18 min. reading

What is SEO?

SEO is a commonly used acronym, especially in marketing. You may have encountered it when creating content or even the website itself. But what does it mean, and why is it so important to so many professionals?

What is SEO?
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What is SEO?

Search engine optimisation, or SEO for short, is the process of optimising a website or content to improve its visibility in search engines such as Google, Bing or Yahoo.

As part of SEO, marketers or copywriters typically focus on specific keywords or phrases relevant to a brand, product, or service. They use these to try to get the website to the top of search results, which can increase traffic and boost sales.

SEO is a challenging field. It is a never-ending process as search results are constantly changing. One day, your site may be ranked number one; the next day, it may be ranked fourth or fifth. That’s why you need to constantly monitor new trends, see what can be improved and anticipate what factors could threaten your position.

How do search engines work?

To understand and work with SEO, you need to understand how search engines work. They are an essential part of the whole content or website optimisation process.

First, search engines are not just Google, Bing or Yahoo. Nowadays, they also include popular platforms such as Facebook or YouTube. So, to rank higher on these platforms, you need to apply SEO principles when creating content for them.

But how do search engines work? Quite simply. Their algorithms crawl thousands of websites daily and store them in their database. It then selects them based on your chosen keyword and displays them to you.

The order in which the sites appear depends on several factors. Google doesn’t provide much information on this, but we can confirm from experience that its technology focuses primarily on keywords, content relevance, internal and external links, and loading speed. We will discuss the main factors below.

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Relevance

If you’re looking for tyres, you don’t want to see clothes in your search results. Therefore, when evaluating content, Google’s main focus is its relevance or the degree to which an accurate relationship exists between the search query and the intended search result.

Domains with accurate, fast and relevant results are ranked high and come first in search engines. This is why you should use the right keywords when creating content. Google’s (or any other search engine’s) artificial intelligence will be able to read these and display your website to people who are genuinely interested in the topic.

Content relevance is important but not the only factor Google considers. There are currently millions of relevant web pages, and only a few can be ranked in the top positions. Therefore, other parameters need to be considered when it comes to SEO.

Did you know…?

Up to 68% of people will not return to a website if they are disappointed or uninterested in the content they find. So, if you want a person to stay on your site and make a purchase, you need to create personalised, highly relevant, high-quality content that meets their wants and needs.

Authority

Authority is a search engine’s parameter for determining whether content is accurate and trustworthy. It refers to a domain’s overall influence and reputation, and Google usually evaluates it based on the site’s overall acceptance by users.

But how does Google determine how much authority a site has? It generally does this based on backlinks from other sites. This is why link building is so important for SEO.

Backlinks are essential for a website, but instead of just focusing on the number of backlinks you have, you should also keep track of which sites they are on. A backlink on an authoritative site is much more valuable to Google than multiple links on smaller and non-authoritative sites.

Utility

Just because the content is relevant and factually correct does not automatically guarantee that it is useful and will be ranked by Google. The company constantly discusses the importance of quality over quantity and emphasises that content should be created for users who enjoy reading and interacting with it. What does that mean in practice?

Imagine you’re looking for an article on how to lose weight. Result A, which you open, is written by a leading and knowledgeable expert. The text is relevant and provides quality information, which is why many websites link to it.

However, this content is problematic because it is poorly structured, lacks images, and contains technical terms that most people don’t understand.

Result B, on the other hand, has verified information that is written in human terms. It is also structured and has pictures. So ordinary people will read it much better than the first alternative. Google can, therefore, rank result B first even if there are not so many authoritative websites linking to it.

In simple terms, Google also looks at whether people open the page and leave because they see a lot of unstructured text or whether they stay on the page and read it.

Expert advice

You can use a metric called bounce rate to determine how people interact with your content. This tells you what percentage of people visit the site, take no action, and leave immediately.

Safety

Security is another factor in SEO and where a website will be ranked. Google’s technology needs to be able to visit and crawl the site without any problems.

Many users think that Google’s ranking factor for security is the secure hypertext protocol “https”. However, John Mueller, senior webmaster trends analyst and search relations for the company, says that Google’s technology doesn’t look too closely at this detail. They look at other parameters, such as the page’s source code.

On the other hand, the https protocol is essential for users. If they open your site and find it doesn’t have it, they’ll likely leave immediately, increasing your bounce rate. This means that your content is irrelevant to Google, which will cause your search rankings to drop.

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Website speed

In recent years, web speed has been cited as one of the most important parameters affecting search result rankings. This is because Google is constantly trying to improve the user experience. It knows people don’t want to wait too long for pages to load. So, if your site is fast, there is a good chance that it will rank higher.

So, how does Google check loading speed? In July 2018, it introduced an algorithm update focusing on this very detail, penalising sites that take a long time to appear.

The good news is that you can now use several tools to check your site’s speed. One of the most basic is PageSpeed Insight, which comes directly from Google.

Responsiveness

A large percentage of people today use mobile phones to search for information. Small screens are preferred over large computers or laptops, which is something you need to keep in mind when creating a website. The site should adapt to mobile or tablet users, making browsing subpages easier and ensuring they don’t leave as soon as it loads.

