What is SEO?
SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is one of the most important aspects of digital marketing for any business leader or brand. The SEO services industry alone is currently valued at an incredible $51.25 billion as of 2022, and many experts consider SEO as critical to online success.
But what does it mean to invest in search engine optimisation?
In simple terms, Search Engine Optimisation refers to any process or activity intended to enhance your position in the search engine results pages. It improves your chances of being found by your intended audience online, and boosts brand visibility.
Let’s discover what SEO really means.
What is SEO? Defining SEO
SEO means “Search Engine Optimisation”. A search engine, like Google, Bing, or Yahoo, is the tool most people use to find information, products, and services online. Around 68% of online experiences start with a search engine.
When you engage in Search Engine Optimisation activities, you’re taking measures to make your website, web pages, and online content more visible to the search engines. Subsequently, you also make your brand more likely to stand out to your target audience.
SEO is one of two ways companies can position themselves more effectively in the search engine results pages. The other option is “paid advertising”. With SEO, the focus is on “organic” ranking, which means you enhance your content to naturally earn a higher spot in the search results. With paid advertising, you pay a fee to show people your content on the first page of Google, or another engine.
While SEO requires more work than paid advertising, and takes longer to show results, it’s also more sustainable. If you pay for your position in the search results, you’ll only remain there until your funds run dry. With organic rankings, you maintain your standing for as long as your content is valuable.
How Does Search Engine Optimisation Work?
Understanding SEO can be complex, because it requires an insight into how search engines like Bing and Google organize all the available content on the web. If you search for something like “SEO” on Google, the algorithm will find around 3,400,000,000 results. Of those results, the engine then needs to determine which websites and pages should appear on page 1, 2, 3, and so on.
To make this decision, search engines use crawlers (otherwise known as spiders or bots) to gather as much information as they can about each web page. These crawlers look at a multitude of factors, from the internal and external links on a page, to the keywords mentioned and the intent behind the content, to determine how valuable each page might be to a searcher.
Just some of the factors considered today include:
- Domain and page-level link features
- Keywords and contextual terms
- Engagement and traffic data
- Social media metrics
- Links and connections to reputable brands.
When a user types or speaks a query into a search engine, complex algorithms use the information collected about every page on the web, to deliver an ordered list of the most accurate, relevant, and useful results for that query. These results can include everything from news articles, images, videos, local business listings, and more.
What are the Core Elements of Search Engine Optimisation?
Search engines are just like any business, driven by a desire to deliver exceptional customer experiences. As such, they’re constantly updating the factors they look at to determine which content should be ranked where. This means staying ahead with search engine optimization is a process which requires constant dedication.
SEO agencies and professionals use an ever-evolving collection of factors to evaluate, audit, and enhance a company’s online presence, based on their latest knowledge of the algorithms. Usually, these factors fall into two crucial paths: on-page, and off-page SEO.
On-page SEO is everything included on the page you want to rank within the search engine results. This includes the keywords you use in your content, the quality of whatever you’re sharing, the metatags and data in each of your pages, and more.
Off-page SEO looks at elements outside of your website which might influence how the search engines perceive your company and pages. For instance, backlinks from reputable companies can help to strengthen the credibility and authority of your site.
How Do Companies Use SEO Effectively?
As mentioned above, mastering SEO is complicated because the goal posts are constantly moving. Strategies which might have worked a year or two ago, like infusing endless keywords into your content, won’t necessarily work today. To achieve the right results, most companies need to implement comprehensive strategies which involve not only improving their SEO standing, but also avoiding potential SEO problems.
For instance, to succeed with a high ranking in the search engines, you’ll need the right balance of on-page, off-page and technical SEO practices. This could involve using a range of carefully-curated keywords in highly relevant and informative content to connect with your target audience. At the same time, you would also improve your domain standing by earning backlinks from other reputable companies, and boost your technical SEO with internal linking, meta tags, and site maps.
Simultaneously, you’d also need to make sure you’re constantly checking for any SEO problems, such as evidence of keyword stuffing in your older content, or duplicate content on your website. If Google thinks you’re trying to cheat your way into a higher position in the search results pages, you can end up getting penalized, which makes it practically impossible for people to find your site.
Most SEO strategies will include:
- Content: Content is crucial in SEO because it allows you to deliver valuable insights to your audience, rank for the right keywords, and give the search engines more pages to index.
- Keywords: Selecting keywords and optimising your use of these terms in everything from alt descriptions to meta tags will help the search engines to know what to rank your pages for.
- HTML: Technical measures like optimizing your title tags, meta descriptions, and various other aspects of your listings in the search engine result pages are all essential to SEO.
- Site architecture: The structure of your site, how your pages link to each other, and even how fast your pages load influence how well you rank.
- Trust: Domain authority, page authority, and your connections with other people linking back to your website are all valuable to your site’s image.
As the requirements for SEO continue to evolve, most companies find it’s easier to stay on top of the latest trends by hiring specialist support from an SEO agency or specialist.