What is SEO & How Does it Work?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is often a term thrown around by businesses, but from my experience, most people don’t understand the full scope of what is covered by SEO. All they know is, they’ve got to try and improve it! Hopefully this blog will give you a small insight into what exactly SEO is and some of the basics of what to look at when optimising your site.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of using different methodologies and techniques to optimise your site so that it appears higher up in search engine results pages.
How does SEO work?
To answer this, we need to take a more detailed look into how search engines, like Google and Bing, work and there are a number of different steps:
Step 1. Crawling
The first step for Google is to explore the internet and get an understanding of the types of sites and content that are online. To do this Google runs a series of code, sending ‘bots’ or ‘crawl spiders’ throughout the internet. These bots visit every page available and fires details of what it finds back to Google.
Step 2. Indexing
Once Google is aware of which pages are visible, it records the site data in one of its two indexes -either the mobile first, or the desktop index – here you can read more about Googles new mobile first index . Like any index, once a user makes a search, Google refers back to its index and identifies relevant pages and sites that are related to the user’s original search term.
But how does it choose which websites and pages are most relevant to the user? This is where the Google Algorithm comes in.
Step 3: The Algorithm
The majority of factors, and how much weighting they are given, are never directly referenced by Google or Bing, so it is often down to marketers and SEOs (search engine optimisers) to identify trends and patterns following algorithm updates to see which factors may be affecting rankings.
With this said, there are some of the key factors which are core to the algorithm and have been confirmed by Google, some of which include:
The Three Pillars of SEO
Ensuring that your site is correctly optimised for this algorithm can be difficult, especially when considering it’s evolving nature, but there are 3 main areas where everyone should start – Technical SEO, Content SEO and Backlink Building.
Technical SEO, as the name suggests, focusses on the technical aspects of your site, including crawl errors, pages speed, canonical tags and 301 redirects to name a few. It’s also the first thing that we look at when optimising a site, and put simply, Google won’t rank you if your site doesn’t work, so you need to make sure any technical issues are resolved before looking at your on-page content and building your backlink profile.
As the main goal of Google is to provide the greatest relevancy to its users, meta tags are a key area where many sites fall short and is often a quick win. In many cases, sites will automatically create page titles and descriptions by default within the site’s CMS (content management system), however, this can often cause search engines difficulty when trying to understand the relevancy of each page as titles and descriptions can be duplicated. With multiple pages all with the same title, how will Google know which page is the most relevant? Your answer, it won’t – and your rankings will be affected as a result.
Only once your site is technically sound do you want to begin reviewing your existing content, begin creating new content and developing an ongoing content strategy.
Often, existing content will rank relatively well in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) without optimisation, as the pages will likely contain extremely relevant information that is going to prove to be very useful to the user. This said, with optimisation, these pages could rank better and for a wider range of search terms, thus increasing the number of visitors to the page.
One of the most important factors when it comes to on page optimisation is to outline your page keywords and ensure that the keywords you want your pages to rank for have a good level of monthly searches.
New content creation also provides a fantastic way to provide unique and relevant information to your users. Ideally, you want to be creating fresh content that web masters would naturally want to link to.
Internal linking is another essential method on improving your on-page content. When you link internally to another page ‘link equity’ (page ranking power) is passed through from the host page to the linked page. This can be particularly useful in helping to signal to Google which pages are a priority. By having a number of relevant blogs internally link through to the appropriate service or product page, you are able to further highlight which page you want to be ranking.
The benefit from internal linking is twofold. As well as helping pass on link equity, by providing relevant related pages and information to the user, you are further improving their experience on your site, all of which is beneficial in Google’s eyes.
SEO has often been described as an iceberg; where technical and content SEO sit at the tip, just above the water, with a mass of off-page SEO and backlink building lurking, hidden below the surface. Whilst not the perfect analogy, it does help highlight the importance and the role that backlinks play on your sites organic performance.
Much like internal linking, when an external site links through to your site, they are distributing part of their link equity down to you. Where a site is known as an industry leader or authority, it will pass down a greater amount of link equity and will be more valuable as a result.
We’re often asked, ‘how many backlinks should I be aiming to get each month’? and the answer is simple – it’s not about the number of backlinks, but the quality of the backlinks. One backlink from a well renowned trusted site such as the BBC will be worth more than 10, 100, possibly even 1000 backlinks from small unknown sites.
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