What is SEO?
Most of you will have a rough idea of what SEO is, but if you’re not sure here’s a simple explanation. Search engine optimisation (SEO) is all the activities carried out to increase the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through ‘organic’ search engine results. Organic traffic is when someone arrives on your website after looking for your products or services on a search engine (Google, Bing etc).
To do SEO well you need to understand how search engines judge a website in order to decide when to list it in search results, and how far up in the listings a website will be shown (known as its ranking). Search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing use computer algorithms to check each website against their current criteria. If you understand what they are looking for, you can optimise your website to make it as appealing as possible to the search engines, so that they will want to list it high up in the search results when someone searches for related products or services.
Google is the main search engine with over 90% of the market share, so it makes sense to mainly focus on Google’s requirements. Here are the main things to look at on your website, some are obvious like the design and content, and some are less so like load speed and security.
Organic vs Paid
It’s important to understand the difference between organic and paid-for search results. Whenever you search on Google you will be shown a mix of paid-for ads and organic listings. The paid ads are shown at the very top and bottom of the page and are created to draw customers in. If you run a Google Ads campaign you pay per click, so whenever someone clicks on your ad it costs you money.
Organic results are earned through hard work and effort, implementing an SEO strategy to improve your rankings naturally. It takes time and months of work to see a rise in rankings, nothing with Google is quick, so the more you do the faster the results.
What is SEO all about in 2023?
SEO practices have changed dramatically in recent years – it used to be all about having as many iterations of your keywords as possible and adding loads of links etc, but Google realised that these practices weren’t giving a good experience for people visiting websites. If you’ve ever read text from an old website that was stuffed with keywords, you’ll know what we mean! Over the years Google changed its approach and began to focus more and more on how informative, engaging, and enjoyable it is for someone to spend time on a website, rather than things like how many times a keyword was used.
Nowadays Google’s main driving factor is the ‘end-user experience’, and they have worked hard to develop their algorithms to ensure that people searching on the internet are matched to the best, most suitable, most engaging websites for their needs. Ultimately this is the reason that Google now have the biggest market share among the search engine providers because people get good results from using their service to search on the internet, and so they keep using it.
More recently, Google has been using the mobile version of a website as the main focus. This is due to the sheer volume of people who use mobile devices to access the internet. So make sure your website is mobile-friendly or you risk being penalised, which will affect your rankings.
Why SEO is important for your business
If you want your website to be found online, SEO is essential. It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is or how well-known you are. It’s not enough to just have a website and hope that people will find it, you need to put some time and effort into keeping it regularly updated in line with Google’s current requirements. And by regular, we mean weekly or fortnightly, or monthly at a push.
Big, established businesses can sometimes become complacent, either believing that their status will automatically impress Google, or that once they’ve achieved good Google rankings they don’t have to think about it anymore. This is absolutely not the case; Google is not impressed by your turnover, and your website will be judged in the same way as any other.
If you are a small business it can be really hard to find time to focus on something like SEO when you have to do everything yourself from marketing and creating your products to packaging and delivering. However, putting some time aside to work on your business, or investing in a bit of help from an SEO expert will be time and money very well spent, and you will undoubtedly see business growth as a result.
In the early days of websites, things were quite different, there wasn’t much competition so having a website was all you needed to do to promote your business. As the online world has grown it’s become more and more of a challenge to dominate the search rankings. The competition is huge unless your business is very niche, so it’s especially important to spend time and effort making your website as google-friendly as possible, whatever your circumstances.
Google’s current checklist
Google doesn’t actually publish its complete checklist – they do give out quite a lot of information about their expectations (the exact details of which change on a frequent basis), but unfortunately, there is no Google SEO instruction book. Effective SEO campaigns are a combination of the information that is available from Google together with recent experience, background knowledge, and best-practice research. It’s not an exact science, but the basics are as follows:
- On-page SEO – everything that is customer-facing such as text, images, videos, design, layout, and navigation
- Technical SEO – the stuff that goes on behind the scenes – meta details, alt tags, links, load speeds, security, and all the technical details
- Off-page SEO – everything else that doesn’t involve making changes to your website, such as social media, directory listings and links from other websites
On-Page, Technical and Off-Page SEO work together to increase traffic to your website. If you drive traffic to your website but have neglected to create a customer-friendly experience, your website visitors won’t stay long and you won’t get many sales or enquiries. This is an extremely important part of Google’s judging criteria – the algorithms can identify specific elements of your website and can read text, but they can’t judge the whole user experience in the way that a human would, so they will use data on how long your website visitors stay, how many pages they visit, and whether they come back to decide whether your website offers a good user experience.
Likewise, you might have a great website but if you haven’t done anything to help Google understand it so that they are happy to include it in the search listings, you won’t get many visitors. So working on all aspects of SEO is the only way to improve your rankings and grow your business.
If you’ve made it this far, well done. Hopefully, you have a better understanding of what SEO is and what you need to do to improve your rankings. To sum it up –
- Write for humans, not search engines
- Know your audience – before starting any work you need to understand who you’re targeting
- Make sure your website is mobile-friendly
- Make each web page unique if you don’t want to get penalized by Google
- Keep your website up to date with new content, blogs, news stories, images, videos etc
- Don’t forget the technical side of your website, this is just as important as the content
- Make sure your name, address and phone number are correct wherever they appear
- Link to other relevant websites and ask for links to yours
- Keep up with your social media, and don’t just post but interact with others. Comment and share their posts, share anything you think will be helpful to your followers. Showing your authority will help grow your audience and reach new customers.
If you have any questions please contact us directly. If you’re interested in working with us we’d love to have a chat.
Get in touch on 01964 542916 or email [email protected] for a no-obligation chat.