SEO (search engine optimisation) can seem like a mystery to most. Fear not, at Results First SEO is our ‘Vogels and butter’ and we’re here to explain!
For businesses with an online presence, SEO has become an essential component of any comprehensive marketing campaign. It’s become impossible to talk about the impact of having a website without talking about traffic, which means talking about sources of traffic – and that inevitably leads to a discussion regarding the importance of search engines.
However, for those who don’t have a working knowledge of online marketing, the term and its related concepts can seem confusing. On this page, we explain SEO in plain English so you can cut through the jargon and really understand the benefits of this service for your organisation.
What does ‘SEO’ mean?
SEO stands for search engine optimisation and is also referred to ‘organic’ listings or rankings. It is the process of optimising (reorganising, simplifying, improving and restructuring) a website so that it is ranked accurately and favourably when crawled by search engine. It involves a series of ongoing tasks, carried out with a focus on certain key phrases which are relevant to what the business in question does; key phrases that describe their industry, niche, location, products, services etc. When it’s done correctly, the page/s that have been optimised appear high up on search engine results pages (SERPs) when users search for those key phrases.
The aspects of a site that are optimised are worked on in order to address the requirements of search engine algorithms, and ensure that the website is ‘best practice’ and within guidelines. Search engines such as Google use mathematical algorithms to assign values to certain quantitative and qualitative measures. They then compare the differences between sites, ranking them accurately in order of quality and relevance, giving the search engine user the best possible search experience. These search engine algorithms take into account hundreds of different things, from the age of the domain, to the nature of the content that’s available to the user, to the uniqueness of the content, who is ‘talking about’ the website (linking to it or mentioning it), and many others.
Sound complicated? It can be! But in a nutshell, the optimisation process is aimed at ensuring that search engines see your site as a high quality, relevant result to users’ queries and as an ‘authority’.
Before proceeding with an SEO campaign, it’s important to research strategically advantageous key phrases to focus on. There are a number of sources used to research this list, including but not limited to:
- The Keyword Planning tool. This can give an indication of how many searches a phrase may have each month.
- Your competitors. We can see which phrases your competitors are targeting in their website coding.
- Existing data. If Analytics has been installed, we can see which phrases have already been effective or not-so-great.
It’s also best for return on investment to have short, medium and long-term goals.
The Technical 'Onsite' Process
Search engine optimisation is a methodical process. While the techniques and approaches have evolved dramatically over the past 5-10 years, SEO still basically consists of two components: onsite and offsite.
The ‘onsite’ refers to the strategy and changes made on the website to ensure everything is best practice and within guidelines. In short, making sure everything on the website is set to give it the best shot of appearing on page 1. Our technical specialists audit the website and implement a strategy to align the Phrases to the best target pages, and check all other ranking components.
We also refer to it as ‘checking under the bonnet’ of your website, like a mechanic would do to a car.
'Offsite' Authority Building
The second important part of SEO is the ‘offsite’ which is anything that occurs off the website and usually is to build authority to the website.
Some offsite factors include ‘backlinks’ (or also referred to as ‘link building’ or ‘authority building’), third-party citations, social media activity and online PR. Offsite is very important because it gives search engines an indication of how authoritative your website is. Backlinks and other mentions online on third-party websites show search engines that your website is being talked about, endorsed and, as such, considers it relevant, informative and worth ranking high up on its pages.
If every website had perfect onsite, offsite comes into play to help Google distinguish which ones belong in the coveted top 10 positions.
Some Onsite Components
Search engines like sites that are relatively simple and easy to navigate because this has a positive impact on user experience. Ideally, it shouldn’t take your site visitors too many clicks between coming to your site and finding the information they need. The aim is to have (or to work towards) ‘flat site architecture’ – usually, a home page with easy to find links to broad inner pages, with the smallest and most specific pages just a few clicks away from the home page. Think of it like a family tree – in this case, the fewer sub-branches, the better.
Meta Title & Description Tags
As one of the first things that a search engine looks at when crawling a page, it’s important to get the title and description tags right. The title tags are the short bits of text that, when you’re looking at the site, appear above the address bar. The meta description is a longer explanation of what that page is about. A good technical expert will know how to sum up the nature and content of the site in a ‘search engine friendly’ way.
There are a couple of things that the technical experts will look at and audit from a ‘indexing’ side of things. ‘Indexing’ is how the search engine can come in and view the coding, pages and content of a website. The robots.txt and the sitemap.xml are important components of this.
The actual written content of a page is one of the major clues as to what the site is about, how authoritative it is, how informative it is, and whether or not it provides a unique and useful experience to users. Written content needs to be in-depth and relevant, and it should include the targeted key phrases in a prominent yet natural manner. Certain phrases need to be mentioned in content for search engines to see the page as relevant for that phrase, and they can’t see images or watch videos!
Some Offsite Components
One of the major clues that search engine bots look for are links coming in to your website from authoritative, ‘respectable’ and industry related sites that have some relevance or connection to your business. Think of it like reference letters when applying for a job; a glowing recommendation from a famous CEO is going to have a lot more impact than a quick handwritten note from your mate. We work hard to source and secure quality backlinks for our clients.
Social media linking and integration (back and forth links, embedding etc.) is an increasingly important part of boosting a site’s authority in the eyes of search engines. Your account manager is there to help give advice and consult with you on this.
To complement quality backlinks, it’s also good to have mentions of your site on things like directory listings. This is about giving diversity and depth to the offsite component of your optimisation campaign, ensuring that you’re not just having one kind of link from one kind of site.
Once you have an on-going optimisation campaign in place, it’s important for us to accurately track and report on results. You should be able to see, in one snapshot, where your site appears in the rankings for certain keywords/phrases. You should also be able to see how this relates to the number of visitors your site is getting, and how your rankings are changing in relation to those of your competitors. Your personal account manager will be able to help you put this information in context and determine the return on investment that your campaign is generating – after all, a healthy ROI is what online marketing is all about!
Results First are results first
What to learn more about SEO or any of the other services that we offer at Results First? Give us a call and our digital strategists are more than happy to fill you in. We are experts in explaining technical things to non-technical people.
Or, if you don’t really care about the details of what we do but just want to see an impact on your bottom line, that’s okay too!