SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It’s the process of optimizing your webpages to rank higher in the search results on Google and other search engines. SEO is commonly referred to as a “free” way to gain website traffic.
Every major search engine, such as Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo, is comprised of search results, where pages, videos, and local listings are displayed. These assets are ranked based on an algorithm, and what the search engine considers to be relevant to the users’ search intent.
What is the difference between SEO and PPC?
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and PPC (Pay-Per-Click) are two different ways to appear on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
SEO is about optimizing your website content and structure to rank higher on the organic search results. It's an unpaid strategy that aims to increase your website's visibility on search engines.
PPC, on the other hand, is a type of online advertising in which an advertiser pays every time a user clicks on the ad. In general, PPC ads appear above or below the organic search results and are marked as "sponsored."
While SEO requires time and resources to get results, once you rank for your target keywords, you can generate continuous traffic without paying for it. On the other hand, PPC can get you instant traffic but requires a budget to run the ads. You can stop them on a dime. SEO is a slow burn.
Overall, the main difference between SEO and PPC is that SEO is about earning your search engine visibility by improving your website's quality, while PPC is about paying for advertising space to get your website in front of your target audience.
Read these related tips: Google has over 200 ranking factors
SEO has four major categories when it comes to optimizing your webpage; these are:
- On-Page SEO
- Off-Page SEO
- Technical SEO
- Local SEO
To realize the importance of on-page SEO, let’s dig deeper and find out how search engines work. Search engines use programs called web crawlers or spiders to find new web pages on the internet.
They use databases known as indexes to store these web pages. Whenever a user enters a search query, the web crawlers search the indexes to determine which web pages are relevant.
The main advantage of on-page SEO is that it lets you convey important information about your website to the search engines. Common on-page factors are:
- Descriptive Title Tags
- Descriptive URLs
- Proper use of H tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.)
- Internal Linking
Search engines rely on a range of off-page signals to gauge your site's authority. One of the most significant factors is the number and quality of backlinks that a website has. Backlinks refer to the links from external websites that point to a specific website.
Off-page SEO focuses on improving your website’s inbound link profile by attractive authentic, relevant, and high-authority backlinks. On the other hand, on-page SEO stresses the importance of the content and HTML source code of individual web pages. Common off-page factors are:
- Link building
- Creating Shareable content
Search engines use these links as votes of confidence. Essentially, the more backlinks your site has, the more authority it has in the eyes of search engines like Google.
Getting high-quality links from reputable websites can significantly boost your page's rankings.
Other off-page signals that search engines consider include social media signals, brand mentions, and online reviews. For instance, if a website has a lot of positive reviews on various platforms, it's seen as more reliable and trustworthy by search engines, which can improve its overall ranking.
Technical SEO is the process of optimizing your website and server to help search engines properly crawl and index your site more effectively. It is also about making sure that it meets usability standards.
Usability isn't just easy navigation. Visitors should be able to find everything they need without any complications or obstructions. However, some details like page load times come down to milliseconds.
Site security is another crucial factor. Visitors to the website should feel secure and confident in sharing their data or making transactions on the website.
Ultimately, the key to providing great website usability in SEO is to ensure that the website is user-centric, easy to navigate, fast, secure, and mobile-friendly. Still, if Google or other search engines are unable to crawl and index your website correctly, you will have a difficult time ranking in the search engines. Standard technical SEO optimizations are:
- Using HTTPs
- Improving Site Speed
- Removing redirect chains
- Correctly setting up 301 redirects
- Eliminating duplicate content
- Proper use of the Robots.txt file and optimizing your crawl budget
Whenever we want to go to a restaurant, call a technician, or even go to a supermarket, we usually check out the first few results on Google. Many of these top local businesses have invested in local SEO to ensure that they reach the top of the SERPs for their localities. Standard Local SEO optimizations are:
- Creating a Google Business Profile
- Having your name, address and phone number the same on your social pages and Google Business Profile
- Creating local citations (Yelp, Foursquare, etc.)
How to Build a Solid SEO Foundation
First, be patient. SEO is not something that will yield results overnight. Trying to find shortcuts or cool tricks to boost your SEO won't work long term. Instead, follow the fundamentals of good SEO practices, such as quality content, a technically sound site, and good user experience.
