Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of getting your website to appear in good positions in the search engine results pages (SERPs). It may sound easy, but there are many different techniques involved and the search engines are always searching for ways to improve their results, which means you need to be proactive if you want to get – and keep – top rankings in the SERPs.
Why do we need SEO?
When the first search engines appeared in 1993, there were only a handful of websites and search engines were more like directories of the sites online. In 2011, there are millions of websites and search engines act as curators of content, helping their customers to find the best content online.
There is more competition for the precious top spots in the SERPs – and it’s growing dramatically every day. Being in the top spot can bring targeted traffic to your website, leading to more sales or enquiries and increasing your revenue. If you want to get your website in front of these potential customers, you need to work on SEO marketing.
How does search engine optimisation work?
To understand how SEO works, first you need to get an idea of how the search engines work.
The search engines use pieces of coding – often known as robots or spiders – to crawl through the internet following links as they go. The search engine spiders follows links to find your website. They will “read” your site, follow your links and make copies of your website that are stored in the search engine’s index.
When a person types their query into a search engine another piece of coding called an algorithm compares the indexed copy of your site to the search query. If the algorithm decides that your site is relevant to the query and of sufficiently high quality, it will be shown in the SERPs. The algorithm decides not only which sites appear in the SERPs, but also the order that they appear in.
Search engine optimisation serves three key purposes to help your site to rank well:
- SEO helps the search engines to find your website.
- SEO helps the search engines to understand your website.
- SEO helps the search engines to rate your website.
1. SEO helps the search engines to find your website.
You need the search engines to find your content – unless they know about it, they cannot display your website in the SERPs. There are a number of things that you can do to create a search engine friendly website that is easy to discover and crawl:
- Ensure your site is designed using coding the search engines understand – flash may look great, but search engines have real difficulty processing it.
- Creating XML sitemaps – a universal format for sitemaps that search engines understand.
- Building links to your website from other sites.
2. SEO helps the search engines to understand your website.
The spiders have found your website – but if you want to rank well for the right search phrases, you need to make sure that the spiders understand what your website is all about. It’s no good appearing in position one on Google for “business supplies” when you sell Caribbean cruises for crafters.
The first stage in this process is carry out keyword research to understand what phrases – known as keywords – your potential customers are searching for. Using this information you can then carry out on page optimisation – creating pages that focus on your keywords, looking at technical tags, on page text and even images and other content. And finally you need to build links – if other websites with a similar theme to yours link to you, it helps the search engines to contextualise your website.
3. SEO helps the search engines to rate your website.
Search engines always aim to deliver the best quality websites in their results, but how can a computer programme understand which websites are good and which are bad?
Every search engine uses an algorithm to calculate where sites belong in their rankings. They each use their own formula and keep the exact calculations a closely guarded secret, but through testing and examining patterns we can make an educated guess as to what they consider.
Google is perhaps the most studied, and indications suggest that their algorithm considers:
- Volume of inbound links – the number of links going to your website.
- Quality of inbound links.
- Usage data – how real people are interacting with your website.
- Social signals – such as Facebook likes and Google+.
- Usability and design of your website – overuse of ads for example may harm your rankings.
- The content of a specific page.
- The content of your site as a whole.
- Bad practices that they specify in their Webmaster Guidelines.
So, how do I increase my rank with SEO?
You might have noticed that links are pretty important to Google, if you think that you can build links to increase your rankings you’d be right – up to a point. Links are just one of the factors that affect your ranking, you need to ensure that your website is search engine friendly, well optimised and of sufficiently high quality (both in terms of content and design) to deserve good rankings.
But, all else being equal, building links is the single most important thing you can do to increase your rank. However, you need to be sure that you are building the right kind of links to really see good results.
Google originally treated links as a vote or a recommendation – if a person has linked to your website, they probably think it’s worth visiting – so Google gave better rankings to site with more links.
As time went on, it became clear that not all links were equal and that some people had worked out ways to artificially boost their rankings by building more links. So they used more metrics to judge whether a link was really a trustworthy recommendation. This process has continued over time and there are now many factors that affect how valuable a link to your website really is, as you can see from this word cloud of link quality factors:
And while we have talked about Google, other search engines like Bing also place a great deal of importance on links – so if you want to improve your rankings, you need to build more quality links to your site.
So can I do SEO myself?
Yes, you can, but it’s an ongoing process of building inbound links and improving your website that never stops. Google, Bing, Yahoo and all the other search engines never stop evolving. They are constantly looking for ways to improve their offerings, with the result that what works today may not work tomorrow.
