SEO is a dynamic field that is continually changing. Our guide intends to help you understand the practise and support you on your way to becoming an SEO master.
Lexico.com defines Search Engine Optimization as 'The process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine'. In our words, SEO involves the methods you apply for your website to organically appear as a top result on a search engine.
SEO can be executed very differently depending upon the time and effort dedicated, the strategies enlisted and where your SEO focus resides. Despite the differences in how SEO is carried out, it shares a common goal to improve rankings in search engines.
Black Hat Vs White Hat SEO
There are two sides to SEO practises. These practices tend to be known as Black Hat and White Hat SEO.
Black Hat SEO involves:
- Keyword Stuffing
- Link Farming
- Invisible Text
- Cloaking or Redirecting Users
- Duplicate Links
- Purchased Links
The Black Hat SEO techniques offer 'quick wins' catered to outsmarting the search engines rather than targeting a human audience. The majority of the mentioned strategies previously resulted in higher search engine ratings. However, search engines now work to prevent this and have made multiple algorithm changes as a result. While Black Hat SEO is understood to be a strategy with immediate benefits, it is frequently at risk of being penalized, banned or de-indexed by search engines.
White Hat SEO:
- Keyword Analysis and Using Relevant Keywords
- Rewriting Meta Tags to Increase Relevance
- Link Building
- Catering Content to Humans (rather than search engine bots)
- Well Labeled Images
- Unique and Relevant Page Titles
White Hat SEO users apply techniques that require more time and energy. However, White Hat SEO has the likelihood of remaining effective for longer. This strategy is sometimes referred to as a long-term investment because the chances of algorithm updates affecting the rankings are smaller.
On-page SEO consists of the elements you can incorporate on your website to optimize your search engine rankings.
Off-page SEO is made up of the practices you can implement away from your website to raise its SEO.
The process of a search engine follows three core steps.
Otherwise known as The Discovery Process. Crawlers or spiders are sent out to search for new and updated content (regardless of format). These crawlers then store the page information they find within an index.
Discovered webpages are added to a data structure called an index. The index includes URLs and relevant information about the URL. Related information can cover; keywords, content type, page freshness, and previous user engagement.
The final step looks to present a user with high-quality results. When searches are entered, the search engine identifies all applicable pages within the index. An algorithm is applied to rank the results in terms of relevance. Each search engine has its unique algorithm, and as a result, outcomes may differ depending upon the search engine. Elements like the searcher's location, language and device can alter the ranking of results.
To see if your site has been indexed by a search engine, enter 'site:' and then insert your domain name into the search engine. [site: walvis.ca.]
The results show all the pages that have been indexed on your site. If your web pages do not appear then several things may have happened;
- Your site has not been crawled yet.
- Your site's complex navigation is hard for robots to crawl.
- Your site has been penalized by the search engine.
Google's core algorithm includes a machine learning-based component called RankBrain. RankBrain's purpose is to act as a query processor and determines the most relevant results to search engine queries.
There are believed to be over 200 factors that can optimize your site for Google RankBrain. Some are proven, some are just speculation, and some are more important than others.
Zyppy compiled a list detailing Google's 100+ ranking factors.
Here's an overview of what is believed to be 10 of the most critical factors.
- Targeted content
- Crawlable and accessible to search engines
- Quality and quantity of links
- Satisfies user intent
- Uniqueness of content
- Expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness
- Click-through rate
- Built for multiple devices
How People Use Search Engines
In reference to the number one ranking factor mentioned above, it is important to outline what is meant by a search query. Search queries are typically classified by 3 types.
- Navigational Search Queries
- Informational Search Queries
- Transactional Search Queries
Navigational Search Queries
A navigational search query is entered when a user wants a particular website or webpage. A user might enter 'YouTube' or 'Facebook' into the search bar rather than using a bookmark or typing it into the navigational bar of their browser. Due to the clear intent of the search query, other websites have limited opportunities for gaining traffic if their site is not what they are looking for. With this in mind, it is beneficial that you own your own brand's navigational query. Ideally, your site will top the organic and sponsored spot in a search for your company name.
Informational Search Queries
In this case, a user is looking for certain information. They are looking for the answer to a question or to learn how to do something. For example, 'How to bake a cake' or 'When was the Industrial Revolution?'.
The best way to target informational searches is to provide high-value SEO content that provides helpful information relevant to the query. Positioning your website as a source of trustworthy and authoritative information will enhance this SEO strategy.
Transactional Search Query
A transactional search query indicates the intent to complete a transaction. Such queries may include exact product or brand names, 'Nike Airs', or be more generic, 'Sneakers'. In some cases, the search might involve verbs like 'buy', 'order', or 'download'. While it may not always be explicit some searches imply an intent to purchase. Searching for flights to Paris suggests the user want to buy tickets. As a result, the search engine may also offer suggestions of pricing - this is also known as a vertical search.
As well as understanding the ins and outs of search engines, it is also essential to recognize the three important factors that bring SEO together.
- Technical Elements