- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of designing your web pages so that your website ranks higher on search engines like Google and Bing.
- SEO has become an indispensable tool for businesses large and small as they compete to bring their websites to the widest possible audience.
- If you want to improve the SEO of your own website, there are a number of simple – and free – steps you can take.
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If you’re looking for the best slice of pizza in New York City, you’re probably typing “best pizza NYC” into Google.
The results you see may not necessarily be the “best” pizzerias, but the companies listed used the best tool to get your attention: Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
SEO is the way publishers drive traffic to their websites. They do this by using specific, targeted key terms and phrases (like “best pizza NYC”) that the average searcher must type into a search engine with every query. The better their SEO, the higher they are on search engines like Google and Bing.
In the last ten years SEO has developed from a niche topic to the basis of an entire industry. Here’s what you should know about SEO work and how to improve your own website’s SEO.
How SEO affects search engine ranking
Search engines like Google and Bing are website aggregators – that is, if you search for something with them, you will get hundreds of results related to your input.
Search engines collect these results by “scouring” the Internet for content and then organizing it into a so-called search index or catalog of web sites grouped by key terms. This search index is what makes Google so fast – Google has already created its own lists of the best results for your search so it doesn’t have to round up every website at once.
But how does Google decide which comes first? This is where SEO comes in.
Google prioritizes websites that meet certain criteria. Some of these criteria include:
- The website has the keywords you were looking for. So if you search for “Best pizza NYC” you will find websites that use those words a lot.
- The website is popular. Sites that people visit, stay on and share links from more will move up faster.
- The website contains pictures. Google loves websites that are visually appealing and often places them above websites that contain only plain text.
- The website paid for its place. As we’ll discuss below, some websites pay Google to earn a higher ranking – these results are usually tagged as advertisements.
There are hundreds of things that go into a website’s SEO. Because of this, SEO has become an industry – large websites employ specially trained writers, editors, and website designers to improve their SEO.
The first result on Google is the website that best meets Google’s SEO criteria.
William Antonelli / Business Insider
How websites can improve and keep their SEO
There are two types of search traffic: paid and organic.
Paid search traffic is when a publisher pays a search engine to be first on the page when someone searches for certain terms. On Google, you may have seen links with the words “Advert” or “Sponsored” next to them. These come from publishers who pay Google for premium ad space to drive traffic to their website.
However, most of the SEO work is focused on organic traffic. Organic traffic comes when you pay Google for nothing – your SEO practices are just so good that you get the top spots yourself.
If you want your website to rank higher on Google but don’t want to pay for ad space, you should:
Know where your website currently stands
Websites like https://www.authoritylabs.com/ and https://seo.co/ can show you where your website is ranked on search engines like Google and Bing.
Identify your website’s keywords
This part may take some extensive research. In a nutshell, what you are looking for are the words, phrases, and terms that you use the most on your website and the Google searches that bring them to your website.
Google Trends and Google Ads are both great places to see what people are looking for online. You can even make comparisons between different words and see which word is being searched for more.
You can see what’s popular online with Google Trends.
William Antonelli / Business Insider
The best thing you can do to make sure you have the best keywords selected is to think about what sets your website apart from your competitors. Don’t try to deceive users with promises you can’t keep.
Check the health of your website
Is your website free of spelling and grammar errors? Does one of your pages contain broken or expired links? Are your page titles clear, concise, and descriptive? Do you have duplicate pages? Does every page have a meta description that exactly summarizes the content of your page? Are your URLs short and filled with keywords? Are pages loading fast or are they lagging behind? Do you use compelling images and media?
These are all questions that you need to address before your SEO ranking can really reach the top. If your website is relevant, visually appealing, accurate, and easy to navigate, you can expect better Google results.
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