Accessible Marketing

So What Exactly is SEO?

by Judith Hutchinson

In a recent client meeting I was asked this question.  To me the term is part of my vocab and I stupidly forget that others are not necessarily familiar with what SEO is.  So here goes with a quick guide…

So What Is SEO?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What Is SEO And Why Is it Important? 

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation.  In simple terms it’s about making your website better for the search engines (search engines being Google, Yahoo, Bing etc).  Google commandeers the larger market share so for the purposes of this article I’m going to focus on Google.

If  you’ve worked hard at your SEO then your site will appear higher up in the natural (or organic) listings.  What are organic listings? I hear you ask.  Well, if you go to Google and type in ‘holidays to Spain’ you will get a lot of results (164 million when I last checked) but let’s be fair, it’s really only those results that appear on the first page that really matter.  You will see in the results that those at the top and those at the right hand side are all listed as ads.  This is where companies have paid to be there (PPC or Pay Per Click – perhaps another article!).   The ‘organic’ listings are the rest and many studies show that people are more trusting of organic listings and therefore more likely to click on organic listings.   So therefore if you are selling holidays to Spain then it would be good to be in the top of the organic listings to sell more holidays (the same goes for whatever your business is selling).

How Does It Work? 

Let’s imagine that the World Wide Web is a cobweb.  Google sends out its army of spiders to crawl across the web finding stuff. This could be new sites that it hasn’t already found and existing sites that have been updated.  The spiders index this information.   Now the head spider, Googlebot, is a mathematical genius and has developed some fancy algorithms (that I will never understand) to rank the pages depending on the ‘keywords’ that somebody has put into Google to perform their search. Basically Google wants its search results to be the best they can be to please its users so they are finding the information relevant to whatever it is they have searched for.    And if that doesn’t make sense here’s a link to Google’s very own explanation.

So What Can Small Businesses Do to Help Themselves?

There are loads of things that you could be doing and to an extent it depends on who you are targeting as to how much time and effort you want to allocate to SEO.  It could be that you employ somebody specifically for this role, recruit a freelancer or do it yourself.  Whichever route you choose it’s always a good idea to learn more yourself so that you know what the terms are and what the general idea is.  Here are a few things that will help:

1. Have a think about what a potential customer might type into Google to find your product or service.  Write all of them down.  You may also find a keyword tool could be useful idea generators too (you don’t need to advertise to access the keyword tool).  Now have a look at your Google Analytics to see what keywords people are currently using to find your site.

2.  Now you have an idea on the types of keywords that are important to your business you can ensure that you weave these into both the content of your website and the back end of the website (this may be where you need professional help!). But whatever you do – don’t over optimise – Google knows and doesn’t like it. Keep things original and relevant to your reader (otherwise what’s the point anyway?)

3. Have a well designed site that people (and Google) are going to find easy to use.

4. Have good and relevant content on your website – remember it’s not just about words – images and videos are important too.

5.  Develop links from and to other relevant sites (much has been written about link building – Go on Google it!).  Basically don’t get involved in any dodgy practices – or ‘black hat SEO’ tactics as they are called.  Keep things relevant and useful (hmmm there seems to be a theme developing here).

6. Don’t forget about your social media accounts – they appear in organic listings and rumour has it that Google is paying more and more attention to your social media.

Above all remember Google needs to please its users.  Google wants users to feel they are getting the most relevant and useful websites in their search results so basically Google will go all out to make sure the spiders are bringing back the best results from across the web.

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