Keeping up to date with the latest developments can be almost as much work as actually doing SEO marketing. That’s why many companies outsource their SEO – it simply isn’t cost effective for them to dedicate the time needed to stay up to date on top of doing the actual work. If you are still interested in DIY SEO, here are some resources that might help:
SEOmoz Blog – daily updates from a team of SEO software engineers, their friends and the wider SEO community. SEOmoz is dedicated to figuring out what works and what doesn’t in SEO today.
Copyblogger’s Internet Marketing for Smart People – guide to internet marketing and seo from an online entrepreneur. Practical and easy to follow advice
Search Engine Land – the latest news and views on all aspects of internet marketing, including search engine optimisation.
Boom’s Articles on SEO – advice and tips on search engine optimisation from your favourite online marketing company.
Commonly Asked SEO Questions
How fast can I learn SEO?
The speed at which you can learn SEO depends on various factors, including your existing knowledge of digital marketing and website optimisation, your ability to understand technical concepts and algorithms, and the amount of time and effort you are willing to invest in learning.
Suppose you have a basic understanding of digital marketing and website optimisation, and you can grasp technical concepts quickly. In that case, you can learn the fundamentals of SEO within a few weeks of consistent studying and practice.
However, remember that SEO is a constantly evolving field, and there is always more to learn. Becoming a highly skilled SEO professional can take months or even years of dedicated practice and continued learning.
To learn SEO more quickly, consider enrolling in online courses or workshops, reading industry blogs and publications, and practising on your own website or a personal project. It’s also essential to stay up-to-date with changes to search engine algorithms and best practices, as they can significantly impact your SEO strategy.
Is SEO free marketing?
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) can be a free marketing strategy in the sense that you don’t have to pay for clicks or impressions like you would with pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. However, there are costs associated with implementing an effective SEO strategy.
For example, you may need to invest in keyword research tools, website optimisation tools or hire an SEO consultant to help with strategy development and implementation. Creating high-quality content that attracts backlinks and social shares takes time and resources.
Furthermore, SEO is not a one-time effort; it requires ongoing optimisation and monitoring to maintain and improve your search engine rankings. Therefore, while SEO may not require ongoing ad spend, there are costs associated with developing and maintaining an effective SEO strategy.
Overall, SEO can be a cost-effective way to drive traffic and visibility to your website, but it’s important to recognise that there are costs associated with implementing a successful SEO strategy.
Can SEO be a side job?
Yes, SEO can be a side job or a freelance career. Many businesses and individuals require SEO services to improve their website’s visibility and drive traffic to their site, and they often hire freelance SEO specialists or consultants to help them.
As a side job, you could offer SEO services on a part-time basis, working with a few clients at a time. To succeed as an SEO freelancer, you will need to have a strong understanding of SEO best practices and strategies and experience in implementing them on client websites.
You may also need to invest in tools and resources to help you perform keyword research, analyse website traffic, and monitor rankings. Building a strong portfolio and reputation will also be crucial to attracting new clients and growing your business.
Overall, SEO can be a viable side job or freelance career for those with the necessary skills and experience.
Is a 100% SEO score good?
I don’t know where you’re getting that score from, but it sounds like the most you can get. Seriously though, there is no such thing as an SEO score – but some tools to provide them as an indicator. Take them at face value.
How do I check my SEO ranking?
To check your website’s SEO ranking, you can use a variety of tools and techniques. Here are a few options:
- Google Search Console: Google Search Console is a free tool that provides data about your website’s search performance, including your average search ranking position for specific keywords.
- Third-party SEO tools: There are a variety of third-party tools, such as SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Moz, that offer detailed SEO reports and keyword ranking data for your website.
- Manual search: You can manually search for your website on Google using specific keywords and phrases to see where it appears in the search results.
- Incognito mode: Searching in incognito mode can help you see the search results as they appear to users who are not logged in or have no search history. This can give you a more accurate idea of your website’s true search ranking.
Keep in mind that search rankings can fluctuate regularly due to algorithm changes, competition, and other factors. It’s important to regularly monitor your SEO ranking and make adjustments to your strategy as needed
How much does SEO cost per hour?
The cost of SEO per hour can vary widely depending on a variety of factors, such as the level of experience of the SEO professional, the complexity of the project, and the location of the service provider.
Does SEO have a cost per click?
Nope, that’s PPC.
What makes good SEO?
Good SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is a multifaceted approach that involves optimising your website’s content and structure to improve its visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs). Here are some key factors that contribute to good SEO:
1. Keyword research: Identifying relevant and high-volume keywords and phrases to target in your website’s content.
2. On-page optimisation: Optimising the content on your website, including the use of relevant keywords in page titles, headers, meta descriptions, and throughout the body of the content.
