search engine optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the quality and quantity of website traffic to a website or a web page from search engines.[1][2] Search engine optimizatin targets unpaid traffic (known as “natural” or “organic” results) rather than direct traffic or paid traffic. Unpaid traffic may originate from different kinds of searches, including image searchvideo searchacademic search,[3] news search, and industry-specific vertical search engines.

As an Internet marketing strategy, Search engine Optimization considers how search engines work, the computer-programmed algorithms that dictate search engine behavior, what people search for, the actual search terms or keywords typed into search engines, and which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience. SEO is performed because a website will receive more visitors from a search engine when websites rank higher on the search engine results page (SERP). These visitors can then potentially be converted into customers.[4]

History

Webmasters and content providers began optimizing websites for search engines in the mid-1990s, as the first search engines were cataloguing the early Web. Initially, all webmasters only needed to submit the address of a page, or URL, to the various engines, which would send a web crawler to crawl that page, extract links to other pages from it, and return information found on the page to be indexed.[5] The process involves a search engine optimization spider downloading a page and storing it on the search engine’s own server. A second program, known as an indexer, extracts information about the page, such as the words it contains, where they are located, and any weight for specific words, as well as all links the page contains. All of this information is then placed into a scheduler for crawling at a later date.

Website owners recognized the value of a high ranking and visibility in search engine results,[6] creating an opportunity for both white hat and black hat SEO practitioners. According to industry analyst Danny Sullivan, the phrase “search engine optimization” probably came into use in 1997. Sullivan credits Bruce Clay as one of the first people to popularize the term.[7]

Early versions of search algorithms relied on webmaster-provided information such as the keyword meta tag or index files in engines like ALIWEB. Meta tags provide a guide to each page’s content. Using metadata to index pages was found to be less than reliable, however, because the webmaster’s choice of keywords in the meta tag could potentially be an inaccurate representation of the site’s actual content. Flawed data in meta tags, such as those that were inaccurate or incomplete, created the potential for pages to be mischaracterized in irrelevant searches.[8][dubious – discuss] Web content providers also manipulated some attributes within the HTML source of a page in an attempt to rank well in search engines.[9] By 1997, search engine designers recognized that webmasters were making efforts to rank well in their search engine and that some webmasters were even manipulating their rankings in search results by stuffing pages with excessive or irrelevant keywords. Early search engines, such as Altavista and Infoseek, adjusted their algorithms to prevent webmasters from manipulating rankings.[10]

By heavily relying on factors such as keyword density, which were exclusively within a webmaster’s control, early search engines suffered from abuse and ranking manipulation. To provide better results to their users, search engines had to adapt to ensure their results pages showed the most relevant search results, rather than unrelated pages stuffed with numerous keywords by unscrupulous webmasters. This meant moving away from heavy reliance on term density to a more holistic process for scoring semantic signals.[11] search engine optimization  Since the success and popularity of a search engine are determined by its ability to produce the most relevant results to any given search, poor quality or irrelevant search results could lead users to find other search sources. Search engines responded by developing more complex ranking algorithms, taking into account additional factors that were more difficult for webmasters to manipulate.

Companies that employ overly aggressive techniques can get their client websites banned from the search results. In 2023, the Wall Street Journal reported on a company, Traffic Power, which allegedly used high-risk techniques and failed to disclose those risks to its clients.[12] Wired magazine reported that the same company sued blogger and SEO Aaron Wall for writing about the ban.[13] Google’s Matt Cutts later confirmed that Google did in fact ban Traffic Power and some of its clients.[14]

Some search engines have also reached out to the Search engine optimization industry and are frequent sponsors and guests at SEO conferences, webchats, and seminars. Major search engines provide information and guidelines to help with website optimization.[15][16] Google has a Sitemaps program to help webmasters learn if Google is having any problems indexing their website and also provides data on Google traffic to the website.[17] Bing Webmaster Tools provides a way for webmasters to submit a sitemap and web feeds, allows users to determine the “crawl rate”, and track the web pages index status.

