What is SEO? Here’s everything you need to know
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. It is the practice of improving your website and online platform to make sure your audience can find you when they use major search engines to find out about products and services that can fulfil a need they have.
Typically people search with a query or intent.
A search query is usually when a user asks a question while browsing. They want an answer, keeping things as plain as possible.
A search intent is usually when users are hoping to make a direct action as part of their search – either they might be looking to purchase a product, book a table or find out more about a particular service.
Improving your SEO can be fundamental to the success of your website so it’s crucial to have an SEO strategy and action plan in place.
Now, the chances are you’ve heard the term SEO, but you might not completely understand what it means, what is does or why you need it.
Read on to find out more about SEO and the best practises to get it right. In turn you’ll drive valuable traffic to your website, increasing your opportunities to gain more sales and leads.
What is SEO?
SEO optimises your HTML coding and content on your website for the purpose of search engines. The result of this enables people online to discover your brand by improving the quality and quantity of organic traffic to your website, or search engine traffic to a specific web page within your website.
When you hear the term ‘search engine’ chances are you will think of Google. An understandably so, as it is the king of search engines!
For context, a recent report stated that the average number of daily Google searches is 3.5 billion, which translates into 1.2 trillion global searches per year. It’s also worth noting that in the UK 85% of the country’s desktop traffic is conducted via Google so it’s the place to be.
However, other search engines do exist, such as:
- Ecosia – the one that has a sustainable advantage attached to it because for every search term entered, a tree is planted.
- Baidu – the leading search engine in China where in comparison, Google is only used by 10% of the country’s desktop traffic.
Regardless of which search engine your audience chooses to use, or whether they conduct desktop or mobile searches, each one will typically generate pages of suited external links for particular search terms.
Our question to you is: Have you ever clicked beyond pages two or three?
We’re guessing your answer is, “Probably not”.
So, ultimately your business needs to be in the top two pages to be noticed and considered.
The other important thing to note about SEO is that it is organic. An organic search is the most prominent way for people to discover and access high-quality content. The opposite of an organic link is a paid for link – the latter being brands that have paid to be on page one.
Anyone can pay to be on the front page of google though so the chances are those links that come up as ‘ads’ probably won’t be as a relevant to your need as the natural links that are beneath them.
Why do you need SEO?
Having good search engine rankings is essential because every other directly-competing business in your industry will be fighting for the top ranking spot to drive web traffic and sales. And the only way you’ll compete against these businesses is by having a competitive SEO strategy too.
A whopping 94% of search engine users will click on the organic search results versus just 6% who click on the Google ads. Therefore the higher your website is listed, the more people will see it, and the more traffic you’ll receive.
Ranking at the top is crucial for brand awareness too. If you’re not ranking high and a searcher isn’t specifically searching for your brand, there is a risk they will never know about you and therefore, never buy from you.
The difference between organic and paid searches
To understand SEO it’s important to understand the differences between organic and natural searches and those searches that have paid to be there.
As discussed above, research shows that people trust organic listings more than they do paid for listings and as a result, are much more likely to click on an organic listing over one that appears at the very top of the page, or down the side.
Paid searches are however tempting to execute as with search engine advertising you can get near instant results, sometimes in minutes.
But remember, less than 1 in 10 users will click on that link, so is the ROI enough?
While our hearts lie in the organic search results camp, our experience has taught us that a combined organic and paid-for SEO approach – executed correctly – is the best approach to have.
How to do SEO effectively
Getting included high up in the organic search list involves many different activities and requires technical skill.
SEO is an ever-changing landscape so it’s important for marketers to understand how it continually evolves so they stay at the top of the game. That said, while SEO does and will change frequently in small ways, the key principles remain the same.
SEO is broken down into three core components, or pillars, that need to be managed and regularly monitored:
1. Technical SEO
Technical optimisation will involve your website designer and technical team. They will look after the activities on your website that are designed to improve SEO, but are not related to content. It is activity that often happens behind the scenes.