3. Technical optimisation: Ensuring that your website is technically sound and optimised for search engines, including page speed, mobile-friendliness, and crawlability.
4. Link building: Acquiring high-quality backlinks from reputable websites to your website.
5. User experience: Creating a positive user experience for your website visitors, including clear navigation, fast load times, and engaging content.
6. Content creation: Creating high-quality and relevant content that provides value to your audience and helps to answer their questions.
7. Analytics and monitoring: Regularly monitoring and analysing your website’s performance in search engine rankings and making adjustments as needed.
Overall, good SEO involves a combination of technical optimisation, content creation, link building, and user experience to improve your website’s visibility in search engine results and drive traffic to your site.
How do you identify keywords?
To identify keywords, you can follow these steps:
1. Brainstorm: Start by brainstorming a list of topics related to your business or website. Think about the products or services you offer, the problems your target audience faces, and the solutions you provide.
2. Research: Use keyword research tools, such as Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, or Ahrefs, to find keywords related to your topics. These tools can provide data on search volume, competition, and related keywords.
3. Analyse competition: Look at the keywords your competitors are targeting and ranking for. You can use tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs to analyse your competitor’s website and identify their targeted keywords.
4. Consider long-tail keywords: Long-tail keywords are longer and more specific phrases that are less competitive than short-tail keywords. Consider including long-tail keywords in your content to target more specific searches.
5. Prioritise keywords: Prioritise the most relevant keywords to your business and have the highest search volume and lowest competition.
6. Test and refine: Monitor the performance of your keywords in search results and adjust your strategy as needed. Continue to test new keywords and refine your approach over time.
Remember that keyword research is an ongoing process, and it’s important to regularly review and update your keyword strategy to ensure it’s aligned with your business goals and audience needs.
What does SERP mean?
SERP stands for “Search Engine Results Page”. It refers to the page that appears when a user performs a search on a search engine like Google or Bing. The SERP displays a list of results that are relevant to the user’s search query. The results are typically displayed in order of relevance based on the search engine’s algorithm. The SERP may include a mix of organic search results, paid search results, featured snippets, and other types of content such as images, videos, news articles, or local listings. SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) aims to improve a website’s visibility in the SERP and increase the likelihood that users will click through to the website.
What are the disadvantages of SEO?
While SEO (Search Engine Optimization) can be an effective way to improve the visibility of a website in search engine results, there are some potential disadvantages to consider:
1. Time-consuming: SEO is not a quick fix and can take time to see results. Creating high-quality content, building links, and optimising your website for search engines require ongoing effort and patience.
2. Uncertain results: Despite your best efforts, there is no guarantee that your website will rank highly in search engine results. Search algorithms are complex and constantly changing, making it difficult to predict exactly how your website will perform.
3. Costly: While SEO can be less expensive than other forms of digital marketing, such as paid advertising, it still requires an investment of time and resources to implement effectively. Additionally, the costs can add up if you choose to hire an SEO agency or consultant.
4. Competitive: Depending on your industry or niche, the competition for top rankings in search results can be intense. It can be difficult to outrank established competitors with higher domain authority and more resources.
5. Black hat tactics: Some SEO techniques, such as keyword stuffing or buying links, are considered unethical and can result in penalties or even a ban from search engines. Following best practices and avoiding manipulative or spammy tactics is important.
6. Limited control: Search engines ultimately control how your website appears in search results. Even if you follow best practices and optimise your site, changes to search algorithms or policies can impact your rankings.
Overall, while SEO can effectively improve your website’s visibility in search results, it’s important to be aware of the potential challenges and limitations.
What skills are needed for SEO?
To be successful in SEO (Search Engine Optimization), you need a combination of technical and creative skills. Here are some of the key skills needed for SEO:
1. Keyword research: The ability to identify relevant and high-volume keywords and phrases to target in your website’s content.
2. On-page optimisation: The ability to optimise the content on your website, including the use of relevant keywords in page titles, headers, meta descriptions, and throughout the body of the content.
3. Technical optimisation: Understanding of technical SEO concepts such as crawlability, page speed optimisation, mobile-friendliness, and structured data.
4. Link building: The ability to acquire high-quality backlinks from reputable websites to your website.
5. Content creation: The ability to create high-quality and relevant content that provides value to your audience and helps to answer their questions.
6. Analytics and monitoring: Understanding of web analytics tools such as Google Analytics to monitor and analyse website performance and identify areas for improvement.
