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    5 min read

    What Is SEO and How Does It Work?

    By Ellaine Parsons

    Given that scores of new websites become a part of the burgeoning digital landscape every day, managing to attract enough visitors might seem challenging. After all, simply having a great-looking website does not guarantee results, and it’s crucial to look at the role SEO plays in driving web traffic and boosting conversions. So, what is SEO and how does it work?


    What is SEO and how does it work?

    What Is SEO?

    SEO stands for search engine optimization, a process that revolves around ensuring that search engines understand your website’s content. This, in turn, helps web users find your website when they carry out searches related to the products, services, or information you provide. Easily explained, SEO helps improve your website’s visibility on search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, and DuckDuckGo.


    When done right, SEO helps your website rank well on search engine results pages (SERPs). When this happens, it increases the likelihood of people finding your website when they carry out relevant online searches. However, the ultimate goal of SEO is not just to drive traffic to your website but also to encourage visitors to perform desired actions.


    SEO experts pay attention to different aspects when optimizing webpages, some of which include keywords, titles, descriptions, images, links, site structure, and loading speed.


    What Is SEO in Digital Marketing?

    Not surprisingly, there is an increased fragmentation in online searches now and scores of people look beyond Google and other traditional search engines when shopping. As a result, digital marketers need to pay adequate attention to optimizing their content for other platforms. According to data collated by eMarketer, online shoppers in the U.S. begin their search for products on:

    • Amazon.com – 61%
    • Walmart.com – 32%
    • YouTube – 20%
    • Facebook – 19%
    • Instagram – 15%


    What Does SEO Do for a Website?

    If you are wondering “Do I need SEO for my website?” or “How does SEO affect my website?” know that SEO plays a crucial role in whether people can find your website when they carry out relevant online searches. For example, if you have a boutique in New York that sells vintage clothes and want customers to find you through Google, local SEO can help your website appear in the top results when people from your vicinity look for vintage clothing.

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    One of the main benefits of SEO is that it can be particularly useful for small and mid-sized business owners who don’t have large marketing budgets. If you compare SEO with most other types of digital marketing, you will notice that it is among the most cost-effective alternatives to boost your presence in the online world. Besides, SEO places your website in front of consumers who are already looking for the products/services you offer, making them prime leads who are almost ready to commit.


    If you use the services of a professional SEO company, the benefits typically outweigh the costs. This is because your SEO campaigns hold the potential to deliver long-term results, helping drive organic traffic to your website over a prolonged period.


    Increases Web Traffic

    Appearing at the top of search engine results pages is crucial because a very small percentage of users move past the first page of results. In addition, data collated by Semrush indicates that the top-ranking search results on Google gave a click-through rate (CTR) of 22.4%. It changes to 13% for the second position and 10% for the third. The tenth position accounts for a CTR of just 2.3%. This goes to show that even moving up a few positions can have a significant effect on the traffic your website receives.


    Helps Build Trust

    If your website ranks high on SERPs, it highlights that search engines view it as a credible source for the keywords/queries in question. When your website appears on the first page, especially the top three positions, it increases the likelihood of users trusting your brand, visiting your website, and carrying out desired actions. In addition, it is common for people to view organic results as more trustworthy than paid ads.


    Improves User Experience

    When it comes to what SEO does for a website, improving its user experience (UX) is among the top benefits. For example, a website needs to be well-organized with a clear structure for SEO purposes. This also helps improve UX by making it easier for users to navigate and find the information they need.


    In addition, search engines prioritize mobile-friendly websites, and this SEO practice coincides with UX best practices, given that a growing number of web users use their phones to get online. Similarly, optimizing page loading speed creates a more positive UX. Search engines recognize when people spend more time on a website and have a good experience, which helps improve page ranking.


    What does SEO do for a website?

    Generates More Qualified Leads

    One of the top benefits of SEO is that it gives you the means to generate more qualified leads. This is because when people carry out online searches using relevant keywords, they are actively seeking the products/services you have to offer. As a result, SEO drives pre-qualified leads to your website. While SEO can help attract leads from broad searches, local SEO can drive leads from local intent-based queries.



    If your business caters to a specific region or multiple locations and you wish to attract more potential customers to your physical location, you might benefit greatly from geo-targeting. This involves finding the right keywords that mention your target location and including them in your website’s content. Geo-targeting also requires optimizing your business listing on platforms like Google, Yelp, Bing, and Apple Maps, as well as building local citations.


    Niche Marketing

    Niche audiences are typically smaller than general audiences. SEO helps target those specific people by optimizing your website and content for keywords relevant to your niche. While the overall search volume for niche keywords might be lower, the traffic you attract is more likely to be highly qualified. Besides, while ranking for broad keywords can be easy, they also come with a higher possibility of driving unqualified leads.

