18 min read

A lot of people and businesses are wondering what is SEO and how it works?

Today it is a lot broader than it used to be.

Yes, it’s still the main things, but you need to provide more value. A lot more value.

And to provide value you need content.

For your content to be valuable it has to have the quality and empower your visitors.

Now let’s take a closer look.


So What Is SEO And How It Works?

SEO, analytics and a rocket
What Is SEO?

SEO means search engine optimization. There is no magic button to get it right. It’s more of a process of the right action to make sure your website is technically and content vise optimized for search engine. Put all the things together and you will be sending the right signals about trust and quality to top the search engine rank. Meaning that you will prove your pages are worth ranking high.

Higher you are in the rankings the more organic traffic your website will get.


What Does SEO Include?

To better understand the SEO, in this section we will take a closer look at what is included in the SEO.

Remember that not all your web traffic is worth the same.

You can get all the traffic in the World.

But if that traffic isn’t the right kind and all of those visitors are not interested in what you can offer.

Then that traffic is basically worthless for you.

You want to attract the traffic from your targeted audience.

And once you do that, you want to attract more of those visitors that are interested in your offer.
This means that you can spend less money on paid traffic.


Voice Search

Voice search assistant and a mobile phone
Voice Search

It’s getting more and more traction.

You can’t say that it will come, as the data suggest that it is already here.

With all our smart devices, everyone can use it (not all languages yet).

If you have a computer, smartphone, personal assistant device (Alexa, Siri, Google).

And you know what? The voice search changes the way we act.

The reason for it is, that searching through speech is faster.

This way you will get your answer faster.

To be exact 3,7 x faster.

And it doesn’t matter if you are happy with the featured snippet or you will do a research through all of the results.

The featured snippet will be read to you on a voice assistant or on your smartphone or even on a computer.

The featured snippet that answers a question is usually 29 words long.

On a computer, you can use voice search and see the search results.


Difference Between The Organic And Paid Traffic

Paid and organic results in Google search engine
Difference Between The Organic And Paid Traffic

Yes, the simple answer is, that one is free and to get the other one you have to pay.

If you look at Google and other search engine results, you can see one common thing.

That is that the results are divided into paid and organic results.

At the top, you can usually find paid results and after them, you get the organic results with local results included.

The organic results are the subject of search engine optimization.

But there is also the possibility that Google will show us the direct answer to our question.

The answer will be shown at the top, before anything else.

This is the “zero position” or featured snippet.

A direct answer is also the one that will be read if you ask a voice assistant a question.

Like I said before, it’s good to know that results vary based on your location, what type of question we are asking and the intent behind it.


Why Do We Need to Work On SEO Optimization?

The quick answer could be that most of you traffic usually comes from the search engines.

Search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing.

Google is, as you will see, the most used search engine in the World.

First, if we look at the desktop traffic, then Google sent 79 % of all traffic from desktops.

93 % of all online user experiences start with a search engine.

And if you are thinking of buying your traffic then it’s good to know that 70 – 80 % of visitors skip the ads at the top of the search engine.

But don’t get me wrong, paid traffic can boost your incoming traffic, it’s just that it stops when you ad stops running.

According to research done in 2014, about 64 % of all web traffic is coming from the organic results.

That’s a bit number and an opportunity that you shouldn’t waste.


Percentage Of Clicks Based On Your Position In The Search

Here you’ll see why it’s important that you are ranked in the first 3 results.

It’s the fact that the first 3 results get the most clicks and traffic.

Of course, we can bypass the important role of position zero.

The position zero has the most content and as such provides the broadest answer inside the search engine.

