What is SEO? A Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization [2020 Edition]

My Post - 2020-02-04T165903.818.pngThis article aims to give an overview of what SEO is, why it is important, how Google functions, and a guide to what you can do. This article is not a definitive guide to every aspect and subtlety of SEO — search engine optimization. SEO is a vast subject that cannot be fully covered in a single article.

Definition of SEO

SEO is the art and science of persuading search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo, to recommend your content to their users as the best solution to their problem.

If you want search engines to offer your content in results, you need to do three things:

  1. Ensure these search engines understand who you are and what you offer.
  2. Convince them that you are the most credible option for their users.
  3. Make your content deliverable.

How high in the rankings and how often you appear is merit-based; these engines will show the results they consider to be the best fit for their users.

Why is SEO important?

SEO traffic (also known as organic traffic) is “free” — when a search engine shows your content to its users in the organic part of a SERP (Search Engine Results Page), you do not pay for the ranking. When the user clicks on the result and visits your site, you do not pay Google for the visit.

On that same SERP, there are often paid results; they are identifiable by the ‘Ad’ icon to the left. When a user clicks on a paid result and visits the site, the advertiser pays the search engine for that visit.

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So for ads, you pay to be the top, front, and center, and with organic search results (“SEO results”, if you prefer), you are top, front, and center through merit, and it is free.

The big advantage of SEO traffic is that, if your SEO strategy is effective (and we will look at how to make that happen below), then it is an ongoing source of free traffic.

How Search Engines Work

The fundamental aim of search engines is to satisfy its users. They want to provide the best results when a user searches for something. When someone uses a search engine, such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo, they are looking for the solution to a problem or the answer to a question. These engines want to provide the most helpful, relevant, and credible answer or solution.

Keywords

In SEO, we often refer to ‘keywords’ — this is slightly misleading. ‘Search queries’ is a much better term. We are not looking at individual words; we are looking at combinations of words that express a problem or a question.

Note: even when a user searches with just one word, they are still expressing a problem or question — they are just not being very clear!

What is your audience searching for?

To work effectively on your SEO, you need to figure out what your potential customers are searching for. Find the phrases that they use to search, and then create content that brings a clear, simple, and helpful solution to the problem that the user expressed. SEMrush offers a tool that allows you to find out based on your market and your competitors.

Google Versus the Rest of the Search Engines

Google dominates search in most countries across the globe, almost to the point of being a monopoly, particularly in English. In English, worldwide, 88% of searches on desktop are on Google. On mobile, that figure is a whopping 96%. Bing and Yahoo combined account for 1.5% of searches on mobile and 8% of searches on desktop. That makes Google vastly dominant. And by far, the most important search engine you should be focusing on. – Read more

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