The year is 1989. A man walks into a marketing brainstorming session. The room is filled with other executives. A look of frustration is spawning the man’s face. He is holding a stack of files in his hand. All the files contain details about over-budget marketing campaigns running across different platforms such as TV, newspapers, magazines, and more.
The man slams the stack of files on the tables, looks at the executives, and says, ‘I wish marketing was free’
The year is 1989. Everyone in the room laughs.
In 2019, nobody is laughing.
This is the power of SEO.
What is SEO?
SEO is an abbreviation for search engine optimization.
It refers to the practice of optimizing the organic presence of a website on search engines. The word ‘organic’ here is important to note here.
SEO is one of the few marketing techniques out there that allow marketers to promote their business free of cost. It is one of the true boons of the internet age. Using SEO techniques, a business can legitimately get a lot of traction from a relevant sample of the audience (a relevant audience refers to any set of people interested in buying a product or service.
We have now reached a stage where small and medium-sized companies that struggled to market themselves ten years ago have become huge now. With SEO, marketing has not only become easier, but cheaper and more efficient. There is no longer a need for a business to run newspaper ads and TV commercials. A good content push and an all-round SEO effort are enough to meet all goals set for a marketing campaign.
Is it Worth the Hype?
Is SEO worth the hype?
As an outsider to the field, your doubting SEO is natural. Too much hype also has a way of lending negative connotations to the thing being hyped. Is this the case for SEO?
The answer lies in the rise of the burgeoning SEO industry. In the last ten years, entire companies have risen in various niches thanks to SEO. By investing in improving their search engine presence, companies have essentially bet on platforms like Google being the future of marketing. Their bet, until now, has turned out to be a roaring success.
Since people trust Google, they trust its search results a lot. A company interested in reaching its target audience knows that if it can rank high on Google through its website content, it can really do so. There is a large flux of companies that are emerging and rising through the ranks solely on the basis of simple SEO tactics.
Some o the industry’s greatest marketing minds have been overtaken by SEO executives with little more than six months of experience.
This is why SEO is worth all the hype. With the reach of search engines, the only thing a marketer really needs to master is a grip over the content and a good understanding of keywords. If these things are indeed accomplished, an SEO-optimal blog with good content can outperform any given marketing machinery geared towards generating traffic and leads.
Moving forward, we will explain how exactly SEO works and helps websites get a large share of organic traffic.
Understanding Search Engines and SEO with an Analogy
To understand SEO, one needs to first understand the role of search engines in modern digital space.
Search engines serve as a central organism essentially connecting the internet. To call them the yellow pages of the digital world would be accurate in terms of features and functionalities, but search engines serve as tools far greater in importance than yellow pages ever were.
The internet is like a big market. Each shop in the market contains some valuable item shoppers in the marketplace who would like to buy or at least see. However, since the market is so big, a shop is never able to truly appear in front of people who would most likely purchase its products or at least show an interest in them.
Now imagine you get a map of the market that is able to direct shoppers to the shops they wish to see. Furthermore, the map contains all the secret shortcuts to make sure people are able to find these shops quickly. The best part of the map is that it is always able to lead people to shops that actually sell products they are interested in buying.
In this analogy, the market is the internet, It contains a great multitude of content in the forms of different websites. Many of these websites contain amazing content that has the ability to inform and engage readers. However, due to a lack of central cohesion, users (shoppers in the analogy above) are never able to find websites having quality content.
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Search engines are maps in the aforementioned analogy. They help readers (shoppers) discover websites (shops). The magic part of the maps that always takes people to the right shops can be seen as the search algorithm. The genius of search algorithms of platforms like Google is the reason why they are so popular and relevant in this day and age.
So where does SEO fit in?
SEO can be seen as a study of search algorithms. Those who wish to understand search algorithms enough to make sure they can use them to enhance the presence of their websites are essentially practising search engine optimization (SEO). At its heart, SEO is not anything more than a careful study of how search algorithms behave.
The study of SEO leads us to digital marketing and all the different techniques and trends associated with SEO. In digital marketing, we look at SEO as a way to improve the organic presence of a website on a search engine. In other words, it is a direct application of the study of search algorithms.
How Does SEO Work?
We now know what SEO exactly is. The next part of the process is understanding how SEO works.
To understand SEO better, it is first imperative to know the function of search engine crawlers. Search engine crawlers are automated tools deployed by search engines like Google to index different websites and their many webpages. The crawlers are the ones who scan content on every website.
