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SEO: The Basics – What is SEO and why does it work

By Alexandra Gavril - December 6, 2013

With so much competition online, no matter what industry you’re in, it’s tough getting noticed on the web. You may have a well-designed website and strong content but attract few visitors. If your site is new, getting it in the top 10 results when users search for your products or services can be even more challenging. Even with the best information, catchy images and helpful links guiding your users to other resources, your site may not crack the top page of results in major search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing.

So, how can you show search engines that your site belongs at the top of the heap? That’s where SEO (search engine optimisation) comes in. In simple words, SEO consists of a variety of techniques that you can use to improve your site’s rankings and show up in the top results when users search for your business, products or services. These SEO techniques rely on how search engines work and what they consider relevant to a user’s query.

What SEO is not about

Just so we make things clear, proper SEO is definitely not about:

  • Keyword stuffing
  • Buying links in bulk
  • Duplicating websites on different domains
  • Content spinning
  • Optimising purely for “ranking” outcomes

Now that we’re on the same page, let’s see what SEO is really about.

What SEO is really about

SEO is about making unique, high quality content easier to find on search engines. So, the focus is on quality, purposeful content that answers questions and fixes problems and then leads to the purchase of a product or service, or any another goal you want to accomplish such as signing up for a newsletter, download an ebook, etc.

Here are some SEO tactics that you need to learn and master to get search engines on your side:

  • Research and use of relevant keywords that support customer targeting
  • SEO copywriting and on-page optimisation
  • Link attraction
  • Internal link optimisation
  • Technical SEO to make your site more accessible to search engines
  • Optimising for engagement and conversions

Quality Content is Good, Optimised Content is Best

When it comes to SEO, your main focus should be creating unique, useful and interesting content. There’s no SEO without excellent content. In fact, without strong content, no matter what SEO tricks you use, you’ll only get a temporary boost in your site’s rankings. That’s about it. No conversions whatsoever because even if your site shows up in the top 5 results, when users enter your site, they’ll bounce in less than three seconds and probably never return to your site.

Search engines are getting more efficient and much smarter at screening content. On the other hand, it’s your job to send search engines the right signals and let them know your content is as good as it gets and that you deserve to be in the top results.

What does that mean exactly? It all comes down to relevance. Your content needs to be useful but also relevant for your audience. This can be achieved by optimising your content using powerful keywords and phrases that are relevant to your business. It’s the best way to target customer interest as they’ll be typing those keywords into a search box to find relevant information.

So, if your site isn’t optimised properly using those keywords throughout your web pages, in meta-data or anchor texts, you’re not giving search engines (and potential customers, for that matter) the information they need to see your site is in fact relevant for that search query.

You can learn more about website keywords and why they matter in this guide.

The importance of optimising your site

Don’t underestimate the importance of optimising your site. Users will leave your site in less than three seconds and never return if the page they land on is not relevant to their query, if they get confused as to what you’re offering or if they have to wait too long for your page to load.  Optimising your site can help load your pages faster, make your content more accessible and your navigation intuitive.

The downside about SEO is that it takes ongoing effort to improve the performance of your site and to get your content found by customers and search engines. It takes time and, unlike pay-per-click advertising, you won’t get results overnight. However, SEO brings so much value as it helps deliver your content the exact moment users are searching for it. So, as long as people use search engines to find information, businesses need to focus on optimising their site to ensure their content reaches their audience whenever they need it.

How are you using SEO to attract, engage and convert more customers?