What does SEO even mean?!
If you've ever felt overwhelmed by technical jargon or terms like "SEO" when discussing your online business presence, you're not alone. The digital world can be confusing, but I pride myself on my ability to explain digital concepts in simple terms, without the need for a Ph.D. It's time to demystify digital!
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and refers to the practice of improving a website's visibility and ranking in search engine results pages (also called SERPs). When someone searches for something on a search engine like Google, the search engine uses a complex algorithm to determine which websites to show in the results and in what order. The position (or ranking) where your website appears on that result page is largely due to SEO.
There are a large number of factors that impact your website's ranking and it is a lot more complex than it used to be. Some of the key factors (as of 2023) include:
- The amount and quality of content on your website.
- The use of relevant keywords and phrases.
- The speed at which your site loads and the quality of the functionality (or build).
- Accessibility, can your website be used by people with disabilities?
- Responsiveness (if your site works on tablets and mobile devices).
Many more elements contribute to your SEO score, but it's a bit like a rabbit hole – the more you investigate, the deeper the warren becomes. You can spend hours adjusting, tweaking, and finessing your website to achieve the best possible search results, in fact, there are plenty of people who make a living doing just that. In this article, I want to cover the most important parts and provide you with a basic overview of SEO without getting bogged down in the highly detailed information.
Content is King!
This is a famous line that people often quote in the digital marketing space. It dates back to a paper written by Bill Gates in 1996 and has taken on new meaning in the past 2 decades.
From Google's documentation, it says:
"Google's automated ranking systems are designed to present helpful, reliable information that's primarily created to benefit people, not to gain search engine rankings, in the top Search results".
What this means is that Google favours websites that contain quality, well-written information about the specific topic, product, or service on the site. Making sure your website has great content (including many important keywords or terms) is a fantastic place to start with SEO. Google will read through (also known as 'crawling') all of the text on your website on every page you allow and add that to your SEO score. Another great way to get more searchable content on a site is by having more pages and breaking down your information into categories. You can also try writing a blog if you have valuable information about a topic, like SEO!
I've built my site and now I want to be #1 on Google!
Firstly I applaud the initiative of anyone that takes on building their own website, however, as you can see there is so much that goes into creating a quality search engine optimised website and unfortunately, this means I work with many clients that have built a website and then run into SEO troubles after launch. There are a bunch of "Build your own website" options out there currently and many of them are great if you know what you are doing. If you don't have time to learn the details of website design and development you can end up with a site that is not SEO friendly or has the bare minimum required SEO to pass Googles ranking algorithms (You may have seen this advertised as 'automatic SEO' or 'SEO friendly'). The reality is that these platforms still need to have the right information input and settings applied to make them efficient.
Trying to make your new site appear at the top of Google's search results is a goal you will rarely (if ever) achieve and here's why.
- The first few results in Google for any search are most likely to be paid advertising (Google Ads) also known as SEM (Search Engine Marketing).
- The next few results will be websites that check all the SEO boxes but preference will go to size and longevity. Meaning websites that have lots of pages of content and websites that have been online for many years. Social sites like Facebook or listing sites like eBay can often show first depending on the search.
- Then we get into the SEO standard sites. This is where your site will sit and be ranked according to its SEO.
- Some other factors that can determine results positioning include the search query itself and even the user's location, browser and whether they are signed into a Google account or not. (If I am signed into my Google account, which is linked to my business and website, I will always be the first result in a Google search for "Designers on the Gold Coast" no matter what).
If you want to be #1 on a search result for a specific term, be prepared to spend a significant amount of money on Google Ads. Alternatively, it's better to look at the types of search results you're appearing in and whether these are connected results for your business. If I'm looking for a coffee shop nearby when I'm interstate I'm not likely to search Coffee Shop Sydney, I will search "Coffee shop near [insert hotel name]" or Coffee shop in [insert smaller suburb name]". This is the type of narrow, accurate search terms you want to target.
Ongoing SEO Services
Many businesses offer ongoing SEO services and I'm absolutely not discrediting this, when done right it can be extremely effective for your website. There are, unfortunately, a large number of scams in this space where people or companies provide monthly subscriptions or fees for ongoing SEO and they are not actually doing much, if anything, at all.
My recommendation is to always start with a quality Search Engine Optimised website. The major benefit is that SEO can be easily seen when it is working, so when engaging an ongoing SEO service try to start with a short-term contract (3-6 months) and evaluate the search results yourself as well as any reports they provide to see if you are getting improvements.
Request an explanation or breakdown on exactly what tasks are being performed and then look up anything you are unsure of or ask someone that understands digital, like me!
Finally, if you are cold-emailed or see SEO services in advertising always do a quick search of the company providing the service to check credibility and reputation.
I hope that has helped you understand SEO a little better and removed some of the confusion. I know it is a complicated space and it's one of the most common topics I get asked about. If you have questions or would like to discuss further information or training that I can provide feel free to get in touch with me here.