In 2015, it was reported that Google was developing and promoting mobile search as a key feature within future products. In response, many brands began to take a different approach to their Internet marketing strategies.[18]

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Most SEOs know how important user engagement is to SEO success. Learn what user engagement really is, metrics to track trends, and ideas for increasing it.

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Take your digital marketing global with these international SEO and SEM fundamentals, plus get the latest updates on international search engines including Baidu and Yandex.

2 . Local SEO

Learn the latest trends and tips that will help your local business grow using local search optimization, local marketing, and local advertising.

3 . Mobile SEO

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4 . Onpage SEO page

On page SEO refers to the optimization of individual pages on your website for search engines. Get the latest on-page SEO tips and advice here.

5 . Technical SEO

Technical SEO  covers all of the behind-the-scenes optimizations that allow Google to crawl and index your website. Learn more about this aspect of SEO.

6 . press SEO

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Search engine optimization (Search engine optimization ) is often about making small modifications to parts of your website. When viewed individually, these changes might seem like incremental improvements, but when combined with other optimizations, they could have a noticeable impact on your site’s user experience and performance in organic search results. You’re likely already familiar with many of the topics in this guide, because they’re essential ingredients for any web page, but you may not be making the most out of them.

You should If you own, manage, monetize, or promote online content via Google Search, this guide is meant for you. You might be the owner of a growing and thriving business, the website owner of a dozen sites, the Search engine optimization specialist in a web agency or a DIY Search engine optimization search engine optimization expert passionate about the mechanics of Search: this guide is meant for you. If you’re interested in having a complete overview of the basics of Search engine optimization according to our best practices, you are indeed in the right place. This guide won’t provide any secrets that’ll

search engine optimization

automatically rank your site first in Google (sorry!), but following the best practices of search engine optimization will hopefully make it easier for search engines to crawl, index, and understand your content. website to benefit your users, and gear any optimization toward making the user experience better. One of those users is a search engine, which helps other users discover your content. search engine optimization is about helping search engines understand and present content. Your site may be smaller or larger than our example site and offer vastly different content, but the optimization topics in this guide apply to sites of all sizes and types. We hope our guide gives you some fresh ideas on how to improve your website, and we’d love to hear your questions,

What Is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization. What is search engine optimization? It is the process of taking steps to help a website or piece of content rank higher on Google.

The key difference between SEO and paid advertising is that an SEO strategy involves “organic” ranking, which means you don’t pay to be in that space. To make it even simpler, search engine optimization means taking a piece of online content and optimizing it so search engines like Google show it towards the top of the page when someone searches for something.

Search Engine Optimization(SEO)Start Guide

For example, when someone types “vegan lasagna” into Google, they’re likely looking for a recipe, ingredients, and instructions on how to make it. If you wrote an article about making vegan lasagna, you’d want people to find your recipe. For anyone to find it, you need to rank above all the other websites with recipes for vegan lasagna. It’s not easy, but that’s what SEO marketing is all about.

Let’s break it down is even further: 89 billion people visited Google.com in May 2023 alone. That means you are missing out on a huge number of visitors if you aren’t optimizing for search.

The Correct Search Engine Optimization

To better understand how you can rank your content higher in the search engines, you need to first understand how search works. That’s the ultimate goal of this article. By the end, you’ll know the ins and outs of search so you can optimize your content to rank higher on Google and get more eyeballs on your posts.

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Breaking news, updates, trends, and the latest info you need to know about SEO, Google and other search engines, top PPC platforms, and popular social media networks.

optimization (SEO)

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What is search engine optimization?

Search engine optimization is the science of improving a website to increase its visibility when people search for products or services. The more visibility a website has on search engines, the more likely it is that brand captures business.

Website visibility is a search engine optimization commonly measured by the placement — or ranking — of the site on search engine results pages (SERPs). And companies always vie for the first page, where they are most likely to garner the most attention.

