SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” In simple terms, it means the process of improving your site to increase its visibility for relevant searches. The better visibility your pages have in search results, the more likely you are to garner attention and attract prospective and existing customers to your business.
How does SEO work?
Search engines such as Google and Bing use bots to crawl pages on the web, going from site to site, collecting information about those pages and putting them in an index. Next, algorithms analyze pages in the index, taking into account hundreds of ranking factors or signals, to determine the order pages should appear in the search results for a given query.
Search ranking factors can be considered proxies for aspects of the user experience. Our Periodic Table of SEO Factors organizes the factors into six main categories and weights each based on its overall importance to SEO. For example, content quality and keyword research are key factors of content optimization, and crawlability and mobile-friendliness are important sites architecture factors.
The search algorithms are designed to surface relevant, authoritative pages and provide users with an efficient search experience. Optimizing your site and content with these factors in mind can help your pages rank higher in the search results. Unlike paid search ads, you can’t pay search engines to get higher organic search rankings.
Why is SEO important for marketing?
SEO is a fundamental part of digital marketing because people conduct trillions of searches every year, often with commercial intent to find information about products and services. Search is often the primary source of digital traffic for brands and complements other marketing channels. Greater visibility and ranking higher in search results than your competition can have a material impact on your bottom line.
However, the search results have been evolving over the past few years to give users more direct answers and information that is more likely to keep users on the results page instead of driving them to other websites.
Also note, features like rich results and Knowledge Panels in the search results can increase visibility and provide users more information about your company directly in the results.
Search Engine Guide To SEO
As a companion to our Periodic Table of SEO Factors, Search Engine Land’s Guide To SEO walks you through the fundamentals of optimizing for search so you can develop a solid strategy to drive organic traffic to your site.
In the guide below, we explain these factors in more depth and highlight tactical tips from experts on search engine optimization that will help your website get more visitors from organic search.
– Types Of Search Engine Success Factors: These are the on- and off-page factors that can affect your search rankings. We’ll also look at emerging search verticals and bad SEO tactics to avoid.
– Content & Search Engine Success Factors: Keep these elements in mind to create high-quality content that search engines and your target audiences will love.
– Site Architecture & Search Engine Success Factors: Let’s go behind the scenes and look at the aspects of your site that make it easy for search engines to access and influence user experience.
– HTML Code & Search Engine Success Factors: HTML tags and structured data help organize information on your site and help search engines understand your content.
– Trust, Authority, Expertise & Search Rankings: How your users engage with your site, as well its reputation and authority, helps search engines determine if it’s worthy of showing to users.
– Link Building & Ranking In Search Engines: Why links are still important and what they tell search engines about your content.
– Personalization & Search Engine Rankings: These are the user-specific elements, such as location and intent, that can affect the results users see.
– Toxins & Search Engine Spam Penalties: Beware SEO “shortcuts.” Getting caught using these tactics can potentially result in a manual action penalty or even get your site delisted from the search index.
– Emerging Verticals in Search: Voice, local, image and video search represent new ways for users to find what they’re looking for. While they each provide nuanced opportunities for brands, they’re still based on the fundamental principles of SEO.
Types Of Search Engine SEO Factors
There are four major groups covered by Search Engine Land’s Periodic Table of SEO Factors:
– On-page SEO: Snippets, Content, Architecture, Internal Links;
– Off-page SEO: Trust, Authority, Popularity;
– Emerging verticals: Local SEO, Video SEO, Image SEO, Voice SEO,
– Traffic Quality.
The elements within each group or subgroup are factors you need to consider if you want to increase your site’s organic visibility and rankings. In the top-right corner of each element, there’s a value to help you understand the weight or importance of that particular element — the higher the number, the more weight it carries. The on-page and off-page SEO groups each have several subgroups, and each chapter of this SEO guide is dedicated to helping you navigate that particular facet of SEO.
SEO factors do not exist in a vacuum. Well-optimized HTML titles won’t compensate for thin content. Blazing fast site speed won’t help if search engines can’t easily crawl your pages. Simply put, having several positive factors can increase your odds of success, but negative factors can worsen those odds.
On-page SEO factors
– Internal Links.
On-page search ranking factors are almost entirely within the publisher’s control. This is also where it’s critical to balance serving the needs of your audience with making your pages search engine friendly. The title of the page or article, the depth of research, keywords used and so on should all be used with your specific audience’s needs in mind. HTML headings, anchor text and more should provide clues for both search engines and your audience about the relevancy of your content. Your site architecture should help search engine crawlers navigate your site and help users find what they’re looking for.
Off-page SEO factors
The search engines don’t just evaluate what’s on the page and visible to users. Off-page ranking factors are typically out of the creator or publisher’s direct influence. Search engines evaluate reputation, the quality of a site’s backlinks, the user’s geographic location and many other factors to deliver the most relevant results. Although these factors aren’t as easy to control on a per-page basis, they must be taken into account when optimizing your site for search.
– Local SEO,
– Video SEO,
– Image SEO,
– Voice SEO.
Voice, local, image and video search have their own special chapter in this guide because they represent different ways for users to find your content. Each of these emerging verticals has its own distinguishing features, nuances and opportunities for brands and publishers. However, they also correspond to one or more of the base elements in our Periodic Table and do not require a completely new way of viewing SEO.
Traffic Quality – The Quality of the Traffic
Quality traffic is an outcome of providing the right content and experience for your visitor. It is only with clearly defined business and marketing goals that you can measure the quality of your traffic. Traffic leads generated, interactions and sales are a few ways companies measure the success of their website.
You can attract all the visitors in the world, but if they’re coming to your site because Google tells them you’re a resource for Apple computers when really you’re a farmer selling apples, that is not quality traffic. Instead, you want to attract visitors who are genuinely interested in the products that you offer. By defining what success looks like for your website you can then identify which signals are most important for reaching your goals.
Once your goals are defined, here are 5 signals that can help you measure the quality of your website traffic.
Lead conversion rate:
Marketers focused on driving qualified leads for their sales team should watch their visitor lead conversion rate like a hawk. As you publish more persona-aligned content offers and call-to-action buttons on your website, you can expect to see this conversion rate improve. There is a whole field of science around conversion rate optimization. Here are some additional resources to help you improve the lead generation efficiency of your website.
Bounce rate measures the number of people who come to your site and immediately leave. In most cases, visitors who come to your site and leave immediately do so because the experience on your website doesn’t meet their needs.
On the other hand, sometimes bounce rates are high when people are coming to your site to find out a single piece of information. Bounce rates from organic search traffic are typically high on recipe and eCommerce product pages. This shows that people are looking at your price, model number, ingredient or another spec then immediately leave.
Once you have forms on your website you’ll start to gather more names and emails that you or your sales team can follow up with. Your form should contain questions that allow you to identify the persona of the lead on your website. As you start to build new leads, measure how many of these leads fit the criteria of your persona(s) based on the form information.
Engagement on site:
How long are people staying on your website? What are they clicking on to do their research? You can learn a lot using Google Analytics to see a click-path of how the visitor moves from page to page. Heat mapping software can show you exactly where they are clicking on within each page of your site.
Brick and mortar or service-area businesses should pay attention to the % of traffic that is visiting from the area they serve. Your website isn’t going to help you drive qualified local customers if you’re only driving in website visitors on the other side of the country. You can run a geo-based report in Google analytics of all traffic visiting your website and you can also run a contacts report based on IP address.