What Is SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)?
To put it simply, this is how Google, Yahoo, Bing and all search engines weighs up your website to place in it’s results (Search Engine Results Page or SERP). These results are clicked upon by users searching and provide free organic traffic to your website.
Its also worth noting at this point what SEO isn’t, as now commonly it’s a misunderstood and all encompassing an acronym. SEO isn’t paid marketing like AdWords (Google), Banner Ads like AdSense (Google) and Social Media Marketing like Facebook Ads etc. Most platforms have some kind of PPC (pay per click) arrangement that can be purchased. Whilst these may give you traffic and get you on “page 1”, the above mentioned can be called SEM (Search Engine Marketing) and SMM (Social Media Marketing). They are not true SEO natural organic SEO where the amount of traffic you gain is infinite and free (minus your costs of getting there).
So what are the elements involved that search engines use to decide rankings?
The elements involved in this process can be broadly split into 3 easily understandable areas which are relevancy, popularity and age. Let’s understand these individually.
What is Relevancy?
This can again simply be defined as your sites content. This is split into 2 areas: textual content and onsite optimisation. Your text and tags will all be read by search engine bots that crawl the web non stop building up their index. This is the visual text content that users will read on your pages. Your sites optimisation is the bits of text and meta tags (titles and labels) that aren’t so visible that search engines read first and use to understand very quickly what the subject of each page is.
What is Popularity?
These are basically links or back links. These are a much maligned and misunderstood area of SEO as they are easily the most abused. A link that comes from another website that points towards yours is like a vote of confidence for search engines. Sites will have many many links over time and they also appear as well as disappear. There are various different categories of link and also varying qualities. It’s important to understand too that quantity does not beat quality.
What is Age?
This sounds obvious and in a way it is. The age of your site basically equals trust. Think about it like this, if a shop down the road has been there for 10 years selling cakes you will probably deem them trustworthy and to have a good reputation as they are still in business. Google and search engines do the same. However, if the shop has been rebranded several times and under new management then that trust is dissipated, the same as it would be in real life. It’s also true for your links, with the older the link the more trustworthy it is and hence the more powerful it is considered by search engines.
Age differs hugely from relevancy and popularity in one major way; it cannot be manipulated. The age of your site cannot be faked whereas the other 2 factors can be worked on by a professional SEO company.
Once these factors have been seen by bots, examined for quality, they can then be added to the existing index. Most search engines will sit on this data for a time before calculating how it affects your rankings and results for different key phrases and search queries that generate traffic to your site.
So how do major search engines measure and weigh up all these factors exactly, and how do we know what works and what doesn’t. Let’s explore that in our next post.