SEO is one of those acronyms you’ve probably heard used in connection with websites and internet marketing, but what exactly is it? Why is SEO important? And why would having an understanding of it benefit your business?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation, and it basically means optimising web pages so they perform better in the search engines. Every time you search for a topic on a search engine, it looks through its directory and delivers a list of relevant pages. These pages are ranked by order of importance and relevance in the hope that the first site or two it shows you will give you the information you need.
So at its heart, search engine optimisation means setting your web pages up so the search engines know exactly what the content is. But still, why is SEO important?
It’s quite simple – there are millions and millions of web pages out there and you need to do everything you can to make sure that the search engines know exactly what your pages are about and include them in the list they deliver. It’s a well known fact that people rarely look further than the first page of results, and that they are most likely to click on the top three sites, so you need to make sure your website is on that first page to have any chance of being visited. It doesn’t matter how good your website looks, if you haven’t got the optimisation of your website right you’ll never be found.
The trick is to understand what each page’s main topic is and then think about what people would type in if they were searching for that topic. Those words will become your keywords, and they act as signposts to the search engines to point to what your page is about. Careful use of those keywords in the right quantity and the right places within the page will help the search engines to understand what the page is about and include it in the list of results it delivers.
It’s not as easy as it sounds though. It’s actually quite difficult to get the balance right. You need to include enough keywords to tell the search engines what your page is about, but you also need to ensure that your text reads well because ultimately it’s people who visit your site, not computers!
SEO goes further than keywords though, and there are other ways you can improve your website’s SEO. One of the factors that the search engines use is the number of inbound links to your site – that’s where other people link to you. Both the quantity of external links and the quality of the sites where the links are placed plays a part in determining where your site will rank in the search engines. Article submission is another useful tool in the SEO armoury, but knowing where to place articles is not so easy, as not all article sites are equally useful. Blogging is a great way to improve your search engine optimisation, both through letting you use very focussed keywords in your posts, and by increasing the size of your website quickly. And though meta information is not so important to Google these days, making sure your metatags match your keywords and the page content is a worthwhile exercise.