It’s About Time You Understood SEO
No one wants to be those search results. So, everyone today is obsessed with the new cool-in-town "SEO" - Search Engine Optimization.
The process of optimizing your website so that it shows up at the top on search listings for a specific keyword ranking is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This optimization goes back twenty years and while it's still important to make sure your content is optimized, search engines are increasingly delivering personalized results to users based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). Hence, SEO as we once knew it, is becoming obsolete.
So, keep up your SEO game by exploring all about the present, past and future of SEO.
If you've ever done a web search (and that's most of us) you may not have given much thought to how Google decides what websites to list in the search results. If you search for "teacup poodles" your screen fills with listings, videos and photos that link to cute puppies. Yeah, go ahead and do it. Just be sure to come back to us!
However, if you own a website (and let's face it, that's far too many of us), then you probably understand that the content on every page of your website contributes to whether or not your site appears in the search results.
So, let's say you sell teacup poodles but your website doesn't show up in Google search result and other search engines for the term "teacup poodles." First, you might get upset. Then, you might get frustrated. Eventually, you'll be motivated to figure out how to get your cute puppies to show up in Google for that search.
The process of optimizing your website so that it shows up at the top of search listings for a specific keyword is called Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short. You pay for SEO in blood, sweat and tears, rather than in straight up media dollars. SEO tends to fall within the purview of marketing or website design, so many companies pay agencies, consultants or freelancers to do the hard work of Search Engine Optimization. Whether you're into providing SEO services or looking to learn the ropes for your own business, let's get acquainted with the world of Search Engine Optimization!
What Is Search Engine Optimization?
To understand what SEO is, it's helpful to look at websites from the search engine's perspective. Perspective like Picasso's painting? Well, we wouldn't go that far, the thing is search engines don't "see" websites the way human eyes do, being machines, they read a website's code to determine the content on the page.
For example, this is what a human being sees when they visit the New York Times home page:
The process of making a webpage’s code more appealing to Google and other search engines for the purpose of ranking high in the search Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) for a desired keyword, is called Search Engine Optimization. Got that, great!
Now let’s understand this - SEO involves “optimizing” your code so that it can be read — and indexed — by search engine spiders. It also requires some off-page (outside your website’s code) optimization (which we’ll get into in a bit). First, we’ll explain how search engines work.
A Basic Explanation Of How Search Engines Work
Every search engine sends out a program to "crawl" the web, looking for websites like yours to add to their database. The incy-wincy search engine spiders or "crawlers" (we also call them robots or "bots") scan websites and scrape those websites for information, which they store in a database or "index." This takes lots of computing power. Google is estimated to have nearly 1 million computers that power their search engine. That's the power of The Big G on display! The indexed web consists of about 5.6 billion websites and Google's index is estimated to contain about 130 trillion individual webpages. The information in a search engine's database is what that search engine reviews when a user conducts a keyword or voice search. The engine scans the index looking for the most relevant pages based on various on and off-page criteria to retrieve their search results. There's a word for the formula that search engines use to match the most relevant page with a user's search query - it's called an "algorithm."
SEO experts and webmasters have been trying to crack search engine's algorithms since the beginning of time (well, internet time, anyway). The problem with this is the algorithms are constantly changing to adapt to new technology and so that SEO expert can't 'game' the system. Google analytics updated its algorithm over 3000 times in 2018 alone, several more times ever since and would probably update it a million more times going ahead. However, we'll get into the future later, let's first go back in time to say where it all started.
A (Very Brief) History Of SEO
Believe it or not, SEO predates Google. The very first internet search engine was called Archie and it was launched in 1990 for the purpose of creating an index of FTP (AKA File Transfer Protocol) websites. Search engine indexes existed for a few years (prior to what we now call SEO) but it was website owners who have put SEO on the map. Website owners were building websites that no one could find - for a variety of reasons - one of which was because search engines couldn't index them. In 1997, the term "Search Engine Optimization" was used to describe the process of preparing (or optimizing) a website so that it would get indexed, listed and rank on search engines and directory websites.
