You’ve probably heard hundreds of times that search engine optimisation (SEO) is a fundamental tool for digital marketing. But do you really know what SEO is and how it works? In this article we will explain to you what is SEO and which elements are fundamental to work on to optimize the natural web positioning of your website in search engines.
Definition of SEO
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) acts on the organic traffic to a web portal, in other words, the traffic coming from natural and unsponsored search results of search engines such as Google or Bing, among others. Thus, SEO and SEA (Search Engine Advertising) are similar, though the second one is a paid concept. But let’s get back to what concerns us: SEO.
Google, for example, uses 200 criteria to rank and position web portals in its SERP, and knowing what these are and how they work is the key to understanding how they function. Identifying what the criteria are and how they are used is important to understanding why SEO is so important.
To sum up, SEO is fundamental as it makes your portal more visible, which leads to more traffic and more opportunities to get new clients. Therefore, it is necessary to talk about certain main pillars and elements involved in the SEO positioning of web portals.
Main Pillars of SEO
SEO is based on four fundamental pillars: technical, user experience, content, and recommendations.
The technical aspect of the web portal
What good is SEO if the web portal does not have an attractive, streamlined design? Each professional has their own definition of what a good website design means.
The graphic designers will say that the most important thing is the web design, the IT specialists will opt for ergonomics, and the marketing specialists will prefer statistical results (visits, sales, etc.). However, for SEO experts, the definition of a good design goes beyond that, and Google gives us certain instructions on what the ideal website design should look like in order to be effective and appear in the top positions of the search results.
– Accessibility: It seems basic, yet most websites generate the famous “404 error” at some point, for example.
– Indexing: In order for Google to display a website in its results, it must be indexed by the search engine’s robots.
– Structure: Use headings and subheadings to organize and prioritize the content of the portal.
– Depth: The more clicks the user needs to access a page, the more difficult it will be to reach it, either because of inactivity or difficulty. This point is also taken into account in the user experience.
– External links (to other web portals): Contrary to popular belief, external links are very important in SEO (as well as links to your site from other web pages, as we will see below).
User experience on the web portal
User experience has become one of the most important aspects for search engines (especially Google) in recent years. Considering that a significant number of Internet users use their mobile devices to access the Internet, the way to directly improve this user experience is to adapt the web portal so that the design responds to the different devices from which it is accessed.
To sum up, the user experience translates into:
– A portal that loads quickly, whether from a computer, smartphone, or tablet (in addition to the content, don’t forget to optimize the images).
– A simple, clear, and ergonomic interface to facilitate user navigation.
– A portal compatible with all digital media.
What Google wants, primarily, is to provide answers to Internet users. If the portal functions well to get that answer quickly and with high quality information, the SEO will improve considerably.
The content of the web portal
Content is one of the least exploited elements in most web portals. In fact, a web portal that does not have enough content will hardly be able to reach a top position in search engine results.
However, it’s not enough to just enter content ” randomly “. It must be optimized by placing the keywords in the right places, as we will see later on. For now, it is important to write high quality content for Internet users and, above all, to cover topics that are regularly searched for in search engines.
We often find that it is easier to find a job, for example, if someone recommends our profile. The same thing happens on web portals through what we call “backlinks”, links on other websites that send users to your portal. Is it possible to reach the top positions in the results without these recommendations? Yes, but it is more complicated.
To get these backlinks, the best thing to do is to go back to the third pillar: the content of the web portal. If the content is interesting and of high quality, other portals (usually those that deal with subjects related to yours) will quote the articles and share them on social networks. It is also true that there are other forms of payment to get backlinks, such as sponsored publications and other agreements with different media.
Now that we know the fundamental pillars, we must focus on the elements that make an SEO strategy more effective.
Important SEO elements
Keywords are words and phrases that potential customers enter into search engines to find desired content on the Internet. Therefore, companies must use them to connect with these potential customers, making it easier for them to find their services and products.
Gone are the days when keywords were the only SEO technique that mattered. However, that doesn’t mean they have lost their value, quite the contrary: they are still fundamental to a successful SEO strategy.
The difference compared to the beginning is that, nowadays, you must research and carefully choose keywords to be purposefully worked into the content of your web portal in order to be really effective.
To find the ideal keywords for your website, it is important to identify those that have a high search ranking, but also those that have less competition. The secret to having a high number of visits is in the balance.
The content of web portals is a fundamental part of SEO, since it is the way to reach and attract users. It is crucial to put yourself in the customers’ shoes and create content that fits their needs and concerns.
For example, if you run a sports store and you want to increase the visibility of your website, you could publish a series of blog articles about sports news, training techniques, etc. This way, you can establish a relationship between the potential customer and your company, while offering valuable and interesting information.
In addition to a blog, you can opt for other types of content: videos, infographics, podcasts, practical guides, white papers, publications on social networks… Be careful! Do not create heavy content, as the loading speed of the website is also important.
This element relates to external optimisation practices that are performed outside the web portal. The most popular technique is to build a network of backlinks (links to your site from other sites), as they indicate to search engines that your site is valuable and of high quality, which translates into a good reputation.
