Originally published on SEMrush December 23, 2020 (Jason Barnard)
What is SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?
SEO is the art and science of convincing search engines, such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing to recommend your content as the best answer to a user’s search query.Jason Barnard
If you want search engines to feature your content in the results, you need to do three things:
- Make sure those search engines understand who you are and what you offer;
- Convince them that you are the most credible option for their users; and,
- Make your content deliverable.
How high up in the rankings and how often you appear is performance-based. These search engines display the results they consider to be the best for their users.
This article aims to give an overview of what SEO is, why it is important, how Google functions, and a guide to what you can do. This article is not a definitive guide to every aspect and subtlety of SEO — search engine optimization. This is a vast subject that cannot be fully covered in a single article.
Why is SEO important?
Search Engine Optimization brings you the most valuable traffic (also called organic traffic), which is “free” – when a search engine displays your content in the organic part of a SERP (Search Engine Results Page), you do not pay for ranking. When the user clicks on the result and visits your website, you are not paying Google for a visit.
And that briefly describes what SEO is for.
On the same SERP, there are often paid results, which can be recognized by the ‘Ad’ icon on the left side. When a user clicks on a paid result and visits the website, the advertiser pays the search engine for this visit.
So for ads you pay to be on top, front and center, and for organic search results (“SEO results” if you prefer) you are on top, front and center by performance, and for free.
The great advantage of SEO traffic is that if the search engine optimization strategy you choose is effective (and we’ll explore how to achieve that below), it’s a continuous source of free traffic.
How search engines work
The basic goal of search engines is to satisfy their users. They want to provide the best results when a user searches for something. When someone uses a search engine like Google, Bing, or Yahoo, they are looking for the solution to a problem or the answer to a question. These search engines want to provide the most helpful, relevant, and credible answer or solution.
In SEO, we often talk about ‘keywords’ – this is somewhat misleading. ‘Search queries’ is a much better term. We are not looking for single words, but for combinations of words that express a problem or a question.
Note: Even if a user searches using only one word, they are still expressing a problem or question – they are just not very clear!
What is your audience searching for?
To effectively work on your SEO, you need to find out what your potential customers are searching for. Find out the phrases that they use for their search, and then create content that provides a clear, simple and helpful solution to the problem expressed by the user. SEMrush offers a tool that will help you figure that out based on your market and your competitors.
Google Versus the Rest of the Search Engines
Google dominates search in most of the world, almost to the point of being a monopoly, especially in English. In English, 88% of searches on desktop are on Google. On mobile, that figure is a whopping 96%. Bing and Yahoo together account for 1.5% of searches on mobile and 8% of searches on desktop. This means that Google dominates by far. And by far the most important search engine you should focus on.
So, as a business with a website, your reliance on Google is pretty much a given. Great SEO is not an option. It is a necessity.
How Google Works
Google says, “we are organizing the content of the web.”
That’s a nice way of putting it. Google organizes the content of the web to provide its users with the best answer to their question or the best solution to their problem. You can think of Google as a reference system for all the information on the web. It stores references to each page (and the information it contains). Then, when someone asks for specific information, Google can point them to the content that best provides the answer or solution.
It is very helpful to look at SEO from the perspective that you are providing solutions to Google users and asking Google to recommend your solution.
Google is striving to recommend the most relevant answer from the most trustworthy source in the most appropriate format for its user.
- Relevant: Google aims to match the best answer to the question it has understood. That is relevancy in a nutshell.
- Trustworthy : Google wants to send its users to content from a source it is confident will satisfy its user — a credible brand or person it trusts.
- Consumable: This is an awful word, and I apologize, but Google wants to send its users to the kind of content they want to engage with, in a format they can consume.
Matching User Intent to Truly Useful Content
So here there are two things that Google has to fulfil. On the one hand, user intent: when someone searches on Google, they are expressing a problem for which they need a solution. But they often express that problem incompletely or ambiguously. Google tries to understand what they mean. What is their intent? What is the specific problem they are trying to solve? Google needs to understand the question or the intent. We’ll look at that in more detail a little bit later.
