What is SEO?

A Complete Guide for Absolute Beginners

No matter what kind of business you run, you can benefit from SEO. SEO is ‘search engine optimization’ and in all likelihood, you will probably have come across this term during your travels around the web. But what precisely is SEO? How does it work? And how can it benefit your own business personally?

Search Engine Optimization

Understanding the Basics

So, SEO is ‘Search Engine Optimization’. If we break that down, then we can see that we’re ‘optimizing’ for search engines. Nine times out of ten, that means Google specifically. In this case, optimization refers to a number of on-site and off-site practices for web pages that can help them to show up higher in Google’s search results. That in turn means that when someone searches for a specific product, service or piece of information, they are much more likely to see your site as one of the top results.

When people look for information on the web, they will very often start by searching for it on Google. Think back to your own internet usage. If you wanted to get a haircut in a new town, how would you go about tracking down a place where you could get it cut?

Most of us would head onto Google and then simply search for ‘Hair Cut [Town Name]’. Or perhaps we might search for ‘Cheap Hair Cut’ or ‘Local Hairdressers’.

Likewise, if you were looking for information on how to fix a leaky toilet, you would very likely search for ‘how to fix a leaking toilet’.

The eventual aim with any SEO campaign then, is to find the most relevant search terms for your website and then make sure that when someone types them into Google, your business is one of the top results that the search engine returns. That way, you can drive a huge amount of traffic to your website and all without having to pay for ongoing advertising.

Better yet, all the traffic that comes to you through Google will be people that are actively looking for the kind of products and information you provide. That in turn means that they’re more likely to buy from you or to stick around on your website and click on your links than someone who just clicked an advert.

What Does SEO Involve?

The aim of SEO is to get to the top of Google for specific search terms then, but how does one go about this? If you hire an SEO company, what precise services will they be performing on your behalf? And how long can you expect it to take before you start to see results?

As mentioned earlier, the actual practices that make up SEO activities can be split broadly into two categories: ‘on page’ and ‘off page’.

On page activities are those that involve making changes to your website itself in a bid to make sure it is optimized for Google. Off page activities meanwhile involve creating links to your site from other websites, or engaging in social media marketing etc.

To best understand SEO, you really need to understand Google and how it works. To that end, it pays to remember that Google’s main objective is to serve its users by helping them find the most interesting and high quality content relevant to their search. The more often we feel that Google helped us to find the service or answer we were looking for, the more likely we will be to use Google more going forward.

Thus, Google is looking for any sign that your site is:

  • Relevant to the search term
  • High quality
  • Accurate
  • Interesting/entertaining

To do this, Google can look at the quality of your web design and the content of your posts (on-site) and the number of links and referrals to your site from other relevant brands (off-site).

What Will an SEO Company Do For You?

Thus, a good SEO company will likely engage in the following activities to try and help you boost the prominence of your website:

Keyword Research

Before you begin your SEO campaign, you first need to know which terms you want to target in particular and which terms will bring you the most business and the most profit. This means identifying what people will search when they want your services or content while at the same time trying to avoid any search terms that are likely to be overly competitive. Specific tools can be used to find out how often certain phrases are searched for and how much competitive is vying for those phrases at any given time.

A more advanced strategy might involve targeting a relatively low-profile keyphrase to start with and using that to gain a foothold in the market. Or perhaps it might involve using local keywords to target a certain geographic region.

Content Creation

A good SEO company will probably help you to fill your website with articles, blog posts and homepage/about content. This content should be high quality and well written in order to hold the attention of visitors and to make them want to come back. At the same time, it needs to include subtle repetition of keyphrases and related terms to help Google match that content to the relevant searches you’re targeting.

Site Optimization

Google has made several statements about the kinds of websites it wants to promote. For instance, Google shows massive preference to websites that aren’t overly saturated with adverts. It also likes websites that load quickly and that are mobile friendly. Your SEO company will probably make a few tweaks to your site, which will make it a lot more ‘Google-friendly’.

Link Building

Google finds new content on the web by following links and that’s one reason that it’s highly important to try and get other websites to link to you if you want to grow your audience. Likewise, Google will view a link from a prominent website as being a form of testimony. That is to say that if sites are sharing your content, Google will make the assumption that your content must be worth sharing. The more trusted and important the site in question is, the bigger boost it will give you.

These are just some things that an SEO company can do for you and in most cases, a good service will include a lot of other promotional activities as well. The bottom line though, is that SEO services help your site to meet the requirements given by Google and thereby to become more prominent in the search results pages. This is one of the fastest, most cost effective and most powerful ways to drive large amounts of relevant traffic to your site.