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How Does SEO Work?: A Beginner's Guide to SEO

Type "How does SEO work?" in Google and you're bombarded with info. You're sold classes from SEO "gurus" and pitched SEO tools. You find thousands of SEO agencies, professionals, and freelance services.

Where do you even begin? How do you make sense of it?

SEO can take the shirt off your back if you do it wrong. Applying outdated and forbidden tactics can de-list your site from search. With the delisting goes all your hard work in building an online presence.

Consider this post an overview of SEO so you're on the right path to higher rankings. This post explains why SEO matters. Then, shares best practices for the basics before guiding you to advance strategies.

Google, Search Results, and SEO Basics

SEO works until it doesn't work.

Let's explain:

SEO is a collection of best practices applied to increase search engine rankings. Yet, these best practices change during algorithm updates. Plus, no one knows the ranking factors as search algorithms are a trade secret.

And if they claim they know "Google secrets"? They're lying.

SEO works until it doesn't because search engines adapt results per user intent. We've seen this as search results changed throughout the years. Google's goal is delivering relevant information without delay.

Changes in the search include:

  • Displaying video -- As users wanted more video content
  • Display snippets -- As users wanted quick information
  • Displaying maps -- As users wanted locations

SEO professionals learn and adapt search engine trends. This is the basis of SEO and its best practices. Through trial, we have the SEO strategies of today.

Google does provide some insight into ranking factors in official documents. These cover the basics of good Web usability and site semantics. Combine their word with SEO community practices and you'll have a solid strategy to rank.

How Does SEO Work? See It Happen (Live) by Following These SEO Practices

SEO is such a broad topic that many site owners throw up their arms and quit before seeing their effects. SEO is a long game, often taking months before efforts show positive ROI. The community often convolutes strategies rather than explaining it in plain English.

This is an attempt to explain SEO, to you, in the simplest way. Read this and follow along to see how SEO works in a live environment. This will reinforce the concepts while employing the SEO benefits in real-time.

Meta, Structure, and Usability

Google crawls your site, looking for proper Web semantics and keywords.

The on-page basics include:

  • Keywords in the title, description, URL, page content, and interlinks
  • Error-free site code with built-in usability features for every user type
  • Fast and easy user navigation with enticing designs acting like branding

Look to industry players in your market as examples of great design. Or, apply well-crafted templates or tap developers for a unique site design.

Why the meta, structure, and usability matter

A great site has clean code and structure, making it easier-to-read during the Web crawl. This means your site gets picked up for the keywords you're targeting. It also makes the site usable for site users with disabilities.

The site's front-end creates a great experience, keeping visitors engaged. Longer dwell time tells Google that people enjoy your site's content. This is one of many SEO factors believed to help sites rank.

Content Creation and Marketing

Content creation is as it sounds: written, audio, graphics, and video.

Content is what attracts people to the Web. Content provides answers to their questions, solutions to their problems. In content are keywords and phrases Google use to match search results and user intent.

The marketing aspect of content spreads your brand to sites and social platforms. As people recognize your value, you gain more visitors. In turn, a well-liked site -- with quality content -- gets rewarded in search rankings.

Why content marketing works

Google crawls your site looking for keywords and phrases. The more content you have the more keywords applied to your site profile. This helps your site appear in various search results even if it's not the exact-match keyword.

Likewise, Google wants search results to show value. Quality content satisfying user intent creates high engagement for their platform. A visitor's satisfaction is Google's satisfaction, granting higher visibility because of its value.

Link Building and Outreach

Link building involves getting links on other websites. The best practice is getting them from relevant sites with high authority. The authority passes to the linked site, helping it raise its own authority.

Link building strategies can include:

  • Guest posting
  • Commenting
  • Embedding media
  • Paid promotions
  • Joint ventures

...and every tactic in the spectrum of black to white hat.

There are good and bad links, though, and how you get them matters.

Natural links from sharing value are the best but unpredictable. Building links through guest posting expose your brand to relevant communities.

Spam commenting and paid placement are two bad link building examples. This doesn't add value to the Web and seen as "gaming" the system. Google can and will catch these practices, penalizing sites employing these tactics.

Why link building works

Links are part of the usual content creation process. Creators want to share and support content with resources. Backlinks tell Google your site is worth sharing and has something of value.

SEOs noticed backlinks as a ranking factor and included them in strategies. This is why the cornerstone of SEO packages usually include backlink services. Without links, your website is "islanded" among the billions of search results.

Recapping the SEO Basics and Your Task

If you focus on three things let it be these:

  1. Create an easy-to-use, structured website
  2. Fill it with quality content visitors want and need
  3. Build links on relevant websites and platforms

Do these three and you'll have covered the basics of SEO. You'll also uncover new and exciting SEO strategies worth exploring along the way.

Advanced SEO and Growth: The Next Phase

Answering the "how does SEO work" question lay the foundation for your site's rankings. The next phase is applying advanced SEO strategies. This is where things get tricky and take serious dedication and testing.

You have two paths:

  • Envelop yourself in the SEO community and explore advance tactics
  • Cover your basics and pass the tedious SEO strategies to experts

Consider your time, budget, and if this interests you or the team. Otherwise, get in touch and explore our managed SEO services. We'll take your SEO to the next level, driving more sales through advanced strategies.

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