What Is SEO? Understanding SEO basics
Simply put, SEO – Search Engine Optimisation – is the process of improving the quantity and quality of traffic to your website, and therefore exposure to your brand, through organic or natural search engine results. In this context, natural or organic basically means any results that are not paid for.
In this article, we look to cover SEO basics to help you better understand the importance of SEO and how getting it right to provide a boost to your business.
How Does SEO Work? Understanding Search Engines
The primary function of any search engine (SE) such as Google is to deliver relevant search results to the user.
The key term here is relevance. For example, if you were looking for a pink shoe – and you typed this term into a search engine and the first result you saw was a black shoe – it’s fair to say the SE hasn’t performed well and you may be inclined to be a little confused.
Search engines such as Google use bots to scan or crawl pages on the web to better understand sites and deliver relevant results to those who are searching for certain topics, products/services or keywords. Similarly, search engines will also scan sites to determine how easy they are to navigate and read, or how fast they are to load – and then reward user-friendly sites with higher rankings.
Understanding SEO is as much about understanding what people are searching for online, the questions they are seeking answers to and the type of content they wish to consume, as it is about the way search engines work.
This knowledge can then drive the process of making certain changes to your website design and content to make it more attractive to a search engine – thus achieving higher search rankings and ensuring it is put in front of the right audience.
Why Is SEO Important?
With people conducting trillions of searches every year – often with a commercial intent to find information about products and services – SEO is a fundamental part of successful digital marketing for businesses.
While paid advertising, social media and other online platforms can generate traffic to websites, the majority of online traffic is driven by search engines. And it could be argued that these other channels are all there to support and compliment SEO efforts rather than act as a substitute for them.
Search engines scour billions of pieces of content and evaluate thousands of factors to determine which content is most likely to answer the queries being asked – and with organic search results appearing more credible to searchers, SEO has 20x more traffic opportunity than PPC.
When set up correctly, it is also one of the only online marketing channels that can continue to pay dividends over time, unlike paid advertising which requires continuous funding to drive traffic to your site. So, whilst getting it right may take time and effort and results may take time to be generated – a solid basis for SEO should be a fundamental part of any digital marketing strategy.
Key Aspects to Successful SEO
Search engines use content and links to assess the authority, relevance, and trust of websites. Here’s some of the key aspects that go into achieving this:
Traditionally, the phrase Technical SEO refers to optimising your site for crawling and indexing but can also include any technical process meant to improve search visibility.
A technically sound website is fast for users and easy to crawl for search engine robots. A proper technical setup helps search engines to understand what a site is about and prevents confusion caused by duplicate content, whilst ensuring visitors aren’t sent into dead-ends of non-working links. The importance of a well-structured site can be extremely crucial in helping search engines determine the pages and content that is most important, and for which it should rank accordingly.
Typical characteristics of a technically optimised website include:
- It’s fast: Research shows 53% of people will leave a mobile site if it doesn’t load within three seconds
- It’s crawlable for search engines
- It doesn’t have dead or broken links
- It doesn’t confuse search engines with duplicate content
- It’s secure
- It has structured data that help determine content relevance
Also known as on-page SEO, this is the practice of optimising elements on your website – such as your content and HTML source codes – in order to rank higher and attract more relevant traffic.
Essentially, good on-site SEO also helps search engines understand what value a person would see, and what value they would get, if they visited a page so they can reliably serve up high quality content about a particular search keyword or query.
Paying close attention to these areas will help improve your content and authority – and increase your rankings, traffic, and conversions.
- Expertise: Google has always put a premium on high-quality content. It wants to make sure that sites producing high-quality content are rewarded with better rankings and sites that create low-quality content get less visibility
- Title Tag: The title tag exists in the head section of each website to give a cue about the subject matter. Although it has little impact on organic rankings alone, missing, duplicates or poorly written tags can negatively impact SEO results
- While Google maintains that Meta descriptions – which provide a description of what a web page is about – don’t help with rankings, there is anecdotal evidence that suggests better descriptions do play a part due to click-through rates and perception of website quality
- Headlines: A well-written and compelling headline can mean the difference between a click and an impression
- Header Tags: Elements used to identify headings and subheadings within your content serve an important function for your users and SEO but making your content easier to read and providing it with keyword-rich context
- SEO writing: Solid SEO content is written with both users and search engines in mind. Read our guide to creating SEO-friendly content here
- Keyword ‘cannibalization’: Crowbarring in your keywords at every available opportunity will not increase your ranking for that search. You’ll actually end up competing with yourself
- Content Audit: Whilst it’s tempting to focus on creating new content, it’s easy to forget your existing offering. It’s crucial to audit your content to evaluate whether it’s achieving its goals, is still relevant, and whether it is working for your business
- User engagement: Enhancing on-site SEO is only half the battle. Next, you’ve got to ensure your users interact with your content and not bounce. Site speed, user experience and content optimisation are among the areas to focus on to achieve this
In the simplest terms, outreach is about building links and boosting your brand’s credibility. By having your site referenced or linked to other high performing sites gives clear signals to the search engine that the content on your site is credible, worthy of being read and has appeal.
As an SEO strategy, backlinks are used to build valuable links from external publishers to a single client website, enhancing a website’s rankings on search engine results pages, and thus driving qualified organic, referral traffic.
Since Google’s algorithm is still largely based on links, all of the work in the world on your on-site and technical SEO will be rendered largely useless when it comes to search results without high-quality links to your site. It is these links to other authoritative websites that build your credibility and Doman Rankings against others competing in the same space to help google determine which is should trust most.
A successful outreach strategy will lead to:
- Increased traffic: All it takes is one link from an influencer to boost traffic to your site
- Better reach: Your content will be exposed to people that aren’t subscribers or following your site who have the potential to be converted and drive growth
- Improved credibility: If the goal is to be an expert in your field, having other experts linking to your site and promoting your brand will help you appear more credible
A successful SEO strategy will transform your website into a high performing income generating platform, ensuring your business is found online by relevant website traffic, for the keywords and phrases you wish to be seen for, that will ultimately drive conversions and boost sales.
If you remember only 3 things from this blog post make sure it is these three:
- Understand the SEO basics. SEO is about relevance and the role of a search engine is to provide relevant results to its users
- On-site content and Off-site content are very different and have very different purposes. Make sure you know the difference and the part each plays in a successful SEO strategy
- Backlinks – Never underestimate the importance of backlinks and the impact they have on keyword rankings. If your SEO strategy doesn’t have a backlink plan – then question WHY and how one can be adopted.