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    Increase Brand Awareness

    A good SEO strategy gets your website to rank high in search results. This means more people will see your brand’s name, which increases awareness. Ranking well shows you’re a credible source, which builds trust with potential customers. By creating content that answers your target audience’s questions, you establish your position as an authority in your field and your brand as a valuable resource.


    A user-friendly website creates a positive experience for visitors, which reflects well on your brand. By ensuring consistency in web design, you help build recall value.


    How Does SEO Work?

    Search engines like Google use complex algorithms that they update regularly to rank web pages in their search results. These algorithms consider different factors to determine which pages are most relevant and helpful for a particular search query.

    • Crawling and indexing. Search engines use software programs called crawlers to scour the internet and discover web pages. Upon finding a page, the search engine analyzes its content and stores it in a massive database referred to as an index.
    • Understanding the search. When users enter queries, search engines try to understand what they are looking for, taking into account the words in the query, their meaning, and even the context of a user’s search history and location.
    • Matching content to queries. Then, search engines search their indexes for pages that match a given query based on factors like relevant keywords, phrases, and the overall topic of the content.
    • Ranking for relevancy and usability. Search engines understand that not all relevant pages are equally good, and they rely on different factors to determine which ones are likely to be most helpful to a user. These typically include experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-E-A-T); content quality; and user experience.
    • The results. After weighing all these factors and assigning a ranking score to each relevant page, search engines display the pages with the highest scores at the top.


    Do I need SEO for my website?

    Types of SEO

    Search engine optimization is wide-ranging, and it is common for SEO experts to work on different aspects to deliver optimum results. The three main types of SEO include on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO.


    On-Page SEO

    On-page SEO involves optimizing the content and structure of your web pages to improve their relevance to specific search terms. Elements of on-page SEO include:

    • Keyword research and usage. You need to carry out keyword research to identify terms relevant to your niche and target audience, and then integrate them strategically throughout your website’s content, including titles, headings, and meta descriptions.
    • Content creation. Creating high-quality informative content that resonates with your audience and provides value is crucial. This is because search engines favor websites with fresh and engaging content that users find beneficial.


    Off-Page SEO

    Off-page SEO focuses on factors outside your website that influence its search ranking. It is essentially about building your website’s reputation and authority in the eyes of search engines.

    • Backlinks. Earning backlinks from high-quality relevant websites is a goldmine for off-page SEO. Backlinks act like votes of confidence, telling search engines your website is a valuable resource. You may acquire high-quality backlinks by creating link-worthy content, collaborating with other websites in your niche, and participating in online communities.
    • Social media. Social media shares and mentions can impact your website’s visibility significantly. This is why you need to consider promoting your content on social media platforms, engaging with your audience, and building a strong base.


    Technical SEO

    Technical SEO lays the groundwork for a search-engine-friendly website by focusing on aspects that impact search engine crawlability and indexing.

    • Sitemap. A sitemap helps search engines understand your website’s structure and efficiently crawl all its pages.
    • Mobile-first. With a majority of web searches now conducted on smartphones, a mobile-optimized or responsive website is no longer optional, it is essential.
    • Speed. Slow loading times can hurt your SEO ranking and user experience. This is why you should optimize your website for speed by compressing images, minifying code, and improving server response time.

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    Metrics That Matter

    Now that you know what SEO is and how it works, you also need to understand which metrics to look at to determine the effectiveness of your campaign. Once you do, you may use a platform like Google Analytics to your advantage.

    • Traffic. Tracking the organic traffic your website receives from search engines gives you an indication of whether your efforts are working in terms of attracting adequate visitors.
    • Conversions. Traffic is great, but what really matters is the actions visitors take once they get to your website. Conversion rate tells you what percentage of visitors takes desired actions such as making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or downloading a white paper.
    • Keyword rankings. This SEO metric shows how your website ranks for specific keywords in SERPs. Ranking well for relevant keywords can help attract more organic traffic.
    • User experience (UX) metrics. It is important to track metrics like bounce rate, dwell time, and Core Web Vitals (a set of metrics that measure page load speed, responsiveness, and visual stability). These help you identify areas where you can improve your website’s UX and potentially boost your SEO performance.
    • Backlinks. Backlinks are links from other websites to your website, and they function as signals to search engines that your website is credible and authoritative. The more high-quality backlinks you have, the better the results of your SEO campaign.



    With knowledge of what does SEO do for a website, you need to determine if you wish to optimize your website on your own or seek professional assistance. Know that gaining mastery over this field is a time-consuming process, and if you need to start from scratch, it is best to leave your SEO woes to the experts. This is because a digital marketing agency with expertise in this realm can help your website attract qualified organic traffic in a time-bound manner and you also stand to gain from desirable conversion rates.

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