Defining Common Terms
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s best defined as the steps a webmaster takes to increase the visibility of his/her web pages in the search engine’s organic search results.
A webmaster is simply a person who is responsible for a website.
Organic search results are those listings in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) that are there on merit because of their relevance to the search term typed in. It’s important to differentiate between organic and paid listing. With paid listings, webmasters pat the search engines to have their pages (in the form of ads) listed at the top of the SERPs. You can identify paid listings in Google because they have the “Ad” label next to them.
There can be several Ads at the top of the SERPs before any organic listings appear. You may also see ads at the bottom of each results page.
Why Is SEO Necessary?
The answer may be obvious, but let’s start that the beginning. When your build a website, how are people going to find you? The truth is, that you can have the best website out there, but if people cannot find it, it’ll be a lonely place. This brings us back to search engines.
Fact: Search engines are the number one way people find websites. The good news is that it is easy to get your pages into the search engines. The bad news is that it is difficult to get your pages to rank high enough to be visible in the search engines. Data from May 2018, published by Smart Insights on their website, showed that the page which ranks on page one in position one of the SERPs typically gets around 30% of all clicks on that page. The web page ranked in position two gets 14%. The page in position three gets 10%. In positions 9 to 10, the clickthrough rate is as low as 2%. From this information, you can see that it is important to not only rank in Google but to rank as high as possible. Even one or two places can mean big changes in potential search engine traffic. I should point out that these figures are just averages. As you will see later in the book, click-through rates are related to how appealing your listing is on Google. Increase the appeal, and you can increase the CTR. If you increase CTR, your rankings may also improve.
What Makes a Page Rank Well?
To rank high in the organic search results, your page needs to be one of the best matches for the search term typed into the search box. Your page needs to match the “intent” of the searcher. Your page also needs a certain level of trust and authority. How much is defined by the competition in your niche and even the niche itself? For example, after the “Medic Update” in August 2018, it’s now very difficult to rank in health and finance niches without a lot of trust and authority. A little later in this chapter, we’ll look at the top-ranking factors in a little more detail, but to fully understand how SEO is different today, we should consider the SEO of the past. How We Used to Rank Pages In the good old days (that’s up to about 2010), ranking in Google was relatively easy. At that time, Google’s algorithm (the complex code that determines where a web page will rank) was heavily based on two things. The keywords found on the page and the links pointing to it. These were the main ranking factors, and webmasters knew it. Since both of those factors could be controlled and manipulated by the site owners, many webmasters began to organize and manipulate things so that they could rank well in the SERPs