Every business seeking growth will focus on their marketing channels. Sometimes their focus will be narrow, other times they’ll focus on a myriad of channels. Regardless of which approach your business has, SEO should be top of the list when it comes to marketing performance. I’m going to go through the basics, explaining what SEO is and explain why an SEO strategy is key to running a successful business.
What Does SEO Stand For?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. So yes, every time someone says “SEO optimisation” they are saying optimisation twice. Just like when people say ATM machine and yes, you absolutely should correct them on this.
The name for this discipline kind of gives the game away. Search engine optimisation is the practice of optimising websites, web pages or any other piece of content for a search engine. This can technically mean anything from a product on Amazon to a video on YouTube. However, I’m going to be focussing on SEO in terms of optimising websites and web pages for Google and other search engines.
How Do Search Engines Like Google Work?
Before we learn about optimising, we need to understand how Google and other search engines work. It’s important to point out that there are lots of search engines out there but Google maintains the lion’s share of searches carried out.
Google is constantly crawling the internet. I’ll be trying to avoid non-sensical jargon as much as I can here, but it’s important that you know about Googlebot. Googlebot is the name given to Google’s spider that crawls the internet. Googlebot visits a website, sees all the links on that pages and runs around interpreting all the content on this website. It tries to understand what the site is about. When websites link out to other websites, the spider jumps over to this website and repeats the process.
The result of this happening on a huge scale, is Google understanding the content of millions of websites around the world. With this information, Google created a search engine where people type in their search queries and find answers to their questions.
Why is Search Engine Optimisation important?
Most businesses don’t have a dedicated SEO resource. I started King Street SEO because I wanted to help Ireland’s SMEs with search engine optimisation. I spotted how many were spending money on paid search and social media marketing while letting potential organic revenue slip through their fingers. It left me baffled.
Just last year, I carried out a study with Wolfgang Digital which showed the true awesome value of optimising for search engines. 43% of all website traffic originates from a search engine. Even more significant is that when it comes to cold hard cash. 38% of all revenue is generated from users who find your business online through a search engine.
How does Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) work?
Back in the day, Google had a fairly simple way of search results relative to what people are searching. This is where search engine optimisation was born, but it wasn’t pretty. Websites were stuffed with keywords and user experience suffered massively. As a result, Google developed a top-secret algorithm to determine which sites should appear when people carry out a web search. Ultimately, this was great for the public. Google search results became more relevant and existing sites that were always focused on creating high-quality content started to appear higher in organic search results.
The only negative, if you can even call it that, is we now have no definitive knowledge of Google’s ranking factors. Fortunately, there’s a massive SEO community, constantly comparing notes to work out how we can make websites appear higher in Google search results. I’m a member of that SEO community and yes, we are all nerds trying to work out a big secret. Funnily enough, the “not knowing” is what makes search engine optimisation quite a fun area to work in.
For an SEO strategy to work, you’ll need to take several aspects of your website into account. This divides search engine optimisation into sub-categories.
- Technical SEO
- On-page SEO
- Off-page SEO
Working within these three categories, you can optimise your website to meet Google’s key ranking factors. So, just how much do we actually know about Google’s ranking factors and what how to we optimise within these three categories?
Technical SEO, even within a community of nerds, is considered the really nerdy stuff. Sometimes it’s rather intimidating and tough, but it’s not an area of search engine optimisation you can afford to shy away from. Imagine writing a book, getting it published with millions of copies locked away in shipping containers never to be opened. If you don’t focus on technical SEO, this is what you’re doing with your web content.
Technical SEO is all about keeping Googlebot, the Google spider, happy. For Google to understand your website, services, your wider business, what you sell and who your website should be appearing in front of, it needs to crawl and understand your website.
There are lots of things you can do to make your site crawl friendly. I’ll be covering more these topics in more detail over the coming weeks and months. Sign up to my SEO newsletter to make sure you don’t miss out.
- Google Search Console
- Internal linking
- Follow or Nofollow
- Canonical Links
- Duplicate content
- Schema/structured markup
On-page SEO is where things start to get a little more fun. Full disclosure, I personally enjoy technical SEO. For on-page SEO, we need to focus on individual webpages and how we push them up the search engine results page (SERP).
This area of SEO takes into consideration all of the elements within a webpage which you control. In short, this means both the content you create for your website from words to images and the HTML source code. While some believe that keyword research to be a separate discipline within SEO, I consider it to be a part of on-page SEO. Again, I’ll be covering on-page SEO in more detail over the coming weeks where you can expect to read more about:
- Keyword research
- Intent-based search queries
- Creating blog posts
- Meta tags
- SEO-friendly URLs
- Header tags
- Internal linking
- Anchor text
- Latent semantic indexing
- User experience
I love the term off-page SEO because it covers up the murkiest area of modern search engine optimisation. An area that has quite a dark past, so dark it used to be called “black hat SEO“.
Off-page SEO sees our attention shift towards factors we have a lot less control over. One of the biggest areas of off-page SEO is link building. Back in the early days of Google, building links led may people who worked in SEO down a dark path; the black hat SEO path. Link farms were built where people paid for links to manipulate search engine results pages and Google started returning less relevant answers to people’s queries. Google released several infamous massive algorithm updates, known as Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird which completely reshaped SEO.
While link building was a major element of search engine optimisation to be changed as a result of these updates, it hasn’t been killed off. Far from it. Officially, Google doesn’t condone link building. But once you do it naturally with both the user and helping them with their search query in mind, building links can bring great organic results.
With all that said, there’s a lot more to off-page SEO than just link building. I’ll be covering all of this and more under the following headings over the coming weeks and months:
- Link building
- Google Knowledge Graph
- Google Search Console
- Social Media signals
- YouTube optimisation
- Unlinked brand mentions
- Guest blogging
- Local business SEO
What Are Google’s Ranking Factors
A bit like KFC’s secret recipe, there’s no one person or department within Google that knows the inner workings of the world’s biggest search engine algorithm. Still, after years of working together, the SEO community has a fair idea of how we can create appealing content that Google’s spiders will lap up. and serve to people when they carry out a Google search.
Google wants your site to be fast. Keep an eye on your page speeds.
User experience is key. All users. Make sure your content is relevant and optimised for people as much as Googlebot. Also ensure your site meets accessibility requirements.
It’s important you E-A-T. Nothing about diet here as this refers to:
- Authority f
These are key elements of a website, webpage and wider business that Google factors into the ranking of properties.
This doesn’t really even being to cover the myriad of ranking factors I believe Google takes into account. I will be covering these in more detail so be sure to grab a copy of the King Street SEO Newsletter which will almost certainly have a cooler name before too long!