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  • Claire Judge

What is SEO, and how does it affect my website?

Updated: Oct 6, 2021

Promoting your business is increasingly a digital matter, and so understanding SEO, whilst it may seem daunting, really is an important topic for all business owners and marketers, and shouldn't be avoided.

Let's be blunt- there is no point in having a beautiful website if no one can find it. This is where SEO comes in.

SEO stands for search engine optimisation. The best-known search engine is of course Google, but Bing is another important search engine. So in essence SEO is about optimising - or getting the best result from search engines. This means getting seen as often as possible by ranking as high as possible and as frequently as possible in search results. Ranking” means the visibility or position of websites on Google or Bing. More visibility means more clicks through to your website and hopefully more customers.

Google and search behaviour

Google reviews how visitors interact with your website and constantly visits and scans websites across the internet. It makes some assumptions about the quality of the website it is scanning from a “search” point of view based on how people are interacting with it.

It will look at a number of things such as the number of repeat visits, whether users stop to explore other pages on the website or if it has a high "bounce rate" off the site. It monitors how many credible websites link to the site and also the duration of a visitors stay on the site. If it performs well against these measures then the search engine deems the website useful and authoritative and ranks it high up in search engine results.

Therefore it’s really important not to see SEO as a short term exercise; something that you can “fix” and then move on. Keeping users returning to your site and interacting with it in an effective way takes consistent effort, but will pay off in long term continuous high Google rankings.

What are keywords and why are they important?

You will have heard about keywords and how they are linked to "good SEO" practice. It's therefore particularly useful to understand keywords and the important role they play in the success of your SEO strategy.

When looking for a new product or service these days most of us start with Google.

Keywords are those words you enter into Google to find what you’re looking for. We tend to type a combinations of words, and increasingly we enter full sentences or phrases.

When choosing keywords make sure you also consider search volume. Search volume means how many search queries there are for that word or phrase. Tools such as rankingcoach can help you with finding this out. You want a decent amount of volume as this indicates that customers want to read about the chosen topic and are turning to Google to find answers on a regular basis.

Someone looking for a restaurant may type “restaurants near me” or “Indian restaurants near me.” If you’re an Indian restaurant, you’ll undoubtedly want to rank for the words “Indian restaurant” however so will everyone else! Ranking for generic and highly popular keywords is very difficult and if it is possible, it often takes a lot of time to achieve. However- if you don’t try you’ll never succeed, so you need to optimise your website for specific search terms that are valuable to your business; if this is a key phrase it’s worth a shot.

A more effective approach is to try to find precisely defined keywords that match your products or services. If you are an Indian restaurant based in Oxford specialising in Balti dishes, then rather than attempting to rank for the generic term of “Indian restaurant” you may be able to rank higher for “Balti restaurants in Oxford” instead.

The single keyword “restaurant” is called a short head keyword, while “Balti restaurants in Oxford” would be a long-tail keyword. Long tail keywords are desirable because they tend to have less competition and can potentially lead to higher search volumes and give a detailed view of what products and services your company offers to customers.

Technical knowledge of SEO will help your Google rankings, but common sense and empathy are also useful tools when it comes to SEO. Even by simply putting yourselves into your customers shoes and guessing logically your customers likely search terms you are giving your company a good chance to rank high on Google. However you shouldn’t leave your SEO strategy to guesswork alone, you need to regularly analyse which words you and your competitors are ranking for using tools such as Google Analytics or Moz Also you will have to adjust your keywords from time to time to reflect changes in customer behaviour and competitor activity.

What does “on page” and “off page” mean?

On page SEO refers to activities you may do ON your website that can affect your rankings. So, changes ON your website, such as technical work or optimisation of your content is called on-page-SEO.

Search engines consider text on websites as particularly relevant and important to their ranking. Text can include website copy, headlines, metadata, images, and all your keywords.

Off-Page SEO is a term for the collective set of activities that you do outside your website that help to build links that point back to it. The links that point to your website are known as backlinks. The main agenda for Off-Page SEO is to create quality, relevant and trustworthy backlinks. If you create a number of backlinks from a trusted website with a frequent high volume of visitors, this will significantly help your SEO. Companies often use agencies with experts in “Digital PR” to hep them to acquire backlinks from these highly desirable and authoritative websites.

So how exactly do you use keywords to help your SEO?

Once you’ve agreed your list of keywords, a good place to start is by looking at the meta tags across your website.

Types of meta tag include meta-title, meta-description, and headlines across your website, so you can integrate your chosen keywords into your Meta-Tags. These keywords provide information about your website to search engines. They are not visible on your website and instead are only displayed in Google search results.

Another useful on page SEO activity is linking keywords internally within your website and redirecting your users directly to a subpage of a product or service.

Once you have optimised your website for your keywords, don’t forget to make sure you are using them generously across your social media and Google ads as well.

A word of caution; try not to stuff too many keywords onto your webpages. Not only will it make the page more difficult to read, but Google might even penalise this strategy, giving your website an actual bad ranking for excessive use of keywords.

If you’re concerned that managing SEO seems overly cumbersome and technical, then a good rule is to keep users and their needs in mind first and foremost. Focus on how easy it is to navigate your website, how it looks on a mobile and whether the copy is appealing and easy to digest.

Working on your website’s SEO is not a one-time strategy and should instead form a continuous part of your ongoing content marketing strategy.

For help with your ongoing SEO or Digital PR strategy contact us for a free consultation.

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