What is SEO?

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a continuous improvement process that focuses on improving a website’s visibility and findability in organic search results from search engines such as Google. The goal is to increase traffic to your website by ranking higher for relevant search terms that match what your target audience is searching for.

The search results page (SERP) consists of different types of results, divisible into two types:

  1. Paid search results.
  2. Organic search results.

Paid search results include Google Shopping ads. Organic search results also include featured snippets and People Also Ask questions.

Wat is SEO?

The goal of SEO

Improving your website for relevant search terms is essential for attracting new visitors daily, without having to pay for ads. As your website ranks higher in search results, you increase your chances of attracting visitors and driving conversions. SEO emphasizes the four main pillars of search engine optimization:

  • Technique
  • Content
  • UX
  • Authority (link building).

The goal of SEO is to make your website more relevant and valuable to your target audience. SEO is not about manipulating search engines, something unfortunately still thought by many marketers. Search engines, such as Google, are becoming more sophisticated and better understand what your target audience is looking for and valuing. Therefore, it is important to put your target audience at the center of every optimization you perform.

The four pillars of SEO

The four pillars of SEO

Technical optimization

This includes improving the technical aspects of your website such as loading speed, mobile responsiveness, URL structure, and proper use of structured data. A technically optimized website is more easily crawled and indexed by search engines, leading to better visibility. Moreover, it contributes to a better user experience.

Content optimization

Creating high-quality, relevant and unique content that matches users’ search intent is important. This includes using it to provide valuable information and making your content attractive and easy to read. Good content not only attracts more visitors, but also drives engagement, creates conversions and exudes your knowledge and authority.

User Experience (UX)

With Google’s increasing focus on E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness), UX is playing an increasingly important role in SEO. This is about providing user-friendly and intuitive navigation, ensuring good load times, projecting your knowledge and experience, and showing that your business is trustworthy.

Authority (link building)

Authority is often called link building in the SEO world. One way to increase your website’s authority is by building quality backlinks. This involves relevance and the reliability of the backlinks, not quality.

Building quality backlinks is an old SEO concept and still, to some extent, relevant. Think of it as voting: the more relevant votes you get, the more important your website becomes.

Today, the concept of “Authority” within SEO is broader than just link building. In the complete context of SEO, authority refers to the extent to which a website is seen as a reliable and relevant source of information in your field.

The importance of SEO

The importance of SEO cannot be stressed enough, especially in today’s still growing digital world. Every day, millions of users search for a solution or answer to their questions and needs.

As a marketing manager or business owner, it is important to understand that SEO is not only about attracting traffic to your website, but also about attracting the right kind of traffic. By that, we mean visitors who are actually looking for what you and your business offer.

The difference between SEO and SEA

To better explain the importance of search engine optimization, it is good to know that there are different ways to get traffic from search engines to your website. Search engines contain “normal” (organic) search results and paid search results. For traffic from paid search results, you pay per click to the search engine through programs such as Google Ads and Bing Ads.

From organic search results, you don’t pay per click, but search engines want to show the most relevant search results in return. Organic search results consist not only of search results with a meta title and meta description, but also results such as featured snippets, “People also ask” results and local search results.

Less reliance on ads

As a business, you would rather not be completely dependent on visitors coming to your website through paid ads. Because, do you stop paying? Then the search engine no longer shows you in the search results. You are then no longer findable for your target audience. Visitors who come to your website from organic search results – besides investing in an agency or SEO specialists – don’t cost any money. To get off the drip-feed of paid advertising and visitors, your website must be findable on relevant search terms. If you rank well on these, you’ll get more relevant visitors. And more relevant visitors means potential sales.

Benefits of search engine optimization

Organic search results are an important and vital traffic source for most websites and web shops. It is often thought that SEO only contributes to more traffic, but there are several benefits of search engine optimization. SEO is important because it offers the following benefits:

Less dependence on ads

Unlike paid advertising, where your visibility in search results depends on your advertising budget, SEO allows you to generate traffic to your website sustainably. This means that you no longer depend on paid advertisements to attract visitors. On the contrary, you can optimize your website to be more findable for relevant search terms.

