Understanding Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

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11 Jan 2022
5 min read

Search engine optimization (SEO for short) is crucial to the foundation of any digital marketing campaign. SEO is how you can reach your customers organically online. Great SEO is achieved by improving your website’s content, structure, and overall user experience. When this is done effectively, it consistently improves a website’s visibility, web presence, and conversions. While SEO can be difficult to understand at times, we’ll walk through some of the basics to help you better understand SEO!

In this guide, we'll take a look at the following:

  • What is SEO?
  • Why is SEO Important?
  • How Does SEO work?
  • Should I Optimize for Search Engines or People?
  • Three types of SEO
  • On-page SEO
  • Off-page SEO
  • Technical SEO

What Is SEO?

Search engine optimization is the ability to get your website’s pages to rank higher on search engines such as Google and Bing. One of the easiest ways to describe SEO is: when you search for “restaurants near me” the first results that appear after the paid search ads are the businesses that have great local SEO. But SEO isn’t just for local businesses such as restaurants, bars, and gyms; SEO is also fundamental for any business or enterprise that wants to remain competitive in the digital age. For a large financial institution SEO won’t just be helping customers find a bank near them; it will be highly content-driven and it will aim to answer the many questions their potential clients may have about financial services. Their clients may search “how to set up a Roth IRA” or even “what’s the best investment management firm”. A business with strong SEO will not only answer these questions with their content, they will also guide the consumer through their sales funnel. Though highly technical at times, it is also user and content focused which makes SEO both a science and an art.

Why is SEO Important?

Quite simply, better SEO equals higher website traffic and higher conversions. In a recent study, nearly 70% of all search traffic goes to the top 5 search results and about 20% goes to the first page alone! But SEO goes deeper than these staggering statistics. Search engine optimization levels the playing field for businesses in the digital world. With paid advertising, a company with a smaller budget can only afford to compete so much with a larger corporation. But with the help of a talented SEO specialist, that same small company can compete organically for the same keywords at no cost. SEO also provides lasting results throughout and after a campaign’s completion. Even for companies with larger budgets that’s immensely important because they can develop a strong organic presence for the long term while they utilize the short term benefits of a paid campaign. In that same notion, the top tier digital marketing agencies will even utilize data from their short term paid ads campaigns to influence their SEO strategy. If they consistently see a keyword performing well or underperforming, they can modify their SEO strategy around that and save time on keyword research and tracking. Building sustainable organic traffic is huge for digital marketing and SEO is how that is achieved. Consistency and steady growth are key to achieving success on search engines. Effective SEO will not only help you reach your audience, but also tell your story and guide them through the conversion process.

How does SEO work?

SEO is conducted through a series of campaigns. There are many factors that decide how a page will rank and they are constantly evolving as search engines update their algorithms to improve their own users’ experience. SEO can seem complicated at times, and it is, but the main areas of emphasis are On-page SEO, Off-page SEO, and a third called Technical SEO. A thorough SEO campaign will incorporate all 3 to efficiently reach your audience and drive conversions. With so many ever-evolving factors at play, it’s important to remember that there are core principles that never change. Websites and pages that rank higher on search engines understand them and use them to their advantage.

Should I optimize for search engines or people?

Historically, these two targets seemed to be at odds with one another but as search engines have evolved, so too have our optimization strategies. We now understand that these two goals are not mutually exclusive, and in fact, are becoming more of the same with every search engine core update. Gone are the days when SEO meant “stuffing keywords” into shallow content to essentially trick search engines into ranking a page higher. Google’s algorithm is now far more intuitive and it favors content that answers the questions users are searching. Users prefer trustworthy, long-form content that is easy to skim and digest. Consequently, so do Google and other top Search engines. To effectively achieve this, you’ll need to understand how the three branches of SEO work together. So let’s take a closer look.

Performance improving

Three Types of SEO

One of the best ways to look at SEO and start developing your campaigns is to break it down into the main types of SEO which are on-page, off-page, and technical. It’s important to note that there will be some overlap between these branches as well as strategies involving other marketing channels. For example, social media marketing is technically part of off-page SEO despite being its own field of marketing. With that in mind, a talented marketing team will use that as an opportunity to integrate multiple approaches into the overall marketing campaign instead of existing at odds with one another. The SEO specialist should accept feedback and suggestions from the social media manager in their campaign development and vice versa. An example of overlap between SEO branches would be the classification of a task such as adding metadata to a webpage. Some might consider this an on-page role while others might view it as technical SEO. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter how an SEO specialist classifies this task, so long as it gets accomplished correctly. Let’s take a closer look at the three main types of search engine optimization.

On-page SEO:

Quite literally, on-page SEO is all of the optimization you do on the webpage. Producing strong content, optimizing meta tags, and improving internal linking structures are just a few of the many ways you can optimize your site for both search engines and users. A site that is easy to understand and navigate helps both the user and the search engine to interpret the site. Okay so your site has great content and flow, how do you show it’s trustworthy or as they say in the industry “authoritative”? The answer: off-page SEO.

Off-page SEO:

Again, off-page SEO is literally just any optimization efforts you make off the webpage. The goal of off-page SEO is to boost a site’s visibility by finding or creating opportunities to reach your audience. Often, this means gaining “backlinks” which are links from another website back to yours. There are many backlinking strategies to utilize such as “guest posting” a blog on a popular website that is relevant to your content. What backlinking and off-page SEO achieve is gaining traffic to your site and proving to search engines that your site is trustworthy and authoritative, which both influence a page’s rank on Google, which boosts visibility, which boosts traffic, and finally, boosts conversions.

Technical SEO:

Though it is often just grouped in with on-page efforts, technical SEO should be a fundamental aspect of your overall SEO campaigning and planning. Quality technical optimization is truly the difference between good SEO and great SEO. Calling “technical” may seem intimidating at first, but with a top-tier digital marketing agency, it can be achieved easily. Strategies such as implementing structured data or XML sitemaps are a great way to help search engines better understand your site and help you reach your target audience more efficiently.

A strong understanding of SEO helps your overall marketing strategy and helps you achieve your business goals by reaching your audience and guiding them through the marketing funnel. Partnering with a top-tier digital marketing agency like Nxt Era Marketing is the best way to get started, so contact us today for a free consultation!

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