Search Engine Optimization is a process of optimizing your website on search engines for better visibility and rankings. However, its a slow process and many businesses lack the patience and end up either pressurizing the SEO executive or firing them due to their lack of understanding of SEO. In this blog I will try to explain SEO to businesses in a manner which they understand.
Throughout this blog post, I will use an example which is relatable for the business and help them understand SEO better. Also note this is just a brief overview written in a relatable language for business. This article DOES NOT cover all aspects of SEO! Let’s start with Google.
Google is a mimic
Google is a search engine with the highest number of users as we all know. However, I would like for you to think Google as a mimic which mimics human society/behavior. Think about it, when you start a website and have great content on it, Google doesn’t immediately put you in the top 10.
Your content might be the best and most helpful content out there however, Google ensures you stay at the bottom when you start. Why is that?
Think probation period! When you hire a new employee they are generally kept under probation for a period of 3-6 months depending upon the policies of your business. The employee could be the most talented hire in decades that the company has witnessed however, that doesn’t mean they can bypass the probation period.
This is how Google views your website when you first get indexed! For a good period of up to 6 months you’re under probation.
Google Sandbox – Probation
Google Sandbox is a myth however many believe (including me) that when you purchase a fresh domain and have it indexed on Google, it takes anywhere between 4-12 months for you to start driving traffic in bulk. This is the period where Google is trying to assess multiple factors such as how quick does the website loads, what kind of business are you, what are the topics you’re covering, is the content helpful etc.
Its similar to how you assess a new hire. Is he coming to work on time everyday, is he doing meaningful work, is he helpful to others in need, is he a hard worker or smart worker etc.
In short, similar to how you assess a new hire, Google is assessing you on their platform because technically you’ve been indexed for the first time and are like a new hire for them.
Etiquette is Technical SEO
Technical SEO is a process where the website is optimized for optimum functioning. In broad terms – Making a website faster, easier to crawl, and more understandable. Technical SEO is the most overlooked factor for businesses as it involves a lot of development costs. I get the fact that the business maybe a start up and be low on funds however it should be the last thing that is ignored.
Think about it, the new hire that you’ve added to your organization is never on time, difficult to communicate with and hard to understand. Do you think that such an employee will be in the company’s good books? Would you promote that employee?
No! Right? Then why should Google rank you higher on SERP (Search Engine Results Page)?
Your website doesn’t open quickly (never on time), the links on your website are broken and cause navigation issues (difficult to communicate with) and upon that although you have great content it is unorganized (hard to understand).
Google wants you to be an ideal employee in order to rank you higher on SERP just as a business would promote an employee with strong etiquettes. It’s that simple!
Presentation and Knowledge is On Page SEO
On page SEO has everything to do with presentation. It is the part where Google as a business should be able to understand your content in order to present it forward. This involves optimizing the URL, Page title, Meta description, Content structure, Keyword optimization etc.
If your content is unclear to Google, you will never see your website rank in top 10 results. Period!
A good page on the website would have a structured URL, title and description. This is the first bit of information that is visible to the reader on SERP. It should be relevant to the search query and have a brief description of what the content inside is about.
Let’s go back to the new hire, assume you’ve asked the new hire to share a report with you. He has diligently done his research and shared the report, however, it is the most difficult to read piece of information that you’ve ever seen in your life.
The title of the report is NOT what the report is about. You’ve asked for a Marketing Progress report for the quarter and he has titled it as “Challenges and solutions to marketing”. Although he has written about the marketing progress throughout the report is it unclear when you read the title as to what the report is about.
The short description leaves you even more confused as now it’s even contradicting the title. The description talks about the number of sales increased in the quarter but that isn’t what you’ve asked for. It might be a part of the report that you would like to look into however it is NOT a direct answer to your question which is “Marketing Progress for the quarter”
Let’s assume you aren’t fuming yet and choose to go ahead and read the report.
You now have 10 long pages of written material without any segregation or a table of content to directly skip to the part you’re more interested in looking at. It’s just paragraphs upon paragraphs, an endless nightmare that stretches for 10 long pages!
Well you should start reading from top to bottom, every single word! Thinking about such as scenario and writing about it is exhausting enough. All the best!
You can always scan through the main keywords that you’d like to look into but they are so frequently used that your only option is to literally read through the entire report.
