SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is a set of activities that, taken together, can boost a website’s position in search engine results (eg Google). SEO has evolved as business realised the importance of a good search engine ranking. A website that appears on page one or two of Google’s results will have a dramatically different number of visitors than sites on page ten.
SEO can broadly be divided into two streams with every activity aimed at improving the quality signals that Google and other search engines use to build their results:
On page SEO – deals with the design and content of a website.
Off-page SEO – deals with the external promotion of a website to the rest of the internet.
Good SEO promotes the best possible messages in the best possible way. It can be thought of as a tuning process and the exact steps taken will be unique to every organisation.
With the correct combination of research, technical, design and marketing skills, an SEO specialist can transform how a website is treated by search engines and give an organisation a real competitive edge.
The three activities below are just a small subset of the tasks that go into a successful SEO campaign:
- Examining the searches that people actually make on Google to identify key messages and phrases that can attract viewers.
- Checking each page of a website to ensure that key messages are correctly placed and formatted.
- Promoting a website by identifying opportunities to get links from other websites. A link from a reputable and relevant website is a ‘vote’ and Google keeps count.
On-page SEO is the process of tuning every element of a website so that the signals it sends Google are all working to boost the site in Google’s eyes.
When a search engine like Google tries to place a website in its massive database, it analyses a huge number of factors to try and work out the site’s intention, validity and quality.
In order to determine where a website will appear in search results for any given question, Google looks at everything on the page. This means the words, images, titles, menus, formatting and the code behind them can all help or hinder a website’s results. Even subtle changes like correct use of bold text or where you put a title on the page can make a difference.
On-page SEO examples could include everything from:
- reordering existing page content
- Renaming menu items
- creating new targeted content
- examining how images are placed and described
Off-page SEO recognises that the quality of a website is only part of the equation in improving search results. If on-page SEO deals with internal website content and design, then off-page optimisation is closer to external promotion.
Off-page optimisation looks at how websites connect to each other and how they utilise other internet channels like social media, YouTube, etc.
Off-page SEO is very important! When Google ranks websites in a particular field it is usually the off-page elements that determine who ‘wins’ in the search results battle.
This makes sense when you think about it. Google has to consider far more than the quality of a website in isolation. After all, if all it took was a fantastic website then even a nefarious organisation could leapfrog to the top of search results if it built a good enough site.
Therefore, in order to truly work out how ‘good’ a website is in answering people’s questions, search engines also look at how a website is connected to the rest of the internet.
The primary mechanism that connects websites is the backlink (or link).
When website A includes a link to website B then website A is, in effect, vouching for website B. Think of each of these links as a vote and remember that Google adds them up when assessing websites.
Naturally, it is not as simple as just getting hundreds of links from random directories. The backlink has been overused and abused to such a degree than Google now checks carefully before awarding any credit. Deciding what makes a quality link is an important part of the off-page improvement process. A low-quality or bad link can actually drop a website down the search results so knowing the difference between good and bad links is very important.
Anybody who owns a website will receive emails promising amazing and guaranteed improvements in their Google results. They promise failsafe techniques that can boost any site to the top of the charts.
As with so much of the internet, you need to keep your wits about you.
A typical pitch to watch out for is a weekly ‘high quality backlink’ promoting your site. This means they will find a website every week that is willing to add a link back to your website. There are a couple of ways this can be done:
- Adding links from worthless directory sites that Google will just ignore.
- Adding links from a ‘link farm’ of websites under the SEO company’s direct control. These ‘farm’ websites exist only to grow backlinks.
Before allowing your website to take part in such a scheme, consider that the people at Google are very smart. They spend all day trying to make sure that the top search results go to the best websites with the best information from the most authoritative sources.
When Google checks your backlinks they want them to look natural. Adding a link every week is not natural behaviour. If Google spots an unusual pattern or relationship in the sources of those links then it is a red flag.
The bottom line is that if you pay directly for links you may be demoted in search results.
Search Engine Optimisation and website improvement you can trust
We will tell you straight out – there are no shortcuts to good search engine performance. Listing your site with hundreds of directories will achieve nothing. Buying links or other ‘Black Hat’ tricks can have you thrown off Google entirely. Protect the investment in your website. Build a relationship with a specialist that you trust. Do not be impressed with amazing promises of instant success.
If you take nothing else away from this website, then remember this:
If you try and outsmart Google they will figure it out sooner or later and you will lose your money! They can (and do) drop websites down the search results or even remove them entirely. Stick to our core principles and you won’t go wrong. Your website will be productive in the long-term if you follow these three rules: