What is SEO?
The aim of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is to increase the quantity and quality of traffic through organic search engine results. This is achieved by employing both technical and creative elements, both on and off a website.
For marketers and website owners, the aim of considering SEO in your digital marketing strategy is to get your website or blog to the top of search engines for relevant keywords/searches.
Notice that we say ‘considering’ when referring to SEO rather than a more affirmative word like ‘complete’ or ‘do’. This is because SEO is more of a mindset than an action. Sadly, over the years, SEO has been oversimplified by ‘SEO experts’ (SEO salespeople.) It is not a one-time service you can buy; it is a long-term, ongoing process that requires a collaborative approach between digital experts and the company itself.
SEO forms a vital part of a successful digital marketing strategy. To see what other elements help create a successful strategy, read our guide to Digital Marketing.
Why do I need SEO?
Technology has come a long way in recent years, yet as sophisticated as it is, search engines are still unable to read a webpage like a human. This is where SEO comes in.
The key word in SEO is ‘optimisation’. SEO is about making your website and content easy for search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo, to index and deliver to their user base. Optimising your website for search engines, making them easy to crawl (read) and index (list), increases the chances of your website appearing on search engines results pages.
Consider SEO as a means of targeting a different type of customer. You’ve probably invested a lot of time and money on your website and/or blog, making it easy to use and attractive for potential ‘human’ customers to read.
Now it’s time to consider those ‘non-human’, digital customers: search engines. These digital customers read and use your website in a completely different way. SEO is about making your website easy and attractive for them. It doesn’t look pretty, it’s all text based; it doesn’t read in a linear format; they can’t see those images you spent hours getting right; and most importantly, if you try and fool them, they will stop using you.
How do search engines work?
To understand how to best meet the needs of your digital customers, you first need to know what they want: how do they work?
If you already know how search engines work, then you can skip ahead to some things to consider for your SEO strategy.
How search engines actually work is a closely guarded secret. It also changes all the time; they get smarter, and their parameters change based on the demands of the users. Yet, what we do know is that their search results are primarily based on relevancy and authority to the user’s search query.
But what does this actually mean? Well, for example, when you search something on Google, the results returned are those it thinks best answer your question. This answer can be based on keywords, location, popularity and trust.
It’s important to remember that the answer returned by a search engine isn’t necessarily the correct one. The results are based on what the broader user group (everyone on the internet) considers to be the best answer. Search engines rely on people using the internet to help decide an answer. Google will look at a number of factors to determine what this is.
What do search engines look for?
Google will look at a number of factors to determine what this is. These can include:
- How authoritative the person is – for example, the BBC’s answer is probably more likely to be more trustworthy than an independent blogger (probably)
- How many links to/from the website – how many people are using this source to back up their message? And is this website contributing to the wider web – are they using other sources to back up their story?
- How old the website is – a more established website is likely to be more authoritative than one that sprang up yesterday
For more information on how search engines work, have a read of How Search Engines Operate from Moz.
So, now you know a bit more about your digital customer, how do we use this information?
What should I be doing?
There are two main elements to SEO: on-page (on-site) and off-page (off-site). Both of these elements require a combination of creative and technical expertise. So, what’s the difference?
On-page SEO is the foundation of all SEO work and is essential to improving search engine traffic, boosting rankings and making the most of any off-page SEO efforts.
Here are some on-site areas to consider:
- Keyword research can help you understand the types of words and frequency used by prospective customers to find your brand services or products. You should then use this information to update your content to ensure it is relevant to your target audience
- Run a technical audit to ensure your website can be crawled and indexed, is correctly listed with search engines and is free from errors or user experience barriers
- Improve the website structure by looking at the internal navigation, media (videos and images) optimisation and page load times
- Ensure the user experience demonstrates your expertise, authority and trust, is simple to use and provides the best possible experience to users against the competition
Off-page SEO refers to activities carried out outside of your website to improve organic search visibility. It is the act of optimising your brand’s online and offline footprint using content, relationships and links.
Off-page SEO is heavily influenced by the other areas of your digital marketing strategy, content, PR and social.
The ultimate aim is to increase positive brand mentions and the number of reputable links from other websites. This is called ‘link building’. Links from other websites with more trust, popularity and relevancy will pass value to another website. This is sometimes referred to a ‘link juice’ or ‘credit’.
However, it’s important to remember that not all links are equal. Think quality, not quantity. Links from unknown or poor quality websites that aren’t trusted by the search engines will reflect on your website.
So, how can you increase the number of quality links to your website? Here are some simple ways to improve the chances of your website being picked up by others:
- Adding and sharing new, relevant content will increase the likelihood of reputable sites linking to you
- Networking with relevant partners and reciprocating links on each other’s websites
- Start a digital PR campaign and open dialogue with key journalists, bloggers, influencers or webmasters about your brand, resource and content
More information on the above suggestions, as well as some other indirect things you can do to increase inbound links, can be found in our guide to guide to Digital Marketing.
How can I quickly do SEO?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a quick, legitimate and sustainable way to increase your organic exposure. Your only alternative is to pay for it – and here’s the risk in doing so:
Schemes such as buying links, exchanging links excessively, low-quality directories and articles that aim to manipulate search engine rankings are against their guidelines. Search engines have a history of taking action and penalising a website that manipulates the system.
So, if you’re willing to pay for a boost, remember, one day Google may change their algorithms. If they do, you could be blacklisted and potentially off their books forever.
The best and most sustainable way to improve the performance of your website is to work hard and earn the respect of the wider web. You can do this by providing genuine and compelling reasons for sites to reference and link to your brand.
If you’re not getting the results you want, change your approach. Try looking at the data you’re getting from tools like Google analytics and make informed decisions. Remember, just because everyone says you should be using Facebook, consider that it might not be right for you. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
These channels provide a voice for your content and brand identity. They are one of the easiest ways to get your work in front of people, generate leads and engage with your audience.
How Wondrous can help?
Our SEO services always include an integrated approach. We ensure all digital and traditional marketing channels are considered, joining them together to maximise performance.
As standard, we’ll look at what’s working well for you, where you could optimise performance and help integrate everything to maximise opportunities.