SEO The Basics
Put simply, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the practice of increasing the flow of traffic to your website from search engines. There are a number of ways that you can do this, and indeed there’s a massive global industry dedicated to this techy art, but if you understand the basics (and they really are quite simple to master) then it’s quite within your powers to improve your website’s search result ranking yourself. It’s all about creating and improving the content of your site so that it’s both search engine friendly and user friendly – qualities, fortunately enough, that indeed go hand in hand.
How Does SEO Work?
When someone types a search query into Google (or Yahoo! or Bing or any other search engine) and hits ‘Enter’, the engine sends out into its database (literally billions and billions of websites and interconnected online documents) what are known as ‘crawlers’ or ‘spiders’. These automated robots very quickly (almost instantaneously in fact) scrutinise everything they find, and return a ranked list of what they deem is most relevant, useful and important to the search query and relay it back to the user. The understanding of what these crawlers judge to be the most relevant, useful and important and applying these factors to your website is the basis of good SEO.
3 Top Tips for Search Engine Optimization
So what is it that crawlers look for in a website? Well, one thing is keywords. People use search engines to describe what they want to look for on the web: so they might type in ‘Yorkshire Terriers’ or ’cheap holidays Spain’ for example. These words or phrases are known as keywords. Crawlers will search your website to find if it has any content that matches the keywords in the initial search query, and return any results they find.
When thinking about keywords to improve your SEO, you’ll need to think in the same way as your potential customers. What sort of terms will they be typing into search engines when looking for the services you provide? If you’re a travel agent or in the business of dog breeding then you’ll want to include ‘Yorkshire Terriers’ or ‘cheap holidays in Spain’ in the literature on your web pages. And not just the once either – you need to get those words or phrases in a few times (and put them in your titles, your URLs, your image names, as well as your content), as crawlers will then regard your site as being more relevant to the search query.
Though be warned: it’s not good practice to litter your site with ridiculous amounts of keywords in the hope that it will improve your index ranking. Crawlers are clever things and are programmed to ignore sites, which seem to be ‘keyword-stuffing’, so it’s all about writing good quality content with a strategic use of keywords.
As mentioned above, your website’s SEO will only significantly improve if you are providing information that’s not only discoverable by search engines, but also genuinely useful for users too. Indeed, many authorities on the subject profess that ‘content is king’ and that you should write for your users and not for search engines.
The reason for this is that crawlers are also programmed to determine how often your website is visited in relation to the keywords that are used in search queries. It stands to reason that the website with the most useful information will be the one that receives the most visits, and crawlers will reward the site with a higher ranking when returning a results list.
But of course, you will want to keep creating fresh content so that users will keep on revisiting your site to receive the latest information on the product, service, discipline or topic that you have to offer. Therefore, websites with a regular stream of fresh content (and a good way to achieve this is to integrate a blog onto your site) are the best ones for users, and as a consequence also become the best sites for search engines.
What’s more, by reaching out to your potential clients and customers through something like a regular blog, you’re also creating more opportunities and increasing the likelihood of other users setting up those other things that are most favoured by search engines – links.
The more pathways there are to your website, the better it is for crawlers to find it. And the more relevant, useful and up to date the information is that you provide on your site, then the more likely it is that other sites will provide links to it. The more links there are to your site, then the more important it is deemed to be, and you will again be rewarded with a higher ranking.
The other thing that’s important is to integrate internal links from one of your website’s pages to another to direct traffic around your site. This will make those individual pages receive more hits and thus improve the likelihood that they’ll appear in search results when users punch those keywords into search queries.
Keywords, content and links are the three best ways to improve your website’s SEO. Learn the basics of how to use them effectively and you’ll find your site achieves more traffic as a result, and just remember that your site is primarily for your customers – so create and design it to suit them, and you’ll naturally be rewarded with a higher hit rate, a higher ranking, which can only increase your chances of making higher sales.