7. Communication: The ability to communicate effectively with clients or stakeholders and explain technical SEO concepts in simple terms.
8. Adaptability: SEO is constantly changing, so the ability to stay up-to-date with the latest trends, tools, and algorithm updates is essential.
Overall, a successful SEO professional needs a combination of technical skills, creative skills, and strong communication skills to optimise websites effectively and drive traffic and business results.
Does SEO need coding skills?
While having coding skills can certainly be helpful in SEO (Search Engine Optimization), it is not always necessary. Many aspects of SEO can be managed without any coding skills. For example, keyword research, content creation, and link building can all be accomplished without any programming knowledge.
However, there are some technical aspects of SEO that do require coding skills. For example, implementing schema markup, optimising website speed, and fixing broken links can all require some level of coding knowledge.
That being said, many SEO tools can help with these technical aspects, even if you don’t have any coding skills. For example, plugins like Yoast SEO for WordPress can help with on-page optimisation, while tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights can provide recommendations for improving website speed.
Overall, while coding skills can be helpful in SEO, they are not always necessary. With the right tools and resources, much of SEO can be accomplished without any programming knowledge.
Can I learn SEO from Google?
Yes, you can definitely learn SEO (Search Engine Optimization) from Google. Google offers a wide range of resources and tools to help website owners improve their search engine visibility.
Here are some of the resources offered by Google for learning SEO:
Google Search Central: Google’s Search Central website provides a wealth of information on SEO best practices, including guides on how to improve website performance, how to create high-quality content, and how to optimise for mobile devices.
Google Search Console: Search Console is a free tool provided by Google that allows website owners to monitor website performance and identify potential issues. It provides valuable insights into how Google crawls and indexes your website and can help you identify areas for improvement.
Can I learn SEO in 10 days?
How many months does SEO take?
The amount of time it takes to see results from SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) can vary depending on a variety of factors, including the competitiveness of your industry, the current state of your website, the quality of your content, and the level of resources you are able to invest in your SEO efforts.
Generally, it can take several months to see noticeable improvements in your website’s search engine rankings and traffic. It’s important to keep in mind that SEO is a long-term strategy, and it often takes time and consistent effort to see significant results.
That being said, some small improvements can be seen relatively quickly, particularly if there are obvious technical issues with your website that can be quickly fixed. However, it can take six months or more to see significant improvements in search engine rankings and traffic for more competitive industries and keywords.
It’s also important to note that SEO is an ongoing process. Even after you start seeing positive results, it’s important to continue optimising your website and creating high-quality content in order to maintain and improve your search engine visibility over time.
Can anybody learn SEO?
Yes, anyone can learn SEO (Search Engine Optimization). While having a background in marketing, web development, or digital media can be helpful, it’s not necessary to have any specific background or education to learn SEO.
A wide variety of online resources are available to help you learn SEO, including blogs, courses, and tutorials. Many of these resources are available for free, although some may require a fee.
It’s also important to keep in mind that learning SEO is an ongoing process. The field is constantly evolving, and it’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest best practices and trends to succeed.
Some important skills for learning SEO include:
1. A strong understanding of how search engines work and how users search for information online.
2. The ability to conduct keyword research and identify relevant keywords and phrases to target in your content.
3. The ability to create high-quality content that is optimised for search engines.
4. The ability to analyse website performance and identify areas for improvement.
5. The ability to build high-quality backlinks to your website.
Overall, while learning SEO can take time and effort, anyone can learn the necessary skills with the right resources and commitment.
Will AI replace SEO?
No, AI (Artificial Intelligence) is not expected to replace SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) anytime soon. While AI and machine learning are becoming increasingly important in many aspects of digital marketing, SEO is still heavily dependent on human expertise and creativity.
While AI can help automate some aspects of SEO, such as keyword research and data analysis, there are many areas where human expertise is still required. For example, creating high-quality content optimised for search engines and users requires a deep understanding of both the topic and the target audience, which is difficult for machines to replicate.
In addition, search engine algorithms are constantly evolving, and it requires ongoing monitoring and adjustment to keep up with these changes. While AI can help automate some of these tasks, it is unlikely to replace the need for human experts to stay on top of the latest trends and best practices in SEO.
Overall, while AI is becoming increasingly important in many areas of digital marketing, it is not expected to replace the need for human expertise and creativity in SEO.
If you decide that you’d prefer to bring in the experts, leaving your time free to run your business, you can talk to us. Visit our SEO services page to find out more about our offering, send us an email or simply call us on 0845 474 0974. We’ll be more than happy to talk through your SEO needs.