What is SEO Exactly?

SEO is probably a term you’ve seen and heard a lot in the last few years, especially if you’re getting into the small business community on social media or getting a website developed for your business.

So what do those three little letters mean? SEO is short for Search Engine Optimisation. In short, it’s the practise of optimising your website to make it reach a high position on Google’s (or any organic, non-paid search engine’s) search results. Why is it important? Well, good SEO and higher search visibility ultimately leads more traffic flow to your website.

For many small business owners SEO is something they resist getting to know because it goes in the ‘too hard basket’. It doesn’t have to be and definitely shouldn’t be, and here’s why:


Why do you need it?

Hands up who uses search engines such as Google, Bing or Yahoo to answer questions or search for services and companies? Even though I can’t see your hands, I guarantee there were quite a few raised as search engines are the primary method of navigation for most internet users. Whilst social media can also generate visits to your website, search engines are still the main source of traffic for websites by far.

People use search engines to find a service they need, search for directions to a place of business, and look for reviews on a company they’re thinking of using. Or maybe an existing client who has forgotten your web address can type in your business name to Google and find you again. In a nutshell, a site that is set up for SEO and performing well on search makes it so easy for your audience to find you!


What does it involve?

SEO is a combination of activities that organises your website content and makes your website as “friendly” as possible to search engines. Platforms like Google give preference to websites for various reasons including, but not limited to, the written content on your page, its headings and page titles, the way images are named on the site (ever done a Google image search?), how well your site converts for mobile viewers and even the speed with which your website loads.


What are keywords? 

If you’ve heard someone talking about SEO, you’ve probably heard them refer to keywords. Keywords or keyword phrases are the most popular exact terms people type into a search engine when looking for something specific.

Onsite SEO work generally involves performing a keyword search to determine what specific words and phrases your audience is looking for. Your written content, headings, page titles and meta-descriptions need to incorporate those keywords so that the search engine recognises them and decides that your site is about this topic.

The highest used words that people type into a search engine’s search box carry high value and can make or break your website’s success. SEO done right can net you thousands of visitors, whereas not done properly will give you minimum visibility. So, knowing your keywords and how they rank is important.

BUT, just to confuse things a little more… if you’re in an industry where there is lots of competition (and even perhaps you’re a small fish business in a big fish pond) then it’s also important to be strategic about what keywords you aim to get ‘search visibility’ for, because sometimes it’s not always the smartest to aim for the top ‘most searched’ words and compete against the big fish when you might get better results and higher up in search rankings if you aim for the second tier of keywords.


Can I do it myself?

The world of SEO is a little complicated, but most people can easily understand the basics. Even a small amount of knowledge can make a big difference. There is plenty of information and tutorials online to help you learn the basics so it really is a matter of how much time you have, your willingness to learn, and the complexity of your website.

SEO experts like Moz, SEMRush and Yoast have great free resources if you’re willing to sit back and read it all.

You may decide you need someone with a little more skill and experience to do it for you and that is cool too. If you’re going to spend hours or days getting your head around it when you could be doing other practical things for your business that earn you revenue then it makes sense to pay someone to do it. Need help? Contact us.

If you have a simple site, and really want to understand what SEO is for your own knowledge and just so you ‘get it’ then Content Society runs regular small workshops where you get hands on practical experience working on your own site.

Sarah Stevens is a former journalist, magazine editor and TV producer, and the director of Content Society. You can see more of her work here.

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