Gain insights in why website copy is so important for SEO and how Google understands text.
The topics that we will discuss:
- What is SEO – and why does it matter to you?
- How does a search engine work?
- How do the SERPs look like?
- Different SERP features
- What elements can be optimized?
What is SEO – and why does it matter to you?
SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It’s the practice of increasing both the quality and quantity of website traffic, as well as exposure to your brand, through non-paid (also known as « organic ») search engine results.
To understand the true meaning of SEO, let’s break that definition down and look at the parts:
- Quality of traffic. You can attract all the visitors in the world, but if they’re coming to your site because Google tells them you’re a resource for Apple computers when really you’re a farmer selling apples, that is not quality traffic. Instead you want to attract visitors who are genuinely interested in products that you offer.
- Quantity of traffic. Once you have the right people clicking through from those search engine results pages (SERPs), more traffic is better.
- Organic results. Ads make up a significant portion of many SERPs. Organic traffic is any traffic that you don’t have to pay for.
Despite the acronym, SEO is as much about people as it is about search engines themselves. It’s about understanding what people are searching for online, the answers they are seeking, the words they’re using, and the type of content they wish to consume. Knowing the answers to these questions will allow you to connect to the people who are searching online for the solutions you offer.
If knowing your audience’s intent is one side of the SEO coin, delivering it in a way search engine crawlers can find and understand is the other. In this guide, expect to learn how to do both.
How does a search engine work?
You might think of a search engine as a website you visit to type (or speak) a question into a box and Google, Yahoo!, Bing, or whatever search engine you’re using magically replies with a long list of links to webpages that could potentially answer your question.
That’s true. But have you ever stopped to consider what’s behind those magical lists of links?
Here’s how it works: Google (or any search engine you’re using) has a crawler that goes out and gathers information about all the content they can find on the Internet. The crawlers bring all those 1s and 0s back to the search engine to build an index. That index is then fed through an algorithm that tries to match all that data with your query.
How do the SERPs look like?
Everybody knows what the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP) looks like. We’ve all been there. We cross that page with every search we do. Still, the page can look rather different depending on what you’re searching for.
What the result page looks like largely depends on what you are searching for. If you’re searching for a product you can buy (e.g. order iphone 11), Google will show shop results on the SERP.
This results page starts with text ads. To get there, you’ll have to pay Google. On the right side you find the shopping results, the ones with the images on the right – note the word ‘Gesponsord’ on the right side. And only after the text ads the organic results start.
However, if you’re searching for information about the planet Neptune – because your son is writing an essay about that – you’ll encounter a totally different looking SERP:
These search results do not show any paid or sponsored results. And on the right end, you’ll notice a knowledge graph (see below) with lots of information about the planet Neptune.
So in short, a SERP (Search Engine Results Page) is generated by Google as a response to a query. SERP Features are special results on SERPs that are intended to offer users helpful information with the minimum necessary to click on the result.
Different SERP features
In the list below, we share an overview of the most important SERP features. In the advanced class, we will go more in depth in all SERP features.
- Featured snippets – Featured snippets give a summarized answer to a specific question asked on Google. Featured snippets give users a concise answer to their questions without forcing them to click on a specific result. They are located above the organic search results.
- Local Pack – Local packs show location-based results based on the subject of the query and searcher’s geographic location. Local businesses (especially in food/service industries) are commonly found in local packs. Local Pack features a map and displays the top 3 places related to the search query.
- Reviews – Review SERP Feature is a short expert of a review or rating of a business. Star ratings will appear under a domain’s result if the website’s business has received Google reviews from Internet users.
- Knowledge panel – These panels appear, often on the right side of the SERP, and provide background knowledge about a topic. Knowledge panels are common among queries for a famous person, place or thing. Knowledge panel is different from the Feature snippet in that it gets its information from a different source. Feature snippet data is google driven while knowledge panel is driven from human-edited sources such as wikipedia.
- FAQ – A list of questions related to a particular search that shows up for a particular organic search result. When clicked on, each of the questions reveals the answer.
- People also ask – People also ask (related questions) are additional questions related to the search query that appear on the SERP. They will appear as a list of dropdown boxes at the top of the search results page.
- Sitelinks – Sitelinks appear below a search result description and offer links to more related areas and subfolders of the website. When a user searches for a domain, the Sitelinks SERP Feature will show up to 10 additional site links.
- AMP – Accelerated Mobile Pages are a form of light-weight coding for mobile webpages. AMPs are labeled in SERPs with a lightning bolt icon that tells searchers that the page will be fast and easy to browse on a mobile device. They are usually much faster to load than non-AMP pages. These are not SERP Features by nature, but we mention it because Google will indicate AMPs on the SERPs and they are important.Having AMP pages can enhance your chances of getting into some SERP features, and in some cases, there is no chance to get into rich results without having AMP page. For instance, to get into Visual Stories, you are required to implement ‘AMP stories’ pages on your website.
What elements can be optimized?
When we approach SEO, we can distinguish 3 major parts, namely technical, on-page and off-page.
- URL structure: the site structure is like the human backbone, because everything stands or falls with it. It should be transparant, consistent and easy to understand for crawlers and human visitors.
- HTTPS: for search engines, it’s important that they send their users to safe websites. In order to do that, an HTTPS connection between the server and the end-user must be provided.
- Mobile friendliness: mobile phones enable people to search where and when they want. That’s why it’s important to have a seperate mobile or responsive website.
- Site speed: one of the current most important optimization factors is definitely a fast loading website. The reason behind this is of course the rise of mobile searches.
- Crawl errors: a good website makes it easy for search spiders to crawl the website. In order to do so, SEOs check on a regular basis for issues that could undermine the crawlability from pages.
- Content: content is probably the most important element when optimizing your page. It contains the topic and keywords which are necessary in order to get a good rank.
- Page title: this is a known ranking factor. When looking at the SERPs, the page titles are marked in blue.
- Meta description: this element is an indirect ranking factor. This means that the description doesn’t influence the rankings directly, but it helps people during their search to get an idea of what to expect when visiting the page. When the description doesn’t represent the content correctly, the bounce and exit rates will grow, while the time on page/site will decline.
- Images and video: rich content like images or videos can enrich the user experience drastically. It’s important, however, to use relevant rich content that is optimized for search.
- Internal & external linking: make it easy for crawlers and users to find other pages on your own or external domain. By doing so, you share relevance.
- Structured data: by adding structured data to your content, you help search engines understand what your content is about.
- Backlinks: backlinks are incoming links from external domains and give authority. When a lot of domains are linking to your page, it basically says to search engines that the content on your page is really qualitative.
- Reviews: reviews are written feedback about your business. It can harm your overall efforts, so it’s important to manage your reviews as good as possible.
- Social media: posts via social media gives signals to search engines about the fact that there is frequent activity going on with your business.