Complete SEO Guide: What is SEO & How Does it Work?

  • Last update: 03/11/2023

Benjamin Poirrier

Digital Marketing Expert

What is SEO circles

Understanding the Power of SEO

Search Engine Optimization is the key to sustainable digital success. With more than 5.3 billion active internet users in 2023, the world is more connected than ever.

Many businesses from various industries contact Prodima Vietnam about SEO. Usually, the first question is: how do they get started? We answer with a different approach. Before launching an SEO campaign, companies should ask themselves if such a strategy matches their business objectives. Investing in Search Engine Optimization is pointless if you need results fast. It is a long-term process that brings outstanding results only if you provide continuous efforts.

In most cases, the milestones are:

  • 3 months to see the first positive organic results on your website
  • 6 months to have enough authority and get visible traction
  • 12 months to enjoy the full power of organic SEO

Of course, those timelines are for reference only. There are many factors impacting SEO: industry, seasonality, competition, keyword difficulty, search engine algorithm updates, previous campaigns, backlink profile, domain age, authority, etc. In all cases, it is safe to say an efficient SEO strategy needs deep analysis. We recommend businesses get support from proven SEO experts.

What is SEO
The Power Of SEO

What Results Can We Expect From SEO?

The purpose of SEO is to help search engines understand what online pages are about. A website implementing good SEO improves its discoverability on the internet.

By optimizing their websites, businesses show search engines that their content is relevant for online users. When content is clear and matches online queries, search engines tend to rank them higher. It means SEO allows websites to be found online, and to have more online visitors.

In short, the two main results of SEO are:

  • Higher keyword ranking on SERP (Search Engine Result Page)
  • Higher website traffic (organic)

As most of the clicks go to the top results, we understand how crucial it is for websites to optimize their web pages.

Last important note: when you run an SEO campaign, make sure you follow up on the right metrics (which are keyword ranking and website traffic, as mentioned above). The purpose of SEO is not to get more online leads in a matter of weeks. SEO is a long-term strategy. New clients will come for certain, but not before months. Companies needing many customers quickly should consider online ads instead. Strategies like PPC (Pay Per Click) are not as cost-effective as SEO in the long run, but they work well in the short term.

How Do Search Engines Work?

To build a bullet-proof SEO strategy, it is crucial to understand how search engines crawl and index web content. Let’s focus on Google since it dominates the worldwide market, except in China (Baidu) and Russia (Yandex). Search engine algorithms are different, but the main logic remains similar for all.

Robot crawlers (also called “spiders”) constantly scour all content available online. Google bots fetch a few web pages then follow the links to discover new pages, and so on. Classic analogy: imagine a metro system, with robots visiting all stations, and you will have an idea of how they crawl the internet. You can also understand the importance of links in this process. We will talk more about them later in this guide.

The massive number of web pages available on the internet is ever-changing. Digital content is continuously updated too. That is why Google spiders need to visit all URLs again and again to consider all recently published content. The data collected is stored in the search engine index, which is a huge database sourced by the bots.

In parallel, people make queries on search engines. They input a keyword or a key phrase (for instance on Google). Then, the index with all data collected by the spiders gets queried for the most relevant content. The main purpose of Google is to return the best answer to the user. Now, the “best answer” depends on extremely complex algorithms. No one can exactly predict how search engines will return their results. SEO experts must follow the trends to keep up to date and try to anticipate.

We call “ranking” the way Google orders content by relevance. The “Search Engine Result Page” (SERP) shows how Google ranks the best answers to the query.

To sum up, while robots continuously crawl the internet, search engines do the following:

  • Collect the query from the user
  • Compare the query with the data stored in the index
  • Rank the content matching the query
  • Deliver the best results to the query in the SERP

To go further, read this article dealing with crawling, indexing, and ranking.

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The SEO Workflow

Keywords & Keyphrases

Keywords are essential components in SEO. Thanks to the previous section, you understand how web crawlers work. Now, when users type a query on Google, you want your content to rank on top of the results page. To achieve this, you need to publish content that answers the query better.

Search engines are pretty much marketplaces where the offer (= your content) is paired with the demand (= users’ queries). You cannot control the rules of such a marketplace (= the algorithm) but you can ensure your offer will answer the demand. How? The main technique is by doing keyword research.

There is no point in producing content about cars if users are only looking for bicycles. Besides, if the demand for cars exists but is too small (low search volume) or not monetizable (low conversions expected), it may not be worth it to invest. When building your SEO strategy, make sure to analyze properly the keyword opportunities. To help you on this task, consider the following tools:

Typically, you want to find the “sweet spot”: keywords with high search volume, low competition, and high conversion intent. When practicing, you will notice that broad keywords (usually 1 or 2 words) have massive search volume, big competition, and are more “top of the sales funnel”. Long-tail keywords (usually 4 or 5+ words) have lower search volume, less competition, and often convert much better. Ask for experts’ advice when building your keyword strategy.

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Keywords and Keyphrases

Technical On-Site: Making Your Website SEO-Compliant

Once you have your keywords, you need to make your website a matching landing point for them. If you want to attract users interested in bicycles, your website should not only deal with car content.

