What Is SEO? Your Questions Answered

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and is the process of making webpages rank as highly as possible in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) for keywords people type. SEO relates to Organic listings only, that is those that are not paid ads.

Why is SEO important?

There are several reasons why SEO is important but the main one is that it brings more visitors to your website. More website visitors can result in your website generating more sales or leads meaning your business makes more money. The reason for this is that studies have shown time and time again that the search results towards the top of page one are clicked on more than those at the bottom of page one and almost no-one visits page 2 if they can’t find what they are looking for – They just adjust their search query and expect to find the information they are looking for again on page one.

Example demonstrating why SEO is important

Let’s say you’ve just moved to York and you need register with a dentist. You know you need a dentist, but you don’t know the names of any dentists so rather than searching by their name, you search by your need which in this case might be “dentist york”:

Human nature dictates that you are most likely going to click on the result at the top over those below it. This means Blossom Dental Care is more likely to sign you up as a new patient over the dentist listings below it which in turn, gives it a commercial advantage over its competitors, particularly as the search term “dentist York” has 400 searches per month – that’s a lot of potential new patients to acquire each month!

This study below by shows how the number of people visiting a website for a given search term increases as the page one listing position improves:

The commercial advantage a company gains by being at the top of a SERPs page paired with the fact that a listings position is influenced by a number of different factors that you can control is the primary reason why businesses take Search Engine Optimisation seriously.

Does SEO actually work?

You bet it does, if it didn’t, Edge45® wouldn’t still be growing year on year since its inception in 2015 helping clients grow online. Below are a couple of examples from Edge45® clients that demonstrates the power and value of good SEO:

This single piece of content written for one of our SEO clients has driven almost 10,000 organic visits and has generated 19 high value leads.

Once SEO began in November 2016, visits to the website and leads generated have grown consistently and significantly

How SEO works

The order in which the Search Engines show results for a given search query is determined by no single one factor, in fact, the general consensus is that there are over 200 ranking factors used by Google with many of them having more than 50 variations within a single factor, that’s potentially 10,000 ranking factors!

With so many different factors influencing where a webpage might rank, it is a sophisticated computer program known as an algorithm that autonomously assesses the characteristics of a webpage against every influencing factor before ‘deciding’ where that page should rank.
If you happen to know and understand what these ranking factors are, you can then begin to make changes to the webpages of your site so that they meet the criteria of these ranking factors far better which in turn means, your rankings improve.

What are the SEO ranking factors?

Outside of Google, no-one truly knows all the different ranking factors, how they work and to what extent they can influence your rankings, however, there are a few well established ones that everyone agrees upon including:

  • Links to your webpages from other websites – Links to website A from website B are seen as a vote of endorsement by B for A which is a positive signal to send to the search engines that your website is worthy of being ranked well.
  • Keywords – If your webpage does not talk about the topics it wants to rank for, how can you expect it to rank well for searches related to that topic?
  • Page Load Speed – Slow is bad, fast is good
  • User Experience – pages that provide a bad user experience do not rank as well as ones that do provide a good user experience.
  • Expertise, Authority and Trust – pages that do not evidence sufficient levels of E-A-T do not rank as well as ones that do.

Now, it is at this point that SEO starts to get misunderstood, not only by those who want to benefit from it but also by many of those that sell SEO as a service. You’ll note the last two points on my list are quite broad statements and as such, are somewhat subjective. What is a good user experience? How do we foster trust? These types of things are not black and white binary signals, they encompass many shades of grey.
Couple this with the fact that Google does not publish the inner workings of how their search algorithms work means a lot of SEO is open to interpretation.

The easier way to understand all the SEO ranking factors

Rather than try and wrap your head around all 200 ranking factors, it’s better to think about the common denominator that underpins their reason for being a ranking factor in the first place.
Search engines want to return the most relevant, accurate and useful results possible. If they return poor, inaccurate and irrelevant results, people over time will become frustrated and stop using that search engine which obviously would be bad for business.

The search engines want to provide results that please users, that answers their query and fulfils their reason for visiting that page in the first place.
To that end, imagine you were a shop keeper – your shop lies on a street with nine other shops on it and they all sell the same thing. What are you going to do to entice visitors into your shop and spend over the others? What common sense decisions would you make? For example, you might:

  • Ensure you had a nice, professional looking sign above the display window.
  • You’d make your store as welcoming as possible
  • You’d make it as easy as possible for customers to find what they were looking for.
  • You’d make it as easy as possible for customers to purchase.
  • You’d ensure the shop was clean and the staff were friendly whilst customers were inside.
  • You’d ensure that any fears, uncertainties or doubts they might have, were addressed either directly or indirectly through the appropriate messaging and policies your store adhered to.
  • You’d ensure your customer service both pre- and post-sale was top notch
  • The list goes on.

But here is the key point – all those things you’d do to ensure your bricks and mortar business stood a chance on the competitive high street apply in equal measure to your website if you want it to rank well. Every decision you make when it comes to your business website should have your customer’s needs front and central. Consider their needs and facilitate them and everything will fall into place.

Going back to one of the SEO ranking factors listed earlier which was page load speed. Why is this a ranking factor? Simply because a slow loading webpage annoys people – they expect instant information and if they can’t get it, they go elsewhere which is why the search engines view this as a ranking factor. Let’s take that back to the bricks and mortar analogy again – you go to a restaurant, the waiter brings you the menu and having chosen what you want to eat, the waiter still hasn’t come back to take your order 40 minutes later. What do you do? It’s entirely possible you leave and go elsewhere.

How it works online is no different and if you can keep that and your target customer’s needs at the forefront of your mind, you’ll automatically address 90% of the search engine ranking factors without even knowing it.