What Is SEO: A Comprehensive Introduction

SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization, the practice of deriving organic traffic from search result pages to websites by optimizing web content to reflect on relevant search queries. An essential thing to point out here is that it is all about improving unpaid rankings, in essence, natural and organic search results. As such, organic SEO does not include the management of direct traffic/visitors and the buying of paid placement. It involves making changes to your site design, improving the user experience and the content to make your site attractive to search engines and end-users alike.

We are often asked by proud site owners about what comes after a new web page gets deployed. During the initial phase of design and layout, the page can bear modifications aimed to improve user experience or optimization for mobile users. However, in later stages, like site administration and management, other important factors come into play.

Site architecture, quality backlinking, high-quality content, and optimizing content around relevant keywords are only some of the aspects reflected by SEO. By implementing SEO, brands start to enjoy the advantage of free organic traffic to their websites. With that in mind, how do you optimize your site for search engines? To properly address this question, there is a need to understand how search engines operate. So, let’s get straight to it.

How Do Search Engines Work?

Google, the world’s leading search engine with a market share of 87.96 percent and processes an excess of 3.5 billion searches daily. It checks about 1.9 billion websites and produces suitable results in less than 0.5 seconds. But what exactly happens during this relatively short process?

Search Engine Market Share Jan 2009-Jan 2020
Source: Statcounter

Before providing suitable results to a query, any search engine does the following: First, it creates a list of pages on the web (index). Next, it accesses this list immediately and analyses it. Lastly, the search engine determines which pages match a specific search input. These are the simplified initial SEO process steps referred to as crawling and indexing.

Crawling and Indexing

The web consists of a perpetually increasing number of pages connected by links. Search engines need to identify these pages, comprehend what they contain, and store them in a large data group called an index.

To make all this possible, search engines leverage bots, also known as spiders or crawlers, to scour the internet for hosted domains. These bots go on to save lists of various servers and the sites hosted on these servers. After that, they go to each site, “crawling” it, scanning for useful info like type of content or total number of pages.

Lastly, they leverage code tags, for example, HREF and SRC to determine the existing connections to external pages - also included in the list of websites to crawl. As they move from one page to another and consolidate them into the index, the crawlers develop a more extensive network of indexed pages.

Search engines stay updated by updating the main index with new, deleted or modified pages, recent content, new links, and so forth. Therefore, whenever someone performs a search, these engines will always provide the most recent results.

How Appropriate Results Are Ranked

How does a search engine determine the ranking of the results? Search engines use algorithms that process the intention of the user, identify the most suitable results, and rank them depending on their authority and popularity. Nobody knows how exactly these algorithms work, but marketers have since discovered that algorithmic decisions rely on an excess of two hundred factors.

Some of them include content type, content quality, content freshness, page popularity, website quality, language, and location.

The Three Types of SEO

There are three types of SEO, i.e., technical SEO, on-page SEO, and off-site SEO. Let’s highlight each of these individually.

Technical SEO

Technical SEO is the process of optimizing a site for crawling and indexing. It solely focuses on a website’s architecture and infrastructure (i.e., the back-end). Some of the elements of technical SEO include URL hierarchy and structure, page speed, XML Sitemaps, Accelerated Mobile Pages, and HTTP/ HTTPS.

On-page SEO

On-page SEO is about optimizing all attributes that are within a website in an attempt to increase its ranking. Some of the key elements for an on-page SEO are meta tags, page titles, meta descriptions, image ratio and size, keywords and phrases, outbound, and internal linking. Another important factor, often neglected, is the content-to-code ratio.

Off-site SEO

Off-site SEO refers to any process of optimization that is not confined to the actual site but still has an impact on its ranking. When done correctly, off-site SEO shows whether a specific site is reliable and authoritative, and hence qualified to move to a higher position in the search engine results pages. In any case, off-site SEO is never under the full control of the website owner. Off-site SEO entails link building and developing website reputation.

Conclusion

SEO plays an integral role in website ranking. And while the strategies keep changing by the day, creating content that appeals to your audience, as well as the search engines, is paramount. So, although it is quite demanding, always try to stay abreast of SEO’s latest developments.

It’s good to know that not every content is SEO relevant. For example, you might have blog articles that provide new insights for the industry. Those would be non-competitive pages due to the largely informative nature of their content. You don’t need to rank for them or expect to find them in search results pages

We decided to post a series of articles on SEO to help our SME clients to self-manage their SEO needs. Even though CodeCoda’s BPO services includes on- and off-page SEO, we want to make sure our advice is formally noted and is easy to consume and replicate.

Author

Andreas Maier, CEO

Andreas is a result-oriented CEO who brings nearly 30 years of experience gained in the high-tech industry. His experience ranges up to leading positions in Fortune 100 companies such as rentalcars.com (PCLN) or Intrasoft International, a leading EU based R&D software vendor. He holds a Ph.D. in Neural Networks from the University of Cologne, Germany.
In the past Andreas has successfully founded and co-founded several startups among others XXL Cloud Inc., eShopLeasing Ltd, and WDS Consulting SA. His expertise is strongly focused on modern headless Commerce and the optimization of processes in IT ecosystems.