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What Is: Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Search Engine Optimisation, otherwise known as ‘SEO’ in the realm of digital marketing is the methodology of implementations, strategy, tactics and techniques that are used in order to better Google’s understanding of a website and to increase the number of visitors that hit the website through a better search engine ranking. SEO is an ever-changing field, algorithms are updated and more rules are being introduced all the time. It’s pretty overwhelming to stay on top of your game, especially if you’re quite new to the SEO scene.

SEO Diagram

It’s difficult to find where to start, what sources to read and how to go about improving your technical knowledge of SEO. Therefore, we’ve got together a wide range of tutorials here at the Semtuts blog to cover almost every component of SEO. Don’t worry, I will include some more direct links to useful sources as we discuss what SEO actually is..

Webmasters tend to implement strategies, change their websites code, page structure, headings, content and loads of other elements to (hopefully) increase their ranking in Google’s search results and other search engine result pages (SERP’s). In theory, the higher the ranking is for your site, the more likelihood of someone clicking your website’s snippet in search. Therefore if your ranking higher than your competitors, the chances are your potentially taking their customers as they are visiting your site and not theirs – but you never know, the customer could take a look at the top three results.

Here are some interesting SEO facts just to put things into perspective (According to SEJ).

  • 70-80% of search engine users ignore the paid ads, primarily focusing on organic search results;
  • The website at position #1 will get nearly 33% of the clicks;
  • 75% of users tend to never scroll past the first page of the search results.

Interesting facts right? This data clearly demonstrates that your site should be ranking atleast in the top 9 results in order to drive qualified clicks to your site through organic search engine marketing. In order to do this, you will need to ensure that your site is optimised and that Googlebot can crawl your site with ease, in return it may decide to increase your ranking in the SERP’s. There are a wide range of algorithms that can be manipulated to return your site higher in the search results, but we will talk about this a little later.

The SERP (Search Engine Results Page)

Search Engine Result Page (SERP)The search engine results page (SERP) is the page that actually renders all of the websites that Google think are relevant to your search query. Depending on your search query, you will see a mixture of results, both paid adverts (pay per click) and organic listings. These organic listings are showing because Google thinks that these websites may be helpful to the user, in order for Google to think this, this website must be authoritative, therefore, is optimised correctly for those target keywords, have implemented Google-friendly strategies and have a lot of external links pointing to their domain.


The different sides of SEO

SEO is broken down into two areas and Google will check your site for various elements to calculate what your website’s page rank should be. The higher the number, the more authoritative it is, therefore, you will rank higher in the search results. It’s more complex than that, but that’s an easy way of trying to understand how the system works.

  • On-page SEO – ‘What’ keywords you are looking to rank for?;
  • Off-page SEO – How popular is your domain and who’s talking about you?

Both of these areas play a very important part when Google determines where you should stand in the search results, however, even though they both contribute to the success of your SEO strategy, off-page SEO currently carries the most weight. Google loves external links, the more genuine external links that your site receives, the more it’s liked by Google.

However, this doesn’t mean that you should only focus your efforts on off-page SEO and attempt to get other websites to link to you, in the first instance, Google needs to know what keywords you’re looking to rank for, otherwise you won’t rank for any term. On-page SEO is used to better Google’s understanding of what your website is about, the terms you’re looking to rank for and the intent of your website. Google doesn’t want to display any old website for any given query, it needs to be relevant.

Below I have broken down some of the different elements included in these areas:

On-page SEO

  • Including relevant keywords within their websites title tag(s);
  • Adding modifiers to title tags (Best, guide, review, 2016 etc);
  • Short page URL’s and keyword-rich;
  • Including the primary keyword of the page in a heading 1 tag;
  • Include engaging images, videos and diagrams into the website’s content;
  • Wrapping keywords into the heading 2 tag on the page;
  • Writing a lot of content on your website with lots of internal links;
  • A clearly defined navigational structure linking to every important page;
  • Creating a sitemap file that outlines all of your most important page URL’s;
  • Ensuring that content on your pages is bulky and contain a mixture of relevant keywords;
  • Linking to other relevant domains to help Google figure out your pages topic;
  • Having a fast, mobile responsibe website;
  • Creating a blog on your website to consitently add new, fresh content;
  • Lots more on-page strategies that can be implemented.