This usually also has a positive effect on ads, such as on the quality score, and thus on advertising costs. We are absolutely not against ads, but we do strive for a good balance between paid channels and organic channels. That way, you build a healthy mix of website traffic.

Building reliability

Websites that rank high in search engines are often seen as more credible and trustworthy. With SEO, you continuously improve your website and slowly rise higher and higher in search results. In addition, within an SEO process, you work on improving the appearance and reliability of your website because Google E-E-A-T is gaining an increasingly important role within SEO.

The result builds up

The ROI of SEO is a hotly debated topic. Because you do not get immediate results from SEO, it is sometimes difficult to determine ROI. When you don’t start optimizing, SEO is an investment whose results you don’t yet see immediately. Over time, the results will accumulate and you get a snowball starting to roll. With the same (or slightly incremental investment), you typically achieve a higher ROI than through other marketing channels, where we often see ROI continue to build over the years.

Improving the UX of a website

SEO is no longer just about writing good content or getting backlinks. Search engine algorithms are sophisticated and understand well whether a page matches the user’s search intent and expectations. Therefore, good SEO specialists focus not only on the technical issues and content optimizations, but also on improving the user experience. This then has a positive impact not only on your findability, but also on traffic from other marketing channels.

SEO is pull marketing

SEO is a form of pull marketing. Your target search audience already has a need and is actively searching for a solution. The advantage of this is that you don’t have to create a need, which is the case with push marketing (such as social media channels).

Valuable leads or new customers

In practice, we see with our clients that leads or customers obtained through SEO are usually more valuable (compared to other marketing channels). Of course, this does vary greatly by target audience, industry, and website. Looking across our entire client portfolio, SEO traffic leads to a 27% higher average order value (within e-commerce) and a 38% higher CLV (for B2B clients).

Solid long-term strategy

Want to get short-term results? Then SEO is not the best marketing channel to employ. But do you want to actually build something in the long term? Then SEO is the ultimate long-term strategy because you are building your findability and improving your website on a continuous basis. Do you stop SEO or scale down your budget? Then you don’t just lose your positions. Unlike ads, you also build up a piece of security.

Is SEO only relevant to Google?

When you talk to SEO specialists or marketing agencies, you often only hear Google’s name when talking about SEO. As you probably know, there is only one search engine that leads the world: Google. In the Netherlands, about 93% of Internet users use Google as a search engine [1] and only 3.5% of Dutch people use Bing [2]. Search engine optimization is therefore mainly used to be found better in Google. Google’s algorithm determines the position of your website in the search results based on a variety of factors.

However, “SEO” does not stand for “Google optimization,” but for “Search Engine Optimization.” When you get started with search engine optimization, you don’t have to limit yourself to just Google. The algorithms of other search engines work essentially the same, but their algorithms are often less developed than Google’s. With that, we can say that Google leads the way and also partly determines the direction in which other search engines develop.

Optimizing for today’s Google, means optimizing for other search engines in the future. And with that, SEO is also not just limited to Google, but is relevant to become more findable in all search engines out there.

The algorithm of Google

Google’s algorithm is a complex series of calculations that collectively determine positions in search results. Exactly what the algorithm looks like is not known and Google keeps it a secret. Yet much is known and SEO is not as big a black box as many marketers would have you believe.

In various ways, Google releases information about SEO and the algorithm on an ongoing basis, including through the Google Search Central YouTube channel, John Mueller’s Twitter account and documentation on information on the Google Search Central website.

Google’s algorithm determines your website’s keyword positions by some 200 different factors [3]. These factors vary widely and each factor has a weighting, with the weighting often determined algorithmically. This weighting depends on several factors, such as competition, industry, website layout and search intent. As a result, a website that is optimized for your target audience will rank higher than one that is not (or not as well).

Different weightings of factors in the Google algorithm

For Google’s algorithm, it is important to have good and relevant content on your website. You must also fill in the meta title and meta description for each page, have a fast website, and the website must be mobile-friendly.

When determining search results, Google puts more weight on the quality of the content than on the metadata filled in. A website with great content, but without filled in meta tags will score higher than a page with mediocre content whose meta tags is filled in.

Of course, it should be noted that in this example only two factors are involved. The positions in the search results are determined based on many more factors and are determined algorithmically. Therefore, what works well for one website is not always a guarantee of success for another.

