What is SEO and How Does It Work? The Right Way to Get Rankings

So, what on earth is this SEO that every Digital Marketer in your orbit keeps making a fuss about?! This is a question we hear often, which speaks to the fact that many small business owners struggle to keep up with the flood of changes that the digital era is bringing about. The smart phone revolution has brought all the information on the interwebs to our fingertips, which is why SEO has become one of the most important digital marketing practices for small and large businesses alike. Don’t just take it from us, SEO spending has actually been forecast to reach $80 billion by 2020

That is why we decided to put together this article to guide you through the very basics of SEO and how to improve your ranking organically!

Do you already know what SEO is and are looking for a way to understand it specifically to your business? We offer a personalised, custom, 1:1 strategy session that helps you to understand its significance to your future business. 

What Is SEO?

SEO is short for Search Engine Optimisation, the practice of optimising websites for a higher organic ranking on a search engine results page. In a nutshell, you optimise your website design and page content to make your site more attractive to search engines. The main motivation for business owners to improve their SEO is to get more organic (free) traffic. Yes, you heard it, free traffic! All of this is technically free as long as you know how to do it.

For years now, the main search engine most of us use has been Google, but Yahoo, Bing and a few other smaller competitors are still alive and kicking too. Every search engine has its own algorithm that ranks search results in order of estimated relevance. Although optimisation practices differ for each search engine, this article will focus on Google, as they have the lion’s share (89.95% to be exact) of the market and are hence the most appealing to business owners.

With the billions of websites out there it can feel like a lost battle to try get your website ranked at the top, but there’s absolutely no reason to fear SEO! Anyone can make some basic changes to their website content and start getting improved results, but bear in mind, it is a marathon rather than a sprint. It will usually take at least 6-12 months to start seeing results.

How Does SEO Work?

Google is a business that wants to serve its customers. With the endless amount of content out there, the Google ranking algorithm is designed to show their customers only the most relevant and high-quality results. What this means is your website needs to fulfil certain requirements to be picked up by the algorithm.

So how does Google know what to show when a real-life person goes and types “electrician in Brisbane”? Well, the process has three parts to it:

1. Crawling

Crawling is the initial discovery process where the search engine sends bots (often called crawlers or spiders) to go out and look for new content to add to its database. The content can be anything from webpages to images, videos and more. The crawlers discover content through links, bouncing from one website to another and the URLs of all the content found are then gathered to a database or index (called Caffeine in the case of Google).

2. Indexing

Newsflash – when you’re using a search engine, instead of the “live” internet, you are searching the engine’s index. The index, for example Google’s Caffeine, is a huge database of all the information found and deemed useful at the crawling stage of the process.

3. Ranking

Ranking is what we see at the user end of Google. When we type something into Google, the search results come from Caffeine, ranked in the order of relevance and quality by the Google algorithm. The algorithm is a complex mathematical formula that takes into consideration multiple factors of your website.

Confused yet? Well, luckily, you don’t really need to know the nitty-gritty of crawling and indexing. At the small business end, we just need to make sure our website is built the right way and has the right content to gain visibility. This is where we get to the optimisation part!   

How to Get Rankings on Google

Now that we have uncovered the fundamentals of what SEO is and how it works, let’s tackle how we can use it to our benefit in the business world.

The hard part is, Google doesn't tell exactly how their algorithm works. On top of that, they change it multiple times a year without necessarily announcing it to the public. That’s why some of us are figuring out their secrets full time! This is where a professional digital marketer can really help you make the right changes to your website.

You've probably already heard about keywords, and they do play a role, obviously. If you are a plumber in Brisbane, your website needs to contain the words “plumber” and “Brisbane” to be found. However, SEO goes deeper than keywords.

Essentially, your website must…

1. Have a clear purpose

In order to rank, Google needs to be able to understand what your website is about. This is done by inserting relevant keywords that will be picked up by the search engine. Good formatting of page content and header tags are especially important. Besides, good formatting will not just make your website easier to understand for Google, it will also improve readability and increase the time real users spend on it.

Another thing to pay attention to is site architecture. Your website should be easy to navigate, because if the visitors can find what they’re looking for easily, they will visit more pages, spend more time on them and bounce less often. All this will make your website appear more relevant in Google’s eyes, improving your organic ranking.

3. Be user-friendly

Once again, Google only wants to show the best to its users. So, whether you have a blog, website or an online store, it needs to function well and load quickly. In 2019, most of us aren’t very patient – users might bounce from your site if they must wait even a few seconds longer than they’d like.

Bonus tip: let’s not forget the variety of devices people are using nowadays! More and more people use a mobile device to shop and search on the go, so it’s essential that your website is optimised for mobile use. We know for a fact that Google has boosted mobile-friendly sites in search results since 2015.

2. Have high-quality content

As we touched on in the previous point, the content on your website needs to be relevant to what people are searching for and be of high quality. Useful content will extend the time people spend on your site, which signals to Google that your content is valuable. Keywords and outbound links, when included in the content naturally, can also boost Google’s estimation of the content. The content should also be easy to read and understand. It’s not certain that Google takes this to account directly, but if visitors to your website aren’t able to digest the text easily, they won’t be staying on for long.

4. Be up to date

Ever clicked on a link on a website just to get that 404 Error message? Doesn’t really give a professional or up to date impression, does it? Broken links will look bad not just to your customers but also Google, which makes them one of the worst things for your ranking. What they signify to Google is that your site is old and neglected, hence not relevant to searchers.

What are the benefits of SEO?

We know, working on all this is easier said than done. Hacking the SEO game requires quite a bit of knowledge about the system as well as technical skills, which is why it isn’t easy to do on your own. So why should you bother trying or perhaps even paying a digital marketer to do it for you?

Well, the main reason is that people are probably already using search engines to find the products or services that your business offers. These are real people searching for what your business offers – research has shown 72% of consumers visited a store within a 5-mile radius after a local search. If they can’t find you on Google, your competitors that rank high will be reaping all the benefits in the SEO race.  

There is also this thing called ad fatigue. Consumers see more and more advertising online, which can create an adverse reaction. While paying for Google Ads can be a quicker and easier way to the top, research shows between 70% and 80% of users completely ignore paid advertisements. So, ranking organically is really the best kind of advertising there is, and it’s free!

Did we get you convinced of the powers of SEO but you’re not sure where to start? To succeed in SEO, a well thought-out SEO strategy is key. Why not book a custom 1-on-1 SEO strategy session with our in-house SEO specialist?

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