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What Is SEO and How Does It Work?

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SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the process of improving the visibility and ranking of a website on a search engine result page (SERP) in search engines like Google.  It is a critical aspect of digital marketing, as it helps businesses attract more qualified leads and drive traffic to their websites.  SEO can be completed in-house by businesses themselves by learning effective strategies.  Or SEO can be performed alongside, or outsourced altogether, to SEO agencies such as Eskimoz to increase a website’s online visibility and rankings. 

Effective SEO involves a combination of on-page and off-page techniques, such as keyword research, content creation, and link building. By optimising a website for relevant keywords and phrases, businesses can improve their search engine rankings and reach a larger audience.

In today's competitive digital landscape, SEO is more important than ever. It helps businesses stand out and attract potential customers while establishing credibility and trust. With a strong SEO strategy in place, companies can increase their online visibility and drive valuable traffic to their websites.

In this article, we will dive deep into exactly what SEO is, how to implement it for your business and share exactly how it works. 

Read on as we explore the following points in depth:

  • What is SEO?

  • How does SEO work?

  • The role of content in SEO

  • Local SEO

  • Mobile Optimisation

  • The future of SEO

what is seo

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short, involves the use of various tactics and strategies to improve the visibility and ranking of a website in search engines such as Google. The higher a website ranks on Google, the more likely a website will receive higher website traffic and thus a higher chance of more leads and sales.  Therefore, the goal of SEO is to optimise a website for relevant keywords and phrases in order to increase its ranking in the SERPs.

(By the way, if you’re struggling with these abbreviations, then check out our post on SEO acronyms for beginners to get up to speed!)

SEO has a long history, dating back to the early days of the internet when search engines first emerged. Today, there are three main types of SEO: on-page, off-page, and technical:

  1. On-page SEO focuses on optimising the content and structure of a website.

  2. Off-page SEO involves building links and creating brand awareness through external sources. 

  3. Technical SEO refers to the optimisation of a website's technical aspects, such as site speed and mobile-friendliness, to ensure that it is easily crawlable and indexable by search engines. 

By implementing a well-rounded SEO strategy, businesses can improve their online visibility, drive targeted traffic to their websites, and increase their chances of success in the digital world.

How does SEO work?

To understand how SEO works, it's important to first understand the role of search engines in the digital landscape. When a user searches for something online, search engines use algorithms to scan the internet and deliver a list of relevant websites in the form of search engine results pages (SERPs). 

The goal of SEO is to improve the ranking of a website in these SERPs, so that it appears at or near the top of the list for relevant searches.  There are several factors that search engines consider when ranking websites, and SEO practitioners use a variety of techniques to optimise a website for these factors. 

These strategies include:

Keyword research: identifying the words and phrases that users are searching for and using them strategically throughout a website's content and meta tags. These can be found using the search engines themselves to discover what users are searching for, via keyword research tools and using SEO software such as Semrush and Ahrefs.  Established websites can also use Google Search Console and the Query function to establish keywords their website is ranking for in order to improve on-page optimisation for keywords.

On-page optimisation: a set of techniques that can be applied to both the content and the coding of the webpage in order to improve relevance and usability for users as well as search engines ranking. Common on-page optimisation techniques include:

  • Optimising titles and meta descriptions

  • Optimising URLs

  • Reducing server response time

  • Using researched and relevant keywords throughout the page text

  • Using proper formatting, including headings, lists, and paragraphs

Off-page optimisation: a set of techniques for improving a site's rankings in the search engines without relying on the site's own content.  This type of SEO includes building high-quality links from other websites which act as votes for your website content and signal to Google that your content is reputable and should rank higher.  It’s also about creating brand awareness through social media shares and also content marketing such as guest blogging. Off-page optimisation is an important part of SEO because it helps Google to know the value of your website.

Technical SEO: these are advanced SEO techniques that focus on the technical side of the website. It helps to improve the website’s performance and ensure that it is search engine friendly by making it more accessible to crawlers. It is a complicated process that requires technical skills and knowledge of how the internet and search engine crawlers work.

Technical SEO includes many different tasks such as:

  • Running SEO audits to check for website errors

  • Making sure that a website is mobile-friendly

  • Ensuring that there is no duplicate content

  • Checking for broken links and fixing them

  • Fixing any errors in the website code

  • Ensuring all images have alt text

  • Adding relevant internal links

  • Creating an optimised website structure i.e. categories, menus, topic clusters

SEO is a continuous process, and it's important to regularly measure and analyse the results of an SEO campaign to understand what's working and what can be improved. By using tools like Google Analytics and Search Console, businesses can track the performance of their website in search engines and make data-driven decisions to optimise their SEO strategy.

To summarise, in order for SEO to work, you need a well-rounded strategy including keyword research, on-page optimisation, off-page optimisation, technical SEO and measuring and analysing results.

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The role of content in SEO

Content is the most important factor in SEO. It is vital for a website to have high-quality, engaging content that is relevant and valuable. Without it, the rest of your SEO strategy falls apart as the quality of your content has a direct impact on your search engine rankings. 

Website content is what your users and potential customers will read and share on social media. However, it is also what Google crawls and ranks to provide the best search results for its users.  Google and other search engines prioritise websites with useful, well-written content that answers users' questions and addresses their needs.

The role of content in SEO is ultimately to attract and convert visitors into customers and clients, therefore it needs to be relevant and engaging for the user, as well as optimised for search engines.  It’s not just about the quantity of words you use but the quality: how well they are written and how often they are updated. 