On the other hand, what is the best content to satisfy the user given their intent – the most accurate, helpful, useful content on the World Wide Web that reliably solves the problem? Google needs to understand the available solutions, their relative merits, and their appropriateness. And that’s what SEO is all about. SEO is your means of presenting your content to Google in a way that convinces it that your solution is the most helpful, trustworthy and appropriate for the user. In short, convince Google to recommend your answer or solution.
The word “algorithm” can seem scary, but it is simply a computer code that understands the question and evaluates the relative merits of the answers. In SEO, we are mostly focused on the second part. We aim to send the right signals to Google’s algorithm to convince it that our answer is the best, most useful, and most appropriate for the question it has understood.
- Google is constantly updating its algorithm on a daily basis. However, most of these updates are minor and do not result in noticeable changes in ranking or traffic for individual brands like yours.
- From time to time, Google makes major updates. These can drastically affect your website’s rankings and traffic.
- Some updates in the past were specifically aimed at reducing the impact of cheating by some brands and websites. Google has given names to these updates – Panda (related to content quality) and Penguin (related to link quality) are famous examples.
- Today, Google announces most of the major updates, and you can find these announcements on Twitter via @searchliaison.
Machine Learning in Google’s Algorithm
As the name suggests, “Machine learning is functionality that helps software perform a task without explicit programming or rules.” Google gives some examples of tasks machine learning may perform:
- Personalize product recommendations based on customer behavior
- Look for keywords in massive numbers of text documents
- Enable software to accurately respond to voice commands
Machine Learning at Google
RankBrain and BERT are the most popular machine learning updates.
Rank Brain is an artificial intelligence machine learning system that helps Google sort its search results.
BERT is a neural network-based natural language processing (NLP) technique that stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. It is used to understand the nuances and context of words in search queries and helps provide better matches to search queries and more relevant results.
Google has thousands of quality raters that help improve the search experience. According to Google, “Quality raters are spread around the world and are highly trained” Google is constantly experimenting with search results and using feedback from third-party quality raters to make sure the changes are useful.
So what do quality raters look for when they analyze results? Let us find out.
Quality Rater Guidelines
Quality raters are considered “highly trained” because they are expected to follow a very long and detailed document that explains what constitutes a good score and what raters should look for to identify poor scores. The document is worth reading because it lays out what content Google wants to serve to its users and how Google judges the quality of purposeful content. It does not tell us what the ranking factors/signals are or exactly how the algorithm works (more on that later).
These guidelines are updated frequently.
In December 2022, Google added a new element to its quality rating guidelines… E-A-T became E-E-A-T or “Double E-A-T,” which stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. The guidelines now emphasise that content should demonstrate “Experience,” meaning that authors have first-hand experience of what they are writing about.
With the December 2022 update, Google now states that Trust is at the centre of this concept. They use it to describe the cumulation of Experience, Expertise and Authority. So a piece of content that demonstrates the experience of the author and publisher, their expertise (knowledgeability) and that they are a leading authority in the industry, become trusted.
Here is a brief overview of what Google raters are looking for to identify quality content (and by extension, this is an overview of what you should aim to achieve).
Intent of the Query
When looking at the results, the raters stay focused on the intent of the user — the problem they are aiming to find the solution to. So they are asking themselves, “Is this result a good solution, and does it help the user?” If Google is to recommend particular content as a solution, that content must have beneficial value to the user in the search for a solution to their problem. The content must be user-centered and user-focused.
Credibility Signals (known as E-A-T).
Google uses the acronym E-A-T — Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness — which could also be expressed globally as credibility. They are judging credibility or E-A-T at three levels — the page, the author, and the website. Furthermore, they are looking to see if the content is credible in the context of the solution it aims to provide.
E-A-T is incredibly essential to Google; in the guidelines, they use the words expert, authority, and trust (or variants) over 200 times.
Let’s look briefly at each component of E-A-T.
- Expertise – Is the information accurate? Should this writer or brand write about this topic?
- Authoritativeness – Is the author well-respected in their field? Is the brand widely recognized in the industry? Is the content referred to elsewhere on the web by other authoritative websites, brands, and people?
