What is SEO, and How Does it Work?

SEO is a crucial aspect of attracting visitors to your website. When done well, this translates into more sales and greater brand visibility. How does SEO work, though, and what aspects should be considered?
This article covers the technical aspects of how SEO works. See our resource for more information on how SEO affects your business growth.

What is SEO?
SEO is short for Search Engine Optimisation. In short, it’s optimising your website so that Google’s search algorithm can find it and display it in a prominent position in search results. SEO is an ongoing process since the algorithm is updated regularly to include technological advances and changes in consumer behaviour. Optimised websites attract organic traffic from search engine results, growing brand visibility.

What is SEO Strategy?
An effective SEO strategy refers to a comprehensive marketing plan that attracts more visitors to your website. This plan typically comprises two main components: on-page and off-page.
The on-page component involves using intent-based keywords. These represent the user’s most likely intention when doing that specific search. For example, if someone searches “what is SEO and how does it work,” they probably intend to find information about SEO best practices. They might also want to understand the technical aspects of how SEO works. They might also be looking for SEO services, but not necessarily. Supplying relevant information to this intent makes your keywords more effective.
Off-page SEO earns inbound links from other websites. You want other websites to refer to your site, directing traffic and increasing visibility.
Understanding how SEO works is essential to developing an effective SEO strategy.
What are the Four Types of SEO?
SEO can be subdivided into four main sections, which work together to form a cohesive and comprehensive SEO strategy. These are technical setup, content, links, and monitoring and tracking.

Technical Setup
The technical setup allows Google’s search algorithm to find and favourably display our website. For this to happen, the search engine must understand your site’s topics and identify the keywords, adding them to its index. The search index is a database of all the content Google finds online. This forms the basis of how SEO works.
The catch is that Google sees all websites as text only. It can’t read images. So, while your website may look attractive and seem fine, the things happening behind the scenes determine its performance.
Here are essential factors to have in place for Google to rank your page favourably:

Navigation and Links
Search engine crawlers go through a website, following all the links to find and analyse other sites and content. Set these as text only since the crawlers can’t see images.
URL Structure
Google’s crawlers don’t like complex URLs. Keeping these short, and ensuring that they include the relevant keywords, ensures improved rankings.
Page Speed
Google prefers fast pages. It measures the time needed to load your site as an indicator of quality – the lower the time, the better.
Dead or Broken Links
Dead links redirect traffic to nonexistent pages, while broken links redirect to pages that aren’t there anymore. Google penalises sites for both of these, so removing them is best.
Sitemap and Robots.txt
Sitemaps and robots.txt files speed up crawling and indexing. The sitemap lists all URLs on a website, while the robots.txt files tell the search engine which content it shouldn’t index.
Duplicate Content
Search engines penalise websites for duplicate content or content that’s very similar. Ensure that all your pages are unique, using originality and plagiarism checkers.
Content is information and comes in various forms: blogs, videos, listings, and informational pages, to name a few.
When potential customers look for information, they inevitably find it in content in some form. Google also finds the information it needs in content. So, the more high-quality content is present on your site, the more likely Google is to display your information. This forms the first pillar of how SEO works.
High-quality content adheres to specific standards and should be planned and created according to these steps:

Keyword Research
Keyword research determines what your potential customers would search for. This enables Google to match your website with their search terms, thus directing them to you.
On-Page Optimisation
On-page optimisation helps search engines understand the page’s content and match it to relevant keyword searches. This part of the process is highly technical, editing portions of the page’s code to highlight the relevant keywords to search engines. These elements include post titles, URLs, H1 tags, meta-title, meta-description, image names, and ALT tags.
There are non-keyword-related optimisation steps too. These help Google determine where your website fits into the context of other websites. In other words, it helps Google understand the topic and shows the search engine that your website is a valuable resource in this regard. Aspects optimised in this section include external and internal links, content length, and multimedia.
Google determines a page’s relevance and authority to determine where to rank it. Technical SEO and content build the site’s relevance, while links build authority. When other websites link to your site, Google thinks it has valuable information, increasing your authority ranking. This forms the second pillar of how SEO works.
When your website links to other trustworthy sites, it builds your authority. Unfortunately, when you link to untrusted sites or low-quality sites link to yours, it negatively affects your ranking.
There are various ways to build links to your website. This process requires creativity since Google’s algorithm will penalise you if it looks like you’re building them in deliberately. You have to entice other sites to link to your content. There are various ways of achieving this, including
Editorial links: linking back to sites that display your content.
Outreach: Contact other websites for links, allowing them to share your valuable content on their sites.
Guest posting: publish your content on third-party websites.
Profile links: Link to your website in profiles on other websites, such as social media platforms.
Competitive analysis: analyse the backlinks included in your competitor’s sites, and use relevant ones on your own site.
Monitoring and Tracking
All the hard work of having all the SEO aspects in place will be useless if you can’t determine their effectiveness. Monitoring website traffic and tracking related data allow you to see what works and implement ongoing improvements to your strategy. Some common indicators to track include organic traffic growth, keyword rankings, average time on page, bounce rate, conversions from organic traffic, and link growth.
These aspects are indicators of how well your site is doing. Some or all of these factors will change when implementing changes, showing whether the change is effective.
SEO is an ongoing process. Once the initial groundwork is done, it requires ongoing optimisation to ensure that the website remains relevant and grows.

We hope this offers a clear picture of how SEO works. For more information on effective SEO practices for your business, contact the experts that understand how SEO works – Virtual Digital.

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