What does an SEO executive do in such as scenario
Well it’s pretty simple! He organizes the page in a manner which is easy for the search engines to understand which enables the search engines to evaluate the content and present it to the public seeking out such information.
He ensures that the URL and title reflects the main keyword (topic) and the meta description is a short brief to the topic that we have explored and the content within it is well organized with a “Table of Contents” section and is broken down with “Subheadings” to make it more easier to understand.
Think of it like reading a new paper. Back in the good old days when people actually read newspapers everyday, they would scan through the headlines and stop to read the news they more most interested in.
Google, just like the newspaper, wants you to do the same. Organize the content in a manner which is easy to understand, where people can scan through the page and stop to read the part they’re most interested in.
Of course there is a lot more to on page SEO, however, since you personally (if you’re a business) are not going to get into On Page SEO, I think you must have a good understanding on the concept by now.
So if the new hire did present the report in an easy to understand and easy to navigate manner with a lot of research which ends up impressing you, wouldn’t you want to share the report with other stakeholders and give a shout out to the new hire? Google feels and does the same!
In fact, you can sum this explanation up in 2 simple words. Quality Content! Now you know what it means.
Recommendations are Off Page SEO
Backlinks, backlinks, backlinks…!! Well you hear backlinks a lot when you search for SEO. You definitely know what they are because almost all the top blogs speak about it. I agree it’s one of the major ranking factors on SERP however you should know that they are only 30% of the requirements to rank on top. The 70% is what you’ve already read above.
There are 2 types of backlinks – nofollow and dofollow.
nofollow backlinks are links where the crawler has been instructed to NOT follow them and transfer domain authority or link juice.
dofollow backlinks are links where the crawler is instructed to follow then and DO transfer domain authority or link juice.
Both are a necessary ranking factors for Google. A website with unbalanced nofollow and dofollow links are tagged as suspicious and Google does everything to hold you back.
Confused? No problem, let’s talk in your language.
Assume there is a problem to which you’re seeking out a solution but you don’t know whom to go to. The information or solution that you are seeking out is crucial as it can cause massive losses to the company if the solution provided isn’t accurate. You ask around and you can get 2 types of answers (there are several but we will only focus on these 2)
Scenario 1 – Go to X he might be able to help you but I don’t guarantee if the information or solution will be accurate. It may or may not be helpful.
Scenario 2 – Go to X, he is the right person to assist you. I guarantee he knows this stuff and is the best person to help with the solution you’re looking for.
Well, should I even ask who would you go to for the solution?
In scenario 1 you are pointed towards an employee who might be capable to help with the solution but the one that points you in that direction wants to take no responsibility (nofollow)
In scenario 2 you are once again pointed towards an employee who might be capable to help with the solution and the one that points you in that direction personally assures you that he is the right person (dofollow)
This is what a nofollow and dofollow backlink really is. You can have several people at any given position in the organization directing others towards you. However, when there is an assurance involved, there is a transfer of authority, which we SEOs call Domain Authority.
Think about it, at some point people will just walk up to that employee for similar scenarios because he has either been recommended by several entry level employees or senior/managerial level employees with any without assurances.
He is now a kind of go to guy for such situations. His visibility has increased in the organization. Similarly, your website gains more visibility on SERP as there as several sources pointing towards you, some staking their authority and trust and some not.
So how does Google determine rankings
In short, it’s a mix of all 3 types of SEO as we have discussed above. It is similar to factors that you look into while promoting an employee. They should have business etiquettes, should be presentable and knowledgeable and should have recommendations from their peers.
That’s the exact same criteria for Google! It’s not so different at all.
If you as a business want to move up the ladder and appear on page 1 you need to do everything that you expect an ideal employee to do in order to get promoted. In a funny way Google is your true boss! Maybe all the AI controversies are true after all. Machines have already taken over humans!
All the kidding aside there is one more thing you need to understand with rankings.
Google is smart enough to understand if you have truly worked your way up. What does that mean? Well, have you ever come across a scenario where 2 candidates have applied for the same promotion and are equally good?
Let’s understand this with an example
Assume nofollow links are the entry level employees (under 2 years) and the dofollow links are your senior most employees (5+ years). Let’s also assume it’s time for promotion. You have a list of candidates who have applied.
Besides common factors that you look at such as
- Is he always on time.
- Does he get the work done.
