If you have heard of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) but are not quite sure what it involves and what exactly it means for your online business, then we hope this quick guide outlining the basics of SEO will help get you started.
Having, at the very least, a basic understanding and working knowledge of SEO is essential for any online business, since fundamentally the process of improving your ranking and visibility in search engines will result in more ‘quality’ visitors to your website.
In Part 1 we’ll look at what SEO actually is and why you should be building it into your marketing strategy and in Part 2 we’ll examine some tools to help get you started.
What is SEO ?
So what exactly is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)? In a nutshell SEO is the process of improving the position of your businesses ‘natural’ listing in the search engine results pages (SERPS). Basically put:
- The search engine user (potentially your customer) enters a keyword or keyphrase into a search engine (e.g. Google, Yahoo)
- The search engine results pages (SERPS) lists the results in order of relevancy to the keyword/keyphrase query entered by the search engine user. The most relevant and closest match will appear at the top of the ranking.
- SEO can help your business improve its natural ranking position on the search engine results pages.
Natural and PPC listings
Okay, so I mentioned ‘natural’ listings, these listings are also referred to as ‘organic’ or ‘unpaid’. They are arguably the most important listings to appear on the search engine results pages as they are the listings the majority of users click on. Natural listings are the ones you can improve by putting some time and effort into SEO activities – essentially what we’ll be looking at in Part 2 of this blog.
Before we go further with SEO, it is also important to mention the listings you usually see directly above and to the right hand side of the natural listings on the search engine results pages. These are paid or sponsored listings and are known as ‘PPC’ (Pay Per Click) or ‘paid search marketing’. When a specific keyword or keyphrase is typed into a search engine then a pertinent PPC advertisement appears on the SERPS – a fee is paid to the search engine for each click through to the advertisement.
The general rule of thumb is that about that about two-thirds of search engine users click on the natural listings – so you can see why it really is important to put time and effort into SEO to improve your SERPS positioning. However, bear in mind that if two-thirds of users are clicking on the natural listings, this means that a third of searchers are still clicking through via the ‘paid’ advertisments. Ignoring PPC completely could mean you miss out on a significant proportion of potential visitors. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches and so in order to maximise visitor traffic you may want to consider a mixture of both paid and non-paid search engine marketing.
What is in it for my business?
Right, back to Search Engine Optimisation. SEO is an essential process for driving good quality visitors to your business. Higher visibility on SERPS will drive more traffic to your website therefore, working towards getting your website on the first page of listings for search queries related to your area of business should be a priority. When you put a query into a search engine, how often do you trawl through all the results pages the search engine lists? In all likelihood probably not very often. The majority of users look at the first search engine results page only before going back to try an alternative keyphrase search.
SEO does require time and effort but the good news is if you do the groundwork you are more likely to sustain your position long term. Once you have reached a good ranking page through SEO work with an on-going commitment it is then easier to maintain your position.
What is the search engine looking for?
So, what exactly is the criteria the search engine looking for when a user types in a search query? It actually considers numerous factors but the most important thing to the search engine is who can provide the closest, most relevant match from the most authoritative source. So essentially those websites considered authoritative with closest matching relevant content are going to score higher with search engines.
In days gone by websites could improve their SERPS rankings by simply packing their websites full of relevant keywords and sometimes involved manipulative practices now considered black hat such as keyword stuffing and cloaking. These days search engines are a lot more clued up and penalise business that don’t follow their recommended guidelines.
A good solid principle to follow to ensure you don’t fall foul of search engine criteria is quite simply to ensure you create fresh, relevant and authoritative content. We’ll be looking at ways to do this in part 2 of this blog.