SEO (search engine optimization) is the process of increasing your rankings on Google and other search engines.
There are many variables involved when search engines are indexing your website. Although Google keeps its official list of ranking factors a secret, there have been many case studies done by experts to determine what exactly contributes to a website's SEO.
SEO is a combination of on-site and off-site elements.
Off-site SEO includes backlinks, citations, online reviews, social media, and any other external signals pointing to your website on the internet.
On-site SEO involves optimizing the content and technical structure (technical SEO) of a website.
Think of technical SEO as the foundation of a house. Without a solid foundation, your house will crumble.
Without a solid technical structure, your website's SEO won't do very well.
When you create content for your site, you're writing it for the human eye. Whether it's because the words flow well, the images look nice, or it has a really modern layout - content is supposed to improve the user's experience and make them stay on your site longer.
On the flip side, technical SEO includes mostly elements that are only seen or noticed by Google.
Technical SEO includes:
Metadata (or meta tags) are snippets of text that describe a page's content. Meta tags don't appear on the page itself, but only in the page's code for search engines to read. Metadata includes things like title tags, h1 tags, meta descriptions, and schema markup. Schema markup offers search engines more categorical information about your website.
Why this helps SEO: Without metadata, search engines have a really hard time trying to figure out what your site is about. Think of Google as a foreign guy who speaks in broken English. He might understand what you say some of the time, but would have a much quicker and clearer comprehension of what you're trying to tell him if you spoke his language.
Crawlability is how search engines discover and index your website. Search engines crawl websites to discover content and store it in databases.
Once your site has been indexed, it can show up in search engine results pages. If your site has too many technical errors (such as redirect issues, broken links, etc.), search engines won't crawl it as quickly.
Why this helps SEO: Having a Google-friendly sitemap will help your site get indexed faster. A sitemap is a file where you provide information about the pages, videos, and other files on your site, and the relationships between them. Search engines like Google read this file to more intelligently crawl your site.
Security (HTTPS) guarantees that a website encrypts its users' information. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Google prefers sites that are trusted and certified. This is because users can be guaranteed that the site will provide an extra level of security.
Why this helps SEO: Google has even confirmed that it gives HTTPS sites a ranking boost. This means that if your website is tied with a competitor for rankings and you're the only one to implement HTTPS, it is very likely that Google will rank your site higher.
Page speed is the amount of time it takes to fully display the content on a specific page of a website in an internet browser. Page speed is often confused with "site speed," which is actually the page speed for a sample of page views on a site.
Each page on your site may have a different speed. It's mostly important to optimize the speed on your website's homepage.
Why this helps SEO: Google has indicated site speed is one of the signals used by its algorithm to rank pages. In addition, a slow page speed means that search engines can't crawl as many pages, and this could negatively affect your indexation.
Mobile optimization is the practice of optimizing your content to achieve a better ranking for your web pages in search engine results pages. It's worth noting that mobile optimized and mobile friendly mean different things.
Mobile friendly is the bare minimum mobile design your website should have, whereas mobile optimized means your website was designed using a mobile-first approach.
Why this helps SEO: Mobile traffic accounts for a majority of all internet searches. In fact, Google uses a mobile-first index, meaning that it's using the mobile content of a web page to determine its ranking.