SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is the term used to actively increase the quality and quantity of the traffic to your website via organic search engine results. Breaking down the previous sentence will emphasise exactly what we mean;
• Quality of your traffic: Ensuring the quality of search terms directly linked to your company is paramount. For example, if you're trying to sell Apple products such as a Macbook Air or the latest iPhone, you don't want people landing on your website trying to buy a basket of Apples from Old MacDonald (in his Farm). Attracting visitors who want to buy your products, or services is key.
• Quantity of your traffic: Once you have established the quality aspect and the right type of website visitor is clicking through to your website, then you need to focus on quantity. More traffic is better. Always. Non-targeted traffic, even in their droves won't necessarily bring you more work or sell you more products, so point one (Quality) absolutely defines point two (Quantity).
• Organic results: Organic results are the proportion of results you see on the left hand column on the results page, just under the two or three paid adverts at the top of the page. Any adverts sponsored by the search engine will have a yellow 'AD' box embedded in the description. Organic results are unpaid listings.
How SEO Works
There are many search engines out there that you can use to find information on these days - Google, Bing (Yahoo!) and Firefox are some examples. Simply type a request into the search bar and get lots of results that you can choose from. More often than not, there will be thousands of results - but have you ever wondered why some websites rank above others organically?
Well, here's how it works: All search engines, including Google and Bing have crawlers - sometimes called spiders, or bots that gather information about all the content they can find on the Internet. The crawlers accumulate incredible amounts of information and feed it back to the search engine to build an index. That index is then fed through an algorithm that tries to match all that data with your initial query.
There are an incredible amount of factors involved with ranking a website highly in search engines like Google. The exact algorithm used to determine the higher placements in known only to the search engines themselves, but these are the key factors;
Most Important Factors
• Domain Level Link Authority Features: Quantity and quality of the links coming in to your site and over domains Page Rank
• Page Level Link Features: Quantity | quality of page links, TrustRank and anchor text distribution
• Page Level KW Content Features: Topic modelling scores on content, TF*IDF, content quality, content relevance
• Page Level Keyword Agnostic Features: Content length, readability, load speed and uniqueness
• Domain Level Brand Features: Usage of domain | brand name in news, media, press and entity association
• User, Usage and Traffic: Traffic | usage signals from web browsers, toolbars, quantity, diversity, click through rates (CTRs) of queries
• Social Metrics: Quality and quantity of Tweeted links, Facebook shares etc
• Domain Level Keyword Usage: Exact match keyword domains, partial keyword matches
• Domain Level, Keyword Agnostic Features: Domain name length, TLD extension, domain HTTP(S) response times
The above outlines the Search Engine (SE) part of SEO - now we move on to the O, or Optimisation,
Optimisation is purely content driven and takes many forms. As an example, Title Tags and Meta Descriptions should be informative and the right length (in characters). Internal links should be appropriately placed too - spamming internal links is frowned on and should only point to those pages that you're really proud of. Below are key features when optimising your website properly.
• Content: Content is important - otherwise your web visitors will end up looking at a blank screen. Informative content is key, but it needs to be unique. Content for your website is such a huge part of SEO, it's something you need to really focus on moving forward. Once you have a great range of content on your website, that's job done, right? Wrong. Crawlers | Spiders | Bots will regularly visit your website to find new, relevant and excellently written content - if there's none to find, they'll start to demote your site. Update your website often, knowing how often is key. A blog attached to your website is a great way of creating new, regular content.
• Robots.txt: This is a file specifically written by webmasters to help search engines identify how a page should be read and then indexed. The robots.txt file is part of the the robots exclusion protocol (REP), which are web standards that regulate how robots crawl the web, access and index content, and serve that content up to users. The REP also includes directives like meta robots, as well as page-, sub-directory-, or site-wide instructions for how search engines should treat links (such as “follow” or “nofollow”). In essence, a robots.txt file will identify whether certain user agents can crawl or not crawl pages, or specific sections of a web page or website. There's lots more to learn here, but that's the basics.
• Links: Links can come in many different forms, from anchor text to redirection both on and off of your website. Knowing how to best utilise your links will benefit greatly when optimising your website. Having links from trusted sites with decent Page Ranks will help, others with poor Page Ranks will not - in fact they can have an adverse effect on how well you website will rank - sometimes. Again this is a balancing act which needs to be fine tuned.
Utilising these practices will ultimately help you promote your website organically, whether this is in your local area, or to a world wide audience. However, as you can see, SEO is a huge task for people to undertake, which is why the method can be expensive - but get it right, and it will pay dividends.
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