What is SEO? A Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization
In today’s world we all know that Google is king. We turn to the search platform with pretty much all of our questions. So it’s no wonder that everyone is trying to do what they can to make their information findable on Google. Which is exactly what SEO is - the practice of optimizing your content to appear higher within search results.
From creating a great website to writing the proper metadata, implementing SEO tactics can take a lot of work. And, unfortunately, it is not enough to simply get your information out there. Studies show that 75% of all clicks on search engines go to the top three results. That is to say that only 25% of clicks are spread out across the hundreds or thousands of other results. In other words, you want to be sure to be ranking amongst those top three.
That’s why it is absolutely essential that you are paying attention to the small details on your site. This article will cover what it takes to implement all of those details and make sure that they are meeting SEO standards.
What is SEO?
SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of optimizing websites so that they rank well on search engines through organic (non paid) searches.
In other words, your website needs to satisfy certain cues that platforms like Google look for. Because Google is looking to provide a positive user experience for its searchers, it wants to present the best possible information available. SEO is essentially the process of making sure search engines recognize your content as the best information on the web for a particular search query.
How do search engines work?
As you now know, SEO is basically the practice of pleasing search engines. But how do search engines work? How do they know what your website contains?
Search engines use robots that crawl web pages across the internet in order to determine what content they contain. Once they’ve gathered enough information, they add these pages to their index. Then their algorithm basically matches a user’s search query to the relevant information in their index, providing searchers with an accurate answer to their query.
It’s important to note that Google does not release specifics about their algorithm and therefore it is impossible to know for sure exactly how various SEO strategies are considered.
On-page vs. off-page SEO
SEO is impacted by a number of different factors. As there is no way to know exactly what influences search engine rankings the most, experts recommend that your SEO strategy contains a cocktail of tactics. Those tactics can largely be broken down into two categories: on-page and off-page SEO.
On-page SEO refers to the strategies that you implement on your site itself, including everything from the design and text to your metadata, alt text and more. Off-page SEO refers to the steps you take outside of your website. This includes things like external links, social posts and other website promotion methods.
Both on-page and off-page SEO are essential in driving traffic to your site and in ultimately signaling to Google that your site is a significant player. By letting Google know that your site is important and that people are interested in learning about what you have to offer, you are helping your pages rank higher and gain more traffic.
How to implement SEO
While this may sound obvious, it’s important to mention that the first step in implementing SEO best practices is creating an outstanding website. Make sure that your website is easily navigable, provides a great user experience and clearly presents the information that you want to convey. This ensures that you are starting off on the right track to providing an excellent answer to searchers’ queries.
However, SEO is much more than just a professional looking website. Here are a few of the most essential SEO tactics to take into account:
01. Keyword research
Arguably one of the most important parts of understanding and implementing SEO is doing keyword research. Keyword research is the process of finding the best and most relevant words to use on your web pages. By doing some investigating, and using professional keyword research tools, you can understand how people around the world tend to search for things related to your product or service. Choosing to use the right words on your web pages can make a huge difference when it comes to how much traffic your site gets.
Let’s say your name is Jenny and you sell flowers. You may naturally think to title your page “Jenny’s Flower Store.” However, a quick keyword research would tell you that the keyword “flower store” gets searched on average 2,000 times monthly, while “flower shop” gets searched an average 30,000 times a month. Therefore, using the word “shop” instead of “store” on your web pages will send Google the message that your site is indeed what people are searching for.
But keyword research does not end there. Continuing with the flower shop example, you may notice that the search results page for “flower shop” is dominated by big name brands that your small store can’t compete with. Instead, you might think to focus on your geographical location (local SEO) or a niche that you specialize in. Including this information on your web pages will let Google know that you are a strong option when people are searching for something that you specifically provide.
02. Mobile friendliness
Another essential element of SEO is ensuring that all searchers can reach your site and have a positive user experience. In today’s world, over 50% of all traffic comes from mobile devices. That means that it is well worth your while to ensure that your site is mobile friendly.
Not only will this boost your business and ensure that people searching from their phones can use your site, but it is also important to Google. The search engine often employs mobile first indexing, which essentially means that it crawls the mobile version of your site in order to determine how it should rank amongst its results. That’s why the mobile version of your site deserves your undivided attention.
03. Page speed
One of the factors that Google takes into consideration is page speed or loading times. How fast your website loads is an important factor for user experience. A slow website can make users turn away from your site before they even see what it has to offer. It is therefore essential that you pay close attention to this and make sure to optimize your website speed.