Off-page SEO

  • Sharing your website on the most popular social technologies (Facebook, Twitter, Google+ etc);
  • Incorporrating social sharing buttons on your website to increase the likelihood of users sharing on social;
  • Recieving natural, genuine external links from other websites in the same niche;
  • Including your website in relevant local directories to ensure that your website is seen locally;
  • Monitoring the number of links pointing to your domain to ensure they aren’t spammy;
  • Enrolling links into your disavow file if they prove to be malicious;
  • Encouraging users to leave a business review on your Google+ page;
  • Promoting your website on other blogs, forums and question and answer websites;
  • Creating and sharing videos on YouTube that promotes your website;
  • Lots of other off-page SEO tactics that can be used to promote your site.

As I stated earlier, SEO changes all the time, I haven’t included all of the must-do tasks above, you will need to experiment with what works and what doesn’t to get the best results. Every website is different.

Google Algorithm Updates

If you’re serious about improving your website’s SEO or you’re looking to pursue a career in digital marketing over the next couple of years, you need to understand what happens at Google HQ. This includes knowing the algorithms and what’s happening in the industry.

Moz has a fantastic article on their site that outlines when all of the major algorithm changes took place, it’s worth keeping an eye on this. Even Google have said that they make changes every day, it’s difficult to stay on top of it all especially when there are 500-600 algorithm updates a year on average, but it’s worth knowing the big ones.

Below are the algorithm updates worth knowing:

  • Google Hummingbird Update(s)
  • Google Mobile Friendly Update
  • Google Panda Update(s)
  • Google Penguin Update(s)
  • Google Pigeon Update(s);
  • Google Pirate Update(s)

Google Hummingbird Update

The “Hummingbird” algorithm update was released by Google in September of 2013 and its intent was to pay more attention to the meaning of particular words and how queries were joint together, rather than focusing on one specific word in a query. It’s known to have applied this methodology to millions or even billions of websites with the likelihood of returning better results back to the user when a long-tail query or more specific query containing more than one word was used.

Google Mobile-Friendly Update

On the day of April 21, 2015, Google released a new algorithm update with the intention of crippling the search rankings of website’s that weren’t mobile friendly in their mobile search index. Therefore, website’s that wasn’t rendering properly on a mobile device wouldn’t rank as high in the search results, after this date.

The algorithm update was being covered in all of the major search publications around the time, the effect it had and how it impacted a range of websites. The search community called it: mobilegeddon.

So yes, if you want your website to rank highly in the mobile search results, it’s a good time to make your site mobile-friendly, especially now Google’s intention is to make their mobile-first index the primary.

Google Panda Update

The Google Panda update was introduced in February of 2011 and its means was to stop spammy, poor quality sites from showing up in the search results or ranking highly. The Panda algorithm is updated on a regular basis, but Google doesn’t
specifically state when the next update will be coming.

If a spammy website is caught by Google Panda, it will seriously affect the integrity of the domain and its ability to rank high in the search results.

Google Penguin Update

Google first launched its Penguin update in April of 2012, however, as of 23 September 2016, Google has officially announced that Penguin now runs real-time and is part of their core algorithm.

Penguin is responsible for catching the websites that are attempting to manipulate their search engine rankings by spamming links to their domain through black hat SEO tactics. Caught doing so will seriously hinder a website’s ranking and the webmaster will have to file a reconsideration request to Google before being enrolled back into the search results again, properly.

As negative SEO is becoming increasingly popular, Google suggests to regularly monitor the links that are being created to your domain(s) and to use the disavow tool when necessary.

Google Pigeon Update

The Pigeon update was released on the 24th July of 2014 with the intention of providing more useful, accurate and relevant search results for those conducting a local search query. The algorithm is responsible for returning accurate results and to ensure that the listings are truly “local”.

Google Pirate Update

The Google Pirate update is a copyright algorithm that’s used in order to seriously hinder a website’s search presence if it’s had multiple copyright infringements reports via the Google’s DMCA system. Google Pirate is updated from time to time and when doing so, websites that have been previously affected may be able to escape, whilst other websites will get added to the list.

Moving forward, I would highly recommend paying attention to Google’s webmaster guidelines to stay well away from these algorithm updates and to ensure that your site is kept on the safe side of things, otherwise, all of your hard work and SEO efforts may come crashing down if you’re not sticking to the rules.

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