Google does not directly control how well a website adapts to smaller screens. However, it does control the bounce rate, which will be higher if users learn that the site is not easy to view on mobile.

Age and domain name

Did you know that up to 60% of the sites that appear in the top positions on Google are three years old or older? This fact was discovered by Ahrefs, which checked more than two million pages in its 2017 test.

So, if you have a website that is several years old, you have an advantage over the newest sites.

In addition to age, the domain name itself is also important. While Google has penalised exact match domains in the past (those with a keyword in the URL on purpose), these penalties were mainly for spammy sites with irrelevant and low-quality content.

Domains with an exact match in the keyword that have relevant and high-quality content should not fear penalties. On the contrary, Google will reward them with higher search rankings for a job well done.

User experience

User experience is closely related to usefulness. Google has been using artificial intelligence for some time to improve the ranking of websites. It calls this technology RankBrain, whose main job is to track, in particular.

  • Click-through rate – the percentage of people who click through to your site after it appears in search results
  • Exit rate – the number of people who click on your site and then go back to the search results without taking any action
  • Dwell time – the length of time visitors spend on your website

Social networks

According to Google’s official statement, social networks do not directly influence SEO. However, a study controlling 23 million shares found a clear link between sharing content on these platforms and search engine rankings.

Furthermore, the importance of social networks is confirmed by the fact that sites that appear in the top positions in Google always have at least one account on Facebook, Instagram or X (Twitter).

If you want to improve your rankings and are not using social networking sites, consider incorporating them into your online marketing.

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Types of SEO

SEO is generally divided into two basic groups, which are

On-page

On-page SEO, or on-site SEO, optimises a website for search engines and users. It can involve various changes and modifications to the website from a content or technical point of view.

On-page SEO is essential for search engine technology to check a website’s relevance and quality. Based on this data, it ranks it in the search results.

A tip

In some cases, you may also come across technical SEO, which deals with the technical side of your website. This falls under the category of on-page SEO.

Off-Page

Off-page SEO focuses on how other websites or users mention your website. For example, it can involve publishing backlinks.

Off-page SEO aims to make your site more trustworthy and authoritative to search engines and people.

SEO vs. SEM

You’ll come across several acronyms in relation to SEO. One of them is SEM.

SEM, or Search Engine Marketing, is a marketing strategy that increases a website’s search visibility through paid advertising and optimisation. Unlike SEO, it does not focus on purely organic traffic generation.

SEO vs. PPC

Pay-per-click, or PPC, is a type of advertising where the advertiser only pays when the user clicks on the ad. Therefore, unlike SEO, it is not an organic way to achieve higher search rankings.

SEO and PPC do not help each other in any way. However, they are practical online and digital marketing tools to drive sales.

White Hat SEO vs. Black Hat SEO

White hat SEO is the correct and ethical way to optimise a website. It includes all the common and often used methods and strategies mentioned above, such as speeding up a website’s loading time, using the right keywords, structuring your content, etc.

At the same time, white hat SEO:

  • Follows search engine guidelines
  • Focuses on the human audience
  • Requires a long-term and consistent approach

Black hat SEO is the exact opposite. It is an unethical approach that does not follow the basic rules of search engines. It usually involves various manipulative tactics, such as using keywords with high search volume but not relevant to the content.

Black hat SEO is also considered:

  • Content automation, such as robots/artificial intelligence creating comments or articles
  • Creating fake pages stuffed with keywords
  • Adding invisible text containing keywords
  • Adding hidden links to text

How important is SEO?

SEO is much more important to your website than you might think. According to a 2019 study by Brightedge, unpaid search accounts for up to 53.3% of total website traffic. More recent data from 2022 puts the figure at up to 62% of traffic.

The size of the market for SEO services confirms its importance. In 2022, it will be worth $68.27 billion worldwide.

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What can SEO do for you?

Proper and well-thought-out SEO will bring you several benefits, including:

Increased brand awareness

When you appear in the top search positions, you increase your brand awareness. People will register and learn about your brand even if they don’t visit your website. However, they may remember it later and decide to make a purchase.

Build brand credibility

When your website frequently appears at the top of search results, it builds credibility. People expect that you’re probably an authority they can rely on if Google prefers you.

Getting relevant visits

Unlike other practices and methods, SEO can help you drive real-quality traffic to your website. It only targets people searching for keywords and phrases related to your products or services.

Remember, it doesn’t matter what kind of users come to your website. Too many people who aren’t interested in what you have to offer will click on the page and then leave. As a result, Google will think your content is irrelevant, ultimately leading to a deterioration in your position in the search results.

Cost-effectiveness

SEO is more cost-effective than other channels and methods. This is especially true in the long run when it can save you a lot of money.

However, be careful. Although SEO can help you save money, this should not be the main reason for choosing it. Not to mention that you should never deliberately skimp on optimisation, as this may not bring you any results.

An essential part of marketing

SEO complements other marketing practices and methods, such as PPC advertising or social media. It drives relevant traffic to the website and can effectively increase sales of products or services.

