A Quick Guide To Search Engine Optimisation
What Is SEO?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the online visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engine's unpaid results—often referred to as "natural", "organic", or "earned" results. In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a website appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine's users; these visitors can then be converted into customers.
SEO may target different kinds of search, including image search, video search, academic search, news search, and industry-specific vertical search engines. SEO differs from local search engine optimization in that the latter is focused on optimizing a business' online presence so that its web pages will be displayed by search engines when a user enters a local search for its products or services. The former instead is more focused on national or international searches.
How Does SEO Work?
Google (and Bing, which also power Yahoo search results) score their search results largely based upon relevancy and authority of pages it has crawled and included in its web index, to a users query to provide the best answer.
Google uses over 200 signals in scoring their search results and SEO encompasses technical and creative activities to influence and improve some of those known signals. It’s often useful to not focus too much on individual ranking signals and look at the wider goal of Google, to provide the best answers for its users.
SEO, therefore, involves making sure a website is accessible, technically sound, uses words that people type into the search engines, and provides an excellent user experience, with useful and high quality, expert content that helps answers the user’s query.
Google has a very large team of search quality raters that evaluate the quality of search results, that gets fed into a machine learning algorithm. Google’s search quality rater guidelines provide plenty of detail and examples of what Google class as high or low quality content and websites, and their emphasis on wanting to reward sites that clearly show their expertise, authority and trust (EAT).
Google uses a hyperlink based algorithm (known as ‘PageRank’) to calculate the popularity and authority of a page, and while Google is far more sophisticated today, this is still a fundamental signal in ranking. SEO can therefore also include activity to help improve the number and quality of ‘inbound links’ to a website, from other websites. This activity has historically been known as ‘link building’, but is really just marketing a brand with an emphasis online, through content or digital PR for example.
Relevant and reputable websites linking to a website is a strong signal to Google that it might be of interest to its users, and can be trusted to appear in the search results for relevant queries.