We can see the importance of search engines through our own lives; how often do you take to Google to answer a question? Search engines are behind a large portion of online traffic, which is why they are critical to bringing traffic to our web content.
These days, the internet is flooded with web pages making it difficult to weed through competition and rise to the top. Fortunately for content creators, optimizing content for the search engine’s algorithm is the very definition of SEO.
What is SEO?: SEO Definition
Search engine optimization, commonly referred to as SEO, is the practice of generating organic website traffic by leveraging search engine algorithms and tools. Concerned with the user’s intent, SEO best practices look to get at the heart of what users search for, and in turn, answer their search queries.
Nothing beats organic traffic, which is traffic that is not the result of an ad. While ads require payment to keep running, SEO does not. Even better, Moz notes that SEO best practices generate around 20x more traffic opportunities than mobile and desktop pay-per-click ads.
When your site is SEO optimized, the returns can come back to you tenfold. As search engines become more advanced and skilled, SEO allows them to easily read and interpret your page. Essentially, SEO informs search engines on the page’s content, so it knows to recommend your page.
Understanding the Google Algorithm
To understand SEO best practices, it is important first to understand why they are in place. Over time, the Google algorithm has seen countless updates. While some updates are more significant than others, keeping a watchful eye on the algorithm will inform best practices and techniques.
The Google algorithm solves a problem: how do you best answer a user’s search query? WebFX explains that Google’s algorithm reads webpages and assigns them numerical values based on a set of programmed priorities. When a search query is entered, Google recommends relevant search engine result pages (SERPs) ranked by their internally assigned numerical values.
Essentially, the Google algorithm infers the searcher’s intent by reading their search keywords and supplying them with SERPs, which Google does a number of different ways through images, a “People Also Ask” section and others.
While the algorithm’s specifics are not made public, we know that keywords and naturally occurring links come into play. Along with optimizing webpages so the algorithm can easily read the page, these elements are key factors in making your web page one of the first search results.
SEO-friendly Content: Keyword Research
For webpages to rank, they must supply a demand. Search engines scour the internet searching for relevant answers to their searchers’ questions, which means that you, as the creator, must anticipate what your demographic will search. This is done through keyword research.
Keywords are common words or phrases used in a search query. They are the lighthouse’s beacon cutting through the internet’s fog; it is how a search engine finds your content.
When you begin your keyword research, you first need to understand your mission and the space you want to fill. Consider your demographic. How can you supply their demand?
Create a list of keywords and phrases and search them to get an idea of the results they yield. Check the relevant searches to expand your list. Don’t forget to include long-tail keywords, phrases that are more niche but will ultimately have fewer pages competing for ranking. Yoast also recommends researching your competition to figure out where you rank.
Don’t forget that SEO is defined by user intent. Yoast writes that a user’s intent can be informational, navigational, commercial or transactional. While researching, note which intent ranks highest for each keyword: are users looking to purchase something or for information? Are they looking for general overviews or in-depth, niche explanations?
Creating a Keyword Strategy
All of this information will help you create a keyword strategy. How will you fit within the rankings? Which spaces can you fill? Use your keyword research to inform your content schedule.
There are keyword research tools and plug-ins available to supply you with data to support your keyword research, such as Google Keyword Planner.
Gone are the days where keyword stuffing would bring your page to the top; today, keywords must be used wisely. Yoast notes that search engines are advanced enough these days not to require exact phrases or words to rank. It can infer the intent of the page through synonyms and keyword variations.
SEO-friendly Content: Link-building
Link-building is the other part of the SEO equation. When content includes a link to another page, Google’s algorithm interprets the link as a sign of quality. It operates under the assumption that the information on that page must be worthwhile enough to deserve a link.
Creating SEO-friendly Webpages
For webpages to rank, search engines look for relevant intent within a page’s title tag, URL, content and image alt text, Moz writes. Without clear subjects in these elements, search engines won’t know where to look.
Webpages should be hyper-relevant to the subject and should appear in the elements listed above. It should also be repeated several times throughout the page’s content. Webpages, Moz writes, should also always link back to its category page, subcategory page and homepage.
When trying to optimize your content for SEO, the main point to remember is that intent lies at the heart of the relationship between web content and the user. As the search engine looks to interpret the user’s intent, SEO makes sure the page can answer it.