Google algorithm changes

With the algorithm, Google has one goal: to show the most user-friendly and relevant websites to users who perform a search in Google. Google wants to keep improving that relevance and user experience. That is why Google’s development teams publish more than 3,600 changes to the algorithm every year [4]. All with the goal of improving the relevance and experience of Google’s users. Algorithm changes constantly change the factors that determine the ranking of search results.

Google Core Updates

Three to four times a year, a big update takes place, these updates are usually the Google Core updates or Helpful Content Updates. When these major updates are announced (via Twitter) they are rolled out the same day. The rollout of these updates takes two weeks and is applicable to all languages and all continents. During this period, you will see tremendous volatility in the search results, where it is important not to rank immediately in a panic.

Stay up to date on algorithm changes

For example, after a Google Core Update, the importance of mobile-friendliness may become more essential. Websites that are easy to use on mobile devices go up in the rankings and become more findable. Or, of course, the other way around, if your website is not mobile-friendly, you will sink in the search results and be less findable.

Therefore, it is important to be constantly aware of positions and keep track of changes in Google’s algorithm. We have an overview of all Google algorithm updates, with the most important changes in Google’s algorithm. This way, even after an update, you will be easily findable and respond to Google’s algorithm updates.

The most important thing to remember for all algorithm updates: Google’s goal is to show the most relevant search results. Therefore, always think about how you further improve your website and content for your target audience. You may not reap the benefits right now, but you’re going to benefit in the future.

Optimize the four pillars of SEO

As it is probably clear by now, SEO is no longer just about adding a few keywords or writing good text. To make a website more findable, there are four pillars within search engine optimization to which you must devote time and attention:

  1. The technology of your website.
  2. The content on your website.
  3. The authority of your website.
  4. The UX of your website.

Below, we like to explain more about these four pillars, so you know what they mean and how to capitalize on them.

1) Technical SEO

Website technology is complex, especially if it is not your area of expertise. Search engines like Google value technically optimized websites. Visitors should not encounter 404 errors or have to wait endlessly for your website to load. As you can imagine, this causes irritation and a poor user experience for visitors. You want to avoid this, also because search engines, just like users, like relevant and user-friendly websites.

A technically optimized website increases usability for visitors and ensures that search engines visit and index all pages. Moreover, loading speed has a great influence on the conversion rate of a website [4]. A fast website without errors and mistakes is therefore important for findability.

Below we have listed several examples of technical SEO points that apply to all websites:

  • The SSL certificate
  • The use of caching
  • A responsive website (so your website can also be properly visited on mobile devices)
  • The loading time of your website
  • SEO friendly URL structure
  • The XML Sitemap (overview of all pages for search engines)
  • The robots.txt file
  • Implementation and use of canonical tags

Technical SEO is one of the trickiest aspects of search engine optimization. The specialists at SmartRanking are happy to help you optimize the technique of your website.

2) Content optimization (on-page SEO)

Content is the second pillar of search engine optimization. The purpose of the content you place on your website is to inform your visitors. By providing relevant and valuable content that matches the search query or question, you ensure better findability on the right search terms. Once visitors find you, relevant content ensures that these visitors convert.

Content is not just about posting new content. On-page SEO, in our view, also includes improving existing pages and building out your website to help your user from a to z. Consider improving existing pages, including HTML headings, and adding a good about us page.

It’s important to note that Google knows well how long visitors stay on your website. In turn, Google uses these user signals to determine the relevance of your website and thus your rankings. The idea behind this is that visitors who find the answer to their question on your site will stay longer on your website. This immediately highlights the importance of good content. Content should match the search query of visitors, so always focus on your visitors when writing content.

To understand content properly, search engines have developed different algorithms. Thanks to Natural Language Processing (NLP), search engines know what your website is about, whether your content is correct and which search terms you should be shown on in search results.

Again, to avoid misunderstandings: content is more than just text. Also consider videos and images that are on your website and the structure of your texts. Parts you pay attention to in on-page SEO are:

  • Using the right keywords in your texts
  • The HTML headings on your page (such as the H1, H2 and H3)
  • Uniquely written and easy to read content
  • Good and scannable pages
  • Avoiding duplicate content
  • Use of optimized images3)

3) Authority (link building)

When it comes to authority within SEO, it is usually about link building. There are two types of authority within SEO: topical authority [7] and authority in the form of link building. Link building works, still, using the PageRank algorithm. Today, however, the PageRank algorithm is more complex and sophisticated than it was in 1996 when Larry Page and Sergey Brin introduced it [8].

