quality and relevance of your web pages and blog post are critical to your success in SEO. To ensure your content meets Google’s quality standards, focus on creating in-depth content that’s free of spelling and grammatical errors. Your content should also be well-sourced and supported by data from credible sources.

Additionally, all your content should be original and unique. Google is constantly on the lookout for plagiarism, so avoid copying content from other websites.

Keyword Targeting and Usage

Another important ranking factor is keyword targeting. This refers to the process of strategically placing keywords throughout your website to signal to search engines what your site is about.

When selecting keywords, it’s important to choose ones that are relevant to your business and its location. For example, if you’re a plumber in New York City, you’ll want to target keywords like “plumbing services NYC” or “emergency plumber NYC.”

When placing keywords throughout your website, it’s also important to avoid keyword stuffing. This is when keywords are excessively and unnaturally placed throughout your content to boost rankings. Keyword stuffing can get your website penalized by Google.

Use keywords sparingly and only when they naturally fit into your content to avoid keyword stuffing. For example, if you’re writing a blog post about plumbing tips, you could mention “plumbing services NYC” a few times throughout the article. Just don’t go overboard with it.

Create On-Going Content

An important part of any SEO strategy is creating ongoing content. Google favors websites that regularly publish fresh, relevant content. If you want to rank higher in SERPs, you need to consistently create content.

This doesn’t mean you need to publish a new blog post every day. Still, you should aim to add new content to your site regularly. You can also update your existing content to ensure it’s always relevant and up to date.

It’s a good idea to create an editorial calendar to help you plan and organize your content. This will ensure you always have new content ready to publish, and that it’s properly promoted across your marketing channels.

Making Your Site Mobile-Friendly

Another key SEO ranking factor is mobile-friendliness. Google favors websites optimized for mobile devices because they provide a better user experience. In fact, roughly 80% of Google’s top-ranked websites are mobile-friendly.

If your website isn’t optimized for mobile devices, you’re likely to lose out on traffic and rankings. It’s critical to make sure your website is responsive and can be easily viewed on different devices. You can do this by ensuring your site has a mobile-friendly design and by testing it on multiple devices.

You can also use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool to see how your website stacks up. To use this tool, simply enter your website’s URL into it, and Google will analyze your site’s mobile-friendliness.

If you need help improving your website for mobile use, you may want to consider professional web design services. This will ensure your site is appropriately optimized for different devices and provides a great user experience.

Link Building

Link building is another essential ranking factor. This refers to the process of getting other websites to link back to your site. Google views links as endorsements, so the more high-quality links you have, the better.

There are a few different ways to build links. One is to create great content to which other websites will want to link. This could be in the form of a blog post, an infographic, or even a video.

You can also participate in link exchanges, where you and another website owner agree to link to each other’s sites. However, you should only do this with high-quality websites in your niche.

Additionally, you can find opportunities to write a guest blog post for another website. Guest posts are a great way to get your name out there while also building a link back to your site. Just make sure the website you’re guest blogging for is relevant to your niche and has a high domain authority.

User Experience (RankBrain)

Google’s been using artificial intelligence to better rank web pages for some time now. It calls this technology RankBrain.

RankBrain is designed to help Google better understand user intent and the quality of web pages. It does this by taking into account a variety of factors. This includes things like click-through rate, time on site, and bounce rate.

To improve your RankBrain ranking factor, you need to focus on creating a great user experience. This means ensuring your website is easy to navigate, providing relevant and high-quality content, fast loading speed, and more.

You can also use Google Analytics to track your website’s performance and see where you need to make improvements. Tracking your progress over time will help you see just how well your efforts are paying off.

Social Signals

Social signals are another ranking factor to consider. This refers to how often your content is shared on social media sites.

Google views social signals as an indication of the popularity and quality of your content. So, the more your content is shared, the better.

There are a few different ways to encourage social shares. One is to ensure your content is high quality and provides value to readers. This will make it more likely to be shared.

You can also add social share buttons to your website or blog posts, making it easy for readers to share your content on their preferred social media sites. Additionally, you can use social media marketing to promote your content and encourage shares.

Local SEO

If you’re running a local business, then you need to make sure you’re optimized for local SEO. This is different from standard SEO in that it’s specifically designed to help you rank higher in local search results.

To optimize for local SEO, you need to ensure your website is listed on directories like Google My Business. You should also include your location on your website and in your title tags and meta descriptions. Additionally, focus on building links from local websites and creating content about local news and events.

Master Your On-Page SEO Optimization

One final ranking factor to consider is on-page SEO. This refers to all the measures you can take to ensure your website is optimized for search engines.

Set Your SEO Objectives, and Goals

Seo objectives and goals

Now that you know the most important ranking factors, you can set some SEO objectives and goals. This will help you create a plan of action and track your progress over time.

Some SEO objectives you may want to set include:

  • Improving your click-through rates
  • Increasing the number of social shares your content receives
  • Ranking for high-traffic keywords

Whatever objectives you set, make sure they’re achievable and measurable. This will help you track your progress and see just how well your SEO efforts are paying off.

To Wrap It All Up

As you can see, there are many SEO factors to consider when trying to improve your website’s Google ranking. By focusing on the most important ones and taking actionable steps to improve them, you will see your site’s ranking start to improve.

Remember, SEO is a long-term game. It takes time and effort to see results. However, if you’re consistent with your efforts, you will eventually see your website rise in search engine rankings.

Partnering with a digital marketing agency that specializes in SEO can also help you boost your website’s ranking. The experts at Foxxr Digital Marketing can provide your company with a free SEO consultation. We’ll take a look at your website and provide you with a tailored plan to help you improve your ranking and visibility on search engine results pages.

To learn more about our SEO services, contact us online or call (727) 379-2207 today!

Avatar for Brian Childers

Brian Childers

Brian Childers is the Founder and CEO of Foxxr Digital Marketing, a St. Petersburg, FL-based agency specializing in home services marketing. An accomplished SEO expert with 15years of experience, Brian and his team has a proven track record of driving organic growth for home service businesses. Under his leadership, Foxxr's team of digital marketers crafts data-driven SEO strategies that consistently increase website visibility, generate high-quality leads, and boost revenue for clients in the competitive home services sector.