seo search engine optimization

What is SEO? SEO in 2021

So what is SEO? SEO is what brought you to this blog to get an answer to this question. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results. The important keyword here is organic. You don't want to continually resort to paid search to get traffic for your website or blog.

What goes into SEO?

To understand the true meaning of SEO, let's break that definition down and look at the parts that make good SEO:

  • Quality of traffic. You can attract all the visitors in the world, but if they're coming to your site because Google tells them you're a resource for Apple computers when you're a farmer selling apples, that is not quality traffic. Instead, you want to attract visitors who are genuinely interested in the products or services that you offer.
  • Quantity of traffic. Once you have the right people clicking through from those search engine results pages (SERPs), more traffic is better.
  • Organic results. Ads make up a significant portion of many SERPs. Organic traffic is any traffic that you don't have to pay for.

How SEO works

You might think of a search engine as a website you visit to type (or speak) a question into a box. Then, Google, Yahoo!, Bing, Baidu, or whatever search engine you're using magically replies with a long list of links to webpages that could potentially answer your question.

That's true. But have you ever stopped to consider what's behind those magical lists of links?

Here's how a search engine works: Google (or any search engine you're using) has a crawler that goes out and gathers information about all the content they can find on the Internet. The crawlers bring all these data to the search engine to build an index. That index is then fed through an algorithm that tries to match all that data with the query you submitted to the search engine.

There are a lot of factors that go into a search engine's algorithm, and here's how a group of experts ranked their importance:

what is seo seo ranking factors seo 2021 seo optimization
SEO ranking factors. Credit: Moz

Optimization can take many forms. It's everything from making sure the title tags and meta descriptions are informative and the right length to pointing internal links to pages that better suit the reader's interests.

What Works for Driving Traffic from Search Engines?

First, it’s important to note that Google is responsible for most of the world's search engine traffic (though there is always some flux in the actual numbers). While this fact may vary from niche to niche, but Google is likely the dominant player in the search results, your website wants to rank for.

From there on, there are many things you need to take into consideration, but these can be summed up in two categories. On-Page SEO and Off-Page SEO.

On-Page SEO

On-page SEO consists of a lot of things.

First off, keyword research. You need to know what users are searching for to direct them to your content. Sometimes it's even better to predict what users will be searching for in the future. Keyword research is performed daily. Everything you read on the Internet, every new thing you learn is part of this process. Going further, though, you need tools like Google Trends, Google Keyword Planner, Ubersuggest, Keywords Everywhere, and more to identify what users are looking for, at what volume, and get an estimate on whether you can compete for that volume.

Next, your content. Finding the right keywords is one thing and a huge factor. Not everyone can do it properly to maximize their website potential. The best way to handle content creation is by treating search engines as human customers. The days where you could feel a page with keywords and achieve a good ranking are long gone. NLP and AI are already part of the big search engines like Google, so instead of tricking them, try to explain to them that they will find the expected answers by looking at your content. If you convince the search engine, you probably can convince the end-user and potential customer.

When you start a new blog, website, or business, you are primarily a backlink provider—your search for good content that you can improve yourself. But you can also throw in some good range of your own now and then. But always keep in mind that great content is a matter of presentation too. You are a composer and artist. This skill does not bloom on its own. Keep writing content, keep reading about best practices, and you will get there eventually. Where that is, is up to you. Not everyone is made for the first page of Google SERP.

Practice and hard work make perfect.

Off-Page SEO

Ok, so we talked a bit about the hard stuff. Now on to the even more challenging stuff. And that is, convincing search engines and the world that you know what you are talking about.

Trust

Google's PageRank, the famous formula that the founders of Google invented, certainly isn’t the only measure they take when ranking pages in the top ten search results. Trust is getting increasingly important, and most of the recent Google updates have hit spammy and obscure websites. TrustRank is a way for Google to see whether your site is legit or not. For example, if you look like a big brand, Google is likely to trust you.

Quality backlinks from authoritative sites (like .edu or .gov domains) also help. There are four parts to building trust.

Authority – Google determines the overall authority of your site by a mix of two kinds of authority that you can build:

  • Domain authority, which has to do with how widespread your domain name is. Coca-cola.com is very authoritative, for example, because everyone has heard of it.
  • Page authority, which relates to how authoritative a single page (for example, a blog post) is.

You can check your authority here on a scale of 1-100.

Two other popular authority metrics are the domain and page authority numbers from Moz. Moz also bases this score out of 100. But it’s a weighted scale. That means that it’s relatively easy to go from 0-20. Borderpolar.com currently stands at 19. However, anything over 50-60 is pretty high. And 80-90 is often the highest in a particular industry.

Now the sad part here is that gaining authority takes time. Anastasios Antoniadis, or “The Borderpolar Photographer,” are nobodies on the web as of January 2021. You cannot trust what I'm saying, and you cannot be sure I know what I'm talking about. Only time will prove whether I am suitable for my audience.

But if I am suitable, then people will come searching for me. Patience is a virtue, especially when you are targeting a global scale.

Bounce rate – Here is where Google Analytics will help you. Your bounce rate is simply a measure of how many people view only one page on your site before immediately leaving again.

Content, loading times, usability, overall user experience, and attracting the right readers are all part of decreasing your bounce rate. The math is simple – the right readers will spend more time on a site that loads fast, looks good, and has excellent content.

Now, let's see it from the search engine point of view. Google can tell how much time a user/customer spends on your website. The more time they spend, the higher the chance they were satisfied with what they found.

Domain age – Domain age matters even if it only matters a little. Some great advice from Neil Patel is to consider finding an affordable, expired domain and using it. Yet domain trust, authority, and age often have one other thing in common.

Brand – Who you and your business are matters. Notice that I tied your business to you. Establishing yourself is what will make all the difference in the world. Looking for an answer in Google, I will always resort to the resources I can trust. And so will your potential customers.

Backlinks can come from many sources. They can come from social media, web directories, blogs, websites, and God knows what. But who would you want to direct customers to your blog, website, or business?

Think of a real-life example (although in the times of Covid19, this is real life). Who would you want to send customers to your business? A street thug or a well-known company across the street. 

If your answer is the former Google won't like you. If it's the latter, you will need to work hard for that trust to grow over time.

Keep in mind that getting links from high authorities is one thing. Another one is what those links are about. Imagine if the anchor text on every link is “fraud” or “scam”.

SEO is not rocket science

SEO is a mix of marketing and treating people the way you want to be treated, or sometimes the way they want to be treating (again, that's marketing). When I browse the web, I always spend more time on informative websites that provide a satisfactory user experience. I'm not too fond of spammy websites, weird ads, and pop-ups. I like content that is on point, even if the said content is something I will re-evaluate in the future.

So in 2021, with search engines becoming smarter than ever, Core Web Vitals becoming an important ranking factor, you need to make sure that you serve great food/content, on a silver plate/page, at a famous restaurant/website.

Finally, please remember that the SEO field is ever-changing. The field continually shuffles. In my mind, I'm playing an MMO-RPG. The better I get at it, the better the future of this blog will be. Only this time, better means making money. Pretty cool, huh?

Join the game, obey the rules, maximize your skillset, and win. That's what SEO is about.

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