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What is SEO and how does it work?

SEO aka Search Engine Optimization is one of the oldest Digital Marketing techniques used to drive organic traffic to a website by ranking high on relevant keywords in Search Engines.

Since I will be explaining Search Engine Optimization, let’s dwell a little into the world of Search Engines.

What is a Search Engine?

A Search Engine is a website where you search for data in the form of queries. The search throws up results of websites matching your search in the form of listings.

Today, all the Search Engine websites combined together, receive the bulk of traffic on internet.

Obviously, leading the pack of Search Engines is Google. The market leader commands the numero uno positions in search engines.

From Aug 2017 to Aug 2108, Google has roughly 91% Search Engine Market share world wide (source : http://gs.statcounter.com/search-engine-market-share).

There are 40,ooo searches made on google every single second.

Google is the world’s most visited website, followed by Youtube and Facebook. (source : https://hostingfacts.com/internet-facts-stats/)

No doubt, it’s a race to the top for every website on google. No one wants to rank less than top 3 positions on google.

And what do you need to rank your website high on google?

I am sure you have guessed the answer by now.

Search Engine Optimization in layman language is optimizing your website for search engines to rank high for relevant keywords.

The technique has been in existence since Google stormed the world of search engines, becoming a synonym for internet search.

Why is Search Engine Optimization relevant?

Imagine a world without Google? I know it is a difficult thought but hypothetically, let us assume there is no google.

How will you search your queries now?

How will you type “what is ____” “where is ____” and find relevant results?

Won’t you get lost inside the internet? In fact, there would be no internet without Google.

Such is the relevance of Google on internet. Google has become an indispensable part of our lives.

Now, if your business has a presence on internet but does not feature on any of the search results of Google – You are losing an unimaginable number of users, traffic and business to your website.

Not a very pleasant scenario for businesses reeling under the high cost of marketing and sales.

And it gets worse, when some other website shows up for your business’s exact name +  location search on google.

What I have written above is something a lot of businesses today struggle with. They are not SEO optimized and are losing an invaluable amount of traffic by not featuring on top for relevant keywords.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has been used for years by websites across the world to feature high on Google’s search results.

Despite search engine optimization getting tough over the years, the popularity of the technique has not diminished.

The traffic through search engines is an asset no one can afford to lose as the organic traffic (as it is referred as) is ongoing traffic and is backed by a high relevancy factor.

How does Search Engine Optimization work?

Search Engine Optimization involves following steps:

And Competitor Research, which does not necessarily fall above or below any step, but is an ongoing process that is used in parallel with all the steps of Search Engine Optimization.

Let’s review all steps of SEO one by one:

  • Keyword Research:

In the world of a search engine, what is a keyword?

A “keyword” is a search term. Simplifying it further, a keyword is what you type in the search bar of a search engine website (Google, Bing).

The first step to SEO for any website is to identify the right keywords they are going to target.

An optimal keyword is the one which gives maximum traffic and has minimum competition.i.e, there are lesser number of websites vying for the top position of keyword.

“Competition” here refers to the websites which are already on top for the keyword selected or are targeting the top positions for the keyword.

Usually, higher the traffic. More is the search for any keyword which means high competition (8 out of 10 times).

Here are few tips to help you create the initial list of keywords to optimize the website:

  • Start with a base keyword which comes first to your mind and then expand the search.
    • For ex, if your company sells shoes. Start with base keyword “shoes” and then expand the keyword search further by finding more keywords around the base keyword “shoe”.
    • For ex, men’s shoes, men’s shoes + brand name, men shoes + brand name + type of shoes could be a good start point. You should brainstorm as much as possible.
  • While performing keyword research, think like an end user. i.e, what will you search if you are looking for a similar product? Trust me, you will soon have a bunch of keywords to start with. If I was selling shoe, keywords like affordable shoes, nike sports shoe deals, etc are a good start.
  • You can also use your competitor’s keywords while forming the list of keywords for the job.
    • For ex, you can think of your nearest 3 to 4 competitors and use their keywords to create an initial list. If I was selling shoes, the first thing I will do is find my competitor, based on location and product, and then check their meta information to look for the keywords they are targeting.
    • For ex, if I sell men’s loafers. I will go and search men’s loafer shoes on google and will view the first 3 to 4 pages which show up in the search. View the meta of these pages and will try to identify something along the lines of what the website is using.

Moving further, you can use the following tips to make your keyword research better:

  • Google keyword planner is a valuable tool to start your search and filter the keyword search further. Other than google keyword, there are a plethora of free and paid tools to help you with keyword research. Some of the prominent being long tail pro, Jaaxy, Hit tail, Rank Tracker, etc.
  • Never ever select a single word keyword. First and foremost, it is virtually impossible to rank high for a single word keyword. Secondly, no one searches for single word keyword these days. The searches have become specific to google. Users today rely on the combination of attributes, location, quality + product/service to find the right keyword for search.
  • Look for long tail keywords.
  • Find keywords which bring value addition to the website. Irrelevant keywords with high traffic and less competition will anyway lead to a high bounce rate thereby wasting your SEO effort.

