What’s the last thing you searched for on Google? Whether it was ‘buy apple watch’ or ‘best Italian restaurant in Manchester’, Google will have pulled up a whole range of relevant pages, almost instantaneously.
You may or may not have heard of the individual websites listed, but it’s likely because of Search Engine Optimisation that they appeared on your screen.
Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO, is a method of improving your website and the content on it in order to appear higher up in search engine results. It spans a whole area of marketing and is hugely important to organisations today to help them attract the right traffic – and enough of it – to their websites.
Good SEO gives your business a better chance of appearing on the all-important number one page of Google for relevant search queries – and once you’re there to attract customers to click through to your page. Done well, SEO also has the dual benefit of improving user experience for your website visitors.
Why do search engines use SEO?
If you type “what is SEO?” into Google, it will yield hundreds of thousands of results (around half a million at present). The aim of the search engine is to quickly provide the user with the most relevant pages for the search query. Too many irrelevant or unhelpful results would lead to the user going elsewhere.
With billions of web pages to rank, and more appearing all the time, search engine companies such as Google, Bing and Yahoo have created complex algorithms in order to help them choose the best results for each query. These allow them to rank new or updated web pages on a range of factors, such as keywords, media, content and metadata, in order to find the most relevant response to a search request.
What does Search Engine Optimisation involve?
There are different broad areas of SEO, including on-page and off-page optimisation, technical SEO and more specialist areas such as Local, Video or Mobile SEO.
On-page SEO is working to improve your website itself and covers techniques such as choosing appropriate keywords, writing good quality content and creating effective meta descriptions for each page.
Off-page SEO is the work you do outside of your website to increase the trust and exposure of your website. It can involve things such as developing an effective social media presence, guest blogging on other sites in your industry (with a link back to your own website), getting your content shared by good-quality sites and getting involved in discussions on social media and online forums.
Technical SEO covers the ‘behind the scenes’ work of your website, and looks to optimise important ranking factors such as your site speed, creating a clear site structure and ensuring your site is being picked up by search engines.
Search engines can show different results to users depending on their location, and so Local SEO can be of great benefit to businesses looking to make a big offline impact in certain geographical areas. Mobile SEO reflects the growing importance of mobile-first website design and responsiveness, and Video SEO is focused around getting video content to rank well both in video search engines (such as Youtube) and in traditional searches.
Do I really need SEO?
If you search for any topic on Google, chances are that hundreds of thousands (if not more) results will appear. The competition for online visibility is growing by the day with more and more web pages being created.
In order to gain any benefit from organic (unpaid) search, your page needs to rank within the top 10 results at the very least. These 10 pages get 92% of the traffic from a given search result, with the pages nearer the top getting a greater proportion of the traffic.
In order to build your audience and enable people to find your site, your site needs to be performing well against the competition for appropriate keywords for your business.
Some companies may choose alternative or additional routes such as paid advertising campaigns, but for most businesses SEO is a vital part of building an audience without having a huge budget, improving the user experience of their site’s visitors and providing a great ROI for their marketing efforts.
How soon will I get more traffic?
SEO improvements don’t provide an instant fix for any website.
There are several hundred ranking factors in search engine’s algorithms – such as how many links are pointing back to your page, where the keyword appears, the site loading speed and what variety of media is present on the page.
The factors which will achieve the best results for a site can vary, and the ones which will make the biggest impact for your business can depend on things such as your business location, industry and audience, as well as who your competitors are online.
SEO should be a big part of your long-term marketing plan. Some results can be seen in the very short term, but it can take up to 6 months of implementing a solid SEO strategy before seeing tangible or consistent results, depending on the competition of the keywords and industry involved.
For quicker results, you could consider running a pay-per-click advertising campaign alongside your SEO strategy. However, as SEO is aiming to increase organic traffic, it provides an excellent ROI in the long term which is worth the time put into it for the majority of businesses.
Beware the ‘guaranteed page 1’ claims
You may have seen emails, web pages or adverts from companies promising ‘guaranteed page 1’ spots in search results, or instant results from SEO.
As with everything in life, be wary of claims that seem too good to be true.
Some of these companies can guarantee you a number one spot – by ranking your website for a search term so specific that no one else is competing for it. The flip side of course is that no one’s searching for it either!
Another tactic is ‘black hat’ SEO techniques, which are ways of attempting to game the system in order to rank pages higher. This can include things such as getting links from private link networks, adding invisible text to your web page and changing the content of the page entirely once it’s ranked.
These techniques are against the search engine guidelines and come with a high risk of acquiring a Google penalty. Penalties will knock your website out of search results altogether and can be time-consuming and expensive to recover from.
At Heyyou! Digital we only use ‘white hat’ techniques. These are search engine compliant and focus on producing a web page which offers great value to a user, matches searcher intent and meets SEO best practice.