Now let’s take a look at the click percentage of the first 3 positions in Google:

Position 1, desktop: 35,56 %
Position 1, mobile devices: 27,96 %

Percentage Of Clicks if You Are in Position 1 in Search
Percentage Of Clicks if You Are in Position 1 in Search

Position 2, desktop: 17,22 %
Position 2, mobile devices: 16,09 %

Percentage Of Clicks if You Are in Position 2 in Search
Percentage Of Clicks if You Are in Position 2 in Search

Position 3, desktop: 10,55 %
Position 3, mobile: 10, 43 %

Percentage Of Clicks if You Are in Position 3 in Search
Percentage Of Clicks if You Are in Position 3 in Search

Rest of the positions are dramatically losing the CTR.

If you like to know data for the rest of the positions, check out the link here.

So you see, the point of SEO is to make your content as relevant as possible to what people are searching for.

This means that when you plan your content you take into account the search intent of the search query.

This way you’ll have more traffic on your website.

Of course be sure that you get the right traffic.


How Does SEO Work?

How Does SEO Work
How Does SEO Work?

You should look at the search engines like websites that are answering your questions.

If you look at it, you can see that the internet is one big base of knowledge.

Just search what you want to learn, and most likely you will find the right resource to use.

With the help of search engines as Google, we are searching the web for the information that can be useful to us.

Search engines are using spiders or crawlers to crawl the web to find data.

This becomes the foundation for the index or the database.

From that database then the algorithm is searching for the relevant information that would best match your search query.


What is Google’s Algorithm

Laptop on a desk with Google search engine open
Google’s algorithm

First I have to tell you, that all search engines have its own algorithm and Google is no different.

The algorithm is here to help them with ranking websites based on the trustworthiness, relevancy, authority, content quality and the overall quality of the site.

By doing that, they are trying to provide you with the best possible results for your search query.

Google’s algorithm consists of more than 200 signals.

Yes, it’s true that Google has never published or revealed what they are.

But SEO experts have done a good job over the last 20 years, so they know how these signals work.

Still, your main job shouldn’t be focusing on Google’s special algorithm.

Your focus should be on producing the best answer the user of Google search engine.

That is the main goal of Google so you will get the most out of your efforts if you provide the best content.

Of course, having just that, the best content is not enough.

Google is also ranking based on how websites are showing their expertise, authority, and trust.

In short EAT.

They have an EAT guide that you should follow.

In short, it can bring you a whole lot of benefits if there is a link to your content from a high authority website.

Of course, it should be related to your industry or niche.

This can especially skyrocket your ranking if you have made sure that your website is technically impeccable, provides good user experience, has a good and easy navigation and quality content.


On-Page SEO Factors

Mac screen with a vector image of search results with magnifying glass
On-Page SEO Factors

Well, we could also say signals.

Okay, these are the factors that you have the most control over.

These are on your website and your server.

So all the actions you take to improve your website’s ranking by improving accessibility, relevancy and user experience.

You can count here the optimization of your websites structure, navigation, and internal linking.

It’s important that you have the right H tags, image descriptions and meta descriptions of your pages.

Also don’t forget to do a proper keyword research, that will help you unveil the right kind of keyword.

By doing the keyword research you’ll find out what queries are your potential clients using to search for topics related to your industry.

With your activities related to on-page SEO, it’s important that you make sure your website is indexable and web crawlers can crawl your website.

This means that your website can be shown in search engines results.

Also, remember that it’s helpful that your website has no mistakes or errors in the code itself.

Of course, do not forget about the content quality.

Speed is the name of the game these days in age.

The faster your website opens the better user experience it has.
Remember to not put distracting things on your website that could reduce the user experience of your visitors.

This is especially important when we talk about mobile devices.


Off-Page SEO Factors

List of results from search engine and a magnifying glass
Off-Page SEO Factors

These are the activities that we do to improve our organic ranking away from our website, and we don’t have real control over them.

It doesn’t mean that we can’t increase our chances, but we don’t control the outcome.

If you ask people the, in general, they’ll tell you it’s just link building.

But that’s not the whole picture.

You should know that one of the activities you should use is content marketing.