So in this case, authority is about link building. The goal of link building is to increase the authority of your website so that Google considers you an authority within your field. To achieve this, you need to receive valuable inbound backlinks from external websites. Relevance and authority are two decisive aspects within link building. The better you do this, the more Google will see you as an authority. This sounds easy, but a wrong way of link building can be black hat SEO. This is automatically penalized by the algorithm [9], which has negative consequences for your findability.

Want to get busy with link building? We have a wide network to build an authoritative and relevant backlink profile for you. We do this naturally and manually, without violating Google’s guidelines. Link building is always part of a complete SEO strategy and we prioritize it based on the expected impact versus effort. Moreover, different optimizations within SEO affect each other. Therefore, in our opinion, it is not advisable to view link building separately from other SEO work.

4) UX and usability

Finally, UX and the usability of your website is becoming increasingly important. In addition to good technology, quality content and relevant backlinks, it is imperative that your website is user-friendly and matches what a visitor expects. As Google E-E-A-T and YMYL become increasingly important, so does UX [10].

UX and usability include:

  • The design of your website.
  • A good and logical navigation.
  • An accessible website, also for people with (visual) impairments.
  • Clear call to actions.
  • Well-constructed pages that match your user’s expectations.

Should you outsource SEO or do it yourself?

Search engine optimization can be done yourself; you don’t need expensive tools or a senior consultant for this right away. Keep in mind that SEO is a time-consuming job and requires a lot of trial and error on your part. Especially with limited knowledge about this field. There are about 200 different factors that determine how your website ranks in search results. All those factors all have a different weighting, with what works for one website not guaranteeing success for another.

In addition to all these factors, SEO is known as an “endurance sport. Performing an optimization on your website today does not mean you will have risen in search results tomorrow. The results of search engine optimizations take longer to show, often taking between 6 and 12 months to see results [5].

The combination of many factors and longer-term results makes SEO tricky. A solid SEO strategy and a structured and planned implementation are therefore indispensable. It is up to you to decide whether you do this yourself or prefer to outsource. Do you choose to do SEO yourself? Then it is important to pierce through the myths and look up the right sources of information, there is still a lot of information being spread about “old school” SEO.

The difference between B2B and B2C SEO

Search engine optimization can be used for almost any website, regardless of the market you operate in. However, the strategy and approach will differ based on your target audience and their needs. It is important to take your target audience into account in a search engine optimization process, with the biggest distinction present between B2B SEO and B2C SEO. Among other things, this has to do with the decision stages and the decision process.

SEO for B2B

It is often thought that search engine optimization for the B2B market is no different from the B2C market, but the opposite is true. The decision process for most B2B companies is entirely different from the quick decision process of a B2C sales journey. The likelihood of conversion on the very first visit of a potential B2B lead is usually small.

The goal of B2B SEO is to perform yourself as the authority within your field. Good content, with substantiation, cases, facts and answers to your target audience’s needs are necessary. By properly explaining that you offer the right solution, you are more likely to get conversions.

For B2B SEO, the usability of your website is secondary to providing the appropriate information and solving a problem or issue. There are countless examples of B2B websites that look terrible but have good conversions. The reason? The target audience is provided with the answers they need to make a conversion. Of course, UX is not worthless because you need to be able to make a conversion in a good and logical way.

Characteristics of B2B SEO:

  • The length of a sales process is longer than in B2C.
  • There are often several people involved in the decision, which complicates a deal.
  • Order values are higher than in B2C, therefore fewer conversions are generally needed to achieve returns.
  • The conversion rate is generally higher than for B2C.
  • Depending on your target audience and market, search volume is low, making proper (keyword) research challenging.
  • Link building requires a different approach because you are targeting a different type of website.
  • The design and usability of your website are less important than answering all your needs.

