Search Engine Optimization, abbreviated and referred to as SEO, is the process of growing a website’s organic search traffic to allow that website to show up higher on the search results (Hardwick et al., 2022). Unlike traditional advertising and marketing which have skyrocketed in their price range in the last few years, SEO is free, thus meaning that businesses can strategically place themselves amongst the top results and save themselves the whooping costs that search ads carry (Hardwick et al., 2022). The present article aims to offer a better understanding of some of the core aspects of SEO functions for those who wish to explore how they can use this tool to elevate the ranking of a website or any search engine.
A factual truth strongly backed up by statistical data is that most users looking up something on any search engine click on the very first links that appear (Hardwick et al., 2022). Users almost never make it to the bottom of the page, signifying that appearing on the second page is evidently worse for your business exposure. SEO matters because it shows why your website or page deserves to rank highest. In order to appear amongst the top search results of Google, Yahoo, or any other search engine, it’s crucial to utilise SEO effectively. Search Engine Optimization is an endlessly developing world, however, the fundamentals of a successful strategy of optimisation are built on link building, keywords, on-page SEO, keywords, crawling, and indexing.
“Link building“ is the process of having another website link to pages from another website that is not their own (Soulo et al., 2022). The purpose of link building is to increase the exposure and influence the “authority” of a page in the eyes of a search engine so that these pages rank higher and bring about more search traffic (Soulo et al., 2022). To do so, it’s important to have a notable website with a link to share and to show it to individuals that own websites and can engage in link building.
The centre of all link-building strategies is abbreviated as AABE and stands for “Add, Ask, Buy, Earn“ (Soulo et al., 2022): “Adding“ refers to manually adding links to websites; “Asking“ refers to asking website owners for a link; “Buying naturally“ refers to paying for links; “Earning“ refers to receiving organic links from visitors to the page. In order to escalate link building, it’s crucial to engage in other strategies such as ON-page SEO-s.
On page SEO
On-page SEO is all that can be done to a webpage to escalate its ranking on the engine (Hardwick et al., 2022a). It allows both users and search engines to better comprehend and digest the information provided by the website content.
In order to decide whether a page is relevant to the search result dictated by the user, search engines utilise on-page SEO influence. An example of the mentioned influence is keywords from the search query of the searchers. Headings such as H1, subheadings such as H2s, and sub-subheadings such as H3s found on webpages, facilitate content analysis and the visual hierarchy of the content, allowing the user to identify and skim through their area of interest and interact with it (Hardwick et al., 2022a). They are also designed to carry keywords that users look up while maintaining creativity and piquing interest. As useful as headings and subheadings may be, it is important not to overdo them, otherwise, the page risks creating mass confusion for both searchers and search engines. It is recommended to use one H1 per page for the title and maintain the number of subheadings closely related to the content they represent and single out.
Keywords are the core of SEO. Regardless of how excellent the linking strategy behind a website may be, it will not serve any purpose if no users look up the content provided on the website. Keyword research is the process of discovering key search queries that efficiently target customers into search engines to keep an eye out for products, services, and information (Soulo et al., 2022b). Publishing an article or a blog on an unpopular topic will lead to a lack of traffic on the side of search engines. According to Ahref’s study, a total of 90.63% of web pages make the mistake of posting about unpopular topics and services thus receiving no traffic (Soulo et al., 2022b).
To successfully conduct a keyword, search it is important to think like a customer. Envisioning an individual in need of a certain product will allow web developers and website content makers to lay out keywords better. In order to do this, it is crucial to be well acquainted with your industry and to master the understanding of keyword research tools. Keyword research is also an excellent method of targeting the audience considering that a page ranking well on search engines for its target keyword equates to highly targeted, consistent users and visitors.
To commence a successful SEO integration process that will position a website amongst the highest rankings, it’s important to start with the right seed keywords. A seed keyword defines the market niche and competitors by generating lists of keyword ideas (Soulo et al., 2022b). To find the seed keyword that ideally fits an existing business, the content writer must think of the first words that come to the mind of a user looking up on the search engine when in need of the said product or service. To exemplify, a business that sells electronics would use the following seed words: mobile phone, smartphone, tablet, camera, gaming console, headset, PC, etc.
To remain on top of the industry searches, it is important to identify the competitors and carefully analyse their strategy, their chosen keyword, and their exposure to the search engine results. If the top-ranking sites in the industry do not match the established webpage by an aspiring business in the same industry, then room for improvement arises. To exemplify again, if competitors achieve the highest rankings through using the seed keyword “coffee brewer“ instead of “coffee“, the target market has already dictated a possibility to explore in order to rank higher.
Volume metrics are simultaneously important to ensure growth. Their potential is fully unlocked once a business can understand the top four key takings. Firstly, the importance lies in the number of searches not the number of people because the same person can easily search the same words several times a day or month (Soulo et al., 2022b). Secondly, a crucial take is that ranking first does not equate to the number of visits the website will receive, because one keyword rarely exceeds 30% of its search volume (Soulo et al., 2022b). Thirdly, keyword search results are amounted annually not monthly (Soulo et al., 2022b). Popularity and high search results must be continuously ranked high throughout all 12 months, otherwise scoring 150K searches in the month of November will equate to only 150K/12 months. Lastly, keyword search tools are country-specific and area-generated (Soulo et al., 2022b).
