What is SEO?
Dipping your toe in SEO…
How often do you find what you’re looking for on the first page of an on-line search? Chances are, your hit rate is pretty good.
Now, how often have you bothered to look at the second or even third page? Or even past the first few entries? If you said, ‘hardly ever’, your behaviour is typical of more than 90% of search engine users. It’s also an excellent indication of just how important SEO (or Search Engine Optimisation) is for site exposure.In fact, this process of making sure your site is seen by as many people as possible is what SEO is all about. It’s is a measurable, repeatable process that is used to send signals to search engines that your pages are worth showing in their indexes.
Let’s start with rank
We all know that ranking counts. The higher the rank, the more visible the site. The goal of SEO is to increase your search visibility, which in turn will increase your site traffic.
But how does a search engine (let’s use Google as an example) decide on your site’s ranking?
Google wants to be the search engine of choice. The reason has nothing to do with searches – it has to do with the revenue it generates from advertising. The more people that use it, the more it can charge advertisers for prime space. For popular engines like Google, it’s no longer about the number of results. It’s about relevance – or how quickly can it provide the ‘right’ match. Google uses a sophisticated algorithm to give a score to every website and every search to help determine which sites are not just the best fit in terms of key words, but also most likely to provide relevant, trustworthy and authorative content. It also penalises sites that have poor reviews or sub-par content. This is because the happier you are with your search results, the more loyal you’ll be as a ‘customer’ when it comes to search services. It’s access to this ‘customer base’ that search engines sell to their advertisers.
Why should SEO be important to you?
For site owners, SEO is not about making it to the top of a search page. It’s about making it to the top of the rightsearch page. Because this is the quickest (and if you do it right, most cost effective) way of exposing your site to your ideal customers.
Optimising is critical because people search for something relevant to them. If people clicking on your page have used a search engine to get there, what you’re offering is most likely a good fit for what they want.
Here’s an example:
Imagine you’re a Hairdresser. If you search for ‘hairdresser’, you’ll get millions upon millions of results.
But your ‘ideal’ customer isn’t looking for just ‘a hairdresser’. They are looking for one that fits your specific offering: they’ll be in your geographic region, want a particular treatment, or have the type of hair you specialise in.
When you add these key words – key words that accurately describe your unique offering - search results shrink significantly. And the customer entering them is even more likely to be your ideal target.
This is why SEO is in many ways better than PPC (pay per click). If your site is well optimised, you don’t have to spend money on ads to drive traffic to your site. Also, PPC traffic stops as soon as you stop paying for ads whereas SEO has a more lasting effect.
Moving up the list
As we’ve already pointed out, the majority of people only click the top few results. Unfortunately, good use of key words is not going to get you onto that coveted first page position. It’s going to take a bit of work to build up your authority and increase your relevance for targeted queries.
This involves a tactical approach across three main areas:
- On-site optimisation. Making your site more visible, more authoritative, and easier for Google to analyse and understand raises your ranking. It’s important that you use the right descriptors, and in highly visible locations (not just for readers but for Google so consider everything from meta data to imaging). Investing in a few well designed technical tweaks and strategic changes to your site, including adjustments to your backend code and other structural site changes can have significant impact.
- Off-site Optimisation. Often referred to as ‘link building’, this is the work you do to create appropriate back links to your site. These are organic natural results, based on what people do out there on the web. There a lot of ways to influence link building including articles and social media mentions, social blogs, and discussion boards.The quantity and quality of links pointing to your site have a direct influence on how authority is perceived.And the more influential the link, the greater the effect.
- Content marketing. The best way to build authority and relevance over time is still ongoing content marketing. Strategically choose relevant topics and optimise keyword phrases you know your target audience will use. Create content that proves your authoritativeness on the subject.The more organic, natural, and unique the content you write and publish on your website, the better the results you can expect.
Some home truths on SEO
If you’re considering SEO for your site, you’re already on the right track. For you to get the most benefit, it’s important that you accept that SEO is a process, and one that is only as good as the effort that you’re willing to invest in it. That said, SEO offers exception ROI when compared to other kinds of marketing activity.
- Commit to the process. No marketing practice in the world delivers results overnight. But many expect SEO to be a quick fix. SEO requires time to work. Be patient and don’t be easily discouraged if it seems to be taking some time to kick off.
- It’s not a once off.SEO is a process. It requires ongoing attention, and a recurring strategy. Fortunately, it’s also relatively easy to adapt as you go.
- Learn by doing. SEO is an organic thing, and oftentimes the best way to learn SEO is by actually doing it. Take the time to invest in it – or in the skills you need - and it will pay off.