The internet sees hundreds of new posts, web pages, and other forms of content posted every second. Just think about how many search engines, social media websites, discussion forums, and blogs are out there. If you want your content to land in front of your target audience, it needs to cut through the noise of others vying for the same snippet of the users’ (increasingly shortening) attention span. To reach a lot of views on your content, it is important to understand how users find information on the internet.
How Does “Search” Work?
Search engines are predominantly the first step to any online user’s quest for information. Users don’t specifically know where the information they want lies on the internet. That’s where search engines step in. Think of them as digital genies who curate content based on your wished query. Search engines have web crawlers or spiders; bots that scour the internet across billions of pages. These bots help search engines download web pages and use the links on those pages to discover other pages.
All the discovered web pages are added to an index. The index is essentially a repository of all web pages. It includes their URLs as well as key information relevant to the search, such as keywords, content, recency, and historical user engagement. When you look up a certain keyword in a search engine, you get a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) which lists down all relevant pages from the search engine’s index.
An algorithm ranks all these pages based on certain criteria; the most ‘qualified’ article sits on top of the SERP and so on. The algorithm for every search engine to rank these pages is different. So a page that ranks first on Google’s SERP for the keyword could be third or even below for Bing’s SERP.
Why Is SEO Important?
Search Engine Optimization (or SEO) is essentially the art of ranking your content high on the SERP for a given keyword. SEO ensures that your online content is optimized in a way that makes it readable for web crawlers. If any web content is ‘unreadable’, no matter how good or relevant the content is, it doesn’t get indexed and as a result will not be shown in the search results for that keyword. So if you want your online baking business to show up in the top results for bakeries in your neighborhood, SEO is what you need.
The quickest way to gain traffic for your website is through paid online advertising. It guarantees a certain target audience reach in exchange for money. However, organic search results gained from SEO marketing are more widespread in their digital reach and generate more user engagement. Users are more likely to click on organic search results than paid search results or ads, which they might tune out.
Another benefit of SEO is its life. Results from paid advertising campaigns come over a fixed period of time; returns over longer time frames require continuous funding. SEO pays dividends well after your initial efforts on optimization. A good piece of content that ranks highly for the desired keyword can lead your traffic to grow exponentially over time.
How to Practice SEO Successfully?
A good SEO strategy has three prongs to it.
- Content marketing
- On-page SEO
- Off-page SEO
Content marketing defines what you talk about on your online channels. Not only is it effective in attracting web crawlers and visitors to your online touchpoints, but also in engaging them. Search engines are likely to rank your pages higher if you write quality and relevant content. Similarly, visitors are likely to spend more time on your website if you have engaging content.
Your content can be optimized for both search crawlers as well as human traffic by creating a variety of content. On-page SEO refers to optimizing elements on your website, giving you full control to improve your rank. Elements such as title tag, meta description, sub-headings, image name, and ALT tags allow search crawlers to establish the relevance of your content against your desired keywords.
Off-page SEO involves taking steps outside of your website and digital channels, where you don’t exactly have full control. Factors that improve off-page SEO are based on your website’s popularity, trustworthiness, and content relevance for search engines as well as users. To optimize for such factors, you must look towards other reputable online channels that link back to your website and essentially build and ensure the credibility of your content.
Creating online content is the fastest way to grow an audience for yourself or your business. SEO expands your online reach by ensuring your content ranks high for relevant keyword searches. It requires constant improvement and is a long-haul game, but with an effective SEO strategy, you can reap long-term benefits for your content.