This week I’ll be having a look at SEO from a big picture perspective. In order to put SEO into context, the aim of this post will be first to explain what it is, how it is achieved, and most importantly why we use it for business. Best get cracking then!
Search engines are the basis of SEO. They are essentially the world’s largest libraries, dealing with billions of online search requests every day. For example, Google, who are the largest of these libraries by quite a distance, were hitting nearly 6 billion search results a day last year.
Much like a library’s database, search engines need a system to produce relevant and important websites based on their requests. They use complex calculations (algorithms) which take hundreds of considerations into account before determining their results.
So what exactly is SEO?
In a nutshell, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the means of improving a website’s ranking in a search engine’s ‘organic’ search results.
Before I go any further, I’ll explain that search results come in two varieties – paid adverts and organic search. Let me show you.
The results you see at the top in the shaded background and those to the side of the page are the ads, which have been paid for by businesses for specific search queries – in this case ‘disco hire’.
However, we are more interested in the results that appear below the ads, the organic, or unpaid, search results – as this is what concerns SEO. These websites are ranked by search engines based on their importance, authority and relevancy to the search request. The fundamental purpose of SEO is to increase these factors for your website.
So how is SEO achieved?
SEO is split into on page and off page factors.
On page SEO is about making sure a search engine can find your web pages so that they can index them for their search results.
This is where keywords come into play. Keywords are the specific words and phrases that people type into search engines. In an ideal scenario, you’ll want the signposts on your site (the page titles and meta desciptions) to contain these keywords and also point to content on your site that is also laden with these keywords.
In the olden days of SEO, it used to be the case that you could cram as many keywords into your website as possible (otherwise known as spamming) in order to rank well for those search terms. Search engines nowadays are much savvier to these black hat tricks, and will penalise sites if they think they are trying to cheat the system. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED: if you use underhand tactics, such as duplicating content, you will literally spam your site into oblivion.
What I’m really getting at, is you need content that is informative, engaging and ideally shareable (think of the effects of social media) that will keep drawing people back to your site.
“#SEO is the means of improving a website’s ranking in a search engine’s organic search results”
Another thing to consider for on page SEO, is that search engines use software programs called ‘crawlers’ or ‘spiders’ which scan a site to assess where it belongs in its results. It is therefore vital that the architecture of your site is well designed, as you want search engines to ‘crawl’ your pages to maximum efficiency. If you’re looking to improve the back-end structure of your site, our SEO Basics series does a great job of explaining the best ways to do this.
Off page SEO
Off page SEO involves getting the rest of the internet to point towards your website. This is another way to tell search engines what your website is about and can also help prove that you are an authority within your industry.
This process is accomplished by getting URL links to your website, known as link-building. Search engines pay close attention to the quality of the links between sites, so you’ll always want links from respected sources. Again, if you’re looking at how to get natural links, our blog on this has been known to be a very useful resource.
“If you use underhand SEO tactics, eg. duplicate content, you will spam your site into oblivion”
How does it all fit together for business?
SEO in 2014 has evolved into something of a three-pronged weapon; its spikes being site architecture, content and outreach. The bonus about this is that they all work together; intelligent back-end design will help to signpost the quality content on your site – which in turn will help you to get a shed load of links. When these three components work together like this, SEO essentially becomes online PR.
In terms of how this works for business, it doesn’t take me to tell you the higher a website appears on a search engine’s results page (SERP), the more frequently it is expected to be visited.
If we look at the research, the first result in Google’s organic listing receives on average 32.5% of the clicks – with half the search traffic going to the top two sites. This does become important if you are trying to generate business through your site.
Let’s use another example, this time let’s have a look at the search data for the query ‘disco lights’ (please click on stats to enlarge):
According to Google, there are a whopping 113,290 search queries in the UK every month containing the keywords ‘disco lights’. This comes out at a healthy 36,819 visitors per month if you are appearing at the top of the SERP.
Seeing as the average advertiser for this phrase is spending 40p per click, the cost of advertising for this amount of visitors would be £14,727 a month!
The crazy thing is this is still a relatively uncommon search query – for something like ‘hotels London’ with over 1.5 million monthly searches, you’re looking at an advertising budget also in the millions to match that.
Today good SEO practice not only saves businesses from these budget headaches, but builds up the overall reputation of the site – which has huge long term benefits for bringing in future customers and clients. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising on the other hand, although it provides immediate results, only happens as long as you keep paying for it.
“#SEO has evolved into something of a 3-pronged weapon; site architecture, content & outreach.”
Hopefully, that will have painted a big picture of SEO for you. If you have any queries please leave a comment below or get in touch with us