What is SEO in Layman’s Terms?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation, and its aim is to ensure that a website appears as high as possible on the pages of results in search engines such as Google, Yahoo or Bing when certain keywords are entered. A keyword, or search query is entered into the search engine by the internet user, and a set of suggested websites will appear. Surfers tend to visit the websites that appear at the top for a number of reasons; not only do they see these websites first, but many will operate on the assumption that Google has “graded” the websites in order of applicability and merit. Research conducted in 2010 by Chikita indicated that almost 34% of eight million searchers visited the number one website, nearly as much as numbers two, three, four and five combined. The potential financial rewards of being one of these top websites have fuelled the growth of Search Engine Optimisation providers, as companies compete for the top spots.
Google’s aim is to provide surfers with the most useful and relevant results for their searches and it uses what is known as Google’s ranking algorithm or “algo” to determine the order of these results. Google uses more than two hundred factors or “signals” for each web page to establish its relevancy to the search query, whether to show it as part of the results and where it should appear on the list. An important part of the SEO expert’s job is to identify the optimum keywords to use for a company in order for its rank to be visible and within the top listings.
The factors used by Google can be divided into two categories; on-site SEO and off-site SEO. On-site SEO focuses on the company website; its wording, domain, background HTML etc. In order for the website to appear at all in the Google results, several factors need to apply. Once Google becomes aware of the existence of your website, a “spider” or “robot” will read your website’s files. Each search engine has its own spider. The content of the website is assessed for inclusion in search engine results; it is vital that this is coded and structured in a way that enables it to be read by a spider.
Off-site SEO focuses on back links or inbound links. Back links are hyperlinks on other websites that direct users to your website when clicked on. These act almost as “votes” for the website and are seen by Google’s algo as indicating that your site is useful and relevant to internet users. Some back links are more useful than others, depending on the authority and content of the host website. The best backlinks are found on high authority sites that contain your target keywords and relate to the same subject as your website.
On-site SEO may suffice for niche websites, where the target keywords are unusual, but off-site SEO is necessary if the keywords are highly competitive ones. The quality of backlinks is more important than the quantity and Google clamps down on those sites that utilise large-scale spam schemes to obtain links. SEO services may also use conversion rate optimisation (CRO) to increase the visibility of your website. This occurs when a user follows through on a suggested action on your website, such as purchasing an item or service, signing up for emails, or downloading a document.
SEO uses these techniques and more to ensure that the maximum numbers of the right kind of visitors are attracted to your website. To be effective, SEO should be underpinned by relevant, useful content; a surfer- and robot-friendly website structure; good website promotion that clearly delineates content and continuous and effective management.