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What is search engine optimisation?

SEO or search engine optimisation is a very powerful marketing tool as long as it’s in the right hands. Most people nowadays will search a site like Google or Bing to find information for everything from holidays and homework to products and services.

The challenge for businesses, when you don’t rank on the first page for a particular search term or query, is that the user is statistically unlikely to see you and visit your web pages.

Understanding Search Engine Optimisation

Put any search term into a site such as Google and it will come up a long list of results. The first thing you may see are some ads. These are paid for by businesses, ensuring they appear on that all-important first page.

If you’re searching locally, you may then see a map with listed businesses who have signed up for a service such as Google My Business. Below that you will see organic search entries, web pages that have been chosen by Google because they best meet your search term.

Landing on that first page is the Holy Grail for businesses. According to the stats, nearly 70% of all clicks come from the first 5 organic listings for a search query. The second page of search results accounts for less than 5% of the clicks through to websites.

Search engine optimisation is a set of strategies that are designed to boost a page to the top of the listings for a keyword or set of keywords. Get it right and you can greatly increase traffic to your website.

The Basic Elements of SEO

How Google or any other search engine calculates ranking is down to their algorithms, a set of software rules that have evolved over the years. When search engines were first designed, all marketers had to do was stuff a page with selected keywords and they were almost guaranteed to rank.

What this led to in reality was messy, often incomprehensible content that no one wanted to read. Over the last ten years, algorithms have become much more sophisticated, focusing on quality content that meets the needs of the search term more closely.

There are a lot of different elements to a successful SEO strategy but the basic ones you need to get right are:

1. Crawlability and Indexability

Google ranks pages by crawling them, sending back data and calculating where your page should rank. If the software can’t do this, you won’t rank at all. Elements that you can include on your website to facilitate crawling include having a site map, adding internal links and producing a robot.txt file to give the crawlers instructions.

2. Quality Content

Talk to any marketer nowadays and top of their list will be good quality content, whether it’s for a service page, blog post, video, infographic or something else.

When someone types in a search term such as ‘best holidays in Wales’, your content needs to answer that query as clearly and fully as possible. Writing great content isn’t a guarantee, however. If your copy simply matches or is worse than what is already ranking, Google and other search engines are unlikely to replace it.

Search engines are also on the hunt for bad content and it gets pretty short shrift nowadays. This could be anything they see as spammy or over salesy pages, duplicated content, paragraphs that are stuffed with keywords and content that is automatically generated by specialist software.

3. Keywords

While they often get a bad name, keywords still play a significant role and help search engines rank pages. The trick is not to overuse them and, while there are no hard and fast rules, limiting your main keyword to once per hundred words is a decent guideline.

One of the big problems for keywords is competition. If a lot of pages are trying to rank for a particular keyword, it can be almost impossible to get on that first page. If you don’t believe us, try and rank for iPhone or Nike. This is why which keywords you focus on is so important.

4. Expertise, Authority and Trust

Another thing Google has started to look for is formal expertise. This is especially true for sites that deal with important issues such as health and wellbeing.

5. Off-Page SEO

Other elements can affect your ranking. How many reputable sites link to you is one. Creating content that is of great value and high quality can mean that more people backlink to your site, quote from your pages and mention your website.

Social signals are also becoming increasingly important. If multitudes are sharing your posts or becoming followers on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Google sees this as a positive signal that your site is what people are looking for.

On top of all these elements, Google and other search engines will look at a whole bunch of other factors. These include how quickly your pages download, whether you have a secure, encrypted connection, how coding elements such as meta tags are written and how easy your site is to navigate.

How Crawlers Work and Index

Crawlers are software programs that search the web continuously, looking at new pages and ranking them in different ways. This software will look at key signals depending on the algorithm used and once your website has been visited, the pages are indexed, a bit like a catalogue. The current Google search index is huge, some 100,000,000 Gb in size.

Why You Need to Make Your Website SEO Friendly

The vast majority of people still use a search engine such as Google to find products, services and information online, whether that’s from a business that is local, national or global. SEO plays a critical role in this and the success of your business may well depend on it more than anything else in marketing terms.