Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving a website or web page so it increases organic traffic quality and quantity from search engines. Successful SEO means a web page will be more likely to appear higher on a search engine results page (SERP). The most popular search engine is Google, but other search engines (Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, etc.) also have their own unique algorithms for crawling web pages and returning the top search results.
SEO is a complex, ever-changing process. There are many factors that determine ranking of a particular page, including:
- Keyword density, or the frequency with which a targeted word or phrase appears in the content of the page. (SEO is improved by keywords that are used appropriately.)
- Bounce rate, or how often a user visits the page and exits without visiting any other pages. (High bounce rate can detract from SEO.)
- Metadata, or the information that summarizes the content on the page.
- Social media traffic, which indirectly signals that a page contains content that’s in high demand. (High traffic from social media is beneficial to SEO, but lack of social media traffic doesn’t necessarily have a negative impact.)
- Links, including backlinks, outbound links, and internal links, which indicate credibility and relevance to and from other content on the internet. (Google looks favorably on sites that strategically direct traffic to other sources.)
- EAT (Google’s acronym for expertise, authority, and trustworthiness), which signifies that a page has a reputable author.
- Security, as signified by a site’s SSL certificate, which search engines use to verify that site has a secure connection and it’s safe to share personal information.
- Load speed, or the time it takes a web page to completely load. (Slow load speed can detract from SEO.)
- Mobile responsiveness, or how a web page adjusts to different screen sizes.
- User experience, or the features that could improve (or diminish) a user’s interaction with the content on a page.
How to measure SEO
SEO monitoring tools like Google Search Console make it easy to get instant data on page-specific or site-wide search engine performance. Users can find information on which queries yield the highest amount of traffic for a given date range, as well as the position a page ranks for specific keywords.
While the search ranking of a page might be the strongest indicator of SEO performance, there are many other success indicators that are valuable when measuring SEO. Google Analytics, another website reporting platform, provides context for other metrics that might be directly or indirectly impacting a page’s SERP ranking. These metrics include:
- Time on page
- Pages per visit
- Mobile traffic
- Bounce rate
- Returning visits