What Exactly is SEO?

Whether your website is offering content, services, information or products, the majority of traffic will be redirected through a search engine. This is a potential win for your website as search engines send you ‘targeted traffic’ – people who are looking for what you offer. This means your website needs to be at the top of the search when potential visitors type a query into Google, Yahoo! or Bing.

You may have heard the term thrown around when talking about website traffic, but what exactly is SEO? It stands for Search Engine Optimization and relates to the quality and quantity of the traffic to a website gained through organic search engine results.

Organic results are those which are not paid ads. Paid ads appear at the top of search results as well as down the right hand side and will be indicated as such, although this is not necessarily clear to all internet users. The quality of traffic refers to what kind of visitors you are attracting to your website. There’s no use attracting millions of visitors looking for Apple phones if you are a website selling apple juice. The quantity refers to the amount of visitors (the right kind) that are accessing your site through search engine results pages (SERPs).

So how do search engines such as Google come up with this magical list of relevant websites? First, Google sends out crawlers that collect information on all the sites on the internet and builds an index. When you search something it feeds this information through an algorithm which matches that data to your query. There are many factors that constitute this algorithm and the exact formula is a closely guarded secret, but generally it focusses on the following:

  • Quality of links to the domain
  • Quality of links within the domain
  • Content quality and relevance
  • Content readability

Also taken into account are offline references to the domain (such as in news and media), user and query data, quality of social media likes/shares and keyword matches. With so many factors, it’s difficult to know where to start with SEO. Optimization encompasses both technical and creative aspects and the ultimate goal is to make your website easy for search engines to understand. This is largely based on the content of your website, in other words the text. Search engines look for uniqueness of a text as well as the length of articles, the links within them and any recurring keywords. All these factors are analysed in the algorithm. It is also important to pay attention to the structure of your website in order to make it understandable to search engines. This can be done by creating informative title tags and meta descriptions as well as making sure internal links point to relevant pages.

The whole objective of SEO is to write content that search engines will recognise as relevant to a user’s query. It’s a bit of a guessing game as search engines are constantly updating their algorithms and SEO tactics must evolve accordingly. It’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest trends in SEO to keep your website at the top of SERPs.