SEO for B2C

Most searches that take place are searches related to B2C visits and purchases. A B2C purchase occurs after a relatively short research phase. Possibly, your visitor is going to orient themselves, trying to find out the best brand or product for them. This orientation, with exceptions, takes place within a short period of time.

For B2C, it’s all about getting as much relevant traffic as possible, where you provide the visitor’s need directly. These are products (for example, a washing machine), services (for example, a landscaper) or information (for example, about a city trip). The visitor wants to get this information easily and quickly. UX and SEO are indispensable within B2C. You must do everything possible to get the visitor to make a conversion with you. With good UX (loading speed and design) you make sure you stand out compared to your competitors.

In addition, search volumes for B2C SEO are generally much higher compared to B2B SEO. This also applies to the competition because within the B2C market there are a lot more providers for (almost) all products and services.

Characteristics of B2C SEO:

  • The sales process is usually short; a visitor will move quickly to a purchase.
  • Usability, including design and loading speed, are essential.
  • The visitor's need must be met immediately.
  • It is less necessary to present yourself as an authority (compared to B2B SEO).
  • Price, branding, design and assortment are more important for B2C SEO.
  • In a B2C conversion, there are (usually) a maximum of two people involved in the decision.
  • Within a B2C journey, there are generally many more search terms with higher search volumes, for which sufficient data is available.

Our team of SEO specialists

As an agency focused on search engine optimization, we deal with SEO daily. We like to show you our faces, so you know who can help you become more findable in organic search results.

Lotte Janssen

Daniël Heesen

Jarik Oosting

Marthijs Wijngaarden

Shay Faber

Lennard Mulder

Jasmijn Wever

Sanne Broeils

Yeungman Zhou

David Quintero

Niklas Luehrs

Rebekah Wisse

Myrna Bekkering

Bas Hettinga

Annette Veltman

Vroni Huisman

Saidou Godje

Miranda van der Molen

The importance of SEO knowledge and tools

SEO is a vast field that is constantly evolving. To perform it successfully, you need far-reaching knowledge of all four pillars of SEO. Yet, the limited degree of knowledge is a reason for many companies – from large to small – to outsource the search engine optimization of their website. Improving search engine findability is time-consuming without knowledge, and because the results are already delayed, it can also cost a lot of potential revenue.

In addition to knowledge, using the right tooling is important. You can get a lot of information from Google Search Console or Google Keyword Planner, and there are several free SEO tools you can use. However, this is not enough if you want to compete seriously. Do you want to compete at the top level? Then you can’t avoid investing in SEO tools like Ahrefs, Semrush, SE Ranking, Deepcrawl and ContentKing.

Our search engine optimization services

As an SEO agency, SmartRanking is fully specialized in search engine optimization. We have deliberately put the full focus on this because SEO in itself is an enormously complex field. Shoemaker, stick to your last, they say.

Our team consists of experienced SEO specialists who closely monitor SEO developments. With the best tools, our vast experience and insights from huge amounts of data, we know how to get your website to rank well. Our goal is to get your website ranking well in search engines. And we know how to do that. We help you with SEO in a variety of ways. The question is what you like and what you need. We have licenses on the best search engine optimization tooling, so we can help you efficiently and with the right data.

An SEO project

Within a complete SEO project, we help you from a to z to become better findable. We will look at all the components, prepare a keyword research and competition analysis, and create a strategy. If you have the possibility, we will gladly work together with you or your marketing team. We are a big believer in partnership and are happy to take you through the entire search engine optimization process. Moreover, we prefer that you (or your team) perform certain activities yourself, if possible. After all, you know your target group and industry best. That way, together, we can ensure the best results.

The investment for an SEO project

Every SEO project is a customized project. This is the reason we always make a customized proposal. Within most SEO projects we work on, the minimum budget is €2,200 per month. To take you along with a clear plan of action, we are happy to go over our findings with you using a presentation that is completely free of obligation. In it we show you:

  1. What the current status of your website or webshop is in terms of SEO.
  2. How you can be found compared to your competitors.
  3. What can be improved in terms of technology, content, external authority and UX.
  4. A plan of approach for your situation.
  5. What a collaboration will look like.
  6. What our advice is in terms of investment to achieve your goals.

Are you interested in a collaboration? Contact us for more information and the steps to take to get SEO results.