Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a term you’ll hear a lot, sometimes with awed tones as if it’s a higher knowledge possessed only by web gurus.
SEO iscomplicated. Hundreds of factors influence it. But that doesn’t mean you shoulddespair and hand your website over to someone who claims they can easily getyou on page one of Google. In fact, if they promise that, you should run amile.
This basic guide will help you start sorting SEO fact fromfiction.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimisation. It’s about making your website rank higher on search engine results pages (or SERPs – like Google, Bing and YouTube) for ORGANIC traffic. Organic traffic is any that you don’t have to pay for.
SEO is partly about the quantityof traffic. Obviously, you want more people seeing your site. But quality of traffic is more important.You might attract thousands of visits per month, but if Google tells themyou’re a real estate agent selling luxury homes – when you’re actually a luxuryhome builder – they’re not the people looking to buy from you. Instead, youwant to attract people who want yourproduct or service.
Click-through rates also matter. You might rank on page onefor ‘hairdresser Sunshine Coast’, but if few people click through to your site,that ranking isn’t converting to more sales.
Does SEO matter?
Only if you want to be found on search engines. If youalready have plenty of business through referrals, advertising or other means,your site might just be for credibility and information purposes.
Sorting SEO fact fromfiction
There are lots of myths and misconceptions about SEO. Here’s some of them.
1. SEO is dead
SEO expert Neil Patel notes that people have been saying this since SEO started. “New technology may change the way we interact and explore the Internet, but search engines will always be a factor,” he writes, “and optimizing your information for these constantly evolving algorithms will never go out of style.”
2. It’s easy to getto page one of Google
Like most things, if it was easy, everyone would do it. Itmight be easy to get there for a keyword that nobody is searching for, but that’s as useless as wings on abicycle.
Getting to page one for search terms that you want to rank for takes work and time.
3. SEO involvesfilling your page with keywords
Keywords definitely matter. Using them strategically inplaces like your title tags (the webpage title that’s displayed in blue onSERPs), meta-descriptions (the brief site summary displayed in black under thetitle tag), headers (headlines on your webpage) and image file names, will helpyour site to rank for them.
But stuffing your page full of keywords won’t. In fact, it can have the opposite effect. Google uses a measure of keyword density to compare your site against what’s normal. If you pack too many in, Googly perceives your site as manipulative rather than a relevant resource, and may demote you.
Google also recognizes synonyms and language variations(like plurals and “ing” endings), so you don’t need to include every variationof your product or service.
3. Links don’t matter
False. Backlinks are one of the main ways Google understandshow popular a site is. But all links are not created equal.
You want high-quality backlinks from reputable sites, notdodgy ones from sites selling fake Viagra. Good links will help your site torank higher.
Bad ones could bury you in an SEO hole that takes years todig out of.
4. Content doesn’t matter
Just as links help Google to measure a site’s authority,content is how it measures relevance.
The content on your site tells Google what search terms to rank it for. “If you focus only on backlinks, you’re neglecting the experience of your eventual target: a human being,” writes SEO content strategist Maddy Osman. “If there’s no content, the visitor essentially has to guide themselves through the sales process entirely on their own…. And if there’s nothing to help move them towards a sale, they likely won’t make one.”
Your content should always be written for humans, notGoogle. After all, its humans who need your product or service.
5. SEO is a one-offactivity
Like most marketing activities, SEO needs to be ongoing. Ifyou’re setting up a new site, it helps to get it right from the start. If yoursite is established, an audit can discover where you could improve.
But it doesn’t end there. SEO should be viewed as along-term business investment that helps your site to rank better over time.
A good web developer can help you with technical SEO factors like site speed, crawlability and responsiveness. An SEO copywriter (like me) can create content that people love to read and feeds Google’s gargantuan content craving.