To ensure that other portals direct their users to your website, the ideal approach is to create interesting, clear, and concise content, something that everyone wants to share. For example, an infographic is a visual element that is easily shared both on websites and social networks.
Local SEO is becoming more and more important, as the number of people accessing search engines from mobile devices is considerable and growing. In fact, currently, over 60 percent of all online searches are performed on mobile devices (reference).
This part of SEO is programmed for searches that contain a geographic element. Google uses it to deliver a personalized user experience and results that are truly relevant to the user’s situation.
As a result, if you have a restaurant in Birmingham, local SEO will make sure that people in the area find your website when they search for restaurants in that location.
The evolution and boundaries of SEO
At the beginning of the 21st century, SEO was much simpler than it is today, since all an e-commerce site needed was a good domain name and content full of keywords and links (both external and internal). This meant any web portal could gain a large amount of traffic despite other factors, since it was a relatively permissive time, when there were few restrictions and penalties by the search engines.
However, nowadays, the Internet has evolved and SEO has become much more difficult and complicated with the arrival of filters and penalties. In fact, SEO professionals are an essential element for any company present on the Internet. Why? To avoid penalties from search engines due to the use of techniques that do not comply with the established rules.
In that, SEO has become much more regulated than before, especially to avoid spam, low-quality content, scams, etc… in other words, to improve the user experience. So, for example, if we enter a paragraph in which the same keyword is repeated 1000 times, the search engine will disregard the relevance and will rely on the quality of the content to penalize the web page and make it lose positions in the search results.
Why is SEO so important?
You should already have a good understanding of how SEO works and how to create an effective strategy for your company’s web portal. However, you may not have realized how useful it all is. The most important reason to work on SEO is to make the website accessible to search engines and useful to web surfers.
If you’re still unconvinced, here are some figures that will help you understand why you need to work on your website’s SEO strategy:
– In 2019, organic search was responsible for 53% of all site traffic, thus surpassing advertising, marketing emails and other methods of publicity (source).
– Seventy percent to 80% of Internet users ignore the paid ads displayed by Google (source), so natural SEO is becoming more and more important.
– Forty-five percent of enterprise-level companies spend over $20k/month on their optimisation, either in natural or paid positioning (source).
– Ninety percent of Internet users form an opinion about a brand after searching on the Internet (source), so the content is vital to attract users.
– Half of all searches do not generate clicks (source). Therefore, it is necessary to provide attractive and relevant content that is more appealing than other competitors.
Key steps for your SEO strategy
Once convinced of the importance of a good SEO strategy and knowing the basics of search engine optimisation, the only thing left to do is to properly implement SEO strategies. Therefore, here are the 4 key fundamental points to developing an SEO strategy adapted to your company.
Identifying the target customers
Correctly determining what type of users we want to target, as well as their needs and expectations, is an important step for any SEO strategy. Once established, we can prioritize certain strategic keywords more easily and create relevant and pertinent content to attract their attention and convert them into customers (and, subsequently, build customer loyalty).
For example, for the website of a soccer store, we can establish a typical profile: athlete between 18 and 35 years old. Thus, based on the needs and concerns of these profiles, we can create content that is suitable for them.
Researching and prioritizing strategic keywords
Strategic keyword research allows you to:
– Know the maximum performance in terms of traffic in your sector.
– Control the performance of each and every strategic keyword in your sector.
– Define SEO traffic goals.
– List and prioritize keywords that are directly related to the semantic field of your industry. To do this, you can use tools such as SEMrush or Ahrefs.
– Analyze the keywords your direct competitors rank for, thus identifying other keywords related to your industry.
– Organize the keywords in thematic groups, matching them with the different ranges of products and/or services of your company.
– Monitor the positioning of your portal with these keywords to analyze its SEO performance.
– Prioritize the keywords that can be improved in order to define an SEO strategy that will allow your website to gain visibility.
Once all this is accomplished, we are ready to move on to the next fundamental step of our SEO strategy.
Define the objectives of the SEO strategy
This step is essential to calculate the ROI (Return on Investment) of your SEO strategy and to evaluate the effectiveness of each decision. SEO strategy objectives are usually related to increasing traffic, attracting potential new customers, increasing the position of strategic keywords, reducing SEO-related costs, increasing popularity, etc.
How to prepare your SEO strategy?
In order to achieve the established objectives, it is necessary to analyze the pillars of SEO:
– Technical support: What are the technical shortcomings of the web portal? How do I fix them?
– User experience: From what kind of devices do users access? How can I make it easy to navigate the web portal interface? What do we do to build user loyalty?
– Content: What content should we optimize? What new content should we create? How to optimize the semantics of the content?
– Recommendations: How many backlinks do we want to get? What kind of links? How to get them?
With all this, you can now consider yourself initiated in everything related to SEO and Internet search engines. So, you just have to start preparing your website’s SEO strategy to climb positions in the search results of Google, Bing, or Yahoo, among others.