In a series of articles over the coming months, we’ll be simplifying and demystifying some of the myths surrounding Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO for short, and providing you with numerous valuable insights. We’ll cover what it means, how it works, and what you can do to make it work for you, as well as revealing where you can go to get help. In this first introductory article we’re going to start with some of the basics, namely what is it and why you need to take it seriously.
Let’s start with some numbers. Every month something like 100 billion searches are carried out on Google. It’s also interesting that on average 15% of them – that’s 500 million a day – have never been seen before (we’ll come back to that second point, and its significance, in a future article). Type “SEO” into an internet search engine and you’ll get over 200 million results – that’s a lot of results!
So how will your site ever get found, given the enormity of what’s going on? And even if it is found, how can you maximise the chances of the person finding it doing business with you? Let’s briefly cover the obvious – as with so many things … you can throw money at the problem (and indeed a lot of people do). You can pay to appear high in the rankings, so that you appear near the top and your site is therefore much more likely to get visited.
But what if you don’t want to pay, or can’t afford to compete with the marketing budgets of the big corporates? This is exactly where SEO comes in – ensuring that the content of your site is of sufficient quality (and we’ll help you to define what that means) to raise you up the rankings. That’s it! Simple isn’t it? Or is it? Well, not really, because there are (at least) two major dynamics at play, neither of which you can do a great deal about.
The first of these, naturally enough, is competitive activity. Your competitors have heard of SEO too, of course, so if they do it better than you then guess what? They’ll appear higher in the rankings than you will. Then there’s the second dynamic – the increasing sophistication of the search engines themselves. In future articles we’ll cover this in a lot of detail, as it’s crucial to understand this point, but for now let’s just say that over the years the search engines – in a concerted attempt to reward “quality” content (as mentioned above) have become better and better at rewarding that “quality” and, indeed, going even further by actually penalising (by dropping you down the rankings) what they perceive to be “poor quality”.
So let’s finish this first article with a very brief taster of what this “quality” is, and what it isn’t. The Oxford Dictionary describes it as “the degree of excellence of a thing” which seems an excellent definition for our purposes. Think about it – when you search for something on the internet you don’t want to be given results that miss the mark, even by a fraction. You want the results, ideally, to be perfect. Part of this particular challenge – as we said this topic is complex – is what you actually type into the search engine in the first place! (We’ll also be covering this off in a later article – although you can’t predict what people will type you can tailor your content interactively to reflect what they do in fact type over time). So, leaving that aside, quality content would surely have the following overarching characteristic – it would be relevant. And the corollary would be that poorer quality content would be – let’s be generous – less relevant. (There are other characteristics too, which again we’ll cover later).
Next time round we’ll talk about this concept of “relevance” in detail, and how you can use it to maximise the effectiveness of SEO.