What is SEO?

SEO is an acronym for search engine optimisation. When we talk about SEO, much of the time we are talking about developing and growing a website to help it to rank better on search engines.

However any SEO strategy should cover both on-page and off-page optimisation tactics. Each of these umbrella important SEO techniques that help with the success of a website.

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How SEO works

A search engine's responsibility is to look after its users. If, time and again, a search engine sent you to slow loading websites full of errors with outdated, hard-to-use design, you wouldn't use that search engine.

The reason Google is so successful is that they really care for their users and constantly strive to cater for the needs of us humans.

Google sets quality guidelines for website owners to follow if they want any success at all online. This is basically how SEO works.

A website that is optimised to represent a honest, trust-worthy and progressive company will be more successful online than an outdated website which is hard for people to use.

Website maintenance is crucial because technology advances and a website can become outdated quickly. To keep their users happy, browsers constantly offer new features and upgrades. Websites need to follow suit.

Black hat tactics are used by dishonest websites to fool search engines into ranking them. This is one reason that search engines maintain a penalty system for websites that don't follow guidelines. Really bad websites are taken off the search all together.

A black hat website uses techniques such as keyword stuffing, unrelated meta-data and hidden links. They don't display contact details, they copy content from other websites and use link farms.

There are so many black hat tactics and new ones are constantly being thought of. They want to be at the top of a search engine result page, to take your money.

Search engines take action to overcome these black hat websites - algorithms are changed and matured to keep the good guys at the top.

Online reviews and back-links have become incredibly important in SEO and provide integrity. Search engines merit links between credible websites with historical value. Reviews provided via social accounts have a traceable history - search engines assess if the review is left by a real person.

Honest, clean websites with happy customers, win! That's how SEO works and why I enjoy it so much.

On-page SEO

On-page SEO is the art of continuously refining a website so that search engines understand it, engage with it and rank it.

Google looks for quality page content with good structure, making it easy for the user to find what they are looking for.

Each page on a website should use clean code, markup and correct tags so that search engines understand what is on the page.

Dud links and missing tags can negatively effect rank.

On-page SEO

Off-page SEO

Off-page SEO, or off-site SEO, refers to online activity outside of a website to help it to continue to gain rank.

When talking about off-page SEO we are reffering to backlinks, social media alignment, social shares and online reviews.

This approach helps the user to decide if your site is firstly trustworthy and secondly active. In turn sending positive signals to Google that the website deserves to rank well.

This is a strong method to weed out deceitful websites.

Off-page SEO

Search engine friendly definition

The term search engine friendly is used to describe a website that has been optimised for search engines, such as Google.

Nowadays, 'search engine friendly' can mean a number of things.

In the old days search engine optimisation was simply a matter of making it easier for search engines to understand what the page was about.

A web developer could use key words within tags to let search engines know why the page was created.

Because of black hat tactics (i.e. abuse of the system), and of course technology, Google and it’s counterparts have become a lot more intelligent.

Now, to be search engine friendly a website must be informative, provide instant information, be easy to navigate, fast, mobile friendly and visually pleasing.

This gives the user the best experience, which is why Google will reward these types of websites.

There are also a lot of other more technical techniques that can help a site to be search engine ready, like using microdata (Schema) to improve pages.

What affects SEO negatively?

There are lots of factors that can have a negative impact on the rank of a website.

Bad code.

The Google bot has to crawl billions of websites per day. Each page of a site is made up of code, before it is displayed beautifully on a browser to the audience. Google rewards clean code, with correct tags and markup because the Google bot can easily discover out what a page is about, and offer it up to a Google user.

CMS website builders inject code into pages enabling non-professionals to put a website together. WordPress is one of the best at keeping this under wraps, but plugins and themes can unfortunately create a lot of unwanted lines. Googlebot must sift through all this code before it can understand content.

Slow download times.

Both code and media affect the speed of a website. Too much unwanted code takes time to download. Large images and other media makes the site slow. Google is looking to provide it's users with answers, fast. Any page that takes a long time to download will be immediately penalised. Keep your important information at the top, so users do not have to scroll to find answers.

Mobile usability.

Again, Google wants the best for its users. As so many users search using smart phones or tablets, Google rewards websites that are easy to read and navigate using those device.

Poor maintenance

Dud links are links that lead no where. These links could be links within your page, or links from other sites (including Google) that have not been redirected. Google likes to see well maintained websites, so that users are not faced with the 404 error message.

Keyword stuffing.

Google peanlises websites that overload pages with keywords they desire to be ranked for. Pages, posts and articles should include keywords, but never over power the content with keywords. Always have humans in mind.

Duplicate content.

I still see duplicate content quite a lot, as small businesses don't put time and effort into properly writing their websites. A big mistake, as Google will then only rank one of the pages so you lose out on a lot of rank power.

Lousy content.

Google likes web pages to be informative, to the point and well written. They rank content that gives a good explanation to the user. There are no rewards for content that has been buffed up just to reach 600 words. Bad spelling and grammar will also have a negative affect, so do be careful.