What is SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?

Written by: Jason Bayless | March 09, 2018

Search engine optimization (SEO) is any action that you take in an attempt to move your site and its pages higher in the search results. Sites that rank higher receive far more search traffic, especially since most web users don’t even go past the first page of search results when they search for things online.

How SEO Works

Every search engine, such as Google, Yahoo and Bing, have methods of ranking pages. Many of their ranking factors are the same, which means there can be quite a bit of overlap between the sites that rank highest for certain search terms and that SEO tactics that are effective with one search engine will often be effective with others, as well.

Here are some of the key factors that affect SEO rankings:

Focus Keywords

Search engines have bots that comb through webpages to see what the content on those pages is related to, which is one factor in how they decide what pages to show for a search. Pages with matching or similar keywords will get precedent over those that don’t. This makes it important to include the keywords you’re targeting in your webpage.

Although keywords are still important, they aren’t as big of a ranking factor as they once were. Keyword stuffing, which is using keywords many times in a page, used to be an effective method of getting your page higher in the search results, but that’s no longer effective.

Backlinks

One of the most important factors in a site’s search ranking is its backlinks. Backlinks are any time another site links to your website. Search engines see these backlinks as a sign that your site is an authority in its field and as an indicator of your site’s quality.

Note that search engines weigh backlinks based on the quality of the sites providing those links. The best backlinks are those that come from popular authority sites. Backlinks from small sites with little clout behind them won’t do much for you. For example, when the site providing the backlink gets millions of visitors per month, that will always be worth much more than a site that gets a few hundred visitors per month.

Improving SEO

There are two good ways to get pages on your site ranked high in the search results. The first is to target long-tail keywords, which are more specific keywords that don’t have as much competition. The lack of competition makes it far easier to achieve a high ranking, but the downside is that these keywords may not bring you that much search traffic.

The second is to work hard on building a site with plenty of high-quality content and looking for opportunities to gain backlinks from quality sites. This is a lengthy process that can takes months or even years to work. It’s important to understand that there isn’t any overnight success when it comes to SEO. The sites at the top of the search results have built up their reputations over the course of years, and you can’t expect to break into their ranks with ease.

Most site owners go for a combination of the two methods above. They focus on making their site and its contents as high quality as possible to attract visitors and get those visitors to come back. They also focus on good long-tail keywords that their site’s pages can rank for more easily. Patience is a must with SEO, but if you’re diligent in your efforts, you can build quite a bit of organic traffic for your website.