Organic search traffic is usually higher-quality traffic because users are actively searching for a specific topic, product or service for which a site might rank. If a user finds that site through the search engine, it can lead to better brand engagement.

Using Google as an example, SERPs often feature ads at the top of the page. These are positions that businesses are willing to pay for to ensure placement on that first page. The following ads are the regular search listings, which marketers and search engines refer to as organic search results. The search engine optimization process aims to increase a business’s organic search results, driving organic search traffic to the site. This enables data marketers to distinguish between traffic that comes to a website from other channels — such as paid search, social media, referrals and direct — and organic search traffic.

How does SEO work?

Search engine optimization While there is a way to maximize results, it is almost impossible to fully manipulate search algorithms. Businesses often look to the shortest path toward ideal results with the least amount of effort, but Search engine optimization SEO requires a lot of action and time. There is no SEO strategy where something can be changed today with the expectation of clear results tomorrow. SEO is a long-term project, with daily action and constant activity.

Search engines use bots to crawl all website pages, downloading and storing that information into a collection known as an index. This index is like a library and when someone searches for something in it, the search engine acts as the librarian. The search engine pulls and displays relevant information from the search query and shows search engine optimization users content related to what they were looking for. Search engine algorithms analyze webpages in the index to determine the order those pages should be displayed on the SERP.

How search engine optimization works graphic
Here is a brief description of how search engine optimization works.

What algorithms evaluate for search engine optimization?

There are hundreds of factors that go into what content from the index gets displayed in a SERP. However, they bubble up into five key factors that help determine which results are returned for a search query.

  1. Meaning of the query. To return relevant results, the algorithm needs to first establish what information the user is searching for. This is known as intent. To understand intent, the algorithm is looking to understand language. Interpreting spelling mistakes, Search engine optimization synonyms and that some words mean different things in different contexts all play into the algorithm’s Search engine optimization understanding of searcher intent. For example, search engines would need to be able to distinguish between Search engine optimization “bass” as a fish and “bass” as an instrument. Intent would be based on additional search terms, historical search, location search and more to display the correct information
  1. Relevance of webpages. The algorithm analyzes webpage content to assess whether the sites contain information relevant to what a user is looking for. This comes after intent is established. A basic signal for relevance would be if the webpage includes the keywords used in the search. This includes showing up in the body copy or page headings. But beyond keyword matching, search engines use aggregated interaction data to determine if the page is relevant to the search query. This looks at anonymized data from previous searches to match the page with the query.
  2. Quality of the content. Search engine optimization ‘ aim is to prioritize the most reliable sources available. The intelligence built into the algorithms can identify which pages demonstrate expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness in relation to the intent.
  3. Usability of webpages. search engine optimization  Web design and accessibility play a big part in search rankings. The algorithm looks for how the site appears in different browsers, if it’s designed for different device types — such as desktops, tablets and phones — and if the page loading times work well for users with slower internet connections.
  4. Context and settings. Search engine optimization and its algorithms use information from past search history and search settings to help determine which results are most valuable to a user at that moment. Country and location can be used to deliver content relevant to the area someone is searching. For example, someone searching for “football” in search engine optimization in New England would get different results than someone entering for search engine optimization the same query in England.

There are several activities that may not be “SEO” in the strictest sense, but nonetheless can align with and help contribute indirectly to SEO success.

Link building (the process of acquiring links to a website) is the activity most associated with off-site SEO. There can be great benefits (e.g., rankings, traffic) from getting a diverse number of links pointing at your website from relevant, authoritative, trusted websites. Link quality beats link quantity – and a large quantity of quality links is the goal.

