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What is SEO and why should I care?

We get a lot of people telling us ‘they need to do SEO’. And we get other people asking us if they should do it. It will not be an uncommon occurrence for a small business to receive an email or a cold call extolling the virtues of an SEO service and how the provider can guarantee you will be the top search result in Google if you pay them however many hundreds of pounds per month. And equally if you don’t use them how your business is doomed to failure and your website will never be found. Is that true? In a word…no!

So what is SEO?

SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation to give it the full title, is when things are done to a website in order to improve its ranking within a search engine when related to a specific search term. To make that a little simpler, let’s break down a couple of the points:

  • Ranking

The ranking of a website is, quite simply, how high up the search results the website appears, i.e. when the search results appear in Google (other search engines are available) which number in the list does the site appear.

  • Search Term

The search term is the words that a user has entered into the search box of the search engine, e.g. “electrical services in Maidenhead”.

So boiling SEO down into one simple thing – it is the ‘art’ of getting a website to appear high up in the search results for a given search term. But things aren’t quite as simple as they seem. SEO is considered by many to be a dark art and the reason for this is because search engine operators such as Google do not openly publish how their algorithm works. There is good reason for this – they do not want people to reverse engineer it and therefore be able to manipulate it in order to get underserving sites a high ranking for a search term.

What’s in it for the search engines?

What search engines seek to do is to give end users the most relevant site for their search term as soon as possible. Why do they want to do this? Because the more accurate the search results, the more quickly the users gets to their desired content. And the search engine who can get a user to relevant content with the least amount of delays and hassle is the one that users will choose to use. Google tend to dominate the market because not only were they arguably the first company to do search well, but they are also the company that most consistently provides good search results.

Can SEO be engineered?

Traditionally there were lots of known ways to improve a websites ranking. This could involve all sorts of code manipulation and actions taken aware from the actual website – using third party websites for example – to boost the ‘value’ of a domain or to generate lots of incoming links from other high-ranking sites. Google, and other search engines, have sought to move away from this as much as possible as it is not a reliable way of working out whether a website is actually relevant to a user’s search term. Instead the focus is largely now on well-structured websites with focussed content. Another traditional action was to stuff a website chock full of the key words that the website is targeting. But again Google has cottoned on to this and made their algorithm much more sophisticated. Now it can tell if a site is ‘keyword stuffing’ and will instead penalise the site.

What should I do?

So what is the key to good SEO? Well, there are still plenty of things that can be done and you can see a list of some of these on our SEO page. But straight off, the key thing is about having good user experience and this means a well-ordered website with pages that are dedicated to single subjects. You should make sure that each individual subject has its own page and if there is a lot of content then look to create further sub-pages dedicates to sections of the subject. Make sure these sub-pages are children of the main subject page and that the URL structure reflects this. Pages themselves should also be well structured, using the relevant level of heading (H1, H2, H3, etc.) to tell Google about the important sections of the page.

And of course there are other things too. The site should have a clear navigation. Pages should have useful names and ideally the URLs as well. A sitemap link should be included in the footer, so search engines have an easy way to see all the available pages on the site. And an XML version of this should be uploaded to the website build for search engines to see as well. Your website should be registered with Google Analytics and with the Google Search Console. This allows you to see how your site is performing and to make sure Google is aware of and is able to crawl the website. Make sure each page has useful and descriptive meta data and titles and also make sure that images have alt (alternative text) tags set which are descriptive and link back to the reason they are being used. Finally regularly updated content is also good. Make sure you have a news or blog section on your site and that you post something regularly to show search engines your site is active and relevant.

What next?

If your site is well structured and the content is good but you want further focus on your rankings then why not commission an SEO service from us? You will have a dedicated search expert working on your site to focus on the search results you want as a match. They will monitor how the site performs and look at how to optimise both your website and also anywhere else where your brand is appearing, such as third-party sites and social media, so that everything is optimised to match with your search results.

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