With the term “Google it” being widely used as the solution to finding any unknown or forgotten piece of information, and with more than a trillion searches carried out every year, the use of a search engine is highly likely second nature to the vast majority of the population.
But, what exactly is a search engine?
A search engine is basically a database for all the information that can be found on the internet. It’s like a library of websites, images, videos and documents that can be accessed from almost anywhere in the world.
Search engines were originally created in the early 1980s and catalogued by hand, imagine doing that now!
It wasn’t however until the early 1990s that public search engines were first introduced and, even then, as ugly and as clunky as they were, I was in complete awe and yes I am that young.
Whilst a number of search engines were introduced, most came and went. Today, Google is the most widely used and recognised search engine, on the internet.
So, how exactly do search engines work?
Search engines operate by the use of keywords. You type in a series of keywords or phrase to search for websites, articles or other and the search engine retrieves the relevant, online content. It does this by what is known as “web crawling”
Geeky Fact: It is called web crawling because the programmed actions used to capture the results are referred to as “spiders”.
When you request a search, the search engine crawls the web finding the relevant results, which it then indexes, in order of relevance as quickly as possible, usually tailoring the results to either your previous history, region or the previous history of other users.
So now you have the basics of what a search engine is and how it works we can now look at how businesses use these databases to gain traffic. increase brand awareness and ultimately boost sales.
What is search engine optimisation or SEO?
SEO is the way businesses attract their audience and increase traffic to their website, without the transfer of money. It is the process of creating and writing content in an effort to achieve higher rankings in search engine listings, thus increasing online visibility.
Remember, SEO is a way to attract leads or traffic organically, if you are paying for it, then that’s either SEM or PPC, that’s a whole other post (linked below) but for now, let’s get down to how SEO actually works for you and your audience.
Geeky Fact: Danny Sullivan, an industry analyst, coined the term SEO in 1997, although it was originally put to use in the mid 1990s.
The true, intended purpose of SEO is to generate a positive experience for the user. The user inputs their keywords or phrase indicating what they are looking for and a series of algorithms, created by the search engine, are used to locate relevant results. Search engines generally look for a number of things, including, website content, consistency and user experience but within this process it is also important to be aware that websites or content heavily laden with keywords and/or a poor history of user experience are a big deterrent.
As a digital marketing strategy, SEO perates by businesses identifying what their target audience might search for and what keywords or phrases they may use in order to find the information they are looking for.
In order to optimise this, a business or the individual running the website will edit content and/or use coding to ensure the site can be easily accessed by the web crawler. This can then increase the websites relevance to the most appropriate keywords, whilst at the same time, reducing barriers that may be found within the indexing process.
What are the benefits of SEO for a marketing campaign?
It will probably come as no surprise, and likely the reason that you are here, that SEO offer a number of benefits to a businesses marketing campaign.
Firstly, it is essentially free and therefore highly cost-effective. There is no cost to be amongst the top results, although it can take a lot of time to make that happen. That being said, if an SEO plan is well thought out and a business is working within a niche market, then it makes for a highly effective marketing strategy.
Because SEO is unpaid, they are perceived to be more trustworthy and so are more attractive to the search engine user. Due to this perception of trustworthiness, businesses find there is a higher chance of converting traffic generated through SEO.
On top of this SEO also helps to build the brand and business name by providing exposure to users looking to solve a problem, without the business having to pay for advertising.
But, what about the risks?
As with most things, where there’s pro’s there are inevitably cons and SEO is no exception.
As with most online marketing, be it SEO or Social media campaigns, time is by far the biggest challenge both in creating the campaign and the time it takes for traffic to increase. Whilst it is an important strategy to implement for gaining new leads, SEO shouldn’t be the only strategy relied upon. The reason for this is due to those ever-changing algorithms used to produce search engine results, meaning that a website ending up in the top results for any length of time, is not guaranteed. Due to the algorithms constantly changing, there is also a lack of control when relying on SEO.
In order for a SEO marketing strategy to be successful, there are a number of factors that need to be included. Whilst there are many unknowns, some of the factors involved in acheiving higher rankings include; the websites past user history, the current competition and how great they are.
Here are six of my top tips for an effective SEO campaign:
1. Update your website design.
When I talk about online content, keywords etc, many assume I just mean written content, the copy, I don’t. Search engines will also judge where to rank your site based on the look, layout and capabilities, the old saying, never judge a book by it’s cover doesn’t wash with search engines. It is important to ensure that you carry out regular updates and performance audits for your website. If your website is slow to load, images are of poor quality or your navigation is confusing or has broken links then the search engines will penalise you. Luckily with a few updates, this problem can be easily solved. Oh and making sure your website is optimised for mobile, is really important for search engines, today.
2. Your audience first
Identify your audience, understand their wants and needs and then create your content, services to fulfil them. Don’t be too obsessed with creating content for the search engines, focus on your target audience, and make your goals about fulfilling customer needs and boosting engagement and you can conquer SEO without any fancy tricks.
3. Content really is king.
Content is the most important factor of a successful SEO campaign. With little or no content what will the search engines have to crawl and if there’s not much to crawl then there’s not much to rank. Creating content for SEO means knowing what your goals are for each piece of content and doing your keyword research. That could be writing a new blog to establish yourself as an expert in your industry. Creating a landing page for a specific product or service. Or posting on social media to increase engagement. Know why you are creating the content and then optimize your content for SEO.
4. Ready, Set, Action
Video is definitely something you want to consider as part of your SEO strategy. Why? Because when those search engines are crawling all over your site checking out your content, one huge factor of where you will rank to a new search engine user is the history of others who have previously visited your site, if they go as quickly as they came, that’s not good but throw video into the mix and the chances of a searcher sticking around to hear what you have to say are much higher than if they have to read it, unless of course they are a book worm, like me and so my tip is to create a video, write a post from that video (transcribe) or vice versa, put your video at the top, with the transcription underneath and voila, you’ve catered to those of your audience that go crossed eyed after reading a couple of lines and those who enjoy the peace and tranquility of the written word which means more visitors are likely to stay for longer and your ranking receive a great boost.
5. Compress and optimise your images
One thing I have found with a lot of businesses doing it themselves, online and something I have even been guilty of myself, is after spending hours searching for or creating the right image to complement copy or web pages, they just upload the image to where they want it and are grateful to have finally finished but unfortunately, that is doing more harm than good to your website and rankings. Any image you upload should first be compressed, this will ensure that your website loads in good time, creating a higher rating for user experience. Once you have uploaded your images it is really important to optimise them. Why, because when a web crawler is looking for specific keywords and phrases and there is no relevant information attached to your images, it has no idea what your image is about or looks like. Imagine spending all that time getting just the right image for it then to be disregarded as irrelevant, which is exactly what those crawlers do with content that doesn’t tell it what it is.
6. Hire an expert
Yes, I am biased, but there’s no disputing the fact that to get on track with SEO you need to stay constantly updated on the algorithms and so does your content. If you can’t afford to hire someone permanently, then check out freelancers or agencies that are experts in SEO. Even if you just use them to bring your current content up to speed, it will be highly worth it and you will be able to free up time to focus on what you love and do best.
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