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What is SEO 

“Search Engine Optimization” (SEO) refers to techniques that help you achieve better rankings for your website in organic search results. Search Engine Optimization is all about

making your website more visible to people who are using search engines to look for your product, brand, or services. SEO is part of the general area of search engine marketing (SEM), which groups all marketing strategies related to searching processes. SEM is part of online marketing and covers both paid and organic search queries. All the measures that involve you paying to place ads in search engines are grouped together under SEA (search engine advertising). So, the SEM area is made up of both SEA and SEO.

SEA measures involve you paying for your website to be listed in the display area of a search engine when particular search queries or phrases are entered. Organic and paid listings both appear on the search results page. However, they appear at different positions on the results page. Paid text ads are also marked as such.

Why is it so important that your website is listed on search engines?

Each year more than 2 trillion search queries are made on Google alone. This means that Google answers more than 88,700 searches worldwide per second.i In other words: Every second that your website is not indexed on Google, you miss out on hundreds, if not thousands, of opportunities in which someone might have accessed your website, viewed your content, and bought your product or services.

By optimizing your website for search engines, not only can you improve its ranking, and thus be found by potential customers, but you can also create a better user experience. That is the key to SEO: you are optimizing for your visitors, not just for search engines. Good SEO is long-term and follows guidelines.

Successful search engine optimization does not consist of short-term actions to achieve good rankings rapidly. Rather, SEO is a constant process, in which you are continually changing

your website. These changes are important because search engines are always upgrading and changing their criteria for good rankings. So, as the webmaster, you should always be aiming to give users and search engines the best possible result for every relevant search query. You will satisfy users’ needs by providing unique content and a website that works well on any device. SEO measures will help you to achieve this goal. To achieve and maintain good placements on result pages (SERPs) over the long term, you should follow the search engine’s guidelines and focus on your target visitors (this approach is called “White Hat SEO”). Google and other search engines very quickly identify non-permitted, manipulative techniques and your website could be penalized. Such penalties can cause you to drop far down in the rankings.

HOW SEARCH ENGINES WORK

Search engines have one goal: to give the searcher the exact information they are searching for. For a search engine to be able to display relevant results when a user makes a search query, there has to be an archive of available information for it to select from. This archive is called an index. Every search engine has its own methods for gathering and prioritizing content from websites. Whatever the specific tactics or methods used, this process is known as indexing. Indeed, search engines attempt to scan and index the entire online universe. By doing so they can show you the relevant information when you search for it. How does this work? Every search engine has a program known as a “bot” or “crawler”. These programs follow links and visit websites. As they do so, they index website content and follow the links on the website to other sites. If your website has not yet been indexed, it will not appear in search results.

Major search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo are continually indexing billions of websites. But how do they know what they ought to show you in the SERPs when you start a search query?

There are two key things which help search engines to classify websites:

1. The website’s content: When they are indexing websites, the search engines’ bots scan every one of a site’s URLs and look for the starting points of the topics that are covered. They also

browse the HTML code for metadata such as particular tags or markups, so that they can determine the relevance of individual pages to

particular subjects.

2. Links to the website: While search engine bots are scanning websites for indexing purposes, they also look for links to other websites. The more high-quality inbound links the website has, the greater its link authority. In theory, every inbound link counts as a positive recommendation for a website. However, it is not the quantity of inbound links that play the biggest role in search engines; it’s quality. For example, search engines might rate a link from a trusted website, like the New York Times (nytimes.com), as more valuable than a link from a minor, unrelated blog site. This boost from inbound links is also as known as “link juice.”

When a search query is being typed, the search engine looks in its index, even while it is being entered, for the most relevant information and displays the results in the SERPs. The results are then sorted by relevance.

When you run the same query on different search engines, you will probably get different results. This is because every search engine uses its own algorithm, based on various socalled “ranking factors.” These factors decide which results appear in the SERPs. Google uses over 900 different factors to

determine the relevance of a website to a search query. Here are some important factors that the search engine algorithm takes into account when ranking a website:

• The website’s content

• The website’s structure and internal links

• The searcher’s geographical location

• Mobile optimization

• Loading times

• Server accessibility

• Social signals (links from social networks)

 

With a market capitalization of USD 470 billion ii, Alphabet Inc. dominates the search engine market with its Google search engine. Google is the market leader because the company fundamentally revolutionized the way in which search engines work. The search engine group has a market share of over 93 percent in Germany iii, and has held this position continuously for many years. In the United States, Google has a market share of just under 64 percent, followed by BING with over 21 percent.iv In the days before Google (around 1997), search engines only indexed websites and took into account factors such as keyword density and keyword meta tags when determining the relevance of websites in relation to search queries. This approach was known as “Black Hat SEO.” It involved, for example, tactics such as “keyword stuffing,” whereby websites were deliberately created with as many keywords as possible in order to achieve high rankings in the search results.

WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO FOR A GOOD RANKING

It’s not difficult to ensure that your website will be indexed by a search engine. But it can be tricky to ensure that it is listed in association with specific keywords. Search engines look at four things when deciding ranking: rank, authority, relevance and technical issues.

RANK

The rank is the position that your website occupies in the SERPs for particular searches. Your rank is an indicator of how relevant your website is for a search term from the search engine’s perspective, and of what authority it has. It is advisable to check regularly on your website’s rank and positions in the SERPs in order to assess whether your SEO measures are having an effect. But because there are also many factors which you cannot influence, you should not get too stressed by rankings. It is perfectly normal if your website sometimes jumps 1-5 places. But if you manage to get your site 10, 20, or 30 places higher, you should be proud of yourself.

AUTHORITY

As was described in the section “How search engines work,” search engines determine the authority and credibility of the content of a website, using such factors as the type and quality of inbound links from other websites. However, a large number of inbound links does not necessarily result in a high ranking. So, search engines also check the authority of sites that link to you, the context of the link, and which anchor text is being used. Another key factor in defining authority is the age of your domain. Older sites typically have a higher trust factor.

RELEVANCE

Relevance is one of the most important ranking factors. Search engines not only detect that you are using certain keywords, they also look for clues as to how relevant your content is to a particular search query. In addition to the actual text on your web pages, search engines also examine their structure, the use of keywords in your URLs, the formatting of the page (such as the use of bold font), and which keywords appear in the title and in the body of the text.

The work done by search engines is highly complex because, ultimately, they aim to try to think like humans. Google is now extremely advanced and answers around 15 percent of its search queries with the help of artificial intelligence (AI). This AI is called “Rankbrain” and consists of machine learning algorithms. The fact that search engines are getting smarter has very practical consequences for SEO. For this reason, it may seem tempting to keep changing your website content to get a better ranking on search engines. However, ultimately you will do better to put more energy into creating relevant, coherent content aimed at your target visitors (and potential customers). The better search engines become, the better quality and more unique your content should be.

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