Note: Directories were websites that were built manually, rather than crawled by software. Early SEO practices involved submitting your website to a directory such as Mozilla's Open Directory Project (DMOZ) where a human would review it and (hopefully) add it to the directory. Many website development agencies began incorporating SEO tool into their service offerings to help their clients rank well in search engines and directories. A website called Search Engine Watch, founded by SEO luminary Danny Sullivan, was one of the first online resources to discuss the nuts and bolts behind Search Engine Optimization. Sullivan went on to create the very first SEO industry conference, Search Engine Strategies, in 1999.
After the quick and fascinating history lecture, let’s move on to Types of SEO.
Three Types Of SEO
There are a few things to consider when optimizing your website for search engines:
On-page SEO includes everything you can do on your website that it ranks on top. The ranking factor could be in terms of code, design and content such. On-page SEO includes optimizing the text and media (that users can see on the website) ensuring it includes the relevant keywords you want to rank for by including them in the headlines, the body text and alt text. Additionally, on-page SEO includes optimizing certain elements on the website AKA meta tag that humans can't see but search engine spiders can.
Technical SEO usually requires a web developer's help. Some technical SEO considerations include optimizing site speed (fast websites = better optimized websites), ensuring mobile-friendliness, SEO-friendly website architecture and site security.
Off-page SEO includes everything that you do beyond the scope of your website to help search engines understand your website's credibility. A major part of off-page SEO refers to getting other websites to link back to your website (e.g., "backlinks") to increase the domain and page authority of your site. There are many rules about building and obtaining links and we urge you to familiarize yourself with them. Trust us, you don't want random web page and websites link building back to you - that'd do you more damage than good.
No, SEO Is Not Dead
These days, SEO is part of the inherent process of website development. Platforms like WordPress SEO, Drupal and Squarespace have SEO tools and features built into them, so that webmasters (even non-techy ones) can incorporate search-engine friendly elements into their websites.
Business and website owners no longer need to be sold on the effectiveness of local SEO or paid search. They know that if they want their website to be found for the keywords they're targeting, they must ensure their website is appropriately optimized with keyword research. Not just that, search engines are increasingly optimizing websites based on user experience. That means, if you're not ranking high, your users aren't too happy visiting your website either.
With nearly 93% of all website traffic coming from search engines and over 2 trillion searches per year on Google alone, it's easy to see why Search Engine Optimization is as relevant today as it was twenty years ago.
Well, SEO is important now, will it be beneficial in the future too?
The Future Of SEO
Once upon a time, most website owners could realize SEO success simply by including the right keyword on their websites and getting a lot of back links. These days, SEO solution is not a simple programming or content problem. Google's algorithm is too sophisticated to figure out and includes hundreds of ranking factors, many of which can't be manipulated. Other search engine land not so far behind. They're increasingly employing Artificial Intelligence to individualize search results for the user, thus what you see when you google "teacup poodles" is not necessarily what we see.
Given that user experience is becoming central to search engine ranking, how your website looks and works on handheld devices is given a higher priority over desktop, since most users are using their phones or tablets to surf the net or search for "teacup poodles" on Google. Similarly, since users make searches in forms of questions, search engines have also added a section in Q&A format on their search engine results; to get ranked website owners need to work on the structured data and schema markup (the language of search engines!) for their websites.
To Sum Up
While it's still important to strive for relevancy and quality with your website content marketing, as both these things can help you rank better on search engines, perhaps the most important thing to consider when it comes to SEO is that your website's search ranking is beyond your control. Sorry if that sounds like a downer but at TechDogs we're committed to bringing you the truth.
However, the best approach to a good SEO strategy is to think like a user, not a search engine spider. Produce content that's helpful and evergreen - content that people want to read and share on social media, with colleagues and peers. Create value for your customers and they'll find you, with or without a number one spot on Google.
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