How SEO Works
Understanding what is SEO and how it works can open up a huge highway for organic traffic.
But first of all, what does SEO stand for?
SEO stands for search engine optimisation, where a webpage is consciously optimised to rank higher on a search engine results page (SERP). The SEO definition focuses heavily on the word optimisation.
Optimisation: Attaining the best result possible with the most efficient and effective performance.
But what does SEO stand for in marketing?
It means understanding what search engines like and showing them content that satisfies their tastes and requirements. These are the requirements you’ll need to uncover before putting together your SEO strategy.
Your Orchestra (Website)
Imagine your website is a full-piece orchestra and Google is a music critic. There are strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion and keyboards you’re conducting. Each section harmonises to create their own sound, while also synchronising with other sections to build and perform the composition – your webpage.
From any search query typed into the Google search bar, Google bots will listen to every webpage composition and rank who performed it better.
You can have one part of a webpage working well (quality content), but if users aren’t having a positive experience interacting with it (poor user experience), then the sound is terrible – and Google won’t highly grade its performance.
What is an SEO strategy?
The ultimate goal of an SEO strategy is to boost the overall SEO authority and page rankings. The better optimised your website is, the higher and more frequently it will rank on a SERP, likely increasing the amount of traffic generated from initial searches. This is achieved with both content and technical SEO actions.
So, what makes an incredible sounding composition? What ranks? Well, there are 3 main factors:
- Quality content
- Trust and authority
- Technical strength.
Great search engine optimisation also requires a conductor who continues to learn and develop their skills. And who also keeps a close ear to changes in technology and the industry.
Whether you manage your own SEO or utilise the services of a digital marketing agency, it’s an ongoing performance – and the critics’ tastes are always changing.
1. Quality Content
The words, titles and links published on a website matter. They form the content that search engines read, index and rank. The content you create forms a huge part of your SEO, meaning you have to pay close attention to what you say and how you say it.
To build quality content, you can conduct keyword research to gather an understanding on what your target audience is searching – and place these words into your content.
Search engines use keywords to determine if you have the specific information a searcher is after. Therefore, you must ensure your website contains the information necessary for search engines to identify and retrieve in their organic listings.
- Which keywords you use
- Where they’re displayed (page titles, meta descriptions, headings, body)
- How they show up (exact matches, if they complement each other)
- Whether similar keywords (latent semantic keywords) are used.
The balance in your content will be between writing copy that’s more engaging than what competitor websites publish and effective keyword targeting. This comes down the layout and structure of the copy, how well it’s written and the quality, quantity, and placement of your keywords.
Keywords placed in H1, H2 and H3 headings have a stronger effect on ranking than keywords placed in the body. However, a combination of both is advised.
|What Increases Quality
||What Decreases Quality
Clever keyword use in headings and body
Thin content (content with little value)
A difficult-to-read copy layout
2. Trust and Authority
In order to have search engine bots see your webpage as containing relevant and credible information, you need a trusted online presence and authority on the topic your keywords indicate is your industry. That’s because a search engine will want to show information from a highly trusted source, compared to a page that has bad reviews, low traffic and short time on site. This is where link building comes into play.
But what is SEO link building and how can you do it?
Also known as offsite SEO, link building is the act of getting other websites to link to yours. This can be done by partnering with brands who complement your business and developing links to each other. You can also contact websites that already talk about your brand and request that they backlink any mention of your business.
But the biggest tactic to create quality content is to ask other publishers to share it (or to be the primary publisher and to name it as a guest post by your website). Just keep in mind that quality is more important than quantity with backlinks.
With the ever-present intent of negatively scoring spam websites, search engine algorithms will identify the quality of your backlinks and rank you accordingly – so be careful who’s talking about you.
