SEO is the practice of making websites rank more highly on search engines. When deciding search placement Google takes into consideration a wide array of factors related to the quality of a website.
- Is based on knowing a website’s audience
- Makes a site highly relevant to its user
- Contains all the words and phrases related to a topic in the title, text, and headings
- Helps people find things that interest them
- Ensures that a site is easy to read on all screens
- Naturally encourages other sites linking to the content based on its quality
- Is overstuffed with keywords and phrases
- Relies on short and poorly written content
- Uses content taken from other sources or repeats the same content on different pages
- Pays for external links to the content
Making content relevant means knowing who it will find it relevant and why. Optimizing a website for search requires thought about why people would visit a site and what they are hoping to find there.
The most important signal for search engines is authority. Does content sound like it was written by someone who really knows the topic and took time to cover it well? Does content contain images, lists, tables, or different elements that demonstrate thoughtful coverage of the topic?
Keywords & Phrases
Every topic has words and phrases that are central to its definition and discussion about it. SEO centers content around the use of these words without overdoing it. Titles, text, headings, and captions can all be places where keywords are used.
Search engines also look at elements called meta tags and schema markup to understand website content. This HTML is content not seen by the user that provides additional information to search engines about your content.
Search engines know where they have seen content for the first time and will not reward a site using content copied from other places. Original content is essential.
An important part of SEO is demonstrating relevance by showing search engines that people are interested in your content. A very effective way to do this is to include image and videos that will keep people on the site for a longer time.
Links serve two purposes for SEO. First, links within a website encourage people to move around in the site and spend more time there. Second, link coming into your site are an important signal to search engines that your content is relevant to others. Linking out of a site generally provides no benefit.
SEO also applies to social media content such as YouTube. In that context the use of hashtags can be an important way to signal topical relevance. Knowing your central keywords and phrases is important for this.