You want your readers to be able to easily understand what you are talking about and feel compelled enough to read more of what you have written without getting bored or distracted by other things on the page.  

Content also needs to include a ‘call to action’ to signpost users to whatever it is the website might sell: services, products, courses, etc.

To create SEO-friendly content, it's important to follow best practices such as:

  • Conducting keyword research to identify the words and phrases that users are searching for and including them in your content.  For example, if you are trying to rank for "best coffee shops in NYC," it would be wise to include this phrase within your content so that it will rank higher when someone searches for this term on Google or another search engine.

  • Writing informative, engaging, and valuable content that addresses users' needs and interests

  • Using subheadings, bullet points, and other formatting techniques to make your content easy to scan and read

  • Including internal and external links to other relevant content and resources

  • Breaking up blocks of text with engaging and relevant visual content such as images, infographics and embedded media

  • Optimising your images and videos with descriptive file names and alt text

  • Ensuring that your website content is mobile-friendly and loads quickly

By following these best practices, you can create content that is not only valuable to users but also optimised for search engines. This can help improve your website's visibility and ranking in search results, leading to more qualified traffic and potential customers.

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Local SEO

Local SEO is a type of SEO that focuses on optimising a website for local search results. It is especially important for businesses with physical locations, as it helps them attract customers in their local area and to compete successfully in their local market. It allows them to show up higher in search results for relevant keywords and phrases, which can lead to more traffic, leads, and sales.

The goal of local SEO is to rank well on Google Maps, Google Search, and other popular search engines for geographic keywords that are related to your business or location.  This can be achieved by targeting keywords specific to the location, adding geo-targeted content, and using geographical information in the website’s metadata.

To understand the importance of local SEO, consider that many people use search engines to find local businesses, such as restaurants, shops, and service providers. By optimising your website for local search, you can increase your chances of appearing in the top search results for users searching for businesses like yours in your local area. This can drive more qualified traffic to your website and, ultimately, lead to more foot traffic and sales for your business.

There are several techniques you can use to optimise your website for local search, including:

  • Claiming and optimising your Google My Business listing

  • Including your business name, address, and phone number on your website and in other online directories

  • Using local keywords in your website's content and meta tags

  • Building local citations (mentions of your business name, address, and phone number on other websites)

  • Encouraging customers to leave reviews on your Google My Business listing and other review sites

By following these tips and staying up-to-date with the latest local SEO best practices, you can improve your website's visibility in local search results and attract more qualified traffic and customers to your business.

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Mobile optimisation

Nowadays, with the majority of internet users accessing the web from their smartphones, it's essential that your website is mobile-friendly to ensure a positive user experience.

Mobile optimisation is a key aspect of SEO, as Google and other search engines prioritise mobile-friendly websites in their search results. If your website is not optimised for mobile devices, it may not rank as highly in search results, leading to a decrease in traffic and potential customers.

To optimise your website for mobile devices, consider the following tips:

  • Use a responsive design that automatically adjusts to fit different screen sizes

  • Use large, easy-to-read font sizes and buttons

  • Avoid using pop-ups and interstitials, as they can be disruptive on mobile devices

  • Make sure your website loads quickly, as users are less likely to wait for slow-loading pages on their mobile devices

  • Keep the design simple

  • Make sure that links are easy to tap on a small screen

  • Provide clear directions on how to get back to the home page

You can use Google’s mobile-friendly test to see if your web pages are easy to use on a mobile device and make any changes as needed.

The future of SEO

SEO is an ever-evolving field, and it's important for businesses to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and developments in order to stay competitive in the digital landscape and host a successful business website

In the past few years, SEO has evolved from a one-dimensional strategy to a holistic approach that includes social media, content marketing and technical optimisation. In the future, SEO will become more and more complex and will require a variety of skill sets.

Here are a few emerging trends in SEO that are likely to shape the future of the industry:

Voice search optimisation: With the increasing popularity of voice assistants like Siri and Alexa, it's important for businesses to optimise their websites for voice search. This includes using long-tail keywords and natural language, as well as optimising for featured snippets and "position zero" in search results.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning: AI and machine learning are already being used by search engines to improve the accuracy and relevance of search results. In the future, it's likely that these technologies will play an even larger role in SEO, potentially changing the way we approach keyword research and content optimisation.

Personalisation: As search engines become more sophisticated, they are able to deliver more personalised results based on a user's search history and location. Businesses will need to optimise their websites for these personalised search results in order to stay competitive.

Mobile-first indexing: With the majority of internet users accessing the web from their smartphones, it's important for businesses to prioritise mobile optimisation. In the future, it's likely that search engines will use mobile-first indexing, which means they will prioritise the mobile version of a website when ranking it in search results.

It's clear that SEO will continue to evolve as technology and user behaviour change. The future of SEO is not just about optimising individual web pages for search engines; it is becoming an increasingly complex field that requires skillsets such as content marketing, social media marketing and technical optimisation.

In order to stay competitive in the digital landscape, businesses will need to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices in SEO.

The final word on what SEO is and why it matters

SEO is a critical aspect of digital marketing, as it helps businesses drive targeted traffic to their websites and increase their online visibility. To stay competitive in the digital landscape, it's important for businesses to stay up-to-date with the latest SEO best practices and trends, including emerging technologies like AI and mobile optimisation. By implementing an effective SEO strategy, businesses can improve their chances of success online.