Even using the term ”SEO” or Search Engine Optimisation, to give it its full title, is enough to induce a sort of glazed-over feeling in anyone with the least wish to get on and do something useful with their lives.
- You thought you had a website – what more do you want?
- You have some content – why doesn’t it attract any attention?
- Just what is this SEO thing and what does it do?
- Where should I start when thinking about this thing that is making my head hurt?
WHY DO YOU NEED Search Engin Ooptimisation AT ALL
As many people have discovered, it is not enough just to have a website or a web presence. People often ask why they are not performing online, or not being found.
What you have to understand is that, compared to the dullest person you know, Google and the other search engines are complete imbeciles – they understand nothing. They may be amazing in many ways, but they are not a patch on you and me when it comes to recognising things for what they are ……. And this is just words: when it comes to images, they have even less clue.
Since humans process visual information more quickly than text, you can soon work out that there is a wide gap between the way we see things and the way the search engines do their business.
That situation may change, and is changing, of course, but, for the time being, search engines need help. They are just big old databases, and for big, old databases to function, they need to be indexed and tagged so that they can be searched effectively. They also need to build millions of patterns of search to build up useful histories of the way people look for things online. And, finally, they need the guiding hand of programmers who refine those millions of patterns into algorithms so that they become more attuned to each individual as they make their searches.
You need SEO because SEO helps the search process.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN IN PRACTICE FOR YOUR WEB PAGE?
Web pages are structured in a very specific way to make them readable at all. A well-structured page follows a number of rules for the title, the description, its links and its content. Think of this as a kind of tick box for the search engine to say, “Hey this looks good. You have a web page I can get on with!”
Long ago, web developers realised that the addition of key words and key descriptions to the titles, headings and links on a typical web page boosts the ability of search engines to find things. This simple concept is the basis of SEO. The analogy is the one of finding your way round an encyclopaedia using the contents page and an index to help you. If each page also had a list of the key words that relate to the article, it would speed up your ability to make associated searches for the articles that use the same words.
SEO is then, the process of organising and sorting titles, headings, content, keywords, links and tags in best possible way for Bing, Google and Yahoo to find your pages. The search engines add in the values of popularity and links to determine page ranking.
For web designers, this means they have a second job apart from making your site functional and good looking. They have to organise your site behind the scenes in to ensure that it has the best set-up to perform well. They give it structure, and they “optimize” your web pages.
WHY CAN’T YOU FIND MY PAGE?
70% of people don’t scroll beyond the first page of Google.
At this point, we need to introduce another complication. Just because your page ticks all the search engine boxes, it doesn’t mean you are going to be found easily.
You, of course, are probably not interested in just being found, you want to be the first one on the list that people come to! The aim, as everyone knows, is to achieve the best possible page ranking. As we all know, being on the second or third or lower pages in Google is the kiss of death. You might as well be in the Sahara desert when someone is trying to find you in the middle of London.
SEO is often confused with Page Ranking.
SEO is all of the things you do to your website to help it rank higher up the organic search lists.
Organic SEO differs from PPC (Pay per click) which is paying advertising directly to the search engine provider to achieve a listed position on the search pages.
Consider this: the competition to be found on keywords and on semantic search is fierce. Surprise! you are not the only person wanting to be ranked highly for a particular search term. This has led to the rise of the SEO expert.
It can be difficult to distinguish between good and bad SEO experts. They are all busy telling you how they will “use SEO to get you on the first page of Google”.
The real SEO expert is the person who can find the right tools to help you achieve the result you need.
The rise of the SEO expert has caused a problem for the search engines who want to be seen as neutral. If asked, they tell us that they genuinely want the most popular and best web pages to be the first you find. But, as with any race, only a few pages can ever reach the top. The result is a kind of arms race where search engine providers and SEO experts battle with each other – the one to reflect the true value of search, the other to tweak their page SEO to give them the edge. Terms such as “white hat SEO” and “black hat SEO” refer to some of the good and bad techniques that have evolved in the course of this war.
At the time of writing, the best SEO copy is considered to be high quality, informative content that happens to have a few relevant and well-researched keywords naturally inserted into the text.
WHY YOU STILL NEED SEO
This leads us to the final point I want to make about SEO today. This race between the search engines and the web designers and SEO experts is unresolved. The rules are being rewritten many times a year. At the time of writing, Google has just released Hummingbird and set the SEO experts scratching their heads about how they are to make sure they keep their jobs.
Which is not to say, you can’t do anything…
SEO is not a one-off thing. If you want to continue to rank well, you must have a consistent content creation strategy in place. The search engines reward websites that continually post new and interesting content, such as blogs, case studies, whitepapers and videos. Interestingly enough, so do humans.