Without going too deep into the subject, we will try to understand SEO through two key ingredients – keywords and content.
Keywords are like the eyes of the search engine. When a search engine crawler arrives at a webpage, it checks many parts of the page before ascertaining what it is about. Very often, the word repeating in the title, meta description, header, and the body is referred to as the ‘keyword’ and considered the main topic of the content.
Thus, the search engine crawler is able to identify the topic of the content on the basis of the occurrence of a given keyword.
For example, since this very article contains the keyword ‘SEO; being repeated a lot of times, the search engine crawler would immediately ascertain the topic of the content.
In SEO, keywords play an important role in helping crawlers identify the context of a given piece of content. Without keywords, a crawler would be lost and may never understand what a given piece of content is trying to explain. Thus, it is vital to make sure any given piece of content contains the right percentage of keywords to make it easier for a search engine crawler to identify the topic of the content.
Another factor that plays a role in keyword analysis is the presence of related keywords in the content.
Consider this very blog post for instance. While the main keyword is ‘SEO’ and is repeated most often, other phrases and words related to SEO are also mentioned regularly. These words include ‘keywords’, ‘content’, ‘SEO techniques’, ‘digital marketing’, ‘search algorithm’, and many more. These words fall in the same wheelhouse as SEO. Thus, when a search engine crawler goes through a webpage, notices the presence of a repeated keyword, and then notes the presence of related keywords, it safely confirms the topic and context of the content.
The ideal percentage of keywords in a given content to make a search engine crawler notice is between 1-3%. This means, in a 100-word long blog post, if a word repeats two times, the keyword density is 2% and the word will be considered the main topic of the blog post.
Repeating a word excessively without regard to the context of the content is called keyword stuffing. It is a bad practice and can lead to the website practising it to be penalized or worse blacklisted.
Thus, marketers must try to make sure they use keywords in the right context and within the right percentage.
The entire digital experience is built upon giving readers the right type of content. Search engines, in truth, are only in the business of providing searchers with quality content. Their sole aim is to optimize the experience of somebody searching for a query on their platform.
Normal people never search for content with optimal keyword percentages. Keywords are factors taken into account by search engines as they have no better way of judging content. Normal people though judge content through qualitative factors. Ease of reading, quality of the writing, the general flow, and richness in vocabulary lend weight to the quality of content, not to mention coverage of topics in an interesting and engaging manner.
Without quality content, all SEO techniques are futile. Eventually, every website has to do what its audience demands it to. This is especially true for business websites that rely upon their audience for growth. While a blogger can write content based on his/her whim and fancy, a business must make sure its website provides engaging and valuable content for the audience it seeks to reach.
A rich content experience is thus an important part of running a business website as well. Quality content is a tool to build trust and engagement with people who may later become paying customers and clients. Many companies today hire SEO agencies with top content writers to make sure their website content actually brings in customers from day one. Content has always been the undisputed core of marketing. The rise of digital marketing and SEO has only made the importance of content more mainstream than before.
Reasons why SEO will Continue to Remain Important
If you’ve been following digital marketing over the past few years, you must have come across articles and blog posts written by top writers saying ‘SEO is Dead’ or ‘SEO will become Irrelevant’.
Despite all this posturing, the death of SEO hasn’t come about, and there is a good chance it won’t for a long time.
SEO is the only available resource through which we can truly understand how search algorithms beneath search engines work. Furthermore, search traffic is not expected to slow down any time soon either. We list down a few reasons why SEO will continue to be relevant in the next few years.
- The quality of search algorithms has been the main reason why people continue to use search engines. This means SEO has been largely successful at providing people with a good content-based experience until now.
- Organic marketing was a dream until SEO made it a reality. There is no other viable technique in digital marketing that can deliver traffic as SEO can. SEO’s relevance will not merely be defined by its own qualities, but the lack of alternatives to it.
- There are already signs of there being a greater push by search engines to understand and appreciate the quality of content. The BERT update launched in October 2019 again reaffirmed Google’s desire to focus on a content-driven search and digital experience. SEO will have a large say in the process too. As long as the content remains relevant to digital marketing, SEO will continue to have a place as a digital marketing technique and a study of search engines & algorithms.
In this article, we have sought to identify the importance of SEO by analyzing its role in the digital marketing space. We have also studied how SEO works on a basic level in order to further understand its role in the search experience. Finally, we made a few points on how SEO will continue to be relevant in the coming years