search engine optimizationIf you have an online business you need to make sure your website can be easily found on search engines- mainly Google. Google is where more than 90% of all searches on the Internet happen. While you don’t need to do a lot more than setting up a basic website to technically appear on Google, getting a high ranking on Google search results is a whole different world. Your website can be about anything- movie reviews, selling handmade ceramics,  or talking about your travels. All of those are fine, but the thing is, you are not the only one on the internet doing so. In fact, you are just one among thousands. And if you want to rank higher on search results than your competitors -whose numbers are constantly increasing by the way- you need to do a lot more than just getting your site indexed on Google.

Basically, this is where SEO, or search engine optimization comes in. In this article, we will talk about all there is to know about SEO, and why do you need it to have a real presence on the Internet in 2023.

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What is SEO?

Search engine optimization is an umbrella term encompassing a series of optimizations that aim to make a website more search engine-friendly. Basically, a search engine needs to know what your website is about, so when people search for things relevant to your products, services, or whatever it is that you offer, it can direct them to your site.

By doing SEO, you are basically doing two things: telling search engines what your website is about in detail, and making it more user friendly, thus raising your chances of getting better rankings in SERPs (Search engine results pages).

How Does SEO Work?

Typically, search engines use bots -some call them spiders- that “crawl” the web pages on the internet. They go from site to site, page to page, and index their findings, creating a kind of library for us to search through when we want to look something up on the web.

When search engines analyse these pages they are indexing, they take into account certain ranking factors in order to determine in which order the pages will appear at the SERPs. What are these “certain ranking factors”? Well, basically everything that affects user experience and site performance -your URL structure, content, site speed, security, keyword usage, mobile-friendliness, and more– are subject to SEO, as they play an important role in your rankings.

In the end, it all comes down to providing a better experience for your visitors– search engines try to bring out the most desirable sites in front of the users, which means the best SEO you can do is to make your site more desirable for your audience.

Why is SEO Important?

Well, ask yourself this question first: How many times, after a Google search, have you actually checked the second, third, or fourth search result page? Not many we assume, and this basically underlines the importance of SEO. In order to get more organic visitors, you need to rank as high as possible on search results. And how to rank high on search results? Yes, you need to make sure your site is up to search engine standards in every way possible.

Maybe you have the best content on your website  available on the internet about a certain topic, or you can be also offering a deal that no other competitor can. If your site takes 8 seconds to load or your category structure is incomprehensible, none of that matters. Similarly, you might have a great-looking and high-performing site, but if your content is basically a word salad that offers nothing to readers, you have lost your audience. Long story short, proper SEO will make sure your site is up to search engine standards at all times.

Types of SEO

SEO operations are branched into three main categories; on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO. Let’s check them out:

On-Page SEO

On-page SEO, or on-site SEO as some would like to call it, basically refers to the optimizations you perform on your website content. Main content, headers, meta titles and descriptions, images, videos, practically all types of content on your website can be -and should be!- subject to on-page SEO. Although such categorizations are not necessary, it is arguably the most important part of SEO, as it is crucial for helping search engines understand what your website is about.

Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO refers to any kind of SEO operation you do outside your website, such as social media marketing, competitor research, and link building- which is the practice of publishing articles on reputable third-party sites with links to your own website, as search engines tend to think your site worth more if authority sites are linking to you. Off-page SEO should not be done before you make sure you have all the necessary technical and on-site SEO optimizations. After all, you wouldn’t invite guests to your house without making sure everything is perfectly in order, right?

Technical SEO

Last, but certainly not least, we have technical SEO. Technical SEO optimizations are usually done to help website bots to better crawl and index your site. Some of the most important technical SEO factors are website speed, site structure, and a mobile-friendly interface.

WhiteHat SEO vs. BlackHat SEO

Yes, its definition is simple, but there is A LOT you can do under the name of search engine optimization- most of which are always encouraged, while some are frowned upon, and sometimes even strictly prohibited by Google, and may result in getting your site blacklisted by the search engine.

Let’s have a quick look at different approaches to search engine optimization:

What is WhiteHat SEO?

