SEO is often seen by some as something of a dark art. An enigmatic practice carried out by computer whizzes and shifty marketing professionals that magically gets you to the first page of Google. It may seem like black magic at times, but in fact it’s actually quite simple.
Okay, what is SEO?
SEO, or search engine optimisation, is the process of attracting higher quality, organic search traffic to your website. That is, more users arriving to your site via search engines like Google, who are looking for content around your industry, service or product. It gives your site the best possible chance of ranking higher in search engine results and attracting users who are more likely to convert into customers or loyal blog followers (or both).
How does SEO work?
To understand how SEO works, you first have to understand how Google and other search engines rank different websites. Imagine each website is a different book – some books are on law, others on the housing market or beauty products. Each book therefore falls under a specific category – for instance, ‘law’, ‘property’ and ‘beauty’.
When a librarian is given a new pile of books to sort and categorise, they will look for certain words and phrasing to work out what each book is about. Once they’ve categorised them based on these keywords, they will place them with the other books under that category.
In order of relevance
Instead of the books in each category being organised say chronologically or alphabetically, imagine that they are organised by their relevance. The books that are more useful, highly-rated and relevant will be ranked as most important and put first, while the less helpful books will be seen as the least important and put last.
When a book-lover comes into the library, and they ask the librarian for books on ‘European history’, the librarian will then bring them their top recommendations – the books that are more highly-rated and more relevant. How websites are ranked in search engine results pages (SERPs) works the same way.
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Google’s robotic librarians
Let’s say you offer family law services, Google’s spider will crawl your website like the librarian assessing the contents of each book. Google’s spider, sometimes called a spiderbot or crawler, is an Internet bot that systematically browsers websites to rank them. They’ll start at your homepage, and follow the links to all your different pages and blog posts of your website.
From crawling your site, Google will decide how relevant and useful your website is for search queries related to family law. It’ll then indexed your site on its search engine results, like the librarian putting books into a specific category. If your site is highly relevant and useful to users, your website will show on the top pages. Or, if Google thinks your website isn’t the most relevant site to users searching for family law, you’ll end up on the lower pages, or might not show on its search results at all. This is where SEO comes in.
Helping the Google bots
SEO is all about increasing your website’s chance on ranking higher on search engine results for relevant search terms. Think of it a little bit like making a book on family law more obviously about family law and seem more credible.
An enticing blurb including relevant phrasing such as ‘family law’, ‘divorce law’ and ‘child custody law’. Reviews from other respected lawyers all attesting to the brilliance of the book’s contents. A clear title that effectively communicates what the book is about. In a similar way, SEO involves practices both on and off the page that try to make it blatantly clear to Google’s bots what your website is about and to demonstrate its credibility, authority and relevance.
By demonstrating how useful you are, your website will be placed higher on search results for the most appropriate search terms related to your blog or business, e.g ‘family law services’. By appearing in the top spots of search results (think the top 3 results on the first page of Google), you’ll attract higher quality organic traffic made up of users who are more likely to convert to new customers or loyal blog followers.
At it’s most basic, that’s SEO. It’s not just helping you rank for the top 3 results on Google for any random search term. Good SEO will aim to get you ranking in the top spots for search terms actually related to what you do. It’s using content marketing, technical SEO and customer research to make your site as helpful, relevant and appealing to both users and Google bots so you can bring in not just any search traffic, but a healthy flow of users who are actually looking for what you offer.
The most important thing to remember is that SEO is not a quick fix or a one-time solution. A bit like investing in the stock market, it takes a while to see returns from it. But with proper SEO implementation, once the results start appearing, you’ll REALLY see the benefit. They say that patience is a virtue, and that’s certainly true when it comes to SEO.
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The next step
So now you understand how SEO works, how do you implement it? Well, the first step of SEO-ing your website is to research the types of words, phrases and questions related to your field that users are typing into Google. This is called Keyword Research. Once you know what keywords/search terms you should target, you can apply them to the 5 Basic Components of SEO.
As an experienced, white hat SEO and Content Marketer, it’s fair to say that I know a thing or two when it comes to search marketing. I want to make SEO less mysterious and cryptic for others through simple, down-to-earth explanations that can help you excel online. No tricks, no hogwash.
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