While we are with content marketing, it’s part of the inbound marketing, so that is also something that can help you with your off-page SEO.

This means, that if you produce valuable content and distribute it, that you can get backlinks and eventually you will rank high for that keyword.

To get backlinks you can also use PR. You can do this by writing for other publications as a guest author.

A great way to attract new backlinks is if you can create your own unique research work, or if you can get the experts in your niche to give you an interview.

An idea is also to create posts with quotes from influential people in your niche.

This will bring you new backlinks and new traffic.

Remember to never forget about the distribution and contacting the influencers in your industry to promote your content.


What Basics Are Search Engines Looking For?

Now let’s look at some things that you need to pay special attention if you want your SEO efforts to bring in results.

These basics will make sure your SEO strategy has a firm foundation.


Content Relevancy

You should know that the main goal of the search engines is to show the most relevant results to their visitors.

This could mean that someone is looking for a famous person or maybe how old that person is.

Remember that Google will show you this information without the need to click on any other link in the search.

If you are searching for something more specific your search results are dependent on:

  • Where you are, your place of searching
  • Is your search related to local search
  • Is there a season or a trend for the thing you are looking for
  • Interestingly, even the time of the day.

But how they’ll rank is up to the search engine algorithm.

The top of the list will be the result, that the search engine believes, matches your search query the most and is fulfilling the SEO criteria to the fullest.


What’s the Quality of Your Content?

If you publish posts on your blog, it’s important to know who is it you are writing for.

As search engines have become smarter this is getting increasingly important.

Why?

Well, it’s not good to write for the search engine.

You should write your content for a real person, your audience.

This means that your text should have a natural flow and not push keywords in your text just so you have it.

When you stuff in keywords it can, and usually does, sound quite strange.

Remember that, as the data show, it’s easier to rank posts that are long-form.

You can see in this infographic, that an average result on the first page of Google is 1890 words long.

But, don’t think that this is just the length.

If your content is not in depth of the topic and all it can offer is length, then that’s not going to work.


How is Your UX?

Yes, it even counts how does it feel to use your website.

Is it easy to use it or do you make your visitors miserable when they navigate your website?

You must have heard that the design has to be practical.

Make sure that your website has an easy to navigate menu.

Remember that internal linking is important and it can increase the perceived value of your website in the eyes of your visitors.

Internal links can also help you retain a visitor on your website for a longer period of time.


The speed of Your Website

Long exposure lights
Website Loading Speed

Speed…

As the World is getting faster and faster, so are our internet connections.

If you look at this from the perspective of the websites, then you know that they are obligated to follow this trend.

All of this means that there are more and more people connecting to the internet from mobile devices.

If your website doesn’t open fast, then the UX of your website is decreased.

Also remember, that speed has become one of the ranking signals.

It has also been found that the average first result on the first page of Google opens in 1900 ms, which means in 1,9 seconds.

The other truth is also that the speed will help you get higher, but Google won’t punish you or impose a penalty on your website if your website is a bit slower.

Well, the speed of other websites will be punishment enough.

In previously mentioned research you’ll see how even a 500 ms slower website can lower the number of interaction with your website.


Is Your Website Responsive and Visible on all Devices?

Desktop, tablet and mobile device illustration
Responsive Website Design

If your first answer is no, then you have a lot of work to do.

It’s important that your website offers the same quality of experience to users on all devices.

This means that your website is adapting to all the different screens desktops, tablets, and mobile devices.

Remember that Google has switched to mobile-first index.


Internal Linking

In general, you can even count your navigation as internal linking.

And yes, it plays an important role.

As it is important that is easy to use.

But it’s even more important than the rest of the pages on your website are structured and connected to serve your visitor.

If you connect your pages the right way you will be able to offer your visitors more content and keep them on your page for a longer time.

This way you will support your post’s statements and be even more helpful.

But that’s not the only reason.

Internal linking can help web crawlers help to better understand your website and they can also determine if your website is trustworthy.

