What Does SEO Stand For?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. This is quite simply the way in which you can tailor your website in order to get organic, un-paid traffic to your site from ranking highly within search engine results pages (SERPs). The page you are delivered to after you enter a search query into a search engine like Google or Bing is called the search engine results page (SERP). The SERP presents you with what are called “organic results” as well as “pay-per-click ads” (or PPC). The organic results, those not labelled as an advert, are those that are influenced by SEO while the PPC are paid for.
SEO is important because you can’t pay to appear in the organic results. Ranking highly will drive traffic to your website which in turn will boost your business, increase sales and enable you to grow. 70% of all website traffic starts with a search engine, 60% from Google. Research shows that 95% of Google traffic is limited to the first page in the search results so getting your website to appear high up is the best way to drive organic traffic to your site. Good SEO takes both time and effort, you may not see the results immediately, it requires perseverance.
How do Search Engines Work?
When you search for something using a search engine, an algorithm scans billions of websites to bring you the best result. The workings of these algorithms are not made public but we know that they base the rankings of a website on the following criteria:
How relevant is the website content to the search query. If you search for hairdressers in London you don’t want the results to show hairdressers in Edinburgh. The search engine ensures that only results for London rank highly.
The user experience of a website is really important – good, clear, well-structured content which is easy to navigate will rank higher than jumbled, confusing or disorganised content.
Google wants to know that your content has authority – if lots of others link to your website that will demonstrate that it has good, high quality content and should be ranked highly.
Search engines make their money via the paid ads
People who pay them to feature their website at the top of the rankings. By providing useful, relevant, authoritative search results, more people will use the search engine so therefore more will pay to appear.
To rank highly it is important to look at the following factors:
In order for search engines to ‘crawl’ your website for search queries it needs to be well structured. All pages should be labelled correctly with titles and subheadings, have simple navigation and make sure there are no broken links.
Your website needs to load quickly, research shows that 90% of visitors will leave a page that doesn’t load in 3 seconds. Search engines like quick websites too so make sure yours isn’t weighed down by too many large images.
More than half of all internet usage is now done on a mobile. Search engines like sites that look good on any device. 80% of users will leave a website that doesn’t display well on their device, search engines want to keep users happy so they now rank for mobile friendliness.
You need to think about who your customer is and what words they are likely to search for in Google. Then feature these words as titles to pages and within your content. Don’t overdo it though, Google punishes keyword stuffing. You can use a keyword research tool to help with this, for the best tools to help you with SEO see our guide here.
As well as providing useful, relevant and authoritative content it is important to update your content regularly. Recently produced content is more likely to rank higher as users don’t want to see results written years ago.
Having links to your website from other sites indicates that your content is authoritative and users like it, which is what Google is looking for. Getting articles published, guest blogging on other sites and having a reciprocal agreement with a competitor are all ways of achieving backlinks.
Knowing how search engines work and the attributes they’re looking for when ranking content is crucial when trying to rank highly. However, search engine algorithms change all the time and there’s no guarantee that what’s important today will still be important next year. Don’t let that panic you. Generally speaking, the important things stay consistent over time. Factors like backlinks, “authority,” and matching search intent have been critical factors for many years—and there’s no sign of that changing any time soon.
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