What is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization. This article describes what SEO means, explains related SEO terms, and teaches you how to use SEO to your advantage.

What Does SEO Stand for?

SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization, which means setting up webpages in way that maximizes the amount of targeted traffic (website visits) search engines send to each page. The objective of SEO is to get search engines (like Google) to list your webpage as close as possible to the top of the first page of search results without spending money on advertising. The ultimate goal is to drive targeted traffic to a company’s website.

Why Is SEO Important?

SEO is important because it helps attract more traffic and customers to your website. There are close to 2 billion websites online, and webpages that don’t rank on page one in search rarely get seen or clicked on.

A recent study of searches on Google found that the first organic search result has an average clickthrough rate of 28.5%. In other words, more than a quarter of the people who search for a term will click on and visit the very first webpage listing in search results. The clickthrough rate declines significantly for listings below the first one, with the last listing on page one having only a 2.5% clickthrough rate. Most people don’t bother going beyond page one of search results, so listings that are on pages 2 or beyond will rarely get seen.

How Search Engines Work

When someone enters a query in search engines, the search software (called an algorithm) processes the webpages, images, videos, and paid ads it has indexed to find those that seem most likely to provide the information the searcher was looking for.  

The algorithm ranks and displays the results. The pages that display the search results are called search results pages, sometimes referred to as SERPs. Any relevant paid ads are usually displayed at the very top of the page. Image results, related queries (People Also Ask), and unpaid listings follow, with more ads sometimes appearing at the bottom of the page. 

What Are Organic Listings?

Organic listings (also called natural listings) are the unpaid results that show up when someone enters a search query. They look much like the paid ads, but without the word “Ad” in front of the listing. Like the ads on the page, they usually include a headline, description of the page, link to the page, and the site name. The organic listing the search engine deems to be most relevant goes at the top of the organic results, with less relevant results displaying below. 

Each search engine result page will display up to 10 unpaid search results listings. Anything that doesn’t fit on the first page gets bumped to subsequent pages, again, in perceived order of importance to the search query.

There are many things involved with doing SEO for a website. One of the most important keys to high rankings is understanding what your audience is likely to search for online and providing relevant website content to answer their query.

The type of content that will rank depends on the nature of your site, what customers search for, and how relevant your page is to what they have searched for. For instance, someone searching for “discount designer sunglasses” is probably going to want to visit a webpage that displays images and sale prices for designer sunglasses. Among other things, to rank highly, you’d want your page to display designer sunglasses and have descriptions that include words like sale, discount, save, etc.

On the other hand, someone whose search term is “are discount sunglasses any good?” is more likely to be looking for information to help them make decisions based on quality and safety.

What Are Keywords?

For SEO purposes, keywords are the actual words and phrases that people search for when they are looking for the products or services you provide. Those can be very specific in some cases and very broad in others. Someone searching for those designer sunglasses might search for men’s polarized designer sunglasses, or women’s silver/blue Oakley polarized glasses. Your pages are more likely to be found if they contain the keywords and terms people search for.

In addition to knowing the type of information your customers might search for, you need to be aware of the various terms different people might use to search for the same thing. One customer might search for a tan handbag; another might search for a tan purse; yet another might search for a tan pocketbook. You’d want to incorporate the most frequently used terms in the text and/or image descriptions on your pages.

Where to Put Keywords to Improve SEO

Each page on your site should have a unique title, description, and keywords. On any page, keywords should be used sparingly but in specific places. If possible, you want to use a keyword as part of the page title, the page meta description, and in the text near the beginning of the page. It’s a good idea to include the main keyword in the alt text used to describe an image, too. Subtitles on a page are another place to use keywords.

Don’t stuff pages with keywords. Instead, use them as you would naturally use the words when telling someone about what’s on the page.

What Else Matters for SEO?

There are many additional factors involved with doing SEO for a website. Links between the pages on your own website and links pointing to your site from other websites are also important.

Effective SEO starts with understanding what your site visitors want to learn, what problem they want to solve, and what terms they use to find that information.

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