Most importantly, you can suggest which keyword you want your linked post to rank in search engine.

This means that you put a link on a keyword that you want the search engine to use to rank your linked post.


Meta Descriptions

Snippet of Yoast Meta description widget
Meta Description

What are meta descriptions?

These are short descriptions of your pages.

They show up in the search engine to help visitors know what your page is all about.

By itself, it won’t help you rank better, but by telling a searcher what your page is about might just get you a new visitor.

They should be around 155 – 170 words long.

Any longer at they won’t be fully visible.

For some time Google has allowed longer descriptions, but they have reverted back.

Don’t go overboard, if you can’t write the 155 words.

Make it inviting and descriptive, that’s the whole point. To have a high CTR.

Please remember to include your keyword in your meta description.


Headlines of Your Posts And Pages

Headlines are also visible in search engines and are the parts that carry your keyword while being descriptive.

It’s important that your headline that is visible in the search engine includes your company’s name or brand.

Make sure your headlines are not longer than 55 – 60 words. This way you will guarantee the optimal visibility of your headline in the search engine.

Of course, you can still add your company’s name.

Remember that you have the possibility to have two different headlines.

One is the one that is visible in the search engine and the other one is visible on your page.

But it’s a good practice to make sure you don’t have different headlines.

And be sure to stay away from clickbait titles.

By implementing a good optimization of your meta descriptions and headlines you’ll make sure your CTR is high.

This will also help you rank higher in the search engine because the search engine will see that people are clicking on your page.


URL Structure and Permalinks

URL bar in Google Chrome Browser
URL Structure

My suggestion is that your URLs includes your keyword.

This is especially important in your blog posts.

But remember that URL doesn’t have to be the same as your headline.

It’s just the keyword that should be in it.

Make sure your URLs are readable by humans and short as possible.

I know this is going to be strange, but readable usually also means a little descriptive, so that they show that they are trustworthy.

Check some great tips on URL structure by Moz.


Your Website’s Authority

Mozbar in Google Chrome
Domain Authority

This is one of the most important elements of your domain and website as a whole.

But bear in mind that the authority of a website is built through time.

It takes time to ensure your website is trusted inside of your niche by other website owners, industry experts and visitors.

And that all this can be known by search engines it’s important that you get backlinks from other authoritative websites.

Make sure they are related to your niche.

That way you get more authority.

The more high quality backlinks you can get, the higher your website will rank.

Also, remember that all the backlinks in the world wouldn’t help you if your content lacks the quality.

This is where it all starts.

With you creating quality content.

But don’t get fooled, just the content isn’t enough, you need distribution and promotion of your content.

That will bring in the backlinks.


Evergreen Content

What does that mean?

This means that you create content that can bring you traffic in the long term.

Basically, you don’t write or create content that is going to be popular just for a few weeks or months, but you want your posts to attract traffic through a longer period of time.

And remember that 1 post out in 10 is a compounding post and that means its traffic is increasing through time.

This means that they get more traffic in their lifetime than 6 posts with dropping traffic stats.

Now let’s look at what kind of posts are compounding posts.

Those are usually meant for a wide audience.

Posts are oriented into strategies, how to articles.

Here are some example titles:

  • How to improve your lawn quality
  • Or How to know when you are missing some vitamins
  • And how to know when you have a broken machine.

These are just examples, so they may sound strange, but you get what I mean.

Your goals are really to be interesting to the widest range of your potential buyers as possible.


Schema Markup

Schema Logo
Schema

This markup can help your website to be shown with more data and information in Google search.

It can also help your results to be more visually pleasing.

Schema markup can help you show your navigation in a Google search, which can help your visitors find the page they are looking for.

What is even more important and can improve CTR, is that you have the ability to show reviews in search engines.

It’s recommended and supported to use Schema markup by all of the leading search engines.