White hat SEO refers to any optimization that improves a site’s ranking while adhering to search engines’ policies. Using keywords, resizing images, increasing site speed, getting quality backlinks from authority sites, and so on… It is the cleanest way to do SEO, and in the long term, the most effective one.

What is BlackHat SEO?

Automatically generated and/or duplicate content, shady link-building strategies, fake comments, keyword stuffing, hidden text inside page, and more… Black hat SEO strategies are used for cheating search engine algorithms to gain quick -but not lasting- results. It is basically spam and certainly not recommended, and today it is not really as effective as it was back in the early 2000s, as Google is way more advanced when it comes to detecting spam. As, we don’t recommend anyone to do Blackhat SEO. It’s not worth your money and time.

What is Gray Hat SEO?

As the name suggests, gray hat SEO falls somewhere between white and black hat SEO. It usually refers to tactics that are neither white nor black and somehow fall somewhere in between the two. Some consider gray hat just black hat techniques disguised as white, while some think it is just doing white hat SEO, while throwing in a few black hat tactics every now and then. What should be considered gray hat is still a subject of debate, but some of the practices that usually fall into this category are:

  • Link trading
  • Re-writing a previously published content just so it is “original”, while adding nothing new – this is known as content spinning
  • Trading services or products in exchange for links
  • Using expired domains for backlinks (as expired domains might still have authority)

Gray hat practices might be penalized, but some professionals still use them to boost their sites’ rankings.

How to Learn SEO? Do I Need to Know How to Code?

When it comes to learning SEO, you have a couple of options. First of all, the Internet is packed with beginners’ SEO guides, and you find tons of SEO tutorial videos on YouTube, as well as free e-books on the subject. SEO is simple enough to understand at the beginner level, so with some dedication, you should be able to easily figure out the basics by yourself in a relatively short amount of time. If you want to dig deeper, there are also SEO tutorials by professionals, which you can purchase at reasonable prices.

Some people wonder if they need to have some coding skills in order to do SEO, the short answer is no. You can be a great SEO specialist without the ability to write a single line of code, but, having some coding skills can certainly help, as you can create and fine-tune certain tools yourself instead of relying on others, or making quick code modifications on the website when needed.

Is SEO Necessary for All Search Engines?

Throughout this article, for the reason stated in the first paragraph, we have used the terms Google and search engine interchangeably. As the company dominates the Internet, most SEO practices are aimed at Google. But this doesn’t mean you cannot do SEO for other search engines such as Bing, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo. Luckily, most SEO efforts are helpful with all the search engines. For example, if your site speed is exceptional and you have unique, well-written, informative content such as this one, all search engines will be pleased. But, if other sources of traffic are equally important for you for whatever reason, you might want to consider looking into specific SEO tactics for other search engines.

SEO vs. Paid Ads – Which One to Choose?

This is an age-old question, and unfortunately, it doesn’t have a straight answer. The thing is, PPC(pay per click) ads can get you to the top in an instant, whereas SEO can get you to the top, but it will surely take some time and it will not be that easy, especially with the amount of competition on the Internet today. They both provide results, but in different ways. Paid ads are more costly, while you can do SEO with no direct costs unless you opt for hiring an SEO professional, which is not a bad idea. It is important to know that you should always do SEO -even if you invest in PPCs- but if you want to get noticed by large audiences in a short time, it will not be enough.

So, in the end, you should decide for yourself which one to go with, based on your digital marketing strategy- but if you can, do both!
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Final Words

As you probably know by now, making a website can be simple enough -if you don’t, check out our articles on how to make a website!- but it sure is not enough just to publish a website on the internet and expect visitors to fall all over it. You can learn SEO, hire an SEO specialist, or do both, but some way or another you have to optimize your site for Google. There is also, special effort for pushing your business locally. It’s called Local SEO. You can learn Local SEO tips here.

And don’t forget that SEO is not a one-time thing- you should be taking care of your website continuously, regularly analyzing, and always optimizing it for the best user experience in order to get the best results.