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What is SEO?

What does SEO stand for?

SEO is a commonly used acronym for Search Engine Optimisation and it refers to the art of honing a website or pages thereof so that they have a greater chance of featuring prominently in organic (i.e. non-paid) search engine results.

The art of SEO involves both highly technical and also creative skills that come together to assist a company’s website to benefit from higher rankings, greater traffic and increased online presence. Simply put, SEO involves structuring a website and tweaking its content so that search engines are more likely to prioritise it in their rankings.

Information Technology moves at an alarming rate. It is very easy to feel like no sooner have you got yourself up-to-date, you are already beginning to slip behind again. Understanding the basic premise behind SEO is one thing, but like technology on a wider scale, its application and relevance is fluid and is shaped by shifting demands and other advancements in digital marketing as well as the way search engines themselves function. One of the greatest changes in SEO over the past few years has been the shift away from ramming content full of ‘keywords’ (words that search engines keep an eye out for in your industry) at the expense of coherent writing and helpful content. This easy option has been weeded out as search engines look to protect the users from pages filled with search-engine massaging gobbledegook in order to feature more prominently.

And thus we move on to the current, most relevant definition of SEO.

SEO involves the structuring and populating of websites in a way that best suits the needs of their target customers and is thus picked up on by search engines as warranting prioritisation in search results.

Of course, understanding the definition of a concept is one thing, but it is another thing to even begin to make the changes that can make a difference. But first and foremost you may still need a little persuading as to why you need SEO in the first place.

The success of any website depends more on traffic than it does on any other single factor. Much in the same way that the desirability of a retail unit is measured largely by the footfall of the space it occupies. Web traffic is fundamentally driven by the major search engines, namely Google, Yahoo and Bing. In addition to this (and this will continue to become more important) social media sites, which often have their own built in search engines can also drive an awful lot of redirects and traffic. If search engines cannot find your site or don’t understand how to rank it in terms of relevance to a specific user’s search enquiry then your traffic will suffer immensely.

Understanding what your target audience is searching for enables you or those in charge of populating your website what sort of language to use on your site and what kind of questions to address in articles featured. This is of immense value from a marketing and promotion perspective and is, in essence SEO. As the internet becomes increasingly crowded with companies vying for leads in the same sector, those who understand and implement the best SEO will undoubtedly have the best competitive advantage moving forwards.

While Google has done an incredible job of keeping secret its algorithm for determining search result placements, there are roughly 200 known factors that experts in SEO can look at and address should you go down the route of employing an SEO expert to give your site an overhaul and manage it going forward.

In order to create a thorough and successful SEO plan you must first at the very least ensure that someone familiar with SEO is on your team. You need to understand and be able to measure the likes of click-through rates, how to minimize load times of pages, optimize your site for mobile users, clean up internal and external links and analyse traffic data. Thankfully there are a whole host of free and paid services such as Moz, whose business it is to either provide full website SEO or various tools to help you along the way.

SEO is not something that someone who knows a little about computers can just muddle their way through – of course you can make a difference just by creating and sharing dynamic content with prominent key words but there is so much more to SEO than that. This basic guide to SEO will help you understand the basics but to get a more detailed explanation of many of the complex and technical elements to SEO you will either need to go on a course or be able to spend time reading some of the more advanced guides that you can find on the internet.

So rather than give a blow by blow explanation of meta description tags and HTTPS security let’s look at some key tips centring on what you can do yourself, to boost your SEO efficiency before consulting an expert.

Content optimisation – understand your audience and create relevant content that answers genuine questions that they are asking. Use but don’t abuse keywords. Create very catchy and relevant headlines. Incorporate mixed media like videos, charts and eye-catching pictures. Use quizzes.

Think key phrases over key words – too often websites will stuff content full of single keywords that on their own are rather irrelevant. Not many anglers would search for ‘fishing reel’ as this would yield searches that are far too generalised. But plenty of match anglers would search for ‘match reel for carp waters’ for instance. That is the kind of extended keyword ideas that you need to tap into.

User demands change, so should your content – nobody wants to read an article only to realise it is dated 3 years ago and features out-of-date advice. Content must be continually revised and adapted (not necessarily discarded – think updating maps and encyclopaedias).

The road to SEO is a long one and a journey best taken alongside someone who can look at things from an objective angle. Too often someone inside the business can get entrenched in a particular vision and web-look that is holding them back, not to mention the fact that they may not fully understand how to maximise the site for SEO.