How users interact with your website also has an impact your search engine ranking. This online authority is user-generated from comments and reviews on your websites, and shares and mentions on social platforms – fundamentally, it’s your popularity and image.
|What Increases Trust and Authority
||What Decreases Trust and Authority
|Links from reputable websites
Numerous post comments and shares
|Disreputable (spammy) links
Low post engagement
3. Technical Strength
Good content is one thing, but it needs to discoverable. That’s the goal of technical SEO.
Having the intricate details of technical SEO explained would take a long time to get through. But, to put it simply, the technical strength of your website refers to your website’s online structural integrity and its level of navigability.
The overall idea is to create an easy-to-navigate online landscape for both users and bots. This involves logically flowing internal links, sitemaps and labels on pages for bots, giving specific information about the page.
There are a many things you’ll come across when addressing your technical SEO. Some of these include:
- Internal linking
- XML Sitemaps
- Canonical Tags.
If your website is a house with rooms full of content, you’ll need doors, right? Internal links work as doorways between your pages that both users and search engine bots use to traverse your website. Internal linking is one of the principles of SEO, making your pages reachable.
A page with no internal links will be undiscoverable by users and search engines. These are called ‘orphan pages’.
An XML Sitemap provides search engine bots a roadmap to navigate through the essential pages of a website. This enables the search engine to easily find and retrieve information on the pages you believe to be most important.
A little more technical is a Robots.txt. Webmasters create and use this text file to instruct visiting bots on how to crawl pages on the website. It can quickly let bots know which pages should be crawled, and which should not. This is done with an “allowing” or “disallowing” command.
It’s quite likely there’s duplicate content on your website. Not that you have a dozen homepages, but you may have numerous URLs for your homepage. This ‘duplicate content’ can have a negative on SEO, meaning a search engine may display the less-preferred URL is a result. Canonical tags solve this problem by communicating to search engines that one page is the primary version.
|What Increases Technical Strength
||What Decreases Technical Strength
|Seamless internal linking
A detailed XML Sitemap
Tagging your duplicate pages
|Few or no internal links
Not using an XML sitemap
Leaving duplicate pages untagged
How Search Engines Operate
A search engine is a software platform designed to retrieve all information available on the World Wide Web – which is over 1.5 billion websites’ worth. They are the single largest source of web traffic, with Google, Bing and Yahoo headlining the pack.
Move over Spiderman.
Search engines operate by running their own crawling program. This program sends out spiders (or bots) with the task of visiting every website and sending back information about them to a database (known as the search index). In order to navigate through the whole web, spiders will follow every single hyper link they come across.
Now that the search engine has an extensive search index, when a user types in a search query, the engine has a pool of data to work with. If a user types the phrase search engine optimisation into the search bar, the search engine will explore its index for webpages containing those keywords.
But, as you can see above, there are likely to be millions of websites containing those keywords. But search engines want to show a user a page with the most relevant content, so here comes the step that the principles of SEO are based on: ranking.
Now that Google has 264,000,000 results to work with, it gets stuck into working out each one’s relevancy. It does this by running its world-famous, complex algorithm. SEO strategies are built on identifying key parts of this algorithm and feeding it the requirements it’s looking for to rank the best.
But most of all, it will test the quality of the content, the website’s level of trust and will certainly appreciate a technically superior website. The results of this will form the organic part of a SERP.
With so many search engines used every day, you may be wondering: how does Google SEO work, compared to Bing, Yahoo? Well, search engines are based on similar principals, however, they each own and run individual software. They scour the World Wide Web with their own spiders, and they each use their own ranking algorithm.
With different algorithms, Google, Yahoo and Bing will put value in different areas of your webpage and will produce slightly dissimilar results.
So, what does SEO mean in regards to online marketing? Well, you want traffic and search engines want to provide users with the most relevant content possible. SEO identifies and provides that relevant content, while increasing your website’s level of trust.
Knowing what is SEO and how it works is vital to your online performance.
If you want to find out what the best SEO strategy is for your business, get in touch with our digital marketing experts today.