- Trustworthiness – Do the brand and the writer have a good reputation and is the content reliable?
YMYL stands for Your Money or Your Life. It is a very important concept for quality raters. As Google explains in guidelines, this term describes pages or topics that “could potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.” Here is a list of such topics:
Google claims to have “very high Page Quality standards” for such pages because low-quality YMYL content can directly affect readers’ well-being.
Quality of the Content, Page, and Site
Google wants to send its users to websites that give a great user experience (UX). The raters look carefully at the quantity and quality of the content, the user-friendliness of the design, and the navigation of the site.
The raters also identify explicitly bad content — they will flag content that is low quality, or has no credibility, or is outright misleading. Google aims to exclude this type of content since it does not give a good user experience for their users.
Here is a screenshot of the quality scale they use:
Google Ranking Factors
Google’s algorithm takes thousands and thousands of signals into account when evaluating a page to determine where it should rank for a specific user query.
When we talk about ranking factors, we are simply identifying which groups of signals have the most influence on how well a piece of content will perform in Google search.
From your perspective, we are identifying which aspects of your content, website, and reputation you can improve to most effectively boost Google’s opinion of your content, and thus gain a higher position in the search results.
Here are the main Search Engine Optimization factors you need to get right to help your content to rank higher in Google (there are more than 200, so we have only detailed the most important ones in this guide).
On-Page Search Engine Optimization
As the name implies, on-page signals are those that Google finds on the page of your website. They are the aspects that you control directly, and so the easiest to get right.
Technical Search Engine Optimization
- Speed – People don’t like to wait, so Google wants to send its users to a page that loads fast. Make sure all your content loads quickly, even on a slow internet connection.
- Mobile-friendliness – The content needs to look great and provide a good user experience on mobile devices. Google’s index is now mobile-first, so usability on mobile is a major influence on rankings.
- Security – A secure site is a credible site.
- Schema.org markup – Put simply, schema.org markup explains your content to Google in a format it can easily digest and understand. Schema.org markup is a BIG help to Google, and it can also prove invaluable in helping you rank at the top of SERPs when these include a Featured Snippet or Quick Answer.
Content Optimization for SEO
- Titles – The meta title and heading on the page are very critical signals to Google.
- Content copy – As we saw previously in the section about Quality Raters, Google is looking for quality, accurate, credible content that serves a real purpose and brings benefit to the user (content that has a beneficial purpose). And, in the context of the user’s search query, content that answers the question or solves the problem that the user has expressed to Google.
- Rich content – As the web becomes more multimedia, people expect richer content, and Google wants to provide that to them. So Google is looking for more than just reams of text. Google wants to see images, sound, video to make their user’s interaction with the content better.
- Internal linking – Needs to be clear, logical, and simple. Google relies on internal linking to identify which content on your site is most important, and it also relies on internal linking to find all the pages on your site.
- Freshness – Regular updates of your content indicate to Google that you are providing up-to-date information. Once again, it wants to satisfy its users with relevant and accurate information.
- Outbound links – Google uses these to check that your information is accurate and also to confirm the credibility of the author and website. Despite what you may hear, outbound links (to authoritative and relevant sources, of course) are a positive signal to Google.
Off-page Search Engine Optimization
Off-page SEO factors include those signals sent to Google not by any changes you made to your site’s code or content but from third party websites. This is why this category of factors mainly includes links or mentions of your pages on other people’s sites or social media profiles.
This is the biggest off-page factor — links to your content from relevant, authoritative sites are a very strong signal to Google that the content is popular and worthy. We can consider links as “votes” — people link to content from their websites or their social media accounts because they appreciate it. More links = more “love.” And if you think back to the part about E-A-T, links indicate that this piece of content, this website, and this author are a trusted, authoritative source of information. That is why building a reliable backlink profile is one of the pillars of Search Engine Optimization.
- Link authority – Earning links from highly authoritative sites is more valuable than earning links on websites with a lower Authority Score.
