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  • Writer's pictureJason McGinn

Search engine optimization explained

What is SEO (search engine optimization) and how does it work?

The art and science of getting pages to rank higher in search engines like Google is known as search engine optimization (SEO). Because search is one of the most common ways for individuals to get information online, ranking higher in search engines can result in more visitors to a website.

Paid ads often appear at the top of the results page in Google and other search engines, followed by regular results, or what search marketers refer to as "organic search results." To distinguish organic search traffic from sponsored search traffic, SEO traffic is typically referred to as "organic search traffic." Paid search is also known as search engine marketing (SEM) or pay-per-click advertising (PPC).

The advantages of SEO

Because search is one of the primary ways that users traverse the web, search engine optimization is an important aspect of online marketing.

Search results are provided in an ordered list, and the higher a site can rank on that list, the more visitors it will receive. For example, the top result for a normal search query will receive 40-60% of the overall traffic for that query, whereas the second and third results will receive much less traffic. Only a few percent of searchers go past the first page of results. As a result, even little improvements in search engine rankings can result in increased visitors and, ultimately, business for a website.

As a result, many businesses and website owners will try to tamper with search results so that their site ranks better than their competitors on the search results page (SERP). This is where search engine optimization (SEO) comes in.

How does SEO work?

To choose which pages to show for any given query, search engines like Google utilise an algorithm or set of rules. To establish the rankings of their SERPs, these algorithms have evolved to be highly complicated, taking into account hundreds, if not thousands, of various ranking parameters. However, search engines look at three key indicators to assess a site's quality and where it should be ranked:

  • Links - In Google and other search engines, links from other websites play an important role in determining a site's position. The reason for this is that a link from another website might be interpreted as a vote of quality, as website owners are unlikely to link to low-quality sites. Sites that receive links from a large number of other sites gain authority (referred to by Google as "PageRank") in the eyes of search engines, especially if the sites linked to them are also authoritative.

  • Content - In addition to links, search engines examine the content of a webpage to evaluate whether it is relevant to a given search query. The creation of content that is targeted toward the keywords that search engine users are looking for is a big aspect of SEO.

  • Page structure - is the third and final core component of SEO. Because webpages are written in HTML, the structure of the HTML code might affect how a search engine evaluates a page. Site owners can boost their SEO by including important keywords in the title, URL, and headers of their pages, as well as ensuring that their site is crawlable.

Techniques for search engine optimization

Understanding how search engines function is only the first step in enhancing a website's search rankings. In order to improve a site's ranking, numerous SEO tactics must be used to optimise the site for search:

  • Keyword research - Keyword research is often the starting point for SEO and involves looking at what keywords a site is already ranking for, what keywords competitors type for, and what other keywords potential customers are searching for. Identifying the terms that searchers use in Google search and other search engines provides direction on what content can be optimized and applied to new content.

  • Content marketing - Once we identify potential key words, content marketing comes into play. Updating of existing content or creating brand new pieces of content. Because Google and other search engines place a premium on high-quality content, it's important to research what is already out there and create a compelling piece of content that provides a positive user experience and has a chance of ranking higher in the search engine results. Good content is also more likely to be shared on social media and attract links.

  • Link building - Because links from external websites (called "backlinks" in SEO parlance) are one of the core ranking factors in Google and other major search engines, obtaining high-quality backlinks is one of the main levers of SEO. We involve promoting good content, reaching out to other websites and building relationships with webmasters, submitting websites to relevant web directories, and getting the press to attract links from other websites.

  • On-page optimization - In addition to off-page factors such as links, improving the actual structure of the page can have tremendous benefits for SEO and is a factor that is entirely in the webmaster's control. Common on-page optimization techniques include optimizing the URL of the page to incorporate keywords, updating the title tag of the page to use relevant search terms, and using the alt attribute to describe images. Updating a page's meta tags (such as the meta description tag) can also be beneficial-- these tags don't directly impact search rankings but can increase the click-through rate from the SERPs.

  • Site architecture optimization - External links are not the only thing that matters for SEO. Internal links (the links within one's website) also play a large role in SEO. Thus, a search engine optimizer can improve a site's SEO by ensuring that key pages are linked to and that relevant anchor text is used in those links to help improve a page's relevance for specific terms. Creating an XML sitemap can also be a good way for larger pages to help search engines discover and crawl all of the site's pages.

  • Semantic markup - Another SEO strategy that SEO experts utilize is optimizing a website's semantic markup. Semantic markup (such as is used to describe the meaning behind the content on a page, such as helping to identify the author of a piece of content or the topic and type of content on a page. Semantic markup can help get rich snippets displayed on the search results page, such as extra text, review stars and images. Rich snippets in the SERPs don't impact search rankings but can improve CTR from search, increasing organic traffic.

The best SEO tools

As a somewhat technical profession, SEO employs a variety of tools and software to aid in the optimization of webpages. The following are some of the most regularly used free and paid tools:

  • Google Search Console - Google Search Console (formerly known as "Google Webmaster Tools") is a free tool provided by Google, and is a standard tool in the SEO's toolkit. GSC provides rankings and traffic reports for top keywords and pages, and can help identify and fix on-site technical issues.

  • Google Ads Keyword Planner - Keyword Planner is another free tool provided by Google, as part of their Google Ads product. Even though it is designed for paid search, it can be a great tool to use for SEO since it provides keyword suggestions and keyword search volume, which can be helpful when doing keyword research.

  • Backlink analysis tools - There are a number of link analysis tools out there, the two primary ones being AHREFs and Majestic. Backlink analysis tools allow users to analyze which websites are linking to their own website, or the websites of competitors, and can be used to find new links during link building.

  • SEO platforms - There are many different SEO platforms that bring together many of the tools that SEO needs to optimize sites. Some of the most popular include Moz, BrightEdge, Searchmetrics and Linkdex. These platforms track keyword rankings, help with keyword research, identify on-page and off-page SEO opportunities, and many other tasks related to SEO.

  • Social media - Most social media sites don't have a direct impact on SEO, but they can be a good tool for networking with other webmasters and building relationships that can lead to link building and guest posting opportunities.

Search traffic optimization: from clicks to conversions

When done correctly, search engine optimization may drastically improve the amount of traffic that a website receives, but that traffic won't help a business develop unless it converts into paying customers. Conversion rate optimization (CRO) can help with this.

Conversion rate optimization is making changes to websites and measuring their influence on conversion rates using techniques such as A/B testing. Successful search marketers understand that simply driving traffic to a website is insufficient; what the traffic does once there is as crucial.

Running tests to enhance conversions on your site was formerly a complicated and sophisticated process, but with to services like Optimizely, it's as simple as putting a single line of Javascript. Optimizely's visual editor, on the other hand, allows you to make changes to a site without writing a single line of code.

4Infiniti offers SEO solutions simply book a call at to discuss your SEO needs.

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