Conventionally, SEO is defined as the process of influencing natural search results, so that your web pages appear higher for the keywords you’d like to rank for. Many people confuse it with SEM (Search Engine Marketing) and think of it as the buying of keywords or something that they can purchase. In reality, it’s not at all about simple financial transactions or “tricking Google” to boost rankings. It’s also not something you can just set and forget. Google changes its search algorithm around 500 times a year with the occasional major updates, which can make or break certain sites.

Why is it important?

Simply put, it is an incredible source of free and relevant traffic. For many startups, organic search is a major source of inbound marketing. As Weinberg and Mares point out in Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers:

Moz says 85% of their customers come from inbound marketing channels (search, social media, etc.) Moreover, these customers stay longer than those that come from outbound marketing channels.

Once you are committed to getting SEO right, it’s time to understand why ranking high is important. As this Advanced Web Ranking study from 2014 has shown, over 67% of organic clicks on Google are from the first 5 results Google organic clickthrough rates in 2014

This doesn’t mean, however, that people always find what they look for in the first 5 results. What they do instead, is query refinement, which simply means continuously refining one’s search until one finds what she is looking for.

The Basics

SEO is about making your pages crawlable, indexable, and helping the search engine crawlers understand exactly what sort of content the site contains and why it matters to the user.

The most important factors are:

  • Titles of your pages
  • The words in your content
  • The links pointing back to your site
  • The anchor text of the links pointing back to your site
  • Getting your pages into the search engine
  • The overall reputation of your domain
  • Not have bad signals associated with your site (any blackhat practices)

Furthermore, these factors all belong to one of the 4 Pillars of SEO:

  • On-page optimization
  • Off-page optimization
  • Technical foundation
  • Everything else

4 Pillars of SEO

This section contains brief descriptions for each pillar of SEO. We will be writing in-depth about each pillar in future posts.

On-page optimization

These are things on your page, which you have complete control of. They include keyword research, heading tags, title tags, meta description tags, image optimization, body content, internal link anchor text. In a sense, it’s about the construction of your search result, which is like a billboard - it must be both concise AND compelling enough for the user to click on. If you achieve this, Google will reward you with better ranking.

Off-page optimization (or link building)

It’s basically what the internet thinks of your site. In other words, how are other pages linking back to you (AKA backlinks) and what the anchor texts are for those links? It is both very valuable and hard to do. When considering the value of backlinks, it’s all about quality over quantity. One link from bbc.com is infinitely more valuable than 10 links from random websites.

So how do you know which backlinks matter? The answer is Domain Authority, which means the trust and authority of the domain pointing back to you. If you focus on one thing in terms of off-page optimization, focus on getting backlinks from relevant, authoritative, and trusted websites.

Technical foundation

These factors are the most basics structural building blocks of your site’s content. Getting these things right won’t boost your ranking to the top, but it will definitely prevent you from ranking high if you get it wrong. They include keyword friendly URLs, the age of your domain, no duplication content, site speed, and sitemaps.

Everything else

There are a myriad of other factors Google takes into consideration when ranking your sites. They include social media, mobile friendliness, and reputation management.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, SEO is a long term play. You have to commit to relevant and quality content as well as making sure the content is presented in the best way possible to the crawler. In the future we will be slowly introducing the concepts from above in separate posts. Stay tuned!

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