How does SEO work?

By Simon Ensor
SEO 29.05.2019

Sometimes SEO can feel like an exclusive member’s club that only the most esteemed of marketers are invited to. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, SEO is not a dark art – though many agencies will try to mask it as such. Instead of hiding in an SEO ivory tower, we thought it was about time that we sat down and explained in simple terms.

“SEO is a non-interruptive form of marketing”Alice Logan, SEO Executive

How does SEO Work?

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of optimising your website in order to improve your rankings in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Appearing at the top of the SERPs demonstrates to users that search engines view your site as the best possible solution for their query. In turn, the inherent trust that people have in search engines results in a higher click through rate and more traffic. It is however important to remember that it’s about optimisation of your website and presenting content in a way that’s oriented around value and relevance for your users first, and SERP positioning second. It’s not about manipulation of search engines or any under-handed tricks.

SEO involves multiple practices including keyword research, technical SEO, content and link-building. Performing a site-wide technical audit (also known as onsite optimisation) sets the foundations of your campaign. This can involve tweaking the meta data, headings and body copy of your site, as well as the structure, URLs, layout and a host of other elements to make sure that your site is accessible and easy to use for both people and robots.

One thing to bear in mind is that although Google may seem like it has the eye of a hawk at times, it’s actually more closely comparable to a bat – Google doesn’t see your website as a visual page in the way that your customers do. It works instead by sending out robots (crawlers) to analyse the back end code and renders the data that comes back to determine the purpose of your site and the solutions it provides. It can then be returned as a result for relevant search terms. Sure, Google can also render your website in a visual sense, but the code is a highly important aspect. This code contains information about the layout of your site and the content within it. Everything from your headers, body copy and links, to the structure of your navigation menu.

Where does content come into it?

Creating high quality, unique content for your key landing pages and a blog that’s oriented around your target market and their searching habits will only help improve your rankings. That’s why it’s so important to research your audience and create what are known as buyer personas – you can then make sure that your content is being tailored to the right people and their searcher intent. Using tools such as Google Analytics (GA), Search Console and SEMRush to determine which keywords are driving traffic to your site, can help you to work out what needs to be SEO’d on your site. For example, your site may be based around dog grooming in London, however GA is showing that your site traffic is coming from searches for keywords such as “Dog’s home, Manchester”. You will need to amend the solution that your page is providing so that it more closely aligns with someone searching for a dog groomer in London. Matching your page with the searcher’s intent is at the very core of SEO.

Okay, so what about “link-building”?

Of course, content has more value than just keywords. Producing great content reinforces your company’s authority and expertise in your field. No matter what any SEO agency tells you, only high quality content gets high quality, organic links. Welcome to link-building. Think of it being similar to ‘likes’. The more that people like (link to) your content, the more validated and valuable Google will assess your content to be, and the higher up on the SERPs you’ll appear. Similar to ‘likes’ on social media, Google will associate you with whoever has linked to you – spam tends to link to spam, and reputable sources tend to link other reputable sources.

Google also takes into account your customer’s behaviour both during and after their visit to your site. How long did they stay? Did they visit another site to find the answer that they needed? If Google determines that your site is too high in the SERPs because users are actually finding the answer elsewhere, then your site’s ranking will fall. The best way to ensure that your customers stay on your site is to ensure that your site is accessible, usable and that the content is relevant and valuable. Noticing a theme yet? It’s all about the user. The user will always come first. Optimising the site to ensure that it is more accessible for search engines comes second.

Why do I need an agency?

It’s easy for us to write a brief explanation about how SEO works, but putting it into practice is another kettle of fish. There are many moving parts to optimising your website, from the web design, content creation and keyword research, all the way through to the fundamental coding and accessibility of the site. SEO isn’t just about redesigning your website, putting up a few blog posts and watching the traffic roll in – SEO is an ongoing, ever-evolving practice, not a one-stop solution. Google will update, search engines will change their algorithms and new technologies and advancements will continue to be developed – featured snippets for example. Keeping on top of SEO and the changes in the industry truly is a full-time job. Hiring the team, technology and even the office space in order to successfully improve and maintain your positioning on the SERPs long term can be an expensive undertaking. By hiring an agency, you’re removing the cost (and hassle) of recruitment as well as benefiting from specialised knowledge and technology. With us, you can be certain that you’re going to be getting the very best people for the job – though I may be biased.

So there you have it – a brief explanation of how SEO works. If you have any other questions, or you’d like to find out how we can boost your business, chat with us using the yellow chat box in the corner of this window, call us on 0203 176 7662 or email us and we’ll be happy to help.

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