Some of the easiest ways to ensure that your site loads quickly include not overloading it with media or features, optimizing your image sizes and sticking to one or two fonts throughout. These will make your site look cleaner and feel more professional, as well as help keep your loading time down.
An important element in gaining trust from both people and Google alike is proving your authority. We tend to trust the experts and we therefore seek out advice from people who are particularly knowledgeable in their field. Google does the same thing. It determines what sites have the most information and qualifications to report on a given topic, then prioritizes them by presenting them to searchers.
Gaining authority can be done in a number of ways. The simplest way is simply to accurately discuss the item or service which you know the most about. Thus if your service is an online store selling flowers and your site has a blog, you should likely discuss topics surrounding flowers and flower care.
Another important factor is quality links. We will dive a bit deeper into linking strategies below, but in short this refers to other sites or pages of authority linking to your web page.
Being an authority on a given topic can also be achieved with some simple steps. Make sure that your site content is updated. If you provide the answer for a certain topic, but that answer was written in 2010, it is likely that you are no longer the authority on that page. This freshness factor is not always the most important SEO strategy, but it is nonetheless a best practice.
05. External linking
External linking, or backlinks, are when other sites link to your site. This is an important SEO tactic as it drives up the authority of your site. It also lets more potential users reach your pages and learn more about your product or service.
External links are best when they are genuine and natural. That happens when another platform has noticed you and has decided that your site can add value to their content. They therefore link to your site as a way to help their own readers or users. The more authoritative or important the other site, the more valuable their link is. While there’s no short-cut for gaining genuine external links, the best way is to strive to consistently create good quality content.
06. Internal linking
Another linking strategy is internal linking, or linking between pages within your own website. This helps drive traffic between your website pages, bringing attention to all of your assets. It also provides user value as it helps make your site more navigable and ensures that your users can easily find what they are looking for.
Internal linking also helps boost site authority. By linking lesser visited pages to stronger pages within your own site, you are sending Google a signal that both pages are important.
Metadata refers to the information that you provide Google to describe what your web page contains. When you conduct a search on a search engine, each result that you see is presented with a headline and description letting you know what kind of content you’ll find on the page. These headlines and descriptions are called metadata. You can provide Google with that information to help both users and Google understand the most important parts of your web page.
Many SEO experts consider your meta titles, or title tags, and meta descriptions to be some of the strongest SEO signals that you can send Google. It is therefore critical that you try to include your most important keywords in your title tag.
Metadata also has an underlying SEO advantage. It gives you control over the text that searchers see when they first encounter your website. Including enticing text that clearly answers the searcher’s query can lead to more clicks to your website. The more people that click, the more Google notices that your site is a good match for people’s searches and the higher they rank you.
08. Alt text
Alt text, or alternative text, is the small description that you give to the images on your site. It is embedded into your site’s HTML and is an important SEO asset. Bots that crawl web pages can’t interpret images, so they need alt text to register what the images depict. This has a couple of important SEO ramifications:
Alt text makes your images more likely to appear on Google searches, both in the Google images section, but also increasingly at the top of regular search result pages. Images are becoming more and more of a standard across Google searches, and the better your alt text, the more likely your image will rank. Of course the more you rank, the more exposure your site gets and the more traffic you are likely to gain.
Google also perceives web pages that utilize alt text to be more generally optimized. This can help your site appear better in the eyes of search engines.
An important thing to consider is exactly how to write alt text. When you look at an image you can likely think of various ways to describe what you see. For SEO purposes, it is recommended to think strategically about your alt text and try to include some keywords to give your site an extra push.
Now that you know what the main SEO strategies are, you might be wondering what to do now. You can start by going through these steps and ensuring they are implemented on your site. A simple way to do this is to utilize the Wix SEO wizard. This tool will give you personalized SEO recommendations according to the needs of your site. Of course, you can also implement each of the strategies independently.
You are off to a great start if you have in fact added all of the tactics mentioned. However, SEO work does not end there. Another important facet of SEO is maintenance. You will have to continuously check in on your site to make sure everything is working properly and is up to date. Often, slight changes on your site can break links or harm site functionality, which is why it’s essential that you check in and maintain your site.
Lastly, it’s recommended to regularly check metrics so that you can understand how your site might be growing as a result of your SEO work. You can check your site rankings with SEO tools like Ahrefs in order to get a sense of the direct impact of your optimization. In other words, you might check if your site has improved in the rankings and note which keywords your site is ranking well for. You can also utilize Wix’s site traffic analytics tool to help you understand how much traffic you’re getting and where that traffic is coming from.
By Amanda Weiner
Content Optimization Specialist