There are many things to optimize on a website:

  • Website architecture
  • Robots.txt
  • Sitemap.xml
  • Page titles
  • Meta descriptions
  • Header tags
  • Schema markup
  • Backlink profile
  • Page speed optimization
  • Mobile-friendliness
  • And many more.

Websites need to have good crawlability (for search engines) and good content (for users). The combination of both makes brands successful. Again, if you are not familiar with SEO, you cannot complete this task alone. Ask for a website audit from professionals.

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Three Main SEO Areas

Backlinks Profile & Online Authority

As we said above, backlinks are one of the most critical factors for online ranking.

They are links generated from a web page pointing to another web page. When crawling the internet, Google uses backlinks to navigate between all pages. Additionally, Google counts such backlinks as “votes” granting authority to the target pages.

Be careful! Not all backlinks are created equal! Since the 2000s, many marketers have understood the power of backlinking and abused them. Paid links, links farm, or Private Blog Network (PBN) is black hat SEO practices that you must avoid at any price. In consequence, search engine algorithms became smarter. Today, Google penalizes such techniques. Earning genuine backlinks is the right way to do it.

The best way to get valuable backlinks is to write top-quality content and wait for people to naturally point at your resource. Make sure your content deserves to be a reference in the industry. For example, wouldn’t you share this blog article as a good source about SEO (subliminal message here)? You can also contact website owners and ask them to link to specific pages that make sense for them.

What about links pointing at your website that are suspicious? Of course, you cannot control what happens outside your domain. Bad sources, from low page authority, or spammy content, may link to you. Competitors can even create those backlinks on purpose, hoping that Google may penalize your website.

For this reason, you want to monitor your website backlink profile. Free tools like Google Search Console will help you. If you notice bad backlinks, reach the website owners, and ask politely to remove them. They may ignore you but, in that case, you can still disavow those links and make a request to Google. Make sure you contact website owners before using such a tool: Google pays attention to the efforts you make to keep your website clean.

The last thing about backlinks: there are dofollow and nofollow ones. Dofollow links are the ones that do “pass link juice” from the first website to the one linked to. They are more valuable than nofollow links (ex: backlinks coming from a comment section) which do not pass any link equity. Nofollow links still bring traffic though so do not ignore them completely.

Keep an Eye on Your Competitors

Your website is not alone in the digital market. Other companies also want the top Google spots, meaning competing businesses work hard to get top rankings and traffic.

On search engine indexes, algorithms compare and rank all content fetched from the web. At this stage, your website is competing with all others in the world (more accurately: with all others that have been indexed by the search engine). To stand out, your content needs to be relevant to the search query, and as useful as possible.

SEO experts know what the most important factors for high ranking are. More than 200+ factors count for Google algorithms alone, and those processes evolve with time. Learn how to build great SEO reports to follow up on this.

You need to keep an eye on those updates and your competitors as well. They do not stay still.

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Working with a professional SEO company

Benefits of Doing Proper SEO

The main purpose of SEO is to bring traffic to your website. When done correctly, with white hat practice, you can get both quantity and quality traffic. The opportunities are huge to monetize your web pages. In a nutshell, here are the reasons why SEO is good for your business:

  • You get high online visibility
  • You deliver valuable information to your audience
  • You attract the right audience to your door
  • You do not need to pay for ads
  • You get more clicks than from ads (on a long-term strategy)
  • You get a high Return On Investment (ROI)
  • You maintain your SEO benefits forever
  • You can precisely track your SEO campaign performance
  • You make your web pages Google-compliant

SEO helps you to get more authority on the internet. Online users find you easier, trust your brand more, and are more likely to buy your products or services.

10 SEO Myths Demystified

There are many SEO agencies or freelancers in the market. The ones who are willing to get your money by guaranteeing incredible results. As a rule of thumb in SEO: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. And some genuine experts can inform you about the following:

  • SEO takes time: do not expect significant results before 2 or 3 months
  • High keyword density does harm your website
  • Links are still one of the most important factors for ranking today
  • Content is king: better to produce less but with higher quality
  • SEO requires continuous efforts and is not a one-shot investment
  • The #1 position of Google is not a goal: conversions should be your target
  • Taking part in black hat SEO may penalize your website
  • What works for others (say: big brands) may not work for you
  • Social media does grant extra visibility but does not help to rank higher
  • Paid ads do not improve organic rankings either

In short, do not believe those promising 400 new backlinks per month. Or those telling you that your website will rank on the first page of Google for 200 keywords… after 3 months. It is not achievable with white hat techniques and it will harm your web pages.

SEO is a long-term strategy that requires expertise and commitment. If you expect to triple your revenue in 2 months, then SEO is not for you.

SEO for Your Business

What is your business objective?

This is the first question you should always ask yourself before launching any marketing campaign.

Also, clarify the following items:

  • What are your unique selling points?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What digital platforms do you want to leverage?

Then, if you want to go for SEO, prepare the following tasks:

  • Keyword research
  • Website audit
  • Website fixes and implementations
  • Content production
  • Backlinks and outreach

Get support from SEO professionals or learn the best practices with our SEO course. Prodima will help you reach your digital targets. Meanwhile, if you have any questions, we will be glad to answer them!