SEO: Beginner’s Guide

Marketers love an acronym – it’s a slightly militarised fashion that grows in more insular groups. Those who don’t really want their already busy workplace to become any more crowded. It’s a tough game competing on the commercial battlefield, but don’t let the drawbridges of capitalised letters put you off.

Most businesses will already have some knowledge of search engine optimisation (SEO), but what is it exactly and why should you care about it?


What Is SEO?

In short, search engine optimisation is a way to increase the visibility of your website. To do this you focus on the hierarchy of organic search results in the most-used search engines (Google and the gang). In order to gain visibility you need to be offering content that search engine users will generally need and be drawn to – easier said than done.

Of course, it isn’t just the highest quality of content that wins. Tricks can be employed to benefit from the way in which search engines discover, index and serve up the highest ranking websites in search engine results pages (or SERPs – if you’re sold on these acronyms). That’s why it’s so important to promote and optimise your website in the right way. Think of the search engines like fishermen roving about on the surface of a lake. While you’re a fish that desperately wants to get caught.

So, how do you do that? Since there are so many other fish already flexing their fins in the same waters as you.


Softly, Softly Catch A Search Engine

Search engines are always evolving. They get cleverer each year. Yet there are some foundational elements still unchanged since the early days. SEO professionals need to be swimming hard against a fast-paced current, which could change at any time. Outdated tactics won’t work as artificial intelligence improves to grant users a better experience online. It’s important to be well-informed and aware of how algorithms have changed to know exactly what hoops quality search results are jumping through. Basically, SEO is more complicated than ever.

A strong marketing plan relies on more than building links, chucking blogs out to the masses and lazily tagging keywords to boost your organic search rankings. The visibility of your brand depends on a knowledge of emerging trends (like voice search), new features introduced to search related tools (like Search Console, or Semrush) and your audience (what they want and how they act).


What Does An SEO Strategy Need?

To stay ahead of your competition and enable landing pages to rank highly in search engines, you need to offer an experience that’s enjoyable for the user, but also likely to create leads and revenue. Again, it sounds simple enough. What that entails exactly is a process that is more fluid than mechanical (don’t expect a few choice keywords to suddenly sprout magic). Take time to understand the intent of your search users. What questions are they asking? How can you offer a solution for the problems they face?

If you know your searcher’s intent, you’ll be in a good place to start a content cycle that’s tailored to their needs. This will help search engines to also discover your pages and index them with the ranking they deserve based on their relevance and usability. You can’t just pay Google to crawl your site more often (the process by which Google downloads page copy, images and videos found by automated ‘crawlers’), or bump it up the rankings.


Meet ‘The Crawler’

It might sound obvious, but you can set yourself apart from the crowd just by understanding how Google works. It doesn’t have some vast central registry, but instead the engine is always searching itself for updated pages and added them to its known list, which is called ‘URL discovery’. Some pages are known to Google after it visited them. Others are found by following a link from another page, already known to Google. If that page is more highly ranked this link of course becomes more valuable.

Pages can also be found within a sitemap when it is submitted for Google to crawl. A program called Googlebot (or ‘the crawler’ – this really is the stuff of sci-fi) uses a massive set of computers to crawl pages in the billions. When we refer to the algorithm, we’re talking about the process used by this program to determine the best sites to crawl and how often.


How To Work Smoothly With Google

There are issues that might prevent Google’s crawlers from gaining access to your site and going about their work. These range from network issues to problems with the server that handles the site. Once the page has been crawled, Google does its best to interpret it by analysing the copy, key content tags and attributes. Then it will attempt to index your website correctly. Duplicate content will be snuffed out and your website will be categorised in a cluster among similar competitors, stored in the Google index.

Remember, you can upset this process if your content quality is low, meta directives don’t allow indexing, or if the layout and design of your website has made indexing abnormally difficult.

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