Track changes in consumer behaviour

With search engine optimisation, you can stay on top of the latest trends and easily see what people are searching for. With this information, you can adapt to them and give them exactly what they’re looking for.

What are the drawbacks and risks of SEO?

There are some disadvantages and risks associated with SEO, which are:

  • Long wait for results – even the best SEO will not give you results overnight. You don’t usually have to wait weeks or months to see results
  • Continuous work – SEO is not a one-off activity. It is a long-term and never-ending process in which you constantly improve the content, technical aspects of the site, and other details
  • Ability to reach only searchers – With SEO, you can only reach those interested in your chosen field and search for related keywords. You will need to attract others by other means, such as advertising
  • Inability to create demand – You can’t use SEO to create demand for a product people don’t know about. You have other tools for that, such as social media
  • An uncertain traffic source – SEO and search trends are constantly changing. This means that you can drop out of first or second position at any time, which can significantly impact website traffic
  • Increasing difficulty of SEO – maintaining a top position in search is becoming increasingly difficult. Competition is fierce, forcing website owners to invest more and more money in SEO. On the other hand, when done by experienced professionals, the return on investment is high enough to make it worthwhile
  • Difficult to measure – Measuring SEO success is quite difficult. No one tool can tell you if you’ve got it right. You need to collect individual data from multiple sources

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How to optimise a website for search engines?

Optimising a website for search engines consists of many steps and details that must not be forgotten. The main ones are:

1. Create a keyword analysis

The first step is to conduct a keyword analysis to determine what people are searching for about your product or service. You can find relevant words and phrases using various tools, such as:

  • MarketingMiner
  • Ahrefs
  • Semrush

Another alternative is to use a whisperer. This will give you other suggestions that people search for after typing the selected word into the search engine.

Update your list of keywords regularly. Monitor whether people have started using other words or phrases over time. If so, note them and include them when creating new content.

2. Make sure your website is technically optimised

If you want to achieve high search engine rankings, you need to optimise not only your content but also the website itself. This is what technical SEO is all about, and the following details in particular are crucial:

  • Clear and understandable URL addresses
  • A clear site map
  • Fast page loading
  • Image alt-descriptions
  • SSL security (i.e. the “https” protocol)
  • Responsive design
  • Structured data (use of H1 and H2 headings)
  • Meta titles

3. Create optimised content

Use the keywords you found in step one when writing articles, blog posts, product descriptions, meta titles and alt descriptions. In this way, you’ll optimise your content and have a better chance of getting top search rankings.

However, be careful not to go overboard with keywords. Over-optimised text looks suspicious and will cause Google to lower your rank.

You should also make sure that articles or descriptions are structured. This means they don’t look like one big chunk of text that users will immediately stop reading. Instead, divide your content into several paragraphs and use subheadings (H2, H3, etc.). You can also use bullet points, numbered lists, colour-coded boxes and illustrative images.

A tip

The content you publish on the web doesn’t always have to be brand new. If some older articles are still relevant today, update them to reflect the latest trends and republish them.

4. Invest in link building

Link building is also important for successful SEO. So don’t be afraid to invest in it. Properly placed backlinks will increase the authority and credibility of your website.

You can also build your website or brand’s reputation by sharing content on social media, where you can find new potential customers.

5. Analyse your SEO

Once you’ve set up your SEO, remember to analyse and review it. Find out how you’re doing, what you can improve, and, conversely, what you should keep doing because it’s working.

Do this regularly so that you know what people are searching for, what new trends are emerging and how to adapt to them.

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How do you measure SEO?

So you’ve learned about SEO, put your knowledge into practice, and are wondering if your efforts have borne the desired fruit. How do you do it?

Measuring SEO is quite a challenge. It consists of several tasks. However, you can get a general idea of how you are doing in several ways.

Check the organic traffic

This parameter shows you the number of visits from organic or non-paid results. This is a very good indicator of your success because it tells you how many visits came from Google, for example, and which keywords and phrases drove them.

You can find information about organic traffic in Google Analytics, for example. The tool has dozens of features and provides a large amount of data you can filter by various parameters, including time period.

SERP

SERP stands for Search Engine Results Page. In simple terms, it is the page that appears after you type a keyword into a search engine and press enter.

If you want to know where your site is currently ranked, open Google, Bing, or Yahoo, type in any of the keywords you want to target and search for it.

CTR

Click-through rate, abbreviated CTR, is a metric that tells you what percentage of users came to your site from the SERP. Typically, the higher a page appears, the more clicks it will receive.

Expert advice

Many other details, such as the title of a page or subpage or the meta description, also affect the click-through rate. If it is interesting and appealing, it will attract more users.

Conversions

The number of conversions (i.e. situations where a customer achieves a desired goal, makes a purchase, subscribes to a newsletter, etc.) can also tell you more about the success of your SEO. Higher conversions mean that your strategy is good and that you should continue.

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Keep working on SEO

SEO is a complex and ever-changing field. If you want to be successful in it, remember to monitor current trends regularly, check your position, and improve your site. This is the only way to ensure that you don’t get overtaken by your competitors and lose many new customers.

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