Usage of Alt Text Images on Your Website

Image details in WordPress
Image Alt Text

This is something that a lot of website owners leaves out, but shouldn’t.

By writing alt text, you can increase your chances of ranking your images in image search.

And this will increase your chances of being found.

It’s also important because Google “can’t see images”.

But it can read the alt text.

The more accurately you describe your image the better your chances are to be ranked in image search.


Comments on Your Posts

Personally, I am not a fan of this feature anymore.

Why?

Well, it can get to a big amount of spam on your website.

And you don’t want that to happen.

But I do have to admit that the comments can help you with SEO.

You might ask how?

If they aren’t spam, they send Google a signal, that your content is of good quality.

It’s also a signal that shows that the visitors take their time to comment and read your posts.

So it’s another testimonial of your content’s quality.

Allowing comments on your page will also help you build a more engaged community.

But…

Yes, but…

This also means that you will have to be doing some moderations of your comments.

Meaning deleting spam from your comments section.

Remember to change the links in the comments into no-follow links.

That way you’ll prevent from linking to possibly bad rep websites.


Your Domain Name

Let me remind you to not use subdomains for your blog if possible.

It’s better to use subdirectories:

Instead of using:

  • blog.mybusinesswebsite.com

You should rather use:

  • mybusinesswebsite.com/blog

It’s also recommended to stay away from keyword rich domain names, as they can hurt your SEO efforts.

They are regarded as spammy and if you won’t create enough of quality content then you could be in trouble.


Local SEO

Purple Map Pin on a dark background
Local SEO

When you do your search on Google, almost every query is shown with local results.

Which means that you shouldn’t ask if you should optimize your website for local search, but it is a must do action.

But I want to reach wider places.

Of course, you do, but optimizing for local SEO won’t stop you from doing that.

But it will help you get more reach locally while also strengthening your position in other places.

Whatever you do, don’t forget to open your account at Google My Business.

Make sure you have listed your website in as many local business directories as possible.

When writing your business name, address, phone number, be consistent with it. This will help Google and potential clients recognize you more easily.

Local SEO is especially important for small businesses like hairdressers, local shops, bars, coffee shops, etc.

The thing is that we search for most of these businesses on the road, so it’s important that they are shown in the local search for us to find them.


Your Social Media Activity

Laptop on a lap with Facebook feed open
Social Media Activity

As I don’t want this to be misunderstood.

Just by being on a social media, doesn’t get you higher rankings.

It’s your activity, that can boost your traffic.

And that traffic from social media can then lead to higher ranking because it can be a signal to search engine to rank you higher.

You see, search engines want to show the best results to their users, so if you page get popular it can mean that you have enough quality to be at the top.

First, you have to be loved by everybody else and then Google will start to love you too.

You probably heard that one before.


What You Should Definitely Avoid When Doing an SEO?

We have gone through what the search engine look for and what you should do to make sure your SEO game is at its peak.

In this section, we will take a look at what you should avoid.


Keyword Stuffing

So this means, don’t just stuff in the keywords to your content, just for the sake of having keywords.

When you write your post, you will use keywords naturally, because you are writing about the topic.

Yes, of course, you should edit your content and see if you can maybe be better at keyword positioning or adding somewhere.

But don’t push it.

This tactic of gaming the system doesn’t work and it also ruins your content.

Try to read it, it’s impossible.

Example:

“SEO optimization will help you SEO optimize your website and because of that your website will be SEO optimized for a specific keyword and that is why the SEO optimization will help you rank better.”

See it’s not really a nice reading experience.

Remember, that having a high keyword density isn’t a key to make your content relevant.

That’s because Google’s algorithm is smart and will know if your post is actually talking about the topic in your title or not.

But still, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use any keywords.

It’s all about the distribution.

For example density of 2,5 %, it’s a good keyword density, but the key is to have them all over your post.


Copying or Duplicating Content

It doesn’t need to be an exact copy of the content.