The areas of technical SEO that you need to get right to see your site rise up the ranks are:
- Crawling – checking internal and external links so search engine bots can crawl your entire website successfully
- Indexing – making sure all your web pages that you want to be found are indexed, as this indicates to search engine robots to include it in the rankings
- Rendering – turning website code into interactive web pages that users can browse with ease
- Website structure – ensuring the website architecture is set up appropriately for SEO, and your customers of course
- Schema markup – telling search engines what you want products, services and web pages to be known for
- User experience – core web vitals is a big thing for Google, this means that your web pages are working properly and are engaging (with the use of videos and text)
- Website speed – a slow site will always rank lower on search engines. Get your technical team to improve your website’s speed and you’ll get a big SEO tick.
2. On-page SEO
On-Page SEO is the process of ensuring the content on your site isn’t spam but rather high-quality content that provides a great user experience.
A keyword research tool is used to understand what words and phrases should be used. The content must include those relevant keywords and can be easily managed through a content management system such as WordPress, Wix, Drupal, Joomla, Magento, Shopify, and Expression Engine.
On page SEO is also where you’ll hear the term ‘meta’ come into play. Meta elements are distinguished by two separate parts:
- Meta titles (max 60 characters)
- Meta descriptions (max 160 characters)
The meta title tells search engines, web browsers, social media websites and users what the title of your web page is, and the meta title will show in your page’s listing in an online search result.
According to Moz, a website analytical and SEO service, meta titles are the second most important on-page factor for SEO, after content. Which is why the meta title needs to provide an accurate description of the types of content that can be found on the web page.
The meta description element is also important for SEO because Google will fall back on this tag when information about the page itself is requested. The description attribute also helps to provide a concise explanation of the page’s content.
Other crucial On-page SEO factors are your URL slugs. This is the URL that’s connected to each web page. The URL slug is often forgotten about by website developers and designers, but it really is a vital element to get right when optimising a website for search engines.
3. Off-page SEO
Off-Page SEO is the process of enhancing your site’s search rankings through activities outside of the website itself. This is largely driven by backlinks, which help to build the site’s reputation.
Creating a strategic backlink strategy requires a lot of time and effort. But executed correctly, it can be what bags you the top spot over your competitors. A website without an off-page SEO strategy will simply sit in the ranks and not see much improvement – especially in a short amount of time!
This brings us nicely onto SEO and PR…
SEO and PR
These two disciplines go hand in hand and while it’s promising to see that SEO is considered an essential part of a digital PR strategy in some cases, many companies are still approaching SEO and public relations as very separate. Either running with different teams or working with multiple agencies.
Two of Google’s most important ranking factors are extensions of what PRs do day in and day out: create high-quality content and generate coverage, so it makes sense for them to work in synergy.
Typically PR is focused on managing and improving the spread of information regarding a brand or organisation to the public. PR is used to control a narrative and grab consumers’ attention with messaging they want to convey. And of course, it can be used to drown out negative noise when necessary.
Nowadays, PR can also powerfully support a brand’s SEO strategy. One example is link building through online press coverage and blogger outreach. When a popular press outlet or blog covers a brand, they may also include a link to the website, which automatically gives a free backlink to your website. This can significantly increase a website’s domain authority which in turn, gives a brand’s website a good reputation.
Another example is using PR to weave relevant keywords into press copy, and then using as long reads on a company’s website as thought leadership, or SEO blog content.
To conclude, SEO is a complex discipline but when it’s executed effectively it can reap rewards and bring organic search traffic for your website. It’s particularly effective for start-ups who are new to market and need to tell their audience about what they can offer but don’t perhaps have the big budgets for all singing and all dancing marketing efforts.
Written by Tracey Warmington, a writer on the We Are Copywriters team.
Are you looking for SEO support for your business? Get in touch email@example.com or 07477987943.