What is SEO and how does it work?

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What is SEO? SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a technical name for all processes that affect the online visibility of a website in a search engine’s unpaid results. The main objective of SEO is to increase both the quantity and quality of traffic to a website through organic results. Many companies that operate online highly depend on SEO because they want to generate long term digital traffic from search engines.

Wait, what is SEO?

Pardon us if this sounds somewhat overwhelming, but SEO basically means that websites are optimised in such a way that they are displayed higher in searches in search engines. This doesn’t only include Google, but concerns other search engines as Bing as well. Anyway, take a look at the video below for an easy to understand explanation:

Okay, I know what SEO is, but how does SEO work?

In order to tell you how SEO works, we’ll first have to explain to you how the techniques driving SEO actually work. Imagine this: optimizing your website consists of various actions that together ensure that the overall SEO value of your website increases. These actions include:
– Optimising the most important keywords.
– Writing clear and relevant (textual) content.
– Link building.
– Optimizing the metatags.

Below we’ll briefly explain each of these strategies.

Optimising to the most important keywords

When users search in Google, they enter keywords. Whether this is done on a keyboard or with the voice recorder: at all times keywords are used in order to present you with the results for your search query. Now, the idea behind SEO is that you want to be found for those keywords. How? By actually using these keywords on your site. For example, let’s say you own a bakery store in the city centre of Amsterdam. When someone searches on “Bakery Amsterdam”, you want your website to be listed in the search results as well. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Well, it’s not as easy as it seems. As a website owner you must show (e.g. inform, trigger, convince) Google that your page is relevant to this search. After all, Google’s main responsibility is to provide its users with the most relevant information.

Write clear content

By now, you should get the idea that Google uses keywords when presenting the search results to the user. The next thing you should understand is that these keywords actually need to be found on your website. As we all know websites are composed of visual, textual and technical content. The keywords you want to be found on need to be integrated in all of these elements. When writing textual content you’ll need to make sure there’s a balance between SEO-optimised texts and readability. After all, if you stuff your website with certain keywords this will come at the expense of the user experience. In practice this will lead to a higher bounce rate. As Google keeps track of how long visitors stay on your website it’ll get a message your site appears to be less suitable than initially thought. This will result in lower rankings as visitors apparently don’t appreciate the website they have been proposed.

Linkbuilding

One of the most important SEO techniques has always been link building. Because search engines basically want to treat all websites equally, it is difficult for them to see from the outside which websites are more important than others. One way to estimate the relevance of a website within a certain domain is to count how many other websites refer to a certain source. Therefore, looking at the amount of links is one of the ways in which search engines can get a clue of which pages are more relevant than others. Although initially only the amount of links played an important role, nowadays the authority of these referring websites play an equally important role. For example, if there is a Wikipedia article about a popular topic, and your website is listed as an important source, then Google values ​​your content more than that of your competitors without Wikipedia’s blessing. As we all know, Wikipedia may be considered an important source for whatever kind of information.

Well-structured metadata

Writing a convincing text based on particular keywords sounds pretty straightforward, but how does this work for the technical part? In a nutshell, consider the optimisation of metadata as the correct use of the titles (just have a look at the most upper part of your screen), URLs, breadcrumbs and internal links. Why each of these has become so important in modern SEO? Don’t forget search engines use robots, also known as crawlers or spiders, to scan your website. These spiders need to rely on technical data in order to rank a website. A neat and optimised meta structure ensures that robots can better understand your website. With empty or simply bad metadata, Google is less able to understand what your website is about. The completer and the more accurate the metadata, the more probable your website will be placed higher within the search engine results page.

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