Whether you have an online business or you are a regular internet user, you may have heard of SEO. Or that you have a friend who knows SEO. Or that SEO is better than SEM?
Whatever your first point of contact with SEO, for some years now these 3 letters have been hiding a whole world of algorithms, penalties, techniques and strategies, and many other concepts that make SEO a discipline in constant change.
Through these lines we are going to try to provide a global vision of SEO, explaining what it consists of, what elements it is made up of, why it is important and how it works, among others.
If you have ever done a Google search, you will notice that you are presented with a series of ordered results, showing websites, locations on a map, videos, images and other resources.
Leaving aside the paid advertisements that appear on these pages, SEO is a set of strategies and techniques that seeks to influence the order of the results of a search engine, trying to make our website or content appear in the best possible position.
In this sense, the acronym SEO itself is quite self-defining: Search Engine Optimisation, which translates as Search Engine Optimisation. This discipline is also known as web positioning or organic positioning.
The search engines themselves, such as Google, Bing or Yandex, have their own rules when it comes to ordering their results, which are influenced by a multitude of parameters. These rules are known as an algorithm. SEO work seeks to use these rules to your advantage, climbing positions for your website.
In the definition of SEO we mentioned search engines. These tools allow us to find information on the Internet by entering one or more words and displaying the corresponding results.
Behind this simple description of how it works lies a whole web of variables and algorithms. Broadly speaking, a search engine crawls thousands of web pages every day. During this crawling, it performs 2 functions:
Through this process it builds an index where, according to its own criteria, it stores the information of the detected web pages.
When a user makes a query, the search engine accesses its index and displays the relevant results sorted according to its algorithm.
Nowadays, the main search engines such as Google or Bing have evolved to offer other services beyond search itself. Think, for example, of Google with its email services, web hosting services or its integration with Android mobiles.
In the 1990s, the first search engines such as Yahoo! began to appear. As their use increased, business website owners began to realise the value of being ranked higher, thus attracting more customers.
At the end of the 1990s, Google itself was published and has continued to gain in popularity to this day. In this sense, most organic positioning strategies revolve around this search engine and the rules it imposes.
Over the years, SEO has evolved in parallel to the changes made by Google and other search engines. Initially, algorithms worked with fairly simple rules and variables. This led to the use of very aggressive SEO techniques to improve positioning, such as keyword stuffing.
Over time, search engine algorithms have become more sophisticated, incorporating technologies such as Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. As a result, previously successful unethical techniques have become less effective.
In this sense, SEO work has become more complex. Search engines have made efforts to eliminate any possible traps or tricks to manipulate their algorithms, while at the same time advocating good practices through their own documentation and social networks.
As mentioned above, the main objective of SEO is to improve the positions of a website or content in the results of a search engine. This will lead to a greater flow of traffic to our website, mainly from users interested in our content, products or services.
In addition, nowadays, most of the SEO practices recommended by the search engines themselves seek to improve the user experience when browsing a website, as well as its content. Therefore, SEO optimisation usually involves a series of changes that increase the quality of a website.
If we have a business, our website can be a gateway to new customers. Depending on the type of business you have, it will be to a greater or lesser extent. For example, a completely online shop (without physical shops) will live only from the traffic it gets on its website. While a travel agency will be able to attract customers on its website, but also in its commercial premises.
In either case, a well-planned SEO strategy will bring us new customers on a regular basis. Unlike online advertising, which only allows us to appear as long as we pay the corresponding amount, SEO visits do not have an associated cost. This does not mean that SEO work is free: it requires a lot of effort, and in most cases the hiring of a professional.
Another aspect that stands out in the importance of SEO is its stability over time. Positioning strategies seek to capture traffic in the medium and long term. If we do not engage in bad practices and we follow a line of work, we will have a good chance of consolidating SEO as one of the most profitable sources of visits to our website.
Up to this point we have been talking about SEO as a series of strategies and techniques to bring visits to our website. But it is very likely that you have also heard the concept of "an SEO". For example:
"A SEO audited my website and told me that it is badly optimised".
As you may have already guessed, the concept of "a SEO" is used to define the person who is in charge of applying SEO work: it has become a position or profession.
At this point we have defined what SEO is, what it is for and its importance. But when it comes to starting to work on the organic positioning of a website, what do we have to do?
In an ideal scenario, we should start by defining our SEO strategy. In it, we would study the context we will face (sector and competitors), the demand for our products (study of keywords and search trends), and the state of our website (SEO audit).
