We have all heard of SEO, right? This stands for search engine optimisation. Lots of SEO companies that offer SEO services can sometimes turn what should be a great way for a business to generate leads and sales into learning another language.
Stephen King once said “You don’t need to understand the combustion engine to drive a car.” This is also true of SEO. However for those of you that would like to learn more, we have put this jargon free guide together so you can gain a better understanding of what SEO does and what your SEO Company is trying to achieve for you.
What are the basic principles of SEO?
Here is a typical scenario of how SEO works and how you get more traffic from search engines.
A person from your targeted demographic visits a search engine and types in a phrase which tells that search engine what they are looking for. This phrase is what SEOs call a keyphrase or search query. In SEO you will hear a lot about keyphrases. More on that a little later.
Once the person has typed in their keyphrase a search engine searches all the pages it has stored and returns which it feels are the most relevant pages. How does Google do this? Google searches the internet for interesting pages. It then takes a copy of all these pages it finds and stores them in what is called a database.
Once someone types in their keyphrase, Google looks at its database and brings back a list of all the pages it thinks are relevant to what you were looking for.
If your webpage is unique, interesting and satisfies a need, then you have a good chance of returning near the top of the listings.
If you sell TVs and someone types televisions into Google and Google feels you are the best match for this keyphrase then your webpage could show up on top of the list.
See our video explanation below and check out How Search Works
This is great news for you as this will generate relevant traffic to your website which will then turn into sales, and basically that’s it. That’s all there is to it. Of course how Google determines you are number one in the list and how SEO companies get you there is a little more complicated.
How do Search Engines Determine what webpages to list the highest?
It’s great to be at the top of this list when people search for your products or services, but I’m guessing you would not be reading this if you were. So how do search engines decide? Well Google , the biggest search engine in the world, has millions of phrases typed into its search box every day and is the search engine most SEO companies focus on. Bing and Yahoo do have market share and Bing’s usage is on the rise. So it would be worth making sure you show up in these search engines too.
Google says that it has over 200 things it looks at when it decides whether to list a page or not. What are these things/factors? No one really knows for sure. However we can make a good estimation to what helps pages rank.
One of the most important factors that Google uses is links. Let’s think of links as votes. Every time another webpage votes for your webpage that helps Google decide if your webpage is the best match.
If the webpage that votes for you has lots of votes itself, this will be a stronger vote for you.
For the webpages that vote for your webpage, how relevant or similar in theme their content is to yours also plays a part. The more relevant, the more weight or strength Google may place on the vote.
So, what a lot of SEOs do is create a vote building strategy to get more votes from other websites. However the issue with this is you are trying to artificially create votes for your website. Search engines don’t like this, and SEOs have used many different tactics over the years to increase the amount of votes. Search engines get wise to this and ultimately devaluate the votes acquired by using these tactics.
Many would argue that Google in particular changes the goal posts to what is an acceptable strategy. In some cases this may be true but we like to think of it like this: If a legitimate way to get votes from other websites is abused then we think Google will devaluate them. Google is looking for natural votes, not artificially created ones.
So a better way to get natural looking votes would be to actually get them naturally! This can be done by creating content that webpages want to send votes to. Some of the great ways to do this are:
- Create great video tutorials
- Add descriptive images to your content
- Create a podcast
- Create a whitepaper
- Create a guide
- Create a news portal
- Do a webinar
- Do original research
- But most of all give your audience the content they crave and Google will crave it too.
The head of the spam team at Google, Matt Cutts once said:
and Danny Sullivan from Search Engine land said:
So basically if we read between the lines it is best not to link/vote build but earn these votes and stop worrying about what Google wants and create content that your user wants. I think this is the best advice we can ever give you about SEO.
What parts do Keyphrases Play in Search Engine placement and why are they important?
As we mentioned earlier, the phrases someone types into a search engine are called keyphrases and discovering what keyphrases your target market type into search engines can guide you on what content you should be creating and what phrases to use in your content.
Let’s say you sold blue jeans, you would want to show up first when people typed in ‘blue jeans’ right? Well maybe, but first you would need to find out if your customers actually type that into search engines and if so, how often.
This will help you focus on the correct keyphrases. You would want to focus on keyphrases that convert to leads, sales, signups or whatever the goals are for your website. Don’t be blinded by that keyphrase that sounds good, if the visitors it sends don’t convert, then what’s the point?
For the most part this is true, but what about when you’re at that networking event and you tell everyone your number one for ‘X’? It may not convert online but it may give you more credibility offline. It is another way of looking at it.
One of the best ways to find out what potential keyphrases to use is to use the Google keyword tool.
The short video below will show you what to do once you get there.
SEO is a Game of Two Halves
SEO can be broken down into two parts and you will hear SEOs talk about this a lot. There is onsite SEO and offsite SEO.
Onsite SEO: When search engines come looking for great, interesting pages and you want to make sure it is as easy as possible for them to discover your great content. Good SEO companies will first conduct an SEO audit to make sure your website makes it easy for search engines to access.
This may also involve making recommendations for your web developer to improve onsite SEO. Basically you want to make it as easy as possible for search engines to understand your content.
An SEO audit can be a time consuming job but you need to be thorough.
Offsite SEO: We have more or less covered this area in the section called “How do Search Engines Determine what webpages to list the highest?” and this mainly focuses on link building techniques. We have already established that it should be more about link earning than link building.
Social Media and Its Impact on SEO
SEO is so intertwined with so many other things that it makes it difficult to say exactly what affect social media has. When we talk about social media we mean sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.
Encouraging people to share your content is thought to help with SEO. It can help your content get discovered by other people and search engines. This could mean more votes to your webpages. It is unclear if social media actually affect search rankings. There are many other reasons that social is a good idea, SEO just being one of them.
How long does SEO take to Work?
This is a very common question and there is no real answer I’m afraid because it will depend on how well established your website is, and what your budget is. We believe that SEO is an important part of digital marketing but if all you are doing is SEO then we believe it will fail.
SEO needs to work in unison with other digital marketing disciplines like conversion optimisation, content marketing, PPC, social media, lead nurturing, analytics and email marketing.