What is SEO (search engine optimisation) & how it works

What is SEO (search engine optimisation) & how it works

I’ve been asked by many clients over the years ‘what is SEO is and how it works’ as they have some idea but would love some further explanation. In short they are asking if it is a service they need in their marketing mix.

The simple answer for 99% of businesses we work with is yes you need SEO in your marketing mix. We could also ask the question back to you of, ‘when people search on Google, do you want people to be able to find your website/business easily?’ If you answered yes, then you probably do need SEO or search engine optimisation in your marketing mix.

So what is SEO and how does it work anyway? In simple terms, SEO activities help your website to rank on Google for set keywords or key phrases. There are 200 factors (yes 200!) which determine where your website ranks on Google for any given keyword or key phrase, but there are a number of factors which have heavier weighting subject to algorithm changes.

For instance right now some heavy weighting goes to:

1/ How secure your website is

Google wants to send traffic to safe reputable websites. It doesn’t want to send traffic to websites that don’t have an active security certificate on them and which throw safety messages when people arrive. Any website which collects data (which is most sites as if you have any form on your website you are collecting data) needs a security certificate to encrypt data passing through it be it contact information, credit card detais, resume uploads or otherwise. If this is your website, it’s time to get a security certificate. You also want to ensure you have good quality hosting, not cheap, poor quality overseas hosting.

2/ How fast your website is

Starting May 2021, Google made website loading speed a part of its Core Web Vitals. These are a set of factors that Google considers are important for any given user to have a good user experience once on your site. This includes the speed at which the site loads on arrival, its general responsiveness as you navigate around, and how quickly different elements like fonts and images load. To check your website speed you can use Google’s free and handy Page Speed Insights Tool. If you discover you have speed issues, there are lots of tricks to tackle them, which our SEO team and web development team can work together on should we be engaged to work on your SEO. In short, it involves technical skills and would be unlikely something you can tackle yourself unless you have some professional tools and some technical knowledge.

3/ How mobile friendly your website is

Google said it was prioritising ‘mobile-first’ back in 2019, and today with far more people accessing websites via their mobile devices than desktops the world around, it’s crucial your website is mobile responsive. From an SEO perspective, Google will use your website’s mobile version for indexing and ranking. Again to check your mobile friendly score and to identify any issues your site may have, you can use Google’s free and handy mobile friendly test tool. The best practice is to design your website mobile friendly from the get go. Whilst you can start by picking a WordPress theme that is mobile responsive and you can use different plugins to make your WordPress site mobile friendly along with a handful of other tricks we have, in many cases if the site has been designed some time ago and without mobile friendly considerations at the fore front, there’s a good chance we may suggest we create a completely new website. But talk to us about this!

4/ Social signals

Most businesses know the importance of being active on social media these days, however many businesses we speak to consider social media as a separate beast to the rest of their digital marketing efforts, and certainly not something which is intertwined with SEO. But here’s the thing – it is! Why you say? Well a few reasons. Firstly, if you are doing posts on your socials with links back to your website, clearly you’ll bring more traffic overall to your website. Another reason is that by doing social media you have more eyes on your content, and who knows, they may choose to back link to this blog/page on your website and if this is from a high Domain Authority site (see below), that is good for your site. And finally, and probably most importantly, if people are clicking on your socials and engaging with them, these are positive user signals and benefit your search rankings. The impact is indirect, but as many SEO blogs will tell you, it’s there.

5/ Whether your sitemap has been submitted to Google Search Console & is HEALTHY

When we talk to prospects and clients who are interested in getting started with SEO, we’ll often ask them whether they have Google Analytics or Google Search Console installed as a starting point. The answer to the Google Analytics question is more often than not, yes. But the answer to the Google Search Console (previously known as Google Webmaster Tools) is more often, no. So what is this and why is it important?

Google Analytics tells you about the PERFORMANCE of your website. Namely how much traffic is arriving there, where the traffic came from, how long they spent on your website, which pages were the most popular and bunches of other really insightful stuff.

Google Search Console on the other hand tells you about the HEALTH of your website. Namely if your site has poor hosting and outages (which is common but often unknown by the businesses we work with until we tell them!), technical errors such as 404 pages meaning broken links and more.

By getting Google Search Console on your website AND submitting your sitemap to Google, your site then has a direct link to Google and Google will start to keep a closer eye on its performance. Sometimes simply by submitting a site to Google we see a direct lift in search engine rankings for the client immediately. Which is always great!

So where to from here?

All of our SEO packages are laid out on this page. As you will read in month 1 we commence with an SEO Audit/Strategy to work out what shape your site is in, and to design your very own bespoke SEO Strategy of how we propose to tackle getting your website improved rankings. In all cases we require a 6 month commitment, as achieving rankings is labour intensive, and does take time, but importantly as any of our SEO clients who have worked with us for 6 months would say, it is worth it. Alternatively you can engage us for a one off SEO Audit, where we will tell you what needs doing, and then you could attempt to action our recommendations yourself.

When we do an SEO Audit we are basically working out where your site is starting at, and what list of tasks we recommend are performed as the highest priority. These are generally not tasks a client can do as they can be technical and require coding skills. We also run keyword research of what people are searching for on Google in Australia and then we optimise each of your website pages in accordance with one keyword phrase per page.

Once your existing site is optimised we then usually expand the site, or look for valuable back links. Results can take 4-6 months hence our minimum term being 6 months. Once we have been working together 6 months you should have rankings on Google for some relevant keywords and be seeing more traffic. If your website converts once people come, you would have more sales.

The good thing about investing in SEO is that you know people are interested and looking for what you offer i.e. if they type ’boutique wine hunter valley’ and you are a boutique wine grower in the Hunter Valley region and you show up, you generally have more of a chance of converting them than someone who was not looking for this product and found you on Facebook or Instagram Ads. So if you know people are searching on Google or other search engines for keywords you want to position for, get in touch, and let us help you with your SEO!