By James Edwards
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) can be an incredibly powerful tool to drive potential customers to your website. But at first glance, it can seem like a bit of a head scratcher. The aim of this article is to put SEO into a wider business context by explaining what it is, how much it can affect your business and importantly, how to follow best practice.
What is SEO?
SEO is the process of improving your website’s ranking in a search engine’s organic (unpaid) search results.
As a rule of thumb, the higher your website appears on a search engine’s results page (SERP), the more frequently it is expected to be visited.
How important is it to appear at the top of the rankings?
According to recent studies, the first result in Google’s organic results receives almost a third of the search traffic – with the top two sites receiving over 50% of the clicks. Understandably, this becomes very significant if you are trying to attract footfall to your site.
Let’s see how it works in practice.
Say you run a fitness company and are trying to rank for the search phrase ‘personal trainer’. A simple search using Google’s Keyword Planner shows there are on average 12,100 monthly searches for this query:
Using the figures above, a website appearing at the top of the organic results page could be receiving a healthy traffic flow of around 4000 visitors per month (12,100/3). If, on the other hand, you paid for your site to appear in Google’s paid ads, at nearly £2.50 a click it would potentially cost your business £10,000 a month to generate that same amount of traffic (4000 x £2.48).
Even more popular search terms like ‘car insurance’ or ‘letting agent’ receive hundreds of thousands of searches a month. It’s no wonder big businesses set aside a pay-per click (PPC) advertising budget in the millions for these extremely competitive search phrases.
Although you may not be competing for terms this competitive, this should give you an idea as to how difficult it can be to get to the top of the SERP. Good SEO practice not only saves you from these budget headaches, but continually builds up the overall prominence of your site. Compared to PPC advertising, which provides immediate results for as long as you are willing to keep paying, SEO helps drive traffic to your website for the long term.
So how does SEO work?
Search engines are effectively giant online libraries, dealing with billions of search requests every day. Much like a library’s database, they need to index their websites based on their relevancy and authority to the search request. The primary function of SEO is to make sure your website scores for these factors in the eyes of the search engine.
How do you do this? Well, SEO is divided into on page and off page factors.
On page SEO is making sure a search engine can easily view the pages of your site and index them correctly.
To help them do this, your website will need to contain content that includes specific keywords. Keywords are the phrases that people type into search engines. In order to optimize your performance in the search rankings you will not only need to regularly produce content that contains these keywords but also make sure to include them in your page titles and meta descriptions.
New updates to Google have meant that gone are the days where you could cram as many keywords into a webpage as possible. Now you will need to produce content that is original, insightful and preferably shareable – think of the effects of social media.
Another thing to bear in mind for on page SEO is the architecture of your site. Search engines use programs called ‘crawlers’ which scan websites and index them for their search results. A website with a clear, intelligent design will be crawled to maximum efficiency by the crawlers and will therefore perform better in the SERPs.
Off page SEO
Off page SEO is the acquisition of URL links to your webpages, a process otherwise known as link-building. This allows search engines to see who on the internet is pointing towards your site and in turn, who you are pointing towards. This is a vital part of SEO as it helps to prove that you are an important voice within your industry. Search engines pay particular attention to the quality of the links so make sure to always attain links from respected sources.
SEO in 2014 has essentially become digital PR. This is a three step process which combines site architecture, web content and outreach.
The advantage is these pillars all work together in keeping your website high in the search rankings; logical back-end design will help to mark out the fresh, compelling content on your pages – which will assist in getting you to get a tonne of links!
About the author and company
James Edwards is an SEO Executive at Passion Digital, a London-based digital agency with offices in Clapham and Soho.
Passion Digital was formed in 2012 by school friends Mike Grindy & Tom Katté with a main aim to provide simple, affordable and effective online marketing solutions to any and all types of businesses. Between them they have run some of the largest and most successful search engine marketing accounts in the UK.
Mike & Tom have since built up a team of passionate professionals who all share the company ethos of maintaining transparency between client and consultant, while educating our clients so that they understand exactly what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and most importantly why we’re doing it.
Passion Digital is a digital marketing agency based in London.