Intimidated by SEO? You’re not alone. “Search engine optimisation” (SEO) isn’t a chain of three words that screams simplicity for everyone, and they only become less appealing when early research discusses algorithms, organic search results, marketing discipline, SERPs (search engine results pages) and more. It’s understandable that many see SEO as something you have someone else manage for you when your business gains traction, as well as something so invested in by the bigger brands that your efforts are destined to make as much difference as a drop in the ocean.
Your avoidance though can end today, for in this guide, we promise to explain briefly, yet in detail, what SEO is, and the following most frequent question of all: How can your SEO be improved?
What is SEO?
Once broken down, search engine optimisation can be understood by even the newest of new to the internet.
Search engine: A system that searches the World Wide Web for content that a user wants. Google, Bing, Yahoo, Ask.com and AOL.com are all examples of search engines.
Optimisation: “the action of making the best or most effective use of a situation or resource” (definition from Google).
Therefore, SEO is the action of making the best, or most effective, use of search engines. Why though should you be concerned about optimising your site for search engines?
Sites with better SEO appear higher in SERPs, which are the pages displayed by a search engine in response to a user query.
When your site appears on the first SERP for a range of keywords (the first results page when a search is made by a user), it leads to a greater quantity of organic traffic. Organic traffic refers to users that have arrived at your site from a search engine’s results, as opposed to arriving from paid ads. Those who make it to your site from ads and other payed strategies are referred to as paid traffic. Thus, conquering SEO earns you prime position on the first SERP creating more traffic, among those who have needed to pay to make it there and achieve the same.
Refining this further, mastering SEO delivers more traffic to your site for free! Of course, more traffic to your site is then an opportunity to make more sales or boost awareness of your cause.
Why and how do search engines rank content (sites)?
Search engines understand that a user wants the correct, quality information to match their query as fast as possible. If the user doesn’t get what they want, their experience suffers, and they may choose to seek what they want through another search engine. As such, ranking the vast body of information on the World Wide Web is imperative. How does this occur? Algorithms.
Each search engine uses an algorithm to determine what information should rank highest for which keywords. This means that making the top of SERPs is as simple as knowing what factors influence a search engine’s algorithm (they’re all reasonably similar).
Unfortunately, Google nor any of the other search engines are about to enable cheating of their algorithms by sharing with us the specific factors and their weightings (the power that one factor has over another). However, although the algorithms are frequently developing, there has been a progressive understanding through testing by different organisations of which factors will positively impact your SEO, and which factors perhaps have prevalence.
How can your SEO be improved?
Below is an unordered list of what we believe to be some of the greater influencers on a site’s SEO.
1. Google My Business (Local SEO)
Google is by far the search engine leader when users want to find a local business. Their Google My Business listing integrated with Google Maps allows a user to quickly see the location of a local business, the products or services offered, reviews and more. Thus, if you’re a business that sells predominantly face to face (for example a restaurant or café) vs. online, registering for Google My Business and updating your profile regularly will benefit your local SEO significantly.
2. Site Speed
No one enjoys a slow site, and the search engines know this. Important factor for the algorithm or not, search engines learn via user actions that people are leaving your site faster than others and rank you accordingly. One way to potentially increase your site’s load speed is to remove unnecessary images. This won’t be an option for some, but for those who are using images simply to break up text for improving readability therefore user experience, consider focusing instead on your text format and using more white spaces. For boosting your website’s speed, visit “3 Easy Changes To Improve Website Speed“. Want to test your site’s speed? Use this free tool from Google.
3. Mobile Optimisation
Mobile devices well and truly lead desktops for online use. Of course, mobile optimisation has become a factor in each search engine’s algorithm as a result. If your site isn’t mobile friendly, mobile users that visit your site are likely to have a poor experience. Expect your ranking on SERPs to suffer.
4. Content & Keywords
The influence that content has on SEO is undoubtedly why content marketing has developed to be such an important strategy for any and every brand. Regardless of what service or product your brand sells, you can be creating content inexpensively that is of value to your target market. Produce content that is relevant to your service or product, that also helps your target audience, and search engines will support you with a better SERP ranking.
To get the best ROI from your content, you should also be giving thought to keywords. Using this post as an example, when people want to know about SEO, “what is SEO” will be among the top long tail keywords used (the chain of words they type into the search box). To increase the probability of this blog appearing in front of said users, it only makes sense that one of our headings should match this query.
Be aware that overusing keywords in attempt to improve your visibility/SEO, also known as “keyword stuffing”, will do more harm than good. Instead, use keywords where appropriate and logical, and ensure that your content is of the best quality possible.
5. Backlinks & Authority
Search engines want to send users to sites with authority, that are reliable and trusted by users that visit them. In the past, backlinks, which you should read about here, were thought to play a major role in SEO. A site linked back to by many other sites was an indication that the site receiving the backlinks was publishing quality and trustworthy information. While the current power of backlinks in algorithms of search engines is debatable, creating them certainly won’t damage your ranking, IF done correctly. What do we mean correctly? Read our short blog linked above where we explain clearly.
6. User Experience
In case you hadn’t recognised by now, user experience is of high priority to search engines. Each of the points above can be linked to providing an enjoyable and beneficial experience to search engine users. Hence, do whatever you can to ensure user satisfaction. Simple navigation, internal links to reduce bounce rates (“the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page” – Google’s definition) and more can lead to user actions that indicate positive outcomes, resulting in better SEO.
As we explained at the start, this post merely scrapes the surface of SEO, in a manner that can be understood by all. There are many more resources that explore the sophistication of SEO in further detail, but for beginners, modifying your site in accordance to the factors above will be a great start to your SEO efforts.
If you have any questions or believe there needs to be an addition to this post, please feel safe to email us. Alternatively, members can comment below when logged in.