The ultimate goal of SEO is to provide value to the user so that they can find what they’re looking for easily. This connects you with people who want to do business with you, and it establishes you as an authority worth trusting.
On that note, understanding your target audience is essential to developing an effective SEO strategy. By knowing your customers or readers' interests, pain points, and behavior, you can create content and a website that meets their needs.
Relevance is Key
Ensuring relevance in SEO takes a deep understanding of the user's search intent. This means going beyond surface-level keywords and grasping the underlying reason for a search.
To do that, think about four types of search intent - Navigational, Informational, Commercial, and Transactional. Navigational intent focuses on finding a specific website or page, while Informational intent searches for information or answer to a question. Commercial intent seeks reviews, recommendations or comparisons, and Transactional intent is when a user is ready to make a purchase.
To align your content with search intent, you need to provide thorough, detailed answers that fit the user's search. It sounds like mind-reading, but the keywords that you target usually tell you what the user is hoping to find.
Relevance is key, but it doesn't work alone. Write high-quality content that is authoritative and easy to follow. You can use the tone of voice that connects best with your audience, and give clear answers to questions that might pop up. Satisfy the user's search well, and you increase the chances of ranking higher on search engines, making it easier for users to find your site.
How E-E-A-T Helps Guide You
After meeting the user's search intent and producing authoritative content, there are still some hurdles to clear. Think of this, hundreds (if not thousands) of other topical sites want to rank for the same searches that you're targeting. Even on the first page there are only 10 spots to get a searcher's attention. Google has a lot of material to choose from, so they've set more conditions.
Fortunately, they're sharing the guidelines with us. Google calls it E-E-A-T: Expertise, Experience, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
Expertise: Take a unique angle that shows you have a deep understanding of the topic. Google values knowledgeable people that share their insights.
Experience: This is about the user's experience (UX). Your page itself should load quickly and be easy to read on a mobile device. Pop-ups are at a minimum and definitely not intrusive.
Authoritativeness: Veterinarians put out content about caring for your pets. They might even stretch into travelling with pets or how to introduce a new kitten to the family. They won't get a lot of points for venturing into DIY plumbing.
Trustworthiness: You offer supporting details and respected sources to your readers.
Google suggests that you create content to the best of your ability with those four factors as guidance. We've offered a deeper look at how you can build E-E-A-T into your content creation.
Do I Need an SEO Tool?
An SEO tool can help you optimize and analyze your website's performance. These tools provide accurate data about website traffic, keyword rankings, and other elements that help determine the efficacy of your SEO efforts.
Good tools can help you measure your performance or plan for the next steps ahead. You will learn that once you ramp up your SEO efforts, you will continue to look for improvement opportunities and develop more content. A good SEO tool can show help you find the keywords to build around and which ones are working best for you already.
SEO can be complicated, and it’s continuously evolving. Still, you have resources available to you to grow competitive and capable. You can absolutely do SEO yourself.
You will need a combination of various skills, including strategic thinking, technical knowledge, and creativity. It is important to stay up-to-date with the latest SEO trends and search engine algorithms to get the best results. There are also various online resources available, such as SEO guides, tutorials, and forums to help you master the art of SEO.
Here are some we collected.
- Traffic Think Tank
- Google’s SEO Starter Guide
- Matthew Barby
- SpyFu Newsletter
- SpyFu SEO Curriculum
- SpyFu SEO Tutorials
SpyFu SEO Resources
- How to improve Google rankings
- 9 of the biggest SEO trends this year
- SEO title optimization
- SEO or PPC: Which should you choose?
- Using Google Trends to boost your SEO
- 50+ Google Search Operators and how to use them for SEO
- How to find long-tail keywords
In digital marketing, SEO plays a crucial role in the online visibility of a website. With SEO, companies can drive organic traffic to their website and target the right audience by optimizing their pages, creating quality content, and using relevant keywords.
These days, good SEO also provides a good user experience by making the website user-friendly and fast-loading. It integrates with other digital marketing strategies like PPC advertising, content marketing, and social media marketing to create greater synergy and achieve better results.
Done with careful thought and patience, it can help marketers reach their target customers, expand their online presence, and improve their bottom line.