What is SEO?

Written on 01 August, 2018 by Jen McKinnon
Categories Search Engine Optimisation

If you have a website, you’ve probably heard the term SEO. But SEO is not just a marketing term, it’s a series of marketing tactics.

SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is the process of manipulating your website to be easily found by search engines, like Google. Find out what it is and how it works, so you can best position your business to be found online by the right people at the right time.

How do search engines work?

Ever wondered how a search engine comes up with the results you see after you hit ‘Search’? They actually operate using an algorithm that is designed to detect and return websites that are most relevant to the search terms. For Google, the ranking algorithm is called RankBrain. Using what we know about RankBrain as a guide, we can make changes to websites that will improve their chances of appearing on the first page of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).

How does SEO work?

The average search engine user is impatient. 95% of all search traffic never pass page one of results, so it’s safe to say generally searchers will sooner perform a new search than click to the second page of search results. The aim of the SEO game is to get your website as close to the top of the SERPs as possible for related keywords. This is to maximise visibility and clicks.

There are a number of elements that contribute to your Google rank, all of which influence where your website sits in relation to your competitors. These ‘ranking factors’ work together with the primary aim to provide searchers with relevant, useful content. So, what are they?

Keywords

Relevant and strategic keywords are the lifeblood of a successful SEO campaign. Your keywords are what determine the searches your site appears in. However, you don’t want your content to sound robotic, with keywords obviously spattered across the page. Your site should speak to the people who are looking for it, in their language, about what they want to know. This means that, when selecting your keywords and phrases, you need to be highly conscious of your target market and the types of search queries they are making. Ask yourself, how are people looking for your products and services? Once you understand that, the SEO world is your oyster.

Backlinks

Backlinks, or inbound links, come from other websites and point to your own. There are two types of backlinks; ‘dofollow’ and ‘nofollow’. Dofollow links are tracked by Google, whereas nofollow links are not. Backlinks provide what is affectionately called ‘link juice,’ which aids in bumping your website up the results ladder. The more link juice you have, the better favour you’re in with our friends at Google. But quantity of link juice isn’t just determined by the number of links you have back to your site. The quality of your links is what is most important. Your backlinks are judged on relevance, authority, credibility and position within the content. The higher the quality of your links, the more link juice you’ll receive.

 

Content

Readability is a significant ranking factor that affects (and is affected) by other ranking factors, like keywords and traffic. Ensuring your content is clear, relevant, up-to-date and useful to the reader is one of the most important things when building or renewing your website. Your content is the vehicle for your keywords; however, it shouldn’t be stuffed to the brim. Your keywords should be seamlessly inserted into the text. This not only plays well to the Google algorithm, it is integral the keep your readers engaged. This, in turn, improves your rank through the time a visitor spends on your site, which is another considered element.

Google also favours new content. Blogging is a great way to ensure that search engines are satisfied with the originality and freshness of your site. Start with a single blog per week and see how your Google search rankings improve.

Longer content also does well in search engines. Recently, Google has begun to support businesses who have long-form articles on their site by ranking them higher on the search engine. Traditionally 400 words of content was enough to get Google’s attention; however, now, blogs of 800+ words are performing best.

Web Traffic

The web traffic that traverses your site also plays into the RankBrain algorithm. Again, quality is what we’re aiming for here. Simple traffic stats don’t count for much. The algorithm is much more complex and takes into account the time each visitor spends on your site, return visitors and click-through rate (CTR), among other factors.

User Experience

Your user experience is paramount in order to keep visitors on your site. This plays into the web traffic ranking factor as the more frequently your site is visited, and the longer people stay on the site, the higher your site will be ranked in search engine results for your related keywords.

Speed

Speed is one of the most important ranking factors and actually plays into the web traffic element above. You have an average of 4 seconds to capture a visitor’s interest. If your site takes longer than that to load, chances are you’ll lose that visitor. If a user navigates away from your page during this time, it adds to your ‘bounce rate.’ A lower bounce rate will improve your rank. You can optimise your site speed through the coding on your site.

 

Social Media

While the number of social shares doesn’t necessarily affect your search engine rank, the traffic that reaches and engages with your site from those shares does. This means that the act of sharing your content won’t improve your rank but the result of those shares (ie. increased traffic) will. The links back to your website that are created by sharing content on social media also help solidify your site’s credibility and improve brand authority. This, in turn, has a positive impact on your website’s standing with Google.

The other thing to consider is that social media sites rank on search engines, just as your website does. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have high authority due to the masses of traffic passing through the sites daily. This means they are naturally likely to rank higher. Having your own social profile can improve your chances of being found online purely through piggybacking the authority of the social media platform.

Security

Google, in particular, pay close attention to the security of a website. In July 2018, an update to the Google search engine saw the rank of sites labelled “not secure” drop significantly. These sites were marked insecure as they were devoid of the latest security certificate, called SSL. SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer and is denoted in your site’s URL with an ‘s’ following the traditional ‘http’ prefix. You need to have this security certificate if you want to maintain and grow your rankings.

How long does it take?

It may sound simple but, just like Pringles, “once you pop you can’t stop!” The groundwork is laid early on, so there is a lot of work to do in the beginning; however, it doesn’t stop there. To preserve your site’s status in search results there’s extensive, ongoing monitoring and maintenance to uphold for the duration of your website’s life.

What’s next?

Now that you understand SEO, the next step is to put it into practice. You can make many changes to your website on your own; however, the nitty gritty of search engine optimisation is ever-changing. For a long-term solution, it’s best to employ those who are at the forefront of each new development. Netregistry provides SEO packages for all budgets and business sizes. For more information, chat to an online solutions advisor today.