This is part 1 of 4 to a beginners guide in SEO.
Search Engine Marketing
Search engine marketing or search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of optimising, customising, marketing, developing and designing your website in such a way that you rank highly on search engines.
Search engines, such as Google - the most commonly used with almost a billion more users - Yahoo, and Bing positively or negatively rank your website, and all its various pages, based on a number of different factors. We examine below just how search engines operate, how people interact with these search engines, and why SEO is necessary.
How do Search Engines Operate?
There are a number of marketing factors which will affect how highly your page ranks on search engines. These engines effectively ‘test’ your website, and its pages, against its algorithm to decide how to rank it compared to other websites. The first thing to remember is that SEO takes time to work, and although some results can sometimes be seen quickly, generally search engines need time to understand what it is your website does and whether you are relevant. It is important to note that no one knows exactly what the algorithms are and that they are constantly changing, but the below suggestions have all proven to be good practice.
Search engines will send out ‘crawlers’ throughout the web to read your website and its pages so that it can index it on their search engine. Essentially, if the crawlers can navigate your website and read the content easily, then you will rank higher on search engine pages.
One of the most important things you can do to help crawlers understand your website is through the content you publish on your site. Search engines like content that is well structured, separated by different sized headings (called H1s, H2s, & H3s), contains images (with alt text) and also repetitions of a particular keyword. However, search engines will know when you’re “keyword stuffing” to boost SEO, so keep your writing natural. This is known as white hat SEO, and is the process of abiding by search engine rules to try and rank your page higher. This is for people who are looking to establish a long-lasting and trustworthy brand or website.
Black hat SEO on the other hand includes tactics like an obvious repetition of keywords or back linking from illegitimate websites that have been set up purely to increase SEO, and these tactics are for those who are generally looking to make a quick buck. However, most search engine algorithms are clever enough to pick up on these websites and negatively rank your page.
Search engines like to see links to respectable and legitimate pages throughout your content, as well as back links from other respectable websites back to your own. This will increase your domain authority, which is a score on a scale from 0-100 that predicts how well you will rank on a search engine’s pages. The higher your domain authority, the more positive an impact it will have on your SEO.
It also helps to have a well written meta-tag for each page, which is the small text that describes a page that can be seen on a search engine result page, and is typically between 20 and 30 words long.
Moreover, a well-structured URL for each page will help people find what they’re looking for quickly. For example, when creating a page, you will typically be assigned a URL that ends in numbers, but if a particular page is about clothes, then you want this in the URL as this is what someone will type into the search engine.
Finally, Google and other search engines recently changed their algorithm to positively affect those sites which are mobile responsive, and negatively affect those which aren’t.
How do People Interact with Search Engines?
People generally interact with search engines by using the homepage search bar. People like their results to be quick, and don’t want to spend a long time searching. They will typically type in simple, short phrases into the search bar. This is why it is useful to have a well-structured URL and plenty of keywords on your website.
Also, people typically won’t go past page one of a search engine's results, which is why it’s important to spend some time on developing and designing your website to achieve the best SEO results possible. This includes using sitemaps, fast load times, mobile friendly sites and seamless internal linking.
Why is SEO Necessary?
As we’ve highlighted above, search engine marketing is the tactic that is going to get your website out of the back pages of a search engine and onto page one, where you’ll attract the most visitors and the most revenue. Search engine marketing is more than just entering a few keywords into a piece of content; you need to build up several pages throughout your website, all well-structured and SEO-friendly and give search engines time to process just exactly what it is that you’re trying to offer to its users.