18 May What is SEO, and how does it work?
What is SEO, and how does it work?
Are you the owner of a business and looking to promote your online content? Have you heard SEO can drive traffic to your website? Perhaps you are looking for ways to improve your sales pipeline? Are you willing to invest in a long-term strategy to achieve success? If that is the case, then SEO might be for you…
Search engines are the gateway to just about everything we look for online. With the addition of smartphones to everyday life, people are constantly searching all day, every day. There are over four billion pages on the Web, spread across eight million web servers, making it incredibly hard for your web content to be found by potential customers, unless you do something to promote your website. SEO is potentially the perfect tool in your armoury….
These days SEO is an essential part of most online marketing strategies. SEO “welcomes” most traffic, as long as it is relevant, unlike paid ads and cost per click (CPC). SEO is often a more effective and efficient option since paid ads can cost up to ten times more than SEO, plus in our opinion they are also about ten times less trusted, which theoretically means that for every penny spent on SEO, you would need to spend £1 on PPC advertising to deliver the same results.
For years, SEO has been misunderstood, but it is basically a set of effective tactics to generate high-quality targeted traffic to your website. The challenge is to get a balance on your website of appealing to both search engines and site visitors: on the one hand you want to make it ‘fit for purpose’, engaging, ‘sticky’ and easy to navigate; but you also have to have the right content and structure to optimise your SEO strategy. Done well, SEO could become your cheapest (and best) salesman…
However, SEO is not for the impatient. It is a long-term process and requires an upfront investment which might take 6-9 months for you to see any return, perhaps even longer. Nevertheless, consistent investment and effort in SEO is likely to produce a return in more ways than just revenue, attracting not just potential new consumers, but also providing a stream of future employees, quality suppliers and desirable business partners.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimisation. It is a digital marketing strategy that focuses on improving your website’s position in search results on search engines like Google and Bing, which together account for almost all traffic in the UK (Google is about 90%, Bing is about 7%). A web page that ranks higher in search engine results will be seen by more people.
Search engine algorithms crawl the web, seeking to find and understand all of the content available so that they can provide relevant and authoritative results quickly. Websites and pages are ranked based on an evaluation of different factors, including how content is written, as well as the inclusion of relevant keywords and internal/external links.
Understanding this does not necessarily guarantee that you will succeed at SEO. SEO algorithms are constantly changing, and Google is constantly updating its algorithm, so marketers are always having to devise new strategies to try and keep one step ahead. SEO is therefore a continuous and ongoing process requiring an ongoing investment of money, time and effort (albeit less than most other forms of lead gen activity).
Google is responsible for most of the search engine traffic in the world and therefore the one that we recommend you focus on. Google has a complex algorithm but the core of it is as follows:
- Google is looking for pages with content that is high quality and relevant to the searchers’ queries
- Relevance of pages is determined by “crawling”, or reading and evaluating content, based on keywords on a webpage
- One indicator of quality is the number of high value links to the webpage from reputable sources
In addition, the Google algorithm also determines a page’s rank based on less specific content criteria:
- How people engage with it, how long they are on your website and whether they ignore your search result altogether
- How fast your website loads and how mobile-friendly it is
- How unique and valuable your content is
- And many other factors too
SEO activities can be divided into on-page and off-page, and your SEO strategy needs to cover them both.
SEO Best Practices
SEO is a marketing medium that builds long term value, but it takes time to develop and execute the strategy. It is important to:
- Research and understand your keywords, along with understanding their intent
- Create content that is valuable, useful and relevant
- Attract links that are trusted and which build credibility.
In order to get your website ranked highly by search engines, you should make sure you firstly identify the primary keywords your target audience is searching for. The keywords and terms that your competitors rank for can be identified with tools such as Semrush. Knowing what keywords you need to include on your site and how you rank compared to your competitors will help you to avoid wasting time and money on unproductive content.
There are three things you will need to consider when choosing keywords:
- Relevance – does the keyword accurately reflect the nature of the products and services you sell? Search engines bring up the most relevant results, so using keywords that are not accurate will not help your position.
- Search volume – this is the number of searches for a particular keyword, so you ideally want to use keywords that give you a larger audience.
- Competition – looking at how aggressively and active search advertisers are bidding on a keyword is a good indicator of how difficult it will be to rank for a particular keyword.
To choose these keywords you must understand your audience. What are they most likely to search for? What are their interests, problems and needs? What type of language do they use? A valuable way of establishing this is through a robust internal understanding of your organisation and its customers, as well as external market research to gather reliable data on consumer trends.
SEO is all about the content, such as blog posts like this, or videos, pictures and content on YouTube and other social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, TikTok, etc.. Content optimisation benefits both users and search engines through a focus on tight, relevant themes and building trust.
Your website and content structure are very important. The search engines will not recommend your site if they cannot understand the layout, or don’t believe that it makes sense. Structural elements to focus on include:
- URL: this is the location of the page we are looking at, it should be concise whilst containing useable information about the page itself.
- Meta title tag and Meta description: these should contain keywords in order for search engines to identify the theme of the page and encourage users to click on the webpage link.
- Images: the attributes of images and videos on the source code, such as the filename or URL of the images, are two things that help inform a search engine what the image is and whether it is relevant.
Internal and external links are important to help your own site do well on search engines.
Establishing external links back to your site from other websites and people you do not control is challenging, but vital. These links indicate a degree of trust or confidence in your reputation, similar to a job reference.
Including internal links on your website can help search engines to better understand the structure of your website, the themes of your content, and the relative importance of each page.
Building quality links will improve the overall popularity of your website in the eyes of the search engine. One of the most common methods of generating links is to submit your website to different web directories, though you need to make sure these are trustworthy as very few are. Make sure the web directories only accept relevant and trusted sites. It is often best to engage an SEO expert to do this for you.
Influencer marketing is a strategy that businesses use where brands work together with popular influencers to promote their websites/products. Influencers have a large following and are generally trusted for their opinions, so they have a lot of power when it comes to promoting brands. Although it has the potential to seem inauthentic, in reality, it is very helpful in improving your off-page SEO. Here is how to utilise influencer marketing to get backlinks:
- Co-create content with the influencer and co-promote the content on various channels
- Encourage your social media followers to become influencers by tagging your brand in their posts
- Feature the influencers in your social media posts and mention them on your website.
To find out more about influencer marketing, specifically micro influencers, you can read our blog here.
For more information on the various elements of SEO and their influence on your search ranking, we highly recommend you take a good look at the Periodic Table of SEO. It details the factors that can positively impact your search engine ranking, as well as those that can negatively affect it and by how much. Google also provide helpful advice, so we also recommend you follow their guidelines at all times.
SEO Marketing Agency
SEO is an ever-changing and complex topic, and whilst there are lots of online resources to help you deepen your knowledge, you may need additional help on how to create and deploy an SEO strategy to drive traffic to your website. Please contact Stephen Taylor-Brown, Managing Director, at email@example.com to find out more.