If you’re trying to promote your business website online, no doubt you will have come across the term “SEO” or “Search engine optimisation”. But what is SEO, you may still be asking yourself. Well grab a coffee, sit yourself down, and get ready to understand the basics of SEO and why it’s so very important.
1. The Search Engines
Whether a searcher uses Google, Bing or Yahoo, these search engines have to decide which websites to show in response to a person’s search term. The more the search engine “values” a website, and believes it is a good match for what someone is looking for, the more likely it will be shown high up in the search engine results page (SERP) – ie. it will “rank” well.
This is called an organic listing or natural listing. The website is placed high in the results based on its own merit and because it has been optimised for the search engines. Note: no money has changed hands!
In contrast to this, companies can also pay search engines to help their website appear at the very top of the page (in response to a relevant search query). Unsurprisingly these are known as paid adverts/listings. If the advertising campaigns are set up properly, the website can appear near the top of the page even if it hasn’t been fully optimised for the search engines.
2. An Example To Help
A little search for “Hotels in Scotland” shows 4 paid listings at the very top of the page – the little green Ad icon is the giveaway:
Scrolling down the page, the websites which have NOT paid for an advert – the organic listings – get a look in:
Both booking.com and tripadvisor.com appear in the paid advert section and the organic listings – showing they have all bases covered! They are paying for adverts to ensure their ads appear at the top of page one, but their websites are also fully search engine optimised allowing them to rank well in the organic listings.
3. Why Is Page Position Important?
Unsurprisingly everyone wants their website to be placed on page one of the result listings, and in fact there is a saying:
“The best place to hide a dead body is page 2 of Google search results.”
There is firm data to support this:
In Google result listings
- 5% of website traffic goes to websites listed on page 1
- 8% of traffic goes to websites listed on page 2
- 1% of traffic goes to websites listed on page 3
4. Why Not Just Pay For Ads To Get To #1?
If you’ve been paying attention, you will understand that slipping Google or Bing some cash enables you to set up paid advertising – and this can help your website to be placed in the coveted #1 – but doesn’t guarantee it.
Thousands of other companies will also be spending money on adverts – and the search engines can only show a few results at the top of page one.
So even if you undertake paid advertising, your ad may appear at the top of the page on occasion only – especially if there are lots of competitors with a bigger advertising budget than you!
Hence SEO of your website is not just nice-to-have, it’s essential if you want your website to rank well every time someone searches for products or services like yours.
5. What Is SEO?
Now that you understand the importance of SEO in getting your website to rank well organically (naturally ie. without payment) in SERPs, we will cover some more basics.
There are two key elements of SEO
- On-page SEO
- Off-page SEO
5.1 On-page SEO
As the name suggests, this comprises all the important tweaks and twiddles that web development companies do within the pages of your website, to present it to the search engines in a way they can understand what it’s about and can easily determine if it matches the searcher’s query.
So on-page SEO takes place actually within your website.
If your website is for a Scottish hotel, and people are likely to search for “Scottish hotels” you need to incorporate this information in the site in a structured and meaningful way. Your web page needs to have a page title, URL, header tags and image text that all match one another, and all tell the search engines your web page is about Scottish hotels.
There are a range of on page SEO techniques that can be used on your website – this article will talk you through the most important.
5.2 Off-page SEO
If your website is beautifully optimised with all the right keywords for the search engines, that is simply not enough! For every enquiry, the search engines will have thousands of websites to choose from.
If on-page SEO is telling the search engines a wide number of websites are a good match for the searcher, they have to draw on other elements to help decide which sites should rank highest in the SERPs.
That’s when they consider off-page SEO ie. SEO that happens outside of your website.
A great definition from Neil Patel is:
“Off-page SEO simply tells Google what others think about your site.”
Search engines will assess how many people are liking and sharing your content and how many websites link into yours – the rationale being that the more people quoting and sharing your stuff, the more positive your company reputation is online – and hence your website must be worthy of ranking highly.
If you’re on the ball, you realise that people are only going to share and engage with your content if it’s pretty darned good.
And if they find it online.
There are many tactics to improve off-page SEO – you can read one of the best and simplest “action plan” articles here.
6. What Is SEO In Summary
Hopefully by now you have learnt some of the basic principles of search engine optimisation – its importance in organic ranking and how both on-page SEO and off-page SEO need to be carried out to enable your website to be found by as many people as possible.
Great looking websites are always nice to have, but if no-one finds them online then they’re simply going to waste!
If you have a great website but need assistance with on-page SEO or off-page SEO, we can help. Do feel free to contact us for a no-obligation chat. We’re always happy to advise on how we can improve your website ranking.
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