- Link relevancy – Google prefers links from relevant sites — usually in the same industry, or news sites or review sites that cover multiple industries in a credible manner.
- Page relevancy – Google looks at the content surrounding the link and evaluates how relevant that piece of content is to your content. Links from highly relevant content send a stronger signal.
- Anchor text – Relevant anchor text (the text that people click on to visit the link) is an important signal because it helps Google better understand the context of each link.
Sharing on social platforms, and the general social buzz around your content is a signal to Google that the content is useful and appreciated. And when recommending content as a solution to its user, useful and appreciated are high on the list of priorities.
Unlinked Brand Mentions
A mention of your brand is a signal to Google, even without a link. Google understands that someone is talking about you when they use your brand name. Obviously, you are looking for mentions with positive sentiment in a relevant context.
When influencers in your industry talk about your brand and cite your content, they are essentially vouching for you. That peer approval from a trusted, authoritative expert will help improve the credibility of your brand, your author, and your content in Google’s eyes. Once again, we are looking for relevancy — approval from an authoritative figure within your industry.
Trust signals indicate to Google that your brand, your products, and your content are appreciated by your users/customers. Trust signals are things like product and service reviews, positive mentions in forums, comments on your blog posts, etc. In short, any positive activity by your users around your products, brand, or content.
How SEO Works
One of the most popular questions is What is SEO and how it works? The first part of this question was briefly answered above, so let’s take a closer look at How Search Engine Optimization works. This section covers what you can do to improve your chances of being recommended by Google as the appropriate, relevant, and helpful answer to the question a user has asked.
We can divide this into three main areas: technical, content, and backlinks.
Basics of Technical SEO
Technical Search Engine Optimization is all about the quality of the infrastructure that delivers your content. Good technical SEO means that Google will find your content easily, and that content will be easy for it to digest and understand.
What are your top priorities for technical SEO?
- Crawlability – Google needs to be able to access your pages and digest your content. The term “crawl” basically means access and read a webpage. If Google cannot access your content, it cannot offer it in its results. Examples of crawlability issues are not allowing Google to crawl your pages — a file called robots.txt is where you can give or refuse permission to Google to access specific pages of your site. Another issue for crawlability is having pages behind a paywall, or login page — Google cannot access those pages and so cannot know what content they contain.
- Indexability – Once Google has seen your page, it needs to be sure that you want it to show that page to its users. The noindex tag in the head section of your pages allows you to indicate to Google whether or not you want it to consider a specific page for its search results.
- Site architecture – You need to organize your site in a manner that makes it easy to understand sections and catégories and make it simple for Google to navigate through every single page on your site. If there are pages on your site that have no internal links pointing to them, Google will have trouble finding those pages. And even if it does, it will consider them as relatively less valuable than pages that do have internal links. Great site architecture is also a big bonus for user experience.
- Schema markup – This factor is fundamentally important. Think of it as Google’s native language. Schema markup explains your content to Google in a manner it understands, making it easy to digest and understand. Google has a tool to test the schema.org markup on your pages.
- Speed – Every page needs to be fast. Users don’t like to wait, and Google knows that; It wants to recommend faster pages to its users since they give a better user experience. Google has a tool to test your pages for speed.
- Mobile-friendliness – Every page on your site needs to be mobile-friendly. Users need to be able to consume your content easily on a mobile device. Google evaluates your content according to its performance on a mobile device, so it is vital you get this right. Google has a tool to test your pages for mobile-friendliness.
- User interface – As we saw earlier in the raters section, Google wants to recommend sites that appeal to users both in the design and the comfort of use. Your site layout needs to ensure that when the user lands on your page that they find it attractive, they understand at a glance what your page offers, and they grasp the navigational options that they have. You want them to interact with your content and then want to investigate further. In short, you want them to stay.
Meta titles and meta descriptions – These areas of a page determine, in many cases, what Google shows its users in the search results.
An accurate meta title that describes clearly and unambiguously what the content of the page offers to the user is supremely important — it is the reason they click on your result or not.
