Part 2: How exactly does SEO work?
SEO is a process to help increase visitors to your website (using organic ((natural or un-paid)) search results) via the listings on search engines. Each results list shows and ranks content on what it considers most relevant and/or important to users.
This ranking is achieved by two main factors, what is On-Page and what is Off-Page.
- On Page SEO is anything that can be done ‘on the page’ to optimise its relevancy. So good titles, descriptions and appropriate key words.
- Off Page SEO is basically ‘link building’; where a large effort is made to have links come back to your site and help build its reputation.
All combining to help ensure your site is at its optimum when ‘scanned’ by a search engine, which uses complex algorithms to search (and index) each web page for specific content including:
- Words (keywords). Each search engine scans every word in your website to help produce results. For example, if your site contains the word ‘holiday’ and someone searches for ‘holiday’ the search engine will then list websites that contain that word.
- Titles. You won’t often see them as they are in your web pages’ code, e.g: <title>Europe’s Best Holidays</title> but they are very important as they provide a quick and descriptive summary of the page.
- Links. Each link between web pages can be seen as one ‘recommending’ another page to users. So if one page has a lot of links to it that will look good to a search engine.
- Words in links. By linking a specific word or phrase that is relevant to the link, the search engine will connect those words with the site. For example, if you have a hyperlink ‘travel Germany’ that links to ‘ ’, the search engine will better rate ‘ ’ on any search result that looks for ‘travel’ and ‘Germany’.
- Reputation. This is all about producing consistently fresh, engaging content and higher numbers of quality links, which rate higher in search engine algorithms and are then deemed ‘more important’ to users.
When the above is done right, your website can rank higher in search results, which means more people see your site.
So what elements can you use to help your site rank better?
- These are any words and phrases that are unique to each page and the product, theme, etc, and which you believe your customers are searching for. It can also be best to ignore keywords that are too generic as they will get lost amongst all the online ‘noise’, for example, instead of the too generic ‘widget’, use a more descriptive element such as ‘acrylic self-binding widget’.
- Keywords are what you will / should design your site around.
- Metadata and metatags
- Once your keywords are selected, it’s time to customise and make unique the metadata (embedded descriptive information) on every page.
- Metadata is coded into what are termed ‘metatags’.
- The more ‘generic’ and ‘same’ metadata you use the more a search engine will give you a worse ranking.
- Metatag example:
- <meta name=”description” content=”Metatags and SEO.”>
- <meta name=”keywords” content=”metadata, metatags, SEO, web design, resources, HTML authoring”>
TOP TIP: Keep metatags simple and concise as some search engines ignore long descriptions and too many keywords. They may even rank you lower if you repeat a keyword too often. With this in mind, prioritize the most important keywords first in any list as a search engine may only read a specific amount of keywords.
- Content and New Content
- The old saying that ‘content is king’ is absolutely true. That’s why you should keep it as unique and as updated as you can. It’s also better on average to have more on each page than less.
- Always do your best to add new content – and link it within your own site – as much as possible, this gives search engines another reason to come back and rescan your site.
- Link Building
- Perhaps the hardest, most time-consuming part of the SEO process, link building is all about establishing inbound links from other sites. The more sites that link directly to your site the better, as the search engine ‘assumes’ an importance to the site being linked to.
- It is also best to have links coming from sites that have similar keywords to yours, so a site about ‘bread’ that links back to your ‘bread’ page will be seen as more relevant and therefore better rated.
AND A WARNING: Spamming.
When a keyword is used repeatedly it is called ‘metatag spamming’ or ‘keyword loading’ (specifically when you use irrelevant words such as ‘sex’ or ‘porn’ that you feel will increase traffic to your site) and a search engine can penalize you for it. You should also be careful about using someone else’s trademark.
By helping to ensure your site is accessible to, and optimized for, a search engine (including Google, Bing, Yahoo!, etc.), SEO can help your site obtain higher-ranking placement in search result pages.
But keep in mind:
Search engines constantly change their algorithms and this means what works one day may not work the next. Good SEO has to keep up with these changes.
SEO may not be appropriate to your site and you may achieve more by looking at other marketing strategies.
When it comes to SEO, it is impossible to guarantee the 1st spot. If any SEO specialist says they can, be skeptical.
But when SEO is done right and inline with your overall marketing strategy, with accurate research, quality content and strong link building, the benefits to your business can be significant.
Author: Paul Treleaven