If you work in marketing or social media, write a blog or own your own business, you’ll definitely have come across the acronym “SEO” at some point. But what is it? We’ve pulled together an SEO starter guide to help with SEO basics.
SEO Basics: What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and is one of the most relevant and impactful marketing tactics to improve your business’ rankings in search engines and social media platforms. It is the process of optimising your website with the aim of improving your website’s rankings in search results and achieving more organic traffic. Mastering SEO can help drive relevant traffic, leads, sales and revenue and profit for your business.
To effectively ensure your SEO is accurate, you need to understand what your key audience is searching for online, what answers they are looking for, the keywords they are using and the types of content they want to consume. Knowing these will allow you to connect with relevant audiences who are seeking the solutions you offer.
While running and updating your SEO is something you can do yourself, there are expert agencies and consultants that provide SEO services. However, it is best practice to have a solid understanding of SEO before reaching out to SEO professionals to ensure you are receiving high quality SEO services.
The basics of search engines
Search engines are essentially answer machines. They crawl through and index billions of pieces of content and evaluate which content is most likely to answer your query.
Search engines crawl and index web pages, PDFs, images, videos and more content types before ordering it by how well it answers the query in a process called “Ranking”.
So, search engines work through three primary functions:
Crawling: search engines scour the internet for content and look over the code or content for each URL they find.
Indexing: search engines store and organise the content found whilst crawling. As soon as a page is indexed, it can be used as a potential result to relevant queries.
Ranking: search engines provide content that will best answer a search query, ranked from most relevant to least relevant.
Factors affecting your website’s SEO performance
There are three main factors that affect your website’s SEO performance:
Technical SEO factors: these include technical aspects such as hosting, indexing and page loading speed.
On Page SEO factors: these include factors such as website content, target keywords, titles, URLs and related terms.
Off Page SEO factors: these include backlinks and outside references to your website from other websites.
You can conduct a technical SEO audit to assess the health of your website’s SEO and identify SEO improvements. SEO is something that is constantly changing, so it is important to keep all your keywords up to date so your website has the best chances of ranking highly. Neglecting to update your SEO can run the risk of losing organic traffic to competitors. It’s important to monitor and update all three SEO factors regularly.
White hat vs Black hat SEO
White hat SEO vs Black hat SEO is essentially honest vs dishonest SEO techniques.
White hat SEO refers to SEO best practices that abide by search engine rules and its primary focus is to provide value.
Black hat SEO refers to SEO techniques that aim to fool search engines. While it does work, websites using black hat SEO are at risk of being de-indexed and penalised. To summarise, black hat SEO is risky and unethical.
The benefits of SEO
The benefits of SEO can be some of the most impactful on your business. However, it’s important to note that SEO is a long game and it may take a while before your business reaps the rewards. It may sound like a hassle, but it is definitely worth it.
SEO leads to better user experiences
Working on perfecting SEO can improve your website and the experience visitors have. This includes creating relevant content and information, photos and videos that support text content, easy website navigation and mobile friendly configuration.
Better user experience results in more clocks, leads, better brand recall and higher conversion rates. Website visitors and search engines value good user experience, so delivering it will improve your ranking from people staying on your website for longer.
SEO results in higher conversion rates
Having a website with a high ranking in search engines will improve your conversion rate. Maintaining a high position will make your target market more aware of your business and high quality content. This increases your credibility and reputation as an authority within your industry.
As customers become more familiar with your business, website and product or service offerings, the more likely they are to invest in your offerings.
SEO builds brand credibility and awareness
Having a high ranking website gives searchers the idea your business is one of the best in the industry and suggests your offerings are better than your competitors. If you are at the bottom of the search rankings, searchers may not even find your website or expertise.
SEO ensures your website is mobile friendly
While SEO doesn’t improve your website’s mobile friendliness, in order to rank highly in search engines, your website needs to look good and function well on mobile devices.
Nowadays, 66% or all web traffic comes from mobile devices. A website that isn’t optimised to work on mobile is only effectively targeting 34% of traffic.
As of 2021, Google has started mobile-first indexing. This means websites that aren’t mobile friendly will lose their visibility in organic searches.
Social media SEO
Social media SEO refers to the way social media activities can aid your website’s organic traffic through search engines. While social media doesn’t directly influence SEO and SEO rankings, it has an indirect positive effect on a page’s search ranking.
YouTube SEO and LinkedIn SEO can positively impact a website’s search rankings. By providing keyworded descriptions and valuable content, and categorising pages into specific industries and interests can help searchers find your website.