Meta titles and meta descriptions are essentially sales copy that needs to pull the user in, and also help Google better understand the content and purpose of each page. Ideally, the meta title will include the main keywords the user searched for. This is essential for Google’s algorithm, but also for the user; people feel more at ease and are more likely to click on text that contains the words they used in their search.
Heading – The title the user sees when they land on your page is a critical signal to Google. Like the meta title, it needs to be clear and unambiguous and include the terms the user searched for. Again, this is an important signal to Google, but also reassuring and helpful for the user.
Writing style – Keep your writing simple, clear, and focused. Keep sentences short, break the content into logical chunks, and stay on topic. Help readers get right to the solution to their problem. Organize your content so that the value it provides is easy to identify, understand, and engage with.
Rich content – Include rich content such as audio, video, and illustrative images whenever feasible. Google is not capable of understanding the content of images or videos. So, when you do include these richer formats, accompany them with the appropriate meta tags to help Google and those with visual impairments understand what the image/video is about. You could also include a written version to make it easier for users who prefer written content.
Outbound links – These kinds of links lead to sources that confirm the accuracy of your content and that validate your credibility and the credibility of the author.
Authorship – Identify the author explicitly where appropriate. If they have great E-A-T, this will bring credibility to the content.
Taking it further, your content does not live in isolation. It is vital to see each piece of content as part of an overall, coherent content strategy. As soon as you do that, you are thinking in terms of content marketing.
What makes great content?
As Bill Gates once said: “Content is King,” and that is still true. What does that mean for you in terms of Search Engine Optimization? The better the content, the higher positions in SERP you will claim. That is simple! But what differs poor content from great?
For all content (written, audio, and video), correct grammar, proper spelling, and a clear style are essential both to Google and the user consuming it. Write naturally, write for your audience, and don’t be tempted to try and trick Google by adding the words you want to rank for multiple times (called ‘keyword stuffing’). That tactic does not work, and it makes for bad user experience. Google wants to exclude this (they explicitly tell their quality raters to reject it). And with recent developments such as BERT, Google is becoming very good at understanding natural language.
Having content that truly addresses the problems your audience is facing is vital. If you want Google to recommend your content to its users, that content needs to bring value to them. That means being highly relevant information and providing a helpful solution to the user’s problem or question. On a wider scale, consistently creating relevant, helpful content that solves users’ problems demonstrates to Google that you understand your audience and that you are striving to bring beneficial content to them — and that breeds credibility.
So focus on bringing real value to your audience with every piece of content you create. To bring real value, you need to focus on user intent.
What are your audiences looking for? An SEO specialist must clearly understand his audience to provide only the best keywords and topics for upcoming content. You can find out the search terms, or keywords, they use by looking at tools such as SEMrush, and also by asking your sales and support staff what questions people ask them.
When you put together a solid and researched list, think very hard about the intent behind their searches and questions. Sometimes it will be obvious? Often, searches and questions are ambiguous, and the intent is not immediately obvious. You need to understand your audience and provide valuable content that serves the intent of their query.
What formats of content are appropriate?
Different types of content are appropriate for different stages in the funnel, different users. and different user contexts (location, device, etc.). A good content strategy will contain a mix of the different formats I am about to describe.
Lists – Both people and Google love lists. They are easy to digest, easy to understand, and easy to engage with.
How-to guides – These are perfect for providing a step-by-step approach to a specific query.
Long-form guides – These may involve a lot of work, but this type of content can really help your audience understand a specific or a wider topic in depth.
Tables – Tables of data or information on your pages are easy for Google to understand, and they are also incredibly useful and helpful to your audience when they need to process data in relation to a topic.
Graphics – Images, photos, illustrations. Google is including these in the SERPs more and more, especially on mobile. Plus, images – when appropriately used and tagged – can drive visits from Google’s image search, which is particularly popular with some industries and types of queries (i.e., fashion or travel).
Infographics – Infographics are images that contain information (usually illustrations + text) that makes them standalone content. They are great as content to push out to your audience via social media as they can generate great engagement. And, they are also a great way to build links.
Video – Google is including more and more video in search results. This is particularly true of how-to videos.