Once you have identified keywords, the next step is to optimize the website.

  • Onpage Optimization:

On page optimization is all about getting your website ready for search engines. In layman language, you are expected to make your website error free and make it more search engine friendly.

A SEO Onpage checklist involves (not necessarily in the same order):

  • Checking the website for broken links
  • Checking the website for keyword density to ensure there is no keyword stuffing on the page
  • Using seo friendly urls which search engine crawlers can easily read
  • Providing an alt text for images
  • Highlighting the main keyword in <H1> Tag and secondary keywords in <H2> and <H3> tags
  • Ensuring, the website has a Responsive design
  • Fixing the http and https and www and non-www versions of website issue
  • Checking if there are no same meta/duplicate description, title or keywords on the website
  • Improving the speed of the website

All the above factors contribute in some way or the other in getting your website to rank higher in google and other search engines.

  • Content writing and Content Optimization:

In today’s SEO world, content is what drives digital marketing. A website without content is a car without a gas.

This step of SEO can anytime exchange position with the above step depending on whether you are creating fresh content or you already have content and need to optimize the website with existing content.

Nevertheless, both the steps are important to SEO and carry a lot of weightage.

Content gets a lot of relevance from Google for ranking the website high in Google. The better the content, the more the value addition it provides, the sooner it ranks (backed by a right link building effort).

Before you create a content, think of following points:

  • Keywords you are targeting using your blog.
  • The topic you plan to write on.
  • The sections under the content or structure of the content.
  • The value addition, content gives to an end user.
  • The relevance of content.
  • The length of the article/content.

Once the content is ready, check content for grammatical errors. WordPress ’s grammar check inbuilt in admin panel is a good starting point to help you fix immediate errors. You can also install Grammarly’s free plugin for further fixing grammatical and spelling mistakes.

After getting the content ready, check for keyword density. Check if the keywords you are targeting are in the first half of article or not.

Do not forget to include the keywords in Meta title of the page.

Once the article is optimized, you are good to post the article/blog and move to the next step of SEO.

  • Backlink Creation:

Think of backlink as a vote for your website. More the relevant votes, the better are the chances of website reaching the top of rankings.

Also, better the quality of votes better is your chances to rank high.

For ex, a good vote for the sharp brain will be a backlink from a website like moz.com or neil patel’s blog. Do not build too many low-quality votes.

Low-quality website’s backlinks are low-quality votes.

They have an adverse effect on the rankings of your website.

In last few years, the biggest dissuasion for internet marketers to invest heavily in SEO has been Google’s heavy penalization on backlinks built.

Backlinks today are hard to come by.

And without backlinks, you cannot reach high SEO rankings.

A few years back, backlink building was all about building backlinks from directories, social bookmarking websites, article directory on websites like ezine (article submission websites) and similar techniques.

Basically, techniques where you could get easy backlinks without any check.

The techniques were exploited to the core by SEO Agencies. The rankings were manipulated by SEO agencies. One fine day, Google decided to cleanse its system by launching timely algorithms to shake the world of SEO a little.

Along came, pandas, penguins, hummingbird, etc, etc. Each update came with a heavy penalty for websites relying on spam techniques.

Within few years, Google had shaken the world of SEO from top to bottom.

With every algorithm link building got tougher.

Today, link building is a mystery.

I am not scaring you but yes, it is indeed a mystery where at times you are hitting in the dark.

The gurus of digital marketing world have come up with ideas on what works in Google and they might be right but there is no fixed formula (nothing that I know of) which can give you a 100% assurance of what works in link building.

Tried and tested methods include:

  • Directory submissions
  • Social Bookmarking
  • Article backlinks
  • Comments backlinks

Etc, etc. Some experts point to a mix of all to achieve results. Others say “Directories and SBMs are dead”.

Some say “No-follow” backlinks have no relevance. Others say, “they have some relevance” and the debate rages on.

Ultimately, Google has this secret formula which no one knows. We can only speculate what works in backlink building.

One of the old methods which I still use is competitor backlink analysis. I try and analyze the backlinks built by my competitors and build similar kind of links.

The strategy has seen mixed results but it at least provides us with a direction to move forward.

Before I end, remember the basic tenet of SEO is “No Spam”. Google has been slowly purging spam links from its results over the years.

The ones who have followed the “right path” to SEO are still in the good books of Google.

I hope I have answered the basic questions related to seo (what is seo? being the most pertinent of the lot) and have clearly explained how does SEO work with google.

And here ends the blog.

Till I write next. Ciao!


Learner at The Sharp Brain
Jasmeet is one of the brains behind The Sharp Brain. Although, not the sharpest brain amongst the team he gets to lead the team because of the "founder" designation next to his surname.

He shares his startup experiences at http://lessonsatstartup.com
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