SEO stands for search engine optimisation and is aimed at driving traffic in order to increase the number of visitors to a website. To answer the question what is SEO we need to understand how, by using good search engine optimisation practices, a website can better its ranking on search engines like Google and Bing, thereby improving its visibility. By getting a website further up a search engine rankings and ideally on to the first page, the potential to increase traffic to the site will be greater. In theory the higher the website is ranked, the more traffic it should generate.
To do this the website designers need to consider the keywords and phrases someone would type when searching for the sort of content the site contains. Search engines employ software which scours the internet to identify these keywords and the results determine the relevance of a site to the phrases a potential visitor may use in a search. It is important to take time and be precise when considering keywords and phrases for a website to ensure relevant visitors are directed to it. For example, an online grocer selling fruit does not want customers looking to buy a new Apple computer. However, good SEO practices go further than just increasing traffic to a site, as it can make a website more user-friendly and easier to navigate around.
Why is SEO so Important?
With millions of people using search engines each day to locate goods, services and information the importance of good search engine optimisation practices to make a website stand out are vital. To increase traffic and get an edge over competitors in the same industry the time and resources put in to SEO can reap long term rewards. It is estimated websites on the first page of Google receive 95% of the subsequent clicks taking people through to websites, emphasising seo importance. Of this 95 %, the higher up the first page a website is the higher the chance of visitors clicking through to the site. Generally, people seem to trust in the results they see on a search engine, and ultimately people do not really want to spend time scrolling through search engine pages. A place near the top of the first page of a search engine result is associated with being a leader in that particular field or industry and is more likely to get passing traffic. It puts a website in a strong position over its competitors.
The increasing use of automated voice assistants such as Alexa and Siri for convenience further emphasises seo importance for a website. The internet plays host to a mind-boggling number of competing websites, so search engine optimisation is a key marketing component for any business. Provided a website is updated on a regular basis and remains user friendly it can keep paying dividends. The original visitors won from a high placing on search engine rankings offers the opportunity for repeat business if they are confident in the site and find it easy to use.
How do Search Engines Work?
Search engines use “spider” software to crawl through websites collecting details such as keywords, phrases and links. The information collected by this software is used to generate an index, a log of the data gathered. Each search engine provider applies an algorithm against the index to retrieve the most relevant results for a search. With providers using different algorithms it is why you can end up with different sets of results depending on the search engine you use. These algorithms are commercially sensitive and protected, as the better the algorithm the better the user experience when searching.
The manner in which search engine rankings are determined has moved beyond just keywords and goes a long way in answering the question how do search engines work? By not focussing completely on keywords we avoid websites simply stuffing their pages full of keywords which ultimately makes them difficult to read and not very user-friendly. Websites need to be designed in a technically good way, with ease of use to the fore to encourage visitors to share links. Search engines look for relevancy, authority and usefulness to determine a website’s page ranking and the links are a sign of a site’s authority on a topic. Links indicate site popularity and more so if those links are from recognised authoritative sites such as a government agency. However, authority and relevance need to be backed up by usefulness and this is measured on how users are interacting with a website. A relevant and authoritative website can still be badly designed and disorganised. In this case, it is unlikely people will like this site in any result and prefer a site where all three of the conditions are suitably covered.
Two Types of SEO
Search Engine optimisation is in effect a way for your website to communicate with search engines, and to do so successfully there are two components to consider: On-page and Off-page Search Engine Optimisation.
On-page optimisation concerns the contents of the website. It is about designing the website to improve relevance, accessibility and ease of use to visitors, creating a structure which will let search engines index them easier. It considers how potential visitors may search for your site and then use those keywords on your main page, in content and on heading and sub-heading tags. On-page optimisation requires ensuring a website gives the best possible customer experience and provides authority on the website’s theme. Good on-page seo allows both a search engine and visitors to understand what the website is all about. It also proves its relevance to search queries and how useful the site is, meriting its position on search engine rankings.
While keywords remain important, other factors also play a vital role in on-page seo. More sophisticated algorithms today place just as high an importance on relevance, understanding what users will want on the website and whether the site is creating the content and topics based on this understanding. Search engines will pick out a site’s meaning from the context in which the content is represented, therefore looking at it from the user’s perspective.
Off-page seo involves increasing the visibility of a website to search engines through outside influences and involves building links to reputable websites. Off-page seo allows search engines to factor in relevance and authority of a website before a page ranking is determined. A more relevant, better quality website is more likely to have links from other reputable websites, leading to a higher page ranking and more traffic. Social networking is important in off-page seo, including use of social media to broadcast a website, guest blogging and influencer marketing.
Evaluating whether a link will generate quality traffic to a site is key in determining its worth in pursuing, although ultimately it is about getting a reference to the site from another reputable site. Creating great and compelling content which will make other sites reference and link to it is the best way to approach off-page seo. Affiliate marketing is another area used to increase links to a website, with affiliate members advertising your site on their home page and getting paid when visitors click through to it from their site.