How to Use SQL in SEO

If you talk to any search engine optimization specialist, they’ll surely tell you how many tools are used throughout their workday – from keyword research and backlinking to crawling and metric analysis tools. SEO is a world of its own with countless facets of information that need tweaking and examination constantly. It can quickly become overwhelming if you don’t have the right tools at your disposal. Or if you simply don’t understand how to make your job easier with SQL. 

What Is SQL?

Maybe you understand the basics of search engine optimization (SEO), but when someone says “SQL,” you’re completely lost. SQL stands for “structured query language.” Before you freak out, be assured that you won’t have to spend weeks learning a complex programming language to implement this language effectively. 

This genius language began back in the 1940s when English computer scientist and IBM employee Edgar Frank Codd published an article called “A Relational Model of Data for Large Shared Data Banks.” It was difficult to access data from a database during this age, and Codd felt that using relational data (tables) could improve things drastically. 

Eventually, IBM began System R, a research project intended to dive into Codd’s aspirations, and tasked Don Chamberlin and Ray Boyce to develop its query language. Fast forward to today, and here’s SQL.

SQL is a nonprocedural language, which essentially means that you tell the system precisely what you want without telling it how to do it. The database management system (DBMS) will then figure out the best possible method of fulfilling your request. 

Overall, SQL enables you to retrieve and control one or multiple databases and the data included within those databases. When you have the data you need, you can manage and automate certain aspects to improve efficiency. You can think of SQL as using a formula in Excel (except SQL is on steroids).  

How Does SQL Help SEO?

In sum – utilizing SQL and SQL databases in your day-to-day SEO practices or for more specific work such as facilitating SEO niche edits – can have tremendous benefits for you, whether you’re running a company or you’re improving a client’s SEO. SQL allows you to automate tedious tasks, streamline and quicken processes, and help you glean more valuable information from the data you’ve extracted and stored. If you’re dealing with millions or billions of cells of data, SQL will be your best friend. 

One incredible thing about SQL is that you can use one command to access a variety of data sets instead of just one, thus simplifying the overall process. You can also use SQL to piece together data and construct various reports and tools. Plus, you can reuse your data as much as you please; it’s completely recyclable! Not only that, but SQL separates your data from the analysis itself, meaning that other people can reanalyze the same data without fear of hurting it. 

Elements of SQL

SQL is broken down into a few different elements, including clauses, expressions, predicates, queries, and statements. Before you can grasp how to use SQL in SEO, you must first understand the definitions of each of these components:

Clauses are essentially the bare-bone ingredients included within the statements and queries.

Expressions are like formulas, which combine one or more values to procure a single value. They utilize different operators (logical, arithmetic, and relational), which are symbols and words used to conduct other operations within sets of data.

Predicates designate certain conditions, which narrow down the results of the statements and queries.

Queries are simply questions asked to retrieve data. These are the most commonly used elements within SQL, as they allow users to search the database for specific data according to certain criteria. 

Statements are commands that can be used to manage data sets by transferring queries from a program to a server. Then, the server will process the statement and produce a response. They can be organized into four categories, including:

  • Data Manipulation Language (DML)
  • Data Definition Language (DDL)
  • Data Control Language (DCL)
  • Transaction Control Language (TCL)

How to Use SQL in Your SEO Practices 

Many SEO experts resort to Excel for data analysis and improving SEO; however, this isn’t the most effective tool. Evaluating data in this program is slow, tedious, hard-to-share, difficult to replicate, and easy to break. If you know how to use Excel, you’ll most likely catch onto SQL quickly too. But you might be wondering how to use SQL. 

You can acquire a variety of databases to start using SQL. Here are some of the most popular options available today:

  • MySQL
  • PostgreSQL
  • Microsoft SQL Server
  • SQLite
  • BigQuery

There are countless things you can do while improving SEO with SQL. Once you learn the basics, you’ll be able to determine the queries you need to ask to get the data you want. Here are just a few ways you can take advantage of SQL in your SEO endeavors:

  1. Automatize Category Identification

    Say you want to tag a blog or landing page with a category name. You can automate this process by using an IF-THEN statement (often referred to as CASE statements). Try it out for yourself here.

  2. Look for Duplicate Pages

    Every good SEO professional knows that more than one of the same pages can lower your search engine ranking. However, you can easily use a SQL query to check for these duplicates and go from there.

  3. Backlink and Audit Internal Links on Giant Websites

    If you’re working with a massive site, you’re probably deathly afraid of checking the backlinks. You fear it might get to the point where your Excel sheet can’t handle any more rows. Since SQL is capable of handling humongous chunks of data, you won’t have to worry.

    Internal links are also critical for your SEO, ranking high on the list next to your page content. After all, internal links help Google discover, index and fully comprehend each page on your website. SQL can help you find and examine these links quickly and efficiently.

  4. Automate Reporting and Analysis

    Although you’re always going to have to do some manual labor in SEO, you can still avoid some of it by using SQL. You can create groupings of data and build your report, automate marketing funnel tagging, automating URL actions, etc.

About the author

Guest post provided by Ashleigh Saunders, Outreach Specialist at Art of War SEO.

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