- Does he help others to get the work done quickly.
- Is he friendly and has inculcated the organization culture.
- Is he aligned with the vision and mission of the organization.
The list goes on as there are multiple factors to look at. However, what weighs more is recommendations and who they are coming from.
Let’s say you’ve shortlisted 2 for the position (the final 2 candidates) however the opening is for just 1 position. Both are equally good at their work. Tough call to make!
This is where recommendations (backlinks) come into play. This is the deciding factor who get to be promoted. One of them has 15+ recommendations from entry level employees only where as the other has 10 recommendations from the senior most employees only.
What matters more to you?
15+ voices that aren’t as trustworthy or 10 voices that are definitely trustworthy?
Well if your choice is any one of the two, you’re wrong! That is NOT how Google sees things and that’s when suspicions arise! Why is that? Well, why would someone only get recommendations from either entry level employees or senior level employees?
Doesn’t it seem strange? Shouldn’t the recommendations be a mix? How is it that all entry level employees are recommending candidate 1 and no senior level employee has noticed this and added his recommendation to the list.
At the same time, why are there so many senior level recommendations for candidate 2 when both have performed equally well? Alternately, shouldn’t have entry level employees noticed this and recommended candidate 2?
You could also have recommendations coming in from different departments who have nothing to do with the current department for which promotions are being held. It’s irrelevant! Why would an operations manager or operations employee put forth his recommendation for an employee in marketing?
It makes no sense right?
Now you see things the way Google does! You need to have a mix of both in order to rank high and also avoid irrelevant backlinks. An good backlink profile must consist of nofollow as well as dofollow backlinks. Having a large number of just one type isn’t really a good ranking signal for Google as well as having backlinks from domains which have absolute no relevance to your niche.
Read this guide on – How-To Build High Quality Backlinks For Your Website
Consider Domain Authority as your trustworthiness in an organization. When you start new, the organizations trust is limited, mostly because you’re in probation and they’re trying to assess you. During this period you have low visibility, in fact, the only people who will know you are probably your fellow colleagues who joined with you, your trainers and a handful of senior employees and HR who might have dropped by to interact with you during training.
At this time people barely know you to even have an impression of you. Similarly, when you have your website indexed, your domain authority is 1 ( DA1 being the lowest and DA 100 being the highest).
There are several ways to improve your domain authority which we have discussed above (Technical, On Page and Off Page). Generally speaking, your trustworthiness improves as you spend more time in an organization. Similarly, on Google as well, the more time your website is online and indexed the DA will naturally increase as time goes by.
However, in order to improve it quickly we hire a SEO to boost this process as quickly as possible. Getting several backlinks is the quickest way to boost your Domain Authority which I’m sure you’ve understood by now. Also note that DA isn’t an accurate measure as to how Google ranks your website.
Google is very secretive about their ranking process as they want genuine websites to move up the ladder and not the over smart ones. Hence only Google knows which ranking factors carry what weightage to move up the ladder. Of course we as SEOs have somewhat an idea but no SEO alive can claim they know exactly how Google ranks websites.
So don’t be too eager to have a website with a very high DA in a short span of time. Even if you’re rewarded with a high DA due to your connections (recommendations) there is no guarantee that traffic will start flowing in to generate business. Ensure you produce high quality helpful content and Google will reward you soon, I guarantee it!
Building trust isn’t a one day job. It takes several years to build trust, authority and relevance. Hence you hear several SEOs say – “SEO is a slow process and it may take 3-6 months to see results of the efforts I put in.”
Be kind to the poor souls, they really must be trying their best. Be patient and you will reap the rewards when the time comes.
I’ve written a blog on 10 Useful Tips To Improve Your Domain Authority (DA), do give it a read!
All these SEO terms are jargons! You now have a much better understanding of what these jargons mean and hopefully you understand what kind of journey SEO takes you on. Be patient and do the right things, connect with relevant authorities in your niche, build long lasting relations and provide a service or a product that is truly helpful for your audience. Consider your website as an employee of Google and do all the right things to get into it’s good books!
Comment below if this post was helpful even if it was somewhat helpful. Thanks for the feedback in advance!
PS – Please remember I stated above that this is just a brief overview which has been overly simplified to help businesses understand what SEO is. Please don’t get salty in the comments section. I’m well aware how deep SEO is and written about it which you can check by clicking on the link below