What is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)?


What is a Search Engine?

Search engines are websites that help you find information on the Internet. The most popular search engine is Google.

Usually you can type in a key word or phrase, like "Plumbers". The Search Engine will then show you a list of information or pages on websites that it thinks you will find useful.

The search engine tries to put the most useful information at the top of the list. You might hear people call this the Search Engine Ranking Position (SERP).

What is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and why do I need it?

Search Engine Optimisation is the process of demonstrating to a search engine that a page on your website is the most relevant or useful result for what a particular person is searching for.

The search engine will then be more likely to show your website at the top of results for certain searches. This makes your website or business easier for people to find online. There is often a lot of competition for the top results because many online businesses want customers to find them this way.

How does Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) work?

There are roughly one billion websites on the Internet – far too many for humans to sort through by hand! Search engines use programs called robots to look at pages on websites and then decide what the content is about.

On-site Optimisation

The most important part of SEO is called on-site optimisation. A good web developer will follow all the Quality Guidelines published by a search engine provider. This will help the search engine robots to find and understand all the information on the website.

Search engines take lots of signals into account when deciding what websites to show. For example a search engine might only show local business websites, or only recent news. Search engines prefer websites that have a good user experience. This means websites that are quick to load, have unique quality content, and that are designed for mobile too.

These are all important parts of on-site Search Engine Optimisation. This should be considered the foundation of any SEO strategy.

However another important signal for search engines is trust and authority. If a website has lots of trustworthy, important and relevant sources talking about it, then a search engine will rank the website highly.

Off-site Optimisation

Off-site optimisation is the process of getting genuine and high quality sources to talk about your website and link to it.

SEO experts will call these “backlinks”, as in “people linking back to your website”. Sometimes it is just as simple as asking someone for a link. For best results, however, you actually want to get people talking about your website or brand. If SEO is seen as a separate service, rather than an integral part of an overall marketing strategy, then it won't be effective.

Start simple at first: look for local online business directories. These give strong signals to search engines about the location of your business and what products or services it offers.

Once you've done this, there is no magic answer. You need to offer a product or service that people will be interested enough to talk about. You might get mentioned in the news, in reviews, on people's blogs, or in online discussion forums. You might have information on your website that people find interesting or useful enough that they share it on social media.

More than anything, modern SEO is all about offering quality products, services or information, and making it as easy as possible for people to share and talk about it through blogs, and social media like Facebook or Twitter. This makes a Social Media Strategy essential.

What is a Social Media Strategy?

Social Media, like Facebook and Twitter, is a conversation between you and your customers – and your customers' friends and connections, who you might assume have similar interests and might be interested in your website too. Crucially, it's a human way to connect with people unlike all other forms of mass advertising.

A Social Media Strategy sets out what resources you will put into social media, exactly what you aim to achieve, your tone or brand "personality" and how you will start or participate in conversations around your brand. A social media expert can help you create and schedule content that will maximise engagement. They will measure reactions to continually improve the Strategy.

What comes after SEO?

Getting found online is important – but it's only half the battle.

Visitors to a website need to be able to find the information they want as quickly as possible. Business websites may need to convince a customer to take an action, such as buying a product or requesting a quote.

Good web developers have to know about marketing and User Experience Design in order to create websites that are easy to navigate and support efficient customer journeys with a clear “call to action” (CTA) at each stage.

This can be an on-going process. It is essential to measure and identify bottlenecks where customers drop out. Web developers can use techniques such as A/B Testing – selecting between two different variants of a web page at random, and measuring responses to each – to maximise conversions. The results can be stunning.

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