1st January, 2015
It was the night that Dexter attacked SEO. Let me set the scene for you…
It’s Wednesday night. I sit down on my couch in front of the TV, cup of tea in one hand, toast with peanut butter in the other, and set myself in for the next episode of one of my favorite TV shows, Dexter. If you’ve no idea what Dexter is, it’s a show about a police blood-splatter analyst who is also a serial killer and it’s a great show (except for last season, but that’s a whole other blog post).
About 20 minutes in Dexter and one of this seasons ‘blow-in’ characters are using a search engine to try and find some information on a serial killer currently causing chaos in Miami. And then it happened. The conversation started like this:
“You know Google was so five minutes ago. Here, try Eliot”
The characters then type in a URL to eliotsearchengine.com.
“This search engine uses an algorithm that aggregates content without getting tripped up by SEO bull$#!*”!
To most people, this would’ve just been another throw-away line but to me this was an attack. As MYOB’s ‘search guy’, I was mortified that Dexter, or at least Dexter’s writers, were attacking what I do!
I’m exaggerating of course, but it did present me with the perfect intro to a post about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). If you or your business has a website, then it is definitely something you should know about.
SEO is the practice of promoting, enhancing and building your sites content to rank well in search engine results. It requires work on both internal (content, links, infrastructure etc.) and external (link sharing, social, etc.) aspects of a website. Find more about the basics here.
There are three ‘big guys’ in the search engine space – Google, Bing and Yahoo (though Google is definitely the most dominant). If your site can’t be found on any of these three, then you’ve got a pretty big problem. No matter what your site has to offer, search engines are the number one way that people find you online.
Search queries are the core of search engines. Queries are what you type into the search box – user-generated questions that are sent into the search engines database looking for the best answer. SEO moulds your site/content with the sole purpose of making search engine ‘crawlers’ find your site and rank your content as the most relevant for particular terms. The more relevant your content is to the term being searched, the higher your SERP (Search Engine Results Page) position. The higher your SERP position, the more likely your website will be visited.
Ultimately, this is the number one goal search engines are trying to achieve. (Arguably, though, their number one goal is actually getting you to click on paid ads that make search engines obscene amounts of money involving many, many zeros).
Search engines try their very best to deliver the most relevant content as possible to the user. But there is a limit to what their algorithms are able to achieve. This is where SEO comes into it. SEO ensures that the signals that search engines are looking for exist within or alongside your website. Content is most important – after all, if your content is rubbish then there’s no reason for people to come back.
In most cases, a lot of these ranking factors already exist within a website – SEO will just enhance and add to them. The list of ‘ranking factors’ are many and highly debated.
The internet is full of opinions, advice and experiments about exactly what they are, but in the end the only definitive answers lie behind the well guarded closed doors at Google, Bing and Yahoo. But there are tried and tested factors that remain a constant in this ranking business.
Some easy ones:
A few of the nerdier ones:
The list goes on and on, and the factors and tactics are constantly changing. What were the most important aspects 10 years, five years, one year, even as few as three weeks ago, have changed dramatically.
In short, you’re not meant to know all the details. It’s like buying a car. You just need to know enough to keep the engine running. If it breaks down or you want it to be the fastest car it can be, you get a mechanic.
It’s exactly the same with SEO – if you always stick to these basic principles, your site will be better positioned than most other websites on the internet.
But if you do decide you need the ‘Ferrari’ of websites for search, then seek out an SEO professional – that is unless Dexter happens to get to us all first.