* Additional benefit: If you post your videos to YouTube, then you benefit from greater brand visibility and referrals on that platform. YouTube is the second most visited website on the planet.
Podcasts – These are audio-only content. Podcasts are on the rise and very popular, especially within specific niches. Like videos and images, Google shows them in the normal search results.
Webinars – A webinar is a live online meeting or presentation that is open to the public. It is a great way to engage and build your audience, but they also provide great longer-term content because, after the live event, you can post it to YouTube as a video people can watch at any time.
Ebooks – are downloadable books, usually in the format of a PDF, that brands often give away for free. They are perfect for in-depth content that is too long for an article, and they can be used in a clever way to acquire more information about your audiences. Ideally, you would have a landing page with an introduction to the ebook then require an email sign up for the user to download the ebook. This not only gives you valuable SEO-related traffic but also allows you to collect prospects’ emails for future marketing efforts.
What is Link Building – The Basics
Backlinks are incredibly important in Search Engine Optimization. Due to the amount of referring domains, Google understands your reliability and the authority in the chosen niche. In this section, I will explain the importance of links in SEO and try to explain the art of link building.
Links in SEO
For better ranking in Google, your content needs to have inbound links (also known as backlinks). It may have some internal links from your own site, but they only indicate the importance of the content within the context of your site. They don’t help Google see it’s importance in the context of the wider world. Inbound links from relevant and authoritative sites indicate to Google that your content is popular (peer approval), authoritative, and trusted. These are all very strong signals to Google that your content is a good result to recommend to its users for relevant search queries.
An important concept here is “from relevant and authoritative sites.” When looking to obtain inbound links, especially for a new website, webmasters tend to focus on quantity. However, quality in the form of acquiring links from websites with high authority, which are relevant to your content. should be the priority.
In 2012, Google released a very strong algorithm update called Penguin that aimed at eliminating “link cheating” (meaning to prevent sites with spammy link profiles from ranking high). In 2017, they announced that the process of identifying, and then ignoring these spammy links is now running in real-time, which means that any link to a site’s pages that is considered low quality will be ignored and will not help to rank.
How to Build Links
In a perfect world, your amazing content will earn links on merit without any effort on your part. People (website owners, journalists, bloggers, your fans, etc.) will link to your content because, after finding it and consuming it, they consider it to be a valuable resource for their audience.
However, the world is imperfect, and this simple process doesn’t happen naturally very often. Link building is simply helping that process along.
Link building consists of identifying people with the capacity to link to your amazing content (website owners, journalists, bloggers, etc.), pointing them to your content, and encouraging them to link to it from a relevant page on their site; sounds simple. And it is. But it is also time-consuming. Contacting people, building relationships with them, and convincing them that linking to your content is beneficial to them and their audience all take time.
What are the best candidates for link building?
Sites that would potentially see value in linking to you, who will be relevant to your business, and have the necessary authority are often sites your audience uses. So if you can get an understanding of which websites they visit, which authors they read, and which industry thought leaders they engage with, then you have a good idea of the sites and people that you can approach.
Take note, when looking at opportunities for links, relevancy is the number #1 factor you should consider, then the #2 factor is credibility, and #3 – is popularity. To really help your SEO efforts, you are looking for links from quality, relevant content, preferably on websites that are authoritative in your industry, and if possible, popular.
Once you have identified who you want to link to you, you ‘simply’ need to reach out to them and point your content out to them, indicating why it would be valuable and interesting for their users, and suggesting a link. If you have targeted correctly, this process can be quite natural (this process can be slow since people will rarely link to you when you first contact them, as mentioned above).
For it to work, your content HAS to be of great quality and bring value to their users — exactly the same conditions that we mentioned for Google earlier.
Quality content that brings value to users is what everyone is looking for — website owners, journalists, influencers, bloggers, Google, and even us as users.
Writing articles for other relevant and authoritative websites not only can help build an author’s reputation but also allows you to create inbound links from a trusted, authoritative source. This is one of the best opportunities for an SEO specialist to build a backlink
Ideas for Engaging Content That Earns Links
- Pieces using data – Create content that includes unique and helpful (or interesting) analysis of data, especially original data.