If it is you could be in double trouble.

Because you are stealing content and you won’t rank because of duplicate content.

But most problems of duplicate content comes from publishing content on your website and on some publishing platform.

The problem can arise if that platform doesn’t use canonical tags, to tell Google where the original was published.

Which can mean that the copy on that platform (if it has a high domain authority) could outrank you and it can even earn you a duplicate content penalty.

If you do it right distributing your content on other websites is a great marketing strategy.


Annoying Messages, Pop-ups, and Ads on Mobile Devices

Apps icons on a mobile device with facebook and whatsup having notifications
Annoying Messages, Pop-ups, and Ads on Mobile Devices

We have all seen them, from special offers, discounts, and other ads.

The biggest problem are the pop-ups that are full screen on mobile devices.

They can get you in trouble with Google too.

I am pretty sure your visitors will be frustrated before Google is.

You see, if this happens on a desktop, it’s not a problem, but on mobile devices, this can really get annoying.

Why?

Well because it has a smaller screen, the connection is usually slower and they tend to be harder to close on mobile devices.

You don’t want Google to label you as a non-friendly website for mobile users.


Buying Backlinks

Chain illustration
Buying Backlinks

First, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t work on getting backlinks.

Now, let’s get back on track.

Buying backlinks will, in the end, cost you more than what the bought backlinks are going to cost.

Firstly, PBN of link farms are not allowed and if you get caught you will lose everything.

Secondly, these links are worth a lot less than the backlinks from a site that is related to your niche.

Remember SEO is a long-term game.


Hiding Text on Your Website

This is exactly what it sounds like.

Say, you have a keyword that you want to rank for and you color them in the color of your background.

That way you hide it from your visitors, but the web crawlers can still find it.

I have to say that this doesn’t work anymore and it can do a lot of damage to your website, so rather stay away.


How Come the Search Engines Don’t Figure Out My Website on Their Own?

Laptop on a wooden desk with code editor open
Why We Need SEO?

We all know by now, that search engines are smart and web crawlers can figure out a lot of things.

But they do have their limitations.

This is the reason why SEO is needed and should cover at least the basics, so your website has a good foundation.

I really have to emphasize that SEO is a long – run strategy and it takes a bit of time to get results.

How long?

It depends on your niche competition.

If you have a good SEO strategy in place and you will eventually get the visibility and traffic that you want.

But remember, that the competition online is stiff and you need to keep working and improving to stay at the top.


Is It Possible to Do The SEO By Myself?

A business man near a fence using his smartphone
Can Ido SEO by Myself?

As much as the SEO is complex, it’s possible that you can do it by yourself.

You can learn the basics of on-page and off-page SEO and then apply that knowledge to your business website.

There is no need to buy courses. You can find free educational content all over the web.

It all depends on your time, and SEO takes a lot of time.

However, it doesn’t hurt if you have the knowledge of SEO, as it can help you better understand the whole process.

But the thing is that you do what you do because that is something you are good at and it takes time to efficiently run your business, so that might convince you, that you need an outside help.

It all depends on your preferences, determination and time.


Conclusion

SEO is a wide area. It’s not easy to answer what is SEO and how it works, but I hope you have grasped the basics from this post.

As you see through the post, SEO is widely connected to the content.

There is no SEO optimization if there you don’t have quality content published.

It’s quite impossible to do SEO without content, so that is the piece you need to put in place with your basics.

You can do it yourself, but you need to be constantly learning. Which can be quite tricky, as the industry where you are running your business is also evolving.

Until next time, happy growth!

SEO specialist and Founder of Nomiscom WebDesign. Here to help you grow your business with the strategic approach to designing your business website and growing it to become the tool that is increasing your revenue.

Simon Sebjanic

SEO specialist and Founder of Nomiscom WebDesign. Here to help you grow your business with the strategic approach to designing your business website and growing it to become the tool that is increasing your revenue.
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