You may well be familiar with the term SEO, but what is SEO, what does it mean and why does SEO have such an impact on your website performance? Let’s dig deeper…
SEO stands for search engine optimisation and is a wide-ranging and in places technical topic, but in its essence one that is fairly easy to understand.
So in this article I’m going to introduce the subject from a high level to get the concept across, and I hope clear up any misconceptions around the subject.
What is SEO? – SEO in a nutshell
It is all about search. At its core : More visitors = more chance of a sale.
When people search you want people to be able to find your website, ideally listed above your competitors, ideally on the first page.
Google will decide what to display on the list and the position of it through a number of things.
- What it sees on the page (content) and what you have told it the page is about (markup), how fast and technically compliant your page is, and who is linking to your page.
Keywords form a large part of any SEO worrk, so let’s dig a little deeper and look at an example of what keywords are all about.
“What is SEO” <- This is a keyword phrase, or keyword.
If this keyword is not in the content or markup then google does not know that this is what you want your page to mention or what your page is about. Without it being in your content or your markup people will not find you when using this as a search term. So no results for you if someone searches using this keyword.
So we need to make sure that the keyword is on our website page, and that it is in the markup.
Now that we have a keyword to focus on for our content we need to make sure that it is performing well. So we need to keep track of its performance and how well the the keyword doing. what search page does it appear on? what position?
In other words we need to measure performance.
This includes performance over time. What about next month? Is it listed higher? lower? why?
SEO is taking the keyword and working this out to get the highest possible ranking position for it.
Of course people may also search for other keywords around the same topic, such as “What does SEO stand for?”, “Best SEO practices”, “How does SEO work” etc etc…
So another part of SEO is identifying keywords that you think will be used by people searching, and make sure that these are in your content, and measure that they are in fact ranking.
To do this we think about what our content is saying. It may be that the title of your content gives a good keyword (and it should be designed so that it does and is properly used). Also thinking about the overall subject matter, is it touching on related areas that are also important to the subject? If so there are keyword opportunities there.
Another way to identify keywords is to work out what keywords your main competitors are using and working to rank for them as well. (assuming that your competitors are ranking well of course!)
What is page markup? I’ve mentioned it a few times now so here’s a bit of an explanation.
Behind the scenes of each of your pages is a load of data that search engines such as Google can read.
This data is invisible to a site visitor, but super helpful to search engines.
This is what I refer to as markup.
So what is page markup?
I’ll start with perhaps the most obvious, and that is what your page will look like in search results
Here’s an example from this page of a preview of what search will look like, optimised for the phrase “What is SEO”
For this example we can see the subject is clear, the keyword is used in both the title and in the website address, and that the summary reads well, letting people know what the content is about. It may well be that you are here because of clicking a link in google. If so the markup on this page did its job.
Markup can also be used for your social media appearance of your page when it is linked to. So, for example, is your image the right size and looking good, does the text shown focus on what you’re trying to say?
With the understanding and the right tools you can get your content markup setup so your page is search engine friendly.
Bad keyword SEO
There is such a thing as bad SEO when it comes to keywords.
And is a point that is well worth mentioning. Let’s say you have 20 keywords you identify as being great prospects. In your article or on your page you essentially make it so your content is pretty much just the keywords loosely strung together in sentences, other than these keywords there no real content.
This is called keyword stuffing, and you can imagine that the text could become fairly unreadable following this approach to writing. Google can also see this too and will penalise your content for it. In other words, if Google sees content that is stuffed with keywords it will not rank so high.
So it’s a balancing act. First and foremost you want to write something that someone will want to read. Then you need to make sure that it is structured in such a way that it has all the keywords you need without affecting the flow of what you’re trying to say.
The keyword process
To summarise the essense of the process.
- We identify what we believe will be a good keyword,
- We make sure the keyword is used, naturally, in our content
- We make sure our markup includes the keyword.
- We measure where it is on Google, and keep track of its performance over time.
- We adjust our content to optimise for this keyword, measure again. and repeat until we get it where we want it to be.
When we’re satisfied we move onto another keyword and repeat the process. (in reality we do the process for a number of keywords at one time)
There are also a number of technical considerations when it comes to SEO, chiefly page speed.
The main issue with a slow page is people will get bored waiting for it to load and move onto another site before they see any of your content.
Google will also mark down pages that are slow, in other words if a slow page was made to be faster it would climb in the search results.
Technical SEO is a large subject and covers image size and compression, minification of CSS and JS files, and a host of other things.
Rather than delving into each one, I wanted to mention it as it is important. If you are taking on a web designer they need to know and understand about technical SEO, and any site they build for you must have this factored in and your pages must be fast.
How do you know if your web designer understands about technical SEO? The easiest thing to do is ask them to supply page speed metrics from a site they have built before.
Backlinks are also an important part of SEO.
One thing Google looks for is how ‘popular’ your site is. The thinking is the more sites that link to yours the more important, or popular, your site must be.
So backlinks, in other words links from other sites to yours, are also a large part of any SEO strategy.
Backlink research is important to identify other sites that could potentially link to yours. Directories can be helpful, along with other people’s websites.
To get a link from them usually means reaching out and either offering a link exchange (I’ll link to you if you link to me) or by offering something of value to them, such as an article with a link back to you that they can publish on their site.
How about the services you occasionaly see where people are advertising supposed quality’ backlinks for next to nothing?
Unfortunately the old adage of “if it looks too good to be true” holds here. The backlinks from these services are usually from spammy sites that Google has identified as having no value. In fact, it is possible to have BAD backlinks if you get your SEO backlinking wrong, something that Google will actually penalise you for.
Backlinking is an important and often time consuming activity. The results however are worth the effort.
So, what is SEO?
So I guess all of that may be quite a bit to take in, so lets bring it back to the overall idea of what it is all about.
SEO is the process you use to increase your visibility in search and get noticed and to make sure you are ahead of your competitors in your search results.
Good SEO practices include regular competitor review of ranking positions, review of your own website keywords and how they are ranking, and updating of website content and markup to boost positions.
If you’d like to know more about some practical steps for getting your site to rank then head over to our article ‘12 top tips to get your website ranking’
Here at Bright Light we offer full SEO services. If you’d like to know more about this and the other services we offer then please have a look at our services page for more information.
Or get in touch now to see how we can help you with your SEO and website rankings