- Emotional – Content that appeals to people’s emotions is great for earning links.
- Humorous – If you can hit the right note and your humor appeals to your audience, then this type of content is a big winner for gaining merited links. It is also great for creating a buzz and gaining brand visibility on social media.
- Collaborations – Create content that includes an industry influencer/leader: quotes, co-authorship, and interviews are three great examples. This type of content will have authority ‘built in’ since you are associating your brand to a recognized and relevant industry leader. With this type of content, you already have one link right out of the box — from the party you collaborated with!
- Authoritative/definitive pieces – Creating this type of content is tough but pays dividends when done right. If your content covers a topic thoroughly and accurately, it brings value to the target audience, and that makes links easier to get.
How Social Media Helps SEO
Is social media part of SEO?
Whether social media activity, including likes, replies, comments, and shares directly help with ranking is not clear. For most major platforms, we know that Google crawls a great deal of the content. However, there is so much content being generated; Google cannot catch all of it. For example, according to The Social Skinny, there are 510,000 comments, 293,000 status updates, and 136,000 photos added on Facebook every minute. But Google is crawling and indexing these sites and large amounts of their content. So we can safely assume that a healthy presence with ongoing engagement from a relevant audience helps SEO.
* Additional benefit: Social media is vital to your marketing efforts beyond just SEO, so having a well-thought-out social media strategy is an essential aspect of your digital marketing strategy. Social media activity helps enormously with building your reputation, brand awareness, and your audience. Over time it is a great channel for maintaining contact with your existing audience, expanding your reach, and distributing the content you create.
How fast does SEO work?
Search Engine Optimization is a long term strategy. As we saw earlier, SEO has three main pillars — technical, content, and backlinks. For your strategy to bear fruit, all three need to be solid, and that doesn’t happen overnight.
Some of your efforts will pay-off in the short term after they are implemented. Changing meta titles, headings, or improving the content on a few pages are typical examples.
Other efforts, such as implementing Schema.org markup across a number of pages, creating a substantial volume of informative content, building links, or attracting positive reviews, take time and will pay off in the long term.
No one single thing will revolutionize the performance of your SEO strategy. All the elements I described above work together, and it is the combination of all the signals Google reads that will make the needle move for you.
Is SEO dead?
Almost every time Google makes an update to its algorithm or to its SERPs features, this question is trending. The answer is “no.” But SEO does not exist in isolation. It is one (very vital) pillar of your digital marketing strategy. New customers will see your brand multiple times before deciding to do — not only in Google search but also on many other platforms such as social media, TV, radio, YouTube, on review sites, Google My Business, etc. As you now know, these can all help with your Search Engine Optimization, and they all bring benefits to your business in their own right and, therefore, can all necessary for your digital marketing strategy to be successful.
So, an intelligent digital marketing strategy will use SEO to help drive other aspects of your marketing, and vice versa.
What are the most important elements of an SEO strategy?
For your SEO strategy to be successful, you must trigger as many of the signals that Google is looking at as possible. A helpful way of looking at how all these individual actions fit into an overall strategy is to think in terms of serving the three following pillars:
Understanding, credibility, and deliverability.
Understanding – if you want Google to recommend our content as the most suitable solution to their user’s problem, it must understand clearly and precisely what it is you are offering. Actions such as clear copywriting, adding schema markup, relevant inbound links serve the purpose of helping Google understand and be confident it has correctly understood what it is you are offering.
Credibility – If Google has understood that multiple pieces of content offer a solution that brings a similar level of value to the user, then it will recommend the one it perceives as the most credible. Actions such as improving E-A-T, link building, linking out to relevant sources all help with your credibility and the credibility of your content.
Deliverability – Google wants to recommend content that provides a great user experience – fast, attractive, great quality, and in the most appropriate format according to the user’s specific needs at that time (geo-location device, bandwidth, etc.). Actions such as mobile-friendliness, download speed, using videos, and text in your content all help to ensure Google considers your content deliverable.
Every SEO action you take will serve one of these pillars.