Although global search volume exists and demonstrates the sum of all search volumes globally, the greatest success is seen through the basis of a range of popularity per country. Focusing on one country at a time allows for detailed filtering of high-volume and low-volume keywords. High-volume keywords are those that receive an outstanding amount of research on a continuous monthly basis, thus equaling a very competitive domain (Soulo et al., 2022b). Low-volume keywords, also known as long tail, are the exact opposite, leading to low traffic, uncompetitive domains, often overlooked (Soulo et al., 2022b). Websites that relish high engagement through high-volume keywords also profit from crawling and indexing.
“Crawling“ refers to when search engines extract content from pages and utilise their links on them to generate even more similar pages (Stox et al., 2022). This process can often negatively impact a website and its content. A lot of users dislike this occurrence and prefer preventing it, hence why crawling can be controlled through robot.txt files (Stox et al., 2022). These are files that dictate search engines whether they can or cannot enter a website. The website can also restrict access to search engines but remain accessible to users through login systems, HTTP authentication, and IP whitelisting (Kaspersky, 2022). “HTTP authentication“ means that without the set password no one can access the page, whereas IP whitelisting means only specific Internet Protocol addresses can access the website (Stox et al., 2022). Internet networks, member-exclusive content pages, staging, and development websites are the domains that most prefer restricting user access to prevent crawling and indexing (Kaspersky, 2022).
Every website has unique crawl budgets which consist of the frequency a search engine crawls your site, and the site allowance to crawl. Statistically, the most popular and easily changeable pages are the ones crawled the most (Stox et al., 2022). After a webpage is crawled, it is rendered to be indexed. The index is the master list of pages that can be returned for search questions.
SEO is a game of priorities. There are many versions of the same page found in the endless world of information known as the Internet. In the case of Google, it will only prioritise one page to store in its index to be the “chosen one”, it’s of utmost importance to ensure that the page can be indexed by Google in the first place (Stox et al., 2022). This process is known as “canonicalisation“ because the URL which stands for Uniform Resource Locator, selected will be referred to as canonical and will be the one that shows up in search results (Stox et al., 2022).
The main signals needed to select a canonical URL are canonical tags, duplicate pages, internal links, redirects, and Sitemap URL-s (Stox et al., 2022). Canonical tags were created in 2009 by Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo to solve the issue of duplicated content. A canonical tag is an HTML or Hyper Text Markup Language shortcode that defines the main version for duplicate, near duplicate, and similar pages (Stox et al., 2022). For example, the same or similar content available under different URLs can be analysed by canonical tags to specify which version is the main one and, thus, should be indexed. Duplicate content is identical or highly similar content that appears on the web in various places. It can occur on a single website but it can also occur cross-domain (Hardwick, 2021). It is especially harmful to crawl budgeting, thus making indexing a lot harder. Internal links help discover new content that is otherwise unknown to search engines thus having never been crawled nor indexed. Redirects, web pages that redirect to another web page. They matter to SEO and indexing, specifically in the case of Google as the search engine of choice, because they are connected to Google’s Page Ranker which determines the ranking and popularity of all crawled and indexed pages (Hardwick, 2021). An XML file known as a sitemap contains a list of all the key pages on a website (Hardwick, 2021). A sitemap should contain every page and file that the user wishes for the search engines to index.
Search engines use web crawling to find new information and new pages. Both internal and external links are considered when a page is crawled. They can parse a detected URL’s contents and index it where necessary if their search index does not already include it (Hardwick, 2021). However, well-known pages do not connect to a web page it cannot be found without a sitemap URL (Hardwick, 2021). They provide search engines with directions to locate crucial pages and index them, otherwise, indexing will not occur. In order to best understand how a page has been indexed through the URL Inspection Tool on Google Search Console (Stox et al., 2022). A gravely important aspect is to always redirect the links of webpages every few years because websites change their URL-s over the years and unless redirected the links will be lost and not account for the website anymore (Stox et al., 2022).
Search Engine Optimization is an excellent analytical marketing tactic to increase webpage traffic and ranking on any search engine. In the last few years, many data and marketing advancements have allowed SEO to grow and develop as a crucial and fundamental free concept of national and international marketing strategies. SEO may be a newly introduced and intriguing concept for some who wish to utilise core fundamentals such as linking, keywords, on-page SEO, crawling, and indexing to elevate the ranking and traffic on a specific website.
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Cover image: Decoding the SEO Success of Asana and Trello (n.d.) [Illustration]. Flow SEO. https://www.flow-seo.com/blog/asana-trello-seo/
Figure 1: Coleman, K. (2021, December 3). Defining SEO and its Best Practices [Illustration]. Status Labs. https://statuslabs.com/defining-seo-best-practices/
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