What is SEO?

SEO stands for ‘Search Engine Optimization’. It’s the practice of optimizing your web pages to make them reach a high position in the search results of Google or other search engines. SEO focuses on improving the rankings in the organic – aka non paid – search results. If you have a website and you want to get more traffic, it should be part of your marketing efforts. Here, I’ll explain what SEO is and how we approach it at Yoast.

Google’s algorithm

The rankings of these search results are determined by Google’s algorithm. Although Google’s algorithm remains secret, years of experience in SEO have resulted in a pretty good idea about the important factors. In our view, the factors in Google’s algorithm can be divided into two categories:

On-page SEO factors

The ranking of your website is partly decided by on-page factors. On-page SEO factors are all those things you can influence from within your actual website. These factors include technical aspects (e.g. the quality of your code and site speed) and content-related aspects, like the structure of your website or the quality of the copy on your website. These are all crucial on-page SEO factors.

Off-page SEO factors

In addition to on-page SEO factors, there are off-page SEO factors. These factors include links from other websites, social media attention, and other marketing activities outside your own website. These off-page SEO factors can be rather difficult to influence. The most important of these off-page factors is the number and quality of links pointing towards your site. The more quality, relevant sites that link to your website, the higher your position in Google will be.

Read more: Link building from a holistic SEO perspective »

Another off-page factor is your competition relating to the niche of your particular business. In some niches it is much harder to rank than in others. The competitiveness of your market therefore also has a major influence on your chances of ranking.

Holistic SEO

At Yoast, we practice what we call ‘holistic SEO‘. This means that your primary goal should be to build and maintain the best possible website. Don’t try to fool Google, but use a sustainable long-term strategy. Ranking will come automatically if your website is of extremely high quality. Google wants to get its users to the right place, as its mission is to index all the world’s online information and make it universally accessible and useful.

In addition to this, Google, of course, wants to make money. To achieve this, they have to make sure people keep using Google. This means that they’ll have to show people results they are looking for. So if your website is the best in your market, Google wants it to rank high in the results.

Permanently ranking well in Google demands an extensive SEO strategy focused on every aspect of your website and its marketing. The technical side, the User eXperience (UX), the content on your website: all need to be top notch. To keep ranking well in Google, you should develop – what we call – a holistic SEO approach.

Learning SEO

Our online SEO training courses teach you vital SEO skills you can apply immediately. Find out how to outrank your competition and become the best result through our training courses! Whether you’re a blogger, developer, online marketer, or own a business, big or small: we believe in SEO for everyone. We’ve got a great variety of courses, from Keyword Research, Site structure and SEO Copywriting to the more technical aspects of SEO: Structured data, multilingual SEO and Technical SEO training. There’s something for everyone, so be sure to check them out!

Conclusion

SEO is the practice of optimizing websites to make them reach a high position in Google’s – or another search engine’s – search results. At Yoast, we believe that holistic SEO is the best way to rank your website because you focus on making every aspect of your site awesome. Don’t use any black-hat SEO tricks, because eventually, this will have negative consequences for your rankings. Instead, practice sustainable SEO, with your user in mind, and you will benefit in the long run.

Keep reading: How to rank high in Google »

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