Search engine optimization or SEO is a type of digital marketing activity and a subtype of search engine marketing centered on the adherence to standards and the use of several techniques or practices to improve the search engine visibility and organic search engine ranking of a website or specific web pages.
Take note that there are different search engine providers on the Internet and as such, there are different ways websites can be optimized. However, because Google Search remains the top search engine in the world in terms of geographic reach and number of users, most SEO standards and practices are based on the criteria set forth by Google.
SEO 101: The Basic Elements of Search Engine Optimization
1. Keywords: Search terms or keywords are the words or phrases integrated into web contents to make a website or web pages searchable by search engines. Web developers and SEO professionals use keyword research to understand how Internet users look for information or products, particularly to know what words or phrases they input whenever they use search engines. These words or phrases are integrated into the web content, as well as in metal elements to improve the visibility and ranking of a website or a particular web page. Hence, keywords are the most important elements of search engine optimization.
2. Title Tag: A title tag or a title attribute is a meta element used to convey to the search engine what a website or webpage is all about. Take note that including keywords in the title tag was a standard SEO practice. However, especially in the case of Google Search, the shift toward semantic search has reduced the importance of using keywords in title tags. However, a well-constructed title still influences Internet user behavior, particularly with regard to clicking a website from a list of search results.
3. Description Attribute: The description attribute is another type of meta element that provides a summarized explanation of the content of a website or webpage. More often than not, search engines display a snippet of a webpage by including its title and description attribute on their respective search results. Hence, while the inclusion of keywords in the description attribute is not a standard SEO practice anymore, its proper construction can positively influence the response of Internet users.
4. URL Structure: URLs within a website are usually the first thing search engines and Internet users will see. A proper URL structure is another one of the most essential elements of search engine optimization because it can help in increasing keyword density of the entire website or a particular webpage, communicate website structure and internal website hierarchy and navigability, and improve the user experience. A proper URL structure is simple, compelling, and accurate.
5. Sitemap: A sitemap is an XML file and a protocol generated and used by web developers and SEO professionals to inform search engines about the structure of a particular website, especially the URLs within that website that are available for web crawling. It also tells search engines when the website and its web pages are last updated or how often they are modified. Note that a sitemap is a URL inclusion protocol that helps search engines crawl a website more intelligence.
6. Robots: The robots exclusion standard or robot.txt is a file in the root directory of the domain of a website. Similar to a sitemap, it is used for communicating with search engines, mainly their web crawlers and web robots, the structure and contents of an entire website. However, unlike a sitemap, it is a URL exclusion protocol used to inform search engines which areas of the website should be excluded from scanning, processing, and indexing. Sitemaps and robots complement each other.
7. Breadcrumbs: Comparable to sitemaps and robots, the breadcrumb trail helps search engines understand the structure of a website, particularly by helping web crawlers understand its hierarchy and navigability. It also helps web visitors understand their current position on the site.
8. Internal Cross-Linking: Link building through cross-linking between web pages of the same website may help improve the visibility and ranking of a website or a particular webpage because it helps establish site architecture, spread link equity, improve user engagement, and increase in-page traffic to other web pages of the same website. SEO practitioners consider internal cross-linking as a standard element in search engine optimization.
9. External Linking: Another type of link building that can substantially improve search engine visibility and ranking is external linking or backlinks. One of the ways search engines such as Google Search evaluate the value and relevance of a website or a particular webpage is by analyzing links from other websites. In other words, if a website or webpage has several external links coming from other high-quality websites or web pages, then the more it is valuable and relevant from the perspective of search engines. Nonetheless, external links are another one of the most important elements of search engine optimization.