This article was first published on Aug 30, 2015, and last updated in February 2020.
Over the years, I’ve noticed people’s expression when I tell them I write web content for an SEO company. Maybe two out of every ten people know what I am talking about; most just nod their head and smile. They expect that if they don’t ask for more information, I won’t push the subject.
But in one way or another, most people have at least a basic knowledge of the world of SEO. To get an idea of just how familiar people are with search, take a look at some Google stats. Google Search processes over 1.2 trillion search queries each year. That’s over 40,000 questions a second performed by the search titan. That means millions of people interact within the SEO world each day.
The first thing you need in order to understand search engine optimization is a vocabulary lesson. Listed below are some of the most common buzzwords in the SEO industry (if you haven’t figured out yet, SEO means search engine optimization).
1. Search Marketing
Search marketing is the manner in which you drive traffic to your website through the use of search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. These sites use sophisticated equations that rank all the websites on the internet. There are two types of search marketing: paid and organic.
Paid search marketing, more commonly referred to as search engine marketing (SEM), allows your company to buy ad space on the search engine’s results page (SERP). Depending on the engine used, the ads are most often positioned above and to the right of the search results.
Organic search is the non-paid results that show up on a SERP after a query is entered. Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo use sophisticated equations to evaluate each site on the web. These equations, or algorithms, look at a site mobile/user-friendliness, content, level of spam, and dozens of other factors before ranking them on any given SERP.
To maintain a competitive edge, search engines keep their algorithms a closely guarded secret and are constantly tweaking their formulas to improve performance.
2. META Data
To help users navigate their SERPs, Google and other lesser search engines provide information about each specific page they list. This information, known as meta data, allows the user to see specifically where each link will take them. Search engines show main types of meta data: title tags and description tags.
The title tag on a search engine results page is the title of a specific page. Directly underneath the title tag is the description tag. This is a snippet of text about the specific page. It will normally contain information associated with your search term.
In the online marketing world, content is king. When SEO specialists refer to content, they are specifically talking about the information on your site and posts on your blog. If the information in either of these two areas is found wanting, the site will suffer.
There are a few things to remember when creating content for your site. The first thing you want to ensure is that your content is fresh. Fresh in the SEO world means new, different, rare, and particular. Keeping your posts and pages fresh will not only help you rank better, but it also provides value to your reader.
Another important thing to remember about content is keeping it consistent. If you write for your company’s blog, make sure to post quality work often that is intent-driven. Search engines, especially Google, rank sites based on how often they add new material. A site that hasn’t had a new post in a while is a site that is not ranking as well as it otherwise could.
4. Link Building
If you want the major search engines to recognize you, other sites need to link to yours. Think of your site as part of a greater web. The more strands of the web that link to your site, the more important it becomes. These strands are links, and you begin link building by creating content worth reading and content worth sharing.
As mentioned earlier, find fresh, new ways to present your ideas. This doesn’t mean you have to try and be something you’re not. Just try and present your site from a unique perspective. This will make your site more valuable to your users.
If your content is worth reading, then it is also worth sharing. If you have a blog, link each new post to all of your social media accounts. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and even Pinterest can help you broaden your reader base and reach people you would have otherwise missed.
Once you start sharing your pages on these sites, they begin to develop authority. Authority is what pushes your site up the search engine results page. Search engines give authority to high traffic and highly shared pages.
What really gives links authority is how often one site links to another. The more recognizable the site, the more authority it gives when it links to another site. So when a highly recognizable site mentions a smaller site, it bolsters the page rank of the smaller site. Similarly, when enough small sites make mention of a similarly small site, link authority can also be passed.
There are three different types of links that are important to your link building strategy:
- Inbound link: when another site links to yours.
- Outbound link: when you link to a site that isn’t yours.
- Internal link: when you link to another page on your own site.
Each of these links can be used to lend authority to other pages and grow the reach of your site.
5. Optimizing Your Site
Finally, the most important SEO term you need to be familiar with is optimization. Your website needs to provide users with a great experience. You can have great content, hundreds of authoritative links, and still rank poorly if your site offers a bad user experience.
Search engine optimization is the overall process of improving a sites rank on search engines. Website optimization is one of the first and most vital steps in SEO but it can be complicated to know where to start. Boostability offers a free website analysis tool that can show you what the next step looks like.