And how do you get those links? There are a variety of website promotion methods that synergize with SEO efforts. These include:

  • Brand building and brand marketing: Techniques designed to boost recognition and reputation.
  • PR: Public relations techniques designed to earn editorially-given links.
  • Content marketing: Some popular forms include creating videos, ebooks, research studies, podcasts (or being a guest on other podcasts) and guest posting (or guest blogging).
  • Social media marketing and optimization: Claim your brand’s handle on any and all relevant platforms, optimize it fully and share relevant content. 
  • Listing management: Claiming, verifying and optimizing the information on any platforms where information about your company or website may be listed and found by searchers (e.g., directories, review sites, wikis).
  • Ratings and reviews: Getting them, monitoring them and responding to them.

Generally, when talking about off-site, you’re talking about activities that are not going to directly impact your ability to rank from a purely technical standpoint. 

However, again, everything your brand does matters. You want your brand to be found anywhere people may search for you. As such, some people have tried to rebrand “search engine optimization” to actually mean “search experience optimization” or “search everywhere optimization.”

SEO specialities

Search engine optimization also has a few subgenres. Each of these speciality areas is different from “regular search engine optimization” in its own way, generally requiring additional tactics and presenting different challenges. 

Five such SEO specialities include:

  • Ecommerce SEO: Additional SEO elements include optimizing category pages, product pages, faceted navigation, internal linking structures, product images, product reviews, schema and more.
  • Enterprise SEO: This is SEO on a massive scale. Typically this means dealing with a website (or multiple websites/brands) with 1 million+ pages – or it may be based on the size of the organization (typically those making millions or billions in revenue per year). Doing enterprise also typically means delays trying to get search engine optimization changes implemented by the dev team, as well as the involvement of multiple stakeholders.
  • International SEO: This is global SEO for international businesses – doing search engine optimization for multiregional or multilingual websites – and optimizing for international search engines such as Baidu or Naver. 
  • Local SEO: Here, the goal is to optimize websites for visibility in local organic search engine results by managing and obtaining reviews and business listings, among others.
  • News SEO: With news, speed is of utmost importance – specifically making sure you get into Google’s index as quickly as possible and appear in places such as Google Discover, Google’s Top Stories and Google News. There’s a need to understand best practices for paywalls, section pages, news-specific structured data, and more.

How does SEO work?

If you found this page via Google search, you likely searched Google for [what is seo] or [seo]. 

This guide is published on Search Engine Land, an authoritative website with great expertise on and experience in the topic of SEO (we’ve been covering all search engine optimization changes, big and small since 2006). 

Originally published in 2010, our “What is SEO” page has earned a whopping 324,203 links. 

Put simply, these factors (and others) have helped this guide earn a good reputation with search engines, which has helped it rank in Position 1 for years. It has accumulated signals that demonstrate it is authoritative and trustworthy – and therefore deserves to rank when someone searches for SEO. 

When talking about traditional web search engines like Google, there are four separate stages of search:

But optimizing for Google search is different from optimizing for search other platforms like YouTube or Amazon. 

Let’s take Facebook, for example, where factors such as engagement (Likes, comments, shares, etc.) and who people are connected to matter. Then, on Twitter, signals like recency, interactions, or the author’s credibility are important. 

And further complicating things: search engines have added machine learning elements in order to surface content – making it even harder to say “this” or “that” resulted in better or worse performance.

2. Researching

Research is a key part of SEO. Some forms of research that will improve search engine optimization performance include:

  • Audience research: It’s important to understand your target audience or market. Who are they (i.e., their demographics and psychographics)? What are their pain points? What questions do they have that you can answer? 
  • Keyword research: This process helps you identify and incorporate relevant and valuable search terms people use into your pages – and understand how much demand and competition there is to rank for these keywords.
  • Competitor research: What are your competitors doing? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What types of content are they publishing? 
  • Brand/business/client research: What are their goals – and how can SEO help them achieve those goals?
  • Website research: A variety of SEO audits can uncover opportunities and issues on a website that are preventing success in organic search. Some audits to consider: technical SEO, content, link profile and E-E-A-T. 
  • SERP analysis: This will help you understand the search intent for a given query (e.g., is it commercial, transactional, informational or navigational) and create content that is more likely to earn rankings or visibility.

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