What is SEO? Why do I need it? How can I improve my website’s SEO? Um—actually—where does SEO fit into my digital marketing?
The Unbelievably Easy Explanation of Search Engine Optimisation
You hear about SEO all the time. You know it’s important, but, honestly, there’s no time to wrap your head around it.
This 8 minute read explains Search Engine Optimisation the easy way. Like, unbelievably easy.
What is SEO?
If you wanted to explain SEO to your eighty-year-old gran, you’d say, “SEO makes it easier for you to find my website on Google.” That’s a good start. As the name implies, it is about optimising your digital marketing for search engines. I say digital marketing because SEO goes beyond your website.
Informally, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) refers to everything that goes into making your brand more visible—and therefore, findable—online.
Why Do We Need SEO?
Almost everything we know about the world and how it works has been uploaded as text, pictures or video onto the Internet. That’s a lot of information. Over 1,200 petabytes and counting. Statista forecasts around 74 zettabytes of data being produced in 2021 alone!
1,200 petabytes = 1.2 million terabytes = 1200 million gigabytes
= approximately 400 trillion songs = 1.2 quadrillion minutes of music > 2.2 billion years audio playback.
Data source: starry.com
There are at least 4.12 billion indexed web pages*, but only about 10 entries on the first page of search results—and when last did you hit the next button?
When you look at it this way, it’s easy to see why you need to muscle your way to the top.
How Does SEO Work?
Imagine an ultra-mega-gigantic warehouse where anyone in the world can share stuff. Every day someone contributes a new box. The boxes are labelled. “Kitchen accessories”, “holiday trinkets, in one case just, “miscellaneous”. 🤷
Then, suppose someone comes looking for cookie cutters. They look in “Kitchen accessories”, except it only contains can openers, bottle brushes, wine glass charms and a baster. Argh, frustrating. There are billions of boxes—they can’t be expected to go through each one!
Search Engines (SEs) are like warehouses, and every website is a box. The SEs have robots that crawl the web, checking every box and taking inventory according to how it’s labelled and what they can deduct from a “quick scan” inside each.
SEs like Google, Yahoo, Bing, Duck Duck Go want to be the fastest and the most accurate at finding the box with the stuff you want. So, they have a system—or checklist—for rating the quality of boxes.
If the SE sees that Dean always brings neatly packed boxes with a detailed content list on the box (and what he says is in the box is actually inside the box), it is more likely to trust Dean’s garden tools box than someone else’s. If users also like Dean’s boxes more, then his contributions carry even more authority. Eventually, Dean’s things will rank the highest.
You get the picture 😊
SEO is the process of labelling your content and making it as easy as possible for the robots to read, trust, and rank your website higher than others.
How Can I Optimise My Website for Search Engines? (Improving SEO)
Oh yes, that checklist we mentioned? No one has the complete list, but we know that there are over 200 ranking factors in Google’s algorithm. These change periodically, and new content is being added to the net every second. So,
SEO is an ongoing process of staying ahead of the competition and up-to-date with the algorithms.
At the most basic level, you need to keep three things in mind to optimise your website:
- Keeping people happy
- Keeping the robots happy
- The customer journey
If you don’t have what people want, no one will look at your boxes. If you don’t organise and tag your content correctly, the bots will overlook them too. If what people receive doesn’t match their expectations, you’ll have unhappy people and unhappy robots.
User experience plays a big role in your site’s performance, but technical SEO best practice tactics matter most.
Four Basic SEO Steps for Beginners
1. Start With Good Quality Content (Copy, Graphics, Audio, Video)
Let’s start with words, otherwise known as copy—even though it’s authentic. Copy is an old publishing term referring to the text that would need to be copied in the printing press.
The words on your website are crucial. The crawlers can only read text. Search results are presented in text (often drawn from your site’s content), and people will mostly read when they are on your site.
Your words need to convey information, engage readers, evoke emotion and elicit a response.
Don’t copy your copy! Google penalises what it calls “duplicate content”. Besides, your target market is looking for original content. They want—and deserve—to know what you have to say.
If you have to use someone else’s words, respect the copyright and credit them by linking to your source. These “outbound links” are good for building authority (also known as authority links) and form part of your backlinking strategy.
2. Use Keywords
Your copy must contain keywords, synonyms and phrases related to your subject matter. This is especially important for your headings and subheadings.
The keywords reinforce the subject and give the bots more cues about the topic. The SEs try to match search queries with the copy. For example, showing a pizza recipe in response to the search query, “how do you make pizza?”
3. Tag Well (Headings, Title Tags, Metadata)
When the bots are crawling in your website’s backyard, feel free to give them a tour! Use meta descriptions and alt text to tell them, “This is where you are. To your left, you’ll find an image with white hen eggs in a box labelled ‘really young chickens’.” Don’t spare detail. That’s how you improve your site for the visually impaired and optimise for image search.
Keep your headings descriptive. Remember that headings and subheadings give your site structure. They tell the readers what to expect (we have a habit of skimming pages), and search engines can use headings for featured snippets, which perform better – driving more traffic to your site.
Use internal links to related content on your site! This is great for navigation and user experience (leading to more information on a topic, like copywriting). It also helps to give the bots an idea of how your content is linked (literally).
4. Keep It Neat, Tidy and Fresh
This tip goes for your website’s front-end (user-facing) and back-end (the development side).
On the back-end, you should aim to be as lean as possible. Remove old images, keep current images small (without degradation), remove old content, update what remains. Make sure that whatever is there is working, or it has to go. This applies to plug-ins too. You want to improve site speed and help the bots have a pleasant crawl.
The last tip, submit your site for indexing. Let Google (and other search engines) know when you’ve uploaded new content, invite them to take a look!
We’ve Only Scratched the Surface
We’ve hardly spoken about all the rules for content, design, URLs, page titles, meta descriptions and tags. We only eluded to backlinks and link building. Building authority, search engine marketing, keyword research, and analytics didn’t even get a mention.
To write about everything SEO related would require a new website! Search Engine Optimisation is a full-time job, but it is imperative to your digital marketing and sales strategy.
If you’d like to find out more, get in touch. We’ll keep it simple yet effective—like this post.
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