What is SEO?
SEO is short for Search Engine Optimisation. This is the process of winning the love from search engines so they favour your content above your competitors and show it to people who are performing the search.
To win the love from a search engine takes a bit more effort than in previous years. This is because the rules that Google used to rank websites were simpler and were so easy to follow that it took very little skill to capture the number one spot.
This resulting in the Google search results being full of poor quality spammy sites. Now Google is always updating its rules to weed out poor quality useless content so it can deliver high-quality relevant content to the people searching on its search engine.
The goals of SEO for business
Ranking well in a search engine is not the whole story though. If you are a business owner you are going to want to see a return on any SEO investment you make. You need your SEO to drive relevant traffic, leads, sales, revenue and profit. So making sure you have a conversion strategy to accompany your SEO is important to make sure you see a positive ROI.
Why Is SEO important?
SEO is important because of the high number of searches that take place on search engines. Many of your potential clients are there, searching for businesses just like yours. If you are not in the search results then you are not visible to these people who want your help at that exact moment. If you are not visible you can’t take advantage of the free, targeted traffic that may turn into customers. If you are not visible, then your competitors are.
Action: Think of a phrase a potential customer might use to look for your services online. Now go to Google and type it in. Look at the competition. Each result is competing for business. Are you there? If not, and you want to be, then you have some work to do. If you are there and want to stay there, you need to monitor your position closely so you can improve your page if you should lose your position.
How does Google rank you?
When someone starts a search on google by entering a keyword, Google looks for the site with the best content to show in the results. You may have heard that Google uses over 200 ranking factors to determine who is best. not all factors are created equal. Well, this is not exactly true. This article does a great job of explaining why you can take many of the ranking factors with a pinch of salt. https://moz.com/blog/the-myth-of-googles-200-ranking-factors. Mainly, because Google doesn’t publish this information so what you read are mainly thoughts, guesses and interpretations of an SEO’s experience. Some of it is misleading, some of it just plain untrue. So how does Google rank you?
To simplify it, you can think of it as coming down to 3 areas.
Trust, content quality and performance.
Trust is one area that consists of many factors such as age and how many quality sites are linking back to your content (backlinks). Gaining trust is a slow, steady and sometimes painful process. But, you have to trust in the process. Like going to the gym. You won’t see page 1 results for a while but you will eventually if you are consistent. The older your site gets and the more people that link to you, over time you will find that your status grows in authority and Google will trust you more.
– The old backlink strategy
Someone linking to your site is seen as a trust signal to Google. If someone links to your article then it must be good, right? Wrong! Once it was known that backlinks got you the thumbs up, backlink farms started appearing. These were low-quality sites that would link to you, just to give you a link for ranking. You could buy hundreds of links for just a few pounds. Then Google decided to measure link quality and penalise sites if they had too many low-quality links. The link farms were driven out.
– The new backlink strategy
Now, you need backlinks from authoritative, relevant websites. But not just a few, you need to have a backlink profile that shows you are getting links regularly. This can only happen if you are putting out good content regularly. Which is what Google wants to promote of course.
– The old keyword focused strategy
Not so long ago, Google ranked content according to keywords. Tactics like having a keyword in an H1 tag, in the URL and dotted around your content in a specific density making your content keyword rich was essential. This type of content was more focused on search engines than the user. It could be hard to read and sometimes make little sense to the reader because the emphasis was on getting the content ranked rather than providing value.
– The new relevant content strategy
Now, Google is looking for relevant, comprehensive, valuable content. Relevant content is content that goes into more depth about a subject and contains not only a focus keyword but also contains related keywords. There is less emphasis on keyword density, the emphasis is on delivering quality, valuable content that is engaging.
Google wants to be sure the web page being served is quick to load, spam and error free.
– Mobile optimisation
Making sure your page is optimised for mobile is essential. Mobile traffic is taking over desktop traffic so if you are not moving with the times your search engine position will suffer.
– Page load speed
You also need to make sure your page loads fast. Google doesn’t want to show broken, slow websites in the search results. Google wants to keep the quality of served content high so you should really make sure the quality of your site is high.
How do search engines work?
Google visits your site at a frequency it determines is sufficient. It will look at a selection of pages on your site and determine the quality of each page and the overall quality of your site. This is known as ‘crawling’.
It will then decide if your pages are good enough for indexing. That means whether they will return them in the search results. Not all crawled pages will be indexed. The position of your page in the index will be determined by the quality of your page.
What stops you from ranking – Google penalties
In the past, the google algorithm wasn’t very well developed and it only looked at a few things to determine a pages position in the index. Keywords and meta descriptions. This meant that keyword stuffing was very common. I.e repeating keywords over and over in the content. As Google improved it’s search algorithm to include more signals, then more and more ways to trick the algorithm became possible.
E.g. Signal -> Having sites link to your website, known as backlinks. Trick -> people went out and manually placed links to their site ‘everywhere’. Link farms were built, links were sold and bought.
E.g. Signal -> URL contained a keyword. Trick -> Buy URLS containing keywords
E.g Signal -> create content. Trick -> Copy and paste low quality content into site. Create blog posts containing few words.
So, Google created more detailed guidelines to say what was and was not acceptable. Along with the guidelines, Google developed way to identify when people were breaking the guidelines. Along came penalties. Now, when Google improves it’s algorithms, many sites gets penalised for not following the guidelines.
If you are penalised you may find your site has been removed from the index. You can recover from this by identifying whether you have been penalised and taking steps to improve your site according to the guidelines.
The SEO process
SEO is a repeatable process. The more you do it, the quicker your process will and the better you will become at it.
Step 1: Measure where you are now. Look at your data to understand what needs to be improved.
Step 2: Decide which content you want to improve, or decide on a new piece to write.
Step 3: Identify the best keywords – keyword research.
Step 4: Write the content.
Step 5: Ensure the page has good on page SEO.
Step 6: Promote your content, get back links, get your content shared.
Step 7: Repeat
To rank high on search engines you don’t need to be perfect in all areas, this is one reason it is easy to get overwhelmed with SEO. There is so much you can do. It’s not all essential though. You only need to do as much work as is necessary to beat your competition and to stay at the top.
My top tips:
- Keep an eye on your performance, monthly monitoring is essential.
- Keep an eye on the competition and stay one step ahead.
- Write high-quality, engaging content.
- Promote your content to high authority websites.