If you’ve ever Googled ‘How do I market my business online’, you’ve probably been bombarded by over technical articles, or videos of experts wearing cardigans talking about how vital ‘SEO’ is.
But what exactly is SEO? Is it magic? Some forgotten alchemical lore? And how does one go about SEO’ing up so that Google directs the right consumer to my business and not to a competitor? It’s one of those things that lots of people claim to be experts in, but nobody actually completely understands.
Let’s pop on our cardigans and break down the basics.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation, literally the act of making your website easier for Google to find and understand what it’s selling/telling, etc.
The first element is making sure that the technical elements of your site are correct, so search engines can see it, and understand its purpose. The robots (bots) that ‘crawl’ through your website look for certain elements that ‘signal’ what the site is for. As an example, if it sees lots of content about shoes and a reflective site structure around that, it’ll assume that the site is about shoes and it should show people your site when they search for shoes. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well to that point it kind of is.
KEY POINT #1 – Make sure your content and site structure reflects what your website is about.
The complexity gets exponential when it comes to signalling search engines WHY your content on shoes is better than the shoe shop down the road, or the shoe shop on the Isle Of Man.
After a search engine’s bot has crawled your site and has an understanding of what it is about, it will then attempt to gauge the quality of your content. It does that by comparing your content, traffic, links to and from your site, amongst other things. If you have highly relevant content, with links to highly relevant sites coming to and from your site, search engines will rank you higher.
KEY POINT #2 – Make sure you are linking to your website from all your social platforms, and as many other relevant websites as possible.
The complication is that no major Search Engine actually tells people EXACTLY how their search algorithms rank sites. We know the fundamentals, and follow best practice guides and clues, but a lot of what we know about SEO as a digital marketing community is based around trial and error; what we see that works and what doesn’t. SEO is about constantly adapting to changes in the algorithm and consumer search behaviour. Change – monitor – assess – rinse and repeat where needed.
The most important lesson about SEO is that there is no such thing as set and forget, no such thing as instantaneous results. SEO is a long game that rewards patience, detailed analysis, and steady evolution of strategies.