SEO for Beginners: What is SEO?

Business.com / Business Intelligence / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

SEO is very important for any business that has an online presence. So why do you need it? What is it? Let's find out.

If you are a small business owner or someone who is interested in the internet as a business then you have probably heard of SEO.

It stands for Search Engine Optimization and has become very popular as our world shifts into an Internet-heavy business market.

Many people think SEO is simply creating a ton of backlinks to your site from any source you can. This is wrong and will tank your site into the abyss of the Google index.

SEO is the act of increasing your rankings in Google, Bing, and other search engines so that customers and Internet users can find your website.

Related Article: Get Found: How to Use SEO for Small Business Growth

Why Do You Need SEO?

SEO is very important for any business that has an online presence. Even if you don’t sell products on your site, you can still gain vital customers through the internet. Customers are now looking to the internet first for reviews, information and comparison shopping. If you can gain more customers from search engines, then it’s a great investment.

Important SEO Factors

OK, so you’re ready to start doing some search engine optimization on your website? There are some important ranking factors that you should know before trying to get a bunch of random links. Google (and other search engines) are very smart and have highly advanced algorithms that look at a lot of factors to determine rankings for a website. Some of the factors that they use are:

  • Quality Backlinks
  • Social Signals
  • Website Age
  • On-Page Optimization
  • Website Speed
  • User Experience

Quality Backlinks

Gaining quality backlinks is a very important factor in SEO but be careful about the type of links you are getting. In the old days, you could create as many backlinks to your site as possible and you would generally rank higher because of it. Google’s algorithm has changed and now looks for more quality links than quantity.

Getting quality backlinks is not as hard as it seems. To generate the most quality backlinks to your site, you have to create quality content. When you create quality content, users link to it… from their website, web 2.0 sites, Facebook, Twitter etc. This is the best and most tried and true method to gain quality backlinks. It’s also a great way to gain more social signals.

Social Signals

Many search engine algorithms are now using social signals to determine ranking position. Social signals are simply links, post, shares, and tweets about your site on social media platforms. Search engines crawl these sites just like any other site. If you have a strong following and get a lot of shares, this will help your rankings.

Getting social signals is just the same as getting quality backlinks. Creating shareable engaging content and sharing it on your Facebook Page, Twitter and Google+ can increase shares, tweets, and mentions of your site. This will create more followers and fans that will link to your site.

Related Article: 7 Questions Entrepreneurs Ask About SEO and the Answers

Website Age

One of the original ranking factors is website age. The older your website is, the higher chance it is an authority site. Google (and other SE’s) will not allow a brand new website to rank #1 for "cars". SEO takes time and building authority takes time. Google knows this so they look at website age as a ranking factor. Though it is not as important as it once was, it’s still a factor for ranking well in search engines.

On-Page Optimization

In order for search engine bots to properly get data from your website, you must optimize is so the bots can read it clearly. On-page optimization is the act of optimizing your HTML so you can clearly tell the search engine spiders what your site is about.

So how do you do on-page optimization? Well, I could write 20 articles on all the ways to do on-page optimization but some of the most important pieces are:

  1. Have heading tags that explain your content (h1, h2, h3)
  2. Have alt tags on all your images
  3. Use meta description and meta title tags
  4. Use open graph meta tags
  5. Good Internal linking

These five on-page optimization tips are a good start but there are plenty of other ways to optimize your website for the search engines.

Website Speed

Do you stay on websites that take a long time to load? I know I don’t. In 2016, it’s important to have a fast website or users will shy away and leave. This won’t help gain quality backlinks or social signals, which in turn, will hurt your rankings. Having a fast website will create a good user experience which is an important SEO factor. To test your website try Googles PageSpeed Insights tool to get some insight on your website’s speed and how to increase it.

User Experience

User Experience is a factor that not many people think has anything to do with SEO. This can be true sometimes, but most of the time, having good user experience will create followers, quality backlinks, and social signals. In turn, this will create better search rankings for your site. If a site is hard to navigate or users can find the information they are looking for, they will leave and never come back.

Having good website design can increase user experience and engage users to share your content. This factor should be constantly evolving. You should constantly be updating your site to have better and better user experience.

Related Article: Search In the New Year: Understand the Scope of Search Engine Optimization in 2016

Conclusion

SEO is a not a set-it-and-forget-it type of job. You should constantly be optimizing your site both on-page and off-page. Even though there are plenty of ranking factors in search engines, the best tip for SEO is to create original/quality/shareable/engaging content. If you simply do not have time to do SEO yourself, there are plenty of affordable search engine optimization services. 

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