Search Engine Optimisation or SEO is the art of increasing the visibility of your website on search engine results pages. The purpose of SEO is to increase traffic to your website from people using search engines, and therefore increase sales, advertising revenue, sign ups or whatever you want visitors of your website to do. SEO is an important factor in the success of most websites, leading to an enormous industry to form around the practice. A 2016 study showed that $65 billion will be spent on SEO by United States companies in 2016 alone.
How It Works
Users type search terms into search engines to find what they want. The terms people will use to search for what your website offers are called keywords. You need to identify these keywords and optimise your website for those terms.
Your website’s ranking for a particular set of keywords is influenced by hundreds of factors. These factors can be roughly divided into on-page and off-page factors.
On page factors relate to the website itself. Search engines read the text of your website and the HTML structure; analysing this is where on-page factors are calculated. Images, videos and flash animations do not mean much to it. Therefore, anything you expect people to search for to find your website, must appear in your website as text.
Off-page factors mostly revolve around links from other websites to your website. Generally speaking, the more links to your website, the better. These links can come from social media, blogs, competitor’s websites, Wikipedia – links from any website considered ‘trusted’ are good.
There is a plethora of different SEO techniques out there. The techniques can be divided into two different types, black hat and white hat. White hat techniques are generally approved and encouraged by search engine owners. Black hat techniques are generally an attempt to trick a search engine.
White hat techniques are approved by search engines. They are more work than black hat techniques, but tend to lead to lasting results. White hat SEO tends to go hand in hand with improving the website for humans. Some examples of white hat techniques include:
- Writing lots of good quality content.
- Good descriptive titles and descriptions on all pages.
- Writing HTML structure which makes sense to a search engine. For example, you would put the content of a blog post within an HTML
alt text for images so search engines know what they are.
- Writing an article on a respected webzine for your industry and placing a link back to your website there.
- Optimising your website for mobile devices.
- Decreasing the web page load time of your web pages through optimisation techniques such as web caching and CDN.
- Installing an SSL certificate for which Google gives you a small boost in search rankings.
Black hat techniques can yield excellent results, but they are always temporary as the search engine owners improve their algorithms. Some black hat techniques include:
- Keyword stuffing – repeating a keyword you want to rank for more than is natural.
- Link farms – Networks of websites linking to each other with little content other than links.
- Hidden text – Can’t be seen by humans but is seen by search engines. Goes hand in hand with keyword stuffing.
Black hat SEO is risky business. If caught your website may be black listed by the search engine owners along with losing the effect of the black hat technique. The rewards are also shrinking as Google’s algorithm becomes smarter. All the black hat techniques just listed are obsolete and defeated by Google’s algorithm.
SEO is not the be-all and end-all of marketing your online presence. Alternatives include:
- Email marketing
- Paid web advertising. The two most obvious examples include Google AdWords and Facebook advertising.
- Paid advertising on older mediums such as radio, newspapers and TV.
- Face to face networking events – Great option for businesses that operate on a B2B model.
Most SEO tools revolve around Google as this is by far the most popular search engine. Some online tools you can use to analyse and improve your SEO include:
On any WordPress website we build, we handle the basics of SEO using the Yoast SEO plugin. Another popular alternative is the All in One SEO pack. If you need help, we can provide SEO services tailored to your website.
You can learn more about SEO at these resources: