What is SEO?

25th November, 2020 | Written By Robert Wee

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a commonly used practise which involves optimising a website or webpage to drive more quality traffic to a website via search engines, such as Google’s organic results. A website which has been correctly optimised and ranks highly in search engines will see more search traffic each month and hopefully in turn increase the number of enquiries generated through the website. For you to fully understand how SEO works, you must first appreciate how the search engines work.

How do search engines generate results?

The easiest way to understand search engines is to view them as massive digital libraries which contain millions of articles and content in the form of webpages. When you enter a search query, the search engines plough through their indexes of content on each website to look for the most relevant information using algorithms. Although no one knows precisely how the search engine’s algorithms work, Google does disclose elements of information, and from this, we start to understand what is required when it comes to SEO Services, a more detailed guide on how search engines work can be found here.

How does SEO work?

The primary objective with SEO is to demonstrate to the search engines that your content provides the answers for the topics in specific search queries. The reason for this is relatively straightforward; all search engines want to provide the most relevant and best results for their users. However, how you do the SEO will depend on the search engine that you are targeting – usually Google or in the case of videos, YouTube. Naturally, it would help if you targeted your SEO to suit their algorithms to achieve the best results.

Basics for optimising for Google

Although we don’t know how many ranking factors Google has, it is commonly accepted that it is over 200 with 10,000 once mooted. We know some of these factors because Google has told us and in other cases because there are factors that are accepted within the industry. One of the most crucial points that you must understand is that Google ranks individual webpages as opposed to entire websites. As such, you don’t have to include your target SEO keyword on every page. Indeed, we would recommend that you target different keywords on different pages.

The main ranking factors

1. How easy is it for Google to crawl your webpages?

For Google to be able to display your webpage in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page), it first needs to know that your content exists. The primary way which Google does this is by crawling, which is merely following links to and from pages that it has visited before. It is done by a program called a spider, and the spider would follow a backlink on one of your webpages, for example, the homepage, to a page that has already been indexed by Google. From here, Google discovers the content on that page and adds it to its index as well as following internal links to discover other pages on your site.

It normal circumstances, this is relatively straightforward, but some factors can stop the crawlers in their tracks including low-quality internal links, “nofollow” internal links and blocks in robot.txt. It is therefore essential that you check all your links carefully.

2. Is your site mobile-friendly?

More than 60% of searches are conducted on mobile devices, and this is something which is continually increasing. In 2016, this was recognised by Google and became a ranking factor with mobile-first indexing introduced in 2017. It, therefore, makes sense, that when a user visits your site from a mobile device, they wish to see a mobile version of the site. It is estimated that in the region of 80% of users click off a site if a desktop version is displayed. As Google’s objective is to satisfy its users, websites which display the desktop version will be penalised.

It is quite easy to check if your webpages are mobile-friendly if you use Google’s own mobile testing tool.

Mobile friendly test

3. Page loading speed

It is generally accepted that with the pace of the modern world, people expect an immediate response, so it is no surprise that page loading speed is one of Google’s primary ranking factors. It is once again apparent that your page loading speeds need to be checked and you can do this using Google’s Pagespeed Insights tool.

Page speed insights 2

In the Performance Report, you should look for any pages that are loading slowly and then try to establish the reasons behind it such the images are too large, or it has been poorly optimised.

4. Search Intent

It is a simple task to find the keywords that you should wish to rank for if you use a keyword research tool. Look for the most relevant keywords and make a decision based on search volume. However, your page must align with the keyword that you have chosen. If it is not related to the article and irrelevant, it is unlikely to be ranked by Google.

To illustrate the point of search intent, we can use the example of “Thai food recipes”.

Thai food receipes

We can then compare this to the results generated is we entered “Thai Food Bangkok”.

Thai food Bangkok

Although the searches, on the face of it at least, would appear similar; the results are very different with one only showing recipes and the other listing the local restaurants. Google has tried to interpret what the user’s intention was when they submitted the query. It is therefore vital that when you use keywords, that they are relevant to what you are offering.

We discuss more about Search Intent and Keyword Research in our SEO guide here.

5. Backlinks

Although backlinks may not play as important a role as they used to, they are still critical when it comes to determining the relevance of your website. Backlinks are essentially votes, and the more votes your page has, the higher it will rank with a clear correlation noted between referring domains and organic search traffic as shown below.

Backlinks and Traffic

Although links are relatively straightforward to obtain, quality links are significantly harder to find, and you should always aim to build links to your content that contains the most relevant information. Alternatively, you could do a Google search for your target keyword and look for pages that contain inferior quality content. You should then reach out to those sites, explaining why a link to your content would be more beneficial to them, while at the same time building a new link to your site. We discuss link building in SEO as one of our chapters in our SEO guide.

6. Domain Authority

Quality backlinks are links that carry more weight and influence, and this built-in to how PageRank works are shown in the diagram below:

ahrefs pic 1

It would help if you always tried to include backlinks from high-authority pages although unfortunately, knowing which pages carry more authority can be challenging as Google removed public PageRank scores back in 2016. However, Ahrefs have produced a similar tool called URL Rating (UR). The UR rating is on a scale of 0-100, and there is a positive correlation between UR and organic search traffic.

ahrefs 2

Your webpage’s authority is not only boosted by backlinks but also internal links with can contribute to the authority of a page.

7. Quality content

There is no replacement for quality content and Google searches for content that offers expertise and authoritativeness as well as being viewed as trustworthy and reliable. When you write content, it should be aimed at a 7th or 8th-grade reading level with a focus on shorter sentences and paragraphs. Naturally, useful resources links should also be included where appropriate.

We discuss how to write SEO friendly content in Chapter 4 of our SEO Guide.

How does SEO ranking work?

We know that Google takes several factors into account, which can influence different SERPs. Factors include location, previous searches, along with the user’s search settings. For example, you could search for “chips recipe” in the UK and in again in the US, and the search results generated would be very different. The reason for this is that the same word carries two different meanings in the different locations.

SEO Ranking

In most cases, rankings within the first 2-3 pages (20 – 30 results) will fluctuate daily, as most webpages are competing for the top organic positions and each business will be making changes to on-page and off-page SEO.

When looking at SEO rankings, you are ultimately looking at the result of the past 1 – 3 months’ work, therefore it’s important not to panic if you do see a slight drop, the likelihood is it will recover and hopefully improve with consistently good quality SEO work.

Is SEO worth it?

If you’re in an industry where your products or services are being searched for the SEO should be your number one priority. There is simply no substitute for ranking in the top positions organically. That being said, you should also look to augment your marketing with other channels, Google Ads, Facebook Marketing etc.

To be successful at SEO, you must have a comprehensive knowledge of how the search engines work. It will help you to create content which is relevant to your target audience. Although Google’s algorithms frequently change, this should be kept in perspective, and you should focus on being consistent and using quality backlinks along with becoming an authority within your niche.

For more information on SEO, you can contact us on 02 038 5400, and we will be happy to discuss your needs and requirements. We have extensive knowledge of SEO and digital marketing and can help you to achieve goals.

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