Once our strategy has been defined, we will move on to the implementation of actions. Depending on what was detected in the first step, the workload will be divided into one type of task or another. Broadly speaking, we can classify them into 3 large groups, which are sometimes known as the 3 pillars of SEO:
Sometimes, you may also see the first two points (technical SEO and Content) categorised as on-site SEO, referring to the fact that they are actions that we can carry out on our own website. While the third, Linkbuilding, is usually attributed, along with other actions, to off-site SEO: that which is carried out outside our website.
The starting point for SEO can be either an existing website or one that is in the process of development. Even if we do not yet know what project to develop or how to approach it, SEO can provide us with information about its viability if we want to use this channel of visits.
If we want to start working on the organic positioning of our website, we must be very clear about how the indexing and ranking process works. It starts with a search engine discovering a URL and ends when it decides to show it among its results.
The discovery of a URL (or an entire website if it is new) requires us to inform the search engine of its existence in some way. This can be done in a number of ways, the most common of which are as follows:
If we do not do this, our website will be "isolated" for search engines, and they will not be able to find it.
Once a search engine finds our URL, it will try to access its code to crawl it. At this point, sometimes there are impediments to search engines to prevent them from crawling our URLs. Often unintentionally. If we do this, search engines will not be able to access our website. Some of the most common examples of this practice are:
If the search engine is successful in the crawl, it will decide whether or not to include that URL in its index. This choice will be conditioned by the code of our website, its content and other variables handled by the search engine itself. Therefore, we have at our disposal some mechanisms to prevent our content from ending up in the index of a search engine, such as, for example:
If we pass this step, the search engine will decide to include our URL in its index.
Keep in mind, up to this point, the SEO work does not influence the positioning. Only in establishing the starting point to start competing in the results pages.
From now on, when a user makes a query on a search engine, the search engine will determine which results it presents and in what order. This is where different factors or positioning signals come into play, which vary from search engine to search engine and evolve periodically. So, in this sense, SEO work is constantly changing.
As in any consolidated discipline, classifications of the different elements and dynamics that make it up begin to emerge. SEO is no exception and, depending on various factors, we can establish different types of categorisations.
Depending on the type of business, we will have clients close to our offices, nationally, and even in other countries. The SEO work will vary according to this scope, which is why we sometimes talk about Local SEO and International SEO.
A little further up we referred to this classification. It basically brings together all the positioning actions that we can apply to our website in On-site SEO, and those that we carry out outside our website in Off-site SEO.
In this case, actions on our website are separated according to whether they affect the code, performance, tagging or linking (Technical SEO); or whether they concern the content itself. And finally, the tasks to get external links: Linkbuilding.
In all sectors there are little tricks that can be applied to achieve short-term results. Sometimes they can be labelled as unethical.
This type of practice, known as Black Hat SEO, also occurs in SEO. They seek to manipulate the functioning of search engines to achieve a better positioning, even going against the search engines' own policies and guidelines. This means that we risk a possible penalty that will make us disappear from the search results.
In contrast to the Black Hat concept, the term White Hat SEO appears. It basically includes all actions that are recommended by the search engines and do not go against their guidelines.
With the professionalisation of SEO over the years, tools have emerged to facilitate the work of SEOs. Some are provided by the search engines themselves, while others are offered by independent companies.
We are going to summarise the main types of SEO tools that will make this job much easier:
At this point, with already a lot of information about SEO, you may be wondering: do I need to work on SEO on my website? The answer to this question, as to many others within this discipline, is: it depends.
Each web project has its own characteristics, in addition to the variables of the sector it is aimed at. For some websites, SEO can be an ideal traffic channel to attract quality visits. In others, we may find that organic positioning will bring us little or nothing.
For example, if we sell a new product for which there are no searches yet, SEO will not be able to bring us visits. We can always look for complementary topics to position, but perhaps it would be more interesting to use other channels, such as Display advertising or social networks.
It is worth noting that many of the changes that search engines have encouraged to improve positioning seek to improve the user experience. Therefore, the SEO work we apply to a website will normally improve it as a whole.
You can find more information about SEO and all related concepts in our SEO Dictionary. If you decide to use organic positioning to attract visits to your website, do not hesitate to contact us: from our SEO agency we will be happy to help you to reach the top.
SEO hides a whole world of algorithms, penalties, techniques and strategies, and many other concepts.